Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Adiye


Here is A.R. Rahman's 'Adiye' song from Manirathnam's upcoming movie 'Kadal'. As soon as I heard it mind began wandering into "where have I heard this before" mode (No! its not the Aaromale song from VTV). Here is the Adiye song:



(After lot of head scratching)

Maybe there is a better "original" song in the same genre. But Boyz II Men was the closest that came to my mind:


But there were these boy bands from the 90s who have had a song much closer to 'Adiye' than I can remember. I searched Color Me Badd, EYC but couldn't get an exact match. I am pretty sure there is an exact match that I cant get hold of. Maybe its a case for my old buddy Karthik to crack.

update:

some head scratching later Alicia Keys 'fallin' also has aspects that I like in Adiye




Friday, December 21, 2012

Rape, Rajo Tamas etc

I checked my twitter feed today morning and the first 30 or so tweets all had the same topic. It was people expressing extreme outrage on the Delhi rape situation.Twitter is a miniature, easily accessible version of main stream media. Smaller in scale but very representative. Both are just subjective opinions of and knee jerk reactions to some incident. So it was an interesting experience learning about what happened purely based on twitter reaction of people. I hadn't read a single news article on this issue at the time of logging into twitter ( I later read some news items) and I don't have cable TV. A lot of tweets were from men hurling expletives and wanted the rapists to be castrated and hanged (in that order). Deep down inside my heart - I couldn't help but feel a little suspicious about some of the men who appeared to be very outraged. A woman feeling this level of outrage - I get it. Somehow after reading some extreme tweets from some men (not all), I felt they were putting on a show. They were more interested in letting others know that they were outraged as opposed to being genuinely sad. And that is what this post is about. Not so much on those incidents (there is a little bit of that) but on the twitter reactions to those incidents.

Why did I feel so ? For example, one guy said he was brought up by strong women in his family (listed his grandmother, mother, and sister) and claimed that it was a reason why he always learned to respect women. Quite a number of other guys said stuff that was a variation of this. I felt that it was total bull shit. Let alone big time TPT (in an attempt to raise their personal brand value). I don't believe there is a man out there who does not view women as a sexual object. The statistics on number of men who watch porn (and the kind of porn) is a more accurate indicator of how respectfully men view women. The porn industry is built on forcing women to do things worse than rape.Its not like women study in some college aspiring to have a solid corporate career as porn stars. It is exploitation of women.  (Almost) All men watch porn and encourage the growth of the industry. Cognitive Dissonance anybody? If lack of respect was the sole reason to commit rape - you'd have 1000s of rapes everyday. The importance of 'respect to women' leading to a rape situation and the extent of how *constantly* a man respects *all* women has been severely distorted. This 'respect' factor does not have a stable value in a man. It changes depending on the situation, time and context.

Why is this reaction of the desi male in twitter is revealing? Lets say a man was murdered in a gory fashion because the murderer wanted to rob the victim's wallet and the victim resisted. It wouldn't evoke this kind of reaction. But lets assume it did. How would you feel if the reactions were "I respect life so much. My mother has life. My father has life. I would never take someone's life.". Really! What an irrelevant thing to say!  Why is this suddenly about you and what you wouldn't do? This song ain't about you brother. A murder is heinous and objectionable stand-alone. It has no relationship to the moral uprightness of the observer. If the observer inserts his own moral uprightness into the picture it looks more like - Unga appan Kudhiru kulla illaya? But in a rape situation people talk about how much they respect women. And I am also sure there a rapists whose mother or sister were actually good, honest upright and strong women. One doesn't lead to the other.

Since everybody is allowed a theory. Here is my theory on why people rape. Some are necessary conditions. A subset of others could combine to lead to sufficiency. But they are in the order of importance. 1. Opportunity to commit rape 2. Influence of Alcohol 3. Mental Illness 4 Poor Cultural/family Upbringing, family values  5. Lack of Education and so no fear of retribution (It could be Law or Police or Karma or God) 6. Viewing women as sexual objects 7. Repression due to lack of sexual satisfaction and many more. Like having small amount of poison in your body almost every man has small amounts of at least one or many of the above. While it is in moderation everything is ok. It is only when they grow to extreme levels and certain deadly combinations of the above factors occur does a man commit rape.

#1 is a necessary condition but need not be sufficient (although in significant number of cases it may have proven to be sufficient). What pisses me off is that #2 listed above is pretty close to being a necessary condition. A combination of #1 and #2 in many cases is pretty close to the sufficient condition.No one talks about the influence of alcohol in this incident. In the case of the Connecticut shooting the very same people rejected the notion that 'guns don't kill but people do'. They agreed that the nature of the person alone isn't the only reason. A lifeless object that enabled the person was the reason. In this incident they take the total opposite view. Why? because most of these people in social media are kudigaara pannadais. They don't want to blame alcohol because it risks their personal brand. However, cheap liquor/arrack available to uneducated/poor/shift-job people has become a menace to the society. It makes them animals. Have you seen how people in front of TASMAC behave. Have you walked with a girl on the street and crossed by a TASMAC after 9PM?

To conclude, I strongly believe that notions such as 'progress' and 'safety' have a life and inherent qualities of their own. We overestimate our ability to manufacture, customize and create these two concepts according to our wishes. You can't have everything you want and still have safety. It may never be possible. The world is a jungle. Life is a jungle. You can't control tumors appearing in your body and killing you. You can't prevent many diseases. This world is like that. No matter what happens to this world, you can never stop rape. It will never go away. If the world is filled with excellent mothers, sisters and grandmothers - there will still be rape. If everyone got educated in the best universities with the best ethics and humanities counselling - there will still be rape. That is the reality of this jungle. A view that assumes this to be the case is practical. Rape has existed for 1000s of years. Why would it go away now?

The key thing here is progress and safety are notions that has a subtractive quality. This means the quality of this concept gets better when you remove things from the system. Cutting off, stopping and removing the things we do help a lot. Safety becomes worse if you add more things into the system. Cutting junk food, beverages, stopping to overeat help prevent diseases better than adding more medications after getting ourselves into trouble. Doctors can't remove diseases from your life as fast as Drug mafias, alcohol mafias, tobacco mafias and fast food mafias can add them into your life. Similarly police cannot remove criminals from the society faster than the number of criminals added to the society by vulgar movies, loose moral standards and alcohol mafia. So - 'progress' and 'safety' phenomena is achieved by cutting things off and stopping a list of things we do. There is some humility in knowing that there are evils we cannot eradicate. The least we can do is reduce our personal probability of getting exposed to them. The government will still have their job cut out. But personal actions and government actions are not mutually exclusive. You can't have free flowing alcohol, party hopping couples hanging out in unsafe places at night, thinly stretched police force and still have safety. Feminists and certain groups argue that it is the duty of the government to guarantee safety of women under all circumstances. It maybe the theoretically right thing for the civilized society to have. But it is utopia and it will never ever happen. 

If parents feel that they should stop their daughters from staying out at night. They bloody well have the right to do so. They are removing #1 reason for rape - opportunity. Its not the ideal solution. But no one has the right to tell parents that they shouldn't do that. What some devious people do is play out the "removing #1" to its extreme case (i.e. they ask "are you suggesting women never leave the house and wear burkhas like in Saudi Arabia"). This argument tactic is deliberate, evil and detrimental. What is safe and unsafe is a subjective decision. One uses common sense and their knowledge of the local conditions. But mocking people who take a slightly conservative tact is pretty judgmental of these feminists in my opinion. The police may have to do their job of keeping the city safe. But that is separate from parents trying to keep their children safe. A girl child is not a bait for the society to test its law and order situation or its moral fortitude.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Dei Gautham Menon!! 1990s called they want their love stories back!

When I wrote that I really liked VTV, I was told by my friends - who went to engineering college in 1990s and had this thing called girl friend (back then it was called 'lover' as the concept of casual dating didnt really exist) - that only people (i.e. me) who had no idea of love or romance would really like VTV. They might be on to something. VTV was probably an excellent love story for losers from 1990s.  

I am guessing Nee Dhaane En Pon Vasantham would have been a great movie for the lovers from 1990s. Just that it should been made and released in the 90s itself. It looks kind of outdated now. It does not have those "50 edits per second" kind of artificial pace, it goes about in its own pace, sets the mood and tells a story that has been told since the days people learned to say stories. The problem is Gautham Menon has done the same movie before. Actually he has done it twice before. In Vaaranam Aayiram and VTV he had squeezed in every little bit of moody love moments that would have resonated with people who went to private engineering college in 1990s. There is just nothing more left to be said on this topic. Trying to draw from the same dry well has made him give us a rather vacuous movie in which nothing really happens. And really, Gautham Menon needs a dialog writer for his upcoming movies. He is a really bad at dialogs.

The sad part was there were pieces in the movie that I actually liked. I am a Jiiva fan. And Santhanam was really funny in this movie. I don't mind it when directors take off on their own trip and do a  movie which is essentially a 3 hour ego masturbation. Unfortunately, it becomes painful to watch when Gautham does it 3 times in row. I actually found that checking test match score during the movie was a useful distraction. And the scoring rate of Dhoni and Kohli was 2 an over.

The manner-less Seattle crowd was at its mokkai best again. I really wish there is a flyer given out to Thamizh people who watch movies in Seattle just to let them know in advance that they are neither cool nor funny. A bunch fat idiots started making inane comments that sadly evoked a few giggles. This encouraged them enough to make them assume that they were awesome and cool. So they started making mokkai comments throughout the movie. In fact 90% of the theater crowd were mannerlessly making noises. I didnt pay $10 to listen to these idiots. There was a bigger idiot who had mailed in a movie from India to pain me. I didn't need local help. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Day Thamizh Grew a Moustache

Remembering Subramanya Bharathi 

அக்னிக் குஞ்சொன்று கண்டேன்
அதை அங்கோர் காட்டிலோர் பொந்திடை வைத்தேன்
வெந்து தணிந்தது காடு
தழல் வீரத்தில் குஞ்சென்றும் மூப்பென்றுமுண்டோ.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Self Worth & English Vinglish

I was one of them. One of those ungrateful teenage kids who took their parents for granted. One of those kids who felt that they were entitled to the service and finances provided - with unqualified love - by their parents. While not necessarily disrespectful, I actually was a lot more demanding of their time and energy (maybe not their finances) than some of the other kids around me. Watching the Sridevi's movie English Vinglish took me back to a time when my mother suddenly announced that she had enrolled in a spoken English class. This was in early to mid-nineties. I didn't particularly have a problem with it or think much about it then. Many years later - when I had time to think about these things - I wondered what prompted her to do such a thing. She could read and write English very well. She wasn't planning on entering employment and she didn't really need spoken English to survive in Madras. 

The class was in Ashok Pillar and she completed the class in a few weeks/months. I later was told that she did very well in that class and was the best in that class. This 'achievement' does not translate to any capitalistic world's accolades or monetary benefits. What I didn't know then but realized later was that the whole exercise could have given her a much needed validation or boost to the self-esteem. From a child's point of view, I thought she had a family and a source of income. There was really no need for an English class. But strange are the ways of human emotions. That practical need is totally divorced from an an emotional need.

English Vinglish narrows down on this very concept of a housewife's sense of self worth and makes a story and movie out of it.  This is not the first movie to be made using this concept and I frankly thought it had become a very cliched concept in movies. Maybe its been a while since I saw a movie with this story or maybe because I personally connected with the story, I sort of liked parts of it. Sridevi is both good and bad for this movie. Her star power makes her too hi-fi to be a naive housewife but her performance is very credible. The bothersome aspect is this movie puts a Bollywood spin on this story - stuffs it with stereotypes, gay concepts, an inter-race marriage, remixes 'mind your language' comedy and delivers a packaged formula. If I closed my eyes and just heard the dialog, I could have as well been watching 'Bend it like Beckham'. The packaging used for this movie and the story telling of this movie has been often used in many 'hatke' movies. Especially when it comes to telling stories around a wedding.

p.s: When adapting movies to thamizh it makes sense to customize it to local culture. Just the way Hindi people use the 'v' syllable to twist regular words (English 'vi'nglish, happy, 'va'ppy, party 'va'rty etc) - thamizh people use 'k' (English 'k'inglish, party 'k'eerti, etc). This was a simple thing that could be controlled in the dubbing stage. Not doing that was very irritating.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Talaash, Aduttha Aatthu Albert etc

The only reason I couldn't predict the ending twist was because I didn't really think Amirgan would resort to this level of retardedness.

Up until the halfway point the movie was good. Really good emotional connect that Daddy Cruise managed to create in Minority Report. I guess during script discussion someone must have stopped and asked "does the world really need a remake of that movie. Everyone in the world has seen that movie and will compare Talaash with that movie". At that time they should have wised up and abandoned this idea. But they didn't. I am disappointed. Expected so much after the first half. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

A question of loyalty - 1

I have this really whacky theory and I am curious to find out how far this flies.

We all know that the British occupation of India started with the idea of doing business and then they up-leveled their relationship to make themselves rulers of the area. Since the British were fewer in number, they were majorly assisted by native Indians to perform administrative, police and military tasks. So these natives became clerks, jawans, administrators and police personnel. These people served the British loyally for 200+ years.  For many natives of Indian subcontinent born in 1700s and 1800s - their reality and normalcy was defined as serving the British. This is because their fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers had served them. That was the only way of life known to them as their lifetime was spent under British rule. Their loyalty was to the crown. They were people of good integrity and loyalty  and so were very sincere to their masters and showed excellence in that sincerity by getting titles like 'dubash' etc. Given this it was natural that these people on the payroll of British government initially resisted and were even aghast at the early rounds of the Indian freedom struggle. One could make an argument that if this large workforce was less cooperative with the British rulers, Indian freedom could have been achieved much earlier.

History looks upon these Indians (largely belonging to a group of upper castes) - who served the British loyally - with considerable disdain. These people have been regarded as traitors and as selfish. Looking at their own interests instead of the interests of the nation. No historical footnote has been added to mitigate their evilness. It has not been mitigated by the fact that there was no unifying concept of a nation at that time. There was no concept of India. These were people who were serving the numerous chieftains and kings who existed before the British and were slowly merged  into the British government as the chieftains surrendered to the British. By virtue of serving British for generations it was logical to assume that these natives (delusionally) thought that they were an integral part of the British government and loyal subjects of the crown - just like any other white guy. They might've allowed themselves the luxury of calling Britain, the King/queen and its colonies as 'our' country, 'our' majesty etc. Now can you find fault these people? Are they really bad. They were accused of fighting their own brothers and fellow 'Indians' and accused of abetting the British to try and extinguish the freedom struggle. Most Indians cringe at this knowledge. On the surface it seems like heinous and stupid thing to do. But at a detailed level, in a very micro view of things - they were just doing their duty and what they thought was 'ethically right' (i.e. to be loyal to their country, crown and those who paid them). Like any other generation they had their free will manipulated by their ruler's perception of what was 'right' and what was 'wrong'. But at a macro level, with a lot of hindsight they were wrong. They missed the point and couldn't see the forest for the trees.

The recent US elections has allowed me to form a theory and I really want to write it down before I forget it.  This is not to poke fun. Just that this opportunity to observe US based desis (with vote or no vote) at election time has allowed me to make observations about a category of people who may have similarities with certain categories of people from history. Most 1st generation Indians who have immigrated to the US and obtained citizenship refer the US, its president as 'my' country, ''my' president etc. Strangely, even people with no citizenship afford this luxury. In the event of conflict of interests (i.e. a situation that benefits US but is detrimental to India) these Indians - largely belonging to same caste groups as that of the people who served the British -  use the 'loyalty' card to express support to USA. Again, these people aren't evil or inherently bad. They get paid and live in a country and are being loyal to that setup.Their notions of right and wrong has probably undergone similar 'free will' manipulation. The difference is these people have grown up in a unified India. They are aware of the country called India. Unlike their historical counterparts.they have reaped significant benefits from the country (decent life, democracy, right/access to education, rich supply of food, recognized education system, consulates, diplomatic relationships with other countries, basic infrastructure such as airports to passports).  Yet at a micro level they are quick to support the US. They cite several 'logical' reasons to support (i.e. they have a US passport, have taken a oath to serve the country, Obama is doing the right thing for his people, this is good for the US and it is not necessary that they should consider what is good for India as my priority etc etc). The question is - how will history judge these people?

I understand that nothing significant has happened between US and India that tests the strength of the loyalty of Indian immigrants. But if we take the liberty of extrapolating current behavior to projected behavior in a confrontational situation - my guess is you will find more than a handful of people expressing support to the US and state several micro level 'logical' reasons in favor. My theory is less on taking a dump on Indian immigrants but mostly on the subject of how confusing the concept of 'micro level loyalty' can be. If you decide the correctness of each individual issue at a micro level without a sense how those issues tie up at a macro level - how good is your overall ethics? On the other hand, does macro level ethics trump the need to be correct at each individual micron level issue?

p.s:1:  I am not particularly patriotic. I don't see myself going out of my way to express love for India or do awesome deeds to show my patriotism. But I don't see myself causing harm to India or acting against its interests as well. 

p.s.2: I understand that these analogies aren't perfect and the situations aren't necessarily congruent. But I have a strong sense that they do have similarities. I am just wondering how big is the common denominator is between these two categories.

p.s.3: I do not consider people living in India to be inherently more or les patriotic than NRIs or immigrated Indians. Just that the latter set are put in a more vulnerable position. Chest-thumping patriotic Indians would change behavior once they become NRIs. Infact I think the early Comp Sci based immigrants were instrumental in India becoming a software superpower. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

The one with Venkatraghavan

It is well know that I have a policy to not hobnob and respond to celebrities who try to unnecessarily socialize with me in functions and events. I applied the strict policy to cricketer Venkatraghavan when we met in a Nischyadartham recently. I knew he had great respect for me and wanted to talk to me. But as we sat next to each other chewing copious quantities of beetel nut/leaves, we only chose to nod  at each other as a non-verbal way of showing our mutual admiration for each other. 

As a courtesy, I did not mention the word Otis Gibson to him. I am quite congenial that way.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thuppakki - Yes! we want that Buttermax Light Wonly

I simply loved this movie. I went in with some weak hope pinned on Murugadoss. And assuming that whatever liitle Murugadoss added, Vijay had the capacity to erode. Given that Murugadoss became over-preachy and films-division style movie maker with 7-am Arivu, there was precious little to expect from this movie. Just the way Kumble was selected in late 90s and early 2000s and just the way Harbhajan is getting selecting now, I went to this movie because the alternative was a Simbu movie. And I was pleasantly surprised. This is pretty much Vijay's best movie ever since he started his acting career with those horrible movies featuring Sangavi, Vijaykumar etc in mid-90s. 

The key reason why I liked the movie was because it balanced preachy-ness very well with masala ingredients. 7-aam Arivu flopped because it was never tense, the story got submerged by the message, the romance non-existent and Murugadoss had over-sold the message. Ramana and Thuppaki made the message slightly more subtle (as subtle as it is possible for a Gabtun and Vijay movie). The balance here was  achieved by making the romance track a comedy track. Sathyan - apart from delivering that awesome punchline - was a health presence. Jayaram was a bearable annoyance. 1 song (Google Google)  was good.

The tone of the movie merges the non-serious, callous aspect of Roger Moore's Bond (e.g. people in the closet ), a touch of Kaakha Kaakha (this is the closest Vijay can come to doing a movie in this genre), and a twist very similar to the reboot of Sherlock (think Season 2 , final episode, where he plays the End Game with Moriarty). And this suits Vijay very well. I cant claim to have seen that many Vijay movies. But he seems like a fitter, athletic, less charming, less dynamic version of Rajinikanth. Judging by the people in the theater, he is still Rajini in early 90s mode with primary appeal to B & C center audience. Given that I am not sure if the sensibilities of this movie would gell well with that target audience. This is definetly a Vijay movie for A center audience. Not sure how that may work out.

I have to admit, I am a sucker for a specific kind of patriotism. This movie got me in that sense. There was a eyes-welling-up moment. It certainly brought out elements that I resonate with. There was not a single uninteresting moment in this movie.  The last scene Vijay-self-repairs-his-fracture stunt could have been avoided. But then Gautham Menon could have avoided that hospital scene where he tears of IVs stuck on his chest. Finally, one has to appreciate Murugadoss for sticking to his genre. After his previous movie he could've chosen to work on a different genre. Murugadoss, Shankar and K.V. Anand roughly operate in the same genre. Each seem to have their own recipe to say a message couched in a commercial masala format. Sometimes they work sometimes minor deviations in ability balance movie elements let them down. This movie nailed the balance perfectly.

Madras Crowd - 3

Watching Thuppaki in AVM Rajeshwari Theater 2nd day Matinee Show. Vijay's ponnu paakara scene. Girl's father calls out for the girl to come outside "Nishaa veliyee vaa maa". Camera now shows a door of the room from which the girl is supposed to walk out. An old lady walks out just for fun to tease Vijay.

Guy from the theater crowd " Vaayasukku vandha Nisha'va Kaata sonna, setthu poga pora Usha'va Kaature"

Friday, November 09, 2012

Opposite of George - 2

Until I discover a easily repeatable and idiot-proof routine, I  need someone to keep reminding me to take my ID card, license, and my wallet.  If anything happens that changes my routine for a few days, it takes an insanely long time for me to get everything back into routine. And those days are the worst. There was a time where in irritation I have looked at my wife and said "He is asking for my name on the phone. What is it?". My mother was used to treating me like Sammy from memento and became paranoid to the point where she over-did the reminding part by asking me I had remembered to take my Hall ticket even after my exams were over. My wife sadly carried the baton in the ID card and wallet area.

Last year, I had comeback from a trip to Germany. I landed, came home, changed and had to go to work. I was in the maximum scatter brain mode. Unexpectedly, I got pulled over. I had no clue why. The cop slowly came near my window and asked "License and Registration  please". I was really confused. So I asked "Why did you pull me over sir"?. Turns out it was "Your registration has expired". Normally, I'd try and lie something and it would elicit a weak smile from the police officer who'd proceed to fine me regardless. Instead  I just burst into a monologue "I just came back from outside the country today morning. Under normal circumstances, I am absent minded. I have jet lag, So I totally didn't bring my license.I cant find my insurance in the dashboard. I have no idea when my registration expires. I am dependent on my wife to do that for me and she may have done it and not updated the sticker on the license plate". The officer smiled and said; "Well.. I checked and she hasn't renewed your registration. You can do that over the internet now. Remember to have your license with you next time. Have a nice day". I was thinking - this honesty thing is really awesome.

This trip to India. I was sitting lazily at home after heavy morning food and my father made a suggestion "Instead of sleeping 2 hours every afternoon, why don't you go and get the firecrackers list. So we will know what to purchase. At least this one thing we won't have to do in the last minute".  I sprung into action. Straight away put on my slippers, got on the scooter and started driving to Kaliswari fireworks shop in Doraisamy road . As soon as I went up the subway into Doraisamy road, a policeman gestured to me, asking me to pull the vehicle to the side of the road. There was an inspector there spot fining people. I stood there patiently as he continued to fine a bunch of teenagers. I had no idea why I was pulled over. I 'saar' and 'saar'ed him. I half expected him to look at me and say "take the tonti faaive rubees". But no response from him. I then asked the constable why he had pulled me over. "neenga Helmet podalainga". Ah... that thing. I never do that. So forgetting the rule was not a big thing. When my turn came to meet the inspector guy, I said (translation) "Forgot to wear helmet. My mistake, I should have done that. I didn't bring my license. I have no money." The inspector's reaction surprised me. He said; "Ada kaduvule. Ippadi aagi poche". He was very genuine in his concern. I stood there for another 10 minutes until he processed more people. And then he turned to me and asked "Rs 100 kooda fine katta mudiyadha". I responded with "1 Rs kooda illainga". He said in a sympathetic tone "Seri! ponga".


Thursday, November 08, 2012

Omakuchi Narasimhan and the voteless desi

I should have looked to the great goundan for reference instead of writing my own post about it. I have sinned. After all there is no topic that the great one has not commented on. Via Sriram

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Skyfall

I liked this movie a lot. I usually like Bond movies. But this movie, while not in the Caliber of 'Casino Royal' is definitely right up there with other good Bond movies such as 'From Russia With Love' and 'Thunder Ball'. The queer part is that this movie's story isn't entirely original. This movie is an updated version of Mission Impossible - 1, where agent (Ethan Hunt) is assigned to recover a stolen NOC list of double agents. This movie also had footage that looked very similar to an Indiana Jones movie. The one where Kate Capshaw and Ford play a game where they drink shots of alcohol with scorpions around. Maybe, Sam Mendes is doing what cinema people weirdly call as "paying homage" to Spielberg. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive about a director such as Sam Mendes at the helm of a Bond movie. I don't rate him highly and outside of the average Road To Perdition, I generally disliked Sam Mendes movies. Thankfully, he doesn't botch this one up.

James Hadley Chase wrote a lot of thrilling 4-5 hour-read books. Many of which would make superb plot choices for Bond movies. In particular he wrote a series of books featuring an ex-CIA agent called Mark Girland, whose character was very similar to that of Bond.  Skyfall feels like one of those Mark Girland stories (I think it feels close to "Have This One On Me"). This makes Skyfall endearing. It has a simple plot but has our familiar characters getting more and more personally involved in the plot. As a viewer, I am not kept too much in the dark. I know Bond is in search of a list that someone has stolen. and the movie nicely teases and takes us through interesting plot situations. Where this movie falls short of Casino Royal is in its inability to decide the genre. Casino Royal (which was relatively low on huge action set pieces) and MI-1 (Tom Cruise never fires a gun) were pure dramas. The 'action expectation' was set low and this allowed the viewer to soak in a good thriller.  This movie starts with a show-piece pre-title action scene and then settles down to a more relaxed pace. Occasionally it throws in some 'Michael Bay' type blockbuster scenes as well. I felt that it gave good taste of both genres. One could argues that this movie is neither here nor there in its genre.

I found Q under-whelming. Its a good idea but poorly executed. He looks smart, touts that he is very smart but does really little to help Bond in any meaningful way. The villain was very interesting and engaging. Judi Dench and Daniel Craig are as charming as ever. If you are used to great Bond movie climax set pieces with the villain dying in a blaze of glory, you will be let down with this whimper of a climax. But its what happens after the villain dies that makes the movie charming in an old fashioned Bond way.


Saturday, November 03, 2012

Song #1 from Manirathnam's Next Movie Kadal

Here. (Providing a link to MTV instead of embedding it because I can't figure out a way to shut the auto-play off)

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Book: Conversations With Maniratnam

Baradwaj Rangan has written a very good book titled 'Conversations With Maniratnam". Rangan has a lot of strengths which he has used to good effect in this book. Some aspects of this book pleasantly surprised me and some aligned with my criticisms of Rangan's work overall as a film critic. But lets start with the positives.

This book took me back in time and made me relive the joys of watching movies during my childhood years. While in college, my favorite movie director was Manirathnam. And this trait I probably share with  almost everybody else in my generation of Thamizh people. Manirathnam was the reason many urban madras Thamizh boys started tuning into Tamil movies as opposed to limiting themselves to just watching English movies. Rangan's book drills and explores deep into a lot of decisions that Manirathnam made in his career as a director. I so wanted to know those details. A lot of of the information revealed in the book was new to me. Rangan is definitely a thinker and has a taste that articulates how Madras boys felt about movies and Manirathnam in general. Usually in interviews the interviewer asks a lot of bland questions that have already been asked by several magazines and news channels. This leads to stock answers and sound bytes. To Rangan's credit he never asks whether Nayakan was lifted from Godfather (though Mani brings it up). He doesn't even mention Amorres Perros. I liked that.

Several times Rangan pushes Mani in a specific angle or direction. This actually brings out a lot of Mani's true opinions and thoughts that otherwise might not have come if he hadn't been pushed.  In those moments you realize that Mani is a sharp thinker and a remarkably balanced person. The chapter on Iruvar was the longest and my favorite (disclaimer: Maybe its my biased view - I have a special affinity to that movie). Every chapter had questions that weren't asked that I badly wanted to ask. But among those - Kannathil Mutthamittal is the most under-explored chapter.  Nayagan was before my time (i.e before  I learned to enjoy movies or appreciate a director's work in the movie), so I was unable to resonate with Rangan's viewing experience upon release. If I may be bold enough to say so - I wouldn't even rank Nayakan among Mani's top 3 movies. But I get the point behind the chapter and why people like it. A.R.Rahman's foreword was actually very impressive. It was a great start to the book.

Rangan's introduction piece could have very well ruined the book. It was very unreadable and made me think he was pulling his usual problem of writing normal English and then replacing all regular words with synonyms from Barron's wordlist.(there is sentence that goes "just as words bind themselves better to pristine parchment than to palimpsests.."). No one writes like this. at least not real people. Certainly no Madras boy uses words like 'peripatetic' in a real verbal conversation. I don't buy the whole 'this comes naturally to him'. Rangan also over-pushes the 'madras based movies' of Manirathnam. Mani had a perspective of a urban filmmaker that was absent then. But barring Agni Nakshathiram, I cant think of a Madras movie by Mani.

I remember reading somewhere that the easiest way to irritate a poet is to explain the poem to him. I guess this extends to movies and other creative streams as well. Rangan at many points in time tries to instantiate or interpret or explain scenes and other 'directorial touches' to Mani. Maybe I am over-interpreting this, which would be ironic, but I could feel Mani's rising irritation as he tries to respond to Rangan's line of questions on this angle. This lead me to another nit about the book. However, before going further one must appreciate Rangan's integrity in reproducing the content into the book in a honest way that allowed me to express the nit. Rangan, as his is style, overreaches for underlying message or subtext in movies. A few times he does catch what the director is trying to say between the lines. But many times he reads into things which simply aren't there (or wasn't conciously intended by the director). I don't think he overreaches because he wants to position himself differently from other critics. Its probably some over-enthusiasm to spot clues and artistic touches that he believes the director has left for us to pick up. Every time when he (a) tries to join different movies under a single theme or narrative or (b) over-interpret the use of color and costume choices Mani pushes back. There is a point where Mani says "if you see it that way I'll take it"..I also thought the 'nallavana kettavana' narrative that Rangan tries to arc across all Mani movies was slightly over stretched. This kind of ruined the last 3-4 chapters for me. In these chapters Rangan began to narrow down on the metaphor more than the real movie. I was very glad to hear Mani's perspective on Raavanan. Which as I had hoped was very different from Rangan's and many other's interpretations of the movie. Rangan for some reason liked this movie, which I thought was a really bad movie and kept pressing on  metaphors to the point where Mani had to stop him from doing so. Having said that Rangan did manage to squeeze out a confession from Mani that Aishwarya Rai wearing the white salwar was indeed a metaphor for purity ( I didnt think of that as any more than a good color for that kind of train shot). So he got one back from Mani there.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and would certainly recommend that people read it. It allows you to re-enjoy the moviesvia the eyes of a the film maker.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Breaking Tradition

Ever since Annachi at Oddessey Saloon was forced to flee the city because he had borrowed too many loans that he couldn't repay, Oddessey has not been the place I used to love. I broke the long held tradition of doing haircut at Oddessey on the day of landing. 

Not only did I go back to my 90s haunt Kerala Saloon in Pondey Bazaar, I postponed the haircut to the 2nd day after landing (first day being Vijayadasami which equals ban on haircut/shave). With this great break from tradition, its all new territory now. Anything can happen.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Maatran

I had such low expectations going into this movie (because I had seen bad reviews) that the first half surprised me. At the interval point I was like "Not bad. This is turning out to be a good movie". And the second half was a drag. I am not able to put my finger on it - but K.V.Anand and Shankar make similar sort of movies. Both have the same formula, high-budget, social themes stuff their story with every possible piece of entertainment there is. But Shankar's movies aren't boring. This one was. Maybe its the bad songs. Maybe its the 'I don't care about DNA manipulation' feeling.

I like Ko a lot. Ayan was so-so. This one seemed better than Ayan. But thats about it. Kajal Agarwal is "takkar figure ba" category and smiles beamingly even in 'mandaya podraa' and other assorted grave scenes. I am her big fan now. Surya does well. But this is the same Surya we see in every movie. The double action technology was awesome. At many points it didn't feel like same actor was playing both the parts.

Oru dhaba pakkalam.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Saniyan Pudicha Amrikkan Desis who can't vote but support Obama

The worst category of desis I had seen in the past were Amway Desis with no money, who ask other desis with no money to buy Amway products that no one needs. They meet you in Walmart, in bank, in temple and torture you with this.

That was until Obama came into the political scene. Now there is a new category of saniyan pudicha desis who don't have a vote asking other voteless desis to vote for Obama who will screw the green card out of their voteless bottoms and ship them back to their country. These desis are all over Facebook polluting your timeline by calling the debates as won even before Obama saapadu has jeernichified.

Mitt Romney wants to kick out illegal immigrants with no education and no use to the economy. He wants to stamp a green card to an employment letter if you have a college degree that this country considers productive (read as the science/engineering based degrees that the annoying desis-with-no-vote have). He may pass bill HR3012 that may accelerate the green card process of annoying-desis-with-no-vote. He will outsource jobs to India. This means the annoying-desis-with-no-vote will have family members who will get more jobs, more money inflow into India etc. 

Meanwhile Obama will block bill HR3012 that will ensure annoying-desis-with-no-vote will not get a green card. Obama will also not outsource jobs to India. This means that when annoying-desis-with-no-vote get deported to India they will have no jobs to search for. Obama will support illegal immigrants because they come from a community that has a huge vote bank. That community is a soranai-ulla-community which cares for people who come from their country. They remember that they were once an illegal immigrant and vote to help their bretheren.. Meanwhile soranai-ketta annoying-desis-with-no vote dont care if people who come from their country get a green card or not. Once an annoying-desi-with-no-vote gets a green card he/she only worries about useless topics like global warming, pro-life and other issues that masturbate their ego.

So annoying desis-wih-no-vote continue to post Facebook and twitter messages praising Obama to the sky. They talk about gay rights, pro-life, Libya, healthcare plans and other totally useless things.Thattula soru adhuva podum?  Obama will ship their ass back to India and voteless desis will remain jobless desis talking about pro-life, Libiya etc in a tea kadai back home. 


p.s1: HR 3012 was introduced by a Republican senator. It has democrats backing it as well. But its made no progress in a while to getting passed. 

ps2: I dont care about the specific policies of the political parties of this foreign country. My uber point is that voteless desis are irrelevant and unimportant in the US political discourse. Rightly so. Them discussing these issues 24x7 as if their lives depended on it is irritating enough for me to mock them. I find Obama desi supporters more annoying than Obama himself.  The specific immigration point was a sub-point in the larger narrative. I don't care if it turn out to be false. It is an exaggeration to point out to voteless desis that they are irrelevant and stupid. And that their attempts analyze political news in the US is like a nerd kid trying despoly to be among the cool hip kids and somehow be considered relevant. In the larger scheme of things there is no opinion least important than a desi with no vote. Just that their ego refuses to let them accept it. knowing that one is unimportant requires a level of humility and maturity that is sorely lacking. Hence my anger. I am more willing to be patient with people who truly understand the futility of this and know that they do it for entertainment or as an ego massage (similar to the pleasures of gossiping).

p.s3: Yes, I am an awesome Hypocrite. Knock yourself out.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Selectors Managing Retirement Of Senior Players

"If a tree falls in an uninhabited forest and no one heard it and no one reported it, did the tree really fall?" is a upanishad statement that most people have heard in some form or the other by now. This blog's favorite topic has been to track 'spreading of narratives'. This mainly involves psychological tricks that a few profit seekers use to commit less intelligent people to an opinion and in-turn make them become serious evangelists of that opinion. This brings us to the opening statement of the blog. If no one heard it and no one can ever hear it or see it - how can you prove its true. This is the corridor of uncertainty that the media operates in.

I am pretty sure the previous bunch of selectors had regular conversations with Srinath, Kumble, Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman and now Sachin and Sehwag. These players longevity and retirement and terms of endearment must have certainly been discussed during those meetings. For example - we can be reasonably certain that Srikkanth and Co knew exactly what Dravid and Laxman's retirement ideas were before the start of the England series. The two players knew what they needed to do to retire in their own terms and the selectors knew what they players wanted to do before calling it a day.  Even if one is not sure of it they must have enough doubt on the issue before they can go and claim that the selectors never had these conversations. This is where dumb people tend to differ.

The media know that these discussion were happening and the selectors and players are doing what they are supposed to be doing. But they can't drive their agenda and the news treadmill with that sort of crystal clear logic. There are thousands of idiots who watch news 24x7 thinking its a source of 'knowledge'. These idiots argue about the news they see on TV and the fake issues the media makes them argue on. they argue it with their friends, colleagues and other random passerbys. Because dumb people are people too. And they have large egos to masturbate on. Arguing on non-existent political and cricketing issues is the biggest masturbation of them all. So the media does the smart thing of keeping people on this treadmill. This tactic is very similar to the way game shows ask you send SMS with the answers to the dumbest questions in the world - so that mobile operators can make money.

So what the media does is spread the narrative that selectors haven't talked to the players and haven't discussed their retirement plans with them. They enlist partners-in-crime who will add fuel to the fire. The media knows that the selectors or players can neither confirm nor deny that this took place. While this always means that whatever you are refusing to confirm or deny did indeed take place, the reality is that players/selectors know that by either confirming or denying they are put in a position where they have to (a) explain what the details of the discussion was about or (b) deny something about it. So players and selectors know well to shut up. The media knows this well and so will exploit it. Which brings us to dumb cricket article writers who express opinions on this.

The dumbness lies in not knowing the difference between two things; (a) the discussion between selectors and cricketers never took place and (b) the discussion happened but you weren't told about the details because you are unimportant. In most cases (b) is the truth. But people find it hard to swallow 2 things - (i) they are not important and (ii) they don't have information.  They assume that they are the most important person on the planet and they compensate for (ii) by making up their own facts. And the media kindly steps in to help them do that. This is why you see the irony of seeing selectors being accused of being too lenient on Laxman for giving him a long rope in Australia and 2 months later selectors were accused of poorly treating Laxman to an extent that made him quit before his time was up. Anytime you see someone arguing passionately that the selectors aren't managing senior cricketer's retirement very well and aren't talking to players you are seeing a patent idiot who is no more than a talking head for the media.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Sree Jayanthi

I have always seen a strong divide between the Rama camp and Krishna camp. With some friends I am often involved in a light hearted debate on who is the best. You can always tell something about a person based on whether they vote of Krishna or Rama. And as long as you can keep the subject off non-controversial topics and limit it to Kalyana Gunas, there is no other interesting debate in the world.

My personal favorite has always been Rama. I can see why Thyagaraja melted for him so much. I find beauty in whatever Rama does. The word 'Vaatsalyam'  denotes the love a cow showering affection on her calf. I find Kausalya's  vatsalyam (if this song doesn't melt your heart, I don't know what will) towards Rama is very endearing. Both Valmiki and Kamban portray Rama as grace personified. They say that his walk, talk, manners and use of words are  measured, filled with grace, enormous beauty and more than a great touch of royalty.Commentators often say that regality of Rama's persona was not limited to external beauty alone. I am especially taken in by his perfection. I regard that as the main reason why I like him. His unparalleled upholding of Manu Sastra and laser focused belief in upholding its principles and putting his people and parents before his personal interests. An austere son offering an excellent contrast to a philandering father.

Krishna on the other hand is a great contrast to Rama in many ways. While Ramayana offers Bharatha, Vibishana, Hanumana and Sabari Saranagathi, in Mahabharatha no one completely surrenders to Krishna (barring a minor debate on Draupadi saranagathi when Duchadhana disrobes her). Rama was born with pomp and grandeur under royal circumstances. Krishna was born under terrible circumstances in a jail. While Rama was disciplined, measured and attentively obeyed everything Kauslya and Dasaratha said , Krishna was excess personified. He overate, stole pretty much everything, never listened to Yashodha and in general had too much fun. The code of Manu was everything to Rama and he did exactly what the rule book said. Krishna did what he wanted and called that the rule. Ramayana was black and white but more controversial. Mahabharatha was gray end-to-end and was more acceptable.

But the admirable aspect about people and their love for Krishna is that many people I have met think of Krishna as their son. The undisputed love he gets when you visit Mathura is to be seen to be believed. I had an uncle and aunt did not have children at all. They were the most loving and affectionate couple I have ever seen. Never had an unkind word for each other or for anybody. They literally thought Krishna was their son. And for morning thiru-aradhanams they prepared food with so much love and with a bhaavam that it was for their son. I doubt if they would have showered so much love if they had a their own son. But when my aunt said "my guruvayurappan is my son" - you could see vatsalyam. Only Krishna can produce that kind of an effect.

When Shri. Velukkudi visited my house in 2008, I had a lot of questions for him. To break the monotony, I asked in lighter vein "what is your favorite avatharam?". And pat came the reply "Rama". When I probed further as to why he said "Perfection elicits different reaction from imperfect people of each era. It is interesting to see the ways in which people of each era disagreed and agreed with him. Plus he is a darling. Our acharyans love him for good reason." And during last month's visit, he suddenly said in between his Srimadh Bhavatham lecture, "we must be concerned about Krishna. Rama was a royal son. His brother was there with him in distress. He had great acharyas to teach him. Krishna was separated from his parents at a young age and during the Mahabharatha war, balarama went on a journey. We want to know if the child Krishna is allright. He is of conern to us. Rama may have obeyed Dasaratha. But he was 25 years old at that time. Krishna was 2 minutes old when he obeyed Vasudeva." I was aghast in a "how dare you" kind of way :-). And I chased down Velukkudi swamy and asked "but you said Rama..". He smiled and said "I still like Rama the most. The slokas about Rama are magnificent. But if I am parent, Ill be more concerned about Krishna".

I'll leave you with an interesting tidbit about Krishna and his so called reputation of being a ladies man. At the end of the Kurukshethra war, Ashwathama was made commander-in-chief by the dying Duryodhana. Ashwatthama in a fit of rage interprets that the Pandavas have won the war in deceit. So he unleashes the Brahma Astra. He releases the weapon with an intent that it should kill every single progeny of Pandavas and leave the Pandavas impotent. This way there is no succcessor to the throne from the Pandavas side. As the weapon systematically kills its targets - it arrives at the doorstep of its last target. the womb of Uttara. Uttara is the wife of the slain Abhimanyu, son of Arjuna and Subhadra (step sister of Krishna). she carries the last remaining descendant of the pandavas. As the weopon begins to grind the womb and destroy the foetus, Uttara gives birth to a smouldering baby. It is said that smoke was coming out of the baby as it was getting charred into ash. Krishna enters. He touches the new born almost-dying baby and says "if it is true that I have never touched a gopika. If it is true that I have been a true Bhramacharya my whole life an never had any physical relationship with anyone, this baby will survive". The baby since it passed the toughest test (Pariksha) of a person's life was named Parikshith (beat the test). In Arcahnai's to Vishnu deities only Sri Krishna gets the archanai " [pranava] Nithya Brahmacharinye namaha". No other avathara gets this.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Go-Bama

I don't know what the hell is going on but I suspect something big is happening in the Amreekkan political scene. I have too many desi friends, who don't have a vote, writing about Obama and other boring topics like abortion, gay marriage etc in their facebook wall. From what I gather - most of them think this Obama fellow is awesome and the other democratic party white guy as bad. I also found out in this process that one friend of mine is gay. Apparently the other guy (whoever is obama computator) isn't too fond of gay type people. So this guy posts activism type messages all the time (okay - 'slacktivist' since this is only facebook we are talking about). I think its very cool to have a former apartment mate who is now openly gay. I plan to use it in several conversations in the future. Though he was your typical on-your-face "thengalai-iyengars-are-the-best" slogan shouter, I have decided to be liberal about that annoying little fact. While I hope he gets a good alliance (he could be very strict about kalai-bar), I do think he needs to tone down his facebook activity.

Coming back to the topic. I really wish this Obama character loses the next election. I cannot begin to describe the troll-based nirvana, I'll get by taunting all my facebook friends if this happens. I visualize myself targeting the types who are F-1 visa but have a "GoBama" in their profile picture. I have an atthai who is called Bama and she is very upset, I tell you. More, importantly the biggest incentive to Obama losing is that we'll be rid of those speeches. In my case, I'll be rid of people who will 'ooh' and 'aaah' and croon and crave over these so called 'historical' speeches.

On the topic of 'historical' speeches, imagine Sawagarlal Neguru doing the "At the stroke of midnight hour.." speech, every single midnight. How would that feel? I am assuming Obama's entourage must be tone deaf after listening to all these speeches day-in and day-out. Its only a historic speech if you give it once every 4 years. If you give once every amavasai and maasa pirappu - I'd rather you call it 'tharpanam'.

Previously on Obama: I and II

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Madras

There should be a term for the feeling you get when the incoming train to Madras crosses Basin Bridge. The train momentarily pauses to get the signal that will allow you to see the 2 railway tracks fork into 3 and then 4 and then multiply into several tracks until you lose count and the train slowly trudges into central. There is a thrill that runs through your body. The vehicle could be Nellai Express heading towards Egmore after the pause called 'outer la pottan' (before Thambaram) or a bus crossing kanchipuram as speeds towards Porur. There is no single emotion to describe this. Its the homing beacon that you are zeroing towards. It is the feeling of safety and comfort you get when you re-enter your home. It is the warm feeling of seeing one's beloved grandparents after a long time. It is the feeling you get before meeting your lover.

I miss Madras so much that I deliberately desisted from writing posts such as this. I ended up thinking about Madras for a long time that it impacted the present. Madras is my home, my love, my life and my destination. I have grown up in so many different places that my time outside of Madras far exceeds time inside Madras. However, every single day I spent outside I wanted to get back in. There was particular phase of 2 years where I was working in Bangalore. I felt like sleeping on bunch thorny bushes every single day of those 2 years. I would visit Madras every weekend. Didn't miss a single weekend. For a 6 month period the girl I was engaged to thought I was traveling every weekend because I wanted to meet her. When I made her travel every weekend after our marriage, she understood the allure of Madras. 

There are thousands of emotions this great city brings out. On a rainy night travelling in an auto, there is a moment when you actually feel cold. The auto isn't travelling fast at all. Its probably travelling at 30-40 KM/hr. But the wind makes you feel chilly and you move to the center of the seat. And you watch the ground as the rain hits those puddles. A few drops manage to sneak through the gunny-bag type piece of cloth that the Autokaran has tied to the sides. As you avoid the drizzle that slips through - you strangely feel cozy and warm. That emotion is indescribable. As indescribable as the coolness you find in a Pallavan bus conductor - who folds the Rs 1, Rs 5 and rs 10 along the length and tucks it between his fingers. The way he opens the conductor bag to arrange and re-arrange the tickets, while simultaneously whistling for stops - makes you think he is a billionaire doing this for a hobby. This city is about the small things. You have to toil for a while to really know what this city means to you. Some days you are just hanging out in the beach doing nothing. Some days you have to go Avadi, Chetpet, thiruvottiyur and Thambaram - all in one day - for no fault of yours. There are days when you are late for a movie inspite of booking 3 days in advance. Sometimes your friend calls you at 9;45 to discuss a wild idea of  10PM show and you get there on time. You meet people, places and events that shape the way you think.

The people here are one of a kind. Their arrogance is so awesome that they have to be humble about their awesomeness at it - just to ward of the evil eye. There is an emotion to every city. I'd say arrogance, indifference and sarcasm is the essence of Madras. You could say "I won 71 Nobel prizes, 4 Olympic Gold medals and a Pulitzer" and I am willing to bet you'd hear at least one reply that says "idhu enna saar, enakku oru aal theriyum. Avan.....". I haven't seen many cities where it has been impossible to satisfy people no matter what you do, it has  been impossible to make them care about something no matter how awesome it is. People here have 'nakkal' running through their blood. No one or no thing is beyond 'kindal'. People often talk about Madras being the clash of culture and modernity. I used to as well but don't care much for that anymore.  Madras is neither the filter coffee or temple hub that Kumbakonam is. Madras has a lot of forced narratives, such as filter coffee, and you'll find that most narratives aren't true if you miss a bus stop and start looking in a different place.

Which brings us to the book - Tamarind City. I came across a post by Chenthil that introduced me to this wonderful book by Biswanath Ghosh. I hadn't read Biswanath's blog in a while and so was unaware of the book. Biswanath has been blogging for probably as long as I have. He writes a quirky blog. I tracked it on and off. Initially, I was amused and surprised when he expressed love for Chennai. I wanted to ask him "why". I am usually suspicious of Amits expressing love for Chennai. You don't want to hear the ususal disappointing answer as to why (masala dosai, filter coffee, temples and Bharathnatyams have exhausted me ). Tamarind City answers the question. Do you want to know why Murugesan street is called so? What makes St. Gearge Fort's history so special?  What are Thimappa's descendants doing now? (Chennai is named after Chennai Kesava Perumal temple - part of the piece of land sold by Thimappa to British settlers). Who runs Rathna cafe? What is the Prosititution scene in Madras? Who is the most famous sexologist in Chennai? Who is the cartoonist of Chandamama? Why is S. Muthiah so interested in Madras history?. I liked the book mainly because Biswanath tries to answer questions that we walked past everyday but never asked. I often joked that you could intravenously supply a Thamizhan Tamarind + rice and he'd survive. So the book is appropriately named.

I feel as wistful winding down this post as I feel leaving Madras. I don't know what the future will bring. But I wish Madras figures somewhere in it. Yes, there is the obligatory margazhi season, the Saravana bhavans, Raayars mess and Sathyam theater. But the best part about being there is you are one of the natives. You are yourself. You don't have to put on the make-up, the plastic cover wrapped around your personality in a feeble attempt to fit in. In a way I am glad I wrote this. It has been on my mind since my 2-day rant to Crazy Mohan on how much I have sinned to be away from Madras. He was visiting and one topic led to another and soon we found ourselves discussing Chokkalingam street, Raayars mess, Alwarpet Anjaneyar kovil and then the whole topic of living in Madras. He was taken aback at the force of my longing that he said "I am actually glad I didn't make the mistake you made". He was happy to exclaim "naan make-up pottalum podattiyum naan Madraskaaran. Nee make-up pottalum podattiyum oru madhiri madhil mel maadhu". And after a awkward pause he said "ivalavu yengara. thirumbi vandhudu ba, please. Indha career ella edathulaiyum irukkum". I am more than a 100% sure some miniscule part of this is a result of the conversation we had. 

There should be a term for the feeling where you miss a place dearly but can't find a way back in, aren't sure what to do with that feeling, aren't sure if anything you want can/should be given to you and most importantly aren't sure what your priorities are in life. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Its A Sideways Game Man! You Play Sideways

Last week something happened to me that was - as usual - very unusual. As I was being escorted to the Emergency Room, I was thinking "this can't happen to anyone else". That is until I saw this video. It exactly represents what happened to me that day. You got to watch the whole video and it is simply awesome. However, do listen carefully to the description after 5:31 mins to really know the details of what happened. 


The ER nurse usually asks for the scale of pain from 1 - 10. But as soon as she asked she remembered my description of the injury and said "I am not going to even ask you for a number. Its too cruel". Then they spent 10 minutes looking for a set of pliers. I cant imagine how David Lloyd managed a welder. Strangely, I was really thinking about this (dont watch more than 30 secs after clicking) at that time. To make light of the event and keep the spirits high, I even mentioned this (same here) very scene to the team mate who drove me to ER. Sadly, he was too young to recollect the movie.




Friday, August 10, 2012

20 years of A.R.Rahman

It is amazing how much of an impression a musician can make in your life. Especially if the musician was at his peak of his art in your teenage years. The first time I heard the name A.R Rahman was as a gossip in the context of a Ilayaraja and Manirathnam disagreement. Its been a long time since I read cinema gossip sections in Thamizh magazines.It used to be very interesting to read those at that time. Now its just a fond memory tucked away in some corner of the mind. I think it was "Lights On Sunil" and "thunukku Mootai" who began the gossip that Manirathnam failed to picturise the "Puttham Pudhu Poo Poothadho" song that Ilayaraja had composed for Thalapathy. The song apparently was composed as a romantic number between Rajini and Bhanupriya. It was cut-off because Mani didn't want to develop the two characters as having a romantic relationship. Ilayaraja doesn't appear to collect the Filmfare award for Thalapathy, which Mani collects on his behalf. And then comes the news that Manirathnam has signed on with Kavithalaya, which totally eliminates Ilayaraja as a possibility as MD because KB and IR were split for good then.  Pushpalatha Kandasamy in an interview years later discloses that Manirathnam had approached her with 2 movie ideas. One was about a Kashmir terrorist issue and the other was a road-comedy about 2 thieves. And they went with idea #1. A.R.Rahman's name figured as the guy who did jungles for Bru Coffee. It was speculated that the Advt was probably picturised by P.C. Sreeram and so the connection to Mani was established (I don't know if this is true).

Roja was a big event. In Thanjavur, my physics tuition teacher had a reputation of having never watched movies. That elderly mama cancelled a tuition session to go watch this movie with his family. It was the talk of the class. I will never forget the first time I listened to Roja. I was so mesmerized by Kadhal Rojave and Pudhu Vellai Mazhai. This was a new sound and unlike anything I had heard in Indian music. It started off a trend where ARR made you listen to his music in hi-tech head phones and stereo systems just so that you could catch all the little itsy bitsy nuanced instruments that he used. My biggest joy was the fact that he began the revolution of introducing new singers almost every album. Carolyn, Islam Mustafa, Subha to name a few. The liberation from S. Janaki cannot be described in words. Having been in Gavaskar Vs Srikkanth, BoneyM vs Abba, Tendulkar vs Lara fights and more importantly Kamal vs Rajini arguments with friends I always had a clear favorite (Gavaskar, BoneyM, Kamal, Tendulkar). Some have gone to the point of getting into physical confrontation. However, I have never been so torn as I was in Ilayaraja Vs A.R.Rahman fights. It has been hard to pick a clear favorite in the past 20 years. I haven't obsessed over a music director like I have obsessed over Rahman. But I truly consider myself to be an IR fan at heart. If forced to pick the genius among the two, I'd pick Ilayaraja in a heartbeat. But ARR revolutionized the industry and Thamizh music in ways Ilayaraja was not capable of. ARR used flutes much better than IR. And of course IR was a genius with violins. Ilayaraja was clearly superior in background music as he melded the music to the situation perfectly. But ARR developed theme based background music much more successfully (Thiruda Thiruda's BGM as a standout example).

I haven't listened to ARR that much in the recent years.  His nativity has changed in his second 10 years and so has mine. So I haven't been able to relate to his music a lot nowadays. But here and there he produces a gem that still  is gush worthy. His first 10 years will always be my favorite. As he created album after album that fascinated the senses. In many ways I feel truly lucky to have grown up in the 90s. It was the generation of change. India's economy opening to foreign products, advent of Satellite/cable television, massive growth of Indian cricket, Sachin Tendulkar and ARR obsession captured the essence of that generation. I've met innumerable number of people who find the strange intersection of Tendulkar fandom and ARR obsession as a completely natural thing. There is some strange un-namable similarity in the growth of these two people who've defined a generation.

Below is an old post of mine that I wrote during ARR's 10th year in movies. Its very silly to read it now. But I'll unashamedly just reproduce that. I haven't listened to him that much in the last 10 years to really update the list. Some songs that don't feature in the list that I like a lot are - Nahi Saamne (Taal), Thiruvallikeni Rani (udhaya), Girlfriend (Boys), Vaaji Vaaji (Sivaji), Porkalam (Thenali), Azhagaana Rakshasi (Mudhalvan), Ye Ye Enna Aachu Unakku (Kaadhal Virus), Gokulam (Azhagiya Thamizh Magan), and Aaromale (VTV)

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It is 10 years since ARR hit the scene with "Roja".  The 10 year anniversary couldn't be better celeberated than releasing such a high profile album as Baba.

After years of enjoying ARR's music and finding out small small instruments and sounds every time using headphones, ear phones and different speakers. I have to say ARR is the person apart from Sachin Tendulkar :-) Who has captured the imagination of millions of Indians with a brand of youth and passion unseen before.

My Top 10 songs of these 10 years would be
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10) Poraale Ponnu Thayee ( Karuthamma): Wonderful song from my favorite Swarnalatha. Won the national award deservedly.

9) Tu hi tu (Kabhie Na Kabhie): A relatively Unknown song because the movie was not released properly. This is a rare gem from ARR. I especially love the beginning hum in that song.

8) Nila Kaigirathu (Indira): Ah! Who can forget Hariharan's memorable voice ( Harinis version was good to ). The melancholy of this song is completely representative of what music is all about.

7) Pachai Nirame ( Alaipayuthey): Can a song be more intoxicating. What string arrangements What a wonderful voice. Brilliant picturization! It captures all moods to perfection. Wonderful lyrics.

6) Dilse (Dilse): The initial thump of drums and slowly building up the crescendo. ARR's voice blends so well with this tune. The middle "sa sa ni dha pa " hum is wonderful. As usual this song was met with good
picturization.

5) En Kaathale ( Duet): This according to me is the best song SPB has sung. No one can hold on to such a tempo for such a long time. The voice just silkily runs through without wilting even for a moment. The smoothness this song achieves is unparalleled. What sadness this song brings out. Makes anyone feel they can also sing (but is it easy???).

4)Thee Thee (Thiruda Thiruda): Agreed this came out as an Advt first. But what a different song. Carolyene's indifferent Tamil adds more to the cuteness of this song. I suspect the Jathi voice as Jathiraja is ARR himself. There are only a handful of songs that were picturized better than this one. 

3)Mellisaye ( Mr. Romeo): I always thought this wud be my #1 ARR song but I am so sad this is just # 3. Only ARR can out do himself with a song better than this one. What a tune. The raw tune of the song itself is so mindblowing. The slow female voice which starts the mesmerising drum rhythm is awesome. "ethanai nilavu.." the up and down of the tune is like a wave rising and falling and slowly becoming a tide.

2)Kathal Roja (Roja): Ah! this is in my opinion the first gem of ARR. The rawest musical passion of ARR is brought out i the song in just the humming that Sujatha does. The sad (melancholy is ARR's forte??) hum that rises in tone blends so well with the movie and the moment. The beat pattern changes with rarae precision.SPB's voice was so new to us. This SPB voice was a new avataar. Dude this is how you should break into movies.

1) Konjam Nilavu ( Thiruda Thiruda): According to me this is the consummate music done by ARR in his 10 year career. BGM included ARR will never be able to beat what he did in Thiruda Thiruda. Konjam Nilavu had a amazing voice that oozed sexuality and passion. The hard natured voice and the novel song structure is mindblowing imagination. No song has ever been picturized in Indian movie history. PCSriram, Mani and ARR is just a dream come true. Look athe diting and the fireworks exploding synchronously with the beats. WHat a voice, what a find. This song pumps one with adrenalin. This to me is ARR's song of the millenium(s).

Friday, August 03, 2012

Cycle of Life

For the past few weeks, I have been feeling this need to state a very core belief of mine. I have decided to succumb to that urge.I am not sure if I can state it well. But there is no harm in trying. This is what I want to say.

A person who willfully behaves in way that causes his/her parents, especially the mother, to experience (a) utter shame and embarrassment,  (b) enormous heart burn and emotional suffering upon seeing/hearing about the actions of their offspring to the point where they feel that they have failed as a parent, (c) emotional trauma as a result of verbal abuse (by the son/daughter) (d) poverty, isolation or loneliness as a result of dereliction of duty by children to take care of their parents during their old age (e) poor health or inability to satisfy very basic needs (at an old age or earlier)  as a result of dereliction of duty by their son/daughter (f) tangible or intangible loss of parent-child connection that is not repaired unto death ; Such a person will not prosper well in life and will have the same or worse fate befall them when they reach their old age (I don't mean this as a curse or wishful thinking - i intend it as a statement/conclusion).

Most parents will never wish bad things for their children even if the said parent/children combo fall in above category. Many parents may counter-intuitively offer blessings as a response to the situation. But I feel that even if the parent(s) are forgiving, it  is ultimately immaterial to the fate of the children.

Post Script:

1. Sometimes in this blog, I do willfully state a conclusion of mine without sound argumentation. When I do so - it is because I feel I can intuitively connect whatever little argumentation I have to the conclusion I want to state. Under such circumstances, I do not write the extensive reasoning and make a clear connection between my assumptions, argumentation and conclusion because I do not have the time/patience/skill/methods/environment to do so. And most if not all those  instances where I have done this were in the realm of time-pass things like general conversational logic or entertainment or cricket. 

2. The above is a core-conclusion of mine that I have held for a while but I do not have any argumentation or assumption to back it up. I also do not consider as arising out of my religious affiliations (although one can claim that religion offers similar conclusions and i have seen texts where it does). In my case this purely arises out of what I think is a standard level of intuition any individual is bound to have when they get an opportunity to make 20 years of observation in a rather large extended family and circle of friends. The need to state it now came about because a distant relative of mine died in the last 20 days. I guess when people cannot put down the argumentation in words they tend to term it as 'belief'. 

3. Some may feel this is very obvious. Some may think this is very old school. Regardless, I found this to be true in most if not all instances.

4. There are no exclusions or exceptions that I feel the urge to call out to the above stated conclusion. One cannot quantify  the extent of hurt caused to parents.  Most people assume this pertains to children's marriage decisions, which is true most of the times but not all of the times. Some assume this includes career decisions. Some assume this includes children living in foreign country while parents live in Indian old age homes. While, I feel that no parent will die in shame because their son chose engineering over MBBS - I'll leave the reader to draw whatever conclusions they see fit.

5. There is an obvious element of recursion here which we will reserve for another post another day.

6. I believe the converse to be true, assuming other necessary/sufficient conditions are met.


Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Yajur Upakrama

1. This day is neither in Avani month nor on avittam star. But still is called so by Tamils. It used to come in Avani. But I dont know what changed. It has been happening in Adi for the past few years. I am not sure if there are girls in North India who are surprised because their brothers are sending them money order for Rakshabandhan a month earlier than normal. But calling this day as Avani Avittam seems weird.

2. Must acknowledge the yeoman service U. Ve. Srinivasachar of Vaishnava Kendram  has been doing. Without his do-it-yourself pdf and video things would have been really difficult with that 2 page Kerningham and Ritchie type indecipherable yellow paper that was given in the earlier days. (note: apparently there are only 3 Sama Veda vaisnava vadhyars in Madras and he is one of them. He apparently has an ipad that he uses when comes for marriages and announces the meanings of different mantras in a mike as he performs them. Orey the hi-tech).

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Pied Piper Effect: Satyameva Jayate, Amir Khan, Anna Hazare etc

Sometimes I wonder who the rats were in the Pied Piper story. Maybe it was a metaphor for the stupid people who drowned by following another stupid person. 

My fundamental problem with these activist types is that they preach moral and ethical uprightness with no associated economic incentives. On the contrary an average citizen has a lot of incentives (economic and otherwise) to behave in a corrupt and unethical fashion. My strong belief is that any activism that attempts to create ethical awareness without an associated economic incentive will simply not work. The world has moved to a point where this is simply not feasible. 

What Amirgan and Anna are doing is improving their own brand value without any real use to society. The average citizen is schizophrenic. He will not do anything that is impractical for his life. But at the same time he claims to profess support for the values that Anna and Amir Khan preach. The average citizen's zeal for ethical behavior extends to meaningless and low-stake things like refusing to pay traffic police bribes or at best refusing to fudge house prices to reduce registration tax (the latter scenario is very rare). This is the average citizen's level of commitment to ethics. If you raise the stakes to a much higher level you will find that almost every single of these 'average citizen' will resort to corruption. The most vocal Anna Hazare supporter and all people who self-righteously boil over against corruption will resort to corruption if the stakes are high enough. Its just that they have poor self-awareness of this possibility.

Anna Hazare and Amir Khan are very similar beasts working for opposite teams. The strategies of both of them to find a place in people's hearts as champions of ethical behavior and social service saints. They start by pretending that they have no political affiliations. This is probably an effort to earn the trust of people. Then all they need to do is point the people to an easily identifiable political party. Identify that political party as the source of all evil. and people will not vote for that party. Anna Hazare was a little bit more open about his political affiliations and the uselessness of his campaign. A bland 'be good, do good,' type of ethical idealogy and a silly Gandhian posturing was unsustainable from the start. It was clear that he was a stealth political campaign to undermine the incumbent government. 

Amir Khan is slightly more subtle play by the incumbent government to undermine the opposition. His campaign is equally meaningless because he picks issues which have a clear black and white ethical structure,. On top of it he dumbs it down and then makes a melodrama out of it. All elements of marketing to female and elderly audience is found in his show. This is enough to bring in the whole family. Most issues are plain obvious and there is no subtlety whatsoever in his debates. No gray areas that can whip up a good debate. All his topics already have been addressed in a 15 minute black and white Films Division episode on it. Satyameva Jayate is different because Amir Khan is present and the modern yuppie has been told that its 'cool' to be an activist ("If Egyptians are cool, why shouldn't Indians be cool").   Its a marketing campaign. I suspect the first phase will market his brand and the second one will market the incumbent government. 

Question is : when will the incumbent government plan for this TV show to air an episode where they talk about Gujarat riots? When will they bring in the victims and ask them to narrate the gruesome story. In effect that would be the Narendra Modi + BJP dismantling episode. I suspect it would be closer to the Lok Sabha elections. But it may come sooner as well.