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


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...


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?


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?



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.



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?


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.




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.


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.



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'...



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



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.




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

Check out the top ten round up

Part 2


Part 1


Mani Ratnam Top 10 - Part 2

Here goes...



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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


Part 3


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


Part 3


South Side on Desi hits

I stumbled on this music show through iTunes - hosted by'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.



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

Clue: Mission Impossible Swamy