Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Taj Mahal

Some one asked me to write a post that would promote the whole Taj voting thing. So here goes;
I think Taj is an ugly structure. The first (and only) time I saw it, I was completely unimpressed. It may be good for a cemetery but for a monument it is ugly, dirty and boring. It reminded me of the S.V.Sekhar Vaal Paiyan dialog "ponatha veetulaiye vechirukeengala" (is the dead body still in the house?). I promised to myself that I would never set my eyes on anything as ugly and disgusting as the Taj. Unfortunately I saw Arundati Roy's photo on paper. But never mind.
I wish it is not selected for any sort of wonder list. Everybody builds a cemetery. Why wonder? I hope the whole Internet voting things turns out to be a fake. I wish for some sort of a snub/nose-cut for all those software engineers who are using their precious bandwidth to send forward mails on this. The companies that employ such idiots and still make a profit must be on the list. It is certainly a wonder. I wish the 'mera bharat mahaan' pride that filled all these people on the Taj voting issue turns into phlegm. I will request someone to break 500 coconuts in front of Siddi Vinayak Temple if this happens. I'll also ask Vairamuthu to pen a song "Hype'unna Hyp'u Velaikennai Hype'u".

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Yelp Me!

1. Sometimes when people (including me) try to visit my blog, they are automatically redirected to some arbitrary web page (Like "earn your degree" etc). Has anybody else faced this problem? Is it because of the various add-ons that I have like the clock, blogstreet etc? Please to enlighten. (Thanks to the anon for prodding me out of the inertia and finally push me to try and solve this problem)
2. How do people use non-roman script in a blog? If I wanted to write in Devanagari or Thamizh, how would I go about doing it? Can I intersperse non-roman scripts with roman script in a single post? Please to tell?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Equilibrium

Sometimes one participates in family gatherings dominated by old people, where half of them are deaf and the other half absent-minded. One belongs to the latter. With so many old people, it makes it hard for one to remember who is deaf and who isn't. One talks loudly to people who aren't deaf. People who are deaf are left irritated by all the low-talk. In the ensuing commotion, the room gravitates to to an equilibrium where all the people end up talking loudly. There is no difference between teenagers talking to each other in a rock concert and old people talking to each other in a devasam. Rendering all the music irrelevant.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Integration

A close friend and class mate of mine - colorKing - was unsure of his MBA plans and so was discussing all possible scenarios with me. At some point in the argument he said, "I am very old. I am not sure if I can handle the course work in a top B school". I was taken aback by the laughable naivety. In all my discussions with many people, the topic of course work had never cropped up. The course work part of B School is a negligible non-existent factor.
This fellow was a *.medalist in his B.E and a 4.0 category in grad school. I wanted to tell him that having done those horrible probability random theory, signal processing courses in grad school, this B-school course work was a walk in the park (or even less if something like that existed). I told him "dude! course work is very easy. you have done much harder stuff. In mathematics, you have done those double.....". I couldn't continue the sentence. Darn it! I forgot the freaking word for it. I began to draw 's' like shapes in the air. My friend was non-plussed and kept looking at those shapes as if to say "what?".
Finally after a lot of mumbling and searching. I said "Integration". His wife couldn't hold it any more and laughed out loud. But I guess my argument was very effective. I didn't have to say a lot I guess. What I couldn't say gave him a good idea about the kind of course load he might face.
I guess my transformation is complete.

Thathuvam - I

1. Overly emotional people and people who use anger and short-temper to channel their aggression will not make good, sensible decisions. Especially during crunch time. They are also not aggressive.
2. Overly religious people will find it hard to taste material success. The apparent contradictions that arise in their personalities as a result of their twin pursuits may prove very hard to reconcile. But not impossible.
3. Most, not all, overly religious people are overly emotional, short-tempered and prone to display anger. The few who don't are exceptions.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

On Mangoes and love for the Banganapalli

The English word Mango derives its name from the Portugese word Manga, which in-turn is derived from the Thamizh word Maangai. I am an unabashed Mango fan. Probably in the 60th percentile among mango fans. During my travels this May to various parts of India, I 'accidentally' happened to eat a lot of mangoes that were locally popular. I hereby declare that Banganapalli is the king of all mangoes. Not Alphonso as these businessmen and exporters would have the foreigners believe.
Langra is a mango from West Bengal is another popular variety that unfortunately I never tasted. Although I spent significant amount of time in U.P, I missed the most popular mango of that region. I am not sure if Kesar is a mutant of Langra, if it is so then I am sorry to say Kesar sucks. First of all a mango needs to be really yellow. Not sort of yellow. Remember that Indian mangoes gave rise to the color pigment Indian yellow ( The pigment was taken from the urine of cows, which ate these mangoes). A mango that is not as yellow as Banganapalli is not a mango. Secondly, it has got to be sweet and juicy. Kesar is needs to be at least 20X more seet to come within scratching range of the Banganapalli.
The Maharashtrians gave the world Alphonso. And quickly termed it King of Mangoes. A non-yellow, non-juicy, almost salty-tasting mango is a king? No way. I agree it comes a close second to Banganapalli. A court minister, a jester? Maybe. But a king? Never. (Apple) Rumani, an apple-like mango, is another thin-skinned mango that struts itself as if it is the hottest thing in the world after Shreya. It is not. Mainly because its not juicy enough. Furthermore, Apple-like is un-mango like. Moving down south - songs have been penned on the Salem Mango. Thamizh Naadu gave Mulgoa, which is the probably the worst Mango I have ever eaten. Salem is better off doing something else instead of Mango cultivation. The shape, the taste and the juicyness is the most un-mango-like that I have ever seen. The only thing TN can claim glory to is providing or majorly participating in the concept of 'Maavadu'. Pickles made out of budding mangoes.
While on the subject of Mangoes - Raw unripe (really) unripe mangoes also have to be given their due credit. Especially if it is in a form similar to the ones sold in Marina beach. You take a unripe mango cut it along the plane,which would result in many half-ovals. Cut the flesh part of the mango that gives them a teeth-shaped structure. And then add spice to it. This is the ultimate form that unripe mangoes can present itself for human consumption. Some people take home-made mangoes, a step further. Cut the mangoes in very Small pieces, add kothamalli, chillies and other spices to them (sambar/rasam podi). Voila! you have a pickle-substitute. Ruchi and Priya pickles provide a manga-thokku, which is also hard to match in terms of Mango pickles.
Andhra is known for Mango-based pickles. It is unfortunate that the pickles turned out to be a distraction from their main contribution to the world. The sole purpose for which Andhra Pradesh was created. Andhra Pradesh makes, what the Vedas really call the Mangoes - food for gods. Banganapalli. You can get it from boulder size fruits to mountain size fruits. Unimaginably yellow. Juice flows like water flows in Niagara. Banganapalli is the Anna Nicole-Smith of mangoes. Think of every voluptuous lady from Ursula Andress, Cameron Diaz, Anna Kournikova, to J'lo - all rolled into one fruit. The delicate shape, the voluptuousness and juicyness that Banganapalli generates is incomparable. You tear out the skin with your teeth and juices start flowing down. Can something be more sweet? No. Eating a Banganapalli is a thundering orgasm in itself. A drop of its juice and your blood sugar level soars up to 400. Now that is a mango. May and June should be renamed Banganapalli-1 and Banganapalli-2. When June ends and the rain gods pour themselves on the earth - the love fest with Banganapalli ends. Until then it is the duty of every citizen to buy it - even if 1 gigantic fruit costs 15 Rs and you know that the mango-vendor lady in G.N.Chetty road is ripping you off. Because there is a mama from Mandavali standing next to you, who is willing to pay that, put all the mangoes into his plastic cover and drive back in his Kinetic Honda.
P.S: Coming from a family, which has a maniacal obsession to mangoes and conducts annual tournaments on - who eats the maximum mangoes, who finishes of with the whitest shell etc - It is natural for me to think of mangoes 2x more than a pregnant woman with masakkai.

Event: Sathyanarayana Temple Samprokshanam

Sathyanarayana temple in West Mambalam is conducting Maha Samprokshanam this week from June 18 to June 22, 2007. If any one is interested in attending such temple festivals, this one is a no-miss thing. I am maha impressed by the way they are doing it. In the relatively small space available there 20-30 Homa Kundams alight. Garuda Sevai happens Friday evening.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Movie Review: Oceans 13: Horrible

After a boring morning, where I was left in the house with nothing to do, I was looking forward to a beach and a movie evening. It had rained. The weather looked pleasant. Unfortunately the wind factor in the beach sucked. The beach was as still as my bored out morning. So I wandered into City Center Mall, lifestyle and into Inox.

Oceans 13 turned out to be more boring than sitting alone at home with nothing to do. I wanted relaxation all right. But this movie was coma. This Brad Pitt and George Clooney say and do stuff that they think is cool. It is not. As usual 7 out of the 11, 12 or 13 people have no role. The first 30 minutes where a series of worthless events happen is extremely boring. In that 30 minutes they try and explain how difficult it is to steal this new casino. The reason for stealing is immaterial. They steal because we have all bought tickets to watch these people steal. In that 30 minutes, I lost interest on who was supposed to do what. I was waiting for the real movie to begin. I lost count of the number of people in Oceans 13 and just took the producer's word for it.

yew! all that pretentious cool acting left my stomach a little oozy. Unlike Oceans 11,the plot line is uninteresting, uncool, weak and far fetched. Since I didn't exactly buy tickets to watch Pitt and Clooney in designer suits, I was cheering for the very old lady who wandered around with half-exposed boobs. Al Pacino is so lame. All in all boredom ruled. Now, I envy the people who go to work.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Movie Review: Sivaji : 99% Style 1% Substance

When you are in a Rajini movie, you have to make certain allowances. Logic is usually the first victim to take a heavy beating. Common Sense follows next. Successful Rajini movies don't aim high in terms of technology, story, logic and themes. They keep it simple and reduce the dependence on logic. Such movies progress smoothly using a nice balance of masala, comedy, songs, fan appeasement and interesting confrontations. It is not that Rajini is incapable of doing better. But he is a prisoner of his own image. Much like the bribery-capitation fee cycle that he tries to eliminate in this movie - The cost of a Rajinikanth project is high - the capitation fee is a compromise in logic, subtlety etc so that lowest common denominator among fans is appeased. You don't need special intelligence to understand Annamalai or Padaiyappa. Just some basic sensibility towards human emotions is enough. Should the fact that this is a Shankar movie make things different? Should there be some expectation of logic, depth and surprise elements?

It is tempting to think Shankar and Rajini are made for each other. Rajinikanth thrives on the formula where an honest rich man is duped, becomes poor and later fights his way back to richness and glory. The simple message being 'Good Triumphs'. Shankar thrives on revenge stories, where a common man is harmed by the evils of society, becomes poor/loses something, and uses unconventional methods to teach values and fights his way back to glory (Gentleman, Indian, Anniyan and to some extent Mudhalvan). The simple message being - 'Honesty is the best policy'. Sivaji is a perfect marriage of these two formulas. Does it work though? Shankar in the past has shown tremendous depth in story telling and details. But he is not subtle a'la Manirathnam. His logic is sketchy and over-the-top. He is more raw. But still makes purists happy. So when Rajini and Shankar combine, Shankar could have gone for story depth and made purists happy. Shankar could have gone for style and made Rajini Fans happy. Or better he could have gone for the jugular by trying to do both and make everybody happy. Usually when someone tries to go for the third alternative they unknowingly open up a fourth - which is get stuck in the middle and go nowhere. Sivaji is a movie where shankar's and Rajini's negative aspects add instead of subtracting each other. Shankar wants to have some depth in story line, but then remembers that this is a Rajini movie, so he tries to keep it simple and starves the story. So we get an emaciated story that is too weak for Rajini to carry on his head. However, for a Shankar movie - the twins - story and masala are like belt and suspenders. When the story fails, masala delivers and vice versa. In Sivaji, the masala delivers.

Shankar usually builds a movie like a chemical potion. It’s a carefully built formula with preset ingredients. There is a social message, good songs with creative picturization, comedy, technology gimmicks, surprising twists, creative story line, unusual characters, interesting details, revenge sub-plot, and violence. He lines them up in perfect proportions and scales all these things up with 'brahmandam'. Money is lavishly spent to bloat up each ingredient to enormous proportions. So that if one fails the other ingredient can somehow help the movie. Jeans is a good example of a Shankar movie which had several main ingredients (like story etc) that were dead on arrival and some that were at best unusual. But the formula helped the movie cross the 'pass' mark. Boys didn’t have even those 'helper' entities. Whereas in Gentleman, Indian, Kadhalan, and Mudhalvan almost every ingredient worked. Sivaji is neither here nor there. If not for Shankar's broad and all-encompassing formula with a lot of masala buttressing to protect the movie from failure, this movie would have been a sure goner. Basically - Shankar's plan A, which is the main story/content, failed and his spare bag of tricks in the form of Plan B helped this movie work to some extent. You could also say that Rajini's plan A worked and plan B didn't. Sivaji is better than Baba, which is not saying much. Overall, I felt it was a better movie than Chandramukhi. But I doubt if it has the X-factor that Chandramukhi had.

The story/depth part is the weakest in Sivaji. Sivaji is a returning NRI with intentions of providing free education and medical facilities for the poor. He does not explain how that business model will work but says he has shit load of money that can pay the medical bills of everybody. He faces opposition in the form of bribe-seeking government officials and influential competitors. Reduced from riches to rags, how he achieves his goal forms the rest of the movie. Shreya, an extremely hot (red red hot) babe is his love interest. Typical of Rajini heroines, she is 'pothikinu' dressed during the movie and 'avuthikinu' dressed in the songs. Shankar has just one trick in the story department. Sivaji's idea to convert black money to white money. That is it. Everything else - what the Sivaji foundation does, how it helps people, his growth, his nature of help towards the poor is all fluffed up. Not explained. No time is spent on the meat part. You are basically told - 'sivaji does something good - don’t bother with the details - just know that he did some good and people like him now. ok bye'.

The logical/ common sense elements in this movie will not pass the scrutiny of even a complete Rajini fanatic. It is all right to say that one should not expect logic in a Rajini movie. But at least something should make sense. Firstly, NRIs who are senior software architects will not be worth 200 crores. It’s inconceivable. Secondly, meeting Suman, ministers, government officials etc is not so easily possible for common man turned rich NRI. Thirdly, the ministers/political people in this movie are vague. Suman ridiculously changes the ministry by snapping his fingers. We do not know if any one of the caricatured ministers who appear in this movie is a Chief Minister or not. Fourth, the love segment with Shreya is complete nonsense. That part is so over the top that it’s not even worth spending time criticizing. Finally, Sivaji drags people (auditors, drivers, Thalsildars) into his 'office', beats them, stabs ministers and stitches them up instantly. This is clearly nonsense and could have been done better. But I have questions. For what purpose? How is he not challenged by other rowdy elements, government, CBI, police etc? All these things basically add up and say - there is no real story but just a semblance of it. The 'social' aspect is there as a puppet with no real impact. Shankar is usually very good in showcasing the exact nature of social evils. Be it corruption, capitation fee, money laundering - he picks a department and shows in great detail, the effects of it on a common man. The plight of public suffering is well brought out. The small, small details that Shankar provides are usually very interesting and engaging. So even if Shankar leaves gaping holes in logic, which he usually does, it is covered by his excellence in other departments. Here things are kept at such a superficial level that you don’t connect with the movie at all. The CPR revival is a glaring example.

Is there any redeeming aspect to this movie? Shankar has essentially assembled an A list technical team of Indian cinema. K.V.Anand, Anthony, and Rahman are pretty much the best in the business. They help. All the teeny weenie bits of masala items that Shankar adds as just-in-case works. Vivek's comedy is funny. The punch lines are awesome. The part where Rajini whitens himself is 'asattu thanam' and unnecessary but comedy for the most part is very good. There are some very good surprise elements too in this department, which was delightful. Songs & Picturization. I did not like the introduction SPB song. The video made it slightly bearable (but not pictured as well as its Shankar counterparts 'Andan Kaakha' or 'Aazhagaana Rakshasi' ). 'Oru Koodai Sunlight' is an excellent song, the best song in Sivaji, well picturized but in a poor context. The blonde hair looks ridiculous. I was hoping they wouldn't use it on 'oru koodai sunlight' and spoil it. They did. 'Sivaji' 'Athiradi' and 'Saahara' songs are actually well picturized. Special mention needs to be made on 'Athiradi' song. Its mind blowing. This song alone is worth the price of the entry ticket. I can't think of a Rajini or a Shankar song that has a better picturization than this. The stunt scenes have been choreographed very well. Some of them are really impressive. The bullet-time sequences have been done with a touch of style and class. However, in a lot of sequences they are speeded up or jazzed up by some flashy camera work to cover for Rajini's age. The climax scene is the only exception. When those trademark zoom-ins and zoom outs happen, which don't until well into the second half, you know editor Anthony is saying 'hi'. This fellow is very impressive.

The man, The Style and The Phenomena: It would be unfair if I did not talk about the way Rajini and his style carried this movie single handedly. In all honesty Shankar failed in his department but did the 'Rajini' aspect some justice. The stylized way in which Rajini pops in a bubble gum, the way he moves the 1 Rupee coin is all pure class. Only Rajini can do this. It’s fun to watch also. Somehow the heart warms up to Rajini. You feel for him, when shreya spurns him. 'Charm' is an underrated word. Especially when the Rajini charm works on you like magic. The 'mottai' boss morpheus-look-alike aspect is the biggest surprise and the highest point of the movie. When he appears with the side-wards looking pose, the theater erupted like a volcano. Shankar knows how to mesmerize the audience and this one is an ace from his sleeve that just rocks. Every movement the hyperactive mottai-boss 'puratchi thalaivar' does receives thundering appluase. Thats an example of surprise and creativity. If only shankar had shown such imagination everywhere. If not for that segment, I would have left the theater completely let down. Just watch this movie for 'rajini style' and you'll know what I am talking about. While Rahman has adequately changed the 'super star' title segment (the applause is thundering), the actual introduction scene of Rajinikanth is a letdown. A risk, which if it works is awesome. In this case it is a costly mistake. Sivaji starts on an unconventional and deflated note. Usually a good rajini movie hits a high note and keeps going to higher places without letting up. This movie stumbles, stops and hiccups its way to the interval. You can usually say when something is amiss. The small parts look okay individually but there is no overall cohesion. While I couldn't put a finger to it, I could sense that whatever this movie was doing - a formulaic once-every-3-minute round robin switch to Sivaji's social work, suman, rajini-shreya love, rajini vivek comedy - it was not gelling well. The pace was all right and it was hitting some formula but it was not engaging. The movie improved dramatically in the second half. To me the second half was much better than the first. However, Shankar shows no intention of getting into details. Instead he chooses to spend time on stupid truck-jeep based fight scenes in a drive-in theater.

There were many points in the movie where I felt 'wow' and many other points where I felt 'what could have been'. After the watching for the second time, I highly recommend that people should go and watch it at least once. Its got something for non-rajini fans. Every moment is individually thrilling. However, I wish Rajini had accepted the Mudhalvan script. It had a story. Keeping Sivaji's story under-cover must have been easy for Shankar. It has no story.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rajinikanth: The Phenomena

My classmate Somyajulu did not even know how to play Volleyball. When the Kamala Subramaniam School Volley Ball team from Thanjavur set out towards a Mayavaram based volley ball knock-out tournament, we told our parents that we'd return late at night because we expected to go a fair distance into the knock out. At 9:35 AM we were knocked out in the first round by some unknown team from Sirkazhi. We had the entire day at our disposal. A 'matter' movie was out of the window; our 'newly married' P.D was not that close to us. So we decided to go for the morning show of the latest Rajinikanth movie - 'Annamalai'. We got tickets (Rs. 1.50) thirty minutes after the movie had started and walked in. During the interval, Sowmyajulu, who had tagged along with us, stood there talking to me with a cup of coffee in his hand. I whispered in his ear "this movie is a copy of a Rakesh Roshan hindi movie". I needn't have. But then I am not Narada for a joke. To which, Somyajulu replied in proper Thanjai Thamizh, "dei.... all this Rajinikanth is humbug. There is no story in this movie. Complete fluff. People are making a big fuss....". The sentence was not completed. Somebody behind Somyajulu had hit him so hard in the Spock region between his neck and shoulders. This was 70 days after the movie had been released. After the Rajini fan had burnt his heart out watching the movie 100 times. This was the time in the Rajini movie phase - where the 'family crowd' people would be given a chance to see the movie. Somyajulu hadn't whispered the shit that he spoke back to me. He had yelled it aloud, as if to prove a point. He probably thought that he was in the Sith land, and that the force of the Rajini did not flow in the people around him. Now, I had coffee stains in my pant, and he had blood on his shirt; more importantly, our parents would want to know why

Rajinikanth.

Imagine someone punching you right on the nose. There is a painfully nauseating feeling that you get when your nose getting jammed into your face. This is immediately followed by an un-namable rage. You don’t reason. You don't think. You react. It’s instinctive. Reflex action. An un-identifiable primitive instinct to hit back, lash out. Veri. Rage. A pure unbridled passion. Rajinikanth. The Rajini fan - an aching heart beating hard to see Rajini arrive on screen. A longing for that one un-subtle dialog he speaks for his fans. A thousand electric pulses emanating from neurons all over the body to be consumed by the sound of whistles that scream like a dragon unleashed during the introduction song. That is the essence of the Rajinikanth fan. The shout 'thalaivaa' is not a 'hello'. It is a war cry. It is reflex. An overwhelming emotion, affection, passion, and veri - that funnels itself through the larynx of the Rajini fan and manifests itself as this word. Rajini - It is not a mere name. It is a feeling. It is sensation. It is the sound that is heard when every house in Madras bursts a 1,000,000 wala on the morning of Deepavali. It’s the mother of all show biz. With due respect and no insult to Chiranjeevi, Mohanlal, Mamooty and Kamalhassan fans - there is no phenomena like the Rajini fan

A Bihari doctor, living in the U.S, once narrated a story where he was on a rowing boat that had originated from fisherman's cove near Madras, and was headed for a 2-3 km point into the sea, where rich people snorkeled. The doctor mentioned to the boat rower (for lack of a better term) "may be rajinikanth is fluff. Kamal hasan is better". The intense look on the boat rower's face, the mumbled curses emanating from his mouth as he rowed hard in fury convinced the doctor that there would be no boat waiting for him after he emerged from the snorkel dip. He quickly said "thalaivaa" and peace was restored. The same boat rower would bitch about his wife, mother, and probably even god. But never Rajini. Even if Rajini was in the Himalayas and couldn’t hear him.

Wherever I went Thirunelveli, Madurai, Vellore, Thanjavur - I was viewed with suspicion. Maybe it’s written on my face that I am truly a Kamal fan inside. People would check instantly. 'Rajini'a Kamal'a?' they'd ask. Most Kamal fans are Rajini fans in the same way that all squares are rectangles. We may fit the definition. But we retain our true perfect shape of the square and negate the corolary. Everywhere in Madras, Rajini is the talk of the city. Yesterday, I went to MGM, Mayajaal, beasant nagar beach, spencers plaza, and Mathura restaurant. Everywhere someone had to say something about Rajini. One person who accompanied me narrated how he cried out of unbelievable pain when Rajini was beaten up in Baasha. He suspiciously enquired as to why I did not like the 'Vaji Vaji Sivaji' song. 'The tune and lyrics are good, why are you saying its not good' - and I had to explain that only the segment, which contains the words 'vaji vaji' is bad the rest of the song is good. He stopped giving me the 'I-am-disgusted-with-you' look. Phew! Close call. You don't cross swords with a Rajini fan. Ask me. I am married to one. The radio shows, TV, tea stalls, and chettinaad vidyashram school all have some advertisement or program on Rajini. There is constantly someone mimicking his voice. All other producers have stopped releasing movies this entire month. No one outside of Sowcarpet will be watching the arbit Hindi movie that will get released (in casino) this Friday. Someone literally asked my sister-in-law's 3 year old baby - "who is superstar" and it said Rajini.

And then the technical arguments. I mentioned 'Annamalai' was the first movie where the James bond like 'Super Star' gig appears before the start of every Rajini movie. The one which has Annamalai's theme music. I gave credit to K.Balachandar's (and Asst Suresh Krishna) team for again cranking up the Rajini phenomenon up a notch. There was someone to disagree and argue with me. It is a well known fact that Kalaipuli.S. Dhanu annointed the title of 'Super star'. But what movie was that? When did Rajini change his hair style from the left-right parted Vakudu style to the free flowing 'disco' hair-cut style? My answer was 'Rajadhi Raja'. Someone argued. I wrote a popular post on Rajini movies and the opening day extravaganza. Many appreciated it. Some did not. A forum was created to disagree with it and discuss how a 'stupid' kamal hasan fan does not even know the release dates of Rajini movies in proper order. They didn't get the point. The post wasn't an archive of his release dates. It was about something else. But who cares? Life is an argument. Everybody and their failing memory (that’s me) is an expert.

Annamalai was the movie that jump-started Rajini to a new dimension. Unleashing a powerful new Rajinikanth for the 90s. The one dialog that he speaks to Vinu Chakravarthi catapulted him to a stratosphere, unimaginable to any artist that I know of. Sachin Tendulkar doesn't even come close. Maybe Beatles or MJ can claim to have commanded such terrific, ferocious and bloody fealty. It’s been close to 15 years since that dialog. He is at the evening of his career. Does one movie every two years. It is obvious that 'Sivaji' will be among his last few movies. It is has been and will be a pleasure to enjoy this phenomenon. The Rajinikanth phenomena will not exist everywhere or even in Thamizh Naadu through eternity. Let’s enjoy it while we can. In 5 years, he will be a sweet memory - where people would say 'why the fuss? Its not like this is a premiere of a Rajinikanth movie', or simply 'Vijay doesn't even compare'. We have one or two moments ahead of us where the audience will roar in anticipation of their hero. Where people will stand overnight for a current-booking ticket. Where 10 seconds before the introduction song, you can't even hear yourself thinking. The thunder and the roar that happens when the name 'Rajinikanth' flashes on the screen, when the hero makes his appearance is an out of body experience. Surreal. See it in Per-Inba-Vilas Theater in Thirunelveli, where there are special lights on the side of the screen that will illuminate and flash when Rajini makes his appearance. See it in Udhayam, Albert (along with Rajini himself), Sathyam, Devi, Abirami, and Kamala (Thanjavur). The Rajini show may be slowly winding up but its coming to a theater near you at this moment. Thalaivaa.

The World is divided

into;
a) People who don't have a first day ticket for Rajinikanth's Sivaji for a theater IN TAMILNADU
b) People who have a first day ticket for Rajinikanth's Sivaji for a theater IN TAMILNADU
c) People who have a preview ticket for Rajinikanth's Sivaji for a theater IN TAMILNADU - on June 14th
d) People who have both (b) and (c)
(loud moojic) (hawkeye waves his hand and the rotating chair rotates magically)
Anna Sollu Anna Sollu Anna Sollu Anna Sollu Anna Sollu Anna Sollu Anna Sollu Anna Sollu Anna Sollu
The biggest movie opening of this decade and I'm there baby. I'll see the few (very very few) lucky ones during the preview show at Abhirami tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Book Review: John Wright's Indian Summers - II

Continued from First Part

Indian cricket was very interesting during John Wright's tenure. More interesting than it had ever been in the past (or will be in the future). It was a joy to watch a good team. I enjoyed watching Sachin Tendulkar bat during the 90s. I didn't know I was seeing him at his peak and he would never be the same again. I truly enjoyed how one man stood a cut above the rest of the team. However, that was clearly an attraction towards the skill and artistry displayed by one man. I had scant regard or respect for the 10 idiots who surrounded him. And if Sachin got a 100, I mostly did not care if India won or not. Sometimes, such choices are a result of there being 'no other choice'. In the first half of this decade, Saurav Ganguly and John Wright put together a team that can be reasonably assessed as the best Indian team ever. For a brief moment in history, we had a team that could do anything. Even show signs of winning a series in Australia. That moment has gone and may never come back again. That is why I was so curious about this book. What made the team tick. Who was responsible? I truly wanted to find out.

Was he genuine? John Wright would probably go down as the best Indian coach ever. The current circus surrounding coach selection reinforces this belief further. There was a good reason for Wright's success. He saw Indian cricket from a perspective that the people surrounding him took for granted. He saw the Indian cricket fan. Paid attention to the fan. Acknowledged their presence and expectations. A little more than the fan deserved, in my opinion. To me the unique aspect about this book (where a chapter is dedicated to this) and Wright's tenure was his constant focus on (a) repeating that he was honored to coach India, which had such a passionate fan base (b) doing 'whats best for the team'. Immediately after appointment, when Wright said that he was truly honored to coach India, no one but Ian Chappell asked him the blunt question - 'Why?'. That's because Ian and the rest of the world aren't the same. The rest of the world, with a reasonable bit of cynicism, thought Wright was either doing 'lip service' or was behaving like a foreign tourist. I never wanted to know why a New Zealander, would be 'honored' to coach India. But the book made me curious. Wright spends one big chapter on it just say 'because that's the kind of person I am'. Also one thing clearly comes out. Everybody involved with Indian cricket had/have their own agenda, which did not always translate to 'whats best for the team' - even if this book is Wright's own perspective, there is enough evidence in it to convince the reader that Wright always kept asking this question to himself and others. A question that was uncomfortable to the selectors, Dalmia, sometimes even Saurav, ex-players, and most certainly Sunil Gavaskar.

Was he Tough? Wright says Javagal Srinath is the heart beat of the team. Clearly holds Srinath in high regard. Mentions how Srinath had been ill-treated by Kapil Dev and how the set-up had robbed Srinath of two good years and valuable coaching. Srinath was the first to get 'fired' by Wright in his time as coach - "Srinath was what they called a senior, most senior in fact, and it was his misfortune that I decided to start at the top, with someone I knew who could take it". Wright recollects several instances where he tells - Harbajan to stay out of the dressing room, a senior player that he should be dropped to which the reply he gets is "tell it to the selectors". His last chapter which is more of a philosophical discussion on several issues puts all this 'toughness' issue into perspective "it annoyed me when pundits questioned whether Dravid was aggressive or tough enough to lead, as if perfect manners off the field reflected the qualities he brought to the contest. Toughness is on the inside; its what you are made of, not what you display; Anyone can walk with a swagger or turn their collar up"

The ex-players This is an interesting aspect of the book. Most ex-players were on the Indian-flag bandwagon, claiming that an Indian coach could do what a foreign coach can. At that time, I strongly believed this was untrue. After reading the book, I don't feel the need to change my mind. Ravi Shastri is the only ex-player who comes across as professional and sincere in Wright's book. And Wright writes a book, which has nothing bad about Dalmia. Every player had his own agenda, which annoyed not just the coach but the team as well. Sunil Gavaskar comes out as the most conniving, scheming selfish person in the circuit. John Wright's take on his 'Batting Consultant' positions runs like this; On the logic of his appointment "I'd asked for some help for our young bowlers; I ended up getting a consultant for our experienced batsman.". On Sunny's manners - "I known Sunny for years didn't care that he cracked jokes with the team in Hindi". On how it affected the team - "I was far from happy. As a head coach, I should have final say on support staff issues and not had personnel thrust on me; the more people in the room the more shoulders to cry on, the more chance of mixed messages, and more potential for players to go off in different directions." "if a player talked to me he'd feel obliged to talk to sunny, and vice versa. On the captain - "But if the captain decides to bring someone into the camp two days out from a test against the best team in the world, there is not a hell lot you can do about it". I had undying admiration for Sunny as a player. But off-late I feel he'd sacrifice Indian cricket to win a few of his schemes. Anushuman Gaekwad, Sidhu, et all come across as Dalmia lackeys. After India beat Pakistan in the World Cup, the players named beer cans after ex-players and stamped the cans to their hearts content. One does not need to say anymore.

Heady Success: One thing that is surprising is the lack of education the players get on success. More importantly, the 'getting to the head' part of success. The whole book is about players 'getting the airs' after a few successes. Wright tries to quote examples of 'one hit wonder' rock bands to motivate Irfan Pathan. He builds the setting to explain this to the reader. He talks about the different scenarios and backgrounds from which Indian players come from. And the remuneration they get as a result of success. He explains how the players are unable to handle it. In his words, the current mess of the Indian team is a result of the 'high' they experienced during the Australia and Pakistan tours. Wright is adamant that a feeling of being indispensable is what led to neglected fitness regimes and casual attitude. This is the reason why he wanted a say in selection. He wanted to drop a few players for their attitude. He wanted to use selection as a way to teach lessons on attitude. Many times when he threatened to drop players, he'd be mocked on the face because the player was well represented in the committee. Wright claims to have a list of people in the team who weren't fighters. I suspect the list would have Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj singh and Ganguly for sure. Although Wright takes great care not to reveal those names.

To conclude, Wright comes across as a sincere and dedicated person, who ignored the cliche and believed he could change things. This book is the only window into those four years. Since Ganguly and Sachin aren't eloquent enough to write their own books (really write it - not have some one write it for them), I suspect we will have to wait for Dravid's or Laxman's version whenever it comes out. In my mind, the success is attributable to the fluke combination of having the right players (Ganguly, Sachin, Dravid, Laxman, Srinath, Kumble), the right coach, the right captain, the right administrators and the right circumstances. Basically a bunch of people who thought and did good things that resulted in more 'whats best for the team' activities than ever before. This combination is unlikely to get repeated easily. The selection circus, which Wright tried hard to change is unlikely to change. It is interesting to note that the only selection anomaly he mentioned in his summary was when he mentioned Sadagopan Ramesh's exclusion as unfortunate. Sometimes it takes guts to do the obvious. It seems like a big process. Take Sachin's opening slot for instance - It is a coach like Wright who'd ask the right people like Srinath or Kumble on what they felt was going wrong in the 2003 World Cup. When their answer was "the best batsman in the team should bat wherever he wants", we need a coach like Wright who'd spend hours trying to ignore Sachin's lip-service "I'll bat anywhere the team wants me to" and get to the heart of what he really wants.

There is a self-awareness and attention to detail about Wright that sometimes leads him to the mind-numbingly obvious. But he is acutely aware of the 'real' help a coach, especially himself, is doing for the team. He is candid in questioning the efficacy of a coach in a cricketing set-up. Ian Chappell disapproves of 'a coach'. Sometimes he is just the cone man. Sometimes he is a shrewd tactician. It all depends on whether the captain ignores or implements his messages to the middle. But as Dilip Vengsarkar candidly admits later - he has been a good coach. In doing whatever duties, a coach is responsible for, he has done well. It is sad that he didn't retire in 2004, when he should have. Although Wright did not know about Bob Woolmer's fate at the time of writing this book, he does capture an apt phrase from Woolmer. Two games before Wright retires as the coach of the Indian cricket team, Woolmer pulls aside Wright for a chat and tells him "There are no happy endings John. There wasn't for me in South Africa and there is going to be none for you here". Little do we all know.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Book Review: John Wright's Indian Summers

After a cliche fest consisting of boring biographies on Sachin, Rahul, Ganguly and Sehwag, which were no more than a trivial narration of known events and newspaper articles pieced together, comes a very interesting book on the plumbings and inner-workings of Indian cricket. John Wright is an excellent writer and pens together a wonderful recollection of his stay with the Indian team. He is endowed with an excellent sense of humor and uses it very effectively throughout the book. In a short time he takes you through the essence of his heart, mind and ambition. You are left in no doubt about the sincerity of his purpose and equanimity of his retrospection. Looking back, the Indian news channels reconfirmed their stupidity in their review of the book. They conveniently picked the least important, least interesting part of the book - namely Wright's assessment of Ganguly's captaincy and projected just that. This book is worth lot more than a silly gossip. John Wright seems to have this K.Balachander like tendency of leaving many things unsaid. The most interesting aspect about this book was the way he'd abruptly end a narrative or a sentence. It is really not that subtle but provides the 'what he left unsaid' feeling in the mind of the reader. Unless you work for a network news channel you would be intelligent enough to understand what he tries hard not to say. There are some really interesting issues that he points out, which I feel have been neglected by main stream reviewers.

Zero Professionalism: We've just heard of the term professionalism being used in the media before, but we don't really know what it translates to in reality. Wright describes that part. It starts with Wright's description of the cricket kits/practice equipment that he inherited -"3 baseball mitts, 30 cones and three old and crooked blue plastic stumps". This is the support equipment for an international team. "No drink bottles, no sports drinks, no electrotheraphy unit, no heart rate monitors" - Wright laments. He had to personally request for players clothing and even mentions an instance where due to non-availability, players had to wear morning's sessions clothes in the afternoon. Even more appalling is his description of practice sessions, when he took over. Professional players taping their fingers for fielding practice is shocking. Wright's description of net practice, where players who weren't bowling or batting, lounged about in plastic chairs and were served tea and biscuits, is really funny. But he deals with it - "The cane chairs went the next day. Tea soon followed. The players weren't bothered. The resistance came from people who lavished this care and attention on their beloved team. It took a while for word to get around that the new foreign coach didn't believe in tea and biscuits at practice. He didn't believe in taping fingers either. If you do enough catching practice hands and fingers eventually harden up."

Team Managers: Even more funny is his review of team managers. This comes under professionalism but this topic is ridiculous enough to merit a separate paragraph. The segment where a trucking business guy becomes the team manager was hilarious. Wright and Leipus had to explain the process of ticket booking, travel agents to him. Sometimes Wright had no Team Manager and he says "I was also the team manager by default, because the BCCI hadn't appointed one for that series. I relied heavily on Babu Meman for information such as flight times". One manager was so bored of all the cricket talk that happened in team meetings that he got up in the middle of a meeting and started distributing complimentary tickets. Another one, Colonel Sharma, insisted that he was a Yoga expert and literally jumped in and hijacked a morning-of-the-match practice session by forcing players to do yoga. There have also been managers who "handed out meal allowance money in the dark so that it was hard to count", "who nicked players official T-Shirts" and "another who managed to lose the entire party's meal allowance money for last two days". It is evident that the perks of being a manager involves looting allowance money and depriving players of their comforts. Wright says at one point "the iron law of liaison men was that the smarter they dressed, the more useless they were." All-in-all it seems like Wright is describing a Kuppusami Colony cricket team set-up and not a team that has a backing of a large institution. Apparently no money flows back into the team. The BCCI even asks the team's computer analyst to book an economy class room and take care of his charges himself. In one instance Wright terms BCCI's curmudgeon like treatment of Ramki "demeaning". He aptly sums up by saying "BCCI's office in Mumbai, perhaps the greatest feat of camouflage since the wolf put on sheep's clothing".

Zero Privacy: This is somewhere between hilarious and sad. Wright says "I would embark on what would be a never-ending, and ultimately unsuccessful campaign to protect the team space." "In blink of an eye our changing room or viewing area would take an appearance of a cafe renowned as a celebrity hang-out and a place to be seen, a magnet for wannabes." "I'd arrive at the ground to find that our viewing area had been invaded by well-connected spectators, usually related to high ranking government or cricket officials". This is my opinion should include most of the dorks who proudly display the dressing room photographs they took with cricketers. But the extent to which this has been a problem is shocking - " There were times when the team was forced out of their viewing area to make room for the state's chief minister and his entourage; even the padded up batsman Rahul Dravid had to shift." John Wright describes two particular anecdotes where he lost his temper and demanded that the person/celebrity in the dressing room leave immediately. One person was Vijay Malya ("a guy with the biggest diamond ear-stud I'd ever seen wandered into the viewing area...I went nuts demanding to know who the hell he was and, more to the point, who the hell he thought he was"). The second person whom John Wright fought with was Niranjan Shah.

Relationship with Selectors and Players: While John Wrights assessment of the well-known selector's regional bias has been played up by the media, his subtle assessment of his relationship with players has been neglected. Yes! he does talk about the bleeding obvious fact that in 2005 Ganguly had to go - at least from captaincy. But he says more. In the world cup 2003, he un-subtly blames Ganguly, Dravid and Sachin for violating their tour strategy (Bat first in day/night and bowl first in day games) and electing to bowl first in the final. It is one of my pet peeves. To me, we lost the moment Ganguly elected to bowl. Even if we replayed the same game over and over again as a best of 11 finals, we would not have won a WC final, against that Australian team, chasing. He says "Needless to say, if I had my time over again, I'd argue in favor of batting first till I was blue in the face." In my opinion Sachin should never be forgiven for failing during two important occasions (a) The 3rd test against Aus in Melbourne and (b) The 3rd test against RSA in 2007. John Wright mentions the first one as a failure. He also says that Sachin's tactics during his 241 in Sydney was a result of a talk they had and recollects the letter Anjali Tendulkar sent to thank Wright for the timely advise. The person who seems to top Wright's assessment is of course Dravid, who in Wright's eyes seems to be a ruthless, steely-eyed, cold competitor who is not bothered by trivial emotions and can 'step back and put things in perspective'. Wright's assessment of Ganguly is not positive all the time - though he does have some positive things to say about Ganguly. Apart from commenting on Ganguly's lack of punctuality, and tactical acumen, Wright on a few occasions narrates his frustration when Ganguly says one thing in the dressing room and does the complete opposite on the field. At one point during his narration on Bruce Reid's tactical contribution during the 2003/04 Australian tour "after one such presentation, he sat there open mouthed as Ganguly proceeded to do the exact opposite of what had been recommended". His breakdown in relationship with Laxman and Yuvraj is sad. His assessment that Laxman can only find a place in the ODI team if he bats in the top 3 - is a correct one. The selectors decision to drop Laxman for the same reason is a reasonable call. But its hardly Wright's fault. The amount of effort he puts to repair damaged relationships with Laxman and Yuvraj is heart-warming. There are some heart-warming anecdotes too - Wright's father walks in when Ganguly and Wright are embroiled in an argument, Ganguly displays what Wright calls "impeccable manners" by switching modes and showing the Indian brand of respect.

This book is so interesting that It hard for me to do a review in 1 post. So,

To be Continued...

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The one where I met Balu Mahendra

Not that meeting celebrities is a new thing for me. Ennai Juppan'la jaaki saan kootaha, amrikkavula maikayl sackson kootaha. Yesterday was my wife's friend's marriage-wedding-funcsaan. I accompanied my wife because I hadn't eaten 'kalyana sapadu' for a long time. The bride's father's profession had something to do with cinema. So Balu Mehandra had come to attend the funcsan with his trademark cap, 'cooling glass' etc.
Circumstances contrived to make me sit next to Mr. Mahendra at the dining table. Our conversations resembled the long periods of silence that is a common feature in most of his movies. Out of respect for each other's talents (multi faceted I might add), we did not say anything. Instead we decided to direct our mutual admiration for each other - on the food by fervently amukkifying the dishes put on our banana leaf. Balu, we are on first name basis now, was apparently in a pissed-off mood. Didn't talk to people who came to ask "ellam ok'va sir! Sapadu okay'va sir". All the eyes were on me. Ofcourse a couple of people noticed Balu also. Then, a funny thing happened, the bride's brother along with a couple of lackeys came and asked Balu if he wanted hot water. Balu shooshed them away. I had cold, cough and a sore throat. My wife, unaware of the ups and downs of being in show biz, assumed hot water was available for everybody and asked, one of the lackeys, for a glass of hot water for me. "Hot Water'aa. athellam illama" was his reply, barely 2 seconds after he offered Balu one. 1 minute later the same lackey came back and double-checked (using an over dose of pronouns) "neenga sir'oda son'ungala" (are you sir's son)? Maybe if I had said 'yes' - I would have got one glass of hot water. But I didn't want to change my lineage for a glass of water. For a cinema chance, maybe. But I had my standards.
After the 'oru vettu vettitu' happened, Balu closed his banana leaf and departed. He probably regretted not speaking a single word to me. An opportunity he may not get for the rest of his life.

Friday, June 08, 2007

A Purposeful life

I have always maintained really high standards of work ethics, and work-life balance. I would like to be a living example of hard-work, dedication and sacrifice. I get up at 7:00AM. I spend 1 hour on filter kaapi, hindoo newspaper, and web browsing. Nowadays I go to Nungambakkam for 1 hour of tennis (for the past 2 days). I come back, take a shower and eat. 'Eat' is an understatement, I feast. Everyday, after I get up, I order all sorts of dishes which a team comprising of wife, mother, and grandmother reliably execute. After food, I eat at least 2 Banganapalli Mangoes.
Then comes the tough part. How do I spend the rest of my day? I browse TV channels for any available, gounder, vivek, and vadivelu comedy. Then for lack of anything better to do - I sleep. For four hours. Solid sound sleep. They say that sleeping in the afternoon is a healthy habit. It is very true. To get rid of the anxiety I tend to get from all this sleeping, I am greeted with much needed filter coffee, the moment I get up. In the evening, I am extremely busy. I usually take a walk around station road, usman road scavenging for some maanga-kaaram (unripe really unripe mangoes) and masala kadalai (masala ground nuts). Then I spend unaccounted number of hours in landmark, audio stores and *.plaza.
Buying a T-shirt is therapeutic. I agree. It relieves the great stress I go through everyday. If I don't go out, I spend valuable hours at home sitting and blankly staring at the wall. Very meditative. More importantly very productive. I have spent countless hours doing nothing and just staring at the wall. Let me give you all a piece of advise. Staring at the wall is a healthy excecise. Dear readers, do it, your life will change dramatically. My other hobbies, to distract myself from this hectic work schedule, include spending time on the beach, reading novels, and spending countless hours watching old ladies discuss politics to which I positively contribute by making useful comments that help them get more angry at their respective daughter-in-laws. Sometimes, I feel an overwhelming sense of national pride doing this service for my country.
I am very punctual. At the stroke of 8, I begin to search of Saravana Bhavan, Gangotree or any thing that is currently a trend. After hogging, I come back home for more Banganapallis. Usually a career-benefiting night show cinema is my top preference. If that is not possible, I'd settle for any cinema show on TV as an alternative. On some days some relative of mine, will happily oblige me by inviting me for dinner/lunch. Since I have lots and lots of pride, I never let them decide my menu. I spell it out clearly to them.
This is the story of my life. A life of austerity and sacrifice. Where I toil and toil and toil, sweat, spill blood and inch towards the dream of being like my hero. I hope all the sacrifices, I make is worth it in the end.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Need Blood, Please Donate

Avar fellow blogger, who recently became a mom and who is a big rajinikanth fan is in need of blood. She says,

"If anyone reading this has/knows anyone who has o- blood group(male 18-60yrs), and would be willing to donate blood in Vijaya hospital by 4 pm 8th June, pls call me @ 9380538950."

Please Donate.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Religion - III

In the future, when researchers look back on religion and its evolution - People's habit of forcing their uninformed, half-baked, loose, incoherent and stupid religious opinions on hapless bystanders will be regarded as the chief reason for religion's unpopularity. People seem to hold just about any opinion on religion and thrust it on the nearby person. There seems to be no accountability at all. People have lost the ability to say "I don't know. I'll find out the correct thing and converse with you later". They seem to liberally borrow concepts and ideas from communism, democracy, science, 'post-modern' thought, IPC and use those concepts to define their religious opinions. It does not occur to them that religion might be mutually exclusive of all such things and in fact be the exact opposite of all that they know to be right.

But it does not matter to such people. My theory is that these people have arbitrary opinions on religion because holding a wrong opinion has no 'real' consequences. It is not as if they'd get an F grade or magically lose two fingers, every time they express a vague, nonsensical or wrong opinion. If people begin to witness disappearing body parts, loss of increments, F grades and duck-outs as a result of expressing incorrect opinions then I am pretty sure they'd think twice about even holding just about any opinion they fancy. They wouldn't say things like "In my mind it feels right and I feel strongly about it and so I can do it". After all, Physics teacher Mrs Selvarani would not take a kind view to a communist perspective on physics that says "I feel F = m/a because in my mind it feels right and I feel strongly about it. Multiplication and division are basically mathematical symbols. All symbols are equal and so there should be no distinction among these two". My theory is that most people can't hold strong opinions of their own on physics, chemistry, math (basically science and other modern fields) and because holding strong opinions is very sexy and appealing, people vent out their pent up frustrations by holding arbit opinions on religion. As a result any monkey that can hold an opinion seems to hold one on religion.

Not that there is anything terribly wrong about it. Its just funny when, sometimes, open-mindedness is so close-minded. I am reminded of some men who refuse to say "no! I dont know" when asked for directions and say just about anything. Forget the arrogance such people have in assuming that the listener is not aware of communisim, science and all other *.isms. At a minimum they should say something that is at least loosely based on a reference material within the field. If not, it is wise to accept ignorance and say "I don't know" or at the very least not try and thrust a cliched opinion on the listener.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Board Exam Results Thingie

They are still persisting with the Boys Vs Girls thing - aren't they? Every May it has become a ritual for newspapers, TV channels and the DPE to make fun of boys. "Girls secure higher pass percentage than boys" is a guaranteed headline item any given May. What is the deal here? What point is everybody trying to prove here? To whom are they trying to prove it? Do they want all the boys to stand outside the DPE office and say "We surrender. We are far to occupied with our adolescence to focus on studies. More interesting alternatives such as porn, cricket, mumtaz's cleavage, malavika's navel and other assorted women have conspired to distract us from centripetal force, inorganic chemistry and Tulsi Das Dohas. In contrast, for women, mega serial as an alternative is not even in the same ball park. We realize that we cannot overcome the crucial 15 percentage point difference that rural area girls gain by being virtually locked inside the house. We would rather fail than go through that agony. At least our parents don't put posters all over the city and celebrate the fact that our reproductive system has started working. This alone is worth a 10 point lag in pass percentage statistics".

I want to start a fund, which focuses on advertising IIT results in news papers. Someone should make it a point to bold print Girls Vs Boys comparative analysis of JEE results. My non-existent moustache is angry.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Movie Review: Chennai 600028 : Brilliant : Sixer

Talk about unconventional movies. My Thamizh heart beams with pride. This is the second 'aasum' movie of this year - And Sivaji, Dasavatharam and Varanam Aayiram haven't even come out yet. Chennai -28 is about the rivalry between two cricket teams that participate in Radio Mirchi's annual 'knockout' tennis-ball cricket tournament. Sharks Vs Rockers is this tournament's equivalent of India Vs Pakistan. As a result of a four year cricketing rivalry, the teams hate each other and often physically fight each other. The opening sequence stands out. After the introduction of the 'Sharks' team players and its manager (who does a commendable Saravana Stores Kumbudu), we are taken into the heart of a tense encounter. An extremely incompetent fat guy is the striker. His stance belies his cricketing stature. As he runs to complete the vital second run, he flings himself towards the crease a'la Jonty Rhodes and Robin Singh. A splendid jump. He falls down flat on his body, screeches a good distance with his bat is outstretched. He seems to have done all the right things. But there is a catch. After his forward motion stops, he is still a yard or two short of the crease. The man has apparently executed the jump at half-pitch. The opposition keeper waits with the ball in hand, a sarcastic smile on his face. The batsman flails his bat desperately trying to reach the crease, the keeper uproots the stumps. Game Over.



The movie is about the lives of the members of Sharks cricket team for the next one year. Until the finals of the next year's competition. No! its not what you think. Its not even close to that kind of movie where the team trains hard, goes through challenges and wins the next year's trophy in the last ball. Its not the opposite of the cliche either. It does not even meet the same team again in the subsequent year's final game. And the actual cricket results does not even matter. That's why this movie is so unconventional. The story, the narration, the comedy and the dialogs are all off the beaten track. I haven't seen something this fresh and innovative for a long time. Thank god for Thamizh sarcasm. This movie is all about nakkal. A nakkal that is probably the Essense of Madras itself. It does nakkal on any one of the team members, on their manager, and sometimes on the audience. Even the cricket commentator provides his dose of 'nakkal' (" aiswarya rai vanthu enakku pakkathil ukkarnthu irukkum sumaar kumar'ai kaathalippathaga solluvathu evalavu saathiyamo, athey pole 15 overs'il 135 runs adipathu saathiyam aagum" - "avan panthai pidithan enbathai vida panthu avanai pidithathu endru thaan solla vendum" ) . Every time you expect something serious is going to happen, every time you think this is treading down the formula path, the movie mocks you. There are few serious moments but overall the movie takes itself and the events it narrates very lightly. The narrative thread picks up when Raghu's father, a police officer, is transferred to Chennai 28. Chennai 28 is where Team Sharks live. Raghu plays for Rockers and he walks right into Sharks' den. His fear and insecurities about survival in enemy territory is wonderfully shot. The pace and tone of the movie is set from that scene onwards and never slows down. Even though the movie is over 2 hours, you never feel it. I couldn't recall a single boring moment. And I laughed every time "ennai kodumai sir ithu" was said. Even louder, when the guy who can't catch anything finally manages to catch one



Teginical aspect: I found it hard to believe that the movie is by a new director. It seems so sophisticated. The editing was simply a class apart. Not just in songs but in the way it increases the pace of the narrative and in the way it provides multiple perspectives on certain events. It is quite obvious nowadays that Thamizh cinema has the best cinematographers in this country. The low contrast and the lighting used in this movie is striking even for a casual observer. I loved a couple of songs. Especially Un Paarvai and the way it was pictured. Above all, the flow of narration and the way this story has been told to us has to be commended. The execution of scenes where cricketing shots are involved, could have been better. It is pretty mediocre in the beginning and then improves towards the end. One could argue that this is the way tennis-ball cricket is played. Venkat Prabhu has done a fine job. He has used hi-fi technology to show the lives of lower-middle class people. Their language, mannerisms and lifestyle targets a different audience from what the movie overall seems to target. Whether it is an intentional counterpoint or not is moot. It is beautiful. If this movie runs in C centers, it makes economic sense also. As a side note - most directors have a lot of new things they want to say ( Like Gautham's Potrayal of villains) and they say it very well in their first movie. After that they run out of tricks. Can Radha Mohan, Venkat Prabhu or Guatham Menon do what K. Balachander did. That is the more interesting question.



And finally :-)

Saturday, June 02, 2007

My Dad II

Previously: Dad-I

He hates other people sleeping in his bed. Especially me. A deluge of visitors to my house left him with little choice. He covered the pillows with towels to protect them from the oil/gel/goop thing that I put on my hair. He covered the foot of the bed with second set of 'dirty' bed sheets so that my "dirty kovil kaal" will not touch his pristine bed sheet. Today morning, the man who celebrates his birthday along with Kalaignar, got up at 6:00 AM and found out that I was still sleeping in his bed. He typically folds-up all the blankets and cleans the bed within 1.2 nano seconds after getting up. Given that - a snoring son who had managed to penetrate the defenses of the towel and a second sheet - wasn't a pleasant sight.

By 7:00 AM, he had folded and cleaned everything in the bed except the area that held me. Eye witness accounts later told me that he kept an eye on me as he brushed his teeth and every time I stirred, he thought that I was about to get up and so he accelerated the speed of brushing. At 7:20, he made his first attempt to fold the bed sheet that I was using to cover myself - with me still in it. I shouted and drove him away. So he stood next to me for close to 30 minutes. This one is hard to believe. He wasn't reading a news paper or drinking coffee. He stood there like a predator waiting for its prey to show up. I finally got up at 8:00 AM (and I have been reminded of this fact 6 times already). There is a morning phenomena that most people should be familiar with. There are those precious few moments in the morning when you are sitting on the edge of the bed, feet hanging down, and your eyes are staring at nothing in particular. This phenomena is the process through which you adjust to the real world around you and summon the will power to get out of bed. Barely a second had passed. He began to mime the act of folding the bed-sheets. In my state all I saw was a man frantically waving his arms at me. This really didn't help the process of adjusting to reality. I began to doubt that I was really awake. According to him - I didn't seem to get the point. Time was running out. He had already heard of whispers in the living room that his much hated Helmet law had been relaxed. If he didn't get to 'The Hindu' newspaper soon, something bad was about to happen. Enough was enough. He man-handled me and yanked away the bed sheet from under me, forcing me to stand up. Using this precious window of opportunity, he quickly started cleaning and dusting the bed, taking care not to give me an opportunity to sit on it again.

Among his other idiosyncrasies, the man can't tolerate people, who take more than 0.7 nano seconds to place an order in a restaurant. To him placing an order in a restaurant is a simple task. Thats because his only order for the past 25-30 years has been - 'one plain dosai'. Patently, a menu card for such a simple order is meaningless. He thinks people visit a restaurant to complete a much-hated arduous task of satisfying their minimal hunger. He has conveniently skipped the era where the concept of 'eating for pleasure' has firmly ensconced itself in the modern world. So everytime we visit a restaurant with a large group of people, he strategically positions himself at the corner of the table. As soon as the waiter arrives, he says "a plain dosai for everybody" and packs off the waiter in the general direction of the 'sarakku master'. People around him usually take a few minutes to come to terms with the fact that the waiter has already taken their order. Their order. That the splendid evening they were looking forward to - all the breads, nans and paneer butter masalas has come to nonce. That they have only one plain dosai to look forward to. One plain dosai. He stares innocently at a blank space in front of him, proud of the 'its-dirty-but-somebodys-gotta-do-it task that he helped accomplish very fast.