Saturday, November 15, 2014

Exam Preparation

There are four stages to exam preparation


  1. Freak out about the extent of preparation you have to do when the exam dates are announced
  2. Slowly recover and build confidence that you can ace it.... to the point of becoming complacent
  3. Realize that you have procrastinated too much due to complacency and get back to totally freaking out about the the number of things you need to prep in the last minute
  4. Give up and reconcile to doing what you can in the time that is available to you.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Single Serving Friends

Consider the relationship between your first cousin from your father's side of the family and your first cousin from your mother's side of the family. Unless they are married to each other (which turned out to be true in my family) or they know each other outside of the link my family provides them, chances are high that these two people only meet when there is a major event in my family. So they meet only a few times in a span of 20 - 25 years. They would've met during my parents marriage, meet again when I was born but after that they would only need to meet when I get married. Imagine the convenience this single-serving relationship offers. But wouldn't be awesome if the frequency was more than once a decade but not as suffocating as once every other day?

Friends who you only meet in kids birthday parties are true single serving friends. These are people you know because your kid goes to school with their kids or they are your friend's friends from a different circle of friends.  That common friend is the only intersection between you and this single serving friend. And you only need to meet this person only when this common friend hosts a birthday party or a house warming party.

If occasional sex with no strings attached was considered the holy grail of man-woman relationships. Then conversation with no friendship attached is the holy grail of random person in birthday party -> another  random person in birthday party relationships. You are standing there watching your kids run around and have extreme fun. 2 hours to kill before they serve you lunch and its terribly boring. This is when the prototypical desi male takes out the smart phone and pretends they actually have serious stuff to do on the phone. In reality they have no life and nothing special is going on. They are probably browsing twitter or reading some FB comment. But they make it appear as if they are really busy. It took the world some time to wise up but now everyone knows that the guy staring into his phone with a dumb smile is a dork. How does one avoid this kind of an awkward situation?

Here comes your single-serving friend to the rescue. This dude could be South Indian, North Indian, Italian, Latin american, Caucasian - it does not really matter. You could have a solid conversation, kill two hours and there is no day-after phone call or weekend-after meet up with the family.  You could say anything you want. Here is what is awesome. Once you get introduced, you cross the awkwardness once and for all. The next time you meet you can actually pick up exactly where you left off. I have some single serving friends who I meet only once a year. But it seems like we pick up a conversation from a year ago like it was yesterday. Its like a stage play. The moment we actors enter into that milieu we remember the lines, the plot and all that crap. We just continue the conversation. There is no awkward introduction etc. You can straight away jump into a conversation. I actually have 4 separate sets of single serving friends. I can actually choose a topic and have a conversation on the same topic with these 4 sets of people. Its very interesting. Like enacting the same drama with different set of actors.

Tyler Durden assumed that single serving friends were single serving because you met them in a airplane ride and then never met them again. But that isn't how single serving works. I can go to a restaurant exactly when I choose to and have single serving of a dish and feel no obligation to either (a) have a second serving or (b) visit the restaurant again. That is what is called a true single-serving meal.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Madras Crowd - 4

In Irandaam Ulagam there is this scene where Arya cleans the backside of his paralyzed father (sitting in the commode) with hand wash. As he starts spraying the hand wash the father says "dei romba koosudhu da". Someone from the crowd shouted "engalukku eriyudhu da".

Friday, October 11, 2013

Tendulkar Sattrumurai

Strangely, I was reminded of this match today. As a little boy I vividly remember watching this entire series with my uncle. A boy called dindi kept stepping into my house and commented "that selfish guy is only looking for a century. not a win". On a pitch where Kapil opened the bowling with Maninder singh, Gavaskar opened the batting in 4th innings and was playing a knock similar to Tendulkar's Chennai 136 against Pakistan. It was one man battling against 1 bowler who was making the pitch spit snakes. It was not a team against another team. It was 1 man waging a war. After Gavaskar got out my uncle was like "I am never going to watch cricket again".  The cleansing process of life is fascinating. The old are washed away and replaced by the new in no time.

As Tendulkar sets aside his last two paasurams for a Sattrumurai before he sings his mangalam, I stand depressed. Not only because of the cliched childhood dying. It is.  I am also sad that I am not as sad as I thought I would be. I enjoyed a particular brand of Tendulkar. I didn't watch him because of an 'Indian' spirit or for the "for love of country" nonsense. I didn't think cricket was a team game where 11 people do a coordinated attack to topple the other 11. I switched off the TV when Tendulkar got out. It really didn't matter to me what happened after that. I'd take a Tendulkar 100 and an Indian loss any day thrice on boxing day. I saw the game because it was a 1x1 battle between a supremely talented batsman and an attacking bowler.  Here was a batsman who rose above the mediocrity surrounding him. Throughout the 90s when he walked in at nothing for 2 wickets which quickly became nothing for 5 wickets, he demonstrated the difference between mediocrity and class  when facing high quality bowling attacks. For that we have to thank the reasonably good batsman who played for India in the 90s who played their part in showing why the bowling was difficult so that Tendulkar could show us why he was special. These other players do include Dravids, Azharuddins Laxmans, Manjrakars and Gangulys of the world. 

I didnt think his skill was waning. This was just another challenge he would have outgrown in due course. I watched Tendulkar for the moments he created. He scored 10 or 12 runs against Donald in Durban but there were a couple of 4s there that I would rather watch as opposed to several centuries of other batsmen put together. He made 12 runs in Perth against Wasim and Waquar but the two or three 4s he hit was worth the $200 I paid as a stipend earning student and the fines I subsequently paid for illegally installing a dish antenna in a student apartment without permission. I watched Tendulkar the batsman. Salivating at the possibilities. He did what no other batsmen could do in the art of batting. That he was a cog in the wheel for a team to win some trophies was a distraction. It was tax that I had to pay to watch him bat.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Happiness & Context

People will fundamentally agree that happiness is one of the chief things they seek from life. There is a upanishadic ultra short story on how a person meets and experiences the state of happiness.

A hunter after a long day's chase decides to spend the night under the tree. Upon waking up in the morning he hears the roar of a lion. He quickly climbs up a tree and sits on a branch. In a few moments he notices that a poisonous snake is approaching him from the bark of the tree and as he slowly recedes away from the snake he is pushed to the edge of the branch. One more step and he falls down. Right below the edge of the branch is a pond with an alligator waiting to devour him. He can swing and fall on the ground beside the pond. But the lion awaits him there. As the snake slowly slithers towards him and he is considering all his no-win choices, drops of honey from a leaking bee nest above falls on his face and mouth. He licks that and feels the sweet taste of honey. He experiences happiness. [1]

This was meant to illustrate in a 'there is no day without night' kind of way on the context in life in which happiness can be felt. The story is a metaphor and could represent the kiss of a small child when you are in great sorrow or a 2 hour gettogether with old friends in a marriage when you are going through a lot of stress. It could be a metaphor for why people read and reminisce olden day epics, ithihasas and puranas. On why Sri Thyagaraja or Sri Krishna Premi melt in tears when they talk about Rama or Krishna. People reminisce about epics, gods, saviours and puranas because these stories are like a drop of honey sweetening their mind when it is full of tials, tribulations and challenges. Recursively the epics and puranas themselves were not without the snakes, lions and the alligators. They were anything but nostalgic utopia  filled with happiness, clear blue skies, peace and joyous dancing. Those epics were about how in moments of great trials and tribulations man was touched by a moment of happiness. Those stories may have been about other things. But in all of them there was certainly an inspiring story about how it was darkest before dawn. That is why people read them and reminisce about them

[1] from an oft repeated anecdote in Velukudi Krishnan's lectures

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Manidha Manidha

One of my favorite Independence Day songs during the DoorDarshan days

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Shakunthala & Dushyantha

अभिज्ञान शाकुन्तलम् represents the best of  Kalidasa. It is his magnum opus. In this work he interprets the Mahabharatha story involving the falling in love of Dushyantha and Shankunthala. This great love story was a particular favorite of my father. His fascination with this love story led to a couple of things - my name and of course a constant telling and retelling of this tale and its beautiful layers as I was growing up. 

Shakunthala was this stunningly beautiful daughter of Vishwamitra and Menaka. Dushyantha was the king of Hastinapura. Dushyantha happens to meet Shakunthala, falls in love, impregnates her :-) and then has to leave back to Hastinapura due to certain circumstances. Shakunthala meanwhile earns the misfortune of being cursed by - who else - the eternal angry old sage Durvasa. As a result of this curse Dushyantha completely loses memory of ever meeting Shakunthala. How circumstances led him to remember her forms the rest of the story.

My favorite interpretation of this love story is how this separation and reunification happens across life and birth cycles. Each husband and wife pair is a version of Dushyanthan and Shakunthala story. A man and woman in love and united in marriage play out the Dushyantha and Shakunthala in an infinite loop. The live a fulfilling life of marriage and die. The next birth makes them forget each other for a while but at the right time the man's thoughts are sparked off the way Dushyantha's was when he saw the ring. Ultimately the man searches, knocks door after door until he finally finds his Shakunthala and asks her in marriage. Almost always it feels like they were meant to be united. That they had known each other for several years but for some reason had forgotten. In every birth Dushyantha and Shakunthala may wander, may get lost, they may even get married to the wrong person. But come the moment their destiny leads them towards each other. This story is so fascinating that even the gods love to participate in this game. This is why Meera meets her Krsna. Andal meets her Rangamannar.

p.s: I am not the most romantic person. But this story does intrigue me.
p.s2: The image is Raja ravi Varma's painting of Shakunthala looking longingly at Dushyantha



Saturday, July 20, 2013

Mariyan = (Nee Dhaane En Pon Vasantham) ^ Kadal

Disclaimer: The dude who acts as the heroine's father. I think his character name is thomas but they call him thommai or bommai or some such shit. He needs to be given an Oscar or a BharathRatna for his emoting, diction, tamil and accent. Temples must be built for him for people to worship. Where did they find him?

Among the people who like the smell of their own fart, Bharathbala likes the smell of his own fart the most. This is quite an extraordinary achievement considering the fact that his competitors include Gautham Menon and Manirathnam who, with kadal, locked himself up in a closed air-locked chamber for 3 hours to smell his own fart. Which might've been alright if not for the fact that he locked in the audience with him as well. You can at least forgive Mani & Gautham as they've given us a few hits in the past. But Bharathbala! First movie and all this indulgence. Really?

There is a very bad song by A.R.Rahman early on in the movie called 'Sonapareeya'. If ever there was a badly done song that did not fit the situation or the movie. It is this song. That song is the point where you kinda begin to fear this movie may not be good. It kind of tells you that something is badly out of synch. And then its all downhill. There was so much time in the movie where nothing really ever happened that I had time to think what was exactly wrong with the movie.Firstly, Bharathbala does not have the skills to translate a thought on paper to images and sound on screen. Secondly, Bharathbala has a total about 3 ideas that would be worth about 45 movie of movie time. All 3 ideas are very uninteresting. But in Bharathbala's mind these ideas are like gold. So he shows us these ideas repeatedly. Each idea is shown in such a slow place that it loses any effect whatsoever. And then its repeated a couple of times again even more slowly.

Dhanush has acted well. But in this movie its like running a marathon in a treadmill. Lots of hardwork but you are still in the same place. AR.Rahman has done 1.5 good songs. Nenje Ezhu was good. Kadal Raasa was so-so (althought both arrive at a time when you are "chopping off your fingers with car keys" level bored). The other songs are all nonsense and don't fit the milieu. I don't think ARR is competent to handle fisherman subjects. Not just ARR - the entire crew seem to be unable to add any sort of native flavor or originality to the fisherman backdrop. Its like some rich Oxford, peter, guy trying to portray fishermen to us. Fish out of water.

The movie fails because, none of the events shown touch any sort of emotional chord with us. It doesn't matter. You are not engaged. The challenges to Dhanush's love story seem trivial if not nonsensical. The kidnappers look like circus clowns and you really can't take them seriously. The whole escape portion has no drama in it. Its all just a bunch of pretty images collated together.


Sunday, July 07, 2013

Kamban

I wrote briefly about Kamban in the 4 part Ramayana series of posts. A couple of people have helped me learn more about Kamban in the past few days and I wanted to point them out. One is a blog on English translation of Kamba Ramayanam and the other is an audio "blog" in sound cloud.

Kamban, as many know, wrote his version of Ramayana based on his interpretation of Valmiki's text. I was told that when Kamban travelled to Srirangam requesting permission to start this work, he was first asked to compose "Satagopan Andhadhi", which would give him the sense to distinguish right and wrong. This "andhadhi" was in praise of the foremost of the 12 Aazhwars - Kaari MaaRan Satagopan, whose ThiruvaiMozhi is considered to be on par with Chandogya Upanishadh..The seers in Srirangam felt that writing this andhadhi would allow him to comprehend Ramayana in the appropriate context. Kamban wrote Kamba Ramayanam after composing "Satagopan andhadhi".

Chenthil writes the English translation of Kamba ramayanam (called அலகிலா விளையாட்டு – Endless Game )without being asked to compose something else. I recommend readers check out this blog on english translation of Kamba Ramayanam.

Sushima Shekar  aka amas32 and a few others have a series of audio posts on Kamban in SoundCloud. I have to say this (and my mother said the same thing as well :-) ). Amas32's voice resembles Jayalalitha's voice strongly.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Blog Ula - III

Here are some interesting places I'd like to recommend to the internet youth.

Sangeetha Abhyas: If you are a carnatic music aficionado and want to listen to a wide variety of canatic singers, know the raagams, swarams and about legendary singers - look no further. Introducing Sangeetha Abhyas. This website focuses on the fundamentals of music and is a great site for someone who is not trained musicians but are eager and enthusiastic to know more about it and its mechanics.

All that's in my head: My cousin has decided to say all that is there in her head. There is definitely a lot on Shwetha's head. She is severely youth based and so has youth type views on topics. Her blog reminds me of how I used to feel about things in the cretaceous period when I was idealistic and hadn't been kicked by someone on my chin. Read introductory paragraphs of previous blog ula on what I mean by this.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

House Husband Training

I am eating channa daal (or a mashed up something that contains channa) that my wife made for the kid but kid didnt like it so she threw it in my plate before she left for work. When my hand touches the plate - Kid 1 walks to me and says "appa poopy". This generally means I have a few milli seconds before a horrendous in-underwear detonation. So with a Jack Bauer like alacrity, I carry the plate in one hand and kid 1 in other hand and run to the toilet seat. As I am running kid-2 comes and says "appa poopy diaper". So I keep the plate on top of the commode tank, kid 1 on toilet seat and rush towards  kid 2 before she removes it and starts swinging it around like a whip. As I make Kid 2 lie on the floor and begin removing the diaper, kid 1 walks off toilet seat in middle of potty. In the process she eeshifies poopy on the toilet seat, the wall, carpet and sits on a flight of stairs next to me. There is no purpose as to why she has done this. I think she just felt like talking a walk in the middle of pooping.

So in panic I make an error removing kid2's diaper. I eeshify poopy on her leg and some poop falls on the carpet. I rapidly rush for flushable wipes,  clean kid 2 bum, collect poop with wipes and in process some eeshifies on my hand. I throw wipes into the diaper and diaper into the bin. I then clean up kid 2 bum and turn to focus on kid 1. I use the flushable wipes to clean the wall, the carpet, the seat, and flush toilet. Only to realize that the poop that eeshified my hand is now eeshified on the flush handle. So I clean the flush handle with flushable wipes, clean my hand, flush the toilet and put on a underwear for Kid 1. As I start calming down and start searching for my plate, I realize something horrible might have happened.

I haven't cleaned Kid 1 bum.

In panic I remove kid 1 underwear and find poop eeshified on underwear and now her leg. I remove underwear, use flushable wipes to wipe off poop from her leg, throw her underwear, wipe off her bum and put on a new underwear. After a sigh of relief, I search for my plate for 5 minutes and then realize its on the top of the toilet tank, pick it up and make a move to eat. But as I stare at the channa and the color of the whole thing - I am stopped on my tracks. I know its channa. Its color may resemble something else but its still channa. Nevertheless, I am unable to put it in my mouth. I am psychologically scarred after having seen so much poopy in such a short period of time. I sigh. I hesitate. Then I sigh even more. Then I throw the food into the dustbin and walk away.

Post Script: This post was written by a maanasthan called chandru. He is now no more.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Dei Hindhi Boy! Why you no write Hinglish very well?

When I first saw Hindhi people write the words 'Seetha' and 'Geetha' as 'Seeta' and 'Geeta' I used to get very annoyed. They wanted to write सीता and गीता in roman script but ended up writing सीटा and गीटा. Then later I realized that these hindhi people used the roman alphabet 't' to represent the Devanagari alphabet 'त'. But when learning basic English phonetics I always thought the roman alphabet 't' sounded closer to 'ट'. All English words pronounced 't' with a ट sound. I can't think of an English word that would pronounce 't' any different (e.g. tank, took, take, toon, taunt, eat, mental, cut, put, butteach, torture). They all use a sound closer to ट when pronouncing these words. Which means if you wrote all these words in Devanagari script you'd be using ट to represent 't'. So why would I pronounce 't' as त ? So what do Hindhi people do when they want to write ट in Roman script? To my horror, I found out that these Hindi people used 't' to represent 'ट' as well (for e.g. when they wrote 'tamatar' we should know to pronounce this as टमाटर and not तमातर).  Damn it!. So these people use the roman letter 't' to arbitrarily represent 'ट' or 'त'.  And they expected every one who does not know Hindhi to know about this.

My annoyance was not with the fact that they had a quirk of their own. Every language does. My annoyance was with their assumption that every Indian should 'just know'  this quirk. And the constant 'why you tamilians are writing like this'. It was their quirk. How did it suddenly become my problem? My annoyance reduced a little bit when I found out about San Jose or Jungfraujoch. In these words the 'J' is not pronounced as the regular phonetic affricate /dʒ/. But more like a 'H' sound in the former and a 'Y' sound in the latter. This is not immediately obvious to someone who sees the combination of these letters written for the first time in Roman script. And my very own local parties the damn thamizh folks used 'zha' to represent the retroflex approximant 'ழ'. This is so not obvious to non-thamizhs and non-malayalis. The good thing is thamizhs, mallus, spanish people don't look at non-speakers of that language and go "hey you are writing wrong man. we are always writing correctly". We know its our quirk. For example I met a guy whose name was spelt 'Jorge'. The way he wanted others to pronounce his name was 'hore-hay'. He was like the bizzaro world equivalent of Hindhi people using 't' to represent two sounds - in the same name he used 'j' and 'g' to mean the same sound 'ha'. At least he was humble about the quirkiness of his spelling.

To understand this better -  Hindhi inherited Sanskrit's language system where some consonants can be combined with a 'ha' sound to create a whole new set of consonants.. For example if Hindhi people wanted to represent sounds क, ब, ज in roman scripts they'd use  ka, ba, ja. But Hindhi people have a parallel set of words ख (क + ह) , भ ( + ह), झ ( + ह) which other languages don't have so when they want to represent them in Roman script they add the 'ha' sound to roman script that represents the root letter - such as Kha (K + ha), Bha (B + ha), Jha (j + ha). This is fine and dandy. There are no native Roman script sounds 'kha' 'bha' 'jha' that conflict so we get it. We don't care. But we get it. The point where I really get confused when roman script has a well defined frequently used sound that these hindhi people hijack for their own purpose. They not only do that but also have poor self-awareness to know that its their own quirk. Take for example the sound 'th'. This is used very frequently in English.  The words that use 'th' are for e.g. 'this', 'that', 'then', 'thy', 'them', 'thus', 'therefore,' 'third', 'the', and 'those'. All regular english words use 'th' to sound something like 'त'. 

But Hindhi people have ignored this logic. And to show remarkable haste to add the 'ha' sound to every consonant that can walk the Hindhi people do something as crazy as the following. Here is some simple Hindhi sound arithmetic ट + ह = ठ. So these people try to replicate the same arithmetic in roman script as well. So they do 't' + 'h' = 'th'. So now 'th' represents a sound called ठ that no non-hindhi speaker uses or knows about or more importantly cares about. It is roughly pronounced 'tah' in roman script. And so when they write their words in roman script a non-hindhi speaker is supposed to 'just get it' that it represents ठ. So when i see the word 'this' should I pronounce it 'tahis' ? No? Why not?  'Meetha' is pronounced 'meetah'. Its seems arbitrary and everyone is just supposed to get this. The craziness doesn't just end there. They have another arithmetic: त + ह = थ. Remember they use 't' to represent त. So they do 't' + 'h' = 'th'.  So now 'th' also refers to this new sound थ.  Now if a hindhi guy uses 'th' he could either be referring to थ or ठ. Go figure!

Now we haven't even begun on the word 'd'. This roman script is used in English words such as donkey, dick, dam, damn, dirty, douchebag etc. In all English usage of this word it resembles the sound ड. But a hindhi reader is already getting ready to type a comment "hey! its Hindi and not Hindhi". Oh yeah? So now you are using 'd' to represent the sound 'द'. So what do Hindhi people do when they want to to write the sound ड in Roman script? Well - they use the alphabet 'd'. So 'd' can mean both ड and 'द'. So what do they really mean when they use 'dh'. Because in regular english words the 'dh' softener is used to refer to a sound close to 'द'. But when Hindhi people write 'dh' they actually mean the sound ध. You already know why because of the arithmetic 'द' + ह = ध. But then one is wordering about the other arithmetic ड + ह = ढ. How does a Hindhi person write 'ढ' in roman script. Wait for it. Wait for it. they use 'dh'. 

You gotta be kidding me!

So to sum up in a table. This is how one should translate when a roman script is used by actual English words Versus what these Hindhi people mean.

Roman Script
Sound that script indicates in actual English words
Weird possible sounds that Hindhi people can mean when they use script
T
ट (tank, take)
त, ट
Th
त (this, that)
थ, ठ 
D
ड (Do, donkey)
ड,  द
dh
ढ (sometimes द)
ढ, ध

What really gets my goat is the way hindhi people differentiate between the अ and the आ sound. Do you know how they differentiate? That's the trick. They don't. बलं is 'bal'. बालं is written as 'bal' as well. I met a person who had this surname 'Bhagwat'. I pronounced that as भगवट. Because I wanted to pronounce it the way it was actually written. But the person corrected me and said "but its भागवत". So the अ in in the second syllable 'वत' (which is theoretically व+अ+तं) gets one 'a' in the roman script spelling. But the  'आ' in the first syllable 'भा' (theoretically भ + आ ) doesn't get two 'a's. It gets one 'a' as well. So a unsuspecting non hindhi person must somehow magically find out that the 'a' in the first syllable corresponds to  'आ' and the 'a' in the second syllable corresponds to अ . You are deemed horrible if you didn't.

Every language has its quirks. Especially so when it is transliterated to roman script. One would assume a certain amount of humility in the speakers of the language to know that it is their own unique quirk and not act all "this is the correct way" when non-native speakers of the language don't get these quirks. Somehow hindhi people have gotten into their head that Thamizhs are the only people who feel the urge to write 'Seetha' and 'geetha'. *Most* non-hindhi people who are familiar with the roman script will logically write it that way. When Canadians, Australians, Brits, Americans and Kiwis  see the word 'Sita' they will probably pronounce it as सीटा. Thats what the 't sound means.

Two years ago, I cried a little when I landed in திருநேல்வெலி and saw the name spelt in the railway platform as 'Tirunelveli'. They're spreading their stupid. Damn you!. Damn you!.









Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Soodhu Kavvum; Bloody Awesome Movie

This is probably one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. What i found amazing was the fact that all characters keep a straight-face throughout the movie. It is the seriousness with which they go about this script is what makes it the most hilarious. My (biased) view of thamizhs as a culture leads me to believe that the spectrum of sarcasm -> நக்கல் and everything in-between is this civilization's strongest point. This movie is a great example of how that நக்கல் can be on your face but at the same time unstated. Take the first scene for instance where T.Rajendar posters adorn the walls in the house of a character. No one really talks about the poster or even shows it pointedly. But its there. The director has put it there. And this guy who has a T.Rajendar poster in his wall has the audacity to ask his friend as to why he didn't use 1.5 lacs on something more productive than ...well! I wont say what. Just see it for yourself. Its the most amazing display of self-pointed humor.

This movie is so layered that I couldn't place it in one genre as opposed to the other. There are many "Sigamani" (for those S. Ve. Sekhar fans) moments in the movie where one character says as a matter of fact "வெலை செய்யரா அளவுக்கு எங்களுக்கு வயசு ஆகலை சார்".  The four characters couldn't be more far apart. The IT guy is our anchor into this bizzaire world. He is the only real person we can hold on to. One guy, named Pagalavan,  walks through life without a care as if he has all the money and time in the world. Working or for that matter living is optional for him. He has managed to grow up and doesn't really have a purpose in life. One can place a considerable amount as a bet that he probably doesn't understand the concept of "purpose". My favorite character was Ramesh Thilak the ex-chaeuffer. He has that free-flowing x-factor about him that makes him adorable and unpredictable at the same time. 

Finally Das played by Vijay Sethupathi (who is growing in stature by the nano second) plays the most complex role in the movie. You actually dont know what drives him to do the stuff he does. He is mentally deranged. There is no doubt about that. His quest for perfection in a method he has found to make money is a fantastic contrast to his mental problems. The director doesn't keep the truth about Sanchita Shetty under wraps. We are clued in at the start. And from that moment on the movie adds a new dimension to the proceedings. Now the director is at a point where he has the license to play with her character any which way he wants. She could come in a monkey suit and we would still tear our stomachs in laughter. I could feel that at any moment she was going to show up in a Bikini. Her scenes build up to that hilarious payoff. In an English movie she would have appeared naked in the living room conversation between the 4 crooks. The director must've been severely restrained to have her in a swimming dress. Oh Damn you Thamizh sensibilities - there was an awesome potential for that scene. My only complaint was that I wish they had made Sanchita's situation a little less obvious than it was. And  left us to deduce the whole thing.

The new guy who plays the cop Brahma does not have a single line of dialog and his character perfectly builds the movie up for the final payoff.. He is probably more deranged than Das but just happens to be on the right side of the law. The nut case collection is complete with the MLA's son who manages to get kidnapped while he is getting kidnapped and still comes out as      a honorable man among thieves. These characters go on to create one of the most unique movies I have seen in Thamizh cinema. One could argue the end was a little bit stretched but that was okay. The last 30 minutes was about the director throwing a kitchen sink full of ideas at us. A few them are bound to not work. As a viewer I was glad to see some one deliver so much without even appearing to try. More importantly, I respect the fearlessness of director Nalan Kumaraswamy. Many directors mistake irreverence for courage and this movie is perfect example of someone who does not make that mistake. 

Monday, May 06, 2013

Thathuvam #1172: The insular mind

Focus is narrow, exclusive insular, and discriminating.
So is concentration, specialization and dedication.
Dilution is broader, liberal, inclusive and more encompassing.
So is aimlessness, scatter brained and accommodating.
One converges the other concaves.
A true roman in rome is the former.
The latter - his non-roman subject.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Kamal Hasan, Cho etc

I don't think Cho's spontaneous genius can be summed up in simple words. He has the ability to squeeze through a subtle point in-between humor. And I'd like to think it stings where it hurts. He summed up Kamal Hasan perfectly when Kamal appeared in a mock version of reality show "Neengalalum Vellalam Oru Kodi" For the uninitiated this show is a poor man's poor copy of "Who wants to be a Millionaire". Or as I'd like to call the show - Vijay TV's Poverty Porn.. A carefully instrumented show where people's dopamine response is achieved by hearing poor people sing their poverty song, cry often and get alms from the host Prakash Raj. Someone's poverty is our entertainment. And no one can sell this sort of entertainment better than Vijay TV.

Anyway coming back to our beloved Cho. Cho casually described Kamal as "An actor among intellectuals and an intellectual among actors". This is probably as accurate as one can get in terms of describing Kamal Hasan and as close to one can get to insulting him during Vijay TV's traditional lick ass series of shows.

As observed many times in this blog Shakespeare has said two things about life - (1) No God is equal to sabapathy and (2) the world is a theater. In the spirit of (2) this was clearly not a reality show. It was as staged as it can get. If the "Ramanujar birth place" question didn't clue one in. I am sure Mortimer Wheeler and Sambhaji Maharaj must have. One was happy looking at Kamal Hasan's rather poor pretense during the Poornam Viswanathan question. It was comforting to note that even he wasn't interested in pretending anymore. But it will deceive the public nevertheless. This is because the questioner did not 'out' the question paper to Kamal Hasan. The questioner knew the contents of the answer paper Kamal Hasan had written and set the questions accordingly. And hey! cinema icons never lose. Award shows are staged that way in India. The only reason Kamal Hasan didn't win 1 crore was because "time was up". If there was time he would've won the show. How can Kamal Hasan ever be wrong in Vijay TV?

This show was mainly about how big of a "maira pudungi" Kamal Hasan is. The purpose of the show was to tell us all that Kamal Hasan is this amazingly, intelligent, multi-talented, know it all, philosopher, pundit, jedi master and Gandalf. A veritable modern Vishwamithrar whom we better call Brahma Rishi only because we are not Vasishtars and therefore we have no right to not crown him with titles. We are almost obligated to do so. Since we are remiss for not acknowledging the turban'ed Bharathi in his lifetime, we have to compensate by acknowledging this self-proclaimed  "turban podaatha Bharathi". No one pauses to realize that Bharathi was not recognized because he was truly a rebel and didn't agree with the popular thought process  of people around him. The former is not always caused by the latter. But the latter always causes the former. 

One of the biggest failings of Tamils as a civilization in the post-independence era is their glorification of cinema koothadis as messiahs, philosophers and intellectuals. In an ideal world, cinema people will be relegated to the entertainment section. They would have zero voice in politics, religion, philosophy and intellectual thought process of the civilization. The only way a dictator can set right this 'pazha pona' thamizh civilization is to limit the freedom of cinema people to have them not express a view on political, religious or other topics that require careful debate, knowledge and understanding. There should be whiplashes for cinema people who even has a fleeting thought about expressing an opinion on philosophy and politics.

A person like Kamal Hasan is dangerous to the society purely because he is an actor pretending to be an intellectual when people can't tell the difference. There is a risk that he may actually have a social impact. His false narratives of history, unnoticeable inaccuracies, artificial agenda can actually mislead the people. Channels like Vijay TV who have been carefully setting up a narrative to brainwash people use him effectively. Whether he likes it or not they ask Kamal about atheism and other arbitrary historical/philosophical things which he is no way qualified to pontificate about. Yet he and his cinema cohorts are the ones who are the voices of this civilization's intellectual thinking. And the only way one can show their intellectualism or be a rebel in Tamil country is by offering their 2 cents on religion.

No matter what the topic is - Kamal Hasan arrives with his tool kit of "Sivaji Sahab", "Dilip Kumar Ji", "Balachander saar" " I am Sivaji sir's eldest son" " I sat on the lap of MGR, AVM" and performs his "adraa raama" monkey dance in front of an eager public. He appears to roar, growl, and in a "true Gandhian" sense militates against a non-existent straw man institution that opresses, supresses and depresses the innocent thamizhan. Losers who have no one to blame but themselves get an imaginary institution to shift the blame for their own failures. Apparently E.V.Ramaswamy didn't break Vinayagar idols. He only wanted more people to come to temple and pray. One must sympathize with Kamal Hasan though. He is a prisoner of his own image. The fox's paint will only come off when it rains. In a civilization that is going through an intellectual drought, chances of that happening is very low.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The notion of equality

I am increasingly amazed when young kids totally filled with idealistic notions come and tell you that s/he believes in "equality". I am not even sure if they mean this exclusively in a social context. I think they mean it everywhere. I find this kind of "flat earth and the sun goes around it"  brainwash fascinating. I wish I was in a position of power to poison the minds of younglings with arbitrary notions such as the one on 'equality' so that I can push my own agenda. 

Life as a Zero Sum Game Vs Life as an Ever Expanding Pie: There are some who believe that the world is a zero sum game. One person's growth means that someone else has lost. On the other hand, some think the universe is an ever expanding pie and everyone can grow with no cost to other individuals. Strangely 'equality' is a concept that belongs to the former philosophy. If you bring everything in this world to fit within a LHS = RHS construct then the world becomes a zero sum game. So if you belong to the LHS and if you have to gain anything you will have to deprive someone in RHS of that thing in equal proportions. On the contrary, if you believe things are by default unequal and work on an assumption that LHS != RHS (note: "!=" means "not equal to") then you can add or subtract anything from any side and the world is an ever expanding pie. From my observations, a person with scientific mind and liberal thought believes in equality but also believes that the universe is an ever expanding pie. As they say - medula oblangata is boggled.

Interpreting equality literally: Let me start by playing dumb and take the phrase "everything and everyone are equal" in the literal/absolute/non-metaphoric sense. I will pretend that I am an alien visiting this earth and I have heard a human being say "X = Y for all values of X and Y". This is patently wrong. People espousing equality don't really mean it that literally. But is important play this extreme interpretation to drive home the point that there are inequalities in the world that a person assumes, agrees to and accepts/endorses as 'natural' but conveniently forgets it when using 'equality' as an argument.

That things are fundamentally created unequal is the most obvious reality of nature: In my eyes one of the most easily discernible things from nature is that nearly all things are unequal. Living things are not only created unequal but constantly strive to be unequal all the time (think 'evolution'). This includes the fact that some living things are human beings, some are animals,  birds etc etc.  Some people are born healthy, some have retardation of growth, some cant hear or speak, some can run very fast at the age of 7, then there are 9 year old drug addicts, people who fail 2nd standard, rich people, poor people, atheists, liberals, conservatives, birds that can fly, animals that cannot, trees that bear fruit, mammals, eggs, reptiles, calm people, angry people, short people, fat people, tall people, people with vision problems, diabetics, ophans. If there is one thing we can be sure about. It is the fact that there is a inherent and natural inequality that exists and that we all accept as nature. Try telling a person who touts their belief in equality that all human beings are created with equal 'intelligence' or equal 'intellectual horsepower' and they will make a u-turn like you have never believed. If you really want to anger them tell them everyone is equally 'lucky'.

Interpreting Equality As a Metaphor: Now, people may actually 'say' something but 'mean' something totally different. So if you pull yourself out of the 'literal' interpretation mode and understand that people can be 'metaphoric' when they use the term 'equality' we find that people intuitively mean something more subtle. So at the core of it people may subconsciously accept that X and Y are fundamentally unequal  but nevertheless require X & Y to be *treated* equally. Here is where I think there is a fundamental disconnect between what people *mean* and what people *do*. These people want everyone to be treated equally but they themselves don't treat any two people equally. For example - a woman who majorly clamors for equality may meet 1000 men in her life who want to marry her but she will choose only one. In effect she treats 999 people unequally when compared to the 1 she chooses to marry. If you think this is an 'out there' anecdote and isn't empirically true, think again. When 2,00,000 people apply for IIT-JEE exams, the board actively discriminates among them and only selects 2500. In that 2500 every single person is treated unequally in terms of preference for groups. Extend this to interviews. In any single interview the job of the interviewer is to introduce an inequality between applicants to select a few and deny the others. The categories where people display their competence by introducing inequality is almost universal and omnipresent. Academics, research, sports, medicine, army, housing, jobs, government tenders, electricity, and basic comforts depend on establishing inequality. Either the individual actively works towards establishing and increasing his inequality with his peers or the judges/governance rewards individuals with high level of inequality compared to their peers. In fact it is hard to come up with examples where 2 things are assigned exactly equal results.

No one treats anyone equally: In a social context a mother or father treats other children as unequal to their own children. A court of law establishes inequality between defense and prosecution. A wife treats her husband differently from other men. You treat your social circle different from an urchin on the slum. For example your friends are people who are in the same financial or educational class as you are. You don't have friends who are construction workers. You actively discriminate and create inequality in choosing your friends circle by consciously eliminating beggars, slum urchins, prison inmates, and construction workers. You may eliminate them indirectly by never even giving them a chance or never meeting them but that in itself is a result of inequality in social status that you endorse and accept. There is a recursive inequality even within existing methods of establishing inequality. Selecting a person as spouse over another one because of a professional, physical or financial inequality is accepted by the certain people but the very same people detest rejecting marriage proposals based on caste inequality.

The Philosophy of equality: What this all boils down to is an lack of understanding of what we really mean by 'equality'. And what forms of equality pass philosophical muster and what don't. There are situations in which equality is the correct approach and there are situations in which inequality is the correct approach. I have almost come to believe that those who make arguments based on an assumption of equality as an axiom do not understand the difference between equality of outcome and equality of opportunity. 100 men may have an equal opportunity to go ask a girl for her hand in marriage. But there will be no equality in outcome. A group or category of people can have an equal opportunity to appeal to the court of law demanding a set of benefits comparable or equal to another set of people. The other set of people can go to court opposing this request. But the outcome may not be equal to both parties. The court - through very fair logic - may decide that one group will not be given an equal set of benefits when compared to another set of people. This does not mean people are bigots or there is unfairness in the system. Inequality in outcomes as a result of a peer validation process is how this world works. You can't expect god to come down and do an interview for you or be the judge in your court case - for you to consider it as a fair process. A peer human being with his biases and capabilities will conduct the decision making process.

Equality of Outcome is Nonsense: This is almost common sense. However, for many many issues people feel a sense of fairness only when there is equality of outcome. People don't realize equality or *feel* the presence of equality when there is only equality in opportunity. A slightly facetious example would be the 'spiritual but not religious' nut jobs who claim puke-worthy things that 'all gods are equal' or 'all forms of prayer or equal'. They will not *feel* the presence of equality if I selected only 1 form of prayer/god and followed just that. They would think I am a fundamentalist. And they wouldn't change their opinion unless they see 'equality in outcome'. I am virulently against 'equality of outcome'. Primarily because I am not a communist. I don't want all the 5 runners in a 100m race to win Gold or all applicants to a job interview be given job offers. That doesn't make me a bigot or a biased person. I am a bigot if I move the "starting point" in below diagram (Image Credit: wikipedia.org) leftwards. People should have an opportunity to take a 'shot' at the outcome they so desire. But I strongly disagree with the people who move the "ending point" leftwards and align it with "starting point" (Example: It is one of the flaws of caste based reservation systems in India - which involves a variant of this approach). Sounds like common sense but pretty much every second or third argument that uses 'equality' does this.



Circular Logic and Consequent Annoying High Moral Ground: Knowing where equality applies and where it doesn't reduces fallacious arguments where people present circular logic. These people say that 'Category X must be treated equal because... they are equal". Well if they are already equal then this request must be totally pointless. Its like saying "you should marry her because she is already married to you" or "You must kill him because he is already dead". An argument that some group of people should be given an equal outcome when compared to another group of people cannot depend on an assumption that the former group is *already* equal. Equality is a conclusion you are trying to establish. You can't use it as a premise. The fact that you can classify the two groups as distinct assumes that there  is a fundamental inequality that exists between them. So an appeal for equal outcome should involve a merit that is something other than 'equality'. Knowing this avoids the unnecessarily high moral ground that people derive by asking a fellow human being to offer equal *outcomes* for all religions (apparently they say the "same" truth in "different" ways), different gods/approaches within same religion, all genders, all races, and all sexual orientation etc. It maybe true that at the end of the argument they merit equal outcomes in a practical world.  But just don't start the argument with an axiom that they are 'equal'.

p.s1: As it is the case with many things the truth could be that the world is a mixture of LHS = RHS and where X != Y . In general I'd like to think that at a universal level it is an ever expanding pie with X + a != Y + b continuing to be true even if you keep adding on both sides. However, at some points depending on values of the four variables you could have exceptions where RHS = LHS.  Though they are  exceptions - they do impact a person's life as a result of  being a 'zero sum' situation. 

p.s2: On a lighter note - The entire intensity of iyengar-iyer god worship debate would be lot less intense if people grokked this.

p.s3: if you give everyone equal outcomes as default - you are not liberal, fair or good. You are actually a bad and unfair person. The whole notion of Satvik and rajo/tamas concept is based on this.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Panguni Uthiram



Iyam Sita mama suta
sahadharmacharee tava
prateechchha chainam bhadram te
panim grihneeshwa panina
pativrata mahabhaga
chhayevanugata sada.

These are the words spoken by King of Janaka, on the day when Uttara Phalguni star intersects with the full-moon day, as he offers his daughter Seetha in marriage to Rama. These words are uttered in every marriage that happens in the northern half of India. The translation of this goes "This is Seetha, my daughter. she will follow you in the path of dharma. Take her hand in your hand. She is both blessed and devoted and she will forever walk with you like your own shadow". Velukkudi often says that it is the wife who steers a man towards his dharma by being his conscience. And that is why she is called saha-dharmachareeni.  

This nice article outlines the significance of Panguni Uthiram. One of those days where I wish I was in Srirangam.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Review: Paradesi

How do I compare two categories of bad movies. Category A is a kind of movie that had shit material to start with and then was shittily executed by a nincompoop. Category B has awesome material to start with and an incompetent fool makes a shit movie out of it.  Now is the nincompoop more of a shithead or the incompetent fool? I would say the latter. But thats just me.

I don't know a lot about making movies. If I were given unlimited budget and a awesome technical crew, I wouldn't know how to make the characters speak with an even tone, how to adjust the dial so that the actors don't come off as over the top or don't extremely understate the role either. I'd struggle with quite a few things. Apparently I share all of these traits with Bala. The biggest problem I had with this movie was that it wasn't realistic or believable. Its very ironic given that the story really happened. First lets start with the poorly etched out characters. The hero guy cant act for nuts. For some reason he is not shown as a normal human being. Either he is retarded or that is his real acting ability  - but he is so over the top that I was left thinking if this was a movie from the 70s. Then there is his girl - who is also stupid and really over the top. The story was so explosive that there was no need for these abnormal characters to be around. And whats with the horrible dubbing? Is this an amateur movie?

When you have a great story you need some creativity and imagination to tell it nicely, engage the viewer and maybe deliver a knockout performance. The story should provide situations that makes the viewer empathize withe characters and go on a roller coaster ride. You know - the "Show, Don't tell" policy.  Bala lists each of these departments and botches them up in order. In this movie nothing happens that can even remotely called creative. Its not sincere enough to be called a documentary either. The entire first half is build up to a situation where people get themselves into shit. It has a wedding, a funeral, some hanky panky, and tasteless jokes. All done by some really bad actors with loud over the top voices. The second half is about what that shit they got themselves into looks like. Its bad. But then the movie is not about how bad that shit is. It is about how many people cry and for how long. You know - the "tell, don't show" botch-up. The second half is not about the situation. Its about crying, crying and really more crying. The movie is bloody freaking mind-numbingly boring. I couldn't believe it was 2 hours long. It felt more like 2 years inside a prison. It not about reactions to different situations. Its about same reaction to same situation. One trick keeps playing again and again.

I haven't seen a Bala film after Sethu. I thought Sethu was a tasteless movie for C center audience who don't require refinement in movie making. I stopped seeing Bala movies after that assuming the over-rating that he receives was from people with poor taste in movies. He is not on your face. He genuinely has bad taste. It sometimes appears as on-your-face because we mistake crudeness for boldness. Watching Paradesi now and reading the severe over-rating he is receiving makes me think the theory still applies. Bala makes movies for a strata of society that I would regard as typical C center front bencher crowd.  Dull, unrefined and severely lacking in taste.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Open Book Exam

This news about board exams being open-book exams might appear like good news for students. Well! it is so not good news for students. Its actually a nightmare. There were times in grad school where a bunch of desis would be praying that the professor would announce the exam as closed-book/closed-notes. We would recoil in shock if the prof said open book. If the test had to be meaningful even if you had a book open that says something about the toughness of the test, doesn't it? Its never going to be the case that the answer is in the book and test is about how fast you are able to find the answer and copy it to the answer paper. I am just glad I am done with school. At least once a week, I get nightmares that involve me preparing for an exam that I don't know anything about.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Some movies I saw last month

With 3 weeks of raging flu movies and some internet rants kept me going. Here are some movies that I saw

Kanna Laddu Thinga Aasaiya: This movie was funny, very engaging and had interesting characters. I would have given it 2 thumbs up if it did not blatantly copy  Indru poi Naalai vaa. Indru Poi Naalai Vaa is one of my favorite movies. Santhanam's career arc takes me back to a movie in 1990s where Goundamani acted as a hero. Goundan was at his peak before he acted as hero and that movie where he tried this hero business started his downfall. For some reason I feel Santhanam has peaked. This movie puts Santhanam's career at risk. I wouldn't be surprised if its all downhill for him after this point. It just feels like too high too soon for him. Both Vadivelu and Vivek gestated for 10-15 years before they hit their golden era.

Alex Pandian: what a bad movie! Seeing first day of Aayiratthil Oruvan and seeing the charge Karthi managed to create in the theater, I genuinely thought he had a great shot at becoming the next big thing in Tamil cinema. Maybe, almost reach Rajinikanth levels. He had that charisma. I must've been on dope to have made such a poor prediction. Karthi has gone down the path of choosing movies with crappy storylines that comes with 3rd rate sensibilities and it is hard to see where his next good movie is going to come from. If Sirutthai was a turd, Saguni was vomit (it was certainly not satire or even on the same planet as satire, it didn't have a single element that could be called as satire) and now Alex Pandian is diarrhea.  Karthi has wasted his great start by (a) personally not becoming muscular or athletic hero and (b) by choosing repetitive roles and piss poor movies. While I think Karthi firmly believes in not being elitist and wants to do simplistic time-pass movies that C center people will appreciate, I sometimes can't fathom his strategy of choosing movies and where he wants to go. Right now he seems to flushing himself down the toilet. One can also safely say that hhe can be stereotyped as a rowdy C center hero like Thiagarajan of yesteryear or Sundar C of today.

Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom: There is a lot that is awesome about this movie. This is certainly a good movie. The way its taken and the way it has been presented to us. I can sing praises about this movie all day long. But I'll also say this - the director has been lucky with this movie. It remains to be seen if he can deliver another good movie. The reason I say 'lucky' is because the movie relied too much on a 'one trick pony' of a story. Its the same joke played over and over again. There are  no awesome dialogs or variety in situations that brings the house down with laughter. I'd hesitate to categorize this as comedy genre, which was he expectation I went with. The novelty element of the story made this circus trick work. Balaji better have some other trick up his sleeve as well. 

Neerparavai:  Now this is a fantastic movie. I loved every second of it. Manirathnam should join as an assistant director to learn 'authenticity' from the guy who made this movie. I saw this movie the day after I saw Kadal and this movie is an outstanding example of great casting. Kadal on the other hand is an outstanding example of Manirathnam's consistent poor casting choices. Look athe the hero of neerparavai, the hero's father and all the other characters who support these two. They look authentic. they look like people from that society. Take one look at the church father who appears in Neerparavai. Thats believable. Manirathnam's vision of fisherman society is 'Abercrombie and Fitch' Gautham, Arvindh Sami and Arjun. None of them look like they've even seen a fisherman in real life. Thulasi and Lakshmi Manchu seem like models or convent school girls who wandered off the ramp and were accidentally teleported into this fisherman's place by Scotty. Although I am not 100% sure, it seems like the most un-authentic Thoothukudi/Nellai accent of all time & the worst ever dubbing artist (Suhasini) has dubbed for Lakshmi Manchu. The wonderous aspect about Neerparavai is the way it shows a love story, a comeback-in-life story in a kuppam with beautifully etched out characters. It doesn't overtly mention the unjust shooting down of fishermen by Srilankan army. But that notion is hanging there like a elephant in the room. Its all about it but never about it. Its a story about an epic struggle by a man to make a life of his own that is casually swatted down by events we ignore on a daily basis.