Thursday, December 24, 2009

Dec 25

I neither celebrate Christmas nor mourn MGR's death. Mainly because I am not a Christian and have no opinion about M.G.R. But I'd like to wish "Merry Christmas" to Christians who do celebrate Christmas. So this subtle 'ban' from wishing others "Merry Christmas" is extremely confusing and in some instances amusing. The reason for this ban, as I understand it, is that there are some 'alla kai' minorities who also have their big festival going on during this time. And they feel offended when the are on the other side of a "Merry Christmas wish. They also feel offended when 2 christians wish each other the same way because now they feel plain left out. So the liberals have taken up the cause of minorities. I feel for the Christians. They would much rather want to wish everybody "Merry Christmas" and be corrected if they barked up the wrong tree. But they can't because you have these liberals constantly getting offended at everything to do with religion.

The need to be politically correct in corporate America, has people wishing each other something as inane as 'Happy Holidays'. 'Happy Holidays' - really? It does not get any more profound than this. The only reason they have a holiday is so that people can celebrate Christmas. Now Christmas has become an inconvenience and you've got people celebrating the holiday instead. Why? Is it because a 'holiday' is so rare (after all it comes only twice every week) ? I think the logical next step would be to remove the 'happy' out of the 'Happy Holidays' because MGR died on Dec 24. Where is your secularism when you offend the 2.75 Tamils living in USA ?

Secularism, much like liberalism, has been perverted by the stupid generation Y. Funnily enough, in today's world, you are called parochial when all you do is mind your business and celebrate festivals relevant to your religion. Secularism is deemed to be present when a liberal Palakkadu Iyer in USA stops celebrating 'golu' because its too desi, a secular Thanjavur Iyer buys a huge ass Christmas tree (or a "holiday tree' or whatever he calls it to make it non-religious) because he needs to be a 'roman in rome' and when a over-enthu Srirangam Iyengar can forward Obama's deepavali mesage to everyone. Secularism is said to be at its healthy best when all these idiots join together and start wishing each other 'Happy Holidays' during Christmas and force every other person to do the same?

At least we don't have this problem in India. We have all the freedom to wish converted Christians like James Anbazhagan or Charles Adaikalraj - 'Merry Christmas'. Nobody complains. We go about our way and they go about singing "yesu naadhar azhaikindraar.... avar enna solgindraar" There is some self-interest in this because it would avoid 'Happy Deepavali' from becoming 'Happy Purattasi' or some shit like that.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Avatar: Trees Are People Too

The Distinction between "what" a movie says Vs "how" it says it is more visible in Avatar. Avatar's breakthrough technology reminds us of the impact Terminator 2 had when it was released in 1991. Seeing liquid metal dynamically pour into rooms, floors and faces, one got a feeling that movie-making technology had broken into a new dimension. Avatar gives you the same feeling. I watched this in IMAX 3-D and the special effects was so fantastic that I felt motion sickness at the end of the movie. This is truly a movie where special effects blends very well with the story and wows you when needed and stays silent when not. From purely a special effects point of view, I have never been so swept off my feet. This movie will entertain you. Regardless of your scepticism on the overly positive reviews/peer-fanboy-gush that this movie seems to be getting, you will feel that this movie is a landmark event in the history of movies. And no amount of praise feels enough for the spectacle that it is.

Now to the 'what'. The story is mediocre. It reminded me of a sugary chick-flick called Titanic. Almost every plot point, turn and twist in Avatar is predictable. First generation Star Trek episodes were filled with plot lines such as these. Where Kirk & Co refused to tamper with planet natives but situations sometimes forced them to get involved. Very similar to one of those episodes, this movie's story involves Earth people invading planet Pandora for a piece of rock that sells for $20 Million back home. The director explores all the usual cliches of clear cut black and white heroes and villains. There are no shades of grey. There is a bold marine in a scientists boots and the movie brings out the contrast between his casual recklessness and their careful timidity. There is a falling in love part with a native, a conflict in mission, and finally an action showdown with a clear-cut villain - who is just a bad.

The dialogues (especially the ones by Army men) are just plain bad. That's the only part that reminded me of Star Wars. Some plot holes are too gaping. The natives aren't rally as scary as the initial war briefing made them out to be. The Na'vi, who like vedic rishis believe in a 'brahman' like life-force that pervades all beings, surprisingly take Scully into their confidence, train him, do upanayanam for him (twice-born) and finally get betrayed. There seems to be no scrutiny on him because he is the "chosen one". Cameron was once this bold director who employed, a forceful plot line, violence, unique characters and gave an incredible adrenalin rush to the viewer. You sat on the seat-edge wanting John Connor to live although you knew he will live. You get this edginess when Jake is on the loose and is being hunted down on his first night alone in the forest. But this feeling gets diluted over time. When the trees were attacked and natives killed, I did not feel anything for natives. The empathy was never established. Post Titanic, the effemination of Cameron is indisputable. Playing to the gallery of "Green" lovers is the last straw. "Green" has become a religion unto itself where people seem to appreciate anything around this as "noble". I now suspect that the favorable movie reviews for Avatar is colored by it.

The review might seem a tad negative probably because no movie can surpass the unbelievable expectation one has built up in mind for a Cameron movie. The unbelievable visual ecstasy this movie offers matches every expectation you may have built up. My father, while walking out of the movie hall mentioned that he felt transported into the world of Na'vi and wondered how movie technology had changed from 'parting of the nile' days. This is really true. You feel like one among them. The scene where Jake tames and adopts a flying-dragon thing is a fantastic scene. Avatar will thrill any teenager or child and fill their mind with endless imagination. Just feels like I was given dessert when I went in expecting a 3-course meal.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Vettaikaran

You are called a fair reviewer only if you judge a movie based on "how" well it says, "what" is has set out to say. Agreed. Assuming that a movie does the "how" part very well. In that it communicates/presents/shows "what" it has set out to say extremely well - does that alone make it an awesome movie? What if "what" it has set out to say is - - - "stupidity".

Should a good reviewer then put the "pattu kunjalam" for the "velakkamaaru" and write: 'What' the movie communicates is that the actors, producers, director and the audience are extremely stupid. 'How' does it go about saying this? It says this in the most effective and fantastic way imaginable. It says it so superbly that when you walk out of the theater, there is no doubt in your mind that you are the stupidest person in the world. Therefore I highly recommend you watch it.

Reviewers are essentially re-phrasing the above in a different way when they write: "This is a commercial Vijay movie and so should be viewed from that lens".

p.s: I have not seen Vettaikaran.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pari, Charriot, Mullai etc

It is no surprise that God chose to reside in her voice.

M.S. and her group returned to Madras on November 15. During her tour she had ensured that plans for two temples could transform into reality thanks to the money that was collected through her performances.

The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan could have a new home. Yet the star herself was returning to Madras where she was now without a residence to call her own. The sprawling Kalki Gardens where she and her husband had lived for three decades and had entertained every celebrity possible and had hosted lunches and dinners for many friends and well-wishers, had been sold owing to financial compulsions. She and Sadasivam moved into rented and very small premises in the Valluvar Kottam area. A way of life had ended. It would have been a shock for anyone and for today’s generation where a “mood out” can happen for anything trivial, undertaking an international concert tour and making a success out of it while something as traumatic as the sale of a loved home was taking place, would appear inconceivable. Yet M.S. and Sadasivam had done it, thereby proving that their faith and Gandhian way of life were unshakeable.

Every paisa earned during the concert tour had gone for charity. Had M.S. or Sadasivam so wished, they could have asked for and got a share of the proceeds for themselves. But this was anathema to both of them. On learning of their living in rented premises, M.G. Ramachandran as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, offered them a Government bungalow for free. But the couple refused.

Theirs were hands that could extend only to perform acts of charity and never to receive them. And they practised this till the end.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

NRI

Reading NRI blogs, being one and living amongst NRIs has made me realize that many, if not all, NRIs go about their life as if it were some kind of a movie running for the benefit of parents & relatives back in India. They extensively communicate small little 'behind the scenes' details, pause for applause, and complain when attention or applause is not forth coming. These trivial details in-turn are relayed by parents to several other 2nd tier relatives, who listen to this type of talk only because their are waiting for their turn to talk about their NRI children.

Reminds one of the plight of parents living in Chettinaad and Nellai districts, whose children had migrated to Bombay or Madras. A group of relatives will surround the postman (or school vadhiyar as the case may be), who reads out from an inland letter, minor little details involving trips to Gateway of India. This system was more efficient because the postman read out all such letters to a common audience and so the second-level relay of communications was rendered unnecessary.

For the NRI, the passing away of the audience to their movie, is sorely missed, if it occurs well before the "transition time". Then the NRI is rudely awoken from a dream sequence. Transition time is when children get bored of playing out this elaborate movie for their parents and instead turn around to start watching the movie of their kid's life.

This is where a joint family system is valuable. The pain of having to communicate every minor little detail to parents is unnecessary. There is no need for the NRI to pretend to folks back home that he is a "modern man" who (a) helps around the house and (b) is demonstrative about his love for children and wife. One can move on unmindful of these silly botherations and can cease to be this 'live show' for people in far away lands.

One can just live life.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Avatar Background Music: Interview With James Horner

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

King Of Thamizh Nadu

I often wonder, how I'd use the benefits of monarchy. For example - if I become the undisputed king of Thamizh Nadu and had the power to do anything with impunity the following is what I would do (Maybe not as my first order of business but certainly as soon as I get around to having orders of business).

1. Shutdown Thamizh Nadu film industry. Ban them from making movies for the next 5 years. After 2.5 years Thamizh people (more importantly, their King) will realize that they need to do something else if they have to get a life

2. Cinema actors will never appear on TV for the next 5 years. They will never use words such as "interesting projects" or "working on an experiment" in the context of movies. They will never be seen on TV in the context of (a) appearing to be overly humble and (b) appearing to praise others as 'great' etc. The reason being - there is no need for them to be humble and nobody is 'great'.

3. All game shows that involve people dancing on stage will be banned. In other game shows, segments where people talk about their personal emotions will be edited out. People will laugh at and will cruelly mock contestants who get eliminated. Happy music will be played at that time to the chorus of "you suck".

4. Shows where children participate will be stopped with immediate effect. That "stand-up" comedy show included. The children who participated will be sent to sivakasi for folding crackers.

5. In any game/competitive-type show there will be a rule that the appreciation:criticism ratio will be 1:5. The judges will compulsarily criticise, very harshly, 5 out of every 6 contestants.

6. All mega serials will be banned. Deivyani will be sent to Maharashtra as a punishment for that state. People who watched Kolangal regularly will have their taxes doubled. People who say "I hate mega serials, but kolangal is different. Except for kolangal, everything else is bad" will serve as bonded laborers in Andaman for the rest of their lives. As a general principle Anuradha Sriram, Anu Hasan and Suhasini shall be sent to Karnataka permenantly.

7. Entire Kamalagasan's family, his relatives, onnu vitta thambi, Sathyaraj family will not be allowed to express their views on politics, religion or for that matter any other issue in any form of media. The reason given to them will be that - they are cinema people, hence sub-human and by virtue of that their views are worthless.

8. Cinema people will be devalued to an extent where they will be charged by my kingdom for every unit of oxygen they breathe.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Magnifying Glass On Fine Print

People who work for Verizon's pricing division must be wetting their pants on seeing this letter.

Please provide a description of whether or how a customer seeking to sign up for Verizon Wireless service by first selecting a device or service plan on the Verizon Wireless website would be able to find out about the levels and terms and conditions of the ETF, other than by calling up the formal Customer Agreement accessible in small type at the bottom of the web page.