Saturday, December 30, 2006

Vaikunta Ekadesi

Ekadasi as the name suggests is the 11th day of a lunar month. There is a sukla (bright) paksha ekadasi and the krishna (dark) paksha(fortnight) ekadasi. Ekadasi appears every Vedic/Hindu/Tamil month with Vaikunta Ekadasi being the most popular among the Ekadasis, primarily because it appears during the month of 'Maarga Sirisha'(Maargazhi/Dhanur), the most favorite month of Lord. Krishna. This year the festival falls on December 30th, 2006. This is also the day when Lord Krishna delivered all 18 chapters of Bhagavad Githa to Arjuna and also the day when Krishna lifted the Govardhana mountains to protect his country men from rain and thunder. There are many legends as to why Ekadesi is observed. The first reason for observing Ekadasi is attributed to Sage Durvaysa, who apparently is a very angry man and easily prone to cursing other people. In this instance, he happened to secure a garland from a young lady. This young lady had initially won that garland as a gift from Goddess Mahalakshmi for her impressive singing prowress. Durvasa wanted to gift this garland to Indira. However, Indira in some act of momentary madness casually discarded the garland. This garland was crushed by an elephant. Unimpressed by Indira's manners, Durvasa gave Indira yet another of his famous curses. This curse deprived Indira of Goddess Mahalakshmi. She walked out in a huff from Indira-loka and settled beneath the Milky Ocean leaving Indira-loka bereft of wealth and prosperity. Sympathetic to Indira's cry for help, Mahavishnu advised him to churn the ocean. So Mahameru became the churning rod, vasuki became the serpent with which the rod was churned and Mahavishnu avatared as the tortoise that balanced the rod. On this magnificent Vaikunta Ekadasi day, they devas churned and churned the ocean. The ocean first sprang a poison leak, which was gulped down by Shiva (which in-turn was gulped down by Vishnu residing as Shiva's antaryamin). The ocean then gave many gifts (Parijatham flower, Kamadhenu - not the theater, comes to mind). Finally Mahalakshmi reappeared in Indira-loka the next day, on the day of Dwadesi. The Devas fasted the entire Ekadasi day conquering their greed for hunger, sleep and many other material desires to realize their objective. From that day forth, people fast during Ekadasi to realize Mahalakshmi's benefits on Dwadasi.

This leads us directly to the second source of Ekadasi celebrations, a more popular one at that. Vishnu was on a quest to slay this Demon called Mura. As the quest prolonged, Vishnu decided to spend a night in a cave. Privy this momentary lapse in Vishnu's defense, Mura attempted to enter the cave and slay Vishnu. However, a woman called Ekadasi (popularly known as Vishnu's female attribute) appeared and slayed Mura. Much pleased with the women's benevolence, Vishnu decided to name the Ekadasi day after the lady. From then on men have tried to fight the Rajasic and Tamasic temptations of food, sleep, etc on this day. This is done to develop self-control and purge the sins accumulated since the previous Ekadasi.

Srirangam Thiruvarangam, or Srirangam as it is popularly called is a marvelous island near Trichy and its beauty and glory are cherished by people who have visited the place. On account of its huge size (155 acres), it is called as the "biggest functioning Hindu Temple in the world". It has Lord. Vishnu in the reclining posture (The kidanthaan of 4 poses associated with Vishnu shrines - kidanthaan, irunthan, ninraan, nadanthan). It is so important to the Tamil tradition that the term 'kovil' is assumed to be Srirangam unless it is prefixed with something else. This is where Kamban initiated his Ramayanam. Barring Madhurakavi, this is the only temple where all the Azhwars have sung hymns in praise of the presiding deity. Divya Prabhandams are recited in a very expressive fashion (Araiyar Sevai) in this temple. Srirangam has a long history with the Ekadasi that appears on the month of Margazhi. Maasanam Margasheershoham, is a quote attributed to the Para Vasudeva. It means "Among the months, I am Margashirisha". So month coinciding/ending with the star Maargasirisha, the Dhanur Maasa (or Maargazhi) is very special for Vishnu Bhaktas all over the world. The 30 days of this months is spent reciting the 30 verses of Andal. The Ekadasi day corresponding to this month is called Vaikunta Ekadasi and is the most special among all Ekadasis. It is a Sukla Paksha Ekadesi. Srirangam is the oldest, largest, and most important of all the Vishnu temples in the world. It is the leader among vaishnavite temples. It is the primary temple, which every Vishnu devotee seeks to visit. So the celebration of Vaikunta Ekadasi in Srirangam is as big as it gets. While most Vishnu temples in the Southern parts of India observe Vaikunta Ekadasi and attract large crowds, Srirangam in all its 'Vaikunta Ekadasi' glory is a special sight to behold. All the 155 acres and the thousand pillars of the temple assume a festive look on this day.

Pagal Pathu/Raa Pathu: Vaikunta Ekadasi is celebrated for 21 days in Srirangam. The First 10 days preceding Vaikunta Ekadasi is called Pagal Pathu. Then comes the important Vaikunta Ekadasi Day and then the 10 days following this day is called Raa Pathu. As the names suggest, Pagal pathu is when the festivities are done during the day. Raa pathu has festivities during the night. On the day of Vaikunta Ekadasi, the Lord is decorated grandly (it is a popular belief that once upon a time, the now famous 'Orloff' Russian Diamond adorned the Lord) and carried to the Parama Pada Vaasal, which is the northern gate of the temple. This is the 'Vaikunta Vaasal' and is only opened once a year - on this day. The crowd that comes to witness this event has to be seen to be believed. It is a common belief that the real Vaikunta vaasal in heaven (Heaven's doors) open on this day. Nam-Azhwar attained moksha today. It also a popular belief that people who die today are destined for moksha. At the end of the first 15 days of thiurpaavai, Andal would have woken up all her thozhi's. Tomorrow, on Dwadesi, she would request permission from Dwara-Balakars (Guardian's of Vishnu's door) to enter the lord's abode and visit him. ("Nayakanai nindra nandagopan'udaiya kovil kaapane, kodi thondrum thorana vaayil kaapane, manikathavam thaal thiravai")

The tradition: 1000 years ago Ramanuja, laid down the procedures that needed to be followed during this month. Almost all those rituals and traditions are followed in Srirangam to the minutest detail. If one visits Srirangam, one may also witness the 'Saathadha' Vaishnavas. These vaishnavites are people who do not wear sacred thread. Ramanuja, a revolutionary in his time, initiated women and non-Brahmins into important roles within the faith. They occupied important positions in matters concerning religion and spreading of the faith. He was very interested in religion spreading to the common man and not being a possession of the elitist classes and therefore aspired for a caste-free vaishnavism. Unfortunately, it only remained a dream in his immediate future. Apart from this one may get to see several dance processions by turban clad individuals ( in the backdrop of Azhwar songs), and Veena recitals by the successors of the women-religious-heads appointed by Ramanuja 1000 years ago(Hear-say - I have not personally seen this).

Friday, December 29, 2006

Movie Review: Rendu: WTF?

Okay! so 'Rendu' is probably the worst movie to have come out of the Kodambakkam stables in a long while. So much for Madhavan being selective about his movies. At many points during the movie, I felt it had sunk as low as a 'Vijay' 'Ajith' or a 'Prashanth' movie. Except for Reema Sen's curves and occasional gimpses of her awesome body, I don't think there was any point in extending the movie beyond the title credits. Ideally any sensible editor who wanted to have a hearty afternoon meal should have edited everything between the title and end credits leaving out only those portions that showcase Reema Sen's "acting talents".

But my most important question is not that. Whats this nonsense of people flying in the air during fight scenes? Are we still in the 80s? Everytime Madhavan hits someone, the thug rotates in the air 3 or 4 times like a buffoon before falling down. The thugs literally float in the air and the camera shows them floating from 3-4 different stupid angles. You can literally see that he has been tied on to a rope and he is made to rotate like a barbQ animal in the air. It is not even technically sound. The director might possibly be under the impression that he is doing some 'teginigalli subar stent seen' (technically super stunt scene) but who watches these movies. Are people in near kovilpatti, mayiladuthurai and those flocking 'PerInbaVilas' still thrilled about such stupid scenes? These fight sequencs were almost vijay-like. Only vijay stands with his arms wide open and he suddenly begins to float upwards and reach some buiding terrace (3 out of the 4 baddies do the same thing - cant show all baddies as being capable of this seemingly ordinary jump). Madhavan does that here consistently. Its like everybody is a superhero with amazing flying powers. Madhavan can fly. Thug Ponnambalam can fly. It is inconceivable to see Madhavan as a rough-n-tough hero. His Tamizh is like hindi. I couldn't believe he would hurt Reema Sen in the sack. At least Vijay looks ugly enough to make girls puke one way or the other. But Madhavan? Whats the deal with all these heroes flying around in the air like this RoadRunner cartoon show. Somebody ought to kill the 'stent mastars' in Kodambakkam. Take their bodies and shove them up the asses of 'Director Hari' and 'Director Sundar'. And then take everybody and shove them up every orifice of the 'ilaya thalapathi vijay'. People should just stop with watching movies by Kamal Hasan and movies by the standard/new 4-5 directors. The rest of the pack are horrible.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Hey! What ya'

Do men like being called 'ya'? In the context of "what ya'" - "enna ya" - "po ya". Please don't confuse this with 'aiyya' but this is just 'ya'. Some college people call each other this way. Many girls somehow think they can call everybody this way. Once a HR Manager of a big IT services company called me a 'ya'. Most Tamil movies show college boys/girls - office going men/women calling each other 'ya'. Sneha, the actress, is probably the biggest culprit of the 'ya' phenomena. I feel like chopping her off to pieces everytime she (or her horrible dubber) says the 'ya' word.

I think the whole 'ya' concept is disgusting. More than that I think its extremely cheap. Especially the way it comes out. 'ya' and most voices arent built for regular conversation. I am instantly reminded of the madhu-cheenu dramas where cheenu pokes fun of the 'ya' by mock-seductively saying 'aaahhnn.... ada che poo ya' in a sexy voice. Who the hell invented this? In columbus my roommates invented the 'aiyya' concept and we all called each other 'aiyya'. More out of sarcasm than anything else. We mainly wanted to get up everyday and say "illaiyya unakku theriyathu aiyya, life'la naan rape ayitten aiyya" or call someone and say in muthal mariyadai style "aiyya saami enakku oru unmai therinju aaganum".

But where the hell did this 'ya' come from? What is the origin of this word? It is worse than the Hindi 'yaar'. Is this one of the 'rendung-gettan' things that these college boys and girls invent to jollu vittufy, remain close without actually telling each other that they wanna go out etc. Is this is an extension of the sexual confusion that arises during the adolescent age. Most importantly how did men allow this word to thrive? I cant believe men let other women call them 'ya'. I would take it as women's attempt to effeminate the entire world. I would immediately start a retaliation by calling all women 'aiyya'.

The great Goundamani would have kicked all the sangu-oodhara-sangeethas in the butt and said "enna karumanthram pidichu oor da ithu? avan kelvi'ye kekkalai nee ennadi _ya_ podre"

Note1: 'pa' is as disgusting and as effeminate a word as 'ya'. please use 'pa' interchangably with 'ya' in this post.

Note2: Women calling other women 'da' is not even a turn on in the Joey-loves-lesbians sort of way. Its not even in the same country as men calling other men 'di'. Going deep into that subject is too base and vile for even this blog

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Religion - I

Yavasaka looked at the large object before him and said "It is a lie. It is a huge exaggeration." He used mathematics to illustrate his point. He said "It is just a dot. A two dimensional point. They have bloated it up into this 2 dimensional circle." Sunalpada, his disciple, acknowledged his master's observation and said "But master! there are many such dots. There is a huge straight line in the horizontal plane full of such points. Each point has assumed a form of a 2 dimensional circle on the vertical plane and I see a 3 dimensional sphere in front of us. Why did you pick one plane in that sphere and call that an exaggeration of a point".

Yavasaka saw his disciple's point and said "its all just damn dots my man! nothing more. These lying humans have made these simple points into big circles. Lets deflate all em' circles to just a point." And so they set about walking along the line along the plane in the x axis deflating the circle corresponding to each point on the line that had viciously spread along the z and the y axis. They deflated all those circles to just a point. They felt righteous and logical. "We are logical beings. we are built to see through this exaggeration," said Yavasaka to his disciple. After 500 years of work, Yavasaka said to his disciple " I have done it my man! its just a damn circle. no sphere". Sunalpada examined the work they had done so far. They were logical beings. Much more advanced. Sunalpada by virtue of being the most supreme among these logical beings couldn't help but say "But master, I see small little bulges here and there. Some circles haven't been reconciled completely master. They are still small semi circles or ellipsis bulging in one direction or the other. Our work has not resulted in a straight line master". Yavasaka was furious and he began to reconcile those bulges to just a point. He tried hard for several hundred years in vain. One day he gave up and said "Maybe its not just all points and a simple straight line. Maybe there are bulges here and there but I still say my man! most of this circle are just points and they have been exaggerated." Sunalpada was unmoved he said "I foresaw the possibility of bulges here and there. But you haven't reconciled the bulges my master. If you allow a bulge at this point" said he pointing to a specific location in the straiht line, "there has to be a bulge at another point to achieve symmetry". Yavasaka was furious. How could he have overlooked this fact. Sunalpada was indeed logical. And so he began to un-deflate points which he had previously deflated in the hope that his actions would result in symmetry. This only led to more inconsistencies and he had to make circles out of more points to be consistent. Sunalpada died along the way and Yavasaka continued his efforts to reconcile the inconsistencies he saw. And so he made more circles out of mere points. "All were man made circles. They were complete exaggerations. This is how a logical shape would look like" he said as he went about his work. "The sphere, I saw, was an exaggeration. my work will leave it in its true state" he thought to himself. He died the moment he recreated the sphere exactly the way he saw it the first time.

Two other logical beings came along and the master said to the disciple "its a lie. It is a huge exaggeration."

Monday, December 25, 2006

Veyil: Life does not even out in the end

"Veyil' is a very good movie. It narrates the story of a unlucky and unfortunate man called Murugesan and in the process of doing so it brings that swelling feeling in your throat that you have to gulp back down. 'Veyil' is a word that is not easy to translate into English. In this movie's context it is the heat caused by the sun. And it beats down hard on Murugesan. He is barely 8-10 years old, his hands are tied to his legs, he is completely naked and he is allowed to fry in the sun, in the 'veyil'. This is his father's punishment to Murugesan for bunking school and going to a MGR movie. As he lies bound and naked, on the mud-road in front of his house, begging and crying for forgiveness, his father ruthlessly watches him. The Sun beats down on the sand the and hot sand punishes his body. He lies their all day until his class mates come back from school and laugh at him. This movie is about how this cruel 'veyil' refuses to let up on Murugesan's life. Wherever he goes it scorches him.

It takes us through Murugesan's childhood, his radical decision to run away from home, his struggle to comeback home a successfull man, his love life and ofcourse his failures. It is a movie that ends with a forgotten art called 'irony'. Few people understand 'irony' and very few can bring it out with such style in a rustic setting. A hard marriage to achieve. Yes! this movie brings out the essence of rural India and in the process destroys the age old cliches of parental love and brother-sister relationships. While Manirathnam brought out the subtler aspects of city life and Bharathiraja focused on villages, there hasn't been enough stories focusing on these middle towns. The Virudunagars, Vellores, and Palayamkottais of the world have been forgotten. Until this movie. It brings out the celeberation, the attitudes, the uniqueness, and the typical businesses/professions (along with rivalry) that is so integral to rural India.

Everybody loves a winning horse. If you are a loser nobody likes and you are dispensable. That includes your parents and even your sisters. The scene where Murugesan is accused of stealing for the second time is heart wrenching. It appears so obvious for a 3rd person that he is the culprit. Yet he is not. And he is the only one to know it. That is the final chapter, the final nail in Murugesan's school of life that has been filled with failed romance, failed career and a failed desire to vindicate his decision to run away from home. And he has learned just one lesson - you need to be a winner. At least a bread winner for anybody to respect you. His father does not respect him because of depravity, his mother although civil has forgotten how to show affection to him and his sisters dont really know him or like him and cant relate to him as a brother. The worst thing is that Murugesan has no retribution, no comeuppance. It does not even out for him. All his troubles were worth nothing. It is hard for a man to come to terms with that. You could almost feel his pain, when he comes back home as a failure.

Pasupathy plays Murugesan like he was born to play this role. Thank Kamal Hasan for finding such a wonderful actor from the world of theater. Bharath plays his doting brother, kathir, to perfection. Kathir is the only person who understands Murugesan's struggle. Nobody else has the maturity to see it. Save except, Pandi-amma. I couldn't believe Shreya, the SS music VJ was playing that role. Padiamma is an abused and ill-treated wife, the kind of which is not so uncommon to find in rural India. She leaves her husband to come back to her hometown. Murugesan develops a relationship with her that cannot be bucketed as either love or friendship. She understands Murugesan's failure.

This is what the movie does well. It consistently brings out Murugesan's wretchedness and his struggle to find out some meaning in his life. I loved the way Murugesan's voice-over narration talks about his inability to fit in his brother's work place. His longing for his mom to give him an oil bath and his sister's affection. Many people who are a paying guest in a stranger's house see the closeness of the hosts family and long for their own family. The irony of Murugesan's life is that his host is his family. He struggles to fit into his own family, whom he deserted 20 years ago. This movie also brings out well the decadence of rural youth. Their obsession of cinema and of heros. Murugesan's life is ruined because of his obsession towards MGR and his movies. He makes one mistake and is punished hard for that mistake. No matter how hard he works later in his life he can't undo that mistake. Even a 20 year absence does not make his father forgive him easily.

In my last trip to India, I rented a van for a family trip to Kumbakonam. On my way back I got into this conversation with Kannan, the driver who was a 'thevar' from Virudhunagar. Not very different from Murugesan's background. He fought with his father, ran away from home at young age, married a woman and later visited his father after many years. His 2 brothers went on to join the state government and the police respectively. He dabbled in movies and politics (joined Vijaykanth's party) before coming back to driving vans for tourists. He mentioned some truths about the often-hyped joint family system in India. That it is more a pain in the backside than anything else. Joint-family's have a heirarchy and the people with poor jobs and poor pay - more or less - live a silent and miserable existence. Veyil tells a surprisingly similar story - that this world gives only existence to failures, not life. I guess many such Kannans across rural India would relate to it.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Change of Guard

So Shane Warne and (it is rumored that) Glenn McGrath will announce their retirement at the end of this Ashes series. Warne is probably the best bowler I have seen in my lifetime (tied at #1 with Curtly Ambrose). He is the quintessential leg spinner. I dont think anyone has better defined the art of leg spin bowling than Warne. Whats more awesome about Warne is that he was a complete entertainer. Every time he started his mini-famous-run up of his, he gave a feeling that he could weave magic into the game and turn around any situation. It was a delight to watch him because he had the agression of a fast bowler, the grace and beauty of a classic leg spinner and the tactical ability of a military general. He is the best spinner this world has ever seen and it is really sad that in sometime the despicable 'chuck'dharan will go on to hold the test wicket record. On the whole, it is our fortune to have lived during the playing time of Warne and Mcgrath, especially Warne. His stuff against the Windies is the best he has bowled so far. He was really at his peak in the 1990s especially between 92-97 seasons until his 96/97 injury breakdown. It is unfortunate that India never played tests against Austalia for close to 7 years (91/92 - 97/98) and in Australia (91/92 - 99/00) for close to a decade - especially during Warne's peak.

Here is an excellent video of Warne's best 8 wickets. I remember watching most of these games. Especially the one against West Indies. WI were playing poorly and I guess this was the first time in many years they lost a series to Australia. Chanderpaul and Lara were really defying Warne. Chanderpaul scored against Warne by mainly cutting against the spin. He kept on rocking back and cutting Warne against the tremendous spin that Warne was generating. It was almost incredible because Warne was turning the ball square and this fellow was purely surviving on luck. And then Warne bowled a beast which didn't allow Chanderpaul to go back and cut at all. It was one of my favorite series because all Windies had to do was put some runs on the board and Ambrose would have won the game for them. They just couldnt do it. It was a complete contrast to the 92/93 series where Ambrose could take 7/1 and win the series against Australia. (Note: Listen to the great Richie Benaud's comments on the background. It is so fortunate that Benaud happened to comment when Warne bowled the 'ball of the century' - while a buffoon like Sidhu would have screamed and slobbered like a fool - all Ritchie says after a silence is "he's done it". Also listen to what Benaud has to say after the Basit Ali dismissal and compare it with how Warne introduced us to that wicket. Man! what a commentator :-). )

And who will forget his duels against Cullinan, his biggest bunny ever. I have never enjoyed cricket like the way I have enjoyed when Australia bullied and mauled South Africa. And Cullinan was a joke against Warne. The taps, the familiar drumming by the corwd, and the baying-for-blood that began everytime Warne bowled to Cullinan was simply awesome. It was a classic case of psychological Vodoo that Warne did. His wicket of Herschille Gibbs in the WC 99 Semi Finals was much better than that Gatting ball. It just pumped up the team like crazy and got every Australian fired up. I never cared for his off-field antics, or his multiple women issues. I thought he wouldnt be warne if he didnt do all those. The part of his psyche that made him the best bowler was the same part that made him sledge, and behave like a casanova. He was a package set. If he were dour, disciplined and straight, he'd be Venktapathy Raju and not Shane Warne. (Next Video: Warne's Hatrick - the last days of David Boon doing his thing at Forward Shortleg. The 3rd wicket was so similar to harbhajan's 3rd wicket in Eden Gardens)

Glenn Mcgrath

ooh - aah Glen Mcgrath
oohAah Glenn Mcgrath.

He comes in does his famous excercise routine, while fans sing the 'ooh aah Glenn McGrath' song. The same elbow stretch, leg pull and then he would run in and bowl the first ball of a test match right in the 'corridor of uncertainity' as if he were bowling his 20th over. Seam up, high bounce and just mean.

Anybody who has, among his bunnies - Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar and Mike Atherton has to be awesome. Tendulkar has never been so technically incapable and struggle so poorly against any bowler - except McGrath. McGrath can be clearly declared as the winner of that battle. The one day tri-series that India played down under in 99/2000 was a joke. Sachin couldn't middle a single McGrath delivery. The Mumbai test of 2001, which I believe is one of Sachin's best innings, was the closest he came to defy McGrath but he never dominated McGrath the way McGrath dominated him.

This whole sequence of Sachin nibbling the ball behind has happened so many times.

Lara has at times dominated McGrath (more than what Tendulkar has done) but the reverse has been true more number of times. He simply got out too many time against Mcgrath and only very few of them were to poor strokes. McGrath, to me, was the quintessiantial fast bowler. Full of confidence. No conversation on Mcgrath or Warne would be complete if we didnt talk about their sleding ways. Their approach cricket was awesome and same cant be said about the wusses who complained against them. Whats thrilling about Mcgrath was he would put himself on the firing line and predict that he would get someone out. And he has not embarassed himself that many times. His success rate in acheiiving this is probably the highest anyone can imagine to acheive. My special McGrath-predictions were those involving Lara, Tendulkar (in 1999) and his 299, 300, 301st wicket and his 500th wicket (he said before the series began as to who he thought would be his respective victims). Listen to the commentary when he gets his 300th wicket. When I was watching the match 'live' - Channel 9 had the common sense to show his interview (taken the day before where he spelt out how he had visualized his 299, 300, 301st victims) and the wickets side-by-side (the wickets fell the same order in which he spelt it out) for that 'aha' effect.

Mcgrath's destruction of England, especially his 8-for-something in a rain-washed Lords test was just awesome, and it is the closest comparison to Ambrose getting England for 42. On top of it he was really mean to the English. And I loved that. Ambrose was mean (and really scary) when he played England (both McGrath and Ambrose pretty much destroyed England) but you tended to like Ambrose for some reason (its amazing why Ambrose is liked so much) but Mcgrath was just verbally, physically and systematically mean. The opponents just hated him but couldnt deny that he was good.

Here is Ambrose's classic 7 wickets for 1 run. Awesome isn't it.

Australia will ofcourse overcome these 2 retirements and come up with another set of bowlers who will help them continue their 2 decade dominance of cricket. But these 2 will always be special. Their approach to cricket, their off field antics and their personalities have a lot to do with it as much as their talent.

Post Script:

Meanwhile here are some remixed videos of Shatakumaran Sreeshanth doing his thing. He is quite a character. I am simply taken in by his antics. I hope people don't read some stupid Gandhi book to him and spoil the agression in him. We need mean people like Mcgrath and Warne. He is much better off being a firebrand dude than 'i the only to be happi to bend over backwards for you' indian fast (medium) bowlers that we so famously keep churning out.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


This is set in a time when Mayan civilization existed several hundred years before. There is scene where 'Jaguar Paw'/'Almost' (This is the name of the movie's hero) waits his execution. Mel Gibson sets our expectation for this gory execution scene in a systematic, formulaic, and what can now be called Mel Gibsonic way. He is so successful in making us feel as if we are part of that environment. Heads roll down the long stairs and there are these soon-to-be-executed people who see it as they wait for their turn. Then a sample guy is shown to be executed. First his chest is torn with a knife, his heart is extracted, shown live and still-beating to the public (some thousands are assembled to watch this spectacle) and then he is decapitated. The priest takes the loose head and rolls it down the 200-step odd stairs. Its collected in net by dancers like its a ball and deposited along with other heads. We know that our hero awaits a similar fate so we are thrilled. But thats not enough. The formula doesnt stop here. We need to be really told - as to how scary the execution is. So as JaguarPaw watches - his friend is taken to the execution stage. This like a second level zoom into the execution sequence. The gore level is insanely high. This person's execution is shown in closer detail. You are being thoroughly prepared for the possible impact when JaguarPaw is executed. So this friend's execution is shown from a first person's point of view. You can almost feel his fear as he is dragged and laid on the execution platter. From his eyes you can see the priest stab his chest and he sees his own heart being plucked out. Then when his head is cut and it falls down, you can see the world from his point of view. He can see for a brief few seconds after his head has been chopped off. Then comes our hero's turn. By this time, not just us, but also JaguarPaw knows clearly and exactly what to expect. That adds to the excitement. Its very personal now. Does JaguarPaw die? Well..


Thats his name isn't it? In a scene that seems like a sequence shaven out of Tintin's "Prisoners of The Sun" (This movie is so similar to that Tintin episode) we see what this movie is all about. Its like a 3 minute sequence when JaguarPaw lies on the execution stone waiting for his head to be chopped off. This 3 minutes, and this 3 minutes alone, tells us the theme, the setting and the context of the whole story. We see a priest and a king, conniving to cheat an entire civilization. This is the only part, the 3 minutes, where the whole spiel about the decline of Mayan civilization etc comes into play. This movie is not about the decline of any civilization nor does it say something profound about any philosophy at all. It does not even matter if its Mayan or Payan actually. Thats just a cosmetic aspect of this movie. Its an out-and-out chase movie. An action movie thats all about revenge, hunt, violence and thrill. It could be set in 2032 and 3 droids could be hunting down a human who has escaped, it wont make a difference. This movie happens to be set 600 years ago and none of the dialogs are in English. But its awesome nonetheless.

Mel Gibson has a standard formula in every movie of his. Especially in Braveheart, The Patriot and this movie. Its a powerful formula and works very well in that it stirs up our emotions effectively. There is always this closely knit family with a loving wife, husband and children. The first few minutes focuses on the warmth of their relationship. Then the central character's near and dear ones are cruelly raped and plundered in front of his eyes and then there is a big chase-revenge-chase sequence that ensues. All this is gorily done, the barbaric psyche of human beings is brought to the fore and we are made to believe that "if it happened really this is how it would actually happen". We are shocked, enthralled and totally gratified. In this world our credit card bills, loans, and worldly problems appear insignificant and silly. This is a world where death happens so casually and life is cheap. Its entertaining to watch people with bigger problems to worry about than ours. Gibson spends a good 30 minutes focusing on the happy times in all 3 movies, so that you feel jolted and shattered when they are raped and killed cruelly. He does this very well in this movie too. You are drawn into this movie right from the first chase sequence and then at every point you are involved in this movie and can never take your eyes of the screen. You feel for all the characters and are horrified at their fates.

A classic chase-action movie in an environment and context you have never seen before. This is what impressed me a lot. It is way back in time and set in a context of barbarians and savages. Nevertheless, there is a charm to it. Ofcourse there are some scenes which can only be described as fantastic and only slightly believable. If you overlook those, this is a high speed entertainer by a master craftsman. You gotta give credit for Gibson. Not just for the setting and the locales but for choosing an ancient Mayan civilization as the backdrop and allowing the characters to speak in a different language. The characters looked alive and real because they were allowed to speak in their own language. The subtitles didn't bother me at all. Although sometimes, the way the words were translated, made me believe that we were watching a suburban American family with corny dialogs instead of a barbaric boar-testicle eating Mayan family. Technically, this is an awesome movie. The Jaguars, the waterfalls rise up your BP levels and the thrill/roller coaster ride never stops until the last scene. I love intense movies and this is as intense as it gets. I thought the game the hunters played to dispose off the remaining tribals was worth the price of admission.

Gibson is an excellent movie maker and a much better entertainer. He proves it again with Apocalypto.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I yam back! Baby!

Haven't seen a full ODI/Test match after 2003 World Cup. Its almost 4 years. Haven't seen Suresh Raina, Venugopal Rao, VRV Singh, Munaf Patel, Gautham Gambhir at all. Have seen glimpses of Dhoni. For a guy who sat and saw English county matches because De SIlva was playing in them - this is too much. Now I am back!
Purchased the test series between RSA Vs Ind. It begins tomorrow. Have an Economics final exam tomorrow. I really have no clue what the subject is all about. But I don't care. I am watching the game. woohooo!
10 years before, 3rd year BE, my friend Booman and I were arguing if W.V.Raman should open at the Wanderers or not (we actually wrote the test XI in our notebooks when class was going on and argued). At that time Dravid hadn't made his test debut century yet and a fool called Vikram Rathore was still playing for India. Now we are playing at the Wanderers again.
George is back!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Kavithalaya Krishnan

The Hindu has an article on him. He is one of my favorite actors. I know he has acted in many K.B movies. But if I were to pick his top 3 roles it would be

1. 'Lift Man' Krishnan in Anjali. Small but Sweet Role.
2. Has the 'eri karai mele poravale pon mayile' raagam argument with the Judge in Sindhu Bhairvi. He wins.
3. His role as tailor "Baba Rao" in Crazy's Here is Crazy is legendary.

It almost feels like he has been somewhere on screen ever since I started watching T.V

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Final Exam Week Rant # 81

This is my 8th year in some college or the other and I am tired. This is simply too much college for a guy like me because I never liked courses, exams and the concept of studying itself. However, like a unforgiving masochist I have beaten myself to death with exams. I am like a semi-dead guy running the last mile of a marathon, I am coughing, limping and willing myself to the bloody finish line. I remember taking a stupid horrible OS Lab course (Xinu anyone?) as my last course in my previous grad school. That course seemed like somebody was giving me a rectal examination for eternity. I promised myself that I'd never go to school again. I guess I should note down and remember what I feel about school during exams. The xerox, phone call, last-minute book borrowing, syllabus book checking, method of studying that I did in B.E days hasn't exactly gone away. Its the same everywhere.

On the subject of micro-economics. Grr! writing a paper on Google from an economics perspective is like analysing Salma Hayek's body like a dermatologist. Not sexy - just painful. This is like my zillionth paper on Google. One more Google case, for that matter one more word, I hear about Wallmart, eBay, Microsoft or the long-tail I'll just go mad. I am telling you. I'll go mad.

And somehow I manage to get a cold or a cough during exams. I hate this. Hotwater + Disprin + gargle = Zindabad!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Single Serving Friend

He wanted to make a conversation and the fact that I was not interested did not make a difference to him. The flight to Seattle was long and I spent some time watching a movie on the laptop. He kept peering into the laptop and laughed occasionally at the movie. When the laptop battery died and powered down, he had a remark on that. He talked about the weather, Seattle, flights and everything else. I began to quickly pull out my iPod with an intention to rapidly put my ear phones back on. I so had a mood to listen to Velukudi Krishnan. But he wouldn't let me. I was holding the ear phones in both hands and half-way towards my ears and he still showed no signs of stopping. As I began to debate whether a snub would prove costly, he said something.

He said " I just said good bye to my mom! She is dying I'll never see her again".

It changed the equation and the tone of the conversation significantly. I have been meeting interesting people on flight in the recent past but this was different. He was a native of Louisiana and had grown up there all his life, joined the Navy had been to most parts of the world, proposed to his wife after the first date (over the phone from California) and now he is nested in Seattle. It must've been a tough ride for him - this flight to Seattle. How do you reconcile to this fact? Surprisingly I had a conversation with him that I felt was the most profound I had in many years. His mother was 77 and she lived with his 2 sisters and a brother in a single house. He seemed to be the only reasonably earning member in his family. He had left a family in distress with the senior member nearly dying. He seemed to be torn apart by the guilt of staying away from home and the need to be with his new family. And we talked about the trade-offs of staying away from home, the philosophy of building a new family in a new place and then finally death.

I began to open up to the conversation in a unfamiliar fashion. I was surprised by the topics I broached, which I was usually cynical and sarcastic about and didn't usualy speak with anyone, let alone strangers. I told him that I had said a similar goodbye to my aunt when I left India this year. She was 85 and all of us including her knew she would not last long. She was my favorite aunt, a towering personality who always got her way, and had the sharpest memory I have ever seen. She gave final approval for my father's marriage, played commander-in-sister-in-law-chief to my mom! could speak many languages, knew exactly what the custom and ritual was for a given occasion and made one of the best kesari's ever made on the planet. In short a she had the spirit of a wild teenager stuck in a old lady's clothes. It is no easy task to say goodbye to some people. Yes! you say goodbye in railway stations and in airports but this is a different level. I held several conversations with her in the 1 month I was there and she explained to me as to how she confronted the doctor into telling her what a the problem was. Nobody could really evade her pointed piercing questions. Not even the doctor. But there was a difference. She had the spunk. She actually wanted to live. Thats what I loved about her. She asked me if my dad could find a 'spencer rate' doctor who would save her life. When that did not work out, she was dissapointed in a way I would be if I didnt get some job I wanted or didnt manage to get a ticket for my favorite movie.

Although he spoke for the most part in our flight conversation, I mentioned all this to him and told him that I was surprised that unlike all the people around her, who were reconciled to the reality that she would not survive, she didn't take death like a domesticated cow but actually expressed her desire for survival to the best of her ability. He was equally surprised, when I mentioned she was 85. His mother apparently had given up the desire to live and the rest of them had taken that for granted. "The only regret she had was not seeing all her children become successfull" , he said. He was more interested in knowing my aunt's conversations during her last days. I had no idea why he wanted to know. Maybe he was venting himself by having these conversations. My aunt's biggest conversation topic was her regret that she had to endure some suffering before she passed away, she kept asking me "what wrong did I do. Why is this not easy? not overnight? What did I do to deserve this". I was caught in the moment so I narrated that to him - verbatim. This seemed to shake him a lot and he kept repeating "what did I do to deserve this". He was an old man, around 55 and I couldn't believe I was having this conversation with him. 1 hour ago all I wanted to do was avoid him. The 'connection' was amazing. Everything I said seemed to be so relevant to him. I felt that. He asked me "what was the last the last thing you said to her". This conversation was taking dramatic overtones and I hate drama. But I had an answer to this question. I told him I had asked my aunt to be alive until next year. Those were my last words to her and she gave me a sad look in return. I asked him the same question - He said he had said "goodbye" and she didnt reply. He later talked about his family, Seattle and his life. He said something I'll never forget - His family was a family of smokers. For many many years all members of his family, including him, smoked. Then his father died of lung cancer. His son was born "autistic" ( could not talk). And so he decided to quit smoking forever. He hasnt smoked since 1987.

What me laugh was - when we were deplaning - he introduced himself in a broken-arrow like moment. He streched his hand and said "Clyde". I reached out and shook his hand knowing fully well, I would never meet him again. The nature of single servingness seemed all encompassing to me. Single serving friends on a plane, single serving aunts, single serving moms and single serving children. Single serving life overall and lot needs to happen to get it all right in one serving.

*Single Serving Friend - is a term introduced in the movie The Fight Club

Monday, December 04, 2006

Movie Review: This nonsense called 'Don' - 100% Style 0% Substance

It is funny why people have guns in this movie. More funnier when they choose to point guns at Sharukh Khan. Nobody can shoot him. Even from point blank range. He quickly grabs the gun and does some fight like thing and they are all knocked down. From the first scene until the last scene he does this. 2 or 3 duffers point a gun at him at point-blank range. He turns and grabs the gun like he is grabbing a lolli pop. The other guys do nothing except get knocked down. In line with the 'no substance' theme of this movie - There is a pathetic pre-title Bond-like intro scene. You expect 'Don' to squeeze out of a tight situation in an intelligent fashion. The moment you understand that all he does is grab guns before the other guy can shoot, you are prepared for a 2 more hours of sub-Rajinikanth level logic, which really doesnt stop until the shabbily done moonraker-rip off scene at the end.

This movie fits into the bollywood stereo type though. A handsome actor, 2-3 hot babes, expensive locales, completely choclatey, nothing resembles anything real world. There are agents from interpol, Indian police etc in Malasiya. It almost seems like Indian ploice has a station in Malasiya. None of the twists and turns in this movie makes any sense. Dont even expect logic. I almost puked in one scene. Vijay replaces 'Don' and caims he has amnesia. In a kindergarten like logic he reasons (almost talks to the audience) that something big needs to be orchestrated for him to regain his memory. So De Silva and Vijay arrange a police-chase. All Vijay does to create the 'big event' is take his car under a truck and then take an exit ramp. Thats the big event and voila! he has his memory back. I would like to find out who wrote these trashy, cheap and cliched dialogs and kill the person. The writers of starwars have done shakespearian work compared to these writers. There is a scene where 'Don' is supposed to go for a deal. Narang wants Roma to accompany 'Don'. Don objects then later his wife objects. Roma's retort to Don's wife must be saved and archived some where. She spits out some crap, which must have had the audience vomitting in unision.

There is this pretense that 'Roma' has a role with substance. But she does not. Nobody has any role that is anything more than superficial. Kareena loses her husband, cries 2 tear drops and wipes it with a corner of her hanky making sure her make-up doesnt go away and in 5 seconds she is seducing Don - in a silly scene. Roma's dialogs are banal and she cant act at all. My god nobody is more below average than this chic. There is this guy who plays a role called Jasjit. Among the people who could not act in this movie Jasjit couldn't act the most. He is what Seinfeld would call a 'Mimbo' (while Roma, Kareena etc are Bimbos). I wonder who that actor is. I havent seen many SRK movies. This is probably my second or third ( I know I saw Dilse. I cant recollect anything else). He is stylish has that spunk about him and looks cool. But he is no Amithabh Bachan. Seriously! None of these new guys beat Amithabh. All the twists and turns in the movies second half are poorly poorly done. 1 hours before that twist comes the director practically writes it on a board and announces it to us. None of those twists are a surprise and if you couldn't guess it your IQ is less than Farhan Akthar's (in short its less than 3). This director is the epitome of show biz. He has made every frame in the movie rich and plastic. Every single frame. Even the villages in India look like a scene out of Wizard of Oz.

One word: Superficial

See the video from the old 'Don' featuring Amithabh to flush out the bad taste of seeing the new 'Don' from your mouth. Don should never have been redone. The original was just too good and far ahead of its time. It gives an impression that Hindi cinema hasnt improved from the time the original Don was released.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Idiot Convention

Rediff attracts more idiots than any other website on the planet. The idiocy is pervasive and not just limited to the writers of rediff. On one hand, Raja Sen gets the bile faster out through your mouth than any other writer in the world. On the other hand, the jobless people who comment on rediff article are the ones who leave me totally dehydrated. Have you ever wondered how retarded somebody should be to leave comments on the rediff articles that are published today?
Take this article for instance. Just read and be amazed by the idiocy of the commentors at the bottom of the article Vadivelu Subramanian, Rachna, Sridhar Rout, and Satyasundar Nayak. Rachna thinks she is communicating with the judge itself. The stupidity of her comment is rivalled only by the puke worthiness of Satyasundar's comment.
I have never understood rediff's solicitation of opinions and public debate on a variety of topics. What is the point of it? Why is it less futile than one of those stupid online petitions? It has got one thing right though - it has correctly estimated the number of stupids who browse the internet. They unfailingly attract all members of this category - right down until the last stupid. Agreed 4-5 years ago the cricket discussions were interesting and it was a pleasure to participate. But now it reeks of dullness. Merely browsing the web page where the public leave comments on rediff articles or rediff created discussion forums can leave your brain numb for 3 weeks.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Now Now..

  • This is the Indian Batting Line-up today

    1. Tendulkar 2. Jaffer 3. Sehwag 4. Karthick 5. Kaif 6. Dhoni

    I think the bar has been sufficiently lowered for Saurav Ganguly to be in the team.
  • I think the following players are nonsense 1.Agarkar 2. Suresh Raina 3. Venugopal Rao 4. Dinesh Mongia 5. Jaffer
  • The following players are talented players who may never deliver 1. Laxman 2. Dhoni 3. Yuvraj Singh 4. Sehwag
  • In one of those 'I am totally ashamed to be Indian' moments - I think the bar has been sufficiently lowered for Laloo Yadav to be in the parliament (now wait he already is)..well.. I guess even a fool like Navjot Sidhu can be a MP (no wait he already is). I think any bumbling idiot who can't even count to 3 - can now get into the parliament. It is embarassing to think of the idiots who are actually passing comments on the team and Chappell. Someone, an MP, actually said this "a majority of Ganguly fans feel that he should be part of the team and we need to communicate those feelings to the team.". Its not even " a majority of cricket fans" - how embarassing is that?
  • So these MPs have sent a comparable idiot called Dilip Vengayasarkar to communicate their retardedness to this team.
  • All the experiements have led to just 1 conclusion - that there are only 2 reliable batsman in the team and the rest are bonuses. 1 shot wonders and "i may/may not click today depending on which side of the bed I get up". There needs to be 1 more solid batsman in the line-up. Laxman is an excellent batter for the first 12 runs that he hits and then he gets out. So Laxman is not solid neither is Yuvraj, Kaif or Jaffer. Ganguly isnt solid either but he is better than these fools.
  • My god! we really have no bench strength.
  • Given the Idiot quotient of the selectors and MPs it is only appropriate that an ODI player like Ganguly be included in the test team. It makes perfect sense in that it does not make sense.
  • 2-3 out of the last 3 world cups our progress to the final stages has mainly depended upon 1 guy. In the last WC there seemed to be a semlance of back-up support to that guy. But for a idiot captain who chose to bat second, we might have actually had a shot of winning the finals. This time that guy is more alone than the 1996 WC.
  • Edit: Tendulkar's record against RSA is just pathetic. There seems to be no reason why he can do it against Aus and not against RSA. He isn't anybody's bunny and he has shown he can score in RSA. Its just specifically against RSA that he appears like a fool. His career is ending and this record cant be altered significantly. So it will remain that he sucked against RSA. I remember him eschewing playing anything against Fannie De Villers in 1996. They do have that hold over him

Monday, November 27, 2006

Movie Review: Casino Royale

The first time I read the novel more than a decade ago, I never thought this novel was movie material. The novel was an intense drama about a British Intelligence spy (I think it was called MI-5 and not MI-6 in this book) caught in a tense card game, followed by some torture chamber etc. The lead character James Bond (who was described as one with a scar on his face/back?) was completely different from the Roger Moores and Connerys I had seen on the screen. In the books, he was intense, barely used double entendres and was more human. I went to this movie with a lot of skepticism. On one hand, movies based on Fleming's novels tend to have a semblance of a story line, which was completely absent in the last 4 Bond movies and needlessly over-emphasized in the previous two Dalton movies. On the other hand how do you make a movie based on a novel that dedicated 70% of page space on a card game?

The movie begins by violating a sacred Bond tradition. This seems to be the theme of the movie - violate as many Bond movie traditions as possible. A typical Bond movie has 4-5 acts. The first act is a pre-title sequence. This act immediately follows the 'United Artists' banner and you see James Bond walking from left to right on the screen (Connery did this with a funny hat) turns around and shoots at the camera. The camera bleeds red and the circle that focuses on bond enlarges and takes us to an adrenalin filled opening scene which is followed by a semi-animated 'title credits' sequence involving guns, negative images of naked women, Bond and more naked women silhouttes. Then 3-4 acts follow in an episodic structure, which involve James Bond travelling to exotic locales, ordering martinis, saying his name in a yoda-like reverse fashion, doing hawt chics with funny names, play cards and finally in a separate 5th act called the climax sequence - James Bond escapes a carefully orchestrated near death sequence kills off the villian and saves London, Queen and the world (warning: although its an awesome awesome video that will thrill you if you r a bond fan - the next video is 21 minutes long - see it in the end).

This movie's pre-title act starts in Black and White, it follows the latest Batman/Spiderman movie tradition of going back to the beginning of the lead character's story/career, a time when James Bond is not yet a '00' agent. The act ends with James Bond shooting someone and the circle hovers over him and directly leads us to the title sequence. Thereby deviating from the usual structure. I did not quite buy the 'you need to kill two people to get a licence to kill' looped logic. It seemed silly but it made up for a good opening scene. The animated title-credits sequence was poorly done and the song was not in line with Bassey, Duran Duran or Louis Armstrong classics. Given the constraints of the novel, it is understandable that the action sequences need to be invented or contrived to keep the pace of the movie interesting. In that context, the act following the title song is simply awesome. This bond is young, ruthless, athletic and has tons of energy. It was a physically enthralling action scene and I was impressed. The other action sequences are interspersed in the middle of the card game sequences and blend well with the flow of the story without appearing contrived.

Other obvious places where Bond tradition has been violated are - Felix Leiter, who is Bond's trusted CIA friend comes back (he keeps getting injured, dead or disposed in many movies/novels). He is also African American. He never appeared in the Casino Royale novel but finds a place in the movie. Bond also doesn't give a damn if his martini is shaken or stirred. Strange but acceptable. M still continues to be a woman. Bond breaks into her house and almost utters her real name. Yes! it is not a random symbol given by the British Intelligence. If I remember my novels correctly, M is short for Admiral Sir Mercilles Miles (can anybody confirm this?). I am not sure what a woman's name in this place would be. The movie's biggest weakness is the the final act, which violates the usual huge action sequence of exploding ships (even space ships) and buildings. The romantic emotional bond ( I missed Brosnan in this sequence and was the only time I thought Brosnan might've done a better job) that you see in the final half hour is against the pace of the movie and made the movie un-bondish. In purely business terms this is being puristic at the cost of ignoring your audience. Otherwise the movie is simply awesome, really entertaining and renews interest in this wonderful franchise.

The Actor Who plays Bond: It is inevitable for Bond fans to argue on 'who is the best bond' topic every time a new actor takes up the Walther PPK. The debate usually has been "does he replace Connery as the best bond ever?". I liked Daniel Craig. I was a huge Brosnan fan (very obvious since I have seen each episode of R'Steele gzillion times) and I was pre-disposed to thinking Daniel Craig did not have the class or the panache to play Bond. Well! I was right - he does not. But I was wrong in that Bond does not need class or panache. Roger Moore made bond an upper class, snooty cricket playing grandpa Bond with a country club membership. His witticism and aristocracy made Mike Myers a superstar than make him the best bond ever. Dalton, a really fine actor, played a serious classless bond who was less physical but more shakesperian. Brosnan, I thought blended the right bond. He had the style and built of Sean Connery, he had charm and he was a really fine actor. Plus he was a box office king. Unfortuntely his movies never had a story line that was even remotely sensible (frankly his movies never depended on a story at all) and added to that Brosnan got bond 10 years too late.

Daniel Craig is a brute. M directly compares the 2 bonds. If I remember correctly, Brosnan was called a 'sexist mysogynist dinosaur. A relic of the cold war' by Dame Judi Dench. Here, she calls Craig a 'blunt instrument'. These were the respective Brand positioning of the two James Bonds. The difference between the two is that this story allows Craig to deliver on his positioning. He is young, so full of adrenalin, intensely physical and moves like a cross between Jackie Chan & Schwarzenegger. He presents a different Bond. A simple no nonsense cold blooded killer. He makes mistakes and learns from them. He is closer to Sean Connery in the spectrum than Moore. Connery could play the brute but he had class. Connery's walking style (the way he leans on the counter in the theraphy club in Thunderball ) - just oozes style and class. Craig hasn't had an opportunity to showcase that side of him - yet. However, when he finally announces himself in the closing lines of the movie - he makes us stand up and take notice.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanks Giving

Seems to be the pivotal holiday around which my life undergoes dramatic changes.

In anycase, I apologize for being poor in responding to comments, posting regularly etc. All that will change in the future :-). I should respond-to-comments/post regularly from Monday. Right now I am in the buckeye land, visiting my alma mater and showing my family - my version of 'gnabagam varuthe' song (basically walking down the memory lane). I dont think there is much beyond the Mirror lake, Dreese labs, and the Lincoln tower. Which must be as interesting to my family as seeing a fresh new bag of fertilizer.

Today, I put on my Ohio State T Shirt after a long time. I could never wear it safely in Michigan. So for today i'll be in a Go Bucks! mood (ofcourse they won last week by a whisker and it is so convenient for me to switch allegiences). I cant believe I am staying in Lane Avenue again. Ofcourse this time its at the Holiday Inn and not one of those cheap run down places owned by Pellas. But - My god! this place has changed so much. Its actually better looking. When I went to school here, this whole place looked like a sewer dump. I'll switch back to Go Blue in the weekend.

After Columbus, its off to Pittsburg and then to Washinton D.C, and after a brief detour to Darden Business School, I'll begin my drive back to Ann Arbor on Sunday.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Air Travel in the U.S

I have been flying a lot in the recent past. Flying so much that sometimes, I land and check my boarding pass to find out where the hell I just landed. The whole security check before the flight is so funny. It is so painful to get up in the morning, pack, dress up ( i hope this is different from wearing a 'dress') and then go to the airport. The moment you go there they ask you to unpack, undress (shoes, belts and stuff) and then quickly put it all back again in less than 1 minute.

The whole thing seems so artificial. You are standing there in a line like a dead log for 15 minutes and then once you get close to those x-ray machines, your activity level drastically goes up. You take your laptop out in a hurry, remove shoes, remove belt, coat take your cell phone, wallet keys out. Walk through that detector gate and quickly put all these back on and leave in a minute. Some of us feel the time pressure that we have to do all this in record time, some of us (read as old people) do it so slowly that you need a shave by the time they are done.

Then there are these people who feel they have accomplished something if they cross that metal detector without a whistle from that machine. They have this smug look on their face when they walk. The self-rightous, "Look at me - I am such a nice person - I am so safe" look as they tip-toe through the small gate. They walk slowly and carefully as if - speeding - would tick off some sort of an alarm. When you reach the other side of the gate you hope for a trophy or an award for being the safest man on earth. But all you get is a signature and an unspoken mandate to dress up and leave quickly.

Some times you get good company in the aircraft, sometimes you dont wanna talk to people at all. Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to meet a very diffent co-passenger (yes! my "single serving friend"). He was so excited from the moment he got on the flight. He must have been around 22-23 years old. We were approaching Detroit, and he kept peering closer into the window (I was in window and he was in aisle) and said "Detroit so beautiful. Its the best place in the world". I was surprised. I mean we just flew out of Chicago, which according to me was just awesome. And this was Detroit we were talking about. The fungus of America. And he was pointing to the small lights far far away and said "see christmas lights. its so beautiful". I couldn't resist but ask him "is this where you are from?" and he said "yes". We landed and I could visually see his excitement level increasing. It was unmistakable. He was behaving exactly the same way I would behave every time I landed in Madras. After the permission was given to switch on the cell phone, I called up my wife and told her I had landed. The guy apparently heard my foriegn tongue and asked me "Do you speak Urdu?". I told him I didn't speak Urdu. He then asked "where are you from". I told him - India. "But dont Indians speak Urdu?" he said confused. I said "well.. some, not all, Muslims in India speak Urdu". So I asked him where he was flying in from. He said " from Iraq".

Okay. So he explained that he had spent 2 years with the US military in the Iraq War Zone and is now coming back to the U.S for good. And we started talking abaout staying away from family etc ( although my case wasn't even remotely similar to his). He actually got to talk to his parents over the phone - from Iraq. He also said he worked with the Indian military a lot (in iraq??). Well! its hard to even imagine how his emotions would be like and what kind of excitement he was going through that moment? Sweating it out 2 years in a war zone and making it back to see his parents. It is probably one of the happiest moments he would ever experience in his life. I suddenly felt all emotional and happy for him. I told him that also.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Autograph Background Score

I happened to watch some scenes from Cheran's Autograph. I agree its a well crafted movie and is made to target the sensitive emotions of a majority of the population. I actually did not connect with the movie at all. Frankly, none of what was mentioned in the movie happened to me and I have lived and studied in villages. I kept thinking it was more relevant to my dad's era than mine.

But that aside. Did anyone notice this or is it just my imagination?

I think the background score of Autograph, especially the one that is played when Cheran goes to college in Kerala and falls in love with the Veena girl, is a rip-off of Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven". It does not just stop with resembling that song slightly - it is the instrumental version of "Tears in heaven" played with Indian instruments. Side Note: Eric Clapton has given many hits like "I shot the sheriff" and "Layla" but "Tears In Heaven", a song dedicated to the memory of his young child, who accidentally fell off the patio of a high rise building and died, touched a lot of hearts. Clapton won a (lot of) Grammy Awards for this single.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A 'friend', 'source' 'passerby'

Have you read those novels where a James Bond like hero - risks his life, tracks a spy, who is sent to kill a president, chases the spy down in a high-speed car chase and finally kills the spy. Ofcourse the newspaper wont carry the true story. The next day the incident is reported as "a highway accident happened where a 'person' was killed and a 'passerby' witnessed the incident".
Have you read novels where a person and 'friend' study together. This 'person' becomes a sportsman. The sportsman becomes huge and wins something like a grandslam. A photo of the two appear in newspaper saying "popular sports personality xyz and 'friend' celeberate xyz's victory". So imagine how it is to be this 'friend', 'source' 'passerby'.
Its actually not bad :-).
My post, making fun of Orkut testimonials, seems to have caught a lot of attention. Some aggregators seem to point to it, some scraps have a link to it, and there seems to be an email forward with this link going around as well. My friend Sudhish Kamath, popular blogger, newspaper columnist and debutant movie director, wrote about that post, and offered his own suggestions on proper orkut decorum. This appeared in in one of India's leading national daily and I got mentioned as the 'friend'. I am actually glad to get referenced, even if I am just a pronoun in the article. But I thought about this over the weekend. I feel like the 6th guy in uniform in a Star Trek episode, you know the one who always gets killed by a Klingon phaser attack, (or) like the seventh guy in Karagattakaran movie, who is the hero's sixth side-kick after Goundan, Senthil, Sarala etc. That guy got one line in the movie and I got 1 full para.
Next my friend Karthi will take a bow as hero in the movie Paruthiveeran and maybe I'll get mentioned as a 'passerby'. Growing up I so wanted to be like one of these two people but I ended up as the 'friend'. Sad state of affairs. But ofcourse, in West Mamabalam (more specifically in my grand ma's house) these 2 guys will get mentioned as a 'friend' of hawkeye :-)
Ah! stardom! Its so infectious.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Orkut Testimonials: Are people up for sale?

What would you think of this situation? A shop does a fantastic marketing pitch in TV, Radio, Magazines, internet etc. Amazing marketing. You are thrilled at the product and you want to buy it. And so you go to the shop and - - THEY DONT LET YOU IN. Why? Because they dont know you. Actually there is nothing up for sale there. Why were they advertising then? oh! just like that. They wanted other people to know how great they were. Do you think the above situation is crazy weird and does not happen in the real world? Welcome to orkut.

I have been spending a lot of time in orkut (also called orkutting). Maybe its the enthusiasm of a new found toy or maybe orkut is really addictive. One of the things that keeps me entertained in orkut (apart from drooling at girl's photographs) is the whole testimonial thingie. If you don't know what a testimonial is - let me explain. If a person has a profile in orkut - a friend of that person writes a testimonial about the profile owner. Testimonial by definition is like an attestation of various attributes of this person (beauty, friendship, character etc) by an other person. It is like those old ladies in Surf detergent advertisement who give testimonials on TV that the detergent is simply awesome. Here people give testimonials about other people in orkut. Ofcourse people give testimonials in courts also but thats a separate story.

"She is a good girl. Absolutely fantastic. If you haven't met her you don't know what you are missing" insists one testimonial writer on a orkut profile. Another person writes in a testimonial "she is so sensitive, helpful, courageous, adjective4, adjective5, adjective6, adjective7, you must get to know her". Then ofcourse there are guys slipping in a semi-droolish "she is so beautiful" under the guise of being cool and frank but secretly hoping the girl noticed their tactful flirt.

As a reader - I am not sure how to react to these testimonials. They make me feel like a customer. I like what I am seeing. I am impressed with the testimonial, written about an unknown person, by other unknown people. I have to say, I completely trust these testimonials because I know that the profile owner would not have censored bad testimonials and would have done her/his best to present a complete opinion of himself/herself -- ;-) (yeah! right!). So I'd like to buy the person. Say if Shailaja's testimonial has glowing praises of her - I want to buy 5 Shailaja's and you can throw in a Suman also. Shailaja is sensitive, courageous, smart and beautiful (and intelligent) and Suman is very helpful around the house. I am looking for a product package that is smart, sensitive etc and one which can help around the house. How much should I pay? Oh! what? You weren't up for sale? Why not? Then what is the deal with the testimonials? Why does Raju have 53 testimonials that sing praises about how 'understanding' and 'helpful' he is? What is the end of this?

But what confuses me more is that these Shailaja's of the world have allowed these testimonials to do a fantastic marketing pitch for her but she wont let boys have 'fraanship' with her. In the 'about me' column she writes 'please dont request friendship from me if you dont know me' (this is really really common in most girl's profiles). And one of her testimonials read "you dont know what you are missing out on, if you arent friends with her" (this sort of a testimonial I found in over 50 profiles). This is too contradictory for a person like me. Yes! I am missing out. I understand the pain of the testimonial writer in imploring me to make 'fraanship' with this girl. I'd like to help him. But I can't do anything about it.

And the boys in orkut. Boys in general. I mean God had a wicked sense of humor when he created such a sex starved species such as the male homosapien. I guess most men in orkut are walking hard-on's. Most men enter orkut , browsing through profiles, internet, skype directory thinking " i need to get laid. will she work". I think the biological circuitry for the entire species is wired that way. Ofcourse girls - your friend (who is a boy) is different, your brothers (both real and created) are different. But they are the same :-). They are different while being the same. I dont mean to condescend (well! I do but thats a separate topic) but in all honesty, I sympathize with my fellow male species. There is this overwhelming desire to make the 'sex' but they have to make the 'fraanship' first. So you see all these guys leaving messages "will you make friends with me" -- "can I be your friend". So what the internet has done is bring out the male stupidity into the public domain. In my college days we had guys hand out landmark greeting cards (with a passionate face), love letters (no email in my college days, no chat, no mobile - can you believe it?). The only messenger in my days was another friend who communicated 'love' and 'feelings' to this girl. The girl tore up these cards or bashed up the messenger. However, it was all well concealed and happened in private. The boy rarely suffered public humiliation.

Things like skype and orkut are irresistable to the male species. On one hand all girls are in a centralized place (imagine a congragation of 'figures' in one place - that is orkut) and there is opportunity to flirt. But on the other hand its ripe and presents enormous scope for public humilaition. But the male of the species still bite it. They have an open profile with testimonials, brothers, sisters etc and they still leave 'fraanship' messages in unknown profiles. I have laughed so loud at certain guys begging, pleading and imploring for 'fraanship' in orkut. And I dont blame him. If you haven't seen orkut, go surf it - there are some seriously good looking girls out there. Would I have done in my 18-25 sex starved age? Yes! But I have the right to hypocrisy as much as the next guy.

Then there is this skype thing. My skype account is in my wife's name and I often get messages asking "would you like to be my friend". I mean the guys can just see a name on the directory. All they can see is a bunch of alphanumeric characters that indicate that the account owner is a female. Imagine how 'turned on' or sex starved the male of the species must be to just go ahead with just a name. Sometimes they call directly on skype and sometimes they send text messages. Depending on my mood I play with him or ignore him. When I play with him, I ask him point blank "are you sex starved? is that why you are messaging me". And you should see the nonsense he throws out as replies. From "I want to be your true friend" to "I want to be your brother" to "arent you a proper indian girl... why do you talk like this" - its a laugh riot. I, ofcourse, am on the other side of the fence and I feel so powerful breaking the ego of these vulnerable men with the sleight of the keyboard. Its an amazing experience. I can now see the dominance that women have over men.

Orkut is a theater. And people play their parts I guess. I think its more relevant to people in school/college than others. Maybe having 570 fans is a status symbol in some colleges. who knows?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Meme - Lies About me

Before I start the meme -A digression - let me do a quick introduction to some of my favorite Under-Eighteen-Blogs (Blogs run by very young people). Hamsini is this sweet little girl who runs a delightful blog at Live Journal. Sometimes - it is so nice to visit blogs by U-18 kids like Hamsini or Magix (not U-18 anymore - I guess). They talk about stuff which takes you back in time to your college days. The passion and fanatism they show on idols and stars actually makes me miss Michael Jackson, Boney M, Sachin, Sunny and all those things I used to die for. Hamsini is a huge Harsha Bhogle fan (who isn't) and a Cricket fanatic. Another U-18 blogger that I have been reading - since forever is Magix. He is a die hard ARR fan and I have known his interent fanatism for ARR for around 5-6 years (from TFM days). He runs a hilarious blog known for its kadi jokes.
Anyway the point of this post is that I was tagged by Hamsini. The object of this tag is to write 6 things about me. 5 are complete lies and 1 is totally true. The idea is for people to find the 'true' thing and leave a comment - saying what the 'true' thing is. So here goes.
1. I sing very well.
2. I don't like to eat. Especially to eat out.
3. I do all the work around my house and never trouble others.
4. I had a secret crush on 'Kutti' Padmini (Hindi Folks: She played lead role in a TV drama series about Navy People).
5. I hate drum sticks. Especially drum sticks in sambhar.
6. I hate P.C.Sreeram. I think he is the worst cinematographer in India.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Movie Review: The Prestige - Oh My God! Simply Mindblowing

Every great magic trick consists of three acts. The first act is called "The Pledge"; The magician shows you something ordinary, but of course... it probably isn't. The second act is called "The Turn"; The magician makes his ordinary some thing do something extraordinary. Now if you're looking for the won't find it, that's why there's a third act called, "The Prestige"; this is the part with the twists and turns, where lives hang in the balance, and you see something shocking you've never seen before.

Have you come out of a theater believing that no praise can be too high for a movie? Have you watched a movie like Memento and thought "this director can never beat this" and then you were proved wrong? Chris Nolan is genius. I know that this is not his story. But the non-linearity of this script, the style, the dialogs , the depth - words simply fail me while describing this work of art. Recursion is an art. Understanding recursion takes some sense. Explaining it to people is an art. Doing that with a wink and style is pure magic. That is what this movie is all about - pure magic both literally and metaphorically.

Two magicians, Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale share one thing in common - an obsession for the art of magic. They are so taken in by the art of deception that they would go to any lengths, to any extreme to earn that applause from the audience. You would like to believe that this story is told in early 20th century but you don't really know. There are trains, old horse drawn carts. This is a time when Edison has a mafia team that works against Tesla (The guy had something to do with Magnetic forces?). The names, I guess are a tribute to those scientists. These two magicians start together in the same team but circumstances force them to become enemies and they are engaged in this constant one-upmanship over the other that just drives them to the extreme.

The story is told in a non-linear fashion. If you thought the backward-forward style of narrating a story in Memento was confusing, then this one really takes the cake. It swiftly cuts back and forth in time seamlessly. It is unapologetic about this. But yet, you know exactly what "time" the story is narrating currently. You have to come up to pace very quickly and concentrate really hard to know 'when' the things that are shown to be happening are indeed happening and exactly 'what' is happening. The movie opens with a key scene that is actually the penultimate part of the story's timeline and then much like the beginning it keeps revealing incidents that are much ahead of what(or is it when) the story has progressed. You wonder where somebody's wife has gone? You are told later. You wonder why he suddenly has a limp. You are told later. If you don't notice you never wonder and you miss out on the charm of the whole thing. The graceful back and forth movement is just one of those 'aha' moments.

The other 'aha' aspect is the recursion - the cheater is cheated and being cheated is part of his cheating game and so he still is actually cheating - but the other person knows this and so cheats him at another level. The movie is about magic and magicians and as they talk about the art of magic, the processes and the deception, the movie does the same on you. You are looking - but you are not - and you are constantly trying to find where the trick is and what it exactly is - but you are willing to be fooled at the same time.

Watch the chinese magician in the beginning, he is a sample for this movie. The concept of what level of sacrifice one has to make to make the act sound real is explained so beautifully and has a lasting impact on the movie. [ couldn't resist the analogy alert: I found people call fork() function and becoming two processes that share same memory and call "kill -9" on the other process :-) ( I gave too much away)]. The point of all this is - who thinks up of all this stuff? Who can conceive such a wonderfully layered idea and present it so well? Imagine the kind of work that needed to have gone to sculpt a movie to this precision. The way Nolan presents this movie is unbelievable. He owns the Noire world. He only shows the stuff in the movie that you want to see. He dabbles a bit in the turns and the pledges but every scene is really a prestige. You see what he wants you to see and you are fooled. Fooled in the micro world he takes you to and you get carried away by the revelation after revelation practically every scene in this movie seems to throw at you. It is a magic show - really - the whole movie is one delightful trick after another. and you are entertained. If somebody talk about pedestrian cinema and compares it to the work of a genius. Nolan is the genius.

To put it simply this is the kind of movie that makes you get those goospimples and makes you fall in love with movies.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Business Week Rankings - Michigan Breaks into Top 5

So this is the month when rankings from various magazines come out. Business Week is by far my favorite place for information on business schools. Once every two years (which is the correct frequency to rank schools) it comes out with a new set of school rankings. Among the rankings that are out there I feel, Business Week's ranking system is reasonably better than U.S.News or Wall Street Journal. Rankings on the whole are a subject of great dispute and many terabytes of data have been wasted on it. However, while applying to business schools, I took it a litte bit more seriously than many others (who claimed they did not see rankings at all - not that I believe them completely). And the rankings I looked at the most seriously was BW rankings.

The knee-jerk reaction for many students/applicants when asked to name their top 5 schools would be 1. HBS 2. Stanford 3. Wharton 4. Kellogg 5. Michigan/Chicago. This is like a typical representation of asked-while-walking-on-the-street opinion of an applicant. BW rankings, are slightly better than the other rankings because, even though they have the order different they are at least in the ball park of common man's opinion. Anyway here goes their rankings

1. Chicago - GSB
2. U Penn - Wharton
3. NorthWestern - Kellogg
4. Harvard - HBS
5. Michigan - Ross
6. Stanford - GSB
7. MIT - Sloan
8. Berkeley - Haas
9. Duke
10. Columbia
11. Dartmouth - Tuck
12. UCLA
13. Cornell
14. NYU - Stern
15. UVA - Darden

I mentioned last year in a blog post that Michigan (which was at 6 then) was looking at knocking out one of the top 5 and enter the Top 5. I wouldn't have picked Stanford as the candidate that was knocked out. I am wrong and surprised.

I wouldn't be surprised if Michigan drops (if it maintains itself at 5 in 2008 - then it has done really well) in the 2008 rankings because its going through a huge renovation/construction. However, what happens after that would be interesting.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Tips to Handle Stress - I

Are you studying for exams? Are you preparing for tough interviews? Are you wound up? Stressed? (Does this remind you of the "amaam sir! amaam" Anacin advt).

If you have checked one, two, three or all of the above do what I do.

Take a break every one hour or so. Log in to your messenger (both Yahoo and MSN). Find out who are all online. On a loop

for( i = contact_1; i <= MAX_OnlineContacts; i++) {
1. Send them all possible kinds of smilies, kick in the but, bat animations
2. Send them all kinds of winks, water splash, lady laughing.
3. In Yahoo Messenger - send out various kinds of coo's, abuses, pithy onliners (there are many pre-recorded stuff avaailable in the UI) - If you have N. Indian friends send them 'Tamil' pre-recorded stuff. Send Hindi stuff to your elderly relatives who dont understand hindi. Send Telegu stuff to your Tamil friends. National integrity is very important.

4. In MSN - record and send voice-o-grams. Record "boooo" (with 'oo' sound going on for 1 minute) or record "shaniyan" (say it 20 times) and send.

5. type "uck" cut (as in edit->cut) it and then type all 26 alphabets one-by-one and after each alphabet paste "uck" press enter -> type alphabet, paste, enter -> etc...


6. Dont reply to their messages asking "what" "are you crazy" " whats goinnn on"

7. Calmly log out. Don't feel guilty at all.

Do it every one hour. You will have a pleasant mood, have a smile in your face, will forget your stress. You will also do well in whatever you are preparing for. I just did it for my cousin. It was thereaupatic (I cant spell this word).

P.S: I am assuming your contacts aren't professional contacts.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Remember that old advertisement for pickles. There is a boy who does not want to eat. He is sitting on his couch, refusing to budge, when his mom calls him for lunch. Then the grandma' taps the pickle bottle with a spoon and he rushes out of the couch to have lunch. I used to wonder - "who the hell would eat just for the sake of pickles. It is Just wrong". Turns out I was wrong. I am like that boy now (except that I don't refuse to eat lunch - Infact I often demand 3 lunches a day). Nowdays, I eat for the pickles. I am not sure if that advertisement was for Ruchi or Priya brand. But I am now, for some reason, addicted to Priya brand :-).
Especially Priya's Mango Thokku pickle. Its just so awesome. Since I hate garlic (my wife loves it), I am very choosy about pickles I eat. I have to say this Mango Thokku is the best. I am now not sure if the pickle or the curd rice is my main dish. I was not a big fan of curd rice, but now I eat it like there is no tomorrow. And pickles are the reason.
I would like to rank pickles in the following order - (Criteria: "Who is curd Rice's best Friend") . This excludes vegetables (because Potatoe Roast, Cauliflower & Okra/LadiesFinger would win hands down). I am only ranking commercially sold pickles and not homemade stuff (because inarguably homemade stuff rocks). So without any delay...
3. Gadaranga Pickle (whats a more identifiable name for this?)
4. Naarthamkai (just bite it and eat it along with Curd Rice)
5. Mango ( Ripe full Mango - not the Pickle)
6. Mixture (with ground nuts) - Whats the Hindi Name for this?
7. Maavadu (Unripe Mango - I am not a big Fan)
hmm... Why do I suddenly miss a lot of things? I hate exams. I hate them. I hate them. I hate Them.