Saturday, July 31, 2010

Endhiran: The Robot Trailer Released

Updated 3-in-1 trailor

Rajini Talks about Endhiran

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Having a birthday, when you are some nth standard uniform-wearing student in school, is the most horrendous thing that can happen to you. Do you remember being allowed to wear "color 'dress'" on your birthday? That single gap in the "color 'dress'" rule gave way to a lot of connected events that went on to cause havoc in my life. The first thing that happens when people look and wonder at you in color 'dress' is - that they look at you and wonder. Any other day you could have passed away anonymously in the blue and more navy blue uniform. You are one among the thousand students who are never noticed. On this day, in terms of drawing attention to yourself, you are wearing something worse than what Bruce Willis wore on opening scenes of Die Hard 3, when he had to go to Harlem. Its like nobody can miss noticing you. You have a target shaped sign marked on your forehead. Somebody is going to ask you for a chocolate soon. And you don't have an unlimited supply.

Then there is this dreaded PT sir who always is on the lookout for students coming in color dress because their moms miscalculated the laundry cycle. The way PT sirs are coded, they hit you and then ask questions. So in Pennathur Subramaniam school, one had to yell - "saar today is my happy birthday saar" in order to avoid the preemptive whack. As if announcing your own birthday isn't shameful enough some schools like SBOA made you stand in the front of the assembly to celebrate your birthday. A teacher who you only recognize as being a pompous show-off will announce in the mike "And here are the dear children who are celebrating their birthdays today..". Standing in front of N thousand students singing "happy birthday dear Amudha/stephen/Madhan/.." means you delayed the assembly by 3 minutes with that stupid birthday song. On a hot sunny day - many students don't appreciate that.

The culture of bringing chocolates and distributing them to your classmates was a nerve wracking thing within itself. When do you get up from your bench/chair and start distributing? And when you do get up - the first recipient you stick-out the chocolate bag to - doesn't get it. And a split-second later the bulb glows and he puts his hand inside the chocolate bag. That moment of getting up and walking to some one's bench (typically the first bench) to distribute sweets takes a lot of courage. Seriously!!, a man who has done that has more courage than a man who has run naked across the Arctic circle. Isn't it odd to abruptly stand and start distributing chocolates to arbitrary people? What if the teacher doesn't get it and asks "what are you doing not sitting in your bench"? Alternatively, asking for permission "Ma'am can I distribute chocolates, as it is my birthday today" is a shame. This is what girls who sit in first bench who have loud voices do. You don't want to be like them. It is easier to do this if there are two people celebrating birthdays on that day. Then you can get up when he/she gets up. Piggy backing on the opening the other guy created is the best birthday gift ever.

But this leads to chocolate wars. Whose chocolates were better? The previous day you spend time convincing your father that Choco-Bite and Eclairs is what is you give out in rich schools like Ida Scudder and that the yellow color/orange-flavored hard chocolate that I always asked for is soooo thirunelveli. You turn up the next day and find bespectacled Kalyanaraman is not only celebrating his birthday the same day as you (because his real birthday falls the next day which is a Saturday) but also handing out Diary milk. Diary Milk!!! Not just for the entire class but to all 5 sections. He is not Kalyanaraman but DabbuPartyRaman. The Choco Bite looks like a wimp. Actually not. You look like a wimp. The choco bite is glad that its wrapped inside the cover as it can't bear to see the ignominy. To compensate for such terrible things - the great thing on birthdays was neither your parents nor your teachers beat you up. You could do anything and you'd get away with it - that day. Even that girl in the first bench (the boring one with the loud voice) who complained to teachers that you talked too much in class, gave you a break.

My birthday always happened in the middle of 1st mid-term exams. Up until 8 AM my mother would be yelling at me, trying to make me memorize differences between sedimentary rocks and Igneous rocks. At the stroke of 8 AM - suddenly - she'd be all smiles and give me the dreaded color dress and a bag of chocolates. Schizophrenic adults. Who is interested in chocolates when Geography mid-term exam is going on? Today 1-year olds have a party with 80 people attending. In those days, having a party just because the date and month in that day's calendar matched that of a person's birthdate is what rich kids from Adayar Shishyas and Anna Nagar did. Mylapore people went to the Srinivasa/Kesava perumal temple for an 'archanai'. Once a party was attempted in the evening with 8 shit-scared kids with food consisting of 'mixture' and a plum cake (ywack!). The kids and their moms were all talking about the next day's Social Studies exam for the whole time. I promptly came back with a 31 out of 50 for that exam. End of Experiment.

The advantage of growing older is that birthdays can be hidden. But in a strange way it also reminds you that you can't be the "King for a day" anymore. That you are old and you have to provide for rather than be provided for. And despite all the inconveniences a birthday offered in school, you kind of miss that.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Yuvan Shankar Raja

COmposed 3 very good songs this year

Baana Kaathadi

Goa - Idhu Varai (Where Super Singer Winner Ajeesh Sings)

En Kaadhal Solla

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Big Temple: 1000 Years

Raja Raja Chozhan built the Brhadeeswara temple in Thanjai in 1010 A.D. On July 17th the temple completes 1000th year of its existence. Having lived in Thanjavur - I am surprised that no press outfit mentions something every thanjai person never forgets to mention - that the shadow of the temple tower never falls on the ground. That it always falls on itself.

The Hindu Says

The temple occupies an area measuring about seven-hundred and fifty feet by four hundred feet, in a fort, surrounded by a moat. It is a marvel of engineering, considering the technology of those ancient times. The towering Vimanam is built up with stones with bonding and notching, without the use of mortar. The topmost stone weighing about eighty tons is still a matter of discussion for engineers who are baffled as to how the builders lifted it to that height without the help of modern contrivances. A charming tale is told about a ramp being built from a village – Sarapallam- four miles away, from where the giant stone was pulled up by elephants! The details of the stone work of this imposing “vimanam” are representative of the masterly craftsmanship of South Indian artisans. The ‘shilpi’- sculptor, and the ‘ sthapathi’ – architect came together to create their fanciful abode for Shiva. Naturally, the shape had to echo mount Kailash itself. In its perfect geometry and distinct clarity of lines, this tower is unbeatable.

The inner sanctum houses something possibly not found in other temples -- some rare paintings,which were not discovered until a few decades ago. However, access to the paintings is restricted as they are in a very fragile state.

Officials of Archaelogical Survey of India,which maintains the temple, say it represents the zenith of the Dravidian type of temples in its purest form, has precision of conception and execution and magnitude of scale.

Here is a Video Feature on the temple [ the second half of the video and the rest of the video series. The first half of the video features the cliched grave yard]

The Times Says

The Archaeological Survey of India that maintains the temple has just completed restoration of the northern corridor. The floor had sunk, unable to bear the weight of the stone pillars and ceiling. The ASI took up restoration work in 2006 and completed it at a cost of Rs 63 lakh. Landscaping is also being done in the precincts of the temple. "More grass instead of brick will reduce heat generation," said an ASI official.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Inception: One of The Best Movies Ever

Sometimes I wonder about the value of superlatives in describing a movie. No superlative can capture the experience of watching this movie. How can a director create magic on screen with a story so complicated that others can't even dream of writing it on paper without confusing the reader? This complex movie has been told in such a peculiarly disciplined and organized way that one feels that this is probably the only way in which such a story can be told. The movie is clear when it tells us the complicated part. And then the movie goes a level up and plays with our head. It is hard to pin-point what Nolan's theme is. Each one of the three of my favorite Nolan movies - Memento, Prestige and now Inception is worthy of being on a Top 10 mind twister movies ever made. The audience go through a intellectually mind-wringing experience when we struggle with the 'what' and 'when' in these movies. This distorts our perception of movie's reality and makes the movie look like one large puzzle. In memento Nolan made the audience struggle to keep track of 'what' was happening and completely blind-sided us with the 'when'. In Prestige, again it was a struggle with multiple narratives to understand the 'what' and we were jolted because we did not know the 'who'. In Inception we struggle to remember and keep track of 'what' is happening, more importantly 'where' the hell this 'what' is happening and then Nolan hints (almost winks) a little about the 'when' aspect.

The most rewarding part of watching such movies is the uncompromising way in which the movies force you to be involved, stay on top of things, think quickly, form theories, constantly correct them and in general live through an experience similar to what the characters in the movie seem to be experiencing. Its like a puzzle that gets harder and harder. Inception deals with the concept of placing a thought in a person's head with several levels of redirection. The planting of the idea must not be explicit but should appear as if the idea formed as a result of the person's experiences. These experiences happen in a dream. And the dream that is the genesis of the idea is a nested inside another dream, which in-turn is nested inside another dream. Dreams appear to be C program type loops and nested dreams follow the logic of nested loops, where for every iteration of the first loop there are N iterations in the 2nd order nested loop and N^2 iterations in the 3rd order nested loop. So 10 hours of sleep in the first loop translates to 50 years of life in the 3rd order dream. This concept is used superbly by characters who make up for time related short-comings by opening up a nested dream that buys them more time (30 minutes of the movie happens between the time it takes atruck to fall from a bridge into the water). There are rules and logic in the dream world, 'break' operations that can cause loop exits - called 'kick'.

Nolan hints at what is to come when the architect, Ariadne, who is tasked with architecting the look, location and feel of dream world, shows Cobb a sample of what she can do. In a classic moment she does with mirrors a image that resembles the classic picture of a man drawing a picture of a man drawing a picture of man drawing a picture... And we are not sure if we are part of the picture or outside it. Cobb thinks he is sure. But is he? The ending is just incidental to the overall movie experience. I cannot find words to describe what an experience it was watching Inception. This is true movie making of the highest calibre. Worth waiting 4 years to a get a movie that treats the audience with intellectual respect.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

On Testbeds, Caste & Languages

I have never tested my casteist opinions on this blog and now is as good a time as any. Today its the turn of a set of opinions - developed by stereotyping people based on their caste - to be tested. This one is on thamizh brahmins and thamizh non-brahmins. For sake of simplicity, we will conveniently ignore the subdivision among the latter category and treat them as a single unit.

Thamizh Brahmins, at least from the opinions they express and how they are perceived by non-brahmins, are less patriotic towards the 'thamizh' cause. Be it Srilankan thamizh issue or indhi-thinippu issue (a.k.a forcing Hindi on thamizhans by masking it as national language) - they are more willing than non-brahmins to abandon the thamizh cause and align themselves to a more national (read anti-thamizh) view. Karunanidhi, Periyar and Anna Durai claim (much to the disgust of brahmins) that people of this caste are not-thamizh but rather aryans or whatever bleh - and it seems like the pattern of behavior matches those claims. I am not trying to get into 'right' or 'wrong' of the issues here but simply pattern-recognition. So I urge readers to treat it this way.

It is hard to ignore the pattern where a majority of Brahmins are (a) enamoured with Hindi and the status associated with speaking Hindi. Some I know 'vaaya polandhu' paathufy (mouth agape and see) people who speak Hindi fluently and despoly try to talk the language in a bad accent even when there is no need to. Many are proud to say they don't know thamizh but only Hindi; (b) quick to disrespect and lessen the importance of the 'thamizh cause' (as in they think it is not a worthy cause). They are ready to support a hypothetical legislation which adopts hindi as a spoken/written language of the state (even when there is no need to do so now given the dominance of English) at the cost of ignoring thamizh (i.e. they don't care if thamizh becomes extinct as long as learning Hindi puts them at some advantage) ; (c) condemn LTTE, sri lankan tamils without any consideration/debate and urge for non-interference of India in this issue regardless of what SL does to thamizhans there (predominant reason quoted is - it would contradict India's stand on another state - Kashmir) (d) Very quick to 'pooh pooh' and belittle thamizh language's classical status, its history, and its unique tendency to resist (to a decent extent) invasion of its space by other languages. Some non-brahmins may be guilty of all of this but these traits are very common, popular and considered common sense in this caste.

While brahmins are seen as indhi suck-ups, non-brahmins are suspect English boot-lickers. The minuscule few who come to western countries take enormous pride in talking in fake accents and try and behave like a DCBA (desi confused by americans). The single biggest pattern I have noticed here is - regardless of whether they live in India or outside they always teach their kids to say 'mummy' and 'daddy' but not 'appa' and 'amma'. In the late 80s and 90s, funny phrases such as 'daddy thittum' and 'mammi veiyyum' were used by economically backward converted Christians. But these phrases are becoming more and more common now. People in this category always mispronounce 'ள' and 'ழ' and pronounce it as 'ல'. This category, while they respect thamizh, are poor in pronouncing it and mastering it (even the minority brahmins who take interest in thamizh are able to master the language better than them barring a few exceptions).

Needless to say the stereotyping theme was 'caste' and 'language'. And needless to say the truth is usually in some shade of gray and in between the two extremes. But the point of the post was to test (1) How popular is this stereotype is among the set of stereotypes people do w/ caste - is it more prevalent than just me and my group of friends or (2) does one category think the stereotype of the other category rings true (but at the same time feel the stereotype of themselves is untrue :-) )?

disclaimer: Been using this blog to test out popularity of certain 'controversial' opinions for a long time. Would appreciate if readers focused purely on caste stereotype rather than on whether 'sri lanka is right/wrong' or whether 'thamizh was truly older than sanskrit' etc)

Friday, July 09, 2010

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood

Can't argue with logic. Murali, in my mind, is not the greatest spinner cricket has ever seen. Even though I criticise Kumble, I hold him in much higher esteem than Murali. Thats because Kumble bowled within the rules and never needed race, national boards and other issues to bend the rules in order for him to bowl. Murali certainly is a much inferior to Warne in terms of every spin-bowling aspect that is there to analyse. Per every official response from Murali, Ranatunga, the SL cricket board and ICC given at that time - it was stated repeatedly that Murali had a birth deficiency that caused his arm to apprear straight (but it was bent inside .. or some retroactively made-up crap like that). Thereby he was in violation of the rule. So they modified the rule by bringing in concepts such as "degrees of straightening/bend" and what not. Now because of adjustments made to the rule to accommodate Murali, straightening the arm by 15 degrees is considered acceptable by umpires.

This directly means that, based on the rules of the time, Hair and Emerson were correct in calling him a chucker. It is the need to oppose Australians regardless of the merits of logic and reason that caused most Indians to blindly side with Murali's case. Ranatunga helped it along by making it a race issue to get all Asian boards rallying behind him. While most Pakistan and Indian cricketers secretly acknowledge Murali's chuckdharan skills they don't commit to it in press. In a fair world, Murali would have been no-balled till he stopped bending his arm. Next, we will have a brown-skinned fast bowler who will insist on delivering the ball at half-pitch. Umpires can't no-ball him because he will have medical certificates to prove that he has myopia and some skin infection that makes lasic, spectacles and contact lens un-deployable. So the rule will be bent to allow semi-blind bowlers to deliver from half-pitch. A little less ridiculous than Murali's case but still can happen.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Ode to Amala

Anybody who watched movies in late 80s and early 90s will attest that Amala was undoubtedly the hottest actress ever in the history of thamizh movies. This is an indisputable fact. It is a shame that such obvious facts have to be camouflaged as opinions. At a time when thamizh naadu had to deal with rain scenes involving Sugasini, Revathi and other fat heroines, Amala was true red hotness. At a time when actresses like Radha, Saritha, Radhika playing cool chics in modern dress resembled gundu-pooshnikka wearing jeans, Amala fit in extremely stylish clothes the way a nicely placed moodi fitted into a 'oorga' jaadi. Here was original 'talent'.

Heroes queued up to act with her and she almost overtook Seetha as the heroine to act with highest number of arbit actors who looked 3 times older. Rajinikanth showed 'extra enthusiasm' to cast her in his movies. Amala was an extremely good dancer too and her movements were graceful and stylish. Take my most favorite Amala song below for instance. Awesome song. Amala fulfills every man's dream of being a chic in uniform (and look at how it fits her). As she looks like a doll and dances like an elegant ballerina, Rajini does his 'i am all left foot thumbs' steps. One feels the urge to reach out and separate the flower garland from the simian. But I digress, this post is about Amala