Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Ghajini Audio

While ARR's songs typically take a few listens to grow on me, my favorite Harris Jayaraj songs have been of the "I liked them when I heard them the first time" kind. Ghajini is I think the first HJ album that has taken some time to grow on me. I wasn't too impressed the first couple of listens but have gradually grown to like most of the songs. Final Verdict: Much better than Thotti Jaya but Anniyan's still his best so far this year.

1. Oru Maalai...
Very catchy song sung nicely by Karthik. Inspite of the scary, rap-like start, the song falls in the melodious category. But it is not slow and gets our feet tapping. Karthik sings the high pitches quite comfortably. The lyrics are quite nice as the singer admires his woman(for instance, staying awake the entire night to watch her sleep).

2. X Machi... (or is it X Maatri...?)
A typical HJ song. Sounds like one of the usual item numbers with the accented singing, the self-praising lyrics and dance beats. The 2 stanzas remind one of Thoodhu Varumaa... in both the lyrics and the style of singing.

3. Suttum Vizhi...
This is one song that has really grown on me. Initially it felt like the song had no real tune to speak of and that it sounded more like a poetry recital. But the gentle tune and beats have grown on me and this is the number I'm humming the most these days. The lyrics range from good(comparing eyes to black and white flowers) to bad(thinking of you when i sneeze?!)

4. Rahatula...
Has a slow prologue before turning into a faster number(HJ's been doing this quite often). Anupama's voice is perfectly suited for the song and I love the way she says yarala vazhala varala in the 1st stanza. The Halla Thulla bit in the middle reminded me of Hulla Gulla in the Poovukkenna Poottu... number from Bombay.

5. Rangola...
A folksy number that fares better than the folk numbers in Thotti Jaya. The way the 2 stanzas end reminds us of Andankaakka...

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

Are you guys aware of a very interesting game(for movie buffs ofcourse!) called ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon’? It was developed by three students in the USA and according to this game, any Hollywood actor can be hooked to actor Kevin Bacon in 6 steps or less through common movies that they have been in.

For example, if you select Cameron Diaz, the links would be:
Cameron Diaz was in Charlie’s Angels 2 with
Demi Moore who was in A Few Good Men with
So Cameron Diaz has a Bacon number of 2

And if you select Bruce Willis, the steps would be:
Bruce Willis was in Death Becomes Her with
Meryl Streep who was in A River Wild with
So Bruce Willis also has a Bacon number of 2

The game is hugely popular, with websites(here's one) and software programs to determine the linkage. But these programs have huge databases stored in them and establish the links through little-known actors and/or movies. IMO, its more fun figuring it out with movies we’ve seen or atleast know.

I was talking about this to a friend of mine and asked him to throw out the names of a couple of actors who I would then try to link to Bacon in 6 steps or less. Since I mentioned ‘any actor’, he threw me a curveball by giving me our own aachi Manorama!

I had to think about it a little bit but I eventually did link her to Bacon with a Bacon number of 5. Anyone wanna take a shot at the linking I did? Can anyone do the linking with fewer than 5 steps?

Monday, August 29, 2005

San Diego Trip

Had a blast with Kavya in San Diego last week. She was really well-behaved and didn't miss home or mommy or anything, the flights left on time, we did all the things we planned to do, didn't have any problems with the hotel reservation, car rental, finding places to eat, etc. In other words, it was just how a vacation should be :-)

We flew on Monday and after a short nap at the hotel, took off to the beach. It was a nice sunny day and the water was just perfect for Kavya to splash around in (the incorrigible Madrasi in me was reminded of Marina Beach and the numerous trips I have made there when I was young. All that was needed were some sundal sellers and wooden boats for couples to cozy up behind and I would've felt right at home :-) Though we live in California, this was actually Kavya's first trip to a beach and she had a great time.

Went to SeaWorld on Tuesday. Nothing much new for her since she's already been to the one in San Antonio. Some pink flamingos, a really cute show with pet animals and a Cirque de Soleil-kinda show were some of the new things for her and she enjoyed them the most.

Off to Legoland on Wednesday. It was the first time for both of us and IMO, the best part of the trip. There were a lot of very imaginatively constructed rides for kids her age and I think I covered as many of them as humanly possible. Scattered all around the park were lots of models like a dragon, Einstein's face, etc. all constructed out of lego blocks. There is also a section with models of cities(like New York) and world famous attractions(including the Taj Mahal) built solely out of lego bricks(each of them uses thousands of those little lego blocks). Really amazing works of art.

Stopped again at the beach on the way back from Legoland and Kavya was able to wade in the water and play on the sand to her heart's content. Also made it before the sun set and so was able to catch a really picture-perfect sunset(more pictures here and here).

Visited the world-famous zoo on Thursday. It was blazing hot and my usual 'zoo jinx' was in full form, keeping most of the animals fast asleep in the water, under the water, on the shores or inside their caves. I think the bear was the only animal that helped me break the jinx and convinced Kavya that we were really at the zoo!

To sum up...

Four days of fun
With the li'l one
Wish I could do it
All over again :-)

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Oru Naal Oru Kanavu

Oru Naal Oru Kanavu is like a dish that has all the right ingredients and a famous chef but still ends up tasting bad. The film has a likeable lead pair, good music and an experienced director not unfamiliar with the romance genre, at the helm. But the film is a complete letdown. And just as its the cook who is responsible for the bad quality of the dish, the blame for the film's failure lays squarely with its director Fazil.

Mayadevi(Sonia Agarwal) sees Srinivasan(Srikanth) everyday as he runs around doing multiple jobs and admires him for that. An argument between them results in Maya challenging Seenu to love her. After realizing that Maya isn't going to let him live in peace, Seenu decides to make her fall for him before breaking her heart by revealing that he doesn't reciprocate her feelings.

It looks like our directors are really running out of ideas for situations where the hero and heroine fall for each other. Here Sonia falls for Srikanth after seeing him be a busybee! But I guess we can be glad that she doesn't fall for a rowdy or dada.

ONOK has some really poor characterization and among some rather inconsistent and weak characters, Sonia's is the worst. She is initially shown as a frivolous girl playing pranks on unsuspecting strangers but we learn later that she actually has a lot of emotional baggage. I was never sure what her real feelings towards Srikanth were and her thought process seems rather strange(her way of getting him to like her is to really irritate him by getting him fired from his jobs!). With such an enigmatic heroine, is it any wonder the screenplay is so confusing?

The movie is atleast engaging as long the focus is on Srikanth and Sonia. Sonia's challenge and Srikanth's plan point to an interesting screenplay even if we can guess how the movie will proceed. But once the couple's families come into the story, the screenplay turns completely amateurish. The characters in both their families are cliched and one of two extremes - they are either perfect or candidates for members of the family from hell. On one hand is Sonia's money-hungry family complete with the America-returned suitor. And on the other is Srikanth's perfect family that lives in a perfect little house, where love overflows, and even sings together.

The film begins to meander towards the end which gives the impression that Fazil wasn't really sure how to wrap things up. There were atleast two points where the climax seemed imminent but I then groaned inwardly as the screenplay took another turn. The movie also becomes a hotchpotch of screenplays from other movies from this point as we get all the situations and characters in a rich girl-poor boy story, a rags-to-riches story, etc.

Srikanth, who usually plays a soft and silent loverboy, gets to play a more exuberant role here. Though he overdoes it at a couple of places, he is good overall. I've never been a big fan of Sonia Agarwal. She has a perennially downcast face that even a wide smile fails to light up. So she seems miscast in the initial portions. She looks quite fat too(maybe the retakes of the Khajuraho... song sequence were responsible for this!) Ilavarasu and Stephen(the friend in Kaadhal) try in vain to raise a few laughs.

Kaatril Varum Geethame... sounds glorious though the picturization is a little too idyllic. Khajuraho...'s picturization is a letdown but Konjam Thira..., which plays in the background, is used suitably. Ponnukkoru... gets the prize for the most unnecessary and thrust-in song sequence.

Oru Naal Oru Nightmare is more like it!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Week Off

Another break but under much happier circumstances than the last one. Kavya and I are off to San Diego for four days starting tomorrow. Summer school just ended and she has a week off. So I'm taking her on a short vacation since she's been such a good 'big sister' to Karthik.

The trip's ofcourse gonna be totally Kavya-centric. We fly out tomorrow morning and for now the plan is to hit the beach tomorrow afternoon, visit Legoland on Tuesday, go to Seaworld on Wednesday and spend the day at the zoo on Thursday before flying back the same night.

Will meet you all again next Sunday after recuperating(and ofcourse, catching up on all the events of the week). Forget me not :-)

Rumour No More

[Pic Courtesy IndiaGlitz]

It is beginning to look like the coming together of Rajni and Shankar under the AVM banner is now news rather than rumour. The announcement on Friday about the two titans coming together is being called an 'official announcement' and quite a few sources, including both print and web versions of the usually-reliable The Hindu, have published the news.

The Hindu
Dinakaran [Tamil font required]

Considering the reputations of the participants, the expectations that Chandramukhi and Anniyan generated and their record-breaking success at the box-office, this just might be the most-anticipated movie in the annals of Tamil cinema, huh? It sure will be for me :-)

I'm Rich!

I learned yesterday that I have just won the sum of Four hundred and fifteen thousand Euro in in a sweepstake conducted by Euro Million Espana S.L as part of their first international promotion program. My name was one of the names entered in the program by "their international marketing department in conjunction with world residential white and yellow pages, humanitarian organizations(!) and the help of chambers of commerce of countries worldwide".

Due to "some mix-up of participants family names", I must contact my claims agent Mr. Steffan Kamler, transfer manager of Deutch Sol Agency by completing a release form and faxing it to him along with proof of my identity. The deadline for this is September 30, 2005 after which my winnings will be returned to the Spanish Economic Ministry. The release form ofcourse asks for some simple details like my full address and my bank account details for a "swift bank transfer".

Guess I'm all set for retirement now :-)

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Title - Sivaji?

As expected, the rumors have started flying thick and fast about the Rajni-Shankar collaboration. A day after the titanic combo was announced, the buzz is that the title of the film, to be produced by AVM, is Sivaji. A couple of reasons have been thrown up for the title. Rajni's original name is Sivaji Rao Gaekwad and AVM was the production house behind Sivaji's first film Parasakthi. And ofcourse, Rajni's respect for Sivaji is well-known and Chandramukhi was for Sivaji Films too.

No one has apparently confirmed this news so far. But the fun is in the conjectures, isnt it?

Friday, August 19, 2005

2 New Reviews

Reviews for Padhavi Paduthum Paadu and Ponniyin Selvan are now available at bbreviews.

Rajni and Shankar together!

Cast: Rajnikanth
Direction: Shankar
Production: AVM

Doesn’t the above sound like dream opening credits for a movie? But it looks like the dream is coming true and we will be seeing exactly those credits roll on the screens next year! AVM’s next film, after Ajith’s Tirupathi, will bring together Shankar and Rajnikanth!

Rajnikanth was earlier rumored to have been approached to play the lead role in Shankar’s Mudhalvan. But he turned it down since he thought appearing in a film where he played Chief Minister would damage his relationship with Karunanidhi.But even as I was seeing Mudhalvan, I couldn’t help thinking how amazing Rajni would have been in that role. Now its another chance for the two to cook up a blockbuster.

Let the countdown begin!

[Thanks Vijay for the pointer. What a great start to a Friday :-]

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Coming Soon - Ghajini

[Pics Courtesy IndiaGlitz, Dinakaran]

With Chandramukhi and Anniyan out of the way, Ghajini has now moved to the top of the list of movies I am really looking forward to. At this point, it looks like the film will release September 2 but knowing how notorious our producers are about sticking to announced release dates, we can only cross our fingers and hope that Ghajini makes it to theatres as announced.

Surya is ofcourse the biggest reason I am looking forward to Ghajini. The actor has pretty much defined the phrase ‘growing as an actor’ as far as Tamil cinema is concerned. I clearly remember his weak turn in movies like Naerukku Naer(where I bemoaned Simran’s pairing with such a weak actor), Poovellaam Kaettuppaar and Friends(where his poor dancing skills were magnified since he danced with Vijay).

But it took a Bala to identify his strengths. Surya was perfectly suited to play the ‘strong and silent’ protagonist in Nandhaa and was pretty much reborn as an actor. He refined the character in Mounam Pesiyadhe and perfected it in Kaakka Kaakka. He was cool and dashing as the police officer and one could say he had truly arrived as an actor. It was once again Bala who highlighted his versatility by casting him as a talkative, glib-tongued petty thief in Pithaamagan. It was the exact opposite of his successful roles so far but he carried it off brilliantly.

I most admire Surya for the effort he has made to grow as an actor. He is one actor who has shown improvement in every department, be it acting, dancing, fighting or physical appearance. Based on tidbits and stills, Surya has two personas in Ghajini – a cool, debonair businessman and a revenge-seeking, tattooed-all-over avatar with tonsured head. Intriguing…

Ghajini is directed by Murugadoss, the director of Dheena and Ramanaa. Those two films marked him as a director who knows the pulse of the audience. He melded elements like sentiments, romance (very cute!) and stunts for a nice masala entertainer in Dheena while he packaged a social message in an entertaining manner in Ramanaa(apart from giving Vijayakanth his only decent role in recent times!). So having him behind the camera is a positive thing.

Ghajini is also the first major release for the film’s heroine Asin, who has releases with Vikram, Vijay and Ajith following this. Nayantara is also supposed to be in the film but, all stills I’ve seen so far have featured only Asin with Surya. So I’m hoping the Nayan news is true…

The film’s music is by Harris Jayaraj, who is coming off two hits in Anniyan and Ullam Ketkume. After a couple of listens, I thought the music was average but the audio is apparently a hit back home. That always bodes well for a film.

Though Surya was excellent in both Maayaavi and Perazhagan, the films themselves were no big performers at the box-office. Hope Ghajini reverses the trend. It does seem to have all the ingredients right. And Surya definitely deserves it!

Music Question

I happened to catch a few seconds of a song on Sun TV a couple of days back. The actress (I didn't recognize her) was singing the song on the beach and Parthiban did just the humming while hiding behind some rocks. The humming was really melodious and catchy and has refused to get out of my head. It went

dhira dheemtha dheemtha dhiranaa
dhira dheemtha dheemtha dhiranaa
dhira dheemtha dheemtha dhiranaa

I know its tough since I can't convey the tune of the humming but can anyone identify the song I'm talking about? Which film is it from?

PS: If this doesn't work, I might be forced to do an audio blog to actually do the humming. Trust me, you don't wanna hear that :-)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Thotti Jaya Audio

Harris Jayaraj is definitely one of my favorite music directors and I've enjoyed most of his albums. He's composed quite a few songs like Vaseegaraa...(Minnale), Uyirin Uyire...(Kaakka Kaakka), Mudhal Mudhalaai...(Lesaa Lesaa) and Chella Kiliye...(Chellame) that still make me scroll through my iPod playlists to search them out. Coming from him, Thotti Jaya is a disappointment with only 2 numbers making the cut.

1. Achu Vella...
A folksy dance number whose stanzas remind me of Kokku Meena Thingumaa... from Kovil. Inspite of Andankakka..., I don't think folk-type songs are HJ's area and this song confirms that opinion.

2. Jaari Singaari...
Talk about a letdown! The start of the song, with its humming and slow tune, promises a haunting, sultry number like Thoodhu Varumaa.... But the expectation is shortlived and the song inexplicably turns into another folk number. But the tune and beats sound like they will suit Simbhu's dance style.

3. Theme Music
Sounds like a cross between new age and church music. Its seems odd when a Tamil word like Nethiyadi appears out of the blue after some celtic-sounding words. Sounds similar to the Anniyan theme music but just doesn't seem to fit in here as well as it did there(especially since the album's got a name like Thotti Jaya!)

4. Thotta Powerda...
One of those now-familiar hero introduction songs with lines like paathu modhudaa, pala paer paatha aaLudaa. I think this is HJ's first song of this kind but he adds nothing new to the song.

5. Uyire En Uyire...
After I'd almost given up on the album comes this wonderful melodious number. It starts off with some wonderfully soothing humming and Karthik's slightly intense way of singing is perfectly suited for the number. The four line section(Nijandhaane Keladi...) that ends every part of the song is great and guaranteed to get you humming.

6. Yaaridamum...
This song once again plays with our expectations but in a good way(unlike Jaari Singaari...). It starts off in group song mode like Sariya Thavaraa... from 12B. But the Mazhaichaaral... bit is slower(but very catchy) and leads into a very melodious song. Harini's voice is very smooth.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Views on Reviews

Guru last week had a post on how not to write a review. He made some sweeping statements that I disagreed with but since I've already expressed my disagreement as comments to that post, I'll just stick to my views here.

A review(of a movie in this context, though it could apply to books, music and pretty much everything else you have an opinion on) is simply put, an individual's personal opinion about a movie. The person who says "Padam Supernga, bore adikkaama poguthu" to the Sun TV interviewer when exiting a theater is, as long as his comment is honest and unbiased, as much a reviewer as the person writing long reviews in newspapers, magazines, websites or blogs. The difference is just in the number of words the two use to express their feelings about the movie. Its upto us to decide which of them we are going to believe.

Since its an individual's opinion, a review is by its very nature, subjective. There is no such thing as an objective review. The very fact that it is written by a human being ensures that. The reviewer's likes, dislikes, expectations about the film, feelings about the movie's theme, cinema knowledge(or lack thereof), mood, the atmosphere he saw the film in - all make their way into his/her review. This subjectivity is what makes the reviews different. Any subtexts the reviewer sees in the movie, any reading between the lines he does and any hidden meanings he construes all arise from his personal makeup. If not for these personal influences, every review would be exactly the same. And that would make things real boring, wouldn't it?

By the same token, is there any review that can be called a bad review? Personally, I don't like reviews that contain spoilers about the movie. There is a reason why they are called 'spoilers' - revealing them spoils the moviegoing experience for the viewer. But I know people who like to walk into a movie knowing everything beforehand. One of my friends even liked to know if a movie was a tragedy or not and forced me to reveal the ending of movies I had seen since he hated sad endings. So the spoiler-heavy reviews that narrate the story to the point of describing the last scene told him exactly what he wanted to know about the movie. So to him, the Kumudam and Vikatan reviews were not bad reviews.

So, just as a review is subjective, so too is your opinion of it. If you really like reading reviews, whether to decide if you are going to watch a movie or just to see what the reviewer said, try out a few reviewers. Find one or more whose style you like, whose frequency seems to match yours more often than not and most importantly, whose reviews you enjoy reading, whatever the reasons may be. It is pretty much impossible to find a reviewer whose feelings match yours on every single movie. So you simply have to find a reviewer whose reviews are well-written. For me, these reviewers are James Berardinelli, Roger Ebert and Mr.Cranky. I like the 3 of them for completely different reasons but I enjoy reading every one of their reviews whether I will see the movie or not and whether I agree with their verdict on a movie or not.

As far as I am concerned, the only 2 qualifications needed to be a movie reviewer are a love of movies and the ability to express your thoughts and feelings about a movie you have seen. Writing about the movie, whether praising or criticizing it, then comes naturally. In my comment to Guru's post I said "I write reviews because I like watching movies. I don't watch movies because I like writing reviews". That to me, is the key to writing reviews. I might watch Meesai Madhavan, Kaatrullavarai and Iyer I.P.S in the same week. But when I pick up my next VCD and pop it into the DVD player, I still experience the same thrill and anticipation that I did when I first started watching movies. As long as that happens, writing the review is a piece of cake. And the day I don't feel that will be the day bbreviews closes...

Monday, August 15, 2005

Ponniyin Selvan

Ponniyin Selvan seems like a misfit among the current crop of films. It is a film that relies more on characters, relationships and emotions rather than stars, sentiments and special effects. It has a sweet story and delivers a nice message in the end. Its director Radhamohan last directed Azhagiya Theeye and though Ponniyin Selvan might be considered a small step backward, it is still a sweet little movie.

Venu(Ravikrishna)'s face was scalded by boiling water when he was a kid and since then, he has undergone a lot of humiliation because of his scarred face. When he learns that plastic surgery could make his face as good as new, he becomes determined to save up the money for the operation.But his mother Ponni(Revathi), his neighbor Kani(Gopika) and his friends are all both surprised and worried at the changes in him as he starts slaving away to save enough money.

Considering that Ravikrishna's scarred face is the basis of the entire movie, the scarring could've been a little more pronounced. I'm guessing that it was tough deciding on the amount of makeup that would make it scary enough but not so scary that it would repulse the moviegoers(remember Mugam)? But the relatively mild(atleast on screen) nature of the scarring makes some of the humiliation he undergoes tough to believe.

Ponniyin Selvan has depicts the relationship between mother and son very realistically. Barring a few exceptions, the relationship has so far been captured in one of two ways. On one hand is the overly-sentimental relationship portrayed by directors like P.Vasu. And on the other is the ultramodern, 'cool' relationship seen in movies like M.Kumaran S/O Mahalakshmi(for the record, I still prefer the latter). The relationship between Revathi and Ravikrishna here is neither of these extremes and is neither too sentimental nor too hip. When Revathi consoles him or worries about him, the feelings seem genuine. And their conversations are down-to-earth and realistic. Small actions(like the way he routinely dries his hands on her saree) and scenes(like the one where he asks Gopika to check in on his mom after fighting with her) help make them a very believable mother and son. It is possible to envision the two of them living next door to us.

The same is true of most relationships in the film. The conversations between Devadarshini(Ravikrishna's sister) and Revathi(like the one where she asks Revathi to ask Ravikrishna for money to buy an auto) have a distinct touch of realism that is very difficult to achieve in a movie.

Inspite of working with a bigger budget and more well-known stars than his previous film, Radhamohan has not lost the two abilities that made Azhagiya Theeye such a delight -the shrewd observation of everyday human behavior and the ability to showcase it with subtle humor. The scene where Ravikrishna and Gopika drink pepsis is the perfect example.They share a perfectly normal conversation but the way it ends makes us chuckle heartfully.This kind of unforced humor keeps us smiling for a large part of the movie and makes us laugh out loud in a few scenes. But there are times when Radhamohan appears to try for laughs a little too hard by having the characters narrate jokes or incorporate jokes into their conversation. Since most of these jokes are old(the Pillaiyaar joke was the only one I hadn't heard before) and the punchlines are known, they don't work too well.

The film is a marriage of a small-budget director with a big-budget producer(A.M.Rathnam, the man behind movies like Gilli). Thankfully, the director has won out for the most part but there are times when the dad and producer in A.M.Rathnam rear their heads and those end up being the most incongruous parts of the film. The song sequences, with the foreign locations and the fast dances, and the fight sequence at the pizza parlor stick out like sore thumbs in the otherwise low-scale movie. They are painfully obvious as opportunities for Ravikrishna to appear with a blemishless face, wear designer clothing and fight. In other words, act like a regular hero. Bad move in a film where its his non-heroic, realistic character is the most endearing aspect!

The film has a strong climax that works very well. It is actually quite predictable but the events are presented in a matter-of-fact manner without adding a layer of sentimentality that would have ruined the whole thing. And that makes them more emotional. There are some well-written dialogs and nicely picturised scenes(that correlate the past and the present). And inspite of the strong emotions, we walk out with a smile on our lips.

Ravikrishna gets another role where his acting and dialog delivery suit the character. I sure don't like his looks(especially his smile) and I'm still not sure if he can do any other kind of role. His lack of speed is evident during the dances and fights. Gopika looks homely and beautiful, the kind of girl you'd love to take home to your mother. Revathi is very good as Ponni. Her face expresses emotions without overdoing it and she is particularly good when worrying about Ravikrishna without being sure how to bring it up with him. Prakashraj is Ravikrishna's friend, philosopher and guide and makes a very believable factory worker. The girl working in the pizza parlor looks cute and is sincere.

The songs are fast and peppy but maybe because they don't gel with the rest of the film, I didn't find them to be very good. Thaachiko... is the only catchy one. It is a high-energy, fast song that is also very enthusiastically sung(considering its situation, the censors have done a good thing changing the Krishna to Chinna in its lyrics).

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Pattu Vanna...

Enna dhaan skirt, gown ellaam poattaalum, namma ooru pattu paavaadai azhagu varumaa?!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

[Pic Courtesy Amazon]

Let me get the comparisons out of the way first. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a definite improvement over the previous two books but falls short of providing the magical reading experience that the first three books in the series did. But that said, there are segments in here, especially as the book races towards a conclusion, that remind us why the series captivated us in the first place.

The book is about Harry Potter's sixth year at Hogwarts, the wizarding school. On the personal front, he learns to acknowledge his feelings for Ginny, Ron's sister, while at the same time, trying to make Ron and Hermione acknowledge their real feelings for each other. And on the wizarding front, he finally learns the secret behind Voldemort's immortality and the way to vanquish him.

The book spends a lot of time on Harry's personal life. I guess romance and hormones and members of the opposite sex do play a major part in any teenager's school-life and that's whats been reflected here. But I was bored. The first few incidents of Harry's jealousy over Ginny's boyfriend and Ron and Hermione's masking of feelings for each other were cute because we are so familiar with their history. But it tended to get irritating after a while and seemed more like a tactic to increase the number of pages. But what keeps us reading through all this is Rowling's amazing imagination as her words take us to a whole new world. The way she gives magical touches to everyday items and the fantastic places she conjures up are simply brilliant.

The first half of the book is also slow since not much happens. There are a frustratingly large number of things left hanging. And Rowling resorts to some obvious methods to prolong the suspense. For example, I lost count of the number of times Dumbledore tells Harry that he will tell him the story behind his injured hand "when the time is right".

The chapter titled 'Horcruxes' is the most important in the book and also the point from which the book really takes off. The remaining part of the book really defines the term(which I have made up!) 'un-putdownable'. Questions are answered and loose ends are tied up in this portion of the book and there are some nice surprises like the explanations for some rather ordinary happenings(like people dropping items) and Malfoy's girlfriends. The sequence in the cave is definitely the best part of this section(and hence, of the book itself). It is amazingly visualized and written and the vividness with which Rowling brings the scene before our eyes is testimony to her literary skill. And the end of the chapter, when Dumbledore says "I'm with you Harry!", literally brought goosebumps on my skin. This is the stuff classics are made of!

The book ends on a rather downbeat note but in a way that will make all Potter fans wait for the last book with tongues hanging out! Its just so frustrating that it is 3 long years away...

Friday, August 12, 2005

2 New Reviews, 3 New Releases

Reviews for February 14 and Chinnaa are online at bbreviews.


3 interesting movies are getting released today...

Ponniyin Selvan - I'm looking forward to this solely because of its director Radha Mohan. He was the man behind Azhagiya Theeye, one of the most down-to-earth and subtly funny Tamil movies in recent times. The movie stars Ravikrishna and Gopika.

Mangal Pandey: The Rising - Aamir Khan's return to the big screen after a long break(his last movie was Dil Chahta Hai). A historical dealing with the mutiny of 1857, it's getting some good reviews.

Athadu - A Telugu movie with Mahesh Babu and a very cute Trisha. She's playing a village belle. Idhuvum hit aana Trishavai pudikka mudiyaadhu!


Wanted to do a post this morning but haven't found the time yet. Will do so later. But in the meantime, can any of the regular bbthots readers guess what the post is about from the cryptic header?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Dulce de Licious!

I used to be an ice-creamaholic back in India. I've visited the Arun ice-cream in Ashok Nagar countless times and a cup of vanilla ice-cream was a given at the end of the meal at any hotel. Digging into the small ice-cream cup with the distinctive, small wooden spoon was a simple pleasure I remember very well.

But it was always cups for me. I was never a cone ice-cream fan. I've bought a few cone ice-creams when I was out with friends since eating the cone somehow looked cooler and more macho than eating from a cup(the tiny spoon didn't help). Even the shopkeeper looked at me with disdain if I ordered a cup! But I was never able to finish the scoop in the cone before it melted. So my attempts usually ended up with me twisting and turning the cone in a mad race to lick the ice cream up from all sides before it dripped down my hand. And I always lost the race. I realized soon enough that that looked way less cool and manly than eating from a cup! The kuchi ice was worse. Without the buffer of the cone, I was forced to lick even more furiously to keep the ice-cream on the kuchi until I finished it. Needless to say, I wasn't a kuchi ice fan either.

Strangely, I've never been big on ice-creams all these years in the US. I've bought a few cans of ice-cream but after a couple of scoops, they ended up in the back of the freezer, frozen and forgotten. I've also tried out the ice-creams at stores like Baskin-Robbins but never got hooked.

And then I found Cold Stone Creamery. Their Banana Caramel Crunch made me exclaim that it was the best ice-cream I've ever had and made me return to the store for more. More importantly, it helped me zero in on the one ingredient that made the ice-cream taste so mouth-wateringly yummy to me - caramel. So I went to the grocery stores hunting for ice-creams with caramel. After a few tries, I finally landed upon Dreyers Dulce de Leche, which is caramel ice-cream with swirls of golden caramel. With two caramels, how could I go wrong?! I didn't. It tastes amazingly good and has me completely hooked. Even since I started buying it, my day isn't over until I have a couple of scoops of it.

I'm having it even as I'm typing this and as the caramel and the ice-cream together melt in my mouth, I'm truly in ice-cream heaven...

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Oru Naal Oru Kanavu Audio

Apart from Balu Mahendra, Fazil is the only other director(as far as I can remember) who has stuck with Ilaiyaraja for all his movies. The maestro has responded in kind to this loyalty and all Fazil movies have been talked about for their music. Some of the popular songs to come out of their combination are Poove Poochoodavaa..., Siru Kiligal..., Pooppookkum Maasam..., Roja Poonthottam... and ofcourse, Ennai Thaalaatta Varuvaalaa....

Oru Naal Oru Kanavu, their latest project, has an equal mix of slow, melodious songs and faster, peppier numbers. IR proves he is still the master of melody with the 3 slow songs but the faster numbers are nothing to write home about.

1. Enna Paattu...
When a director-MD duo come together, atleast one song seems to remind me of their previous offerings. The Hey Hey... at the start of this song took me back to the Pazhamudhircholai... song in Varusham 16. The stanzas here don't seem to follow any set pattern as the first ends with a fast Maaya Maaya... bit while the second ends with a Carnatic touch(again kinda like Pazhamudhircholai...). But Sonu Nigam's pronounciation doesn't betray his unfamiliarity with Tamil.

2. Ponnukitta Mappillai...
The lyrics and beats make this a fun song along the lines of the group songs sung by college students.There is a sudden change of pace in the middle with some slow lines that had me thinking on the first listen that it was the next song. The smooth way this slow section leads back to the faster beats and tune of the main song is vintage IR though.

3. Khajuraho...
After two average songs, this is the one that proves IR still has it in him to come up with a winner. A wonderfully melodious and catchy number that captivated me on the first listen itself. The song has also made me a real Shreya Ghosal fan. She really has a fabulous voice and great pronounciation(except for the inexplicable Ghajuraho!). Just hear the way she sings dhirana dheemthana....

4. Ilamaikkor Vegam...
An average solo number by Sonu Nigam. There are a lot of places with a high pitch and I got the sense that he was trying real hard but still couldn't sing the high pitch full-heartedly. This is the kind of song that IMO only SPB can do full justice to.

5. Konjam Thira...
A slow, soothing number that once again sees Shreya in fine form. The gentle instrumentation and soft beats are real quiet in the background. Sonu is comfortable without any high pitches but I'm no fan of his voice and kept wishing thewhole song were sung by Shreya! Would be a nice lullaby to fall asleep to.

6. Kaatril Varum...
A Carnatic-sounding song with the minimum instrumentation focussing our full attention on the mellifluous voices of the singers, especially Hariharan and Shreya. Its good to listen to but is a bit too slow for me. Its almost like it doesn't have a set tune and so I never found myself humming it when I was not listening to it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

2 Poojais

A quick look at 2 interesting movie launches over the last couple of days...

AVM launched their 167th film, titled Tirupathi, with Ajith. Its really amazing that Ajith, inspite of a long line of flops(Attagaasam has been his only average hit in recent memory) still manages to get some pretty prestigious projects. He already has Naan Kadavul with Bala and now has signed this film with AVM. The film will be directed by Perarasu, who directed Thiruppaachi and is now making Sivakasi, again with Vijay. Hmmm... anyone else think he has a superstition about naming his movies after places?!

The most surprising aspect of the photos is Ajith himself. It looks like he finally took all those comments about his weight seriously! He's lost a lot of weight and looks really thin(a trifle too thin?) in the photos, which lends credence to his statements about taking acting seriously again and concentrating only on it.


The launch of Asokamitran caught my attention mainly because of its cast. It stars Dhanush, Gopika, Bagyaraj and Suhasini. The father-son relationship is supposed to be the crux of the film. I believe none of the possible pairings among the cast(Dhanush & Gopika, Dhanush & Bagyaraj, Gopika & Suhasini, etc.) has happened before. So however the movie turns out, it's cast is sure to look fresh! The fact that the movie is directed by Karu. Pazhaniyappan, the director of Parthiban Kanavu, is an added attraction for me.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Old New(s)

Talk about closing the barn door after the horse has escaped! A year after S.J.Suryah's New minted money at the box-office, the Madras High Court has ordered that the censor certificate given to the film be revoked! Suryah must have had trouble keeping a straight face as he stated that "he respected the court's verdict". In addition to having absolutely no financial effect on him since the film has long ended its theatrical run and has also been sold to the satellite channels, this ruling actually helps keep him in the public eye even as he readies A Aa for release! And we all know how much he likes to be in the public eye.

What is the court doing deciding on things like this anyway? Have all other murder, rape, robbery, land dispute, etc. cases been cleared so that the judicial system now has time to pass judgement on trivial caseslike this? But putting that issue aside, I don't think New deserves this judgement.

New was no classic. In fact, I wouldn't even call it a great film. But it made no bones about what it was - a sex comedy that went for the lowest common denominator. In its defense, the 'sexiness' was mostly from double entendres or the acts of consenting adults. Unlike other movies passing off as family entertainers, it didn't have cheap item numbers or guys taking advantage of unsuspecting middle-aged women. I'm not saying that it wasn't vulgar. It was. What I'm saying is that that goes with the territory. You can't have a gangster movie without violence. And you can't have a sex comedy without sex. So the censor board was right in giving it the 'A' certificate. And revoking it because of someone who found it objectionable makes no sense.

IMO, the films that need to be given a scrubbing down are the ones that are vulgar on the pretext of "just showing what happens in the real world". The most high-profile of these was probably Boys though there were several smaller ones released around the same time. So let me talk a little bit about what irked me so much about Boys.

Though it was just a small segment of the film, the sequences where the boys walk around brushing unaware middle-aged women by taking advantage of the crowds in shops, streets, etc. really disgusted the hell out of me. Yes, I know there are perverts out there doing this but does that mean their acts need to be captured and blown up on screen? And the word 'perverts' is key in the last sentence. Sure we've had movies before where such acts were shown. But the guys indulging in those acts were the villains. The rowdies. The ones who got beat up by the hero or slapped by the heroine or thrashed by passers-by. But the youth doing those things in Boys were the heroes. The guys we were supposed to identify with. As I said before, I am not naive enough to think that guys like that don't exist. But guys like that wouldn't be my friends and I sure don't like to see them on screen.

Boys does have its defenders out there. Leaving out the perverts who actually did those things in real life and so cheered the boys on, the rest are mostly guys who think Shankar was being honest by capturing the 'real' India, gals who (either in India or abroad) travel in cars and shop in sparsely populated mall stores, and the husbands of these gals. I'd like to know if the movie has a single supporter among the women who travel by buses and are groped while shopping in Ranganathan street, and their husbands.

The guys who see New may have laughed at the double entendres, ogled at Simran or been titillated by Kiran. But the guys who see Boys may have been at the busstops and shops the next day, looking for unsuspecting women to grope and molest. That in essence is why I think the latter provided a lot less 'clean and healthy entertainment' than the former.

PS: I know I gave the same rating to both movies. I was talking about a particular aspect of the movies here. The rest of the movie naturally influenced the rating.

Sunday, August 07, 2005


[Pic Courtesy RmKV]

Is it just me or is Jyothika becoming more beautiful with each passing day?! She looked fabulous at the 2004 South Filmfare awards show. And she looks positively ravishing in the Sun TV ad for the new 50,000 color saree from RmKV. Her expressive face is very well exploited in the ad as she is bombarded with several choices for the color of her saree. And her expression when she asks "Aanaa Maaplai?" at the end is just so cute.

Talking of the saree itself, it looks like its a world record. The saree does look very grand and eye-catching but at Rs. 50,000, will anyone other than Jo be able to afford it?! But for those that can afford it, Prabhu has listed some of the practical problems.

We bought dresses for our entire family at RmKV for my brother's wedding on my last trip. It was there that I really understood the meaning of the word rajamariyaadhai since the owner's son was my brother's friend :-) But jokes apart, it was a great shop with lots of selections and good customer service.

Kajol could probably be called my Bollywood Jo. I've never been a big fan of Hindi heroines but she was the exception and was the only heroine who could make me sit through a chick flick like Pyaar Tho Hona Hi Thaa.

My favorite Kajol movie was definitely Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. She was great as the tomboyish girl. She truly broke my heart in the college music festival song where she shows just the tiniest bit of sadness when Shah Rukh Khan hugs Rani, before smiling it off. IMO, she was the best part of Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham too. After a baby and a long break, it looks like she will be back on screen with Aamir Khan soon.

Aug 5 was her birthday and Rediff has a 'Know your Kajol' quiz to mark the day. Needless to say, I got all 6 questions right :-)

Saturday, August 06, 2005

A Aa Audio Release Function

Sometimes you just get lucky! I switched on Sun TV at 3pm today to catch Aanandham and instead, was treated to a half-hour show on A Aa's audio release function. It was quite well-attended with S.J.Suryah, A.R.Rehman, Shankar, S.A.Chandrasekhar, Vijay, Simbhu, Vivek, Vaali, Hariharan and Rajnikanth's daughter Soundarya being among the attendees.

Clips were shown from 3 of the 6 songs. Surprisingly, Thigu Thigu... turned out to be the most impressive with the otherwise regular-looking dance being spiced up with some very cool camerawork and digital effects. Anbe Aaruyire... seemed similar in execution to New's title number with S.J.Suryah dancing with a bunch of group dancers. Varugiraai... saw him trying to be real intense as he sang the song in the middle of some raging fires.

Shankar talked about A Aa being one of the three names he sent in when S.J.Suryah announced the contest for the movie's title after dropping BF due to all the controversy. That was news to me. Vaali briefly described the movie's story and it did seem very interesting. Hope Suryah doesn't spoil it with an overdose of sex. Vivek called IR the musical genius of this century and ARR the musical genius taking us to the next. Vijay and Simbhu were there since Suryah is going to be directing movies with both of them(Puli for Vijay and A/C for Simbhu). Vijay got a few laughs when he talked about his fear of being replaced by Suryah himself at the request of the producer. Simbhu continued the praise of ARR while ARR himself laughed a lot during his brief speech. S.J.Suryah sounded forceful and confident during his speech. His recitation of the opening lines of Aararai Koadi... brought goosebumps even in me.

I couldn't see the film's heroine Nila anywhere. But Soundarya looked ravishing. In fact my wife, who didn't realise who she was, asked if she was the film's heroine.

Friday, August 05, 2005

3 New Reviews

Reviews for Priyasakhi, Karka Kasadara and Kaatrullavarai are now online at bbreviews.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Chinna Chinna Aasai...

Sung to the tune of the 2 stanzas in Chinna Chinna Aasai...

8 maNi nEram
thoongivida aasai

weekend latea
ezhundhirukka aasai

diaper bag illaamal
veLiyil poga aasai

vcdyil padathai
muzhusaai paarka aasai

irundhaalum Karthik mEl
koLLai koLLai aasai

A Aa Audio

A Aa sees ARR return to Tamil films after a pretty long gap(he has said in recent interviews that he is here to stay). But its a rather subdued re-entry considering the high standards he has set for himself. I'm sure that I will be listening to A Aa's songs, especially two of them, quite a bit for a couple of months. But I doubt that I will be searching them out in say, 6 months time.

1. Aararai Koadi...
The song sounds kinda like a remix of an old MGR song, not surprising considering that its an S.J.Suryah film(remember the MGR film titles in the title number from New?). The deep bass beats and the Aah in the background for the Hey Anbe... Aaruyire... bit make it very energetic and the best part of the song. The lyrics that praise the Tamil viewers and fans make the song sound like an intro song for a Rajni or Vijay film. Definitely the catchiest number in the album.

2. Marangothiye...
A song with typical ARR-ish digital sounds, rap interludes and voice modulations. Nothing special.

3. Mayilirage...
A slower and more melodious version of Marangothiye..., this one is definitely more welcome.But just as I was being soothed by first-time singer Naresh Iyer's smooth voice at the start, Madhushree comes on and her pronunciation completely ruined it for me(the way she says kaadhal at a higher pitch sounds more like a yelp!). Thankfully, she does get better as the song goes on and actually says the zha sound correctly.

4. Thazhuvudhu Nazhuvudhu...
A song with a lot of moaning and other voice effects(I thought I even heard a vikkal at one point!). I like this song mainly for SPB's voice and the inimitable special touch he adds at a lot of places(like the way he says Naadagam in the first stanza). And Shreya has recently become my favorite singer. Silken voice and good pronunciation.

5. Thigu Thigu...
The number starts quite dramatically with a number of different instruments. The song too goes through different styles. The interlude is quite modern but the stanzas have simple beats and sound like they belong to an old 70s number, especially at the point where they end.

6. Varugiraai...
I was going crazy trying to remember what this song reminded me of. And then it hit me. Call me crazy but the beginning of the song(both the music and the way it is sung) sounds like the Mission Impossible theme. And the interlude between the 2 stanzas confirmed it for me. The lyrics and the way Hariharan and Chitra have sung the song make it serious and even a little sad but the tune and the beats are fast.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


There is usually a sense of detachment when we watch movies. Even as we enjoy what is on the screen, there is a part of us that reminds us that its just some highly-paid performers reciting lines from a script. But occasionally, there comes a movie like Kutty or Mahanadhi that makes us forget that. It involves us and manages to burrow into us and touch our hearts. Black is one such movie. It is at the same time tragic and triumphant; sad and scintillating; emotional and endearing. In short, it is a must-see.

Make no mistake, Black is a tearjerker. The two main characters in Black suffer from unimaginable personal tragedy. One has been blind and deaf from birth while the other ends up afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. But the handicaps are not the focus of the movie. They are simply obstacles to be overcome rather than foundations to build the story on. The former conquers her handicaps to achieve the impossible while the latter is with her, pushing and prodding and believing in her every step of the way. So the movie, inspite of the overt sadness, is at its core, about positive things like love, belief, hope, determination, friendship, loyalty and trust. And that's exactly why it has the effect that it has.

Michelle McNally is born blind and deaf and is surrounded by people who love her but are not sure about exactly how to deal with her. So she has grown up to be an 8 yr-old(Ayesha Kapoor) used to getting her way and throwing tantrums when she doesn't. Into her life enters a teacher Debraj Sahai(Amitabh Bachan) who believes in her and shows her, in his own non-traditional way, the path out of the darkness she has been living in.

The most heartening feature of Black is that it never goes for cheap theatrics or easy sentiments to evoke our emotions. I know I'm being repetitive but there is a positive undercurrent throughout the movie that obfuscates the sad and the tragic. Once Bhansali establishes that his heroine is blind and deaf, he pushes that aside to focus on the positive and the empowering. For instance, except for one, we don't get any scenes where a young Michelle is teased by other children. And this is a movie where the other students in college clap at her knowledge and join her in singing rather than isolate her for her handicaps.

The relationship between Debraj and Michelle is almost poetic. With only the sense of touch, he makes her understand the world. His teaching method may have been unconventional but his goal isnt. And it is clear that the pride evident in his eyes when he sees her sing is reward enough. The scene that marks the end of the their relationship is one of the best in the movie. Her request is understandable and his response, dignified.

Black is filled with scenes of great emotional impact. The scene where Michelle's mom knows that her daughter is blind and deaf, the one where she hears her call her for the first time, the scene where we see the first sign of Alzheimer's in Amitabh, the last scene are all powerful scenes. And you know a movie has truly touched you when mere words have an almost physical effect on you. The scene where Michelle's younger sister Sara opens up to her family is the perfect example. I physically flinched when she describes the way she treated Michelle. She is not bad. She is just human. And her actions were simply her way of taking revenge for Michelle stealing away their parents' love. It is a raw, powerful scene that moved me. Her act pains us but it also illustrates that she saw her sister not as a handicap but as a normal human being. As a competitor to their parents' affection. The movie is filled with such complex scenes of conflicting emotions.

The reversal of roles towards the end of the movie provides perfect closure for the story. As student becomes teacher and teacher becomes student, there is a sense of completeness that few movies achieve. Michelle finally understands the reason for her learning and knowledge and Debraj, though he himself doesn't know it, is experiencing the fruits of his labor.

Almost the entire movie is a painting and cinematographer Ravi K. Chandran has made it come alive with bright, broad strokes. True to the title, the color black is predominant throughout, be it in the dark interiors in the cavernous house, the dresses or the weather. There are some gorgeous visuals and picture-postcard shots and the sea of white in the last scene tells a story of new beginnings in itself. Chandran has truly brought to life what Bhansali visualized in his mind.

Rani Mukherjee is a revelation here. Starting from her Chaplin-style walk, she pours her heart and soul into her performance. Amitabh throws aside every hint that he is a superstar to deliver an astonishing performance. From eccentric teacher to weary old man, his transformation is believable every step of the way. His eyes convey every emotion from happiness to pride to anger to hopelessness. Ayesha Kapoor's is probably the best child performance I have seen since Shamili in Anjali. In a sense, she has a tougher job than even Rani since she is supposed to be raw. Unfettered. Almost an animal. And she carries it off brilliantly. Shernaz Patel touches ourheart as Michelle's mother. And Dhritiman Chaterji manages to make the role of Michelle's father human inspite of his almost barbaric act in the beginning.

Black is one of the best movies I have seen. See it for its positive approach in the middle of tragedy. See it for the performances of Amitabh, Rani, Ayesha and Shernaz. See it for its glorious visuals. See it for an example of what Bollywood is capable of producing. Just see it.

Monday, August 01, 2005

52nd South Filmfare Awards Show

The 52nd South Filmfare Awards program was telecast on Sun TV yesterday. Since there are no real multistarrers in Tamil, such award programs are the next best thing since they allow us to see a number of stars in the same place at the same time. And the Filmfare awards are the most popular among such shows. No Rajni or Kamal but it was a star-studded event with actors from all 4 South Indian languages making an appearance.

It was a good program overall. The stage decorations were relatively tastefully done with a huge mask in the back signifying the 'masquerade' theme of the show. The dances were well-choreographed without any obvious lack of synchronization though the group dancers all seemed to be dancing in their underwear! And there didn't seem to be any goof-ups in the actual awards presentations.

The program started with a behind-the-scenes segment. This was a nice touch since it allowed us to have a glimpse of the amount of work that goes into organizing a show on such a large scale. The only bad aspect was that you had to see Sadha without makeup during her rehearsals :-)

Probably in the interest of time, the speeches given by most artistes was cut and replaced with personal interviews. The questions were lame and repetitive and very few stars managed to rise above the questions and make their answers interesting.

And now on to some awards for the show itself...

Best looking actresses - Jyothika and Trisha

Actor bearing most resemblance to someone else - Sarathkumar, who with mottai and dark sunglasses, looked like Rakesh Roshan.

Most Disappointing Speech - Vivek, who had some funny stuff to say about the statuette but couldn't convey it well in English

Most surprising transformation - Kiran, who has thinned down quite unbelievably

Best dancer - Rahasya

Worst dancer - Ramya (her Bharatanatyam, during her tribute to Soundarya, was horrible)

Best old woman trying to look like a young woman - Rekha (the Hindi actress)

Best old woman looking like a young woman - Trisha's mom

Lowest hip saree - Katrina Kaif

Best Nandhi - The unidentifiable woman who sat between Surya and Jyothika

Best 'Cycle Gap' comment - Surya offering special thanks to Jo "without whom his Best Actor award wouldn't have been possible" (guess the director and the rest of the unit had nothing to do with it!)

Singamondru Purappattadhe...

I've never had much luck photographing animals. I've been to the both the San Francisco Zoo and the Oakland Zoo a few times but the animals seem to take my arrival as a sign to go off to the farthest corner of the cage/grassland and fall asleep. So I have to squint my eyes to see the animals or worse, have someone point them out to me (believe me, it is so embarassing when your 3 year-old exasperatedly says loudly "See there Appa, that's the lion!"). Still, I have tried to take a few shots but they ended up looking like entries in the "See if you can spot the animal" contests.

Yesterday my wife and my daughter went to the Oakland zoo with another couple for whom it was the first trip to the zoo. And Bam! The guy ends up getting some great shots of the animals. With great jealousy, here are a few shots of the lion(the animal I've had the most difficulty getting impressive shots of) from their photos. Its almost looks like it was posing for him!

As for me, I'm sticking to flowers. Atleast they can't run away from me!!