Sunday, July 31, 2005


Those are shots of the advertisements shown on Sun TV since yesterday, for the latest issue of Kungumam. The cover boldly announces that Rajni's next film is Aadhisesha and the ad tantalisingly talks about more information inside.

Rumors about Rajni's next film started soon after Chandramukhi got rolling but ever since the Waqt-remake news was shot down by the Superstar himself, things have been rather quiet. This story should start the rumor mills churning once again. But as we've learned in the past, nothing's definite until it is confirmed by the man himself.

The wait continues...

PS: Personally, it seems like a pretty cool name for a Rajni film. Its quite unique, powerful, has a nice ring to it and ofcourse, has a link to thalaivar's lucky mascot, the snake!

Saturday, July 30, 2005


[Pic Courtesy Amazon]

Two weeks to the day after its release, I finally brought home Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince from the library yesterday. Needless to say, I started reading it as soon I got home and the characters brought back memories from the previous five books.

I did not read Harry Potter until the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, was released. The enormous hype surrounding its release made me buy the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, in paperback. I finished it in a couple of days and was blown away. I was dazzled by the magical world created by J.K.Rowlings and was in complete awe of her imagination. Inspite of the children's book tag, I found it to be quite mature and written exceptionally well. I quickly bought and read both Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and was among the first few holds in the library when Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was released. I went a step further and bought a copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix the day it was released.

Fantasy novels(LOTR, for instance) create a fictitious world that is completely detached from the real world as we know it. The characters in those books exist in a separate world that has no link to reality. Rowlings' genius lay in the way she placed characters we could identify with in a world of fantasy. Harry Potter is a boy who is ill-treated by relatives, thinks the world of his friends, gets into trouble at school and has trouble adjusting to his popularity and magical powers. This gives the Harry Potter books a personal touch that is lacking in other fantasy novels.

Harry Potter is also proof, if it was ever needed, that movie adaptations could never hope to recreate the experience of reading a book. A book fuels your imagination and a movie, no matter how good the special effects, set design or make up, can never hope to match the images conjured up in our minds. One only has to read about Voldemort in the first Harry Potter and then see the scene where his face is shown in the movie to understand the difference between print and picture!

My favorite Harry Potter so far is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Books 4 and 5 were a tad disappointing after the exhilarating nature of Book 3. I'm hoping that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince offers me the reading experience that Book 3 did.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Rajni-Kamal Together - Poi?

Seeing Rajni and Kamal together on screen is probably the dream of all Tamil cinema fans. The two giants of Tamil cinema last shared the screen in Thillu Mullu, where Kamal had a guest role as the lawyer who saves Rajni during the climax. But rumours about the momentous pairing happening again arise periodically. To recount two recent examples, Rajni was supposed to have a cameo in Kamal's ambitious-but-stalled Marudhanayagam while initial reports talked about Kamal making an appearance in Chandramukhi owing to his closeness to Sivaji's family.

Indiaglitz has resurrected this rumor now that the famous duo's guru K.Balachander has started his 101st film Poi. The news report says that KB has urged both his finds to be part of the film. Ofcourse, neither the director nor the 2 actors have confirmed the news, which begs the question as to where the news came from! And one can't forget that a similar rumor was started when the director's previous film Paarthaale Paravasam was launched too.

But inspite of the disappointments over the untrue past rumors and the unsupported nature of this particular news report, I can't deny that a tiny part of me is salivating over the news and hoping that it comes true :-)

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Million Dollar Baby

[Pic Courtesy IMDb]

Million Dollar Baby revolves around a boxing trainer(Clint Eastwood), his trainee(Hillary Swank) and his friend(Morgan Freeman). Initially reluctant about teaching a girl, Eastwood eventually comes around and agrees to train Swank. She is good at boxing and pretty soon, the trainer and his student are on a journey to the championship fight. But a tragedy forces them to stop. The winner of 4 Oscars, the movie asks some hard questions that have no easy answers and is an emotional rollercoaster.

Initially Million Dollar Baby proceeds like a typical sports movie with standard characters like the hero(ine) determined to succeed and the unwilling trainer who refuses to believe in her. Inspite of the grim surroundings(most of the movie takes place in a rundown gym which has surely seen better days) and the serious characters(the poor heroine, the trainer down on money, etc.), the movie is pretty lighthearted during these portions. The verbal sparring between Eastwood and Swank as he tries to keep her away and she keeps wearing him down, makes us smile at several places.

The sudden turn of events in the last third of the film is not completely unexpected. After all, any sports movie has the protagonist encounter a big crisis before he/she wins at the end and there are enough clues here pointing to what's coming. But the magnitude of the crisis here is a suprise. So the proceedings thereafter are almost shocking and pack quite an emotional punch.

For a movie, there is a rather thin line between being emotional and seeming manipulative. The key to the former is developing characters you like and root for. If we get characters we dislike or develop no emotional attachment with, any tragedy they go through will seem irritating and manipulative. Million Dollar Baby manages to stay on the right side of the line precisely for this reason. We admire Swank's gutsiness, her never-say-die attitude, her loyalty to Eastwood and her dedication to the sport. And we feel for Eastwood and understand that he has a good heart hidden within his gruff exterior. This makes their travails hit home.

The movie's emotional core comes from the completely realistic way it is handled. There is no crying or loud music to mark the difficult proceedings and it is never crassly manipulative. Instead, the characters' feelings and emotions are expressed through their expressions, actions and words. Even the all-important final act is captured in an almost matter-of-fact way. The characters we like in the first half really earn our respect and admiration as the movie proceeds. Their positive outlook on life has more effect than any tears or long dialogs could have ever had. We come to sympathise with both Swank and Eastwood, though for completely different reasons, and more importantly, we understand them and what is behind their actions.

That is not to say that Eastwood is completely beyond a little emotional manipulation. Swank's family seems a little over-the-top and when they visit Swank, I got the feeling that Eastwood was going for the tear ducts a little too strongly. And the track with the boxer in the gym seems added just to give Freeman a memorable, feel-good scene.

Swank is terrific and her Best Actress Oscar was truly well-deserved. There wasn't a single moment, both during her practice and her bouts in the ring, where I didn't believe I was seeing a real boxer in action. The role actually becomes more physically demanding towards the end and she carries it off with elan. Eastwood suits the role of the gruff trainer who eventually develops genuine affection for his ward. Admirably, he takes a secondary role to Swank's fighter. Morgan Freeman is, I think, incapable of a bad performance and turns in another understated performance as the worldly wise friend.

Mumbai Rains - 2

Yesterday it was all about records and statistics and inconveniences to Mumbaites. But the sudden jump in the death toll is shocking and the desperate pleas for help from people in other places looking for news about their loved ones, are heartrending. They indicate that this is a much bigger tragedy.

Here are 2 photos that my brother forwarded to me.

This one has a very personal touch. I'm sure the poetically inclined can come up with some very good kavidhais for this one...

This one really indicates the magnitude of the downpour and the accompanying floods...

The rains do seem to be letting up though the effects will last several weeks if not months... I'm sure the Mumbaiites will shake this off and life will go on as usual very soon.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Kumudam, on the occasion of Vairamuthu's birthday, has thrown 52 questions at the lyricist and he has answered them in his inimitable style, with poetry and wit. Here are some of my favorites among kaviyarasu's replies...

They're in Tanglish since translating them to English pretty much robs them off their charm. So, if you're like me, they may be a little tough to read but the rewards are well worth it :-)

kaadhal enbadhu
kaamanin ambu alladhu hormonekalin vambu

Kannadasan-Vaali oppiduga
paadalai janaranjagamaakkiyavar Kannadasan
janaranjagathai paadalaakkiyavar Vaali

nadigargalil oru arivaali

arivaaligalil oru nadigar

neengal ezhudhaadhadhil piditha paadal?
kaadhal siragai kaatrinil virithu vaanaveedhiyil parakka vaa...

Me: What movie is this song from?

kaadhal tholviyadaindhaal enna seivadhu?
kalyaanam seidhu kaadhalai thorkadippadhu

thannambikkai varigal please?
sudappattirukka maattaai nee thangamaaga illaavittaal;
soodu thaangu; nagaiyaavaai

Me: I love this. Could've been an entry in Narayanan's kavidhai poatti!

raja-rahman oppiduga
avar armoniya arasar
ivar keyboard king

Sarojaa Devi - kattazhagu
Devika - kannazaghu
Padmini - pennazhagu
Kushboo - mugathazhagu
Sneha - sirippazhagu
Trisha - muzhuazhagu

Me: Trisha muzhuazhagu? You too Vairamuthu?

Btw, he mentions while referring to Vidyasagar winning the National award for a Telugu film, that his mother tongue is Telugu! That was a surprise to me.

Mumbai Rains

Mumbai's been in the grip of rain and flood and the city recorded the highest-ever rainfall recorded in a single day in India! My (cousin) sister's husband works in Mumbai and according to an email she sent today morning, "M couldn't go home and had to stay at the office yesterday night. Today all offices, schools etc. are closed There is no electricity, no food and no trains. He reached home at 3.30 in the evening wading through knee deep water and walking the entire stretch home." I'm glad he's OK. Hope the city gets a respite soon.

Roti Canai

Went to the Malaysian/Singapore restaurant called Penang Garden at Milpitas Square for lunch today. They have this appetizer called Roti Canai that looks like a cross between a poori and a paratha. Its taste is not exactly unique by itself but the curry they serve along with it makes a huge difference. Real tasty and just the right amount of spice. Yummy!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Flash Fiction - 7

Bad Day

He drummed his fingers impatiently on the steering wheel as his car inched along the freeway. "What a perfect end to the day," he thought to himself.
The day had started badly when he walked out to his car that morning to find out that it had a flat tire. Fixing it by calling AAA meant he had to reschedule his 9 o'clock meeting and that hadn't made his manager happy. His presentation during the rescheduled meeting hadn't gone as well as he had hoped and a frustrating issue had forced him to request a deadline extension on a key project.
And now this. Stuck in traffic just a few exits away from his house. It took another half hour to get to his house, something that usually took 5 minutes.
As he unlocked the door and trudged in tired and weary, his wife came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands. "So how was your day?"
His daughter too came running to him from her room. "I was the student of the day today in school Appa," she said. "I answered all the questions correctly and did everything faster than everyone else."
He smiled as he saw his daughter's proud face and noticed the gold-colored sticker pinned to her dress.
"Oh, it was a great day," he said to his wife as he picked his daughter up and kissed her.

Monday, July 25, 2005


[Pic Courtesy BehindWoods]

Screenplay usually comes to the fore in masala movies where thin, predictable storylines have to be jazzed up with clever screenplays. Priyasakhi is a marital drama that requires an interesting screenplay to make its tired, cliched story of a clash between a middle-class, family-bound man and his rich, high-spirited wife appealing to the viewer. Director Adhiyaman manages to create such a screenplay but only upto a certain point. The movie then inexplicably takes a nosedive into comedy, chaos and chauvinism.

Santhanakrishnan(Madhavan), Sakhi for short, works as a manager at Hyundai. Its love at firstsight when, on a trip to Dubai, he meets model Priya(Sadha). Love blinds both to the differences in their wealth, social status, standard of living, aspirations, etc. and they get married.But the differences make their way to the surface after marriage when Sadha is unable to adjust to his family-centric lifestyle.

The movie starts promisingly with a very nicely picturized Anbu Alaipaayuthey..., that introduces us to Madhavan's loving family. The action moves to Dubai by the song's end where its love at first sight for Madhavan when he sees Sadha. But once we get beyond Madhavan's love at first sight, his wooing of Sadha is quite entertaining. His attention to her friend in order to gain her love is a rather fresh technique and Sadha's jealousy, which ofcourse gradually turns to love, is quite funny.

The movie becomes predictable once Sadha moves into Madhavan's house. While it is pretty clear Sadha is going to have problems fitting in, even the situations that lead to problems are very familiar. At the same time, the quarrels and cuddles between Madhavan and Sadha make them a very believable newly-married couple. The small fights with quick 'make-ups' gradually becoming bigger fights that take longer to resolve, are nicely portrayed.

The decision of the judge when Madhavan and Sadha go to court is the exact point at which the movie begins to unravel. The decision, which by itself is quite unbelievable, is then played for laughs with 'Kovai' Sarala joining the proceedings. And the laughs aren't subtle either. They are loud and unfunny and make the section quite unbearable. As the movie nears its climax, it also turns quite chauvinistic with Sadha becoming repentant and Madhavan bent on torturing her, all for the reason of 'teaching her a lesson'.

Madhavan's long hair makes his face look kinda fat but if the oohs and aahs from the girls sitting behind me in the theater were any indication, he can still break a few hearts. Sadha is quite saadha in looks but emotes well here. Her stares and silent looks at Madhavan are effective and she is emotional without overacting during the fights. Ishwarya, with her gravelly voice, gets several laughs with her expressions and comments. Her expression when Madhavan's grandma congratulates her on her 'promotion' is priceless. Pratap Pothan plays her docile husband and the final scene between them has been played out a zillion times since Rajapaarvai. Ramesh Khanna gets a few laughs as Maddy's brother.

Adhiyaman has been faithful to the melodious nature of the songs in their picturization. Which turns out to be good for Madhavan considering his dancing skills!

PS: After Madhavan and Sadha, I think the most screen time in Priyasakhi was alloted to Sadha's waist and navel! We get quite a few closeups and viewers who didn't get enough of her midriff in Anniyan can get their eyeful here. Which led me to describe Sadha in the following kavidhai...

Anniyanil sothappal
Priyasakhiyil so-much-thoppul :-)

Kolangal Surprises

Viewers who stumbled upon the Sun TV serial Kolangal last week (going by past comments, I'm not sure there are many!) may have been wondering if Devayani's hit serial was still a megaserial. In just one week, it broke not one but two of the defining characteristics of megaserials.

1. The story made a lot of progress

Devayani's dad had left her mom a long time ago to marry another, richer woman. But now he had actually become close both Devayani and her brother(ofcourse both sides were unaware of the relationship between them). Last week, he finally saw Devayani's mother, whom he recognised as his ex-wife and realised that Devayani and her brothers and sisters are in fact his own children!

2. Devayani had something positive happen to her and none of the characters in the serial cried for the entire half hour

Devayani's brother(i.e. her dad's son from his second marriage) has been fighting a case against her and the court last week ruled in her favor. So the entire family got together to savor the good news and none of them had reason to cry.

Just goes to show that even megaserials can spring pleasant surprises sometimes!

PS: Kolangal has been moved to the 7pm PST slot from tonight, a much more convenient timeslot for me. So watch this space for more details :-)

Friday, July 22, 2005

Chandramukhi - 100 Not Out!

Chandramukhi celebrates its 100th day today. 100 days in 156 theatres, breaking all existing records... and still going strong!

2 New Reviews, 3 New Releases

Reviews for Ullam Ketkume and Dancer are now online at bbreviews.

Looks like 3 movies, Priyasakhi, Dhaas and February 14, are releasing today. More interestingly, all 3 of them have something going for them.

- Dhaas sees Jayam Ravi trying for a hattrick of hits after Jayam and M.Kumaran.

- Priyasakhi has Maddy and Sadha and is helmed by K.S.Adhiyamaan, whose movies Thottaachinungi and Sornamukhi(Thanks Ram) handled human emotions and relationships sensitively. The melody-rich soundtrack also points to a soft, non-masala movie.

- February 14 stars Bharath, who is also going for a hattrick of hits after Chellame and Kaadhal.

Its been quite barren in the Tamil film landscape since Anniyan hit the screens last month. So, in a couple of weeks, I'll once again have some movies to look for when I go to the video store!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Priyasakhi Audio

The Priyasakhi soundtrack is a melody lover's dream come true. I can't even remember the last time a Tamil movie album had all 6 of its songs as pure melodies. No duppanguthu, no songs with fast beats or English words and no Hindi singers mutilating nice Tamil words here.

1. Anbu Alaipaayudhe...
This is one of the most interesting songs I've heard recently. It starts off very melodiously but is interrupted by some decidedly western humming(which reminds me of an English song whose name I cannot recollect). Some North Indian music then leads into a second para that starts with a Carnatic touch. All this results in a good number with some nice lyrics about our life and the people we know.

2. Chinna Maharani...
An average number that, in both its tune and lyrics, reminds us of one of the numerous unexceptional tunes created by S.A.Rajkumar for Vikraman films. If Bharadwaj follows his Autograph technique and plays this over and over, it could become a hit. The lyrics sound like this one's picturised on a dad singing to his daughter.

3. Kangalinaal Hey...
The fastest(relatively speaking) number on the album, it is a pleasant and catchy duet. Bharadwaj has added some digital effects to both singers' voices at some places and it adds a nice touch, especially since he hasn't overdone it.

4. & 5. Mudhal Mudhal...
There are 2 versions of this song, one by a male singer and one by a female singer. The song is very melodious with minimum music, mostly limited to a tabla. I especially liked the tune of the two lines that end the first segment and both stanzas of the song. for eg.
enadhu peyarukke unnai ezhudi thandhidu
enadhu maarbinil dhinamum thoonga vandhidu

6. Priyasakhi...
Wish Bharadwaj had delivered a more original number for the all-important title track. The starting music reminds one of the start of Pudhu Vellai Mazhai... from Roja and the song itself starts off like a Hindi number from the early 90s. Srinivas here sounds like SPB and that serves to make the song seem even more like a Hindi number since SPB sang those similar-sounding songs for Salman Khan in Maine Pyaar Kiya and other romances. But maybe because of this familiarity, it turns out to be a hummable number.

Priyasakhi is releasing tomorrow and director Adhiyaman definitely has a tough job of keeping viewers in their seats for 6 slow songs. Lets hope his picturization does justice to the melodies here.

Btw, what other movies has Adhiyaman directed? Thottachinungi was his film, wasn't it? I know he directed its Hindi version but has he directed any Tamil films since Thottachinungi?


I picked this one up last Thursday and read it in a single night when Karthik was recuperating at the hospital (which is why it didn't make it to my usual 'Next Read' post). Ofcourse thats more an indication of my mental stress and my inability to sleep rather than the quality of the book but its still a quick read.

This is James Patterson's third book I have read in the 5 months I have been blogging and there was one(Maximum Ride) that I skipped! That should give you an idea about how prolific the author is. Ofcourse, this has an effect on the quality of his writings. This is another book he has co-authored with Andrew Gross and there are rumours that its the co-author who writes most of such books and that Patterson simply puts his name on there for the publicity his name brings. The simplistic plot and weak twists here do give atleast a little credence to that theory.

The protagonist Ned Kelly is a parttime lifeguard/bartender and also tends to the pool of a rich man. He has agreed to play a small part(but for a big paycheck) in an art heist and quickly sets up plans for the money when he meets a beautiful but troubled woman Tess on the beach. Its love within the first few meetings for both of them. But the heist goes wrong when the paintings are not where they should be and all his partners-in-crime and Tess are found murdered. Naturally Ned's the prime suspect and goes on the run. An FBI agent Ellie is after him but begins to trust him when he kidnaps her and opens up to her.

Instead of Patterson's usual serial killer novels, Lifeguard's plot reads more like a Hitchcock movie with its 'innocent man on the run' theme. It is light on character development, romance and sentiments but thick on action and thrills. The book, like its hero, is always moving and keeps us turning the pages. The romance, though improbable, is kinda sweet and the conversations between Ned and Ellie have a few lines that made me smile. Though there is no jaw-dropping revelation, there are a few surprises. But the book gets too complicated for its own good towards the end and the motives and actions of some of the characters are not clear.

I estimate I have a couple of weeks until I lay my hands on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I'm currently # 16 on the Holds queue at our local library. So if readers have any books they highly recommend(and not necessarily in the thriller genre), I'm all ears :-)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Lucking Out

[Pic Courtesy ChennaiOnline]

I saw Ullam Ketkume yesterday and realized that the phrase 'lucking out' would apply perfectly to its director Jeeva.

Consider these facts... It didn't seem like the movie would ever see the light of day with all the financial hassles, salary disputes, etc. Its audio was released more than a year ago and though good, it didn't create much of a ripple. The movie's hero was Shaam, who had never delivered a bonafide hit and was seeing his stock go down further with every new movie. Its heroine was Laila, who had a few hits like Dhill and Dheena when she signed up for the movie but had pretty much disappeared from the movie scene after Pithaamagan. And the other cast members were all debutants.

But turns out the three new faces in the film are Arya, Asin and Pooja, none of whom are exactly unknown right now. Arya is hot property after Arindhum Ariyaamalum. Asin is the current toast of Kollywood this side of Trisha and can boast of movies with Vijay, Ajith, Surya and Vikram at the same time. And Pooja is a real cutie as seen in movies like Jay Jay, Attagaasam and Jithan. I'm sure the three of them attracted enough of a crowd to the theatres initially, which helped get the all-important word-of-mouth going. Jeeva sure lucked out!

PS: I noticed that the movie was produced by GV Films. So was it produced by GV? If yes, was the delay in its release play any part in his tragic suicide? Would its early release have helped avoid the tragedy? Guess we'll never know :-(

Flash Fiction - 6

Brand New Day

All of them looked forward to the day. The businessman was in high spirits since he was going to hear about his promotion. The smartly dressed young man was confident about his big job interview. The girl checked her makeup once more as she wondered if her longtime internet chat friend, who she was going to meet for the first time, would be the one. The woman touched her belly with a smile on her lips as she imagined the moment she would see her baby on the ultrasound. Their anticipations and hopes were evident in their nods and smiles at each other whenever their eyes met. They began the day together as they boarded the train. And ended their lives together as the bomb ripped through it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Lechi Pothaama?

First it was Trisha. Then Dharani. And now Vikram! Vikram is close to signing on to do an original Telugu film following the success of Aparichithudu, the dubbed version of Anniyan, which has apparently done better business than recent films of Venkatesh, Chiranjeevi, etc.

Due to the similarity of the themes, styles, actor-driven film culture, etc., actresses from Tamil have been able to adapt easily to the Telugu film world. And the higher pay in Telugu films naturally smooths their way. Actresses like Sridevi, Simran, etc. were able to reach the top in both Kollywood and Tollywood and Trisha seems to be doing the same now. As far as I can remember, Divya Bharathi was one actress who was introduced in Tamil but failed to make it big and went on to become the numero uno in Telugu.

Dharani's move to Telugu is a big loss. Easily the best commercial director out there today, I was eagerly looking forward to his next film. So now I'm just hoping that his Telugu film with Pawan Kalyan is a one-off thing(I was hoping for the same thing when Manirathnam went Telugu for Gitanjali and thankfully, my wish came true!). We need more Dhills, Dhools and Gillis! And not only has Dharani gone to Telugu, he has also taken Nila, S.J.Suryah's new heroine, along with him!

With similar superstar-driven movies in both languages, I don't think its possible for an actor to split his time between Tamil and Telugu on a regular basis. Rajni has done many Telugu movies early in his career and Kamal still does the occasional one. Looking the other way, Chiranjeevi played the villain in an old Rajni flick but Nagarjuna was the only one who attempted a straight Tamil movie recently. And we all know what happened there!

Would the success of his Telugu film(and the naturally heftier subsequent paychecks) tempt Vikram enough to shift his base to Hyderabad? I hope not...

Monday, July 18, 2005

My A510

[Pic Courtesy Canon]

I got my new A510 last week and finally managed to take it out for a test run over the weekend. After 3 weeks, it felt real nice holding a camera in my hand and knowing that anything eyecatching I saw could instantly be recorded for posterity!

The A510 is noticeably smaller than my earlier A70 and the 2 batteries(against the A70's 4) make it noticeably lighter too. Though the overall look is the same, there are a few subtle changes in the features, placement of buttons, etc. Its truly amazing how the manufacturers manage to move things around to cram even more features into lesser amount of space.

The A510's click when taking a picture seems more pronounced and its dial, which allows me to switch among the different modes, seems more solid. Though the increase in magnification is just 1X, the 4X optical zoom makes quite a bit of a difference compared to the A70's 3X. And playing around with the menus showed up many new features(like the ability to set the time for the self-timer, more modes like foliage, fireworks, etc.). The camera also has direct printing though that's probably the 1 feature that I will never use.

Canon's already-impressive ZoomBrowser software has also gone through a major upgrade. It even looks different and has quite a few new features including automatic download of photos and recognition(and autorotation) of vertical shots. Real cool!

Here are three shots from the test drive [Click on pics for enlarged versions]...

The yellow rose finally bloomed and joined the others

From the neighbor's yard...

From another neighbor's yard...


We found out on Thursday that Karthik had this condition called pyloric stenosis. So he was admitted to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital on Thursday night and had to undergo surgery on Friday. The doctors did say it was a minor surgery but then again, nothing is ever minor when it comes to your children. But it was a successful surgery and we brought him back home on Saturday. Thank you all for your kind words and wishes. They definitely helped.

Its good to be back!

Friday, July 15, 2005

Short Break

Currently in the middle of some rather trying and stressful circumstances @ home. So no new posts(or reviews) over the next few days.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Happy Birthday Vairamuthu

Supreme lyricist Kaviyarasu Vairamuthu celebrates his birthday today July 13... Here's my own kavidhai(haiku?) on the occasion...

Diamonds are forever
Diamondpearl's lyrics are forever too!

Since I immediately realized how silly and juvenile that particular piece was, I'll stop and simply present my favorite sections from a song whose lyrics I consider to be one of Vairamuthu's best works...

pon maalai pozhudhu
idhu oru pon maalai pozhudhu
vaana maghaL naaNugiRaaL
vaeRu udai poonugiRaaL

Its evening. The sky, personified as a woman, is shy because she is changing her dress from evening to night (I've heard Vairamuthu mention in an interview that the redness in the sky signifies her blushing!).

aayiram niRangaL jaalamidum
raathiri vaasalil koalamidum
vaanam iruvukku paalamidum
paadum paRavaigaL thaaLamidum
poo marangaL saamarangaL veesaadho

The arrival of dusk is marked by a thousand colors. Kolangal are drawn at night's doorstep(or is it "the night draws kolangal at our doorstep"?). The sky lays a bridge to the night to the accompaniment of chirping birds. The flower trees sway as saamarangal(those feathery things that the guards fanned the king with to keep him cool in olden days).

Can anyone describe the onset of dusk in a better way? I don't think so!

pirandha naaL nalvaazhthukkaL kaviyarase!

2004 National Awards

Rather slim pickings for Tamil cinema at the National awards for 2004, especially considering the haul last time, which included the prestigious Best Actor award for Vikram. And its only one Tamil film that has won all the awards coming to Tamil. And the film, not unexpectedly, is Autograph.

Autograph shared the Most Popular Film award with Veer-Zaara. Chitra and Vijay also won awards for Best Female Playback Singer and Best Lyricist respectively for the film. And though the news item didn't mention the winner of the Best Feature Film in Tamil, my money is on Autograph.

Saif Ali Khan won the Best Actor award for Hum Tum. That was an enjoyable film but I don't think his award was really deserved. Were they somehow making up for not giving the award to a Hindi actor(read Hrithik Roshan) last year? And the Best Film winner, Page 3, is a surprise too. Though I have not seen it, the few reviews I read in other blogs and the comments on the film from Sundar and his wife led me to think the film was not even worth a dekho, let alone deserving a national award.

Expectedly, Saif's win is being treated with surprise and one suggested reason behind his win seems quite likely. The article also says the joint award to Veer-Zaara and Autograph was controversial. Why?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Andrum Indrum...

A short jaunt down memory lane with the master director and his two most famous finds...


[Pic Courtesy Wikipedia. Thanks to Gopi for the pointer]


[Pic Courtesy Tamilcinema]

TV Therapists?!

Happened to catch an ad for the magazine Kungumam on Sun TV and learned that Devayani, in her Kolangal Abhi persona, is going to answer questions from readers about issues they are facing. And before I could get over the shock of that piece of information, another ad, this time for the respected and venerable Ananda Vikatan, said Selvi Radhika would be answering similar questions from readers of that magazine.

When did TV stars become experienced enough to turn into therapists and psychiatrists? Radhika and Devayani are simply rich actresses who endure, and even then not always very practically, a series of scripted issues for half-hour a day, five days a week. And this qualifies them to advise people who are truly suffering and might require serious help and attention?! This gives the term 'couch potato' a whole new meaning!

I can think of two ways this thing is going to be carried out...

One, the two actresses are infact, really going to suggest solutions to the readers' issues. It would be the height of egotism for these two actresses if they believe that dealing with issues in a serial equips them with whats needed to tackle the problems of real people in the real world. And would reflect real badly on the magazines who are essentially preying on people's obsession with megaserials at the risk of harming them(with bad advice from two ill-equipped actresses) in the race to increase circulation.

Two, the questions are going to be answered by certified psychiatrists and the actresses' faces and TV characters are being used purely for marketing purposes. This is definitely the lesser of the two evils but still raises disturbing questions. Are we so movie- and TV-obsessed that we are now seeking answers to our problems from stars? Have the lines between real life and reel life blurred so much that people actually think the issues these stars go through are real and they are therefore well-equipped to lecture them on similar issues?

While I haven't seen Selvi, I have seen enough episodes of Kolangal to venture a guess on how Kungumam's 'Ask Abhi' column is going to look like...

Reader: Dear Abhi, my mother-in-law is illtreating me. What should I do?
Abhi: Cry

Reader: Dear Abhi, my in-laws are very rude to my parents? What should they do?
Abhi: They should keep going back to your in-laws to be repeatedly insulted. And cry.

Reader: My in-laws are torturing me. What should I do?
Abhi: You could ask your parents to come home regularly so that they can be insulted and take some of the load off you. Never go to the police. And don't forget to cry.

Reader: Dear Abhi, I have discovered that my husband is infact Satan. What should I do?
Abhi: Nothing. Remember "Kanavane Kannkanda Dheivam!". Don't keep complaining or he may divorce you and marry someone else. Just keep crying.

Reader: Dear Abhi, I recently divorced my lowlife husband.
Abhi: Obviously you are a new reader. Otherwise I wouldn've have let you divorce him.
Reader: What do I do now?
Abhi: Find another lowlife who has also divorced his wife. Show off your wealth until he and his family will want you atleast for your money.

Devuda Devuda...

Monday, July 11, 2005

Raja... Rajadhi Raja

Raja's uninhibited laughter... Rajni's stylish whistle... one of those spontaneous, hard-to-capture moments that results in a photograph that can be cherished forever...

Thanks to my brother who forwarded the photo...

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Happy Birthday KB - Part I

[Pic Courtesy Sify]

Iyakkunar Sigaram K.Balachander turned 75 today and marked the occasion by launching a new film Poi for Prakashraj's Duet Films. The film has an catchy tagline "Ilamaikku Poi Azhagu" and will be a youthful love story with newcomers as leads. Prakashraj's track record of producing low-budget movies with interesting themes(Azhagiya Theeye, Naam) and KB's tendency to put a different spin on any theme, provides an interesting combination.

I was planning on listing some of my favorite KB films and trademark KB moments on this occasion but could not get to it today. Look for a longer Part II of this post sometime during the week.

Updated 7/10:
Q1: The Sify article mentions that KB's first film was Neerkumizhi. I was always under the impression that his first film was the controversial Arangetram.

Q2: I might be mistaken on that one but I'm pretty sure Server Sundaram, which the article mentions as one of his movies, was not directed by KB.

So has my memory deserted me completely or does Sify need a fact-checker?

Friday, July 08, 2005

2004 Filmfare Awards

Filmfare awards for Tamil movies in 2004 have been announced. Seems to be mostly in sync with my picks for the best of 2004 on bbreviews.

Best Film- Autograph
I picked Virumaandi but it was a toss-up between the two. No complaints

Best Director- Cheran (Autograph)
My choice too

Best Actor- Surya (Peralagan)
My choice too

Best Actress -Sandhya (Kathal)
I didn't see Kaadhal until 2005 and so Sandhya didn't make it to the nominees. She'd probably have won if she had

Best Music director -Yuvan Shankar Raja (7-G Rainbow Colony), Bharadwaj (Autograph)
I picked dad over son but it was again a toss-up. I loved the music in both Virumaandi and 7/G and picked the former because of the background score and how it really elevated particular scenes.

Best Supporting actor – Madhavan (Ayitha Ezhuthu)
I classified Madhavan as 1 of the heroes in Aaydha Ezhuthu rather than a supporting actor and so nominated him for Best Actor. But definitely deserved if he's seen as a supporting actor.

Best Supporting actress-Mallika (Autograph)
Again, same as the last one. I though Mallika, Gopika and Sneha were all heroines rather than supporting actresses. But deserved win if she's seen as supporting actress.

Best Villain- Prakash Raj (Ghillli)
I disagree(and most will disagree with me I'm sure:-). Prakashraj was definitely the most charismatic but for pure, undiluted villainy, I still go with Pasupathy in Virumaandi.

Best Comedian- Vivek (Peralagan)
My choice too.

Other awards:
Best newcomer- Ravi Krishna (7-G Rainbow Colony)
Best Choreographer- Raju Sundaram (Ghillli)
Life Time Acheivement Award- K.R.Vijaya

PS: Me thinks the Best Actor and Best Actress awards for 2005 are already a lock.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Tragedy... and Bravery

One of the regular readers/commentors on this blog, Rekha Haricharan(rekhs is the name she goes by in the comments), went through a great personal tragedy recently when her mother Viji Srinivasan passed away on June 13. Though I do not know either Rekha or her mother personally, the articles I've been reading on Viji Srinivasan's demise make it clear that this was a great woman who had dedicated her life to the betterment of the lives of those less privileged than her. May her soul rest in peace.

But I wish to highlight here the act by Rekha that highlights both society's neanderthal attitude when it comes to the equality of women and her courage in standing upto that attitude. A lifelong advocate of gender equality, Viji extracted a promise from her daughter that she would conduct her last rites upon her death. But Rekhs faced great obstacles in her wish to honor the promise she made to her mom. More than 25 priests refused to assist her in her act since only sons are supposed to perform the last rites and she was even threatened with excommunication from her own Brahmin community. Unfazed by all that and with moral support from her dad, her husband and her in-laws, she found a more liberal priest who helped her conduct the last rites and keep her promise to her mom.

My condolences to Rekha and her family in this time of great personal tragedy. At the same time, I greatly admire her resolution in keeping her word to her mom and fighting, in her own way, the bias against women that still rears its ugly head periodically. Twisting Neil Armstrong's words just a little, I feel that it was a small step for her but a giant leap for womankind. Her mom would've been proud.

Do let Rekha know what you feel through your comments... As I mentioned, she does read all comments. And anybody who wishes to convey their feelings more personally can email me at bbalaji [at] sbcglobal [dot] net and I will forward the same to Rekha.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


It finally happened! A Bollywood romance that my wife didn't like but I did! My wife thought the movie was too slow while the romance was too quick. While I agree with those comments(and not just because I am scared of her!), I still liked Veer-Zaara for its clean romance, likeable characters, positive tone and gorgeous scenery.

The film opens with Veer(SRK), a squadron leader in the Indian Air force, in a Pakistani jail. After 22 years, he now has a chance at freedom since a Pakistani lawyer Saamiya(Rani Mukherjee), for who he will be the first client, is willing to take up his case. So Veer opens up to her about his love for a Pakistani woman Zaara(Preity Zeinta) and how it led to his being jailed.

Bollywood romances usually follow a predictable storyline where boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, they separate due to some contrived misunderstanding and finally unite after the misunderstanding is cleared up. Veer-Zaara follows this too but only upto a point. Shah Rukh and Preity meet in a rather unique way as he rescues her from an accident. Their romance is cinematic since it takes him only a moment and her, a day, to fall in love. But their strong characters do help take some of the unbelievability away.

The point where most movies(including ones which were delightful upto that point, like Hum Tum) lose me is the separation. It requires the lead pair to not talk clearly or do something equally stupid to create a wedge in a contrived manner. But Veer-Zaara sidesteps that nicely. There is no real misunderstanding between SRK and Preity and they are in love even when they separate. Like Kaadhalukku Mariyaadhai, their letting go of their love is due to their caring for others around them. So their characters remain likeable and earn our respect.

Veer-Zaara could rival a Vikraman film in its positive outlook and the goodness of its characters(atleast the Indian ones and even a few Pakistani ones!) I mean, in how many films would you see a father wholeheartedly asking his Hindu son to earn the love of a Muslim woman, let alone a Pakistani woman?! But this positive touch leads to some strong scenes like the one where Preity's mother visits Shah Rukh to ask for her daughter back.

The movie caught me a bit by surprise by a revelation in the second half but it was definitely a pleasant surprise. And Yash Chopra's experience shone through in the way the buildup and the scene itself were constructed. But another key scene in the climax wasn't handled quite as well and the scene where the people clap in the court is positively hokey.

Inspite of the makeup, Shah Rukh looks like a young man acting like an old man rather than a real old man. But he is his usual likeable self in the flashback and doesn't overdo it. Preity looks every bit a Pakistani woman. Rani gets the chance to prove her acting chops only as the movie proceeds and delivers her lines with conviction. Amitabh and Hemamalini are delightful in their cameos inspite of their characters being quite cinematic. The movie takes us to some gorgeously scenic places. In fact, I think the reason I didn't find the romance between Shah Rukh and Preity boring was because I was dazzled by the cinematography and locales that provided the backdrop!

Trivial Pursuit

Got this question through email from a bbreviews reader. I do not know the answer and a little googling didnt help either. Since I know that there are some readers who have an amazing aptitude for Tamil cinema trivia, I thot I'd throw the question out here...

Who is the actress who danced with Vikram in the Koduvaa Meesai Aruvaa Paarvai... song in Dhool?

Note: I think you guys know who I'm referring to. So no smart-aleck answers like Jyothika or Paravai Muniamma please :-)

Netflix-ed Out!

My gruelling MBA course didn't make me do it. My wife couldn't make me do it. Kavya couldn't make me do it. But Karthik finally forced me do it! He made me reduce my Netflix subscription to the 1-at-a-time program i.e. I can rent as many movies as I want but I can have only 1 movie at home at any time. I have to send that back to get the next one.

It took us 3 days to watch Blade:Trinity in its entirety and Alien vs Predator, which arrived in the mail last Friday, is still inside its Netflix cover, unopened. So the 3-at-a-time program was essentially not being exploited. I still couldn't cancel my subscription completely since there are some good movies(Million Dollar Baby, for one) coming out that I really want to see and I still feel strongly about setting foot in our local Blockbuster. Hope Karthik lets me hold on to this one :-)

At the same time, I am truly amazed at how easy Netflix makes it to reduce or even cancel my subscription. A simple click on a link is all it takes. There are so many other companies that make it easy to sign on but make us jump through hoops cut off the connection. Once again, Netflix impressed me!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Kodeeswaran - A Poor Li'l Rich Man

When I talked in my profile box about "mostly unimportant things on my mind", this post is kinda what I was talking about :-)


[Pic Courtesy Dinakaran]

The above picture is from a movie titled Kaadhalar Kondaattam and the guy there is Ebi Kunjumon, the son of producer Kunjumon, quite probably the man with most-punned name in Tamil cinema. Ebi was actually supposed to debut a long time ago in a movie titled Kodeeswaran and seeing this pic reminded me of that movie. That movie never saw the light of day and to this day, I'm not sure why.

Consider these facts... The movie's heroine was Simran, the most sought-after heroine of the day. The movie had a much-hyped one-song appearance by Karisma Kapoor, a top Bollywood heroine at that time. The movie's soundtrack, filled with catchy numbers appealing to the youth, was successfully released and was a hit. The movie's producer was, naturally, Kunjumon, the man behind movies like Gentleman, who would've had the money and clout to bring it to the screen.

I still remember my friend SS, who was big a movie buff as me, and me enjoying the songs and waiting for the movie's release. But the day never came. But knowing Tamil cinema, if Kaadhalar Kondaattam is a hit, Kodeeswaran will probably be dusted off the shelves and released with Ebi's name prominently displayed!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Camera Shopping

I have no idea how but I seem to have lost my digital camera :-( Its last known sighting was Monday, June 20 and I have been looking for it since the same Friday. As of last Friday, which marked the end of 2 weeks of the search, I officially upgraded the status of the camera from 'misplaced' to 'lost'. It is a particularly bad time since Karthik is offering quite a few new photo ops almost everyday and grandma and grandpa back home are clamoring for new pics of him too. So I have started looking for a new digital camera.

I spent a lot of time on research when I bought my previous camera and finally settled on an A70. I absolutely loved it from the moment I took it out of the package from Amazon. The pictures were amazing with superb clarity, vivid colors and perfect brightness. I was particularly impressed with shots taken in low light and macro shots. It had an impressive array of manual controls like aperture, white balance, shutter speed, etc. (considering that it was a point-and-shoot camera) and so was perfect for the budding photographer in me. The Auto mode was perfect for spontaneous shots of Kavya while I could experiment with the manual controls for other shots. The only problem I had with it was a weird E18 error sometimes when shutting down but that never interfered when actually taking photographs.

So I have restricted myself to a Canon this time around to cut down on research time. My dream camera I guess would be the Powershot S2 IS. I was looking at the Powershot S1 IS even before and the S2 seems to have improved quite a bit on that. But at $499, the S2 is over the budget set for me (the budget's been set even lower than usual since I am deemed responsible for losing the old camera!). So over the weekend I have narrowed the field down to three candidates - the A510, the A520 and the A95.

At this point I am leaning towards the A510. It provides the same features that I came to love in my A70 - the low-light focus lamp, the extensive manual controls, a nice macro mode, the stitch feature, etc. It has also made an already good product better by being smaller, providing a 4x optical zoom and taking only 2 AA batteries. So I think I'll have a brand new camera in my hands by the end of this week. I'm just sad that I missed my annual tradition of the shaky, blurred shots of our local 4th of July fireworks show! Then again, the A510 has a preset 'fireworks' shooting mode. So maybe my shots next year won't be so bad after all...

'Adhu Oru Kanaa Kaalam' Audio

Balu Mahendra is one of the few directors who (I believe) has stayed with Ilaiyaraja as the music director for all his films(Fazil is the only other director I can think of). Their combination has resulted in some memorable tunes like En Iniya Pon Nilaave... (Moodupani), Raja Raja Chozhan Naan... (Rettai Vaal Kuruvi), Kanne Kalaimaane... (Moondraam Pirai), Maharajanodu... (Sathi Leelavathi), etc. in the past. Their latest project is the Dhanush-Priyamani starrer Adhu Oru Kanaa Kaalam, which has five songs.

1. Andha Naal Nyaabagam...
This song is vintage Ilaiyaraja. A slow but catchy number with unintrusive music, it grows on you easily. Both Vijay Yesudas and Shreya Ghosal sing smoothly and their young voices suit the leisurely pace of the song.

2. Ennadaa Nenaiche...
An average song that, with its image-boosting lyrics for Dhanush, sounds out-of-place considering that its a Balu Mahendra film. But has some fast beats that could inspire some real duppanguthu steps from Dhanush.

3. Kaattu Vazhi...
This song is sung by Ilaiyaraja and is another slow, melodious number. His nasal, raspy voice is strangely soothing as always(remember Thenpaandi Seemaiyile...?) and coupled with the slow beats(in fact the song starts with no music at all), makes this one a very nice lullaby. The lyrics are kinda inspirational too.

4. Kilithattu Kilithattu...
A playful song sung by Bhavatharini and Jyothi, this number once again takes us back to the 80s. Bhavatharini's child-like voice suits the mood of the song and you can almost imagine a bunch of girls playing as they sing this one in the midst of some scenic spots captured beautifully by Balu Mahendra.

5. Unnaale Thookkam...
Malathi has sung this one(about a woman pining for the hero) with a sultry voice. Her energetic singing is the best part of the otherwise average number. My guess is that this is the number picturized on Dhanush and Tejasri. But Dhanush is no Kamal, Tejasri is no 'Silk' and the song is no Ponmeni Uruguthe...!

Overall, this is an average album though two of the songs(1 & 3) can be termed must-hear if you like Ilaiyaraja's 80s style of music. But if Kannum Kannum Nokia... is your all-time favorite song, I can safely state that this album's not for you :-)

Sunday, July 03, 2005

I Can't Handle the Truth!

I went to our local Supercuts this morning for my regular haircut. The fact that this ritual has turned into a bi-monthly occurrence from the earlier monthly occurrence is the most direct evidence yet of my thinning hair. So I'm not exactly in the best of moods during the rather short trip to the barbershop.

My hairdresser today was someone I haven't seen at the location before. After the usual questions on the kind of haircut I wanted, he launched into the kind of chitchat that seems to be a common trait in barbers everywhere in the world. He enquired about my family, my job, life in India, etc. so that by the time he got to my sideburns, he probably knew more about me than anybody else - to the possible exception of my closest relatives and friends. I'm not sure if he ran out of things to say but when he progressed to the back of my head, he casually said "There's not much here, is there?", a comment that kinda shocked me.

I have so far been used to kind, self-esteem-boosting statements from my hairdressers. These range from the generic "All you Indians have such nice hair" to the personal "Looks like your hair's growing quite fast". Though I knew them to be part of the superficial vocabulary practised by salespersons everywhere to please their customers, it was what I expected and it did its part in keeping me a happy customer. But the hairdresser's comment today pissed me off. Ofcourse I know my hair's thinning. I do have mirrors and a wife who loves to remind me. But hearing the same from someone who's an expert on the matter just had a more definitive tone to it.

I always assumed that 'nice' phrases were part of the 'Keep customers happy' rule. After all, people who get insulted aren't likely to go back to a store and keeping customers coming back is any store's primary objective. I mean, can you imagine a McDonalds employee saying "Looks like you've had your share of burgers here, sir" as he hands the order to a slightly overweight customer?! So I wasn't sure about what prompted my hairdresser's observation. Was it an overenthusiastic attempt to sell a product(later, he did try to sell me a shampoo that is supposed to slow down the hair thinning rate) ? Was it an attempt at humor? Or was it just lack of understanding of basic customer etiquette when it comes to saying the truth?

Whatever the reason, I'm hoping to get a hairdresser who thinks my hair's growing quite fast the next time. The bad part is that "the next time" is atleast 2 months away!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Ilaiyaraja's Thiruvasagam Symphony Released

[Pic Courtesy Tamilcinema]

Ilaiyaraja's long-awaited 'Thiruvasagam in Symphony' CD was released on June 30 in Chennai. Function was attended by, among others, Rajnikanth, Kamalhassan, Bharathiraja, Vaiko and N.Ram. Here are a few links on the release fuction that I enjoyed reading (Speeches of Rajnikanth and Vaiko are especially interesting)

Tamilcinema [Tamil font required]

Indiaglitz has lots of photos

Balaji is one of the bloggers I read who was lucky enough to attend the event

Sureshkumar has a review up at

The official website doesn't have any details of the function yet but you can order the CD from there...

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Fab Five

Rediff has a list of the five hottest Tamil actresses today. So who are the fab five according to Rediff?

Asin - Definitely the hottest considering her lineup of movies(Godfather with Ajith, Ghajini with Surya, Sivakasi with Vijay, Majaa with Vikram). I didn't find her all that beautiful in M. Kumaran s/o Mahalakshmi. But along with Trisha, she is proof that 'thin is in'(finally!) in Tamil cinema.

Nayanthara - My personal favorite and not just for the obvious reason :-) She's gotten a bad rap for pairing up with senior actors and I feel a li'l sorry for her. And IMO, she looks gorgeous and hasn't been projected well in the homely getup in either Ayya or Chandramukhi. I'm hoping Kalvanin Kaadhali changes that. But recent KK and Vallavan pics suggest that she might be overdoing the glamorous bit.

Gopika - Had a dream debut with a strong role in Autograph and seems to be picking projects intelligently so far. Proved she was not averse to 'aesthetic glamour' in Kanaa Kanden.

Sandhya - I absolutely loved her in Kaadhal and am fervently hoping she picks some good projects. I still don't think Tamil cinema has found a replacement for Revathi (for awhile it seemed like Shalini might be it but then Ajith and Amarkkalam happened). Right now Sandhya looks like a good bet.

Trisha - She was a given but Rediff's praise seems to a bit too much. If we were to believe the writeup, Trisha's picking and choosing her projects and the others are simply feeding off her scraps! But definitely the numero uno after movies like Saamy, Gilli and Thiruppaachi.

All I can say is "May the best lass win". But whoever wins, we guys can sit back and drool while saying "Sabaash, sariyaana poatti!"

Geographical observation: Three of the five are Keralathu paingilis :-)

Tearful observation: Jyothika didn't make the list

Happy observation: Sada didn't make the list!

'Stomach-burning' observation: Three of the five are heroines in Simbhu's upcoming Vallavan.