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Wednesday

Taare Zameen Par

I am ultra glad that I signed off the year with Aamir Khan's Taare Zameen Par. What a treat to the senses! I have been recommending this movie to anyone who cares to listen. The movie is still fresh in my mind and the movie is still fresh in the theatres. Go see it. My thoughts on the movie is reserved for one of the many flights I need to take in January.

Wednesday

Twenty20 cricket innovations

Cricinfo - Four stumps, and first-ball free hits

Interesting article that advocates
1. Four stumps behind the batsmen
2. No leg byes
3. Extra over for bowlers who take a wicket

by way of encouraging bowlers in this batsmen-centric format.

I say, we have had many such innovations in street cricket for a long time.

1. No runs behind the stumps
2. One pitch catch
3. Batsman is out if the ball lands in a certain area
4. Bowling XI different from Batting XI

and one for the batsmen

Last man gaaji (continue playing even if the rest of your teammates are all out)

Monday

The Dish on Dads

The Dish on Dads

Which Dad are you?

The original cast away

Lonesome George is no longer lonesome - World Wildlife News

According to the Guinness Book of World Records Lonesome George, a native of Pinta, an isolated northern island of the Galápagos, is the “rarest living creature.” By the late 1960s, it was noted that the tortoise population on this island that is visited only occasionally by scientists and fishermen, had dwindled close to extinction, and in 1972, only this single male of the species Geochelone abingdoni was found.

New research led by biologists Adalgisa Caccone and Jeffrey Powell in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale, with the strong support and cooperation of the Galápagos National Park and Charles Darwin Research Station, has identified a tortoise that is clearly a first generation hybrid between the native tortoises from the islands of Isabela and Pinta. That means, this new tortoise has half his genes in common with Lonesome George.

Lonesome George was immediately brought into captivity at the Charles Darwin Research Station on the island of Santa Cruz where he is housed with two female tortoises from a species found on the neighboring island of Isabela.


The rest on Science Daily

We didn't start the bubble!

Funny yet poignant - a musical parody of the impending bubble

Time Travel and Me

It was a Sunday afternoon, some day in 1989, and I was feeling the first pangs of procrastination. The day after was an important test for which I had under prepared (as in not having studied a bit). Irrespective, I was drawn towards 'Indradanush' on good old DD. The need to distract oneself when there is a compulsion to concentrate is the first in the list of procrastinator's creed.

DD Sundays were a blast for me - Walt Disney presents, Bharat Ek Khoj, Indradanush, Spiderman and the afternoon regional movie that put me to sleep like a healthy dose of Benadryl. 'Indradanush' was the rare sci-fi serial on DD. Two brothers end up traveling in time and having zany adventures along the way. I immediately latched on to the concept - If I had a time machine I will pop in, go to Monday, check the question paper for the test, come back to Sunday and just prepare for that particular set of questions. That was my plan. I even drew a block diagram of my time machine prototype. In fact, I was quite confident that I will be time traveling at some point in my life that I wrote a personal checklist and cryptic messages. Yes, I did all this when I could have very well studied for the exam the day after. Shut up!

That notebook is somewhere among my things back in India. I need to go see the percentage of achievements sans time travel. I even wrote an essay (ghost co-authored by my Dad) titled, 'If my life had a second edition what corrections would I make' and ended up winning a prize of sorts. So, the commitment to travel back and forth in time was, is and will be there.

Over the years support and discouragement have vacillated on my time travel aspirations. Stephen Hawking made a major dent on my drool with this observation - "If time travel were possible, we would have already seen people from the future". I wasn't able to counter this annoyingly practical observation for a long time. My hopes were renewed by pioneers like Doctor Who and the Journeyman. Unfortunately, both these guys are fictional. However, they did project the idea that time travelers tend to do all their traveling in a discrete fashion. Ergo, there are people traveling from the future but they are just excellent in not revealing themselves. Double ergo, time travel is possible, we just don't see the journey men. Also, as clearly illustrated in The Butterfly Effect, time travel is possible under extreme duress but has the side affect of alternating your own future. Time travel is also supposed to be an impossible concept according to some theorists as the earth is never in the same cosmic location to return to. The fact that people against my wishes include Stephen Hawking and those for include Ashton Kutcher has to be overlooked.

The Grandfather paradox is another mood spoiler on the adverse effects of time travel. It gives an instance where a girl is born in 1945, has a baby herself after meeting a drifter in 1970, who goes back to meet himself in 1945. In 1985, he is a time traveler and also a facilitator of his own time travel. He takes himself back to 1945, kidnaps his own kid in 1970 and so on... It somehow dwindles down to a loop where the girl is her own mother, father, grandfather, grandmother, son, daughter and bartender.

I am not seeking all this fuss. My simple request is that I get to see the question paper of an inconsequential exam in 1989, so that I can watch TV in peace... in 1989.

Friday

A night at an Irish Pub

It took us a while to get the bill so I took some photos.

 

Guys finishing their drinks

Guys finishing their drinks

Raj taking pictures

Raj briefly dropped by to take a few pics

Halloween celebrations

Took the opportunity to celebrate Halloween

Taking a nap before the long walk home

A couple of guys had to rest a little bit

Billy was wide awake

Billy, however, was wide awake

Raama's car

We finally drove back home in Raama's car

Tuesday

Hello Insomnia, My Fiend

I was dabbling with writing a few choice words to my nemesis - insomnia. While scribbling a few lines I was drawn to two other classical odes of yore...

One was "Hello Darkness, My Friend" by Simon and Garfunkel

Hello darkness, my old friend,
I've come to talk with you again,
Because a vision softly creeping,
Left its seeds while I was sleeping,
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence.

This was however not quite my problem. What wouldn't I give for 'the sound of silence'? My issues were quite the opposite. I was disturbed by every whisper in the dark and was wide awake waiting for them, listening to them. I can hear everything from Wifey's rhythmic breathing to the cacophonic plumbing orchestra all over the house.


In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone,
neath the halo of a street lamp,
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of
A neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence.

Yeah. This makes more sense. Except that this just wasn't me in a restless dream. This was me wide awake with closed eyes. The neon light is the LED reminder by the comprehensively evil digital clock. Maybe I should watch TV... has never helped. Maybe I should wake Wifey... will never help. Should I dwell about loneliness a la Amithabh in Silsila, the second ode in my thoughts?

Main aur meri thanhayi, aksar yeh baatein kartein hain

Tum hothi tho kaisa hotha, thum yeh kahthi, thum woh kahthi

Me and my loneliness often discuss about this

How nice it would be if you were here,

You would talk about this and that...

Nope. That's really not my problem and I am not really feeling lonely. I am just frustrated that I am awake at 1:20 AM and have only 4:40 before the alarm goes off. Main aur meri majboori aksar jaagthe rahthe hain... was it the the second espresso or was it the last email? Why am I up without a plausible reason?

I now go back to S&G,

In the wells of silence
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon God they made.
And the sign flashed out its warning,

Its 2:10 AM, 3:50 hours of sleep if you doze off right now... Here's a happy thought Insomnia has hardly stuck on weekends or two days in succession. Happy thoughts... Tomorrow night is my night... the night insomnia is no where in sight.

Thursday

Cricinfo - Ponting calls for attacking cricket

Cricinfo - Ponting calls for attacking cricket

The Australian captain's dialogs in this article are quite interesting. He starts off with assuming that the Australians have made the game more attractive.

"If you look at the way we score our runs, the way we have been able to bowl in Test cricket, we have made the overall game a lot more attractive than other countries have."

This was done under Steve Waugh's captaincy - the art of aggressive scoring even in Test cricket. This was part and parcel of the 'mental disintegration' tactics. Has this made the game attractive to non-Australians? I am in awe of the team but I don't mind missing the games that they play. They, as much as the ICC, spoiled the last two world cups for me. The 1999 world cup was the last real contest.
He goes on to add
"Maybe the other countries have to start looking at maybe not playing as many drawn games, maybe challenging themselves a bit more to start winning and having results in Test matches. If you do that I think you will see people come back to the game."

Now he is dictating the Australian way to all the teams so that all games would be about preparation and execution rather than preparation and improvisation. There is quite a difference and he might find that it will lead to real 'attractiveness'.

Monday

No Indian varsity among world's top 200 univs

No Indian varsity among world's top 200 univs

Oh brother! Looks like a case of 'brain from the drain'. With high paying jobs at hands' reach, are our young graduates not putting in that much effort? As usual we seem to be going for quantity over quality. If you have the money, you can get into an engineering college at some level - if not in the cities then one of the remote ones. I wonder what percentage of engineers are into research and development? Must be a lot less than the ones doing maintenance work and 'customer care' work.

Thursday

Only Harry Potter can save Pakistan: School kids

Only Harry Potter can save Pakistan: School kids

One wonders where Imran Khan fits in this fantastic take on Pakistan politics.

This never ceases to impress me - you are an ally to a super power thrusting democracy on your neighbors. Two weeks before a democratic election you declare an emergency and impose military rule. The super power's lame duck president... well never mind.

Center for Biological Diversity - Press Release - Rapid Action Plan to Save the Polar Bear Unveiled at Congressional Hearing

Center for Biological Diversity - Press Release - Rapid Action Plan to Save the Polar Bear Unveiled at Congressional Hearing

The Center for Biological Diversity today released a “Rapid Action Plan” to address global warming that has already resulted in a drastic reduction in Arctic sea ice and threatens to drive polar bears extinct. The plan calls for strong reductions in methane and black carbon emissions, pollutants with disproportionate impacts on the Arctic, as immediate measures to slow global-warming impacts alongside global reductions in CO2 emissions.

Monday

Evano Oruvan - Falling down in Madras

"How many Sridhar Vasudevan-s have you arrested in your career?", asks the Inspector (played by director Seemaan of 'Thambi' fame) mid-way through the Thamizh movie - 'Evano Oruvan'. In my opinion, that is the crux of the social commentary underlining this movie. More about that later.

I got the opportunity to witness the HSBC sponsored preview screening of the movie in San Jose much prior to its intended December release. Actor/Producer Madavan was at hand to promote the movie and also introduce its non-Tamil director Nishikanth. It was a unique experience with about a hundred audience members showing up and participating in an interactive session with the crew past the movie screening. One such question from the audience was "Why did you decide to portray the leading character as a Brahmin?".  Madavan answered the question with a rare insight into Thamizh culture - the Brahmins are the least expected to do anything that challenges the law of the land.

The Tamil Brahmins are the omnipresent yet invisible sect of bustling Madras. The only time they ever rise to spotlight is during the annual music season. Rest of the time, they go through the monotonous self-centered lives that is the bane of urban India. They do not influence assembly or parliamentary elections. A very small percentage of them actually participate in elections. They do not have a talismanic figure anywhere in the democracy framework. They are usually part of a nuclear family catching up with real India through newspapers and water cooler talks. They are everywhere but nowhere. Immensely knowledgeable of the wrongs of the society and equally impotent when it comes to acting upon it.

What happens to the fragile balance of the city when one such Tamil Brahmin resorts to violence and bashes up every wrong doer he comes across in a 48 hour time period? The result is quite chilling.

Madavan sheds his 'Alaipayudhe' image to roll up his sleeves and immerse himself in a subject he believes in. I think it is that much easier to enact a difficult role when you have already played the part sometime in real life. He finally comes out of the self-created dependency on Mani Ratnam to create meaningful roles for himself. Seeman plays the movie's conscience as the Inspector who is an integral part of the corrupt society but is also stressed by his own consciousness. Sangeetha (who crops up with a decent performance every couple of years and disappears) plays Madavan's wife and the real instigator of the psychotic mayhem that follows. She is a housewife who stands to lose her comfort zone when she loses her cause to complain. Following the movie, director Nishikanth candidly admitted how he has used Hollywood movies like 'Falling Down' and 'Taxi Driver' to channel his own observations. These are the kind of movies that we should try and Indianise more. They are reflective, contemporary and chat-worthy.

It is never good over evil. It is more like a war of helplessness and dismay. The situation is quite bleak as the movie does not invoke its license to deliver a message. It does just enough to disturb the movie goer and stir the pot a little.

 

Tuesday

Netflix Makes a Comeback

Movie & TV News @ IMDb.com - Studio Briefing - 23 October 2007
Netflix shares have an upswing by 13%. This somehow brings a smile to my face and I don't even own Netflix shares. I signed up to the Netflix service in 2001. They have been a big help in satiating my movie appetite. I've been sampling their online streaming as well. Netflix is a pioneer and deserves to be given shareholder confidence for further innovation.

Saturday

Babloo #04 - Rules of Desi Engagement

A single desi is at home with only one kind of company - other single desis - of the same sex. This is law. Anyone pretending otherwise is either not single or not desi. However, from time to time, the odd sighting of a single desi in undefined crowds have been noticed. Those are the experimentation stages. This straying from the prescribed path has only one reason behind it - the desi has encountered a Ms.Desi.

At the start of the millennium, the most prolific love dhooth was the instant messenger closely followed by the ever present cell phone. I've had the chance to observe in close quarters two Desis consumed by the engagement virus. One was officially engaged - the kind of successful Desi behind whom is a woman - a proud girl hunting mother. The other is the kind of Desi behind whom is an absolute necessity to talk to a girl (any girl). The kind that likes to get 'committed' every now and then.

The first is the most fun to watch because he is actually showing off to other co-single-desis. Goofiness comes naturally to goofs.  This guy tucks in his shirt - even on a Friday - and combs his hair - like twice a day - with a comb! It is bad enough when he was single - now he is an engaged dude. Oh... the cockiness! Oh... the madness! The torture that the roommates have to endure when this guy is on the phone with the girl. Did I mention the madness?

There is this constant buzz in the apartment around this time. This buzz is our friend on the phone speaking sweet nothings and I mean nothing. "Are you a Vijay fan or an Ajith fan?" is one I overheard without meaning to. In fact, the girl's preference was broadcast the next morning. This sort of interrogation is supposed to get a peek into the psyche of  this girl with the phone. We, the roommates, once complained that he was interrupting the television with the incessant gigglefest. He gave us a big sigh somehow suggesting that he felt pity for our single lives. He proceeded on to lock himself in the toilet and continued his conversation only this time the gigglefest was echoing off the plumbing and we had to bear it in surround sound. Even this is bearable when compared to being stuck in a car with the shameless show-off who had consumed our smart friend. We, his co-passengers, aren't allowed to talk. We aren't allowed to answer our phones. We aren't allowed to listen to music. We can't lower the windows nor can we increase the fan speed. It is one idiot with two or three other stuffy silent single desis. Their collective knowledge had just been given added value with the unseen girl's (apparently an insomniac with a phone glued to her ear)preference in everything from breakfast to cricket.

One married guy had this advise for us single guys - when you are engaged, act like a typical ruffian. This way, when you are actually married any small act of goodness seems like a welcome change and you are not burdened with expectations. His verdict on the cell-phone giggler - 'Gone case'.

It is an unwritten law that engaged dudes are exempt from cooking duties and even cleaning duties. The engaged single desi's honeymoon had already begun and we the roommates were the busboys of the seedy motel. The toilet was the honeymoon suite.

Next gen of Thamizh cinema

Quite a few podcasts and variety shows are targeting Gen-Next of Thamizh Cinema.

First off was the news item on 'Sultan' the animated movie starring Rajinikanth possibly as the titular character. A teaser trailer was available along with his last blockbuster 'Sivaji'. This thrilled me at many levels. A big fan of animated movies it was heartening scene to see the genre finally entering the shores of Madras. Just last year, post 'Chandramukhi', the guys were discussing plot points for a new Rajini movie. Yep, this is what we do when we get together and we are proud of it. Anywise, the consensus was that the movie should take the 'thalaivar' appeal to the next generation of kids. Yours truly had suggested that the best possible route would be to do an animated action movie and add merchandising a la Hollywood. Since we are aping the movie making style anyway why not adopt the marketing route. This seems to have had some credibility although it was said in jest at that time. Now, we have Soundarya Rajinikanth, launching her father in a brand new avatar. Can't wait to see that one.

South Side Episode #10 featured an interview with Shruthi Hassan. I had heard her single 'Covers' a while back on an earlier episode. One of my friends in the music business had suggested that the song had more attitude than material. Irrespective, Shruthi came across as a fun-loving grounded girl with one witty quip after another ready in hand. Listening to her, I got the feeling that star kids in India adjust to stardom better than their Hollywood counterparts. Shruthi Hassan does seem to be eager to do her own thing rather than pressure herself with the growing expectations.

Another podcast in the South Side space is Radio NRI beamed out of Madras. Radio NRI features RJ Cary and his engaging interviews with 'it' people from Kodambakkam. One does feel that a pure Thamizh interview will be a lot more engaging given the subject matter discussed - Thamizh cinema. The two interviews I sampled were the ones with actors Sibiraj and Jeeva. It was a study in contrasts. Sibiraj's interview revealed his focus - his ambition to become the next big action hero in Thamizh cinema. That interview was very much like a talk with a Chennai College student drunk on local cinema. Jeeva, on the other hand has lofty ambitions. He did make a poignant observation - International cinema is really hardcore regional cinema. Only the movies that have a native flavor find an international audience. We cannot ape Hollywood to widen the audience beyond the shores of India. Looking forward to movies from this guy.

Friday

A readymade script for Kamal and Vikram

:: rogerebert.com :: Reviews :: Sleuth (xhtml)

Put this under "If wishes were horses". The script for 'Sleuth' demands two main actors with a lot of charisma and the ability to display histrionics at will. That is the reason why I was mulling on the possibility of Kamal and Vikram essaying the roles of the Andrew Wyke and Milo Tindle. One night, two men - a dangerous battle of wits. Acerbic dialogues, punch lines and character nuances - the aforementioned two can lap it up.

Sunday

"Sleuth" is not a remake

:: rogerebert.com :: People :: Jude Law, Michael Caine, Kenneth
Branagh: "Sleuth" is not a remake (xhtml)

This should be an interesting movie to watch. Sleuth is one of my favorite movies that deals with thrills based on psychology and dialogs. Michael Caine's role in the original is now played by Jude Law and Michael Caine plays the original role played by Sir Lawrence Olivier. Fans of Agatha Christie novels should love this one.

Friday

Blue Umbrella

Blue Umbrella is Vishal Bharadwaj's brilliant adaptation of Ruskin Bond's short story. Ruskin Bond is something akin to R K Narayanan of the North. Malgudi is replaced by the various villages in the foothills of the Himalayas. The same earthy nativity is maintained in Bond's tales as in the works of RK. Among Bond's works, I can faintly recall the 'Train stops at Shamli' or is it 'Time stops at Shamli'. This was part of the prose in my high school.

Bharadwaj is a rarity among Indian directors in that he seeks established literary works for his movie plots. His first movie was the kids flick, Makdee which I am yet to see. Omkara was based on Othello and Maqbool was based on Hamlet.

In BU, he shrugs the cast of big names with Pankaj Kapoor being the only known name. The story telling is at an easy pace. The songs are at once melodious and engaging.

It is a very simple plot. A ten-year old or something close to that, Binya, trades her precious leopard tooth necklace for a bright blue umbrella froBum a tourist. This umbrella becomes the object of desire for the entire village. May it be the teacher's wife or the crafty shop keeper. Eventually, the umbrella gets stolen. Binya suspects the shop keeper Nandu to be behind this. The local police raid  his house and come empty handed. Nandu makes a big scene and vows that he won't touch his favorite pickle until he buys a glorious umbrella for himself. Very soon he does get a red umbrella that elevates his status in the village. The rest of the tale is about shifting importance in the social scale for the two protagonists especially Nandu. The tale ends with the kind of translucent justice that only a child of ten can come up with.

Go for the story and stay for the visuals. The Himachal area is captured wonderfully and the scene in the snowfall rivals the best that the west and the east have to offer.

Nagesh - the original king of comedy

There was a time when I would watch a Thamizh movie only if Nagesh was part of the casting.  Some of my Nagesh favorites.

Kaadhalikka Naeramillai

I cannot recall the number of times I've listened to this movie's dialogues over my Dad's LP Record player.  An ensemble of cast that owed a lot to the Baliah-Nagesh duo for lifting the movie to comedic heights. Chellappa is the ultimate movie buff - lots of ideas but no real talent in film making - maybe that's why I like this character a lot - can identify with it. When will someone make 'Mayanaththil Muththam' and 'Kaththi munaiyil raththam'? The contemporary dialogues had Nagesh mouthing English lines immediately followed by their Thamizh translations. "We don't see English pictures... we want only Thamizh pictures!"

Thiruvalaiyadal

Upstaging Sivaji Ganesan in a historical or mythological movie is impossible. However, Nagesh came as close as anybody in the ten minutes he was on screen. The casting was a master stroke and the dialogues complimented the actors. The number of stage plays in schools and colleges across Tamil Nadu that had this scene reenacted is tribute enough. Sokkaa, Sokkaa...

Bama Vijayam

Another Balaiah-Nagesh treat, Balachander delivers this comedy gem relying on his theatre like screenplay. One cannot help guffaw during the scene where Nagesh tries to remember the 'one' move in which the titular actress acted well. Sureshaa...

Naan

Thrillers are a rarity in early Thamizh movies. Nagesh comes as an undercover cop to unravel the mystery of multiple heirs in a royal family. My favorite line is when Nagesh and Ravichandran are cornered by the villain's henchmen. One of them points a gun at Nagesh's and asks him for his last wish. Nagesh asks for the gun. Comedy bliss. The real scene stealer was Nagesh's brief appearance as his own mother. "Komatla Kuththu"

Veettukku Veedu

Lakshmi and Jayashankar play a couple who con a group of people into thinking that they are not a couple. Nagesh plays the character of the landlord's son. In trying to woo the heroine, he discovers her secret. His frustrations compound when no one believes him. The whole plot boils down to Lakshmi outsmarting Nagesh and his 'Mmmmmaatikittan' triumphs. His hippie style of dressing and crooning "Andha pakkam vaazhndhavan Romeo, Indha pakkam naan enna saamiyo" add the seventies flavor to the movie. "Jalagandeswara, Jamadhagni"

Edhirneechchal

Balachandar's ode to Nagesh's entire range of histrionics. The character, Madhu, has inspired many and none more than comedian/script writer Crazy Mohan.  "Dhamma thundu paiyalukku Dhilla paaththiya?"

Iru Kodugal

Again, a Balaachandar movie. This time around Nagesh plays a rabble rouser in an office setting. His name is Babu and his son's name is Buba. Together they go about creating havoc in the office. The humor laced villainy is unique in its execution.

There are many others which I cannot recall in detail

Server Sundaram

Saadhu Mirandaal

Bommalaattam

Thaen kinnam

Neerkumizhi

Kamala Haasan is another big fan of Nagesh, the actor. Proof of that is his casting of Nagesh in stellar roles in some of his own movies.

Apoorva Sagodharargal - as the main villain

Michael Madhana Kama Rajan - as Avinasi, the gold digger

Nammavar -  a national award winning turn as the father of a rape/murder victim. His 'dance' at his daughter's funeral is a hard hitting scene.

The Tiger

TIGER, tiger, burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies

Burnt the fire of thine eyes?

On what wings dare he aspire?

What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art

Could twist the sinews of thy heart?

And when thy heart began to beat,

What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?

In what furnace was thy brain?

What the anvil? What dread grasp

Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,

And water'd heaven with their tears,

Did He smile His work to see?

Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright

In the forests of the night,

What immortal hand or eye

Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

 

William Blake's immortal lines...

Good news for fans of the Tiger, a sub species, the South China Tiger, thought to have been extinct was sighted.

Rare China tiger seen in the wild

Tiger, Tiger, daring to defy...

Thursday

The new test XI?

With the big three (Ganguly, Tendulkar and Dravid) poised to be phased out, what will the new Indian Cricket test team look like?

The Openers

Wasim Jaffer (or Akash Chopra or Virendra Sehwag)

Dinesh Karthik (or Parthiv Patil)

The Middle Order

VVS Laxman

Yuvaraj Singh

Virendra Sehwag (or Mohamad Kaif or Robin Uthappa)

Manoj Tiwari ( or S Badrinath)

The Wicket Keeper

M S Dhoni

The Bowlers

I K Pathan (the one Indian all rounder)

Harbhajan Singh (or Piyush Chawla or Ramesh Powar or Murali Karthik)

R P Singh (or Sreesanth or Munaf Patel)

Z Khan

Is Balaji still in the reckoning?

Tuesday

Memorex DVD drive

What a Monday!

I beat my habitual friend Procrastination and finally bought a DVD drive for the media center. What more, assembled it the same day as well.

There are very few options for DVD drives - feature-wise. The usual suspects are Memorex, Sony, Pioneer and HP. Emperex and others round up the vendors. What do they offer?

1. Multi format support

2. Grey/Black bezels

3. Nero seven applications suite

4. Lightscribe32023220_lg

5. E-IDE cables

6. Analog audio cables

7. Flash ROM for firmware upgrades

In my quick analysis, Memorex offered all these at $69.99 (at Fry's Fremont) with a free blank DVD. The others did not have one feature or more at the same price range.

What next?

Install movie editing software.

Freaky but true, a friend called to ask me about DVD writing speeds while I was installing the new drive. I am now positively positive that I am being stalked.

Monday

How to read a painting

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/how-to-read-a-painting.html

A very useful article for someone like me who is more naive than a novice in the art world.

What does someone who can't paint do? He buys paintings.

What if that someone can't afford the paintings as well? He looks at them, I guess.

Here's to looking, Art!

Sunday

Picture Quiz #05

Identify the product being advertised here.

 

                                           what-is-in-the-picture

 

What goes into an open mouth in the highway?

Stop Blue Whales From Being Killed by Ships

 

 

Last month, three endangered blue whales were killed when they were hit by large ships in their feeding grounds off the southern California coast. The coastal waters of southern California are home not just to the largest animal that has ever lived on Earth, but also to the busiest shipping lanes in the United States. Unusual ocean conditions this year have led to large numbers of blue whales feeding in the rich waters off southern California for much longer than normal, putting them directly in the path of fast-moving cargo ships and oil tankers. Ship strikes are one of the leading causes of death of large whales worldwide, and scientists have identified ship speed limits as the most effective method to reduce whale mortality.

Dead blue whale
Dead blue whale killed by ship

Last week the Center formally asked the federal government to impose a temporary speed limit off southern California to protect the blue whales. While the government has issued advisories for ship captains to watch out for whales, it has yet to impose the speed limits actually necessary to protect these magnificent and highly endangered animals.

Please: Let federal officials know right away how important it is that they impose a binding speed limit for large ships to protect endangered blue whales.

Take action

source: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/

A tale of two Paattis

It was the best of IMs. It was the worst of IMs.

The events described here took place about three months ago.

Wifey and I were trying to get the respective parents to chat online with us. In all our naivety, we decided to make a conference chat session out of it. We had 'good' news to share and wanted to do it simultaneously to both sets of parents. Easier planned than done, apparently.

The trial run was on a Wednesday evening ; Thursday morning for them. That session did not go too well. We called them to check their availability. The respective Dads were in a hurry to get out of the house and the Moms were in a hurry to get the men out of the house. We said our goodbyes and promised to call again that weekend and suggested they come online.

Attempt number two, that Saturday ,was more successful - sort of. Wifey's parents could not run Yahoo IM while Skype was installed. Some incompatibility issue that we were invited to resolve. My parents had only Yahoo IM and had no idea if they had Skype. The weight of the news that we had to share prevented us from doing any rational thinking. With the IM situ. they way it was, we pushed it by asking them to switch on their webcams while attempting to broadcast ourselves. Here is where the 'sort of' success kicks in. The in-laws did not receive video but could hear us. The parents could not hear us but could 'see' us. We could not see either of them. We alternated between calling them and doing one heck of a multitasking tech support job for the IMs. For the whole hour that we did this phone-chat show we had not even approached anywhere close to 'the news'.

As they were on different IM clients we could not conference them in the same chat window either. While the mom was talking on the phone, the dad would attempt to 'fix' something and they would log off. It would then be followed by a domestic dispute between the two while we tuned into the show over the phone. We gave up any hope of having them on the same page. At the count of three I typed "You are going to be grandparents" while holding up the ultrasound scan to the webcam. At the same time Wifey was mouthing those words to whoever was on the other end of the phone.  The chaotic hour that preceded it gave way to a stage where things suddenly became very quiet all over. After what seemed like an eternity a smiley appeared on the IM and a low throttle and stretched out "hey..." came over the phone line. This was followed by what can only be conceived as virtual hugs.

That done with, it was all business. Pa-in-law suggested that my job was done and that I should expect to be totally ignored from this point on. Glad to comply. Dad was typing that I should take this as a cue to turn a new responsible leaf. This to a guy who had taken vows, a total seven of them, across a raging fire. With this the Moms (future Grandmas aka Paattis) took over. 'Curb your enthusiasm' and 'duct tape the smirk' was the summary of their advice and for some reason it was directed at me.  We (I) were (was) not to spread the good news just yet. I was then dismissed and some lovey dovey OPoMIPoTT took place with the glowing mom-to-be.  OPoMIPoTT is a Thamizh Culture Phenomenon - Oru Ponnoda Manasu Innoru Ponnukku Thaan Theriyum -suggesting that female cardiologists have a better success rate with female heart patients. Sworn to secrecy I turned down all social interactions diligently. I could have potentially gone for a hike to Mt.Whitney but I didn't. I didn't even visit the apartment gym. That's how much I respected the women in my life.

Still under the fore-mentioned Non-Disclosure agreement, we were shutting ourselves from society. A curious turn of events took place. People from India started phoning in with congratulatory notes. My wife gave me a stare every time the phone rang. People, relatives, friends and telemarketers from India were sending IMs, offline messages, phone calls and emails with congratulatory messages. A pigeon carrier or two might have also found its way. It so happened that the one person who had laid down the strictest rules of secrecy was the one spreading the news faster the speed of sound. That would be my mother - Paatti A. It was almost like the baby was saying - "Beam me up Patti". 

I was flustered. I did call my mom up in an attempt to plead for justice but somehow ended up apologizing. I don't remember what I apologized for but I usually have a buffer of reasons with my mother. Anywise, the gag order apparently did not apply to her and was a yours truly exclusive.

"At least its still a secret in America!" - Wifey always had a positive outlook on all things spinning out of control.

Cue - Paatti B aka Mom-in-law.

This is how the overseas territory was conquered. A couple in our gang of friends in Sunnyvale were expecting a baby. The guy's parents were coming over to help with pregnancy/childbirth and called up Paatti B to say their goodbyes before departure. They asked her when Wifey and I would have 'good news' to share. This somehow got Paatti B indignant and she let them know that we already had 'good news'. So friend's parents called up the friends and let them know that we had 'good news' as well. Kind of breaking news rights that they suddenly possessed. During this call, a second set of friends were in the house with the first set of friends on a social call. So they had to be let in on the news. It follows that this second set are habitual visitors to their apartment laundry room where they met another set of common friends and the secret was shared hoping that the hot news would help dry their clothes faster. For a couple of days the joke was on us. Most of our friends had the task of safeguarding our secret from us. So guess - who was at the receiving of a 'SURPRISE' news. Bad news might travel fast but good news apparently is a lot more wilier - travels fast without a ticket.

A secret is what one tells to everybody not to tell anybody.

"At least we were the first to know!" - Wifey and her lack of pessimism gets me down every now and then. So yeah, we are expecting a baby in March.

Friday

Babloo #03 - Desi jargon

Elk is a kind of maan

- A desi friend explaining what an elk is to an European.

----

Baseball is like cricket except the other team bats first and I think the one with the ball throws it in a different way.

- Desi girl explaining cricket to an American at the USB plugfest of all places. I did not dare to interfere.

----

How's it going?

- The pujari at the Sunnyvale temple while giving me Prasad(am). Reverse culture shock!

---

Enga poganum sir?

- New York JFK cabbie after ingeniously discovering that I speak Thamizh. I dutifully called him 'Annein' Sendhil style for the rest of the trip.

---

Holy cow!

-  A coworker's exclamation once I confirmed for her that Indians do worship the cow and sometimes offer it its own milk. Holy cow? Exactly!

We tried to popularize 'punidha maadu' for a while but gave up eventually. Maybe we should have stuck to 'Dheiva Maaaaa' which was our second choice.

---

Aahsum ra

- One brother from Hyderabad's version of  'Awesome dude'.

---

It is all political. Our PM, President are all virgin bachelors.

- Ingenious and indigenous answer to the one question that plagues all single desi junta - 'you are single and a virgin?' - this was valid up until Manmohan Singh replaced Vajpayee and Pratibha Patil replaced Dr.Kalam.

---

This is Pankajam calling from Shantha Clara.

- Stanford Radio's Tamil Wednesdays are a blast. Mmm.. sollungo mami.

---

Take a left at Senthomas expressway.

- You can always filter out a true blue Madras guy when St.Thomas enters the conversation.

---

Maembalam yeri yerangina udane oru Macdonalds kadai varum. Anga right edu. 35-nu oru board irukkum. Adha thaandi marupadiyum oru right edu.

- Driving directions for southies. The 35 board turned out to be a speed limit sign.

---

My dad is an Indian - like from the country India...

- Overheard at a birthday party. Desi-let covering for her Dad's accent to her friend who strangely enough looked Desi as well.

---

Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge

(after a pause)

Hai

- Southie Desi attempts Hindi with ghori northies

---

Its like New York City and New York.

- French dude explaining Madras and Chennai after his solitary trip to India. Thanks mon ami.

---

 

Anything to add?

How Benazir played into Musharraf's hands

A saga involving a deadlock of avenging angels. As I see it, Bhutto Sr. dishonors Musharraf Sr. a long time ago. Musharraf Jr. vows revenge. Before he could do anything about it, the military on their own accord hangs Bhutto Sr. Now, Ms.Bhutto has reasons to seek revenge. She comes to power defeating the military regime (twice). Musharraf Jr. IS the military now. What a deadlock!

Thursday

Thrilloo

It was dark outside.

Last one to leave office.

The responsibility of switching on the security alarm before I go looms large.

Alarm switch needs to be pressed by last person to leave to arm it.

It verifies automatically if all doors are closed.

Then it takes 40 seconds to arm itself and lets out a long beep at the end of  it.

Should leave the building before that long beep.

If I open the door after the beep it sends a silent signal to the cops.

The alarm is right next to the the men's loo.

Pressed the alarm switch.

Felt a sudden urge to take a leak.

Do I have enough time to relieve and then leave?

The toilet is right here.

20 seconds for the alarm to verify and 40 seconds to arm itself.

One man, one minute, one mission.

Dashed into the loo.

Unbuckled frantically. How many seconds left?

Doesn't matter.

Stage fright.

Nothing was happening.

Forced some grunts.

Did a courtesy flush.

Anything to instigate the anticipated free flow.

No luck. How many seconds left?

Did it beep while the flush roared?

Ruffled clothes and sweaty brow.

Mission abandoned.

Rushed out of the loo.

Checked the alarm display while still on the run. 5 seconds left.

55 seconds of repressed feelings in the loo.

Rushed out into the dark night.

Collected my breath.

My bladder was ready to burst.

Retro Desi Shows

Bharath's Insular Thinking dwells on age old Indian TV shows this week.

Draculon...

As a kid, during late 80’s - early 90’s, Saturday and Sundays were of utmost importance for two reasons.
- Cricket with home made bats and rubber balls
- Watching TV.
Then we had just one channel, DD, which used to start their transmissions in the evening during weekdays and at 9.00 AM on Sundays. They never cared about TRP ratings, ad revenue etc as they were the only channel you could watch on TV in India.
Here are some of the TV serials I still remember.
-    He Man and the masters of the Universe. Remember seeing it on Sundays at 9.00 AM. Still can hum the theme song.
-    Star Trek – Sundays 11.30 AM. Of all the episodes and characters, Spock was the only character that stuck in my memory bank until I assimilated all the episodes again during college days.
-    Spiderman – The cartoon series. Exactly @ 12.00 Noon. Usually there were two 15 minute stories with an ad in between, Kitply or Fevicol most of the times.
-    Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot.Saturday 4 PM slot. Even YouTube has few of them online. I found all the episodes on Netflix, which inspired this post.
-    Film song based programs Oliyum – Oliyum (translates to picture and sound) on Fridays and Chitrahaar on Wednesdays.

Click here for the rest of Bharath's blog.

Wednesday

The Idiot Box Strikes Back

I am finally putting my DVR to full use. Happily getting sucked right back into the make believe world that I had deserted all summer. Poignant 'note this point' - Of all the new shows, Wifey likes 'Dirty Sexy Money' while I am intrigued by 'Life'. Isn't that a point to ponder?

Five days and Twenty One shows to choose from.

New entries

1. Chuck

Combines Geeks, Girls and Gadgets. Likeable so far.

2. Bionic woman

Sci-Fi retelling of old show. Amazed at the money that goes into these shows.

3. Life

Intrigued by the premise. Cop solving other cases while trying to solve his own on the side.

4. Dirty Sexy Money

Dallas-like show. Wife likes this one a lot. I think it is all Peter Krause's doing.

5. Big shots

Funny in parts. "Men - we are the new women" Huh?

6. Cavemen

Inspired by the Geico commercial. I am returning for this one.

7. Back to you

Safe bets  - Kelsey Gramer and Patricia Heaton. DVR helps.

8. Pushing Daisies

Yet to see. Plot about coroner capable of giving life to dead bodies disturbing.

9. Journeyman

Well paced drama. A contemporary Doctor Who set in San Francisco.

10. K-Ville

Cop drama with Katrina ravaged New Orleans as the background. Okay.

11. The Big Bang Theory

Wooden acting. Missed second episode.

 

Recurring shows

1. Heroes

It is getting increasingly tough to follow all the characters.

2. House

My No.1 show. Wooster with sarcasm. P.G.W would have loved this one.

3. C.S.I

Somehow retains interest. Still watching reruns.

4. Criminal Minds

Gripping crime drama. Not for the faint hearted.

5. How I Met Your Mother

Great writers. Engaging comedy.

6. Bones

Excellent chemistry between leads. Wifey likes this more than I do.

7. Two and a Half Men

Waning interest.

8. Ugly Betty

I 'have' to watch this one.

9. The Office

Michael Scott - you are worse than my managers. You rock.

10. 30 Rock

Tina Fey. You are the best.

In the off season, I faithfully follow Monk, Psych and The Closer. All of them brilliant. I would like to see Reaper and Moonlight but can't find time or DVR space. I have stopped watching C.S.I Miami and C.S.I NY.

Tuesday

A WIN FOR THE CONDOR: CALIFORNIA SENATE GETS THE LEAD OUT

 

After three years of legal pressure, the California Senate passed the Ridley-Tree Preservation Act on September 5, requiring hunters to use non-lead ammunition for hunting big game and coyotes within the California condor range. Passage of the legislation is a victory for the condor as in recent months at least 17 of the endangered birds have suffered from lead poisoning by feeding on carcasses riddled with lead shot. In 2004, the Center for Biological Diversity and allies petitioned California Fish and Game Commission to end the use of lead ammunition statewide; in 2006, the Center filed a suit against the state for continuing to allow such condor-threatening hunting practices.

Source: Center for biological diversity

 

The fear of the known

Sitting through 'Life', the latest crime drama offering from NBC, I was intrigued by the overall premise of the series rather than the crime handled in the pilot episode. 'Life' revolves around a cop who is released after twelve years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. His ordeals at the hands of the inmates during those twelve years are told in passing - the many days he spent in the prison hospital and the complete shutdown of his regular life in those twelve years. Upon release he is given back his job and a hefty compensation amount. What the twelve years has really given him is a quirky zen-like approach to solving crimes. Interesting premise - hopefully the premise will continue to hold my attention in the coming weeks.

The fear of prison itself loomed large in the pilot episode. It made me recall the absorbing Spike Lee flick, "25th hour". This film too had the fear of prison as its heartbeat. The main character here is in fact guilty as charged. Yet, you tend to sympathize with him in the last 24 hours of his life before he goes to prison for a few years. Fear grips his soul as he contemplates different what-if scenarios. He know that his regular life faces a complete shutdown and there is a very high chance that he will not survive prison.

At the other end of the prison spectrum is the classic - "Shawshank Redemption". Patience is apparently not only a virtue but a life saver in prisons. How many times have I see this movie? A few hundred times too less. One of the best movie adaptations of a book. Shawshank suggests that prison might be a complete shutdown to your daily existence but not necessarily a shutdown of your soul.

Bits and pieces of all these sentiments can be found in Kalapani aka Siraichaalai - in my opinion the only prison movie to have come out India.

Friday

Babloo #02

America is a land of immigrants. A lot of accents in English get imported as a side effect. You can hardly ever escape meeting people of other ethnicity in a day's work and have some interesting accented conversational come agains. The exception of course is if you work for the Telugu Brahmin's Association aka Cisco. The janitor there is one Jogeshwar Reddy or JD. Totally making this up.

Anywise, the accent issue is for real. An ex-roommate of mine - a sensitive fellow - he ran away in fear when first confronted with the automatic sliding doors at Walgreens - had gone to Panda Express to satiate his rice cravings for the day. As is the case, the guy was single - probably had a few unintelligent conversations with the opposite species till that point in his life - referred to unrelated women as 'piguru' - works for Cisco (not all of this is true - you choose what you want to believe).  He was yearning for love or as Koundamani would put it - luvsu.

So, here he was at this Panda Express counter - having navigated his way through the one main item (veggie fried rice - egg okay) - two side items - combo and water no ice of course. He was impressed with the smiling lady behind the counter - mostly because she allowed him to order without breaking a sweat. He felt that there was some chemistry brewing here. Things came to a peak at the billing counter. She told the amount. He gave his card (yet to peel off the activation sticker) and was mentally replaying different ways to let off a suave goodbye without burning bridges.  The smile was still on when she looked him in the eyes and said 'Yeththukko'. His mind was spinning like it did when he practiced U-turns for the DMV test. Was she actually offering herself to him? For the uninitiated, 'yeththukko' is Thamizh for 'take me'. Kamala Hassan's - 'nee enna bakshanama.. take me take me nu sollara'  if repeated will not be out of place. She suggested a few more amorous 'yethukko's before she took his hand and thrust the food in them. He walked away with some 'thamdhana thamdhana' throbbing his head. He confessed to his roommates about this sweet Asian girl proposing to him at Panda Express. The first logical question was - 'how does she know how to say 'Yethukko' in Thamizh'? - Maybe she is one of those Kodaikanal sweater vendor's daughter - you know looks Chinese - speaks Thamizh - and she migrated to the USA to work at Panda Express. Something didn't gel. We decided to check it out.

She did look nice. Too good for him was the unanimous verdict. He mumbled through his order closely watched by his cronies. Her smile was unwavering. Could this guy be that lucky? Finally, at the counter, the sea stood still, sea gulls were suspended in mid flight, palm tress swaying to the wind stopped in their tracks and she did say 'yeththukko' again. He looked at us. I looked at him. Then I looked at her. She was now looking into my eyes. ' To go please!', I told her collecting the food and dragging him away. Fore mentioned sea, seagulls, palm trees all resumed duty.

Back to the one about accents - 'Yeththukko' when uttered at the counter of Panda Express in Mandarin English translates to 'Here or to go' in mundane English. Today, our once in a lunch time Romeo turns on the firangi mode every now and then. One suggestion of Yeththukko and he sobers down.

Sad Panda

Babloo #01

Babloo is the nick name I've given for, no, not my pet iguana, but Bay Area Blues. I feel compelled to document all the insane anecdotes that I've heard and sometimes been part of in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Hence, Babloo for Bay Area Blues!

My first entry is a classic that has gone through many versions and has even come back to me from different sources. Now, I am not even sure that the main character even exists.

One of the first things that we have to learn after landing in the U.S. of A is to spell out your name. A Thanikachalam or a Shanmugapriya had a decent below the radar existence back in South India. Here, they have to drag their respective father's name and sometimes their whole native village while spelling out their name. It is especially fun when done over phone. My stint with the NCC helps me a lot here - A as in Alpha, B as in Beta, C as in seevallaperi pandi... you know the drill.

Legend has this one Pappu Kumar who has settled down in the bay area. I have only heard of him.  Never seen him. If I do, I will hug him. I've heard of him from more than one source and I have personally narrated this Pappu Babloo to a few thousand people. So, it must be true.

When confronted with the task of spelling out his name to a telephone operator (it varies from768_funny-face a pizza place to a bank to an official call)  our man was self-sufficient. He takes off with:

Pappu Kumar

P as in Pappu

A as in Appu

P as in Pappu

P as in Pappu

and

U as in Uppu

No one knows if he ever got around to extending this 'ppu' laced piece of genius to the rest of his name.

So, it is to this resourceful alphabet king that I dedicate this blog entry. Pappu... you continue to be an inspiration for filling mundane desi conversations with mirth. If you are for real,  please don't be offended. Idhula enna thappu...

Thursday

The bride's glare

She was glaring at him.

He stared back.

He now realized she was motioning him to come near her.

He went up the dais where she was the bride.

She motioned that she wanted a cup of water.

Before he could help someone else gave her water.

She gave her sweet smile to her helper.

She glared at him again.

His thoughts traveled back to when she was six.

They were leaving her alone with relatives for the first time.

Tears were welling up in those lovely eyes.

She rushed and hugged him and didn't want him to leave.

Three weeks later she got home and hugged him first.

She'd missed her brother the most.

Back to present day.

Where was all that love?Bride2

Who'd taught her how to glare?

Tuesday

Ooh la la la - Electric dreams are diminishing

I have a lot of catching up to do on the quarter finals. However, a good stream of healthy news is coming this way about the show. One, the semifinalists count has been increased from six to nine. That is indeed good news. Two, the program presentation looks more polished.

On episode eight, Track one were the deserving winners. They really outshone Yuj and Zinx. Yuj had that laid back lounge feeling about it as a band. Zinx were super excited school kids with one funky rap artist in the making. Back to Track one, the lead singers (siblings?) voice talent is giving them a head start. Their remix of "Paattu Paadavaa" sounded like a new composition and is definitely hummable.

The show itself is growing and maturing nicely. The website is better organized than before. The hosts are doing that little bit more than being just annoying - at least Krish is. I don't know if everything fell on the editing table but all the lady mouths is something similar to "over to the judges". The judges themselves offer very little insight - some more banter from them would not be a waste of time. Just some insightful talk without theatrics.

It is almost criminal to eliminate young musicians - there were many a band that should be given the opportunity to further their talent. American Idol finalists (all of them) get some kind of push towards achieving their dreams - is it the same for the ooh la la la bands?

AR01






Sunday

Mani Ratnam Top 10 - Part 3

The top five on my list is a bit of an indulgence. It was a good exercise to play around with the list and finally I couldn't choose certain movies over another. So, I've crammed seven movies into the top five.

 

5

Thalapadhi/Agni Natchaththiram

Agni Natchaththiram

I've always maintained that Agni Natchatram was a party that Ratnam threw for the technicians of Nayagan. A character driven vehicle, AN, remarkably, had no plot. Step brothers expressing their angst at regular intervals and reconciling over some common interest finally. A remarkable 90% of the movie was shot indoors. It looks like an attempt at segment narration . There are five to six capsules - each with an even dose of AN

  • brothers clash
  • interaction with other family members
  • brothers with respective love interests
  • song and dance
  • comedy track
  • villainy track

A well packaged movie with a lot of commercial elements and it was only years later when I noticed the swift adaptation of the Godfather hospital sequence. Why is it in the top five? Think about Naerukku Naer from one  otherwise talented director in the form of Vasanth. NN had the same elements driving it as AN but see the movies and you will know the difference in treatment. NN was surprisingly a Mani Ratnam production - what were they trying to achieve?

Thalapadhi

I didn't hear a single line of dialogue the first time I saw this movie in the theatre. The crowd was hysterical. The Arivu Kalanjiyam that I am, I did not see it as a Rajini movie like the rest of the sane junta but as a Ratnam movie. This made me realize that this was essentially Agni Natchatram enhanced. Step brothers clashing (the common parent is their mother this time around) amidst havoc caused by a common enemy. Enhancement came in the form of scale and extra characters. The Mahabharatha influence was visible in the character names and general plot. The last half hour is a blur - Ratnam is tying up all loose ends in a hurry. There is a rumor that the MammooDalapathi 181ty character is not killed in the Kerala version. Again, a huge momentum for this movie was given by its stars.

Thalapadhi was criticized for glorifying violence. I am not sure if it is still there but when you go down to Kutraalam there is a big banner ad for Arasan beedies near the main falls with the iconic image of 'Thalapadhi' Rajinikanth smoking a beedi. You will be hard pressed to believe that it is hand drawn and not a photo blow-up.  Thalapadhi influenced many people in many ways.

It is also significant for being the last collaboration between Ratnam and Ilaiyaraja.

 


4

Anjali

This was brand Mani Ratnam's first movie in my opinion. With very little star power, Anjali hit the marquee as a Mani Ratnam film and won the masses over. Prabhu had a cameo which was lost amidst really bad lighting. Raghuvaran and Revathy were cast as young parents which was somehow refreshing to watch - a new mature pairing. There was a pattaalam of child artistes - as actors and as playback singers - most of whom are the new gen of filmi people. A dash of E.T. was thrown in for good measure.

The adults were at the mercy of the kids for most parts in this movie. Did they have acting coachgall_big_image1752006104256es and boot camps like they do for Hollywood movies? How was shooting done during school days or was it shot exclusively during the summer holidays? Where is the apartment complex? What is Anu doing these days? She was my personal favorite in this movie.

Anjali, Arjun, Surya are some of the favorite names for Ratnam. The actor Surya too got rechrisitned from Saravan in his debut film Naerukku Naer also a Mani Ratnam production. After oru lee, rendu lee... in Agni Natchatram - here Anjali is the titular character. Arjun was used here and in Thalapadhi.

This is probably what can be called a personal film. The fact that it paid box office dividends was due to his mastery of the craft.


3

Mouna Raagam/Alai Paayudhey

Mouna Raagam

My cell phone's ringtone is the polyphonic title track of this movie.

MounaRaagamMusic carried this movie through songs and interludes. A clean film with reality challenged only towards the end. The house in Delhi was so chic and modern with everything from the bedding material to the lighting so exquisite that it could only be assembled by an expert art director. Did Mani Ratnam deliberately name this movie just to share his initials? Mani Ratnam's Mouna Raagam has a lilt of its own.

I remember the poster of this movie - it had Revathi in the folksy dress with pallu over her head and peeping out of a palanquin. I do not remember any other movie of that era whose poster was bereft of the male characters. Nor do I remember any other movie with such exquisite stills in the poster. It stood out in every wall it was plastered on.

When I first met my wife her cell phone ringtone was a midi of the title track of this movie. Spare me a blush but this was the first DVD we bought together.

 

Alai Paayudhey

alai_blackI wouldn't have included AP this high in the list but for one crazy nut. Raama can recite all the dialogues in this movie sometimes when the movie is still running. Sometimes he would pause the movie and start a monologue of some incident (fictional for sure) that mirrored the scene. One day he will praise the Swarnamalya character to the skies and the other day his oratory would be reserved for the Mallu landlord. If your roommate bugs you to this extent you have two choices - you take interest in the movie or you take interest in the movie.

My Ratnam meter was on the decline since Bombay. The vicarious pleasure that this guy's antics brought me gave me time to pause and appreciate the soft story of a medical student and how her life influences a software engineer.

The repeat viewing made me realize that this is another of Ratnam's 'train' movies - how I didn't realize it earlier beats me. It is my belief that many landmark movies have the train/train station stage an important part of the movie. Sholay - Moondraam Pirai - 16 Vayadhinile - DDLJ all had train sequences at the climax. Ratnam used the train in the climax of Mouna Raagam, he used it in course of the script for Thiruda Thiruda, Dil Se , the use of the train whistle as an instigator of raw emotions in Thalapadhi and of course Alai Paayudhey.

If I am not mistaken, AP was the first movie with a dedicated website. Launching that website was when I first heard the strands of Pachchai Niramae.


2

Roja

I love the way a Mani Ratnam movie creeps into my psych. At first, there was the rudimentary curiosity generating poster for the movie in an obscure bus stand. Then there was the distant strain of the movie's soundtrack from somewhere. Then your friends mention it in some matter of fact fashion. In this case, a friend of mine told me that he wandered into a theatre that was screening this Thamizh movie set in Kashmir and it was really good and there were very few people in the theatre - so we can walk in any time. We planned to do it that weekend and it was only the day before that I'd learned it was a Mani Ratnam movie - his first since Thalapadhi. 

Apparently, many others had realized this before I did and I coudn't get a ticket for the next three weekends. The new soungall_big_image175200611239d that was A.R.Rehman was now playing with our senses. We were at a science fair where our school booth played this movie in the background and people were lingering just a little longer in front of our exhibits. We played it on and on all through a group excursion to the tea estates of Maancholai. There was so much news coming about this movie that the wait was becoming unbearable. Kavithalya had officially parted with Ilaiyaraja and had three movies release that year from their production house - Vaanamae Ellai (Maragadhamani), Annamalai (Deva) and Roja (Rahman). They achieved success in escalating degrees with all three.

I finally saw it on a weekday - worth the wait. The bird's eye view of the coconut trees at the start of 'Chinna Chinna Aasai'...


1

Naayagan

A whole generation remembered exactly where they were when JFK was shot or so the saying goes. It is a popular notion that a global event always defines that generation. Billy Joel's "We didn't start the fire" beautifully captures all significant moments in pop culture for his generation. In the entertainment parlance, there should be one movie that captures the collective appreciation of a whole generation. I would like to think that Sholay was that movie for most Indians in the 70's. If you narrow it down to Tamil Nadu, that movie would be Nayagan for the 80's crowd. The comparison with Godfather does not justify the effort put into this movie.

Then paandi cheemaiyilae

Thaerodum veedhiyilae

Yaaradicharo

Yaaradicharo

I've trained myself to hum these lines when I have those 'main aur meri thanhayee' moments. It is such an effective background score for introspection.

(I am yet to understand the whole salt sacks funda... in the smuggling sequence. Knowledgeable junta please enlighten me)

The following lines are etched in Thamizh movie goer's consciousness.

Naalu paerku nalladhu panna edhuvum thappilla

Avana nirauththa chollu naan niruththarein

Naan adichchaen nee seththuruva

Neenga nallavaraa kaettavaraa?

Naayagan will always be my number one movie - for introducing me to movies in a whole new way.

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A plug for fellow Ratnam followers - check out the group at facebook's MR club


Check out the top ten round up

Part 2

and

Part 1

Thursday

Mani Ratnam Top 10 - Part 2

Here goes...

10

Bombay

This movie did more for A.R.Rahman, Manisha Koirala, singers Chitra, Hariharan and even the item number that was Sonali Bendre than for Mani Ratnam. "Andha Arabic Kadaloram" took my college hostel by storm. Strange exotic things were being said about Manisha and Sonali. The media was hyping up everything - Nasser plays a Hindu - Kittu plays a Muslim - a load of Hindu Muslim from that point on.

On hindsight, there seems to have been a compulsion to make a cross-over hit when Ratnam was working on this script. This is often touted to be the middle child in the anti-terrorism trilogy of his movies. This waBombays no Roja II. My attention distinctly wavered in the second half - you realize a moment in the movie hall when you are conscious that the movie has gone off track and your thoughts waver back to real life.  This happened to me during this movie. The lead couple had lost their twin boys - found one - lost another - they get parted - political bigwigs were getting impersonated - a few dialogues were clipped - a few scenes seemed incoherent - family reunites - the Bombay theme mesmerizes - my thoughts were wandering beyond Manisha Koirala - not a good sign.

I feel that besides technicians, Ratnam has introduced more child artistes than any one else. Not unlike the technicians, all these kids have excelled on screen.


9

Aayudha ezhuththu

A bridge in a bustling city. Three characters collide. Trace back their past individually and follow them till they reach that bridge. Now, move forward and complete the story.

Achieve the impossible - rope in six happening actors and yet finish shooting the movie in record time. Re-introduce the Rahman sound that has been missing for about a year now. Are you short of challenges? Do all this twice over at the same time in Hindi and Thamizh.

AmoresPerros

This 'Project Management' aspect always puts me in awe of the man. He must have one hell of a team working for him in the storyboard discussion and planning stages.

All this failed to invoke any lasting interest in the movie. You see... I had seen Amores Perros by then. It was quite obvious that the three track script was inspired. No matter what Ratnam did with his treatment - the USP had lost its freshness.

I also remember a tiff I had with a fellow desi who tried to be clever at the box office queue. My cousin, the psychedlic schizo seems to share my rage over violators of the queue decorum.


8

Kannaththil Muththamittaal

The inner turmoil of a unique girl child - we have seen fleeting glimpses of this delicate concept in many of Ratnam's movies. Here, this character takes center stage. Besides the movie he directs other products of his production house or his scripts for other directors seem to include the spunky troubled kid.

Kannaththil Muththamittal was like that wisp of a smile we sometimes see in kids - it arrived and left with very little hype. No 'pada poojai' or extensive news bites for this movie - like most of his movies. I always stumble upon a Ratnam movie in the making by accident - I saw a poster of 'Anandha Vikatan' with Madhavan and Simran and the kids when I went for a short trip to India. Was this a photo op or a real movie.... it is a Ratnam movie? what? Why am I the last person to know these things?

KM copy KM probably toured the art house circuit more than any other Ratnam movie. The proof of that is its immediate presence in online streamers such as Jaman and Netflix. Commercially, it came at a time when broadband was becoming main stream and 'thiruttu' VCD was a norm. One of those movies that everyone has seen more in bad prints on small screens than where it made legal sense.

Simran and Keerthana owned the movie. Nandita Das was there. Mani Ratnam continues to try and mold a serious actor out of Madhavan.


7

Thiruda Thiruda

For all you harsh critics of Thiruda Thiruda... you miss the point. TT is like that joke where you have to be there when it is happening. For the junta that was in high school - college when the movie was released - it was a blast. You almost always went to the theatres with your friends and every outing was a party. A caper movie which had nothing but time pass as the USP was a godsend. It is not so much what happened in the movie but what happened during the movie... 

Thiruda Thiruda was probably the first movie where Ratnam's fasicnation for trains began and culminated in Chaiyya Chaiyya. Okay, I am going to say it.... The first shot of the train carrying the millions with a pulsating sound track in the background on a big theatre screen was the best conceived shot in Thamizh movie history that had no actors on screen. A train turning a bend and puffing greasy smoke evoked a round of whistles from my mates. You had to be there...

Check out this amazing piece of synch - the audio is the train sequence from TT but the video is from Spiderman 2.

When I watched it a year back on DVD.. there were no goosebump moments just a touch of nostalgia.


6

Iruvar

Drool.... a bio pic.

There is this scene early in the movie... Anandan is a struggling actor enacting the role of a police Iruvar constable when he gets the news of his mother's death... Mohanlal blew me away with those silent tears. The subtlety of the scene is a lesson in itself and I doubt if any other director-actor combination can carry it as effectively. It would probably spoil it for me but I would like to be in the room when this shot was conceived - when creative minds are collaborating it should be a treat to just witness them in action.

However, some jingoistic shots were cushioned by the same subtlety and lost on the impact scale.

Iruvar was overshadowed at the box office by Rajeev Menon's Minsara Kanavu. I chose to watch this first - I think ended up watching both movies on the same day. Regardless, Iruvar needs to be revisited. It is being touted as a treasure trove of hidden elements.

 

Check out the top ten round up

Part 1

and

Part 3

Tuesday

Mani Ratnam Top 10 - Part 1

 

Shane Warne is a true inspiration. Millions have taken to spin bowling following his exploits. I have taMRken to listing my list of favorites following his most recent exploit - that of listing his favorite cricketers. I am going to dabble with the man himself - Mani Ratnam.

Let me quickly list the Ratnam creations that I haven't seen or don't remember seeing and the ones that did not make it to the top ten:

 
 

 


Idhaya Kovil (1985)

I vaguely remember some contrived story about Mohan losing both his women to similar circumstances at different stages and singing his way through the pain. The songs were staple 'tea-kadai' fare - not to be misunderstood - if a song plays in a Madurai tea kadai it is a genuine hit. Those guys had amazing taste and Keeshduganam located in the Madurai Bus Stand was a pioneer of mixed tapes. Wonder what they are up to now? Selling iPods?

 


Pagal Nilavu (1985)

Features main stream actors like Sathyaraj, Koundamani and Murali who are not generally associated with the cross over cerebral directors like Ratnam. I guess Ratnam was not that cerebral at that time. I remember nothing about the movie though.


Unaroo (1984)

Kelviyin Nayagan (2000)

Huh? Didn't know these movies even existed - but I find these two listed under Ratnam at IMDB.


Pallavi Anu Pallavi (1983)
... aka Priya O Priya (India: Tamil title)

It had Anil Kapoor, Balu Mahendra, Ilaiyraraja and of course Ratnam in the mix. I know nothing more about this movie than the pedigree involved.


Gitanjali (1989)

... aka Geethanjali (India: Malayalam title: alternative transliteration)
... aka Idhayathai Thirudathe (India: Tamil title)

I did see "Idhayaththai Thirudaadhe" but not in a cinema hall. The VHS version was grainy, the movie required us to really squint amidst the hill station fog plus it had a wafer thin plot even for a Ratnam movie.


Guru (2007)
... aka Gurukant (India: Telugu title)
... aka Mani Ratnam's Guru (India: English title: complete title)

Did see this movie. It was good story telling - such a rarity to see bio pics. Did not make it to the top ten for a couple of reasons. I hate Ratnam for breaking his own record of not shooting on foreign locales. I didn't quite like any of the characterizations other than Gurukant Desai.


Yuva (2004)

Just didn't have to see this. Saw the Thamizh version.


Dil Se

I have only seen the Thamizh version - Uyire. That somehow spoiled it for me.

Check out the top ten round up

Part 2

and

Part 3

Monday

South Side on Desi hits

I stumbled on this music show through iTunes - hosted by DesiHits.com's bollywood show - and simply love it. The DJ, Ashanti Omkar, is very engaging and seems to know her Thamizh Film music. I've listened to one half of one show - South Side #4 - and was immediately compelled to write about it.

The show starts off with  a medley of new numbers - my search ended right there - I was looking for a podcast to keep myself up to date on the Thamizh music scene and not depend on Raama for his convoluted recommendations. A couple of original songs by musicians local to U.K were not bad all though the second number seemed to resemble something from Srikanth's Padal album.  I need to revisit that to confirm.

Following that is the section that interested me the most - a special on the letter 'C'. Topics discussed include 'Chellam', 'Carnatic', 'Charukesi' and 'Chenda'. The last one being Kerala's very own percussion. I am in the middle of a medley - which I think are all songs based on Charukesi.

Vasantha mullai pole vandhu

Aaadal kalaiye thevan thanthadhu

Thoodhu selvadhaaradi

Kaadhalin dheepam onru

<Back after the break>

Completing the show was an interesting segment where the DJ traced some western albums influenced by Thamizh film songs - well, two of them at least.

Black eyed peas take on that song from Raghavendra - also mentined elsewhere in this blog - Click here for that. (Actually one of my very first posts)

MIA's take on the "kaatukuyilu" song from Dhalapathy - also discussed extensively in the TFM pages.

Finally, some guilty pleasure when the show signed off with 'Kuthu' songs. Didn't mind hearing it on the way to work on a Monday.

This show rocks. Looks like the latest one is South Side #6. I have a lot of catching up to do.

Tuesday

KQ#11

Rahman makes a foray into our KQ mela. Identify the song that includes this interlude.

Clue: Mission Impossible Swamy