Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bobby Farrell (Boney M )

Boney M's "lead" male "singer" passed away yesterday. Boney M was and still is my most favorite music band. Something I won't be ashamed to admit even when I am 90. The music I listened to during childhood was defined by Boney M. I still remember listening to Boonoonoonoonoos along with my cousin in the gramophone player. Boney M made the sexiest album covers in those days. And the given that the gramophone record album was like a 20 X 20 picture in itself, the cool factor of owning a Boney M record was way up there.

I had wanted to do a post on Boney M for a long time. But kept postponing it. Bobby Farrell news makes me want to renew that attempt again. There are several reasons why I put the "lead" and "singer" in the first sentence of this post in quotes. I don't want to get into the history of Boney M and the controversy around who really sang the male voice. But for whatever role Bobby played in Boney M he deserves to be remembered for providing many our favorite childhood memories. The thick masculine voice of Boney M provided a dimension that was a perfect match for Liz Mitchell's golden voice. [Note: It was later revealed that Frank Farian (the creator of Boney M) was the one who sang that male voice with Bobby just providing lip syncing.]

Here are some of my favorite songs that featured Bobby Farrell. Note that these aren't my favorite Boney M songs overall. Just picking songs that featured Bobby prominently. I deliberately omitted some of the popular Boney M songs such as Ma Baker, Daddy Cool or Brown Girl in the Ring. the purpose was to focus on some of the other great Boney M songs that gets left out because of the over-emphasis on a few selected songs. Only 1 truly 'popular' song is included in the below list because I simply could not resist including it. My actual list of Boney M favorite songs can wait for another day.

8. Gloria can you Waddle


His cool way of saying 'can you waddle ah aah' got me hooked on to this song. I loved the way this song fed into "Baby Do you want to bump".



7. Ride To Agadir


A highly under-rated song from Boonoonoonoonoos. Really one of the best songs of the album. I loved the feeling you get when the drums begin. Just fantastic.



6. Gadada Vida


The electronic voice features again in Boney M's version of Gadada Vida. And the thundering Masculine voice follows.



5. Boonoonoonoos


What a great song. And what a fantastic album. Known for its awesome album cover photograph. But I'll post another version of the video that shows Bobby's dance moves better.



4. Bye Bye Blue Bird


I love it purely for the feel-good effect that this song created. At some point in time I listened to this song everyday for 6-7 months until the cassette died on me.



3. No More Chain Gang


One of the greatest rhythm & percussion combo you will ever hear. And when Bobby does the "looking on the chain gang" part - it just lifts the song to a different level. Listen to a better recording of this song loud volume in a good speaker system. The experience is pure joy.



2. Bahama Mama


One of Boney M's best songs. No other way to put it.



1. Night Flight To Venus/Rasputin


I couldn't resist including a 'popular' Boney M song. This is one of the best songs that Boney M made. usually only the Rasputin part of the song is very popular. Many dont know that Boney M had a loosely followed tradition where their first two songs of the album continued seamlessly without a gap. the beats of Nightflight/Rasputin stays in memory until a person dies.



Special thanks to Arvindh for reviving my Boney M fever in Higher-Secondary School days.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Music in Divya Prabhandhams

Continuing with my the Margazhi tradition of posting on religion/Prabhandhams, here is a fantastic report by Sriram on the topic Music in Divyaprabandhams. Do follow Sriram's blog as that provides the best coverage of both the December Music Season and Madras culture and history in general.
This was the subject of the presentation by Uma Maheshwari on 27th December 2010. Presented in beautiful Tamil, it was a pleasure to hear. Her topic dealt with the fact that though we do not know as to what music the Azhwars had set their compositions to, it cannot be doubted that these were intended as musical pieces and were sung by the composers themselves. It is accepted that the Azhwars lived between the 5th and 10th centuries AD and that their works were rescued from oblivion by Nathamuni who arranged them musically at around the 10th century. 11 of the 12 Azhwars sang of Vishnu while Madurakavi sang of Nammazhwar.
Both Nammazhwar and Tirumangai Azhwar sing of the Lord in musical terms. The 1000 verses of Nammazhwar are known as paNNAr pADal inkavigal and Tirumangai speaks of innisaiyil sonna sengonmAlaigaL. There are similar phrases in the works of Kulashekhara Azhwar and Periyazhwar. There are references to musical terms in 161 places in the divyaprabandams.
The names of paNNs occur in nine places. Those included are kurinji, kAmaram, pAlai and pancamam. The speaker sang verses in kAmaram (which she said was the same as sIkAmaram) and said that these were essentially lullabies. (Several heads in the Experts Committee were nodding in sleep for good measure). She also sang verses in kurinji (same as the raga we know today) and pancamam (similar to Ahiri). The presence of these names has enabled latter day musicians to set the verses to music in the same paNNs.
The 1st publication of the divyaprabandam was in 1865 by Appavu Mudaliar and this gives paNN names. In 1956, 610 pAsurams of Tirumangai were set to music by MM Dandapani Desigar and Dr S Ramanathan and published with swaras. Embar Vijayaraghavachariar has suggested that the paNNs used in the tEvArams could be used for the divya prabandams too as they belong to the same time period.
BM Sundaram asked a number of questions:
- Did Nathamuni set the prabandams to music? (The speaker said that this is gleaned from the works of Melyagaththazhwar and Kizhayagaththazhwar)
- Is kAmaram same as sIkAmaram? (Yes, as gleaned from the ETTutOkai)
- Is the paNN same as raga? (The speaker said yes but Dr SAK Durga intervened and said that we can at best say they are equivalents. paNNs are more melodic progressions and therefore the raga being a later concept, absorbed paNNs into itself. Thus Ahiri contains pancamam paNN but the vice-versa is not true).
I said that Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar should be remembered for his setting the Tiruppavai to music. BM Sundaram said that Namakkal Narasimha Iyengar also should be remembered for the same reason.




Saturday, December 25, 2010

Man Madhan Ambu

This was the most boring movie I have seen in several years. It was almost as if the people involved in the movie didn't even want to make this movie. The genre of the movie is confusing even when one walks in with no expectations whatsoever on whether this was a comedy, action, romance, serious drama or slapstick. While a movie need not be slotted in a specific genre and can have a little bit of everything this is not a good example of hw to make such a movie. A movie fundamentally has to entertain. For that it has to be at a minimum interesting. Or at least coherent.

On coherence. Trisha, who plays the role of a movie actress, finds out that her fiance, business tycoon Madhavan, constantly suspects her of infidelity. Madhavan's suspicion causes her to ask that they take a break for a while to cool things off. And then she is shown to be going on this vacation which is what all of this movie is about. You would naturally assume based on the way they present the incidents to us that such a 'break for vacation' happens immediately or 2 months after they decide to take a break. Or maybe after 6 months. Or maybe after 1 year. But we find out that the aforementioned 'taking a break' was done a good 3-years after the incident. I wonder what the two did in the ensuing 3 years. Fight more and propose taking a break repeatedly?

Enter Kamalagasan. Who is employed by Madhavan to spy on Trisha and to verify if she is 'doin it' with someone else on this so called vacation. Now Kamal who plays the same character in every movie he acts as usual portrays a self-righteous and the most flawless person imaginable. He is the most selfless person who takes on this assignment to save a friend (mustafa sentiment check). The friend is suffering from - what else - cancer (dangerous disease - check). Ramesh Arvindh is the friend (Same drama troupe cast check). Urvasi is Ramesh Arvindh's sobbing wife (Thali sentiment check). Kamal is a military man who fought Kashmir Terrorist and he adores Magathma Gandhi (Desa patru check). He writes poems and spits out arbit philosophy (most intelligent man in the world check). One thing leads to another and we are told that Trisha is responsible for Kamal's great loss in the past and he goes like "(shrug) cool I love you too"

Madhavan. Nothing in Madhavan's behavior during the entire course of this movie suggests that he is capable of being loved by anybody. The characterization of Trisha and Madhavan are so poles apart that it is hard to believe this so-called profound thamizh poem writing actress (who can't talk proper tamil to save her life) can fall in love with a conveniently and poorly written mama's boy 1-dimensional character. On top of it there is a mind numbingly stupid scene where Madhavan refuses to pay a person who can, on a whim, destroy his life within seconds. What sort of a businessman is this idiot. I have no clue how Madhavan accepted the role of this Janakaraj'ish character. What a shame.

Lastly, the movie after meandering aimlessly finding out whose or what story it should tell suddenly declares Kamal and Trisha to be already in love. With no advance notice. It at least caught me by surprise. And after all the high-senti "deep" stories and pretentiousness the movie suddenly shows all the characters to be silly idiots who indulge in toilet humor. Jokes on 'aai poradhu', urinals, 1-bathroom, 2-bathroom fill the last act of the movie. And like some 3rd standard school drama the hero ends up happily ever after with heroine. Hero's thozhan conveniently loves heroine's thozhi and so on.

I am slowly discovering that Kamalhasan is not as intelligent as he wants us to believe he is. And is neither a profound thinker nor person who understands things very well. His thamizh and philosophical nonsense are probably attractive to stupid fan-boy people who don't know basic thamizh or literature etc. And on the "greatly picturized" return to innocence type song. So much for Kamal's originality (see below). And that was the only good moment of the movie. If someone puts in the effort we will find out that many of his good ideas were lifts from French, Japanese or other country movies. He is turning out to be a great cut and paste job.

Videos shot in reverse but mouth moving forward - 1



Videos shot in reverse but mouth moving forward - 2



Videos shot in reverse but mouth moving forward - 3



Videos shot in reverse but mouth moving forward - 4


Friday, December 24, 2010

Day 18 Adhyayana Utsavam : கறந்த பாலுள் நெய்யேபோல்

NammAzhwar has a gem hidden in the the keezh-padi (second-half) of below pasuram that appears in the 8th decad.

பிறந்த மாயா! பாரதம்
பொருத மாயா* நீயின்னே*
சிறந்த கால் தீ நீர் வான்* மண்
பிறவு மாய பெருமானே*
கறந்த பாலுள் நெய்யே போல்*
இவற்று ளெங்கும் கண்டுகொள்*
இறந்து நின்ற பெரு மாயா!*
உன்னை எங்கே காண்கேனே?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Michael

Finally got around to listening Michael Jackson's latest album 'Michael'. It is a tragedy that instead of waiting in line the night before to get his CD, one orders it in Amazon 2 weeks after release and listens to the CD a week after it arrives. Dangerous will always be his most definitive album in my eyes. An album where he was at his creative best. Much kann-drishti is the reason why his decline started 2 years after Dangerous. 'Michael' is a collection of his private un-released recordings that his estate fine-tuned/produced and released last month. A recurring comment in all the reviews that this album got has been "would Michael have wanted us to listen to these songs and would he have presented it this way ". One thing is sure - he would have lost the 'first single to be released' battle like he usually does. And would not have changed the fact that the worst song of the album (in this case 'Hold My Hand') would be the first single the producers released. It is his curse that this is happening to him for the second consecutive time.

I neither liked Michael's ballads nor his soft slow songs. For example 'Heal the World' is not on my top 5 songs within Dangerous. And this album is littered with slow songs. There is no rhythmic Smooth Criminal, 3-D, They don't care about Us, Ghosts, Jam, Beat-it equivalent in this album. and that is what I'd pick as an aspect that I missed the most as far as this album not having the MJ's touch goes. The variety in the album could have been better.

Now to the songs - my top 2 songs of the album are 'Hollywood' and ' Another Day'. Hollywood is a pacy song that has a fantastic chorus piece. It is a song about a woman lusting after a Hollywood career and how she'd sell herself to get there. The traditional notebook accompanying the CD case has MJ's handwriting that tells us that 'This is based on a true story'. Another Day - is a combined effort with Lenny Kravitz. And this song surprised me. As the prophetic opening lines "My Life has taken me beyond the planets and the stars" plays out - I had no idea it would turn into a beautiful chorus "I walked away but I was wrong..". This should have been the first single of the album. Another impressive song was "The way you Love Me". Which has a splendid opening and a cool tune. My fourth Favorite song was 'Monster' - which is Michael's go at the paparazzi (One of the two media bashing songs in the album - and that aspect alone makes it worth a buy). There were a few moments in that song that made me nostalgic.

Outside of the four mentioned above there aren't many 'chart buster' type of songs that can be classified as good ol' pop music. People who like his slow songs may like this album more. It does feature the several different voices of MJ which is a usual feature in most of his albums. And one of the most endearing aspects of his albums. The last page of the notebook has this in his own handwriting "We only live once. Since we are given the gift of life it should be our persistent endeavour to immortalize ourselves. No matter what field of endeavour we choose. M.J"

Thursday, December 16, 2010

சூடி கொடுத்த சுடர்கொடி

மார்கழித் திங்கள் மதிநிறைந்த நன்னாளால்

நீராடப் போதுவீர் போதுமினோ நேரிழையீர்

சீர்மல்கும் ஆய்ப்பாடிச் செல்வச் சிறுமீர்காள்

கூர்வேல் கொடுந்தொழிலன் நந்தகோ பன்குமரன்

ஏரார்ந்த கண்ணி யசோதை இளம்சிங்கம்

கார்மேனி செங்கண் கதிர்மதியம் போல்முகத்தான்

நாரா யணனே நமக்கே பறை தருவான்

பாரோர் புகழப் படிந்தேலோர் எம்பாவாய்.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sky Kisses the Earth

Good Hindustani fusion music is hard to come by. And this song is one of those beautiful exceptions. It has been a few years since Prem Joshua's song got released and at one point it used be a day long loop in my car. It has now come back to being on loop. One of those instances where the beauty of music just comes out and consumes you. What a song!

Btw - Sitar is such a wonderful instrument.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bharathi's Angst

Was doing some Bharathi's birthday browsing and decided to post my favorite poem of his.

நல்லதோர் வீணைசெய்தே - அதை
நலங்கெடப் புழுதியில் எறிவதுண்டோ
சொல்லடி சிவசக்தி - எனைச்
சுடர்மிகும் அறிவுடன் படைத்துவிட்டாய்
வல்லமை தாராயோ - இந்த
மாநிலம் பயனுற வாழ்வதற்கே?
சொல்லடி சிவசக்தி? - நிலச்
சுமையென வாழ்ந்திடப் புரிகுவையோ?
விசையுறு பந்தினைப்போல் - உள்ளம்
வேண்டிய படிசெலும் உடல்கேட்டேன்
நசையறு மனங்கேட்டேன் -நித்தம்
நவமெனச் சுடர்தரும் உயிர்கேட்டேன்
தசையினத் தீசுடினும் - சிவ
சக்தியைப் பாடும்நல் அகங்கேட்டேன்
அசைவறு மதிகேட்டேன் - இவை
அருள்வதில் உனக்கெதுந் தடையுளதோ?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The 4th Innings Hype

Reading Gaurav's analysis on Lara Vs Sachin during the 4th innings of a test match confirms my belief that "Lara is an awesome 4th innings player" is one of those hypes that can spread without any data support. It also opens an avenue to discuss my pet peeves with test cricket analysis. The theory that batting well in the 4th innings is somehow associated with not just greatness but also proves that the said batsman is a good player under 'pressure' or a good 'crunch moment' player. This is much broader than a Lara Vs Sachin or a Anyone Vs Laxman discussion. This is a discussion on how the mechanics of the game works based on the rules and the logic inherent to the game.

Here is my hypothesis on measuring the value of good innings in test cricket based on 'when' it is played. This hypothesis is based on an intuition that 4th innings century makers have been unjustly glorified as 'match winners' as opposed to more deserving first innings century makers. Ideally I wanted to pull some data from "stats-guru" database to back the hypothesis. But time constraints and inability to pull the data the way I want to has left me with the cop-out option of just stating the hypothesis and have a kind soul prove or disprove the hypothesis. This hypothesis is not earth shattering or by any means new. It is in fact very obvious to most and in general used as an axiom by most test cricket captains. I state this only to counter-point a new trend in cricket analysis that seems to glorify 4th innings centuries. So here goes

1. Team that bats well in their first innings of the test match is less likely to lose the test match. (Note that this is very different from saying "...more likely to win the test match").

2. The above point can be proven by analyzing data of all test matches played so far. We should find that the team with the higher first innings score would have a greater likelihood of *not* losing the match. As a corollary we should also find that the greater the gap between first innings scores the lesser the instance of team scoring higher having lost the match. For e.g. In instances where delta between first innings scores of two teams is 50 (lets call this variable 'X') or less - let us hypothetically say that the percentage of instances where team scoring higher in first innings loses the test match only 8% of the time (let us call this percentage 'B'). The assertion I am going after is that B is super inversely proportional to X. This data is hard to get and holds the key to whether my theory has any merit or not.

3. Restating 2 to narrow down to the point I want to make - As X (per definition above) increases - the ability of each subsequent innings of that test match to change/reverse the course of that test match decreases. For example When X = 100 let us say that the probability of 3rd innings of the match changing the course of the match is N. Hypothesis here is that the probability of 4th innings changing the course of the test match is actually N/2 or worse. Further hypothesis is that as X increases 3rd innings becomes more and more irrelevant and 4th innings a mere formality to be closed out.

Now up until now #1, #2 and # 3 above are bleeding obvious. Now lets get down to the merely obvious.

4. Following from #1 above - teams should look to maximize the first innings score as much as possible in order to give them the best shot of winning a test match.

5. Following from #2 if a team is faced with a choice of picking Player-1 who will reliably perform well in the first innings of a match Vs Player-2 who will reliably perform in the second innings of a match. The team should always pick Player 1 to firstly maximize there chances of not losing the match and secondly to set themselves up for a win.

6. Following from #3 it is true that in those very rare instances where a player's 4th innings score manages to change the course of the match they have a higher probability of being noticed purely because the event is a low-probability one and so happens very rarely. However, it can be argued (not always) that the player is "curing" a situation as opposed to "preventing" the situation. And if he had batted well in the first innings things would actually have been much better (statement is based on assumption that the said player isn't hitting a century in both innings but 'woke up' in the 4th innings to play well). Sort of analogous to doing well in your arrears exam as opposed to the actual exam. Yes arrears has infinitely more pressure but you shouldn't be writing one in the first place. And you can't be regarded as a good student just because you do consistently well in arrears.

But the direction we are trying to get to is that the most important phase of the test match is the team's first innings. That is what should be called as the "crunch time". And a player who consistently plays well under those circumstances should be regarded as a player who is more effective in winning the match for the team by playing well "when it matters". This is the player who should be regarded as a match-winner

Needless to say - I am stating this as hypothesis based on casual and random filtering and sorting of cricinfo data. I do realize that this may be completely wrong.

P.S: In support of the hypothesis some of the types of data I wanted to pull outside of what was mentioned in #2 are as follows:

a. what % of the matches won by a team had centuries scored by some batsman in the first innings of the match? (knowing fully well that 'century isnt the only definition of good innings but merely a decent indicator)

b. what % of the matches not lost by a team had centuries scored by some batsman in the first innings of the match?

c. what % of the matches lost by a team had centuries scored by some batsman in the first innings of the match?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Thayir Saadham & Friends

Thayir Saadham, thacchi mammum, bagela bath, dhadhyonniyam, morunjjaam, or thayir soru, (derogatorily referred to as curd rice or yogurt rice, by people who are less cultured) is probably one of the most satisfying concoction mankind has put together. Who would have thought of mixing thayir and saadham? More importantly why did they think of mixing the two? It must have happened by accident. Such brilliance rarely happens by design. Although I wonder if it wasn't made for thayir saadham, why was curd made at all?

Thayirunjjaaaam.

Ah! Stuff poems are made of. It is filling. It provides immense satisfaction. It is certainly very very tasty. Plus it is good food in warm conditions. Importantly, it makes you sleep for several hours after the food is consumed. My best memories of thayir saadham is when a child has graduated to "kai'la saadham' stage. This is right after 'ooti vidu' stage. And right before the stage where middle class families get confident enough to take the bold step from kozhachu-vitta buttermilk to pure thick thayir (the phase where you ask your mom to reserve a big cube of surface curd for you). The stage I am referring to is the one where 4-5 'mooku ozhugi' 'arai drowser' children sit around grandma during summer vacation. Grandma, in a single stroke, completes the difficult job of making children eat. Here is a look at the glorious facets of thayir saadham and its best friends. Note that qualification to be a friend of thayir saadham means it has to have good 'thottuka' abilities. In that the friend must mix well with Thayir Saadham and should be consumable along with the said 'saadham'.

Thayir Saadham and Mango Variants

Mango is the best known and most popular friend of Thayir saadham. There is probably no buddy or pal that Thayir saadham gets along with with better. They are so close that one suspects them of being in a relationship. Since both Mango and Thayir Saadham are natives of Thamizh country there is no wonder both get along so fine. Stuff perfect arranged marriages are made of. That is because Mango is capable of taking more avatharams than Maha Vishnu himself. A simple thayir saadham in kallu uppu and basic Maavadu is enough to satiate an army. Maavadu is the more popular of Mango avatars to befriend thayir saadham. however, it not my favorite. It is a good friend, I agree. Right up there in the best friend category. My favorite best friend is clearly the Maangai Thokku. I don't care if its a home made thokku or Ruchi/Priya brand thokku. Maangai thokku rocks the thayir saadham world. There is no more better combination than these two. Tintin and Haddock, Laurel & Hardy, Goundamani & Senthil, Asterix and Obelix, Thomson & ThomPson can all take the back seat. There is no sight better than mixing maangai thokku with thayir saadham and making everyone wonder if thokku is the side dish or thayir sadham. This is where the correct etiquette for eating thayir saadham must be strictly followed. The curd must drip between your fingers as you transport it from plate to mouth.

Have you ever thought of thottufying a fully ripe mango with thayir saadham? Really you should try it. Take a good banganapalli, peel it off or rip it off in a barbaric fashion and take pieces of mango and mix it with thayir saadham and eat. Its splendid. Maangai paachadi is another rare delicacy that goes very well with thayir saadham. But a gem among Mango friends is super unripe mango that is cut into pieces, mixed with chilli powder and consumed along with thayir saadham. This mango must not be just unripe. It must be super unripe. It must be the extreme opposite of ripe. It should be so unripe that it should just be called 'un' as mixing it with 'ripe' would be an anaethma. Avakkai pickle is another unsung hero among thayir saadham friends. But care must be taken to put more 'saaru' in the avakkai oorgai. Because more than the avakkai, the saaru is where the magic is.

Thayir Saadham and Kazhangus

We have had our ponderings on the king kizhangu before. Not surprisingly, the three kinds of urulai kizhangu are simply awesome with thayir saadham. Especially the kutti-kutti'ya narukkina urulai kizhangu. Seppan-kizhangu, specifically the unroasted variety, also gels well with thayir saadham. Every time I have mentioned in public that potato gels well with thayir saadham, I get a 'I am so offended' looks from the aforementioned public. A look that conveys that I have committed blasphemy. And I am frankly surprised. I also think appalam goes well with thayir saadham. And I always knew that would not be a popular vote thing. However, I always thought potato would win votes in the thayir saadham competition. In the exit poll type survey that I commonly conduct this does not seem to be the case.. People abhor the notion that these two could be mixed. And I never get how anyone could miss this ultimate combo.

Thayir Saadham and "More" Molagai

Now 'more' molagai deserves a separate poem. In fact several poems. As the name goes this molagai goes well with thachi mammu's poorer cousin "more" saadham. The saadham must be watery with 4x more buttermilk than rice. And then molagai is dropped in like a dollop of vannila ice cream falling into a cup filled with 4 gulab jamuns. And there you go. On a hot May afternoon there is nothing better to eat than this combination. In fact if you are on study holidays for college exams and decide to take that crucial 30 minute lunch break, there is nothing else you want to spend time on other than this (of course getting back to studies and staying awake is a different proposition altogether).

One of the best variants of thayir saadham I have eaten is the "dhadhyonniyam". This is the esoteric term for the rice that is handed out hot and smoldering in a "Perumal kovil". It is a distant cousin of 'bagela bath'. But the dhadhyonniyam I am referring to here is not the one that is usually handed out in temples. This is a richer variant of dhadhyonnyam that is made at home. In this version, thick thayir saadham is mixed with more molagai, raisins, cashew nuts, and cut red chilli (all of which are probably thalicchu kottified). And it is the ultimate 'attagasa' version of thayir saadham you will ever eat.

Thayir Saadham and Mixture

Have you tried this. If not this is a must-not-miss combination. The mixture must not be a 'kaaramaana' mixture. It must also have raisins, nuts and other exotic stuff in it. Going beyond the world of mixture, thayir saadham goes well with ompodi, murukku, vetthal, vadaam, - essentially anything that is 'karakku murakku' goes well with thayirunnjaam.

Thayir Saadham and Mysore Paak

Crazy isn't it? But it does taste very well. In the 'sweet' variety I mentioned that Maanga pacchadi goes well with thayir saadham. And so does coconut burfi. If you want to try something that is really 'out there' try honey and thayir saadham. It will tickle your bones. I have seen people it pineapple, apple, orange, and "suppota" with thayir saadham. And they all vouch that combo to be the best ever.

So there you go ladies and gentlemen. Thayir saadham. You just cannot ignore it. It is the friendliest dish around that will happily buddy up with anything you bring in. It is the middle class marvel. Costs nothing. Satisfying. Puts you to sleep for hours together. What more do you want on a good hot afternoon during summer holidays?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Earth

"....Medhini Devi Vasundhara Syadh Vasudha Devi Vasavi..."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Harry Potter 7 - Marana Kadi

I am not a fan of the series. It is not my intention to piss on the party of people who like this movie. But I have to get this out of my system. If not I may just burst. After abandoning the first book after 2-3 weeks of trying, I had seriously thought that Rowling's Potter series was probably similar to Arundhati Roy's "God of Smaller Things" - in that it adorned the mantelpieces of Delhi-chic type people who want to be 'cool' but nobody ever read them. After seeing the first two movies, I also thought this material was probably appropriate for children between ages 7 - 16. I later found out that I was very wrong. About Rowling's book that is (I am correct about Roy's book). Like Valmeeki's Ramayana, Rowling has written Saptha-Kandams of Harry Potter. Many, though not all, apparently read the book. I also found that some even read it all the way to the last chapter. And that's just fantastic.

Now back to this movie, I was under the impression that I had watched them all. That is until I learned recently that 6 Potter movies are out already. So I have no recollection of what Harry Potter movies I have watched so and what I haven't. They have sorted of merged together as they all bored me in a similar fashion. With that context I went into the IMAX version of HP - Deathly Hallows. This 'Pei pisaasu' kadhai was not nearly as boring as I thought it would be. So that was a pleasant surprise. But it kept throwing character after character and showed scenes that resembled a poor man's version of LOTR. I was sure I saw 5 seconds of Ian Mckellen fall down a pit like the way he fell in LOTR. I didn't know Ian Mckellen acted in HP. So maybe instead of having Michael Gambon fall again, they did some quick cut and paste from LOTR to fill in for budget problems (yes. yes. I am kidding).

Similar to the way it has (not) happened in every Harry Potter movie I have seen - nothing ever happens in this movie. It is like you are waiting and waiting. And they are talking about one thing after another. Things, people, animals, animations, ghosts, creatures appear and disappear. I totally felt that they had these 273 items from the novel that they had to check off and they went about doing it in a mechanical fashion. There wasn't an involving plot that you could sink your teeth into. The humor/timing was absent. The pace was a badly off. The basic plot looked like there was a bit of good Vs evil in a magic setting. They bandied about the 'chosen one' concept - yes same one that has been around since Star Wars, Matrix, LOTR etc. There was no 'magic' to this movie. It just wasn't exciting.

P.S: My obvious lack of literary appreciation apart, I used to wonder why I just didn't get this damn movie. Maybe this movie came too close on the heels of LOTR that I found the book and movie inferior in comparison. Only other explanation I can think of.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Va Quarter Cutting

I hope Gayathri+Pushkar don't get discouraged by the fate of this movie. Their ambition alone makes up for some of the not-so-great execution elements of the movie. I guess I am saying this for quite a few movies nowadays - there were enough eccentricities in this movie for me to like it. Actually love it. And at the same time I get why some negative word-of-mouth biased viewers against this movie as well. Would I recommend this movie? Yes - to bachelor guys who love noire variety of movies mixed with some American Pie type masala. No - not a good movie for women and family audience. Which is why I think this movie won't do well. Despite of having a women director (who could be what Kramer described Elaine as - a man's woman ) I can't imagine a guy admitting to his other half that he liked this movie and walk away with his reputation intact. I usually don't care about commercial fate of movies and dislike box office discussions on movies but here I digress because I genuinely fear that failure may dissuade these exceptional movie makers from giving us a few more movies.

Here is why I liked the movie. (a) Some of the jokes were out of the world. I ROFL'ed till my stomach hurt. The stylistic aspect of this movie was simply too awesome. It is Quarter Cutting edge variety. (b) The creativity on show - be it naming of characters (it had two henchmen called vettu/kuthu I was instantly impressed), (c) the characters themselves (the 'arasiyalvaadhi'), (d) the dialogs, (e) the narration style, (f) the sarcasm ("saar neenga ungalye singam'nu koopdareengale ungalukku konjam kooda vekkama illai") - was admirable. (g) John Vijay - I think he is the best comedian in thamizh cinema today. I would pay the price of admission to just watch his scenes alone. The comic timing and amazing amazing style of dialog delivery alone was worth several ROFLs. I am his huge fan. (h) The picturization of" saarpu saarpuji". My God - I the stand up and the bayangra applaud.

Here is what I think didn't work at all. About 70% of the jokes were mokkai. Didn't land very well. The movie did not have a racy element to it. The movie was paced in a slowish Coen brothers sort of way to make it appear 'cool'. But it doesn't land that way. It just looks slow and a bit draggy at times. Lastly, this is a movie about a hero who goes in search of 250 ml of Rum in the middle of the night. Imagine that. A story based on such a noble search. The appreciative audience is segmented down to a few dozen people right there. Plus the entire movie is taken in the dark. The characters look a bit seedy. And I think this significantly influenced the mindset while watching the movie. The good-feeling I got with "Oram Po" was absent. The story is Wodehouse'ian but setting/lighting is more 'Nightmare on Elm Street'.

Overall, I can't bring myself to dislike the movie or not recommended it. I enjoyed it. Not many will.

post script: BTW who is this 'girl-in-uniform-fantasy' S.I. Singaari? Semma hot macchi.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Happy Deepavali

I wish I found the BPL Phone Advt that has an old thaatha say "Happy.... Happy deepavali" But the best I could get is the 10000 wala we burst last year.

(Canon AVHCD HG21 Camera converted to lower pixel quality using Pixella s/w)

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Happiness

Her bi-weekly paycheck showed an increase of $18.31. She had removed a dependent from her medical insurance last week.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mind Your Language

The Thamizhan hears the name of South Africa cricket captain and suppresses a giggle.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Social Network

The pace at which David Fincher tells us The Social Network story is the defining aspect of the movie. Before going into the movie, I was wondering how he'd keep a story of creating Facebook interesting. Biopics can quickly slip into the documentary genre. Not that that it is a bad thing but its hard to set the adrenalin flowing with such a story. Zodiac was close to 3 hours long and Fincher did an incredible job of meticulously presenting a very complex story. Social network is only 2 hours long and it feels like 1 hour.

I can't put my finger on why Fincher's movies are so different. They set a very different narrative pace and style. The combination gives his movies a sort of coolness that can only be created deliberately with careful construction. People say its his 'Frame insert' technique where he inserts a lot of single frames in a narrative sequence. I am not sure if that is the sole reason. But he gets the adrenalin flowing on a movie about a computer programmer. That's not easy. I am not a geek and don't think I can be one. By I appreciated the cool references to 'Emacs' (best editor ever) and page table bit arrangement. The dialogs are uncompromising, detailed, funny and fast. I couldn't believe such a combination could exist. I am not sure if the real Mark Zuckenberg was this awesome. Or how much of all this tracks the real story closely. But I loved Zuckenberg's character. Fantastic movie and a must watch.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Arundhati Roy

TPT'ing that I was among the earliest (if not the most earliest) proponent(s) of "Arundhati Roy is an idiot" theory. Such amazing talent spotting ability comes with the claim of watching Memento the year it was released, watching David Fincher's movie FDFS since Se7en and reviewing "Hurt Locker" FDFS.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Halloween

Most if not all festivals have rituals that we don't understand and makes us feel like are punching a ticket as we go through the journey of life. But at least they are grounded in one religion or the other and so have some religious reason to answer most of the "why do we do this" type questions. At that point it depends on your belief system to follow the festival or not. And good food + quality family time + a chance to say some religious prayers generally makes up for unanswered questions.

In America, I understand Christmas. I like the season and the festive mood. I don't celebrate Christmas. I am not a Christian and don't want to celebrate Christmas just to pretend and show-off to others that I am a progressive secular person. But I get it. I know why people celebrate it and it looks very charming in western countries. I usually go to parties when I am invited. Even if it is by desis and even if there is no Christian involved. I do find it odd that a non-Christian desi, who doesn't celebrate his own religion's festivals, invites 10 'thayir saadham' families for Christmas. I am totally judgmental on them when they say that they do it because their children, who have been brought up on the Santa Claus myth, "don't want to get disappointed" and can go and tell their white classmates that they celebrated Christmas with family too. I don't think the children will be disappointed and I don't think they have that many white kids in their class. But I don't object. Puliyodharai and Thayir Saadham is served in that party and I will go. Thanksgiving - I don't get it. However, I don't detest it that much because people don't invite me to eat dead birds. Halloween I detest.

Halloween scrapes the bottom of low I.Q. festivals. This to me represents people who can't think for themselves and make their own decisions. The word reminds me of mindless 'saaraya bottil' teenagers (and other adults with low I.Q.) who have fun by claiming to have fun. What are we celebrating here? Ghosts? What is there to celebrate about? It is not religion? It is neither science nor a Star Trek convention? It seems like people are dressing up as ghosts to visit american versions of TASMAC. Why? More importantly why are desis celebrating Halloween? I generally look down upon people who ask me "So what are your plans for Halloween?". I am a desi. I don't know how to answer that question. In my country we didn't know what this word meant when we grew up. That is until the so called "modern people" from Bangalore and certain parts of Adyar began to pretend they were westerners and started celebrating Halloween in their houses. I certainly looked down upon them And how does one "celebrate" Halloween? Most desis I know hit the saarayam, shout like dummies on the street, dance to bhangra music and call that celebrating Halloween. I don't want to dress up like an ugly ghost. I think most people who dress up like ghosts look like idiots. I get the boys who celebrate Halloween to get some girl drunk and then try and get her laid. That I respect. But most desis I know celebrate Halloween with other desis I know. All of them are married and generally not looking to get laid.

Recently, I was asked by a desi woman with a 18 month old baby - what Halloween plans I had for my 18 month old baby? Really! Why? The only reason I see people spending money on this is to satisfy themselves. Babies don't know about Halloween. Getting together with other Desis for a potluck, dressing babies up as ghosts and posting those photos in facebook is probably the most loser thing ever. No amount of Puliyodharai and Thayir Saadham in that potluck can compensate for that. Cowgirl is spot on about PseudoMaamis. The real 'Maami' is dead.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Vaidhyar

Sweeping statements and over generalizations usually come with their own disclaimers and pitfalls but to whatever extent one can stretch and extrapolate personal experience to a generic observation let me state this: On the topic of medical facilities, competence of doctors, and quality of health care - I am now convinced that India (specifically Madras) is about N times better than America.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Golu

I ate 3 dinners today. Accompanied my wife today to help her navigate the Golu Algorithm. This led me to uncover the secret hidden treasure of delicious food.

Today I had Puliyodharai, Aveeyal, 3 varieties of sundal, 2 varities of Halwa, Kadhamba Saadham, potato. People in Amerikka serve dinner instead of Sundal. God bless them.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Endhiran: Man, Machine, Lover

When an experience is genuinely thrilling, you can feel it in your bones right away. From the moment the very impressive title sequence rolled out with 'super star' flashed at the beginning till the last frame of the movie - there were many moments where I felt goose pimples. Its been a long time since we have had such a good mainstream commercial movie. And that is what this movie really is. Sort of a cross between 'Short Circuit' series and 'T-2'. Endhiran excels in almost everything it sets out to do. That is probably because Shankar manages to do almost everything he did not do in Sivaji. He has been gestating this story for a long time. And passion he has put into it is clearly evident. The biggest achievement in Endhiran (compared to Sivaji) is the strong presence of what we the audience all call 'an engaging story'. Sujatha's touch in all this is very visible not just in the first half but in certain debates that happen in the second half.

This movie also gets the entertainment mix right. Shankar does not dumb it down to a level you'd think is norm for Rajinikanth movies. I heard Rajinikanth uttering words like 'nueral schema' 'Fibonacci numbers' and 'prime numbers' and I did not have to squirm in my seat. It actually sounded very good and very engaging. The 'mass appeal' was very tempered and never overboard except during the stunt sequences. It did not have a thundering opening scene for Rajinikanth. This is probably the most casual introduction scene in any Rajinikanth movie post 90s. Not a great thing for "paal abhishekam for cut out" type "rajini fans". But certainly awesome for the rest of the people with greater than 2 brain cells. It eliminates all unnecessary distractions like 'punch lines' and focuses on moving the narration forward. The only 'style' it introduced was the 'dot gesture' and that was actually very impressive.

The dialogs, humor and small little stories around the Robot was very interesting. How a robot behaves in the real world has excellent scope for possibilities and Shankar teases us with several of them without going overboard or monotonous. A lot of sequences and possibilities have been packed into this 2 hours and 40 minute movie at a frenetic pace. You never get bored. Its like going on one ride after the other. The overall story is fascinating because I have never seen a triangular love story like this before. It also borders on romantic feelings towards a character's step-mother, which I thought was less explored. A specific plot situation colors the story as being a robo based Ramayana. Very innovative. Like any good story this one also revolves around love. And like any good science fiction story it uses non-humans to teach humans about themselves. Sujata is an expert on the latter subject and it comes out reasonably well in this movie. The movie touches on the debate of robots replacing human labor. But in order to keep the mix balanced, it doesn't go overboard with that debate either.

Now to the negatives. I was disappointed by the lack of tension in the stunt sequences. While the non-stunt plot sequences makes us care about Vaseegaran or Chitti. The stunt sequences involving the 'evil' robot had a poor sub-plot/narrative structure. It began to resemble a slide-show of stunts a robot can do. There was no cohesive flow between two subsequent stunt scenes. I am not sure if it was the editing or the flow that was disrupted. But after Aishwarya Rai was kidnapped from her wedding - the stunts that followed looked pretty disjointed. The computer graphics/CGI/animation (whatever it is called today) were excellent. And one has to applaud the level of sophistication shown in the special effects. But the mix on 'showcasing computer graphics' Vs 'creating action sequences that are tense' was a little off. Rajinikanth in the negative role starts off poorly (And I say that probably because I rate Rajini better as a villain than hero). But before you begin to wonder whether that role was going to fall flat, he goes to 'asathify' in the last 20-30 minutes. The visuals and the songs were beyond awesome. Especially the 'Kaadhal anukkal' song was shot very well.

In the end one has to applaud Shankar for taking thamizh movies to this level. We were waiting for this since 1995 when he put out teaser-posters of Kamalhasan standing with a Robotic dog. It finally happened at a time when such technology was more affordable. And call it destiny - it finally was done by an actor who you would not have guessed to be the one who played out Shankar's sci-fi dream. I have always felt this but not said it out in the past lest it be misconstrued as thamizh pride or whatever. But screw it. Let me just say it. Thamizh film industry is a modest, less rich, low volume industry that really cannot afford a movie of this budget. Without Rajinikanth they couldn't have even done this. But the fact is - a set of people here aimed higher. Instead of doing the same thing over and over again. Somebody thought of making a sci-fi movie that didn't look amateur. This point may get lost on people who ridicule Rajini based on his age or his skin color. And those who see this movie as a Rajinikanth style movie. It is the ambition that counts. The execution will finally fall into place.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Dumber Years

When I was in school, I always thought work life of adults was stress free. One that involved a lot of freedom and fun. Somehow not having to write exams, the stupid cycle tests, record notebooks, not doing homework, not having to get beaten up by both ('indhi' master) Balasubramaniam sir and P.T. master Janakiraman on Monday mornings seemed like a wonderful prospect.

I often yelled at my dad and my other elderly cousins that their lives were much better than mine. They wore colour dress, drove their own vehicles and didn't have to ask permisison to put leave. They were 'settled' and didnt have to write an exam to prove their worth.

How wrong was I. No wonder I got beaten up so much by Balasubramaniam sir.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Madras Moment

Was totally engrossed in a quiz conducted by @kweezzz in twitter today and had one of those 'madras moments' when the following were seen as the Quiz question and answer.
Quiz Master: The New Secretariat, Library and one other Chennai Structure share something in common. What is that Chennai Structure and what do they share in common?
Answer: Namitha.
Quiz Master: It is an old structure.
Answer: K.R. Vijaya.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cricket

I am realizing that not following the champions trophy and not caring to have yet another stupid opinion on the Pagisthan match fixing controversy - gives me a sense of superiority complex. I now look at people who do follow and who do care with a sense of disdain. I regard them as I would regard people with no velai/vetti who need to have an opinion on every breaking news on TV.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dealaa! No Dealaa!

Maraamandai thamizhans can't treat capitalism with maturity. It is okay to earn/win crap load of money on a TV game show and spend it on whatever needless thing one feels like spending on. If you win 50 lacs on a platter, it is okay to not spend any of it on charity. You don't need to be extremely poor to win that 50 lacs as well. I want a contestant who says that he is not desperately in need of that 50 lacs at all. One who declares that he does not want to spend any of it on charity because he is simply not interested in charity. And to be rub it in, he should perhaps declare that he plans to blow it all up in deepavali pattasu.

But somehow thamizhan feels the need to be humble and need to justify participation in a show that needs no other talent beyond the ability to say a number between 1 - 30. So we have people who claim to be in extreme poverty. That they need to feed 30 children and pay 72 loans (Ofcourse they won't mention that their best idea to combat all that at the moment is a TV game show). Or we have sob stories on how the 50 lacs one can win will cause them to somehow run a livelihood or pursue further education etc etc. Really. Now you have totally got me rooting against you. I want you to remain shit poor. This show is about having a few boxes with a bunch of money in it and you are doing 'inki pinki ponky'. No matter what poverty porn you pour into it, this show cannot have a deeper meaning. Give me a contestant who says he really does not need the money and one who has no clue how he is going to waste the money. That's what the show is all about.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wilbur Sargunaraj

I just dont get him. I don't know what people see in his youtube videos. I sort of see a poor man's Borat but don't really find it hilarious. I tried my best to like him because he looks likeable and really looks like a nice guy. However, I actually could not see even a single video till the end and simply clicked on to the next video and so on until I gave up. So don't get what the fuss is all about.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Monster Inc

When I was bachelor, the only piece of furniture in my house was a Futon. I put that in front of my TV in the living room and pretty much sat, ate, slept, there watching TV. The TV was strategically placed so that it also faced the kitchen. So in case I had to cook or walk to the kitchen to get something, I could continue watching TV. Since I went to bathroom only during commercial breaks I ensured that 'real' T.V. time never got reduced. I was mostly alone at home. The silence was golden. It was just me and my thoughts. If my thoughts were another person then I would say he was louder than me. We developed radical ideas together, replayed great cricketing moments, and rewrote movie scripts to fit thamizh milieu. Our lives revolved around TV programs and movie releases. We were particularly proud of one piece of electronic equipment. The Bose LifeStyle II Audio and Home Theater system. We would wonder how William tell symphony sounded without the Surround feature turned on or how the small strings in 'Pachai Nirame' song came out so clearly in this system. This is the only piece of electronic equipment that survived my bachelor days.

I bought this with my first month's salary. A few years ago my newly married wife carelessly dropped the remote causing it to get scratched. The consequent domestic squabble caused the man and woman of the household to not speak for an amount of time - prescribed as appropriate for cold war silence by the Board of marriage - before the man of the house relented and apologized. The concept of wife has often been commented upon in Solomon Pappaiyah patti mandrams and S. Ve. sekhar dramas. And what Raja says to Paappaiyah is true. Wife is audit/investigative/controls & compliance unit. The unit is programmed that way and the unit will execute. No matter what. The unit could not compute the presence of this other person in our life - my thoughts/day dreams/drift-offs. Looking back it was inevitable that thoughts and wife wouldn't get along. She quickly found out that he was a competitor. And constantly kept asking him 'who are you'? Thoughts didn't like being interurupted. Especially when he was telling me to spot all the small little sounds that ARR puts in his tracks. Then one day he got up and went away. Wife unit then began to constantly switch off the music and shut down the laptop and said 'let us talk'. But I wasn't used to talking. Thoughts was the one who talked a lot and he went away.

Fast forward to now. It has been about 3 months since I switched on my TV. Maybe more. I would have been sure if I knew what date today was. I don't listen to songs anymore. The last ARR album I purchased was Ayidha Ezhutthu. I have a little monster running around like E.T. on steroids pulling out parts of my DVD player, keyboard, sub-woofer, TV, wireless router and Comcast Receiver. Yesterday I saw my Bose speakers being thrown down from their stands and the remote was getting repeatedly smashed against the wall. And all I was said was "No.. I said NO". E.T does not understand languages. It does not know what 'NO' means ( I actually believe toddlers think 'no' means 'clap clap'). I could have snorted instead and it would have made as much sense. But i wasn't angry at my remote getting totally smashed. Thoughts might have been very angry. But he doesn't live here anymore.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Place of Worship Near Ground Zero

Why are desi liberals suddenly saying that building a Ram Temple near the place where Babri Masjid once stood - actually supports freedom of religion? 5 years ago it was characterized as fundamentalism by the these liberals.

Place of worship near ground zero is a good thing. Babar, Akbar, Aurangazeb, Osama, Obama, Advani, Vajpayee all are on the same page with me on that point.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Va Quarter Cutting"

Finally Gayathri-Pushkar follow-up their ultra awesome movie 'Oram Po' with their latest "Va Quarter Cutting"

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

P != NP

For a simple guy from Madras University, a course on Advanced Data Structures was just too much to handle. After couple of weeks into the quarter, a few of us developed severe stomach upset and sudden affinity towards our IIT classmates. Frankly, I could never wrap my head around turing machines and the P/NP problems. I always asked a JEE #29 to tranlate all this into either Thamizh or at least Thamizh Nadu English. Reason for bringing this subject up is that twitter, Facebook and emails are all abuzz over this. Apparently a major breakthrough has been made that I am hoping will cause all students who have been given a 'B' grade in this course to get a better grade :-)

Even now reading the gory details of the problem, its proof and its rebuttal makes my stomach woosy and heart beat really fast. Really - the day before the exam, the stomach-upset thing got so big among us retards that we told and retold the 'N-P Hard" (which is a class of problems) and 'uN-P Soft' (which is a case of exam fear) joke and laughed out silly. We needed the joke because we'd been shitting bricks otherwise. I hope the guys who 'get' this kind of stuff not further the research anymore in the interest of poor students who have to write exams on it in the future.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

On Marriage Invitations

You would imagine that inviting someone for an event would be a matter of inviting someone for that event. And that the person being invited is attending the event because they genuinely like you and all that they are looking for from the invitation is the date, location and time of the event. This kind of expectation is limited to only those people, who have been with you during the most key moments of your life. Such people probably supported you without question in some crisis or other. You might even call them one of the most important people in your life. Then comes the other 99% of the people, you call 'Dhoorathu sondham' - who S. Ve. Sekhar in '1000 Udhai vaangiya aboorva sigamani' very subtly refers to as 'OOOho Kazhutharappaa'. This category makes you realize that there is inviting and then there is innnnnnviiittting. How do you show someone that they are very very special (in fact more special than Laxman) and that you badly badly want them to come to your occasion. Much more importantly, how do you satisfy people who think they are very very special and deserve something more than just an invite.

Exit the sane idea of a simple phone call to tell the invitee about date & time of the event. Enter the multi-layered invitation process. The parent of the bride calls this person over the phone and lets them know their daughter is getting married and that an invitation is on the way. Then the actual invitation is sent "cordially inviting" this person. But a bland invitation won't do. So a post-it note is stuck inside asking the person to consider this "as a personal invitation" and attend. 1 week after the invite is sent , a confirmation phone call is done to ask if the invitation was received and reminding them that they should certainly attend. Then there is this whole category of "personal invite" which is more personal than the "personal invite" post-it stuck on what was already a personal invitation. This is to show that the invited person is not just very very very special. But very very very very very special. So armed with a blouse piece, shirt-bit and teeny-weeny sized pot of kungumam, the parents of the bride rent a call-taxi and go on an inviting spree to meet the invitees directly and plead them to come and attend. This extreme personal invite is to guard against people who give statements like "but it was the postman who invited me and I don't know him well enough"

The invitation process reminds one of what happens in the actual marriage. No, I am not referring to the 2-day silk-saree, gold jewellery and padmanabhan samayal extravaganza. This is the one where the bride and groom really do the work of saying the vedic mantras to actually get married. The priest - if he is from a non-vaikanasa agama school - asks the groom to prefix every mantra - that ends with 'swaaha' and ghee being poured into fire - with "idhanna muh-ma". It means "I am not doing this for my sake" (but for your sake! god). Most grooms who did not fall into the conveniently lazy 'maadern' concept of "I yam spiritual but not religious" would have to actually say this phrase N-1000 times in 2 days. They have to say it so many times that the words replay in your dreams for at least a week. At some point the ritual, priest and the groom get so paranoid that the groom is saying "in case you had any doubt god.. this is not for me". to be followed up with "in case you had doubts after the last time i suspected you of having doubts.. please understand that I am not doing this for me" and a few thousand times later says "if after the 6000 times of saying so - in case you had any doubts - this is not for me".

The bride's father is very similar to the groom here. After inviting people so many times, he has to continue inviting them even after they have actually arrived at the wedding. The saaraya baattil groom may have claimed to be "modern" or "progressive" or "broad minded but spiritual" and would claim that he is "not interested in the archaic rituals and superstitions of the religion". They may even say that "as long as the mind is sincere and honest" everything is just awesome. The groom's family are so modern that they may cut budget by reducing 5 priests to just 1 and 10 rituals to just 2. But that does not mean the bride's family should stop inviting people after the marriage has begun. The people who come for Jaanvasam need to be invited again with "vaango! vaango" and when they leave they need to be given a verbal evite-reminder of "please come for muhurtham and reception also".

Like S. Ve. Sekhar prophesizeed before "thalaivar spelling mistake panna kooda thanakku rs 10,000 laabam vara madhiri dhaan pannuvar". The groom's family may be modern enough to let saaraya bottil have a bachelor pary in a bar near the mandapam but they aren't about to forget the age-old ritual of sixty thousand invitations to the same three people, Rs 10,000 for "reception dress" and 50 pounds of gold hanging on the bride's body. You can't cut any of this and file it under the "spiritual but not religious" account by saying "I have a sincere thought in my mind to give you 50 pounds of gold as dowry but I can give only Rs 3" . Doing so would make the groom's family barbaric.

So the same set up of people are invited by the hosts over and over again for the next 2 days. The are invited to the actual wedding hall, to the kitchen, dining room, beeda stall, ice cream stall, thengai room, maangai room, seer varusai room, bathroom, electrical room, until they have been given the vetthalai paaku and sent out. Because these very very special people are the 'kavari maan'. They get offended at the slightest hint of invite-packet drop. They are sure to call and remind next day that "one coffee was not given" or "that man forgot to invite me for the 60th time". The host's family have only one opportunity to get back. That is when an invited person does not show up and does not even do a "vijaarikarthukku" phone call. Then it is payback time.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Wow :-)

Inception Sourced to Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge

Still doesn't take much away from my opinion of the movie. Most things can be sourced to a comic strip. But I am impressed with DOnald Duck now more than ever.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Birthday

Having a birthday, when you are some nth standard uniform-wearing student in school, is the most horrendous thing that can happen to you. Do you remember being allowed to wear "color 'dress'" on your birthday? That single gap in the "color 'dress'" rule gave way to a lot of connected events that went on to cause havoc in my life. The first thing that happens when people look and wonder at you in color 'dress' is - that they look at you and wonder. Any other day you could have passed away anonymously in the blue and more navy blue uniform. You are one among the thousand students who are never noticed. On this day, in terms of drawing attention to yourself, you are wearing something worse than what Bruce Willis wore on opening scenes of Die Hard 3, when he had to go to Harlem. Its like nobody can miss noticing you. You have a target shaped sign marked on your forehead. Somebody is going to ask you for a chocolate soon. And you don't have an unlimited supply.

Then there is this dreaded PT sir who always is on the lookout for students coming in color dress because their moms miscalculated the laundry cycle. The way PT sirs are coded, they hit you and then ask questions. So in Pennathur Subramaniam school, one had to yell - "saar today is my happy birthday saar" in order to avoid the preemptive whack. As if announcing your own birthday isn't shameful enough some schools like SBOA made you stand in the front of the assembly to celebrate your birthday. A teacher who you only recognize as being a pompous show-off will announce in the mike "And here are the dear children who are celebrating their birthdays today..". Standing in front of N thousand students singing "happy birthday dear Amudha/stephen/Madhan/.." means you delayed the assembly by 3 minutes with that stupid birthday song. On a hot sunny day - many students don't appreciate that.

The culture of bringing chocolates and distributing them to your classmates was a nerve wracking thing within itself. When do you get up from your bench/chair and start distributing? And when you do get up - the first recipient you stick-out the chocolate bag to - doesn't get it. And a split-second later the bulb glows and he puts his hand inside the chocolate bag. That moment of getting up and walking to some one's bench (typically the first bench) to distribute sweets takes a lot of courage. Seriously!!, a man who has done that has more courage than a man who has run naked across the Arctic circle. Isn't it odd to abruptly stand and start distributing chocolates to arbitrary people? What if the teacher doesn't get it and asks "what are you doing not sitting in your bench"? Alternatively, asking for permission "Ma'am can I distribute chocolates, as it is my birthday today" is a shame. This is what girls who sit in first bench who have loud voices do. You don't want to be like them. It is easier to do this if there are two people celebrating birthdays on that day. Then you can get up when he/she gets up. Piggy backing on the opening the other guy created is the best birthday gift ever.

But this leads to chocolate wars. Whose chocolates were better? The previous day you spend time convincing your father that Choco-Bite and Eclairs is what is you give out in rich schools like Ida Scudder and that the yellow color/orange-flavored hard chocolate that I always asked for is soooo thirunelveli. You turn up the next day and find bespectacled Kalyanaraman is not only celebrating his birthday the same day as you (because his real birthday falls the next day which is a Saturday) but also handing out Diary milk. Diary Milk!!! Not just for the entire class but to all 5 sections. He is not Kalyanaraman but DabbuPartyRaman. The Choco Bite looks like a wimp. Actually not. You look like a wimp. The choco bite is glad that its wrapped inside the cover as it can't bear to see the ignominy. To compensate for such terrible things - the great thing on birthdays was neither your parents nor your teachers beat you up. You could do anything and you'd get away with it - that day. Even that girl in the first bench (the boring one with the loud voice) who complained to teachers that you talked too much in class, gave you a break.

My birthday always happened in the middle of 1st mid-term exams. Up until 8 AM my mother would be yelling at me, trying to make me memorize differences between sedimentary rocks and Igneous rocks. At the stroke of 8 AM - suddenly - she'd be all smiles and give me the dreaded color dress and a bag of chocolates. Schizophrenic adults. Who is interested in chocolates when Geography mid-term exam is going on? Today 1-year olds have a party with 80 people attending. In those days, having a party just because the date and month in that day's calendar matched that of a person's birthdate is what rich kids from Adayar Shishyas and Anna Nagar did. Mylapore people went to the Srinivasa/Kesava perumal temple for an 'archanai'. Once a party was attempted in the evening with 8 shit-scared kids with food consisting of 'mixture' and a plum cake (ywack!). The kids and their moms were all talking about the next day's Social Studies exam for the whole time. I promptly came back with a 31 out of 50 for that exam. End of Experiment.

The advantage of growing older is that birthdays can be hidden. But in a strange way it also reminds you that you can't be the "King for a day" anymore. That you are old and you have to provide for rather than be provided for. And despite all the inconveniences a birthday offered in school, you kind of miss that.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Yuvan Shankar Raja

COmposed 3 very good songs this year

Baana Kaathadi



Goa - Idhu Varai (Where Super Singer Winner Ajeesh Sings)



En Kaadhal Solla

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Big Temple: 1000 Years

Raja Raja Chozhan built the Brhadeeswara temple in Thanjai in 1010 A.D. On July 17th the temple completes 1000th year of its existence. Having lived in Thanjavur - I am surprised that no press outfit mentions something every thanjai person never forgets to mention - that the shadow of the temple tower never falls on the ground. That it always falls on itself.

The Hindu Says

The temple occupies an area measuring about seven-hundred and fifty feet by four hundred feet, in a fort, surrounded by a moat. It is a marvel of engineering, considering the technology of those ancient times. The towering Vimanam is built up with stones with bonding and notching, without the use of mortar. The topmost stone weighing about eighty tons is still a matter of discussion for engineers who are baffled as to how the builders lifted it to that height without the help of modern contrivances. A charming tale is told about a ramp being built from a village – Sarapallam- four miles away, from where the giant stone was pulled up by elephants! The details of the stone work of this imposing “vimanam” are representative of the masterly craftsmanship of South Indian artisans. The ‘shilpi’- sculptor, and the ‘ sthapathi’ – architect came together to create their fanciful abode for Shiva. Naturally, the shape had to echo mount Kailash itself. In its perfect geometry and distinct clarity of lines, this tower is unbeatable.

The inner sanctum houses something possibly not found in other temples -- some rare paintings,which were not discovered until a few decades ago. However, access to the paintings is restricted as they are in a very fragile state.

Officials of Archaelogical Survey of India,which maintains the temple, say it represents the zenith of the Dravidian type of temples in its purest form, has precision of conception and execution and magnitude of scale.



Here is a Video Feature on the temple [ the second half of the video and the rest of the video series. The first half of the video features the cliched grave yard]



The Times Says

The Archaeological Survey of India that maintains the temple has just completed restoration of the northern corridor. The floor had sunk, unable to bear the weight of the stone pillars and ceiling. The ASI took up restoration work in 2006 and completed it at a cost of Rs 63 lakh. Landscaping is also being done in the precincts of the temple. "More grass instead of brick will reduce heat generation," said an ASI official.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Inception: One of The Best Movies Ever

Sometimes I wonder about the value of superlatives in describing a movie. No superlative can capture the experience of watching this movie. How can a director create magic on screen with a story so complicated that others can't even dream of writing it on paper without confusing the reader? This complex movie has been told in such a peculiarly disciplined and organized way that one feels that this is probably the only way in which such a story can be told. The movie is clear when it tells us the complicated part. And then the movie goes a level up and plays with our head. It is hard to pin-point what Nolan's theme is. Each one of the three of my favorite Nolan movies - Memento, Prestige and now Inception is worthy of being on a Top 10 mind twister movies ever made. The audience go through a intellectually mind-wringing experience when we struggle with the 'what' and 'when' in these movies. This distorts our perception of movie's reality and makes the movie look like one large puzzle. In memento Nolan made the audience struggle to keep track of 'what' was happening and completely blind-sided us with the 'when'. In Prestige, again it was a struggle with multiple narratives to understand the 'what' and we were jolted because we did not know the 'who'. In Inception we struggle to remember and keep track of 'what' is happening, more importantly 'where' the hell this 'what' is happening and then Nolan hints (almost winks) a little about the 'when' aspect.

The most rewarding part of watching such movies is the uncompromising way in which the movies force you to be involved, stay on top of things, think quickly, form theories, constantly correct them and in general live through an experience similar to what the characters in the movie seem to be experiencing. Its like a puzzle that gets harder and harder. Inception deals with the concept of placing a thought in a person's head with several levels of redirection. The planting of the idea must not be explicit but should appear as if the idea formed as a result of the person's experiences. These experiences happen in a dream. And the dream that is the genesis of the idea is a nested inside another dream, which in-turn is nested inside another dream. Dreams appear to be C program type loops and nested dreams follow the logic of nested loops, where for every iteration of the first loop there are N iterations in the 2nd order nested loop and N^2 iterations in the 3rd order nested loop. So 10 hours of sleep in the first loop translates to 50 years of life in the 3rd order dream. This concept is used superbly by characters who make up for time related short-comings by opening up a nested dream that buys them more time (30 minutes of the movie happens between the time it takes atruck to fall from a bridge into the water). There are rules and logic in the dream world, 'break' operations that can cause loop exits - called 'kick'.

Nolan hints at what is to come when the architect, Ariadne, who is tasked with architecting the look, location and feel of dream world, shows Cobb a sample of what she can do. In a classic moment she does with mirrors a image that resembles the classic picture of a man drawing a picture of a man drawing a picture of man drawing a picture... And we are not sure if we are part of the picture or outside it. Cobb thinks he is sure. But is he? The ending is just incidental to the overall movie experience. I cannot find words to describe what an experience it was watching Inception. This is true movie making of the highest calibre. Worth waiting 4 years to a get a movie that treats the audience with intellectual respect.