Wednesday, November 28, 2012

After 1 Ayusha Homan, 2 Nischyadharthams, 1 Marriage, 1 Sashtiabhdapoorthi, 1 Death, and 2 Devasams

the India trip caravan winds down and packs up.

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


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)