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Life as I'm learning it

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Location: Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, United States

"It little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Match'd with an ag├Ęd wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me."

Friday, December 30, 2005

Year in Review: Top 5 TV ads

The ads I adored on television this year...

5. Kaun Banega Crorepati - the Vijay Nazare ad. Superb thinking!

4. Samsung TV - starts off with the line "Imagine you receive a package for your neighbour..." The guy opens the package to find a great new TV, and virtually lives with it, till the neighbour arrives. Great work!

3. Visa Card - "How easily can someone convey the use of a credit card!" was my reaction. Richard Gere excels in this ad. Excellent music, and a great idea! Simple, elegant and winning! Click here for more details.

2. Tata Indica - The dishum ad! Brilliant is the only word to describe this one!

The guy puts in a great show! The way he says "Must be true" at the end is so very good! A winner through and through! Click here for more details.

1. Malaysian Airlines - One of the most beautiful, poetic advertisements I have ever seen. It starts off slowly, showing an opera with an empty box seat, a restaurant with a place vacant, a cosy yet empty hotel bed. And then we find that a person is sleeping in an aircraft. Then, these words are uttered... "Surprisingly... the most luxurious experience on earth is often... not on earth!"

Year in Review: Top Movies & other lists

My top 5 Tamil movie picks (of the ones I have seen) of the year...

5. Chandramukhi, starring Rajnikanth & Jyotika - the biggest Tamil movie of all time had everything for the thalaivar faithful. Though devoid of trademark Rajni ishtyle it became a wild fire, and according to some accounts breached the 100 crore barrier. However the movie had nothing to offer to the connoisseur.

4. Sachein, starring Vijay & Genelia - even I am surprised that I have included this movie. I must confess this movie didn't go well with many. But I liked it because it showed the Vijay of old, the romantic hero. Genelia d'Souza might not know anything about acting, but her cute looks easily overcompensated for that gap. The picturisation was excellent. A very enjoyable movie, but flopped.

3. Kanda Naal Mudhal, starring Prasanna & Laila - recent and fresh, a simple urban tale of love. Good songs and an excellent performance from Prasanna, gives Duet Productions a second consecutive hit.

2. Anniyan, starring Vikram, Vikram, Vikram & Shankar - hugely expensive movie, Shankar splashed cash left, right, centre and hajaar possible directions. Save for Vikram's acting, a disappointment, especially because the storyline had nothing new. Delightful songs proved a major saviour.

1. Thavamai Thavamirunthu, starring Rajkiran & Cheran - Cheran does it again. For the second year running, his movie wins top honours from me. Rajkiran should be a top contender for the National Award for Best Actor. A simple, yet long tale of a father's struggle in raising and dealing with his children, it struck a chord with me. Look no further!

In compiling the above, I have not considered Ghajini, which I have not seen and which according to many might be better than some of the movies in my list. Other than this, I loved Arinthum Ariyamalum. Judging by the posters, promos and songs, I expected a very different kinda movie. It was different, but different from what I thought. A pleasant surprise.

Some other picks...

Most overhyped movie of the year: Raam - sad and sick!

Best soundtrack: Anniyan (Harris Jayaraj). I would place Arinthum Ariyamalum (Yuvan Shankar Raja) at number two, and Ghajini (Harris, again) at number three.

Worst song of the year: Ennatha solvenungo? from the movie Sivakasi

Worst pronunication of the year: Madhushree. In the song Mayilirage from Ah Aah, she sings "Kaadhal dhaan kall ezhuthu" (our love will be etched in stone) as "Kaadhal dhaan kall adithu" (love flung stones at us). Shame! Sacrilege!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Year in Review: Top 10 songs

My top 10 for the year...

10. Raa Raa, movie: CHANDRAMUKHI - When I first saw the song name, I thought it would be similar to Raa Raa Ramaiah in Baasha. The surprise was lurking. Telugu lyrics. Can't understand, but the composition was good. Another Carnatic-based number. However Jyotika's dancing was funny. Only I could have done worse.

9. Chi Chi Chi, movie: MAJAA - I hated - absolutely abhorred - this song during the first helping. But subsequently, this mesmerising number has climbed into my top 10 list. Very good improvisation in the charanam. Starts badly - unconventionally, rather - and surprises as it moves. Typical Vidyasagar duet. Shankar Mahadevan excels.

8. Enna Paarkiraai, movie: THAVAMAI THAVAMIRUNDHU - "Why should such a good song end so abruptly?" was my initial reaction (you'll know if you see the movie). Excellent interludes (flute?). I would have placed it at 8 just for this one line - "Thanimai kodiyadha?"

7. Thazhuvudhu Nazhuvudhu, movie: ANBE AARUIYIRE - Another hate-love relationship. The refrain "Oru kanam oodal, maru kanam koodal, irandaiyum..." is winning! SPB, you are a world champion!

6. Theepidikka Theepidikka, movie: ARINTHUM ARIYAMALUM - Don't know if MKT would have appreciated it, everyone else has! Without doubt, the remix of the century!

5. Ding Dong Koyilmani, movie: JI - The only relieving feature of a complete failure of a movie. The initial humming is too good. Madhu Balakrishnan deserves a kudos!

4. Iyengaru Veettu Azhage, movie: ANNIYAN - The one song that gives single Tam-Brahms like me any hope at all! I virtually lived with this song during my many slogfests (alternate term for long working days). Harris Jayaraj's mastery is evident!

3. Chinna Chinna Sigarangal, movie: KANAA KANDEN - Percussion makes perfect. A fabulous song. Both singers (especially Sunitha Sarathy) have done well.

2. Oru Maalai Ilaveyil, movie: GHAJINI - In many lists, this would be numero uno. What happens when two great talents come together? A world-beating song. Karthik + Harris Jayaraj, a combo potent of defeating anyone. Great! Great!! Great!!!

And...

1. Konjam Konjam, movie: ARINTHUM ARIYAMALUM - In many lists, this song would be absent. I have already dedicated a post in praise of this song and the singer, Maheeva Mahua Kamat. I should have listened to this one song a few hundred times, and each time, I discover something. This number combines a lot of styles, of which the qawwali stands out. I have no second thoughts... this is the best Tamil movie song of the year.

But hang on...

My profession demands that I do something nerdy. Since computers start counting from zero, I'm still left with one position to fill up. But this is a special position, and it has to be filled up with something really really special... Which is Ilaiyaraaja's Thiruvasagam. The entire album, I've heard nothing like it. And chances are I may never! To someone who leans towards divinity, this is a treasure trove! I would rate the entire album at position zero, but if asked for one specific song, I would settle for Koththumbi!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Year in Review: Countdown 20 - 11

After I posted the earlier list, I received some feedback, and it was that I was overly biased towards melodies and slow songs. Well, that's the way I've always been, so my list doesn't change. Here's the next instalment.

20. Vidikinra Pozhudhu, movie: RAAM - I liked three songs from this movie. This one, Aarariraro and Boom Boom. Of the three, I thought Aarariraro sounded too sad, and Boom Boom was only sound. This song is like a free verse, and in my opinion, stands out, and is one of the few relieving moments of this forgettable (and overhyped) movie.

19. Poo Poothadhu, movie: MUMBAI EXPRESS - This is the only song in this movie that is anything to write about. Another melody to the KK collection.

18. Unnai Saran Adainthen, movie: THAVAMAI THAVAMIRUNDHU - An excellent song, I liked this one better every time I heard it on Mirchi. I never knew Sabesh-Murali could dish out something as good as this.

17. Kanda Naal Mudhalai, movie: KANDA NAAL MUDHAL - Though I do not listen to Carnatic songs often, I would call myself a fan of the genre. This is one of the most popular Carnatic songs, and like AR Rahman's version of Alaipayuthey, unadulterated. I would have given it a much higher rating, but it is not an original effort, so...

16. Kanmoodi Thirakkumbothu, movie: SACHEIN - What good lyrics this one has. A different kind of melody, this is one of the best romantic songs of 2005.

15. Aararai Kodi Pergalil, movie: ANBE AARUYIRAE - This is the only song I've seen in this movie. Well-choreographed, I liked it for the humming that comes in between the words. It goes "En anbe -haan- aaruyirae -haan- en anbe aaruyir neeye" Who other than Rahman can think of such a thing!

14. Kaatril Varum Geethame, movie: ORU NAAL ORU KANAVU - Easily one of the most (honey-drippingly) beautiful songs of 2005. The picturisation was rather cavalier, but the song is absolutely Carnatic in nature.

13. Erimalai Naane, movie: KANDA NAAL MUDHAL - A very rare type of song, sounds like a battle cry through and through - reminiscent of Kalingathu Barani. Vasundara Das deserves a special mention.

12. Suttum Vizhi Sudare, movie: GHAJINI - A simple, elegant song. But was Bombay Jayashree the right choice for the female lead?

11. Kaadhal Yaanai, movie: ANNIYAN - The first word that comes to my mind when I listen to this song is the comment passed by my friend Muhilan - groovy! This song has all genres rolled into it. A delight when listened to with headphones.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Year in Review: Countdown 30 - 21

I intend to list out my top 30 favorite Tamil songs of the year. The list is in 3 parts, and follows the Baba count, i.e. backwards! There is no great logic or survey behind this innocuous list. My methodology is to assign a higher rating to songs I've willingly listened to more times. Here goes the first list. (I don't have many comments for these songs)

30. Oru Vaarthai Ketka, movie: AYYA - some excellent rendering by both KK and Sadhana Sargam, but poor picturisation.

29. Achu Vella Karumbe, movie: THOTTI JAYA

28. Kaadhal Theeviravadhi, movie: CHATRAPATHY - a slow, even melancholic song

27. Un Paarvaiyo, movie: SUKRAN - overall, a good debut album

26. Bambara Kannale, movie: BAMBARA KANNALE - nice song, of the kuththu variety. The female lead is superb. Udit's voice too is very apt.

25. Vennila Siragadikka, movie: PONNIYIN SELVAN - usual Vidyasagar song. I loved the line "Yaarukku kavalai illai?" "Adhai paththi kavalai illai!"

24. Oh Priyasakhi, movie: PRIYASAKHI - nice song, melodious. Srinivas does a great job. The female lead is poor.

23. Andha Naal Nyaabagam, movie: ADHU ORU KANAA KAALAM - nice song. I expected this movie to become a hit, on the basis of this song alone.

22. Mannile Mannile, movie: MAZHAI - Another melody. I simply fell in love with the "I love you, Shailaja" refrain. Excellent rendering.

21. Kadavul Thandha Azhagiya Vaazhkai, movie: MAAYAVI - A really beautiful song. Both singers have sung well.

The list continues...

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Two days, two movies

Watched two movies over a weekend packed with work.

King Kong

I had to choose between this and another movie, so I checked with IMDb. The rating for this one was a huge 8.1. The movie was ranked 166 in the list of the Top 250 movies of all time. Plus it was a Peter Jackson (of The Lord of the Rings fame) movie. So the choice was made.

A few hours down the line I realised that even IMDb could take me for a ride. I have nothing positive to say about this movie, except that it was good in flashes, those flashes being few and far between. The script was rather commonplace. There was no trace of Peter Jackson or Fran Walsh anywhere. The movie looked like a poor rehash of Jurassic Park and Titanic (and a few other Tamil flicks, which were themselves poor rehashes from Hollywood!). Only the kids two rows in front of me found the movie interesting.

Adrien Brody was wasted. But Jack Black was good as the bad Mr. Denham. Naomi Watts was passable. In toto, an avoidable movie.

Kanda Naal Mudhal

If someone in the Tamil industry has a finger on the pulse of the audience, it has to be Prakash Raj. After the success of Azhagiya Theeye, Duet Productions hits the screens with another urban romance that is poised to already winning hearts across the state. Prasanna, Laila and Karthik are the toast of Tamil Nadu now.

Kanda Naal Mudhal is a warm movie, and the moviegoing public has latched on to it as if it were the perfect pill to escape a cold December. The movie showcases the fact that good movies don't need a star-studded cast, nor a nine-digit budget.

Crisp and neat performances, a decent screenplay punctuated with excellent songs - seems like a good formula for a hit. I'm not complaining!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

How is it!!!

Last week, the shooting for Rajnikanth's next movie, Sivaji (The Boss) has started. Must say that thalaivar looks cool... rocking good!


Last week, the shooting for Rajnikanth's next movie, Sivaji (The Boss) has started. Must say that thalaivar looks cool... rocking good!

The production team is like the who's who of Tamil cinema. AVM Productions, Shankar, A.R. Rahman, of course...


On seeing this pic, I was reminded of Kamal Hassan in Vetri Vizha (for saying which, my colleagues beat me up, though I meant it as compliment!).

The most popular storyline rumour for the movie is that Rajni is involved in some educational reform. That is completely different from the previous rumour which said that Rajnikanth would travel around the globe to meet his six other lookalikes. Anyway the latest rumour sounds credible, because Shankar is an expert at the araicha maavu technique, i.e. having one story and adding and deleting some elements to create a new film. Education was the central theme in Gentleman. So I'm bracing myself for a rehash.

But this is a thalaivar movie, who cares about the story. People would throng theaters just to see such catchy posters for three hours! 200 days, at the very least!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Feasting on the dead

In his bestselling book, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell points out how some mannerisms exhibited by ABC newscaster Peter Jennings swayed viewers subconsciously towards Ronald Reagan in the US Presidential elections. Gladwell opines that though Jennings himself might not have been biased, the fact that sample polls conducted after people watched ABC broadcasts indicate a swing towards to Reagan is inescapable.

I pity Gladwell, and more so Jennings. Firstly, Jennings would have been without a job had he been in India. And Gladwell would not have had quotable material.

News on Tamil TV channels are sinking to new depths with each passing day. After all, this is election year in Tamil Nadu, but even then, certain things are nauseating.

For instance, take the reporting on yesterday's stampede, in which 42 people died. One popular TV channel chose to air as many wails as could have been accomodated in a ten-minute news item. There was one clip for every person lost.

True, deaths are frightening. And this incident is definitely tear-jerking. But the reportage was as if the newsmen were actually waiting / praying for something like this to happen. And on hearing about it, they licked their lips and told themselves, "Ah, what a great opportunity. We'll cover as many families as possible."

Shameless, sadistic, voyeuristic!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Bengalooru-ed

Call it linguistic jingoism, chauvinism etc... this is a bad move. I'm reminded of a line I read in some magazine when this renaming spree on:

Okay, now we've renamed Bombay as Mumbai. Madras is now Chennai. And Calcutta has become Kolkata. Why wait? Let's rename India as Foolishstan!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Kaatrinile varum geetham...

My friend and colleague, Anuradha remembers December 11 for another reason.

The same day last year, the airwaves became suddenly bereft of divinity, as Madurai Shanmugavadivu Subbulakshmi, inarguably the most famous exponent of Carnatic music of the 20th century breathed her last.

"Varundhum uyirkku isai marundhaagum" says a recent Tamil song. (Music is the medicine for troubled souls.) Anu concurs...
I loved her voice; however troubled I was, her "Bhaja Govindam" or "Kaatrinile Varum Geetham" was sufficient to calm me...

"Kurai onrum illai" she sang. No regrets in life? I try.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

At your dis-service

Seen at the Chennai International Airport two nights ago...

For any inconvenience, please contact the Airport Manager.

Poor soul!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Remembering Bharati

One hundred and twenty three years ago, this very day, was born a man so ahead of his time that the term "revolutionary" reads like an understatement. Though our hearts swell with pride at the mention of his name, it is also a disappointment that we tend to remember Subramanya Bharati only on his birthday, as if he were an unwanted footnote in an old history text.

Bharati's songs are still very popular, the recent remix of his Chinnanchiru Kiliye Kannamma stands testimony to that. One of his poems that I like the most is Thedi Choru Nitham Thindru. To me, it sounds like a call to war, to action and to greatness. Those who have seen Mahanadhi might recall its rather strategic positioning... Kamal Hassan recites it after cutting his own arm in the climax.

I have fond memories of this verse, because of an incident that happened during my first semester in college.

I had to complete an entire record book, about 120 pages, I think. It was a Friday and I had just returned home. Mahanadhi was the Superhit Velli movie that afternoon. In my opinion, it is the best Tamil movie ever, and so I helped myself to another viewing. The climax, though doleful, changes to one of hope and anticipation, with a recital of this verse. Kamal's voice couldn't be more apt.

That evening, I wrote and finished the entire 120 pages (it too me 7 hours, I think). Not a feat by any standards, but one that I accomplished with great fervour. Every time my hand used to ache, I would take a 5-second break and tell myself "Naan veezhven endru ninaithaayo?" Voila, no more pain! I experienced that day that poetry could be energising and rejuvenating.

Happy birthday, Bard of Ettayapuram!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Aaru - boru

A cousin who saw Aaru on the day night of its release called it a bore.

Teakada, however, is effusive in its praise of Suriya's latest venture, though the review makes me think that the movie isn't exactly first-rate.

Ice, ice, baby!

Miss Iceland Unnur Birna Vilhjalmsdottir has won the Miss World 2005 crown, at Sanya in China. I guess most people would rather refer to her by her title than her name. Someone help me pronounce it. The Hindu says...

Unnur, 21, who describes herself as an "organised, ambitious and good-humoured" person, won the hearts and minds of the judges at the glittering finals of the 55th Miss World contest, held for a record third time in Sanya.

She said her motto is, "You are what you do."


India's Sindura Gadde lost out in the semi-finals.

Technorati links

World Cup draws

The World Cup is less than six months away, and the final draws are out. As always, some groups are expected to be tougher than the rest.

Hosts Germany have an easy group A. Of Poland, Ecuador and Costa Rica, I think the Poles will make it to the next round. The whole of England should be celebrating as their group doesn't offer much threat either. Sweden is tipped to be the other favourite in this group. But, as Geoff Hurst has opined, England might take Paraguay easily at their own peril.

Group of Death

Netherlands v/s Argentina. What a mouth-watering clash! Throw in Ivory Coast, with their overrated striker Didier Drogba, and Serbia and the world calls it the Group of Death! My personal feeling is that the Dutch and the heroes from South America will qualify. But hey, the Argentinians are sometimes chokers, right?

Portugal, Mexico, Iran and Angola. No comments.

Featuring Italy, Czech Republic, the USA and Ghana, Group E is, I think, the toughest. Maybe that's because I blindly support the Azzuri, and they are bigtime chokers. Italy should realise that they cannot expect to win every single game 1-0. That's boring. Italy & Czech.

Brazil are always favourites to win any tournament they take part in. Among Croatia, Australia and Japan, Guus Hiddink could be the difference. Socceroos!

The prevalent opinion about France is that the team is past its prime. That should make group G interesting. South Korea who played good football and rode their luck last time might pip Switzerland and Togo, and join les Bleus.

Spain should sail into the next round easily. Ukraine's powerhouse Shevchenko should see them through to the next round over Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

Overall, an interesting draw. Some real treats right from the first week. Each World Cup throws in some dark horses, and that would make it even more wonderful. Can't wait for the action to kick-off. Germany take on Costa Rica, June 9. Planet Football, get ready!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

My first date, with mom!

Yesterday, my cousin went on his first date. Not surprising, though he is 27. The surprising part is he took his mom along. Hold on, you're yet to hear the worst part - the girl he was dating brought her mom along too! Upon meeting, the two of them exchanged solemn vows that they liked each other, and that they would end up marrying each other. And then went out on the date. Hmmm...

And I always thought you first went out with someone, and after sometime - when the guy thought that he was spending too much - he would pull out the wedding ring.

There are some advantages of being a Tam-Brahm. But there are quite a few perils too, identity ideological crisis being one of them!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

My daddy strongest!

[A look at Cheran's Thavamai Thavamirundhu]

When the history of Tamil cinema is written, and when people have to address the question of which actor suited best the role of the father, the unanimous choice would have been S.V. Ranga Rao. But the choice will be no longer unanimous. Because, Rajkiran's portrayal of Muthiah in Cheran's Thavamai Thavamirundhu is so convincing that even Ranga Rao would have thought that he had met his match.

Yeah, many things you've heard about the movie are true. The movie is 200 minutes long. In some theatres, there have been two breaks - just one, where I saw it. Yes, the story revolves around a family - to be precise, starry-eyed parents who want their children to do well in life, and would go to any lengths to ensure them a decent life.

Cheran, who took Tamil cinema to a new height with his Autograph returns with yet another realistic and mature movie, but one directed at audiences across the spectrum. Comparisons to Autograph are inevitable, because of its autobiographical and flashbacky nature, and cannot be wished away. But unlike, say Shankar's Anniyan, you won't come out saying "Ah, it is a mix-and-match melange. Deja vu!" In fact, I felt as if I had seen a novel, a novel as it turned page by page, as the movie shifts from one scene to another. It is that kind of a movie.

Slow? Yes, definitely. But it is not the type of slow movie that will make you complain. It is slow because it has to be that way. It is long because it has to be that way. That is the only way.

The movie has multiple strengths, most notable of which is the performance of each member of the cast. Rajkiran is exceptional. The story revolves around him, and his acting is every bit thorough and refined. Saranya puts in a sterling performance as Cheran's mother. Ilavarasu as Alagarsami, Cheran's brother and his wife, and even people who play minor roles (the college friend, the Chennai friend, Cheran's daughter) have performed wondefully. Padmapriya (as Vasanthi) is a fine example of why we can trust actresses from the Malayalam industry to carry it through.

Songs are a plus. At least three songs will make the cut. The background score is awesome. Sabesh-Murali who did the BGMs for Autograph too, deserve a "Sabash!" Another difference (not very serious though) is that all the flashbacks are in colour, and the current sequences are in black and white. It is symbolic of the liveliness of the past and the melancholy of the present.

The downsides... The length, surely. Some started leaving a good 30 minutes early, but I don't think they can be blamed. There were hoots and catcalls during some really lenghty scenes. Like the one in which Cheran and Rajkiran discuss about the latter going to Madurai; Padmapriya is shown cooking something in the background. As the scene lengthens, someone shouted "Appalam porichadhu podhumma!" Yeah, that long!

Overall, the movie is excellent. 200 minutes is a huge business risk, so if the audience don't lose their patience, they are in for a treat. Very realistic. Cheran doesn't disappoint.

Friday, December 02, 2005

See, I told you

Another game of cricket in Chennai. Another rainy day. Another day lost. Something's definitely wrong with the Chepauk!