Thursday, June 30, 2005

Ilaiyaraja's Thiruvasagam Symphony

The release function for Ilaiyaraja's Thiruvasagam symphony was supposed to be held yesterday(June 30) evening in Chennai. Scheduled to attend were both Rajnikanth and Kamalhassan. But I haven't seen any reports/photos from the function yet. Indiaglitz has a gallery titled Thiruvasagam Symphony Of Maestro Ilayaraja but its dated 6/23. So I'm not even sure what that function was...

Out of my respect and admiration for the Maestro, I plan to buy the CD officially even if MP3s are available on the web. This will be my small way of saying "Thank You" for all the wonderful music he has given us over the years.

New Kids on the Blog

Just wanted to introduce a couple of new bloggers whose blogs have become part of my daily blogcheck...

Sundar - My wife's cousin's husband(guess that makes him my cousin brother-in-law:-) has started blogging, reminiscing about his recent trip to India. He started off ranting about the state of temples(actually, people employed there) in TN but seems to have cooled down yesterday :-)

Jayshree - A fellow Bay Arean, she seems to be another blogger(after Munimma) who seems to have a talent for writing interestingly about simple, everyday items. Her latest post is on that old favorite coffee. Besh, Besh. Romba nanna irukku!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Flash Fiction - 5

With all the Ammani-related comments for my previous attempt at flash fiction, I couldn't resist attempting a quick tale a la Ammani. So here I go...



Her father-in-law was coughing as he lay on the bed thirsty. Her mother-in-law was tired as she cooked alone in the kitchen. Her son was waiting so she could help him with his homework. She sat in the living room crying. The mother-in-law in Metti Oli was so cruel.

Its War!

[Pic Courtesy MovieWeb]

I remember summers even a few years ago where I looked forward to a Hollywood flick releasing every Friday and the same night - or worst case, the weekend - found me at the multiplexes standing in line. But the movies on my Summer must-see list have decreased over the years and this summer, I really wanted to see only three movies on the big screen - Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Batman Begins and War of the Worlds.

I have managed to see the first two already and the third movie in that short list releases today. Ofcourse it comes with a lot of expectations being a Spielberg film and Tom Cruise is icing on the cake. Their previous association, Minority Report, was a very intelligent film that won raves from most critics and won the first place in the year-end, top ten lists of both Ebert and Berardinelli. But Ebert is pretty harsh on War of the Worlds in his review today and Berardinelli's review isn't out yet.

Spielberg has dealt with sci-fi and aliens before in ET(which I liked) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind(which I didn't) but this is the first time he has the aliens as bad guys out to destroy mankind. As Berardinelli put it nicely, War of the Worlds is our chance to see how Spielberg would've made Independence Day!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Batman Begins

[Pic Courtesy IMDb]

As I mentioned in my book tag, I grew up reading Superman and Batman comics when I was young. I liked Superman initially since the stories were bright, lighthearted and simple. But as I grew older, I began leaning towards Batman who just seemed more 'adult'. Within the comics realm, he was more realistic since he had no superpowers and the stories were darker and more serious.

I liked the first Batman movie even though some parts were a bit too surreal. But I found Batman Returns to be too dark and depressing and since then its been a steep dive in quality since both Batman Forever and Batman & Robin were silly, campy and just plain weird. But Batman Begins has gone back to the roots and reinvented not just Batman's story but the series itself. It is dark without being too depressing; action-packed without being silly; and funny without being campy. In other words, it is the perfect big-screen adaptation for the caped crusader.

Batman Begins opens in a foreign prison where Bruce Wayne(Christian Bale) is holed up willingly as part of his crusade to understand the evil mind. He is brought out by Henri Ducard(Liam Neeeson), who tries to enroll him in the League of Shadows, which has a rather extreme attitude towards eradicating crime(they destroy the entire city which they believe is the breeding ground for crime). Bruce refuses, returns to Gotham and assumes the role of Batman, every criminal's worst nightmare. Meanwhile a psychiatrist(Cillian Murphy), who has assumed the name Scarecrow, has a dastardly plan for the city's residents.

I didn't find quite Bale's stint in prison and the following sequence with Liam Neeson very interesting, mainly because I have never read about segments like that in any of the comics. But the movie takes off once he movies back to Gotham. As in other superhero movies, the transformation of Bruce Wayne into Batman is the most interesting part of the movie. The movie lays out the reasons behind many aspects of Batman that we've come to take for granted. We learn about the reason behind Bruce picking the bat costume, the actual location and preparation of the batcave, the way the different parts of the costume come about and even the origin of the bat-signal.

The movie has a couple more villains than were really needed and things get murky when their plans and motives are described. But the main two villains are just what the doctor ordered. Their plots are suitably megalomaniacal and they are both cool, smart and a good match for a superhero. At the same time, they don't overshadow Batman himself, something that happened in the movies in the original series. The love interest comes in the form of Katie Holmes, Bales' childhood friend and now an assistant DA who is after the same people Batman is but in a different, more legal, way.

The movie has some great set pieces and action sequences. The night shots of Gotham are breathtaking and the monorail in the middle of it all is a marvel. The chase of the batmobile is thrillingly picturized as is the climactic scene in the monorail. And as expected, there are some iconic shots like Bruce standing in the middle with bats flying all around him(which symbolizes his overcoming his fear of them) and the Batman watching over Gotham perched atop one of the buildings. At the same time, some of the action sequences are captured in close-up and in a way where its not clear who is hitting whom!

The cast is wonderful and a big reason why the movie works so well. Bale makes a good Bruce Wayne, his eyes and scowl making it easy for us to understand his inner turmoil. Michael Caine, as his trusted butler Alfred, is alternately strict and caring. Morgan Freeman as always steals the scenes he is in with his meaningful smile and soft but loaded dialog delivery. Gary Oldman plays Commissioner Gordon, the only cop on Batman's side. Liam Neeson is classy and refined while Cillian Murphy is really creepy, with or without his mask. Katie Holmes looks pretty and cute but she and Bale aren't gonna challenge Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst for chemistry any time soon.

Based on personal experience, I think superhero movies are only for existing fans of the superhero who have grown up - or are still enjoying - his tales. I liked the Superman and Spider-man movies but didn't care too much for X-Men, The Hulk or any of the other long list of superhero movies in recent times. So if you like Batman comics, don't miss Batman Begins. It is still a good superhero/action movie for the others but you may not enjoy it as much as us fans.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Flash Fiction - 4


"I think I'm going to have the baby tonight," she said as she clenched her teeth to overcome a particularly tough contraction. "The contractions are evenly spaced and getting worse. These are definitely not Braxton-Hicks."
Her mom immediately opened the cupboard, took out her worn-out astrology book and started turning the pages.
"Tonight's a new moon night," said her mom. "Its not good if a baby is born on a new moon night. He will be very aggressive when he grows up."
"Amma," she said. "You know I don't believe in those stupid things."
But her mom continued to turn the pages and peer through her glasses at the pages as she held the book at different angles.
"If he's born tomorrow, his star will be Rohini," she said with a worried look on her face. "Thats not good for his uncle."
She looked exasperated."I really don't need this now Amma!"
"Atleast if he is born tomorrow he will be born on an even-numbered day," continued her mom. "That's supposed to be good for a boy."
"Please stop it Amma," she said. "You are so old-fashioned. How can you still be so superstitious in this age of technology and science? This is exactly why India is not developing. Everybody is stuck in the past with all these silly beliefs."
Shaking her head, she went into the other room, changed her dress and got ready to go to the hospital.
"OK mom, we're gonna go to the hospital now."
"This t-shirt is so old," said her mom looking at her. "And look at all the stains on it! The one you were wearing before was actually better. Why did you have to change?"
"Oh, this is the top I wore for my last pregnancy," she said matter-of-factly. "It is my lucky dress."

The Final Line Up

It was a lot of fun going through the great lines of dialog brought up in the comments section of the Great Lines post. There were quite a few memorable ones in there and the lines conjured up nice memories of the scenes and movies they appeared in.

But not all of them satisfied what I thought were the criteria for becoming a great line. Some, like the famous Veera Pandiya Katta Bomman monologue, were too long while others, like the line from Kuruthippunal, were meaningful but not common enough to have entered everyday conversation.

So with those criteria in mind, here are my final picks(again, in no particular order) for the top 25 lines from Tamil movies...

"Naalu perukku nalladhu seiyaradhunaa, edhuvum thappilla" - Naayagan

"Naan adichaa nee sethuduve" - Naayagan

"Avana nirutha sollu naan nirutharen" - Naayagan

"Naan oru thadavai sonnaa nooru thadavai sonnaa maadhiri" - Baasha

"Verum kaathu thaanga varudhu" - Thevar Magan

"En vazhi thani vazhi" - Padaiyappa

"Adhaanne idhu" - Karagaattakkaaran

"Thagudu thagudu" - Kaakki Chattai

"En characteriye purinjikka maatengiriye" - 24 Mani Neram

"Odi polaamaa?" - Idhayathai Thirudaathe

"Idhepdi iruku?" - 16 Vayadhinile

"Mathavangalukku kaadhal kannula aarambichu manasula mudiyum
Namma kaadhal manasula aarambichu kannula mudiyatume" - Kaadhal Koattai

"Odinaal odinaal vaazhkaiyin ellaikke odinaal" - Parasakthi

"Enakkoru unmai therinjaaganum saami" - Mudhal Mariyaadhai

"Mr. Chandramouli. Mr. Chandramouli" - Mouna Raagam

"Neenga thottaa kamblipoochi oorra maadhiri irukku" - Mouna Raagam

"Sir, neenga engeyo poiteenga" - Aboorva Sagodharargal

"En pondaatti oorukku poittaa" - Agni Natchathiram

"Nattamai, theerpa maathi sollu" - Nattamai

"Adhaiyum Thaandi Punithamaanathu" - Guna

"Naan police illa, porukki" - Saami

"Sabaash Seriyaana Potti" - Vanjikkottai Vaaliban

"Poruthadhu Podhum Pongi Ezhu" - Manohara

"Netrikkannai Thirandhaalum Kutram Kutrame" - Thiruvilaiyaadal

"Thamizhla enakku pidikkaatha ore vaarthai..." - Ramanaa

PS: I know the lines you all posted are close to your hearts. But as with any top-anything list, this one's subjective too. So please don't take it to heart if your line didn't appear on the above list. Its definitely not personal :-)

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Indian Grocery Stores

My wife and I were on our weekly Indian grocery shopping trip at Namaste Plaza in Sunnyvale today and a short conversation my wife had with an employee once again highlighted how different our Indian grocery stores are from the other stores.

My wife, who was completely dissatisfied with the quality of the vegetables, mentioned the same to the employee, who happened to be in the same area, slapping price labels on some items(his dress indicated his was higher up in the chain than delivery boy or stocker). His response to her was "Its OK ma'am. Our business is as good as it has always been and we are even opening new stores". Implicit in his response was his lack of concern at my wife not coming back to the store. Our $30 weekly bill is not going to make or break the store but has this man heard of the phrase "customer service"?

Though they are essentially grocery stores like Safeway, Albertsons, etc., Indian grocery stores seem to exist in a world all their own. The phrase "When in Rome, do as Romans do" does not seem to apply to them at all.

An Indian store can usually be spotted by its exterior appearance. There are boxes of vegetables and fruits out in the open with hand-written signs advertising their low prices. The setting does not improve when we go in. There is hardly any wall-space available with all the advertisements for upcoming music shows, sales, classes targetting Indians, etc. (ofcourse the quality of the wall in the places without such flyers tempts us to put one up just so that the space is not visible any more!). Crates and boxes are haphazardly spread around with no concern for customer safety and (I'm guessing) safety rules.

Items are misplaced in all the aisles and the floors are littered with rice and various podis (its really amazing that the same desis who are so conscious of littering in an American store don't think twice about doing the same here). The situation gets worse if the store sells eatables like samosas, puffs, etc. Several packages have been opened in the aisles and crushed packets are a common sight. Customer service is almost non-existent with queries regarding the location of an item getting either an "I don't know" or "there", with a finger vaguely pointed at the aisles to the right or the left of the answerer. And there's always the fear of seeing the smiling, over-friendly desi who is either an Amway representative or the owner of a fledgeling startup who wants us to "spend a few minutes next weekend to listen to what he is doing".

But until the day Safeway starts stocking murungakkai and vazhakkai and chilli powder and puli and all those other uniquely Indian vegetables and spices our tongues have become addicted to, Indian grocery stores are going to be an inescapable part of life in the US. Being in the Bay area, Indian stores are a dime a dozen. Over the years we've jumped from one store to the other for one reason or the other. We've gone from Bharath Bazaar(too dirty) to India Cash & Carry(not much variety in vegetables) to Coconut Hill(too far) to New India Bazaar(too crowded and hence, slow) to Spiceland(poor quality of vegetables) to Namaste Plaza. We've been going to the last mentioned for a while now since it was convenient, cheap and had lots of vegetables (ofcourse, the free DVD rentals for groceries helped too).

But after today, we're not sure if we're gonna be going there again. So the search for a good Indian grocery store continues...

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Twelfth Card

Its always the memories of the author's best books that stay in mind when I lay my hands on a new book. So expectations are quite high when I start reading. But its going to be difficult for any author to consistently exceed or even match his best work in the past and so I am invariably disappointed. Thats the problem with Jeffery Deaver's latest book The Twelfth Card. It is a good read but nowhere close to Deaver's best(which IMO are The Bone Collector and The Coffin Dancer).

Here Lincoln Rhyme is drawn into an investigation into an attempted attack on a black teenager. The subject matter that the girl was reading(one of her ancestors' involvement in a robbery) makes Rhyme believe that the attack may be linked to something that happened 140 years ago.

The best parts of any Lincoln Rhyme novel are the parts where he analyzes the clues at a crime scene. Its the same here too. His take on the clues found at the attack site and the way it leads to the criminal are detailed and fascinating. Ofcourse, having a villain who is easy to apprehend would be no fun. The killer here is both ruthless and smart and Deaver fleshes him out nicely.

The story as always takes several twists and turns though the twists were neither as many nor as surprising as in Deaver's earlier novels. Some of the sequences are a little predictable for readers familiar with Deaver's style. The eventual motive seemed too far-fetched to me and the unmasking of the main villain was not as big a surprise as I was hoping for.

Overall, The Twelfth Card kept me engrossed though I've had better from Deaver. But I'll definitely reserve his next book, which is supposed to be a Rhyme mystery too, the moment it is announced.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Update on Updates

- Reviews for Anniyan and Arindhum Ariyaamalum are now online at bbreviews.

- The US Tamil Cinema Viewer guide has been updated with more categories suggested by the commenters.

Planned Weekend Updates:

- Thots on Batman Begins, which I plan to see in IMAX tomorrow night...

- The I, Me, Myself meme(finally!) which IBH tagged me for...

- Thots on Twelfth Card, which I hope to finish reading tonight...

- Upgrade of the Great Movie Lines list to a Top-25(maybe more!) list by adding some of the great lines in the comments section...

- Attempt to come up with an idea for continuing the Unfinished Business story started by Munimma and continued by Arvind...

- Cover up the bruises that will be inflicted by the wife if I actually sit at the computer for the time needed to do all the above :-)

TGIF! Have a great weekend everybody :-)

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Kaal - Review

Kaal is backed by names like Karan Johar and Shah Rukh Khan(who even makes a special appearance for the title song sequence) and has quite a high-profile star cast. After the movie, the question foremost in my mind was "Why?". Why would such popular actors and a successful producer/director, who could have their pick of projects, associate with a by-the-numbers horror flick that, if not for their presence, would be a low-budget screamfest?

A wildlife expert(John Abraham), along with his wife/photographer(Esha Deol) travels to Orbit National Park for research on man-eating tigers for a National Geographic article. In the park he runs into a tourist(Vivek Oberoi), his girlfriend(Lara Dutta) and their friends, who are there for their holiday. The group, which doesn't obey the rules about not hunting, etc., gets trapped in the jungle due to some landslides and a mysterious man(Ajay Devgan) who seems to wield power over even the tigers, attempts to take them to safety.

Kaal, for the most part, is based on The Ghost and the Darkness, with tigers taking the place of the two lions in the original. We get similar stories about the nature of the man-eating tigers, point-of-view shots as they target their next meal and a man who has an uncanny knowledge of the jungle and its inhabitants. But the film then turns into a horror flick as the people in the group are targeted and the killings become quite gruesome. The director, obviously at a loss here since The Ghost and the Darkness doesn't take that route, turns to movies like Final Destination for inspiration during these portions.

Kaal takes the horror movie out of its usual confines of a house, cabin, etc. and moves it to the wild outdoors. Unfortunately that is its only claim to fame. It faithfully sticks to all other horror movie cliches like eerie sounds, odd camera angles, unnecessarily dramatic shots and anticlimactic Boo! moments. These work the first couple of times but then become irritating.

But no horror movie gets by without stupid people doing stupid things that almost make us feel like they deserved what they got, and Kaal has no dearth of them. Consider this... You are in a house in the middle of the jungle, you have been warned about the dangers of stepping outside and you have seen a few people killed in scary ways. You get thirsty. What do you do?
a. You control your thirst and go back to sleep
b. You wake the rest of the group and try to find some water inside the house
c. You stand up, walk out on tiptoe so you don't wake up anyone else and go to a well(which you have been warned not to go near) to draw some water

No prizes for guessing what one of the characters does in this film...

And then there's the scene where the jeep is stuck in the middle of the jungle and Vivek Oberoi gets down to see if he can fix the problem. Lara Dutta keeps screaming at him to get back into the jeep since the tigers may come. How his getting into a stationary, open-air jeep would help if tigers come, I have no idea!

Ajay Devgan uses his piercing eyes and serious demeanor to good effect as he speaks ominously about the jungle and its secrets. Vivek Oberoi overdoes the yuppie act while John Abraham is wooden as usual. Both Lara Dutta and Isha Deol are dressed like they were planning to spend a day at the beach rather than in a forest and don't have to do much beyond looking scared.

If you're in the mood for horror, just rent Bhoot again...

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Line Up

The American Film Institute has just published the list of the top 100 movie quotes of all time in Hollywood movies. So what makes a line a quotable quote? I guess it should be short; it should be catchy; it should be so inseparable from the scene that just hearing the line brings back memories about the scene; and most importantly, it should catch the public's fancy and be endlessly reused(imitated, satired, etc.).

Naturally, the list led me to think about memorable lines in Tamil movies. Surprisingly, I couldn't recall many lines from the acknowledged classics i.e. the movies that were mentioned in the Top Ten post by both me and the readers. Most of the lines I could recollect are from more popular movies.

So, without further ado, here are 15 lines(in no particular order) from Tamil movies over the years that I think would make it to a Best Quotes list...

"Naalu perukku nalladhu seiyaradhunaa, edhuvum thappilla" - Naayagan

"Naan Adichaa nee sethuruve" - Naayagan

"Naan oru thadavai sonnaa nooru thadavai sonnaa maadhiri" - Baasha

"Verum kaathu thaanga varudhu" - Thevar Magan

"En vazhi thani vazhi" - Padaiyappa

"Adhaanne idhu" - Karagaattakkaaran

"Thagudu thagudu" - Kaakki Chattai

"En characteriye purinjikka maatengiriye" - 24 Mani Neram

"Odi polaamaa?" - Idhayathai Thirudaathe

"Idhepdi iruku?" - 16 Vayadhinile

"Mathavangalukku kaadhal kannula aarambichu manasula mudiyum
Namma kaadhal manasula aarambichu kannula mudiyatume" - Kaadhal Koattai

"Odinaal odinaal vaazhkaiyin orathuke odinaal" - Parasakthi

"Enakkoru unmai therinjaaganum saami" - Mudhal Mariyaadhai

"Mr. Chandramouli. Mr. Chandramouli" - Mouna Raagam

"Kedaikiradhu kedaikkaama irukkaadhu. Kedaikama irukuradhu kedaikkaathu" - Muthu

Thank You Sabu

I finally found some consolation today for my lament that none of the people Rediff interviewed picked well-qualified(and in many cases, much more qualified that some of the films on their list) Tamil films for their list of 10 best films. Today's list by art director Sabu Cyril includes classics Naayagan, Mouna Raagam and the usually-overlooked Rajapaarvai.

Thank You Sabu!

PS: Though I personally don't think it deserves a place on a 10-best list, Sabu has also warmed the cockles of Rajni fans' hearts by including Netrikkann on his list. The lecherous old man in the film was undoubtedly one of thalaivar's best performances ever!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The US Tamil Cinema Viewer

Updated June 23rd
Added a few more categories based on feedback from readers. Thanks to GP, Prabhu, Srivatsan and MyTurn for the inputs :-)

Having seen my share of Tamil movies in the theaters in the US, I have noticed that we moviegoers can be categorized into some well-defined and not always mutually exclusive groups. So here's a handy guide for the different kinds of people you will see at a Tamil movie theater in the US...

The Waiter - This moviegoer buys tickets for all his friends and ends up waiting for them to arrive.

Defining Characteristics:

  • He will be standing in front of the theater clutching a few tickets in his hand
  • He will be talking almost non-stop on his cellphone as he enquires about where exactly his friends are
  • When it near the movie's start time, he will ask the guy at the ticket counter if there is a way to "hold these tickets for my friends".


The Comedian - The self-appointed humorist for the entire theater, this moviegoer's only aim during the movie is to make fun of the movie.

Defining Characteristics:

  • He will be accompanied by a group of friends who laugh at his jokes, further bolstering his confidence in his own sense of humor.
  • Though ostensibly telling jokes to his friends, he will utter his comments loud enough for the entire theater to hear.
  • He will be strategically seated in the vicinity of a group of single girls whose laughter will give him jenma saabalyam.
  • If he remembered to bring a laser pointer, he will point it on the screen inappropriately


The Critic - This moviegoer, also known as the moviegoer in denial, comes to all the Tamil movies but considers himself above them.

Defining Characteristics:

  • He will make comments like "Why did you guys drag me to this movie?" or "I am just going to sleep. Wake me up when the movie is finished".
  • He will call his other friends to complain that he is stuck watching a crappy movie
  • He will criticize every scene in the film while wishing loudly that he were at home catching up on his sleep.

For the record, this is the guy I hate the most :-)


The Trivialist - The moviegoer with a large knowledge of tamil movie trivia

Defining Characteristics:

  • He will be constantly talking, providing tidbits about every performer on screen
  • He will have no idea what is going on in the movie and will keep asking his friends for the story


The Son - This moviegoer's parents are visiting from India and he has brought them along because 1) he feels guilty that they are home alone and bored the entire week and 2) he wants them to experience "watching a Tamil movie in a US theater".

Defining Characteristics:

  • He will be fidgeting uncomfortably during any sexy or vulgar scenes in the movie.
  • He will be sitting rather quietly during the entire movie
  • He will look longingly at other groups that are clapping, whistling or commenting during the movie while mentioning that "they are spoiling the whole movie-going atmosphere for everybody".


The Newlyweds - This is a couple that just got married and the husband has brought the wife for her first movie in the US.

Defining Characteristics:

  • The wife will usually be wearing a new dress and some jewellery
  • The couple will be on their own and not with any friends.
  • They will pick seats away from the obviously 'rowdy' groups
  • They will watch the movie holding hands and the wife will lean on her husband's shoulder or whisper in his ear quite frequently.
  • They will be among the first to leave the theater when the movie ends.


The Moviebuff - This moviegoer will be seen at most movies and will usually be on his own(sometimes he might be the only one in the entire theater!) since none of his friends shares avid interest in movies.

Defining Characteristics:

  • He will be in his seat quite early since he wants to catch every line of dialog right from the first scene
  • He will never visit the restroom during a song sequence.
  • He will usually move to a different seat one or more times if he is in the vicinity of 'the Critic'.


The Fan - This moviegoer can be seen at all his idol's movies

Defining Characteristics:

  • He will arrive very early and greet all his friends with his idol's latest dialog/gesture
  • He will be hyperactive before the movie starts, talking loudly, laughing and hooting at random
  • He will whistle, clap, cheer, dance when his idol comes on screen and for all the songs, punchlines and stylish gestures
  • He will exit the theater saying "Super Padam"


The Parents - The moviegoers who bring their too-young kids to the theater

Defining Characteristics:

  • Only one of the two parents will be in the seat watching the movie at any given time. The other will be with the child in the lobby
  • They will regularly chide their children asking them to "Sit down", "Not run around", "Be quiet", etc.


The Disruptor - The moviegoes who spoils the moviegoing experience for everybody in the theater

Defining Characteristics:

  • He will be doing some activity other than the one he is supposed to do i.e. watch the movie quietly. His activities could include arriving late, taking his time sitting down so that he blocks the screen, changing seats, talking on his cellphone and eating loudly
  • He has no patience for sentiments, romance, etc. (however good they may be) and will laugh, boo, howl, etc. at totally inappropriate moments.


The Foreigner - A slight variant of the Critic, he will criticize the movie even if he enjoyed it.

Defining Characteristics:

  • He will enjoy the movie inwardly while putting on a bored expression
  • He will jump on to any scene that resembles a scene in a Hollywood film and will immediately tell his friends about it
  • As soon as the movie ends, he will ask his friends to never call him to a Tamil movie again


So the next time you are at the movies, keep a lookout for all these viewers. And if you see anyone belonging to a new category, just lemme know. This is a work in progress :-)

Sudoku Anyone?

Like I really needed another thing to get addicted to! The Hindu now publishes a new Sudoku puzzle every day. Sudoku is apparently a very popular game that has its own website, legions of fans and computer programs designed to generate Sudoku puzzles and solve them algorithmically. But it was through The Hindu(and Balaji's post on it) that I got introduced to Sudoku. I find that it gives my mind a nice and quick workout when I am stuck on something at work or need a break. So a printout of the day's Sudoku and a pen are always by my side these days :-)

The puzzle's attractiveness lies in its simplicity. It consists of a 9x9 grid, that is initially populated with a few numbers. The aim is to fill in the rest of the grid with numbers 1-9 so that every row, every column and each of the 3x3 boxes(with thick borders around) in the grid does not have any number repeated.

The picture above is today's puzzle and here's my solution... I think its the right one since each puzzle is supposed to have only 1 correct answer :-)

Monday, June 20, 2005

Tamil Film Music Tag

Finally got around to filling up the Tamil Film Music list that Nithya tagged me for.... It is an insanely difficult list primarily because of the sheer number of choices available to select from.

No of albums I own... Maybe 20.
Earlier my brother used to send cassettes with the best songs from different movies and then came MP3s. So been a while since I bought an album.

First album that I bought... Maappillai

Last album I bought... Johny/Priya/Dharmayudham

Currently listening to... Andha Naal Nyaagagam... from Adhu Oru Kanaakkaalam

Albums that I’d take with me, if I am alone on an island...
Ninaivellaam Nithya

Ten Songs that I am mostly likely to sing/hum...
Devuda Devuda... (or the latest Thalaivar intro song:-)
Thaazhampoove... - Kai Kodukkum Kai
Raja Raja Chozhan Naan... - Rettai Vaal Kuruvi
Andhi Mazhai Pozhigiradhu... - Rajapaarvai
Valaiosai Kalakalavena... - Sathya
Mandram Vandha... - Mouna Raagam
Ilamayenum Poongaatru... - Pagalil Oru Iravu
Aarariraaro... - Raam
Vellai Pookkal... - Kannathil Muthamittaal
Satham Illaadha... - Amarkkalam

Favorite singers...

My favorite lines…
I place a lot of importance to lyrics when I listen to a song but can never recall them on demand! So if I can recollect the following lines, it should give you an idea as to how much they have captivated me...

Vaanamagal Naanugiraal... Veru Udai Soodugiraal... - Ponmaalai Pozhudhu...

Valaindhu Valaindhu Pogum Paadhai Mangai Moga Koondhalo
Mayangi Mayangi chellum Vellam Paruva Naana Oodalo
Azhagu Migundha Rajakumari Megamaaga Pogiraal
Jarigai Migundha Selai Kondu Malaiyai Mooda Paarkiraal - Senthaazham Poovil...

Thanimaiyile Verumaiyile Ethanai Naaladi Ilamaiyile
Kettana Iravugal Suttana Kanavugal Imaigalum Sumaiyadi Ila Mayile - Andhi Mazhai...

Mugilinangal alaigirathe, mugavarigal tholaindhanavo
Mugavarigal thavariyadhaal azhudhidumo, adhu mazhaio - Ilaiya Nila...

All lines from Satham Illadha...

And a recent naughty but clever line
Sutta Paal Pola Dhegam Dhaandi Unakku
Adhil Paalaadai Mattum Konjam Vilakku... - Andankaakkaa...

Since this tag has been propagating for a while, I'm not sure who has completed this list and who hasnt. So I am not forwarding the tag to any other bloggers. But feel free to pick it up and fill it if you are so inclined :-)

Seinfeld Season 4

[Pic Courtesy Amazon]

After missing out on it for our wedding anniversary, I finally added the Season 4 DVD set of Seinfeld to my collection, thanks to Father's Day. With episodes like "The Contest", "The Pick", "The Junior Mint" and "The Outing", this was undoubtedly the best season of American TV's best sitcom. I have no doubts that I will forever cherish it (and not just because it was Karthik's first gift to me :-) Not that there's anything wrong with that!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Flash Fiction - 3


She awoke with a start and quickly shook her husband awake too.
"Did you hear that?"
"Did I hear what?", he said rubbing the sleepiness out of his eyes.
But as soon as he said it, he heard it too. Rat-tat-tat. Three quick knocks from somewhere outside their bedroom.
"Probably a neighbor locked out and trying to wake up his sleeping wife", he said in a rather unconvincing voice.
But then they heard the knocks again. Rat-tat-tat. The knocks sounded exactly like the last time. Even as the two of them sat around wondering what the sound was, they heard a new sound. Creeeeaaaak. This time it was the long and drawn out creak one heard when opening a door whose hinges were not oiled.
Now she was really scared. Was somebody harassing them?
"Can you please go and check the rest of the house?", she asked.
He stepped out of the bedroom cautiously and walked around the house, turning on the lights in each of the rooms as he peered inside. He even opened the garage door, which he noticed creaked as it opened. But the house seemed empty. A little reassured, he went back to the bedroom. But soon after he lay down, they heard three more knocks. And then the creak.
"Thats it. I'm calling 911", she said, picking up the phone and dialing. "Operator, we are hearing some strange noises in our house. We have a 1 yr-old with us and we are scared. Please send someone over quickly".
She switched off the phone, placing it on the bed beside her as they waited. Four officers arrived very quickly. While two of them walked around their garden, shining flashlights behind every shrub, the other two came in and began checking the rooms systematically.
"There's nobody here ma'am", said one officer after they had covered all the rooms. "We've checked everywhere. And we didn't hear any noises either. I think you're OK. Just lock the door behind us and call us if it happens again".
They left but she wasnt fully reassured since they still hadn't figured out what those noises were. But they didn't hear any more and soon, both of them dozed off.
She woke up a little later hearing another noise. He was awake too. This noise was again different. It went dshhhhhhhhh.... Kinda like a small explosion. But this time, he realized what the familiar noise was. It was the sound Yahoo! Messenger gave out when a new email arrived.
He went to the computer room and sure enough, saw the yellow smiley-face icon on the system tray, indicating that he was still signed on. He also saw that he hadn't turned the speaker volume down after listening to some songs that night.
"So the knocks and creaks were just Messenger sound effects as people on my buddy list signed on and off", he thought to himself. "And since it was daytime in India, quite a few people did sign on and off."
Feeling quite stupid, he signed out of Messenger, turned down the speaker volume and went back to bed.

PS: True Story! Happened to us about 3 years ago...

Saturday, June 18, 2005


After Baba flopped, Rajnikanth decided to act in Chandramukhi, which was completely different from his previous efforts. But Shankar has chosen the opposite route. To put the failure of Boys behind him, the director has fallen back on the genre that defined him as a director and gave him the most success - the socially conscious entertainer with a message. Anniyan has the shadow of Indian looming large over it and is a little weak on logic but in typical Shankar-style, is definitely entertaining.

Ramanujam(Vikram) or Ambi, an orthodox Brahmin, is by his own admission, a conformist - a stickler for rules - who is pained by the lack of civic sense among the people and appalled at their indifference to the ills of society. He is in love with Nithya(Sada) but she is turned off by his straightlaced approach to life. When Ramanujam learns of Anniyan, a mystery man who promises to mete out punishment to criminals, he reports his concerns on Anniyan's website and Anniyan(Vikram) as promised, addresses them in his own manner. Meanwhile Remo(Vikram), a model who is everything that Ambi isn't, captures Nithya's heart.

Knowing Shankar's track record, it comes as no surprise that Anniyan is paced just right. The film starts off a bit slow with the focus on Ambi, his disillusionment with society and his one-sided romance. But as Anniyan begins to dominate the proceedings, the pace is cranked up as we learn about the reasons and motivations behind the three main characters. We are then brought to the edge of our seats as the movie races towards its conclusion where Ambi and Anniyan fight, both literally and figuratively, for attention.

We know within a few minutes of Ambi's introduction that Shankar is not aiming for realism. Ambi is too good to be true and his look, kudumi and all(though we do realise the need for the kudumi once Anniyan is introduced), and exaggerated accent are certainly not seen in the present day. Remo too is a little exaggerated, which leads me to believe that the exaggeration in the two roles was intentional to distinguish between Vikram's three characters. Anniyan is naturally the most interesting and charismatic of the three. His objective here is to eliminate people's apathy towards society. But he is not completely original as he reminds one of Indian Thaatha and his MO definitely has shades of the bad guy in Seven.

Shankar has taken on a difficult storyline but has sacrificed some logic and cohesiveness in his aim to entertain. The movie has one too many open ends and unanswered questions that are left hanging. But the racy screenplay and accomplished direction ensure that the questions and loopholes are not evident until the end credits have rolled. For instance, Anniyan killing the food preparer just would not have been possible based purely on logistics(the distance, the time required, the fact that Ambi is travelling to Thiruvaiyaru as part of a large group, etc.). But the sequence is staged so well that I didn't start thinking about how Anniyan could have gotten there until much later. Similarly, it is never clear how Anniyan manages to schedule what is essentially a huge press conference. Theoretically, he could never know if he would exist at the specified day and time. But the points he raises during his speech and the way the scene is staged are arresting enough to make us overlook the lack of logic.

Comedy has never been Shankar's strongpoint but he manages to reverse the trend here. Vivek is hilarious whether he is giving ideas to Vikram to reveal his love to Sada or helping Prakashraj in his search for Anniyan. On the other hand, the stunt sequences, one of his strengths, are very disappointing. There are two stunts and both end up being over-the-top with overuse of both wire-fu techniques and the freeze time-slice shots. The fight with the martial arts students is plain ridiculous and wouldn't be out of place in a science fiction movie. Romance is both hit and miss. Ambi's love for Sada, though one-sided, is kinda touching while Sada falling for Remo is cinematic and silly.

Vikram gets a dream role here - a role with enormous scope to perform in a commercial film. And he's upto the challenge. He distinguishes well between the three characters, something that is most evident when he has to shift between them quickly(like the scene at Nasser's office). The two sequences where he alternates between Ambi and Anniyan are terrific and the one with Prakashraj is sure to be spoken about. I was unimpressed with Sada who just doesn't seem suited for big-budget extravaganzas. For some reason she looks very bad when she smiles and feels out of place in the extravagant song sequences. Regular scenes, like when she rejects Ambi or reasons with him about sale of her land, are the only ones where she impresses. Prakashraj gets to look serious and sound intelligent though he eventually does nothing much. Nedumudi Venu is believable as Ambi's father.

The song sequences would've made any other director proud but are a little disappointing coming from Shankar. The shots of the flowers are breathtaking in Kumaari... but the antics of Vikram and gang rob the song off its charm. Kannum Kannum Nokia... looks all hi-tech but the choreography leaves a lot to be desired while Kaadhal Yaanai... is quite ordinary. Both the songs look like a chance for Vikram to appear in a variety of getups. Randankaakka... is the pick of the songs with its painted roads, lorries and mountains and colorful costumes. Iyengaaru Veetu Azhage... is picturised richly with colorful but non-gaudy sets. Dialogs are vintage Sujatha - completely down-to-earth, sharp and managing to convey a message without sounding preachy.

Friday, June 17, 2005

2 New Reviews

2 new reviews(6.2, Amudhe) are online at bbreviews. A word of caution - if you do plan see either of these movies after reading my review, please do not read any of the other online reviews before you watch the movie. Both these rely on some nice twists and surprises and many of those are given away in the few reviews I read(thankfully, after I saw the movies).

Now, a question for regular readers of bbreviews...

The two English film reviewers I read regularly are James Berardinelli and Roger Ebert. While I read all their reviews since I enjoy their writing, I have occasionally rented some movies that I otherwise did not plan to see, solely on the basis of their recommendations.

So my question is... Have any of you seen a movie you otherwise would not have seen because of my review? Were you satisfied or did you regret it? Or do you visit the site just to read the reviews and stick to your self-made list of movies you want to see? Would you now rent Amudhe if you see it at the video store? This is just something I've been curious about. So you can be brutally honest :-)

I'm off to see Anniyan now... Ta-ta :-)

He's Here!

After several postponements, Anniyan, the second most anticipated movie of the year(never mind what Rediff says!) has finally arrived. The movie is guaranteed a great opening, considering the phenomenal advance bookings and the few reviews out so far have been quite positive. Looks like Shankar and Vikram have a hit on their hands. I'll be watching it tonite at IMC6. So watch out for the review in the next couple of days.

Rediff has an interview with Shankar but nothing new from the director though. He talks about the usual stuff including his first script which he has still not made into a movie(and doesn't know if he ever will) and calls Kamal the best actor he has worked with.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Kolangal Kolangal...

[Pic Courtesy Sun TV]

Tamil megaserials are usually treated with derision by everyone other than the people who watch them.But from what I've seen during my trips to India, it cannot be argued that they have had a major impact on the TV landscape back home. Serial viewers are glued to the TV from 7 to 10. Even household chores are moved around/discarded to accomodate the serials and guests/phone calls are not welcome during those hours(not that there are too many guests since there are serial watchers among them too!). Characters from the serials have become part of an extended family in homes and their actions are hotly debated.

The only megaserial I've watched quite a bit off is Kolangal on Sun TV. There were two main reasons why I started watching it. One, I was curious about the popularity of megaserials and wanted to try one out. And two, it was telecast at a convenient time(6pm) that didn't intrude much upon the tasks at home.

For those who've never watched it, here's a short primer. Kolangal's troubled protagonist is Devayani, who married a money-hungry husband soon after the serial started. Her mother-in-law(Nalini) too was equally money-hungry and the only person on Devayani's side was her father-in-law. At home, she has a sister who eloped, another sister whose marriage has been cancelled and a brother who is unemployed. She is now divorced and her husband is on the verge of marrying a rich divorcee he works with.

All the oft-heard complaints about megaserials hold true for Kolangal too. It is almost eternally drenched in sorrow as Devayani and her sisters encounter one problem after another(I havent kept track but I think every episode features atleast 1 character crying). Most characters behave unrealistically and are stereotyped(for eg. a married woman's parent must bend over backwards to satisfy the whims of their son-in-law and sammandhis). It is very slow and there are entire episodes where the story does not move forward even a bit. And there is mamiyar-marumagal friction with the mamiyar portrayed as the devil incarnate.

Inspite of all this, Kolangal did have me hooked for a while. It had a female protagonist who was quite strong and though going through several problems, didn't take them all lying down. It had many characters, each with separate storylines, that allowed the serial to keep moving by jumping between the different storylines. It had a few twists regarding Devayani's past and some suspense as to when she would know about it. Most importantly, it had something to look forward to i.e. the time when the balance would finally tilt in Devayani's favor. Ofcourse, it helped that missing a few episodes didn't matter since the story moved so slowly that it was easy to catch up!

But the slow pace eventually got to me and I began losing interest. The fact that the telecast time moved to 5.30pm didn't help either. But the director gave the serial a nice jolt last week by killing of Devayani's ex-husband's fiance on the eve of their marriage. So the serial's turned into a whodunnit, which as readers know is one of my favorite genres. The 5.30 time is still a hassle but I'm gonna try checking in on Kolangal atleast a couple of times a week.

PS: Metti Oli, probably the most popular megaserial currently, is finally wrapping up on Saturday. Looks like they're gonna have an extended finale and also have the actors chat with fans on the phone. I've never caught an episode of it but my mom and both my in-laws watch it regularly. I guess I know what they're gonna be doing this Saturday afternoon :-)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Book Report

Sen has tagged me for the book list thats been doing the rounds of Indian blogs lately. Before I jump to the list itself, I thought I'd reminisce a little bit about my reading over the years.

I've always been a 'light' reader. I usually stick to crime thrillers that come with blurbs like 'hard to put down' and 'has many twists and surprises'.

My earliest memories of reading are the bi-weekly and monthly children's magazines that were published then. At one point I used to read 7 such magazines and among them were Chandamama, Mickey & Donald, Superman & Batman, Tinkle, Children's World and Dew Drops. Among those, I have all the issues of Mickey & Donald and Superman & Batman bound and still browse through them when I go back to India. Truly timeless.

My introduction to full-length fiction was through Enid Blyton. I was into thrillers even back then as I read books in her Famous Five and Secret Seven series. The most intelligent children's books I remember reading were those in the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series. With the master of suspense himself making cameos in each book, the books had some very clever mysteries, riddles and solutions.

Next came Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, which were all the rage in school. We used to read them at the rate of 2 or 3 a week and I remember having read every published Hardy Boys novel by the time I finished my 10th standard. I then progressed to Alistair Maclean, whose thrillers were truly of the 'cannot put down' variety. After that it was a free-for-all as I read any author who caught my fancy. Some of my favorite authors then were Jeffrey Archer, Sidney Sheldon, Irving Wallace, Arthur Hailey and Ken Follett.

I guess my current phase started after that. I now read books by James Patterson, Jeffery Deaver, David Baldacci, Dan Brown, John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Tami Hoag, Tess Gerritsen and Iris Johansen. In the non-fiction category the only author I read is humorist Dave Barry. I'm a huge fan. His Guide to Guys is a must-read for pretty much everyone.

And now for the list...

Total Number of books I own: About 50

Last book I bought: The Five People You Meet In Heaven

Last book I read: 4th of July

Five books that mean a lot to me(since I typically read 'light' fiction, I'm changing this to simply five of my favorite books):

Kane and Abel - A true masterpiece from Jeffrey Archer that portrays the lives of two men who come from completely different backgrounds but find their lives intersecting in unexpected ways. Has some amazing surprises and goosebump-inducing moments.

The Second Lady/The Seventh Secret - Two of the best 'what-if?' books I have read. The Second Lady has the Russians placing an impostor in place of the First Lady of the United States while the Seventh Secret goes into what could happen if Hitler's wife is still alive. Great storytelling built upon intriguing scenarios.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - The best of the Harry Potter books that contains the best elements of the series. Rowling's soaring imagination presents characters we've come to know well and love and amazing set pieces and action. There are also skillfully constructed twists that we never see coming.

Shantaram - An exhilarating tale of an Australian whose life is proof that truth can be stranger than fiction. A drug addict and bank robber who broke out of prison and escaped to India, the book is about his life in the slums of Bombay. He writes amazingly well and his love of India and Indians comes through clearly.

Absolute Power - This book holds a special place since it reintroduced me to the joys of reading after I took a rather long break. A thriller that races along at breakneck speed, it has an ordinary thief go up against the most powerful man in the United States, its President.

I'll go ahead and tag Munimma, who had some interesting titles in her recent post on her reading habits over the years.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Best Kanna Best!

Ever since Time magazine picked Naayagan and 4 other Indian movies to its list of the 100 best movies of all time, Rediff has been asking some of our own directors, actors, etc. to list what they consider the 10 best Indian films of all time. It was kickstarted by Subash Ghai, who had the temerity to place his own Taal on his list, and has since featured lists by Mohanlal, Ram Gopal Varma, etc.

Apart from plain surprise at some of the movies on the different lists(Mohanlal's list featured Ulagam Sutrum Vaaliban!), the Rediff lists have been frustrating to me for a couple of reasons. One, they are mostly filled with movies I have not seen. And two, the lists have hardly any Tamil movies on them(even Adoor Gopalakrishnan, a Malayalam director, and P.C.Sriram list only Hindi movies!). So to fill the void, I thought I'd come up with my own list of the 10 best Tamil movies of all time.

Disclaimer: Though the list is called '10 Best Movies', any 'best of...' or 'top ten' list is, by its very nature of being compiled by a person, subjective. Also, my list has a bias towards movies starting in the 80s since it was starting then that I began seeing movies regularly.

Andha Naal - An accomplished film noir
Mouna Raagam - Both a love story and an 'arranged marriage' story
Naayagan - A true classic
16 Vayadhinile - Best of the village movies
Poovizhi Vaasalile - A gripping thriller
Salangai Oli - Emotional and mature love story set in the world of dance
Sethu - Very different love story
Sindhu Bhairavi - KB's masterpiece
Thevar Magan - Classy yet raw; violent yet tender
Thiruvilayaadal - Exhilarating mythological

Since the tagging thing seems to be popular now in the blog world, I'm gonna try and tag a few other Tamil cinema-inclined bloggers(and non-blogger) for this list. Let me see if this works and if this list gets propagated. It would be interesting to see what others think and would probably help add a few movies to my to-see list!

Lazy Geek

Sim's a Mom!

The dreamgirl is now a dreammom! Congratulations to Simran, who gave birth to a baby boy on June 11. My kid and her kid were born just a few days apart and share the same zodiac! So Sims USku vandhaa oru playdate arrange pannidalaam :-)


I've been tagged by three other bloggers for these lists that've been floating around in the blog world. Sen has tagged me for books, IBH has tagged me for the 'personal' list and Nithya has tagged me for music. Thanks guys! IMO these lists provide a chance for some introspection. Life moves so fast that you always end up thinking only of the 'current' or the 'present'. These lists allow you to step back and look at the big picture, apart from bringing back memories associated with your picks. Now I just hope I have the time to get to these soon!

Monday, June 13, 2005


Guest post by Kavya Balaji

[Pic Courtesy IMDb]

Karthik's just a week old and he's done 2 guest blogs already! So I felt I should have my share of posts too. My dad took me to see Madagascar yesterday with two of my friends(and their parents) from my preschool. Since it is a children's movie, I felt this was my chance to do a post. So here's what I thought about it.

A zebra in the New York zoo feels lonely and so wants to go out to the wild. It tries to escape once but fails. But the zoo officials decide to release all the animals anyway and along with its friends, a lion, a giraffe and a hippo, the zebra is shipped to Kenya in a crate on a ship. But some penguins hijack the ship, causing the crates to fall into the sea. So all four animals are washed up in Madagascar, which is inhabited by lemurs.

Movies with animals are the best and this movie has lots of them. And since I've been to the zoo,I could even follow what was happening. Like Mufasa and Simba in The Lion King, the lion here is not scary and does a lot of funny things. The actions of all the animals were funny and I laughed most in the scene where the lion and the zebra run towards each other on the beach. I didn't like the lemurs too much except for the small one which was very cute. Those scenes made me quite restless. Like in The Lion King, the jackals are bad in this one too. So I could understand who was good and bad and clapped when the jackals ran away.

Though I couldn't understand why, my dad laughed a few times when the animals were talking. So I guess the movie offers some humor for adults too. Towards the end, I think the lion turns violent because it is hungry and wants to eat the zebra, which is its friend. But my dad covered that up since I am quite sensitive and made up his own story. So I was happy for the full movie.

Overall, the movie was very colorful with lots of action. So it held my attention the whole time(even after I finished the popcorn). It gets two thumbs up from me.

Flash Fiction - 2


Mahesh could barely contain his anger as he saw Shalini inside the store with her husband and child. Standing outside and looking through the glass, he could see her laughing, playing with her son, picking out dresses, whispering in her husband's ear... all signs of a happy and contented wife and mother. And here he was, unable to forget her even after so many years.

This was the first time he was seeing her since learning that she had married someone else. He was still tormented by memories of their time together. He still had the tickets stubs from the movies they had seen, the restaurant bills from the meals they had shared, the greeting cards, the teddy bears, the photos... But here she was looking so happy beside someone else. Did she even love him then? Did she have any memories of him at all? Did she even remember him?

At that moment, Shalini's son yanked himself free himself from his father's hand and opened the door of the store. Her husband turned around and yelled "Mahesh! Don't go outside". Mahesh stood rooted to his spot as the kid ran back inside. He then turned around and started walking.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Chandramukhi - A Post-mortem

[Pic Courtesy Kumudham]

Its official. Chandramukhi is a mega blockbuster. It recently crossed 50 days at all 170 theatres it was released in and is well on its way to being the biggest Tamil hit of all time. It is breaking records(in most cases set by Rajni's previous hit Padaiyappa) several times over and has come as a boost to a film industry starved of megahits (Yes, I did have a wide grin on my face as I typed this paragraph!).

In recent interviews to both Kumudham[registration required] and The Hindu, a visibly(and obviously) happy Rajnikanth talked briefly about Chandramukhi's unprecedented success. With characteristic humility, he attributed the success to P.Vasu, his co-stars and the script. But since he controlled almost every aspect of the film, Rajni deserves to claim a major part of its success. IMO, the film's success is as much a testimony to his business sense as it is to his staying power and charisma.

After rejecting several stories, Rajni zeroed in on one that was very different from the stories in his recent movies. It had a hint of the supernatural, which is always a popular subject. And it had been well-tested since it had spawned hit movies in two languages. His primary reason in selecting the story was that it held broad appeal for all sections of the audience.

His choice of the director was even more surprising. P.Vasu has been out of the limelight recently and has not given a hit in a long time. The fact that even Suresh Krissna, who had directed three of his biggest hits, could not deliver a hit with Baba pointed to Rajni going with one of the new crop of directors. But Rajni's choice of P.Vasu was based on the fact that he had been behind the camera for the superhit Kannada version and they shared a good rapport, having given three hits before.

But he did not do the same with respect to the cast. He has always had a soft corner for comedians Koundamani and Senthil and usually went with one of them in his movies. P.Vasu's success with Koundamani also pointed to him being in CM. But Rajni selected Vadivelu, who is easily the most popular comedian at the moment.

Rajni's lack of attention to his appearance was commented upon very critically in Baba. He made sure he didn't repeat the same mistake again. He gave everyone what they expected from him with a youthful look and designer clothes in every scene in CM.

While hype is unavoidable for a Rajnikanth film, he made sure that the hype surrounding CM did not reach the insane levels it did for Baba. A major reason for this was the lack of secrecy surrounding the production. Apart from an official website, stills from the film were freely available and stars associated with the film were candid in their numerous interviews.

Politically, Rajni staved off all controversies by making sure that no one would be offended by CM. Though it would deprive him of some trademark styles, he did not smoke in the entire film. This warmed PMK's heart, avoiding the incidents(snatching of the film rolls, protests at theaters, etc.) that marked Baba's release. Politically-tinged dialogs, a staple of all his recent films, were completely dispensed with too. There were no thinly veiled dialogs about whats gonna happen tomorrow nor were there pointed dialogs that left no one in doubt as to who they were aimed at! This was an actor who was at peace with everyone, whatever their political leanings.

Rajnikanth had a lot, including his very relevance in today's cinema that is dominated by much younger stars, at stake with CM. In the end, all his calculations and planning seem to have paid off richly (Kootti Kazhichu Paathaa Kanakku Ellaam Sariya Vandhiduchu :-) Now he can sit back, relax and enjoy the accolades!

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Next Read

[Pic Courtesy Jeffery Deaver Website]

Jeffery Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme would probably qualify as fiction's most immobile protagonist ever. He is a quadriplegic paralysed from the neck down except for movement in one finger and is mostly strapped to a bed in his house. But with his assistant(and lover) Amelia Sachs serving as his eyes, arms and legs at a crime scene, the former criminalist continues his work tracking down criminals using clues found at the crime scenes. Rhyme was first introduced in Deaver's Bone Collector, which was also made into a movie with Denzel Washington playing him and Angelina Jolie as his assistant Sachs. Great movie by the way.

Deaver is an amazing storyteller with an uncanny knack of throwing in twists that completely blindside us. I had seen Bone Collector before but The Devil's Teardrop was my introduction to Deaver in print. Though not part of the Rhyme series, the story and the twists therein made me a fan and I've read all his books since then.

Deaver brings back Rhyme for latest novel The Twelfth Card. The novel seems to be about a killer's chase of a young woman, which also has some links to events that happened 140 years ago. It covers just two days as Rhyme tries to figure out the reason behind the killer targetting the teenager.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Sethuramayyar CBI

Mammooty returns to the role of the brainy CBI officer Sethuramayyar in Sethuramayyar CBI, the third installment in the series. The MO remains the same as the first two movies (Oru CBI Diary Kurippu and Jagratha) as he investigates a crime and wades through a sea of clues and suspects to solve it. It has too many unnecessary elements that affect the pace and has a few too many characters but still manages to be an interesting whodunnit.

Sethuramayyar(Mammootty), who now works in Delhi, is vacationing in his sister's house in Kerala when he learns that Alex('Kalabhavan' Mani'), a murderer who is on death row for killing seven people, wants to meet him. Alex accepts killing six of the victims but says that he did not kill the seventh one. Sethuramayyar, with Chacko(Mukesh) and a new assistant in tow, begins investigating to find out if Alex is telling the truth and if he is, who the real killer is.

Sethuramayyar CBI naturally sticks to the same story arc that worked the first two times. We get a large number of possible suspects with different links to the victim. There is one key element of the case that captures our interest(here its the word ISOW scribbled on the wall) and is eventually figured out by Mammootty. And the identity of the killer, revealed by Mammootty in a final monologue with all the suspects rounded up, is a nice surprise. So is the reference to an earlier throwaway comment by the killer that leads to suspicion falling on him.

In order to throw suspicion around, the movie has included too many characters and subplots. Due to nature of some of the characters, they are immediately evident as red herrings and so seem redundant. There are also one too many references to the first installment as we meet characters from that movie, get references to the investigating techniques used there and even hear one of the most popular lines from that film again. The movie also lays the foundation for a romance between Mammootty's niece and his new assistant but the casual way it is handled makes it seem more like filler.

Though it fails to match up to the quality of Oru CBI Diary Kurippu, Sethuramayyar CBI manages to keep Sethuramayyar's reputation intact. So we can look forward to the fourth installment, shooting for which has just gotten under way.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

First Days

Guest post by Karthik Balaji

Since everything seemed to be fine, Dad and Mom brought me back from the hospital on yesterday. What an ordeal that was, getting strapped into the carseat! But I gotta agree that it was pretty snug once I was strapped in. And then I had to face the back of the car for the ride home. That was weird. Kinda felt like I was going back in time.

My parents had done a good job with my crib. It looked quite regal but cozy and the bedding set had pictures of Winnie the Pooh, my favorite cartoon character in the whole wide world (the fact that don't know any other cartoon characters makes the choice easier). I was all set to wail and create a scene if anything was wrong with it but didnt have much of a reason to complain. They put me in it and once again wrapped me up in some cozy blankets.

I've been home for a couple of days now but don't have much to do. My entire day is spent eating, sleeping and looking cute. My favorite activity by far is to snuggle up in my blankets and snooze. There are just so few times when I am awake and the few times I am awake, I am immediately scooped up by dad, mom or grandma. Not that I blame them!

Mom takes care of my feeding but always unwraps me before the feed. I guess I have to undress before I eat. I sure hope that changes as I grow up. Dad, Mom or grandma take care of the diaper changes. Thats fine with me but the cold wipes afterwards... BRRRRR... those things are COLD, especially on your behind! Another phrase I dont like to hear is "cord care". Dad rubs this cold alcohol pad around my navel and everyone kept talking about some cord falling off. Not something you want to hear.

Thats about it for now guys. Will be back later...

Oh before I forget... I saw on the last post that some of you wanted to see some photos. Here you go. I'm a couple of hours old in the first one and the second one was clicked just as I was ready to get out of the hospital.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Baby's Day Out

Guest post by Karthik Balaji

Hello all. As you must've guessed, my name is Karthik Balaji. I was born on June 6, 2005 in El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, California. My parents are Balaji and Anu and I have a big sister Kavya, but enough about them. This post is all about me... I have learnt that I have quite a few fans and wellwishers in other states and countries. So I thought I'd use this, my crib on the web, to give you all a short account of my arrival.

I am a pretty impatient one. I wasn't supposed to come out until June 28 but what do the doctors know?! If I was all ready to get out of mummy's tummy on June 6, thats what I was going to do. I let her know that I was ready on Sunday night and then started pushing hard for a few hours. Around 2.00am on Monday morning I heard someone say "Push!" and thought "Hey! what do you guys think I've been doing all this time?" . But that "Push" turned out to be for mom as as she finally started trying to get me out.

Around 3.25am I felt some hands grab my head, then my shoulders and finally my feet and at 3.28am I was officially born! With apparently no concern that I had just made such a long and difficult trip, they immediately weighed me, measured my length and started rubbing me with soap to clean me up. Apparently everything was OK since they placed me on mom right away. Dad carried me soon after with a huge grin on his face.

I spent most of the day sleeping(I think it was jetlag). Oh well... its time for another nap now. I hope to be back again soon to give another update. Bye!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Dad Again

Haiya Haiya Hoi
Naan Appan Aanen Doi
Mama Enge Doi
Un Ponna Konda Doi
Yaane Mela Kudhire Mela Paiyan Varuvaan Doi
Nainavaatam Stylea Ninnu Visilum Adippaan Doi
Un Ponna Kandaa Kannum Adippaan Doi Thararumpumpumpum!

Yep! At 3.28am today morning, I became a dad all over again as my son decided he'd had enough of mummy's tummy a whole 3 weeks before the due date. Mom and son are doing fine and daughter is thrilled about her baby brother.

So kutti paiyan did release before Anniyan after all :-) Thank you all for your wishes...

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Roses Are Red...

and pink...

and white...

and violet...

and red & yellow...

Photos of roses in our front yard. We planted some for the first time this year and they're just starting to bloom. So lovely... Click on pics to enlarge.

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

[Pic Courtesy IMDb]

While I am not a Star Wars fanatic, I have enjoyed episodes IV, V and VI several times and saw The Phantom Menace on the opening day(I didn't see Attack of the Clones until it was released on DVD though). I saw Revenge of the Sith yesterday and was simply blown away. It is easily the best of the three prequels and is a fitting finish to the Star Wars saga.

Even though I had in mind Lucas' special effects accomplishments in the other films in the series, I was still amazed at the visual feast offered by Revenge of the Sith. I was going "Wow!" at almost every other scene and was floored by both the man's imagination and the technical wizardry that has brought it to life. The hideout of General Grievous and the senate are just two set pieces that are jaw-droppingly spectacular and a testimony to Lucas' vision.

The script is quite simplistic most of the time and the romance between Anakin and Padme doesn't really work since it gets so little time. But the film races along at such speed that we hardly notice those things. There are several duels and whether they are space battles where several things are happening at once or focussed, one-on-one light saber fights, they get our pulses racing. It is amazing how much variety Lucas has provided in different instances of what is essentially two men fighting with light sabers. Personally, Yoda's duel with Darth Sidious in the senate was the pick of the lot.

That is not to say the movie kicks emotions completely out of the way. Anakin's internal conflict and his slow journey to the dark side are gripping and it is fascinating to see the human side of Darth Vader. And since this movie chronologically precedes the original Star Wars, seeing the origins of events and characters that are so familiar(for instance, hearing the names Luke and Leia) literally leads to goosebumps.

Revenge of the Sith can be seen simply as two and a half hours of spectacular entertainment or as a piece of cinematic history. Either way, it is a must-see.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Not Again!

Dashing my earlier hopes that Anniyan's June 10 release date was quite certain, the film's release date has been moved back again! Producer 'Oscar' Ravichandran has now finalized the release date as June 17. Now where have I heard that before?! This time around, Ravichandran has blamed the film's music director Harris Jayaraj for the delay, citing the 45 days he took for the film's rerecording as the reason.

At this rate, I think my kutti paiyan, whose release date is supposed to be June 28, will be released before Anniyan!

Friday, June 03, 2005

Happy Birthday Maestro

Today is Ilaiyaraja's birthday. Here are a few interesting tidbits, some of which I came to know only recently, about the Isaignyani...

  • Ilaiyaraja's original name was Daniel Rasaiah
  • He was born on June 3rd, 1943
  • Ilaiyaraja first scored music for Annakkili in 1976
  • When he scored music for Annakkili, producer Panju Arunachalam changed his name to Raja. But since there was already a music director named Periyaraja, Raja became Ilaiyaraja!
  • He has 3 children - Karthik Raja, Yuvan Shankar Raja and Bhavatharini
  • An interesting bit of trivia... all 4 had their debuts in movies starting with A (Ilaiyaraja - Annakkili; Karthik Raja - Alexander; Yuvan Shankar Raja - Aravindan; Bhavatharini - Anjali)

Happy Birthday Maestro... And a heartfelt thank you for all the mesmerizing music and timeless tunes from Annakkili Unna Theduthe... to Andha Naal Nyaabagam....

I started listing some of my favorite numbers from the genius but but realized within a few lines that it was going to be an impossible task because of the sheer number of them. So let me add a slight twist to just one of my favorite numbers and just say

Nalam Vaazha Ennaalum En Vaazhthukkal
Thamizh Paadum Pallaandu Un Paadalgal...

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Tango Charlie

Tango Charlie recounts the life of a soldier in the Border Security Force(BSF), in the process showing us the true(and ugly) face of war. The movie works when it focusses on war and an individual thrown in the middle of it but being a Hindi movie, it does not stick to just that. A detached romance and jingoistic heroism drain away some of the effect of what could've been a hardhitting, emotional war movie.

The soldier is Tarun Chauhan(Bobby Deol), codenamed Tango Charlie, who is first sent to the Manipur forests as part of a taskforce to flush out militants. The unit's leader is constable Muhammad Ali(Ajay Devgan). We then follow Tarun as he then fights naxalites in Andhra Pradesh, quells the riots in Gujarat and protects a key bridge in the Kargil war.

Director Mani Shankar could not have chosen a worse way of linking together the different episodes in Bobby Deol's life as a soldier. Here Sanjay Dutt and Suneil Shetty rescue Bobby Deol from a snowy area and while flying him back, read his personal diary. Even keeping aside the fact that the two soldiers are reading another's personal diary, the conversations the two have are juvenile and the two high-profile actors(in cameos) are quite unconvincing in their casual banter.

Bobby Deol's experiences help show his gradual growth as a soldier(though I couldn't help wondering if there were no other soldiers in the BSF since he keeps getting sent to every major hotspot in the country!). He has to fight not just wars but personal demons too. The director does well in keeping the focus on him by providing a personal angle for him(like the superior's action, the death of an innocent man, etc.) in all the episodes though the conflicts themselves have a larger canvas. So we get to understand him and the principles he stands for and this makes these portions engaging.

Romance is introduced into the movie as an obvious ploy to lighten the proceedings. It seems detached from the movie and since it isn't interesting or engaging, the movie comes to a standstill during these portions. Tanisha portrays an interesting character of a very modern girl who's not shy about asking for a kiss. But the romance seems to have been played more for laughs. Ajay Devgan's romance with Nandana Sen is more passionate and circumstantial but doesn't strike a chord because of its unbelievable foundation.

The director selects well-known incidents to involve Bobby Deol in. His scenes for the most part are also realistically portrayed without any larger-than-life heroics. But the movie gets afflicted with the same problem that Lakshya had. It wants to end with a bang and so gets its hero to engage in some unrealistic, heroic stunts in the climax. That makes the climax seem like that of a regular, commercial potboiler than of the war movie it had tried to be until then.

King Bee

[Pic Courtesy]

Appoggiatura. That word, which apparently is a melodic tune, helped Anurag Kashyap, an eighth grader from California, become the spelling champ at this year's National Spelling Bee! Congrats Anurag!


Ego: an exaggerated sense of self-importance; conceit (Websters)

Ego: Subash Ghai naming his own Taal as one of the "finest Indian cinema has ever had to offer"

Sorry... I know that's sarcastic and rude but I couldn't get past the fact that a filmmaker has called his own film one of the best ever in history(and I'm not even talking about the quality of the chosen entry here). Does anyone do this? I mean, if Spielberg is asked to list the best films of all time, would he have Schindler's List on there?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


[Pic Courtesy The Hindu]

The world of Tamil blogs has seen a lot about Sujatha a.k.a Rangarajan, the popular Tamil writer, recently. A recent article(reproduced in Tamil here in Desikan's blog) the author wrote in Vikatan on account of his 70th birthday(May 3rd) triggered an emotional response, both online and in other forms of media, from his innumerable fans. In the very introspective article, he talks about memory loss as a sign of his getting ahead in years and looks back on his life so far.

I have never read a complete novel by Sujatha(or any other Tamil author, for that matter). I did start reading some of his stories like Vikram(mainly because I was attracted by the accompanying stills of a dashing Kamalhassan), a Ganesh-Vasanth tale, the science fiction tale with the robot dog (Gino??), etc. that were serialized in Kumudham or Vikatan. But I never lasted more than a few weeks (this is true of all serialized stories I tried to read).

The reason behind this is what I look for when I read rather than the quality of those stories. A book provides instant gratification as long as you are ready to keep turning the pages. If you are impatient to know the fate of a person or the outcome of a situation, you just continue reading until they are revealed. You are guaranteed to know the answers by the time you read the last page(which is why I have read more than half the pages of some books in 1 sitting). Thats what I had grown up on.

But when it came to serialized novels, the 2-3 pages of progress in the story when a new issue came out, just did not provide the kind of gratification I was looking for after a week of waiting. Not finding the answer to what I was looking for in the current issue and realizing that I have to wait a whole week for any hope of getting the answer was enough to frustrate me. There was also the issue of remembering things that happened in the past weeks, which was tough when you read more than 1 novel in the same period that the serialized novel was published. And since there was always a Hardy Boys or Alistair Maclean waiting for me at the lending library, I never had the chance to check out full Tamil novels.

But I firmly believe that its never too late to go back and discover something you missed out on the first time around. All the discussion on Sujatha made me feel like catching up on the author's writing. So over the weekend I picked up Oonjal, one of the author's early works, from the San Jose Public Library. Better late than never...