Under the sun

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


I was a 'dude' back then, this time around i felt like an uncle. Age catches up. A dope-free Saarang 2006 for me, and everyone else i think!
The jukebox was gone [why the fuck?] but the irritating 'junta', 'arbit', 'hazaar' and 'mochaan', 'da' being inappropriately used by Northies were still in parlance. Don't the kids move on?

Some observations....
  • There was this street theatre group performing in 6 languages! They started and ended their play with these immortal verses from the great Bharathi
"pirar vAda pala seyaLgaL seidhu
narai kUdi kizhapparuvam Eidhi
kodunkUtrukku iraiyAgum pala vEdikkai manidharaippOl
vIzhvEn endru ninaithAyO!"

  • The powerchord and decibels [western music events as the events are euphemistically called], were dominated by noise producing metal heads. Whatever happened to good old pure rock? Rock is not just about hollering with guitars and drums producing only noise. Of course, there were exceptions. The group Panetella deservedly won the finals. They had everybody transfixed to their improvizations and medleys of The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix et all. They were the only band, if my memory serves me right, to play some classic and blues rock over the two days. These guys have got to be pros. For sure.
  • JAM was incredibly funny, sometimes to the point of being wicked. Total fun nevertheless. More than the winner, the guy who finished 7th stole the show :)
  • The locals [quintessential Chennai guys, who are characterized by their urge to indulge in some big time eve-teasing] were present in large numbers. More on them later.
  • The classic rock performance by IIT-ians and one of their professors was a highlight. He could have been the lead singer of a rock band [even at his age!] and still be very successful. The Pink Floyd medley was God-level, maaan!
  • Didn't get to watch the quiz finals, unfortunately.
  • The rock show was a two-part affair with Parikrama opening and Led Zepplica following. Parikrama were great, barring their screw-up of Hendrix's "Purple Haze". Led Zepplica were definitely the next best thing to Led Zeppelin themselves. However, due to a fucked up Chennai law that public performances should not go on after 11PM, an IIT dean pulled out the power chords [literally] midway into the grand finale song, "Stairway To Heaven". Why didn't they begin the concert on time, in the first place? Why are deans and vice-chancellors like this? Manufacturing defect, i guess....

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


An archaic one but apt nevertheless....... "yeh cinema hai ya circus???"

Monday, January 23, 2006


There are some people who are, what i would describe as "around-shoulder-lookers". Well, to be honest, everyone is, but the magnitude of "around-shoulder-looking" varies between people and the for the aforementioned, this magnitude is on the higher side.

around-shoulder-looker: A person who often doesn't have or express his/her opinion on matters. He/She always looks around his/her shoulder to see what the majority [or in some cases, the people who matter] says. In other words, he/she says what the others say.

Having seen people sing praises for City Of God and finally getting my hands on the DVD, my expectations were rather high before watching the flick. Maybe my expectation was the reason i was disappointed after watching the movie. This is from the Tarantino school of movie-making, which has its own set of fans. I've seen this around-shoulder-looker phenomenon in its height in cases like Kill Bill, The Da Vinci Code [sole reason why i haven't read it] and so on. City Of God also falls under the same category.

After the disappointment, i was in for a pleasant surprise when i watched the French film L'ennui with little or no expectations other than the basic assumption that the French love bizarre and abstract themes and characterizations.
L'ennui is about a philosophy professor who is unable to progress on his project of writing a book. He comes across a model Cecilia, who, in bizarre circumstances has been making love to an old painter when he dies right in the middle of the act. He wants to know the most intimate details of her relationship with the painter. Cecilia comes across at first as a plump, dumb 17 year-old model. She always answers in monosyllables or a few words at the most. She doesn't show power, character or emotion. In fact, she doesn't express anything at all. They get into a relationship - built purely around sex and with absolutely no commitments. He finds Cecilia absolutely plain, uninspiring and lifeless and wants to end the relaionship by giving a parting gift, as suggested by his ex-wife. Cecilia doesn't turn up at his apartment that day. This is the focal point of the movie. We see him taking a 180 degree turn [actually its a surprise for Him, let alone the audience] and realizing that he is now so dependent on her that he lives and breathes Cecilia. To make things worse, she has another lover, whom she dates behind his back. Jealousy, possessiveness, sexuality and human nature are explored and depicted in a stunningly realistic manner, and in stark detail. In fact, its got some of the most realistic and spontaneous scenes and dialogues i've ever seen in a movie [in Thamizh, kAdhal comes to mind]. He wants to possess her and make her his, but she is so detached, devoid of emotions, bound only by sex. In fact, i can recall only one instance in the movie where she speaks to him without him asking a question first. She makes it very clear that she will not leaver her lover and she wants them both. As a last resort, he offers her money and the token of marriage, but she's ina league of her own. He goes to the brink of insanity in the end but survives.
On the face of it, there's not much in terms of theme or "story" per se, but the strength of this movie lies in its realistic portrayal of human nature. I would choose realism and exploration of human nature any day over stylized narration, quick-cuts or hand-held camera work.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Rape Of Genres

The purists slammed Aandavar and Sagara Sangamam because, in their view, they had committed sacrilege by "diluting" the art form of classical Indian dance. Ilaiyaraaja and Das annan faced the same music for Sindhu Bhairavi. Aandavar and Ilaiyaraaja were unapolegetic, rightly in my view, saying that they are not obliged to pay obeisance to the purists or operate within the confines of strict rules. Cinema, as an art form is big enough to encompass dance, music and other art forms as long as the inherent qualities are not lost or spoilt.

Cut to the scene in the late 90s. Ilaiyaraaja and A.R Rahman had created waves in blending different musical forms, without compromising on the essence of each form (f)used. If Ilaiyaan gave us the brilliant "Ninnukkori Varnam", "Kaadhal Kasakkudhayya", "Roja poo adivandhadhe" , "Ilamai Idho Idho" and "Rambambam Aarambam", ARR gave us "Kannalane", "Kannum Kannum Kollai Adithaal" and "Petta Rap" [to this day, being one of the "proper" Indian rap songs]. If ARR was ahead of his [peer's and audience's] time, Ilaiyaan was beyond time. We also had Tier-2 MDs like Vidhyasagar give numbers like "Malare Mounama" from time to time and Deva pioneering the concept of "Gaana paattu", in between his fulltime hobby of copy-pasting music. Sometime during that period the trend was to belt out "western" pop numbers [when MTV entered Indian Telivision]. Ace of Base, Dr.Alban, Apache Indian et all. This was followed by a period of degradation when lesser mortals like Deva, Sirpi etc tried their hand at doing an ARR and failed miserably. In fact, Deva then became a victim of his own obsession with gaana and sound-alikes fell by the wayside like nobody's business, dragging down TFM along with them. The less said about S.A Rajkumar, the better. I once spotted him in the Adithya Hotel bar with a Johny Walker bottle clutched under his arm pit and staggering across the room, a pitiful but immensely entertaining sight :) His music is NOT entertainment.

In the recent past, a self-stoking vicious cycle of musical rape was set in motion when a kuthu paattu became a hit. Who the composer was, what song it was and how good it was - all these are besides the point. What matters is that it set a trend which is as monotonous as the ticking of a clock and as musically enriching as the drone of a driller. The only upside to this was an enormous increase in the sales of Anacin and Avomin. In fact, i used to carry a paper bag used in Airplanes as puke-containers to the movies. Everytime a kuthu paatu came, which was mandatory in every film [well, almost] i had the choice of going out for a dum, or in theatres where smoking was banned, i put the paper bag to good effect. Thamizh folk music has a great tradition and it was part of the lifestyle in rural TN. Even if the year is 2003, the period of synthesizers, you can get unadulterated pure folk - Virumaandi was testimony to that. The confidence, conviction and the security the film-maker and the MD had was amazing.
My TV remote is now not functioning due to the number of times it has been thrown in exasperation after seeing yet another HOUSEWIFE request "Kumbida pona deivam" from Thirupachi in Sun Meesic.

I met an old friend of my old grandfather recently. He plays carnatic music on his keyboard. He proudly made us listen to one of his compositions - Vathapi on his Roland, with beats [totally off-synch with the song] set on "demo". This exactly is what is happening in M.Kumaran, Karka Kasadara and the likes.

Ilaiyaan, ARR TFM needs you! And you Tier-2 MDs, please keep off from regurgitated puke music. Never mind the trash mongering MDs.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Aandavar Darisanam - 2

I had seen Aandavar for the first time in October. mei marandhu pOnEn. Last evening, i had my second darisanam in Music Academy, where Aandavar was hosting (along with Chandrahaasan) a thanksgiving function for D.N.S, manager in Raajkamal Films International for 25 years and his wife Alamelu (producer, Guna).
The chief guests included Isaignani Ilaiyaraaja, K.Balachandar, S.P Muthuraman (MOC), AVM Saravanan, Charuhaasan, Manorama Aachi, Sathyajothi Thiagarajan and the Abhirami theatre owner who makes sure certain movies keep running even if the operator is the only watcher. The speeches of Isai Kadavul Ilaiyaraaja's (the genius's ego is fodder for the fans' interest and awe), and Aandavar in the end (goes without saying) were noteworthy. I don't know if Jaya TV will telecast it, but these two shouldn't be missed.

Aandavar was irritated and embarrassed by the antics of us Paradise Unit Dr. Kamal Bhakthargal.Many warnings were issued to us to remain quiet and stop whistling or shout slogans but nobody was listening.

P.S: Aandavar proved yesterday [yet again] that he is a Paramakudi Paarivallal by giving away a check of Rs.10,00,000/- to D.N.S

Monday, January 16, 2006

Point To Ponder

If you were a terrorist operating in India, what would figure first in your list of "hot" targets? I would say, any company in the Electronics City in Bangalore. In fact, last year there were rumors that there was a bomb threat (hoax) in the Infy or Wipro campus.
A strike would give the terrorists unprecendented recognition, inflict deep and gaping wounds in the Indian heart and would send out a strong and clear message. Also, one should remember that like the lives of people in the parliament, the lives of geeks [like me] are more precious compared to the lives of people who die almost daily in Kashmir, for example. Why hasn't it happened yet? What has stopped them from striking? Is the Indian Intelligence equal to the challenges posed by these threats? Can they be, in the first place?
Moreover, were a crazed suicide bomber to decide one day to execute orders from his high command and proceed to any of the companies at Electronics City [Phase I and II], can he be stopped? OK, let's assume there are at least 2 of them, carrying AK-47s and explosives strapped to their bodies. Can they be stopped? How? They aren't going to come in, have their faces photographed in the webcam and ask for visitor passes.
How difficult is the dismantling of terrorist infrastructure and support going to be, so that these 2 suicide bombers don't have the chances and means to carry out such attacks?
This brings us to the bigger question - can terrorism* be "cured"?

* - What is terrorism and who are terrorists is another matter and shall be taken up later.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Iniya Uzhavar Thirunal Vaazhthu

An enemy's enemy is a friend. Ku.. chi "Aadhi" tholviyai thazhuva vaazhthukkal....

pongal vAzhthukkaL :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Ikiru - To Live

When i write about a movie i've watched, i don't use the term "review" to refer to that. 'Review' sounds highbrow and condescending. 'Comments' sounds better and more apt. A lot has already been said about all the masterpieces and the great movies made that i would just be re-stating the obvious if i were to comment on many of those. It feels futile and redundant to write about all of those, however jobless i may be. However, i watched Akira Kurosawa's Ikiru last week and i felt its a very "personal" movie, like Rashomon and unlike The Seven Samurai or Yojimbo. Also, i'm in a mental and physical state of utter joblessness, and hence this paean from a movie lover. Don't know when i will attain this "Watanabesque" [read below] state of being again. [Knowing me, pretty soon!] Till then, eat this....
The movie starts with a shot of an X-ray of the protagonist with the narrator explaining "He has gastric cancer, but doesn't yet know it. He just drifts through life. In fact, he's barely alive."
Watanabe (Takashi Shimura), is a bureaucrat who works for 30 years at Tokyo City Hall as a section chief. He does nothing, literally. All he does is press a rubber stamp on each of the papers piled up on his desk. He learns that he has stomach cancer and he has only a few months left. The scene where he is waiting to see the doctor in the hospital is an amazing sequence of dynamic frame composition and the trademark Kurosawa "deep-focus" camera, where all the characters remian in focus, irrespective of their distance from the camera. Death's messenger comes in the form of another waiting patient through whom Watanabe learns that he has stomach cancer and his doctor only confirms it. The mind-numbing monotony and pointlessness of his life comes crashing down and it is at the threshold of death does he realize that he has not been living for all these years.
He goes home in the hope of finding some solace but realizes that there is no love lost between him and his son, not to mention his son's wife. He jumps into his bed and goes under the covers, crying uncontrollable, surrendering totally to fate, even as the camera focuses on a citation congratulating him for his long-standing service! No sugar-coating, romanticizing portrayal of his helplessness. It can't get more real than this.
He doesn't go to work for a few days. He befriends a man at a bar and confides to him that he has never lived life all these days and now that he knows death is near, he wants to stop existing and start living, but doesn't know how to! He drinks for the first time in his life, they go on a night out, partying hard.
He repeats the night out with a woman working under him, who tracks him down [he stops going to work] so that he can approve her resignation. The woman helps him understand that life has a purpose, after all. Kurosawa places
a beautiful metaphor in this scene, where a group of school girls are singing "Happy Birthday". He goes to his office the next day, and for the first time in his career, he works. He takes up the matter of abuilding a park for the people of a locality.
The rest is the real essence of the movie, structurally unique and also intriguing at a personal level for the watcher. I was reminded of the thought-provoking power of Rashomon when i saw this portion of the film - brilliant depiction of characters and human nature.
It is Watanabe's funeral and his family and colleagues are gathered, having Sake. Till now, the only impression Watanabe creates in those around him is only negative, or so it would seem to the audience. His family thinks that he blew up all his money on his lady colleague out of his lechery and his co-workers don't want to credit him with the successful completion of the local park. How one man influences the thinking of the others and acts as a catalyst in showing Watanabe in the right perspective is shown as a series of short flashbacks. Kurosawa succeeds in making every viewer of the movie and that particular character as one and the same. You talk through that character.
The famous series of still-shots of Watanabe's framed photograph [employed in the opening sequence in The Seven Samurai showing still-shots of the villagers huddled together gloomily] is as unusual as it is powerful.
A must watch-again film.

Friday, January 06, 2006

P.U litzer prizes - 2005

Norman Solomon joins Jeff Cohen (founder of the media watch group FAIR) to come up with the annual awards to the stinkiest media performances of the year.

Here are the awards.....

Women in Thamizh Cinema

Came across this in Forumhub.
Source: http://ghadar.insaf.net/November2005/MainPages/Khushboo.htm

One of the main arguments being advanced against pre-marital sex is that it would destroy families. For those uninitiated with the bizarre logic of Tamil filmdom, this line of reasoning requires some explaining. For, extra-marital affairs might induce jealousy and friction between possessive couples and cause breakdown of families, but how does pre-marital sex break up families? It does so by cutting the umbilical cord connecting every woman with her FUTURE husband. According to Tamil film logic, woman's beauty is meant for her husband's (and only his) enjoyment, so even when she is not married, she belongs to her future husband. Such sentiments (and variants thereof) abound in Tamil films. For instance, in a film (Manal Kayiru ) by a progressive director Visu, one of the criteria listed by the hero for his prospective bride is that she appear beautiful to him but ugly to everyone else (in other words, someone un-polluted by the male gaze!) In another film (Vandicholai Chinraasu), lyricist Vairamuthu -- who had in his earlier days written a moving eulogy to Karl Marx and is arguably the poet laureate of Tamil filmdom -- admonishes (through the film's hero) the immodest heroine for her dress and comport and "for exhibiting publicly (her) beauty whose enjoyment should have been the sole privilege of her husband." [The Anna University Vice-Chancellor seems to hold a similar view, for he recently imposed a dress code banning sleeveless tops, jeans, T-shirts and "tight-fitting clothes".]

Another film (Azhagarsamy) has Satyaraj, who has publicly expressed his desire to play the part of Periyar if ever a film is made on him, advising the heroine to give up revealing attire so as not to arouse the lust of the sex-starved villagers. In his notorious anti-reservations film, Gentleman , director Shankar blames an attempted rape of a woman on her glam doll persona! Wisen up and dress conservatively, the hero orders her, after bashing up the ruffians. Superstar Rajnikant's films are among the most sexist and have typically involved the taming of an arrogant woman (an allusion to Jayalalitha). In a recent film, when he sees his coterie ogling at the heroine and her sisters working out, he promptly requests the women to go indoors! If Rajnikant is the John Wayne of Tamil films, young lieutenant Vijay has got to be native version of Arnold Schwarzenegger. His films too are notoriously sexist; in his latest film (Sivakasi ), he launches into a lengthy monologue abusing the heroine (in full view of the public) for her short skirts and not-opaque-enough tops! Worse still, the heroine's father realizes the truth in Vijay's accusations and the heroine immediately switches to a saree! In yet another recently released film (Majaa), after the hero forcibly ties the mangalsutra around a shocked heroine's neck, she unreservedly accepts him as her husband. Turns out that the hero doesn't really love the heroine, but finally yields to the latter's devotion. Interestingly, the heroine in this film is submissive to both her husband and her father, so much so that even when she disagrees with her father's ways, she has to wait for the husband to take him down (at which point she silently rejoices!).

One notable feature of most Tamil films is that heroines are portrayed as sexually repressed (thereby posing no challenge to males) and sexually available. This sexualized image becomes their liability, and is exploited to run them down. The chain of logic runs like this: Sex is sin, the woman peer is sexual, her sexuality falls under the purview and exclusive control of her husband, so the husband (the film's hero) can treat her with contempt [Often times, violence in films is also sexualized; the hero's lover or sister get molested to provide some titillation to the male audience (or, is the director playing out his fantasies?) and also to afford an opportunity for the hero to flex his muscles. The heroine becoming polluted (by rape) would leave the hero without a suitable match, so she is more often molested than raped. And when the hero's sister is raped, she either commits suicide (unable to bear her loss of honor) or is murdered so that the hero doesn't have to confront her impure existence. For after all, if Maryada Purushottam Lord Shri Ram couldn't bear the indignity of aspersions being cast on his wife, how can a mere mortal (our film hero) be expected to suffer daily indignities on account of his polluted sister (who now is also unfit for marriage)?].

This is in stark contrast with the respectful treatment of desexualized women (the hero's mother etc.). Respect for desexualized women and contempt for sexual women, while due to sexual prudery, has resulted in a deification/subjugation binary treatment of women [The deification/subjugation binary has a long history, and one can find several instances in the films of MGR, Sivaji Ganesan and Rajnikant. This was not just a monopoly of the prudes -- actor/director Bagyaraj, credited with breaking the taboo on sex in Tamil films, used it in several of his films to degrade the sexualized heroine.]. Since all women peers (except those in a sisterly relationship) are sexualized, this also sustains the husband/wife hierarchy since the only woman worthy of respect is the mother (who belongs to the previous generation). How different is this from the Sangh Parivar's views on women?

Monday, January 02, 2006

NDTV Blues

I stopped watching NDTV's "The Big Fight" sometime back mainly because i was pissed off with Rajdeep Sardesai's incompetence. Out of curiosity, i was watching the 2005 recap special "The Biggest Fights", moderated by a bloke whose name i can't recall. This guy can put RS to shame, easily. The first big fight was between Rakesh Junjunwala and D Raja [CPI]. If RJ was behaving like a fat, spoilt brat, always interrupting, highly opinionated, lacking basic human decency, Raja screwed up a good chance to counter Rakesh's questions and ended up being the source of entertainment and laughter to the audience. Bigger morons were following.
I find it dificult to believe that a man like Cho. Ramaswamy [a man who says democracy should be replaced with dictatorship] is considered and respected as a political analyst. The moron of the day, however, was undoubtedly the anchor, for his "insightful" inferences, and "sound" judgement!


December is a good time to be in the culture capital Chennai. The month-long music/dance/drama festival attracts people from across the world. Had been to a concert featuring the incomparable Mandolin U Shrinivas and his brother Mandolin U Rajesh. Needless to say, a treat for the ears. Even for a novice like me, a performance by the likes of the Maestro can be an enriching experience. Just like last year, the highlight was the long but captivating rAgam thAnam pallavi. While our own mAmA's and mAmi's were scurrying here and there, the American lady sitting next to me was fixed to her seat, not because of obligation, but because of the captivation and the respect the music and the performers commanded. We can learn a thing or two from the west about concert etiquette.
Before the concert began, i was served the best possible pongal vadai, followed by AlU paratha [odd combination, i know] at the canteen @ nAradha gAna sabhA. Many people come just for the food. It doesnt get better than this....

vayitriRkum sevikkum suvayAna uNavu ikhdhE!


This year, like any other year, began with the "Happy New Year Song" iLamai idhO idhO...

Quittin' smoke and booze for the 81st time now....
Not a good year for Aandavar, hopefully 2006 turns out to be better...
The rest will flow with the tide of existence...