Monday, December 29, 2008

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi is from the same actor-director team that gave us Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and though they also gave us the disappointing Mohabbatein, there was some hope that the duo would recapture atleast some of the magic of their first film. That hope remains for the first half of Rab Ne as the film takes an interesting premise and sets up some intriguing possibilities. But the direction it takes in the second half is a huge disappointment and completely dashes those hopes. And then some.

Rab Ne feels like it is confused about its tone. Shah Rukh's unbelievable transformation and Anushka's inability to figure it out place the film in the realm of fantasy and make us settle down for some fluffy entertainment. But the after-effects of the transformation are handled with a seriousness that belies the film's light-hearted start.

The film starts of with two very likeable characters. Suri is a shy, introverted 'Average Joe' who has a lot of love in his heart but has trouble expressing it (this is superbly showcased in the scene where he wants to weigh down a simple note with a long-stemmed rose but then decides again it and goes with a decidedly unromantic bottle). He understands Taani's troubles and is willing to give her the space and time she needs to connect with him. Taani, for her part, has just lost the life of her dreams and is stuck in a marriage thrust upon her. She understands that Suri loves her and takes small steps(like showing up at the party his friends throw for him) to make him happy but is unable to open up her heart and love him the way he loves her - and the way he wants her to. These are characters we can wish will overcome their problems and live happily ever after.

Its amazing that by the time the movie ends, we have come to actively dislike the same two characters. Suri misleads Taani by transforming into Raj and then pretty much turns into a sadist as he pulls her in two different directions and tortures her as she struggles with her feelings. Taani, for her part, never reveals that she is married until the last moment, spends most of her time with Raj and contemplates eloping. So we never see if Suri and Taani are made for each other and never root for them to be together. Suri's friend, played by Vinay Pathak, ends up being the only sensible character as he voices our doubts and questions and just like us, is exasperated when Suri doesn't choose the logical and obvious path.

For a film that equates love with God, Rab Ne treats the subject with utter disdain. It sounds ridiculous when Suri mentally tortures Taani and then reminds us periodically, with short monologues about his love for her, that he is doing it in the name of love and to make her happy. And after all the doubts and misgivings and mental anguish, Taani's moment of enlightenment about the man she loves comes when she opens her eyes at the Golden Temple and sees who is walking toward her. There are a few scenes - like the hilarious one where Suri has 2 dinners or the one where Taani tends to Suri after he is hurt - that illustrate love but these are hidden under too many scenes of chauvinism, sadism and just plain stupidity.

Shah Rukh subdues his usual mannerisms and is wonderful as Suri. But he makes up for that by hamming it up as Raj and is completely irritating. He just seems too old to be playing the boyish, flamboyant character and gets on our nerves instead of being charming. Anushka is rather plain-looking but fits the role well. Dance Pe Chance... is very catchy and a real dance song. Phir Milenge... doesn't really fit into the movie but is gloriously staged and well-written as it pays homage to some actors from the past with lines made up of their movie names. Haule Haule... and Tujh Mein Rab Dikhta Hai... are melodious numbers.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

2 Trips

The winter holidays were filled with some memorable trips the last 2 years but with work playing spoilsport this year for both the wife and me, the only traveling we did was between our home and our respective offices. But we did manage to keep the travel tradition alive by squeezing in a day trip (more like a half-day trip since we left only after lunch) to the Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz on Christmas.

We first stopped at the Monarch Butterfly Preserve that is part of the park. The preserve has a short walk and a resting area where the butterflies are supposed to rest during the winter months before heading out with the onset of warmer weather in March/April. The park's brochure raised our hopes with eye-catching photos of colorful butterflies hanging in clusters from the trees. But all we saw were a few butterflies flitting around in the air and we spent the rest of the time squinting at clusters up in the trees and arguing about whether they were butterflies or simply dry leaves. We told ourselves that the rain and the wind had driven away the butterflies but one of the other visitors who seemed like a regular did mention that there had been a poor show the last few years.

Then we walked down to the beach to the Natural Bridges, which are essentially rocks jutting out of the ocean. There were supposedly two of these natural structures originally - hence the 's' in Bridges - but one of them collapsed in 1995, leaving the one that is standing now. With the setting sun, the dark clouds and the ocean forming the backdrop, the 'bridge', with the view of the ocean through its hollow center, looked gorgeous though. But we could enjoy the view for only 10 minutes or so since it started raining again, forcing us to run back to our cars.

Yesterday night, we went to Vasona Park for their famous Fantasy of Lights. The entire park was decorated with lights and several animated displays created out of twinkling lights dotted the landscape. We drove through a designated route with the displays on both sides of - and sometimes across - the road. The dinosaurs, a volcano, a ship and a gloriously lighted-up arch were particularly impressive and the cute displays, like a koala swinging on a candy cane and Santa playing basketball, were big hits too. The drive inside the park takes about 20 minutes with about 15 minutes (I've heard could be longer depending on the time) wait time to reach the park's entrance itself.

Happy Holidays...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

If Wishes Were Horses...

Kavya's learning to write longer, more descriptive paragraphs in school now. Before composing the paragraph, she has to first come up with an outline that consists of a 1-line introduction, 3 pairs of double lines where the first line is a new fact and the second line offers more detail about it, and a 1-line closing.

The topic last week was how grown-ups should treat kids and the following is the outline she had written...

How grown ups should treat kids

Let us do anything
Watch TV, play video games all day

Draw on walls
Cover all walls

Give money
$1000 dollars every day

How grown ups should treat kids

Didn't know whether I should be proud of her writing or scared of her wishes :)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Official Endhiran Pics

Looks like a few photos from Endhiran have been officially released. They look to be from the same song sequence of which a couple of pics were leaked earlier. Nice strategy from Shankar here. Considering the leaked pictures, these official pics don't really give us any new scenes from the film. But by releasing them, it looks like he is not maintaining as much secrecy as before and doesn't want the hype to build to ridiculous levels. Thalaivar looks real young and stylish but then again, what's new?!

Endhiran was also in the news a couple of days back as Sun Pictures took over the film from Ayngharan. Seems like a really big film for a fledgling company to acquire. So far Sun Pictures has produced only Kaadhalil Vizhundhen and Thenaavattu, both small movies. So Endhiran's gonna be a real big step for them. With Karunanidhi's family and Maaran's family burying the hatchet, atleast the television telecast rights won't be fought over!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Almost every other soundtrack these days seems to have a song that is a remix of an older song. The term remix covers many different kinds though. We have songs that retain the same tune but put in new lyrics(like Billa's My Name is Billa...) and we have songs that play around with the tune but have the same lyrics as the original song(like Yaaradi Nee Mohini's Paalakkaattu...). Then there are songs that retain the old song but introduce pieces of new music(like Pollaadhavan's Engeyum Eppodhum...) and songs that borrow a little bit of an old number and include it in an otherwise new song(like Pattiyal's Namma Kaattula...). I think the first remix number in Tamil cinema was probably Oorai Therinjukkitten... from Samsaaram Adhu Minsaaram, which took the blockbuster number from Padikkaadhavan and gave it new lyrics.

Remixes have both opponents and defenders. While the critics see a remix as outright blasphemy and consider it a pointer to the lack of creativity on the part of the music director, its defenders say that it is simply proof of the original's enduring appeal and argue that it is a homage since it popularizes the original among a new generation of listeners.

I tread the middle path in this argument since my opinion about remixes changes on a song-by-song basis. I do have my own favorite songs but I don't think I have the kind of attachment to any of them that makes me immediately frown upon an attempt to remix it (or maybe its just that there hasn't yet been a remix of a song I really really like!). While something like the Nalandhaanaa... remix from Silambaattam, even if it borrows only a couple of lines from the original, horrifies me and makes me lean against remixes in general, I do enjoy numbers like the Vasantha Mullai... remix from Pokkiri. The argument that a remix points to the composer's lack of creativity doesn't really fly since the music director does compose the other songs in the album. For instance, G.V.Prakash remixed Engeyum Eppodhum... in the Pollaadhavan soundtrack but he also gave us the fantastic MinnalgaL Koothaadum... in the same album.

So my criteria for liking a remix are simple - it respects the original and it fits the situation it is used in (ofcourse, it should also be picturized well but that goes for any song). By those criteria, my favorite remix so far is PonmagaL VandhaaL... from Azhagiya Thamizh Magan. Apart from being really catchy(I absolutely love the way the muthukkaL... line plays out in different tunes), its lyrics perfectly reflect Vijay's frame of mind since he is going to marry the very rich Shriya. Another remix I like is Aahaa Vandhiduchu... from Vallavan. There too, the remix's situation of a disguised Simbhu wooing Nayanthara mimicked the original song's situation of a buck-toothed Kamal wooing Sridevi and so it fit in perfectly. Another favorite would be the Ennammaa Kannu... remix from ThiruviLaiyaadal Aarambam since it was put in to describe the clash of wits between Dhanush and Prakashraj, in quite the same way that the original described the clash between Rajni and Satyaraj.

Its clear that only a few remixes so far have been used appropriately. The remaining were born out of the composer's wish to piggyback on the popularity of an old song or simply follow the trend of remixing. Its clear that remixes are here to stay, atleast for the near future and there are quite a few in the pipeline(BadrakaLi's Kettele Ange... and Rajadhi Raja's Engitta Modhadhe... for example). Hope the makers realize what makes remixes work and use them the right way.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Its nice that our Tamil heroes are looking fit, paying attention to their bodies and all that. But do they have to flaunt their physique in every movie? With all our heroes going topless these days, the stills from our movies are starting to look like male versions of those infamous Malayalam movie posters that showed the buxom actresses in skimpy clothes and various stages of undress.Oh well... I guess this is one way to turn even action movies like Ayan and Thoranai into chick flicks :)

Monday, December 15, 2008


Making a film with more than 1 big star, let alone all of them, is no easy task. While the story must provide the actors with roles commensurate with their stature and fan following, it must be strong enough to hold our interest on its own. By that yardstick, Twenty:20 is a fantastic achievement. Featuring most actors of the Malayalam industry, it manages to give them - atleast the most important among them - meaty roles and spin an interesting yarn too.

Indrajit plays a college youth charged with murdering a fellow student. Suresh Gopi, playing a cop, arrests Indrajit but Mammootty, who plays a lawyer, gets him released. Within a couple of days, Indrajit is murdered and Suresh Gopi arrests Mohanlal, who was caught with knife in hand. Mohanlal pleads innocence and Mammootty, convinced by him and his mother and sister, appears in court on his behalf and gets him released too. But that turns out to be a mistake.

Twenty:20 starts off as a whodunnit but soon turns into a revenge saga. Similar stories have been seen in Malayalam before and so the story doesn't feel completely fresh. The twists and turns are a little predictable and once we get past the one big surprise right after Mohanlal gets out of jail, there are no real surprises in the way the story unfolds or the manner in which connections are established between the key characters. But it does hold our interest for the most part with a good pace and a fast screenplay. The climax feels overly long and messy and there's the feeling that its because of a need to give all actors their due.

But the movie's key attraction is ofcourse the chance to see all the actors share the screen. The big three - Mammootty, Mohanlal and Suresh Gopi - have been given roles that perfectly suit their images. Mammootty and Mohanlal are ofcourse the biggest stars and whenever they clash, like the meeting between them just before the intermission or the fight - and the following conversation - between them in the highrise, sparks fly. Suresh Gopi gets to mouth some strong dialogs with his usual intensity too and go up against both of them. Dileep steals the scenes he is in with his awesome comic talent while Jayaram gets to play a more serious role. Among the actresses, Kavya Madhavan goes against type in an enjoyable way, Nayanthara shows up for a song and Bhavana pairs up with Dileep. From what I could see, Nedumudi Venu was the only famous actor who didn't show up in the movie.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Just Miss (World)

India narrowly missed having another of its women crowned Miss World as Parvathy Omanakuttan was first runner-up at Miss World 2008. Seeing her photos, I wouldn't have guessed Parvathy to be from Kerala since she doesn't exhibit those uniquely Malayali looks we see in Nayanthara, Meera Jasmine, Navya Nair, Bhavana or any of the other actresses from 'God's Own Country'. Turns out she was born in Kottayam but was brought up in - and lives in -Mumbai. Guess we have the heroine for Shah Rukh Khan's next film!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Rajadhi Raja

Rajadhi Raja is the quintessial Rajni film. Light-hearted, clean, non-violent and yet entertaining, it is packed with all the elements - good clean comedy, great songs, fights and light sentiments - that people have come to expect from a Rajni movie. It was Rajni's 125th film and at the time it was released, the term 'Rajni movie' was already a bonafide genre and the release of a Rajni movie was an event. But it was also a simpler time when the hype didn't threaten to overwhelm the movie itself and the expectations about the movie were not impossibly high. Those expectations it met fully, becoming a big hit.

Raja(Rajnikanth) has just returned from the US and finds his father dead, apparently from a fall after drinking too much. Suspecting his dad's second wife(Y.Vijaya) and her brother(Radharavi) of murdering his dad, Raja asks his friend Sethu(Janakaraj) to impersonate Raja while he himself enters the household as a worker. But the villains, who uncover the truth, kill Sethu also and place the blame on Raja. Raja goes on the run and runs into Chinnarasu(Rajnikanth), who resembles him. Chinnarasu is looking for some money to wed his uncle's daughter(Nadhiya) and Raja requests him to take his place in jail while he unmasks the villains.

Rajadhi Raja is a film where everything, barring Rajni and Ilaiyaraja's music, has aged or was silly to begin with. Its story is simplistic (an age-old revenge tale solved by the simple act of recording the villains' confessions), its screenplay is amateurish and completely devoid of logic(the movie's climax has Rajni crashing into the hanging room in a jail!), the villains are caricatures(comedians one moment, bad guys the next) and technical aspects are shoddy(in the climactic car chase, you can not only see the stuntman but you can actually see him wearing a helmet in the car that is supposedly being driven by a helmet-less Rajni!). But inspite of all this, if the movie works great as a full-length entertainer, it is only because of Rajni. Rajadhi Raja is truly a one-man show and its entertainment value and blockbuster status simply reinforce Rajni's screen presence, charisma and unequaled ability to single-handedly carry a movie on his shoulders.

Ever since Thambikku Endha Ooru, the movie that gave him the template for his roles that he has followed to this day and perfected to an art, Rajni has incorporated both action and comedy into his character. Every film(barring a rare entry like Baasha) has seen him clown around either with or without a comedian in one scene, before delivering punch lines and pummelling the villains in the next. Rajadhi Raja splits up the two parts of his comedy/action persona into two separate characters. So we have Raja, to deal with the villains and Chinnarasu, to make us laugh. This gives us more of Rajni and helps avoid the compartmentalized feeling that dogs those other characters - and movies - where Rajni plays both action hero and comedian.

The film is intended as a showcase for Rajni and little more. The story is real simple and there are no surprises or shocks. Since we - and Rajni - know who the villains are, there is no real suspense or tension either. The characters of the magician and 'Vaalpaarai' Varadhan are simply more chances for Rajni to play dress-up.

In recent times, the role of Chinnarasu is probably the closest Rajni has come to a full-fledged comedy role and his performance showcases his flair for comedy. The innocence and naievete of the character are endearing and he has us in splits whenever he is onscreen. The scene where he requests a landowner for a job and the one where he has to handle both Radha and Nadiya when they come to see him in jail are a couple of the standouts. If Chinnarasu is there to make us laugh, Raja is there to make us clap and cheer. It is the more traditional Rajni role with fights and whistle-eliciting lines like the classic Oru mottai.... Needless to say, he carries it off with elan. Radha, in some particularly weird dresses in the song sequences, and Nadiya, in her last role as heroine before her marriage, are along for the ride. Radha has pretty much nothing to do other than saying a few lines that serve as lead-ins to songs while Nadiya shows some fire when confronting her dad or Anandraj. Radharavi mixes villainy and comedy in his usual style.

I think the film was Ilaiyaraja's home production and he delivers a stellar soundtrack with all hits and no misses. Malayaala Karaiyoram... is a soft, melodious number that takes the place of the now-familiar introduction numbers. Meenamma Meenamma... and Vaa Vaa... are soft numbers also. Mama Un PoNNa Kodu... is a fun number with some spirited steps from Rajni while Enkitta Modhaadhe... could well be an anthem for Rajni fans considering how well it sings his praises.

Rajadhi Raja is a film that shows us that Rajni is truly Tamil cinema's rajadhi raja!

Happy Birthday Rajnikanth!

Happy Birthday to Rajnikanth, Tamil cinema's one and only Superstar...

The mood of Rajni fans on this birthday can't be as good as their mood last year. Last December, we were still basking in the glory of Sivaji's success and celebrating thalaivar's State award for Best Actor for Chandramukhi. But 2008 has been a rather disappointing year with Rajni's lone release Kuselan turning out to be a flop and Rajni himself getting enmeshed in a couple of controversies. But with the first-of-a-kind animation film Sultan just around the corner and Shankar's big-budget, sci-fi extravaganza Endhiran waiting in the wings, good things are not too far ahead for us fans.

There's not enough time to do this blog's tradition of a list to celebrate thalaivar's bday. But I do plan to review one of his films to mark the day. The film, apart from being a quintessential Rajni film and one of my favorites, also has a name that accurately reflects Rajni's position in Tamil cinema.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

5 New Reviews

Reviews for Poi Solla Porom, Sakkarakkatti, Aegan, Seval and Vaaranam Aayiram are now online @ bbreviews.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

California Academy of Sciences

The renovated, expanded California Academy of Sciences is one of the new attractions in San Francisco and we visited the place on Sunday. Located in the beautiful Golden Gate Park, it includes a museum, an aquarium and a planetarium.

The centerpiece of the museum was the new Rainforest exhibit. It was constructed as a 3-story exhibit inside a glass dome with the 3 levels reflecting the 3 levels in the rainforests. The tall trees, the foliage on all sides and the pool in the middle created a nice setting as we walked around and stressed again how important presentation is. Several birds and butterflies were flitting around in the open while some frogs were hidden in the plants. Past this open space, there were some very exotic animals(colorful chameleons, a huge toad, some unusual snakes, etc.) in cages.

From the 3rd level, a glass elevator took us to the aquarium in the basement of the exhibit. A tunnel with the fish swimming on both sides and above our heads was a pretty cool start to the walk through the aquarium. The exhibits were what one usually finds in most aquariums(like the Monterey Bay aquarium) with fish in all shapes and colors showcased in pretty, well-decorated cases.

Other attractions in the building included an albino alligator in a small swamp; an African center with stuffed animals displayed in very realistic settings; a penguin exhibit where we were just in time to watch the cute waddlers being fed; a couple of joystick-controlled games for the kids; and several colorful and well-arranged displays.

We learned later that passes were always handed out for the planetarium earlier in the day and that they were given out first come first served. Since it was a really busy day, the passes were sold out by the time we went there. So we missed seeing the planetarium and had to be satisfied with a couple of science exhibits(like a huge pendulum that was used to prove the earth's rotation) that were outside the planetarium dome. Our last stop was the roof of the building, which had been turned into a huge garden.

With something for everyone, the Academy of Sciences made for an interesting and informative day. Its well worth a visit but if you're going, just make sure you go early enough to grab those passes for the Planetarium.

A few photos from the visit can be seen here.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The 3 Stages

I now believe there are 3 stages in a marriage.

Stage 1: The husband is blamed when he does something wrong
Stage 2: The husband is blamed when he does nothing wrong
Stage 3: The husband is blamed when the wife does something wrong

And as of yesterday, I believe my wife and I have successfully entered Stage 3 in our marriage. As Exhibit A, I present this exchange that took place between us Saturday morning.

Wife: Get aluminum foil when you go to the store.
Me: OK
(I go to the store but forget to buy aluminum foil)
Wife (on the phone): Did you get the aluminum foil?
Me: No
Wife: Isn't that what you went to the store for? Go back and buy aluminum foil.
Me: OK
(I get home. Wife sees what I bought)
Wife (angrily): You bought aluminum foil?! You were supposed to buy an aluminum tray.
Me: ?!
Wife: How could you be so dumb? The next time I ask you to buy eggs, are you going to buy eggs?
Me: ??!!

So all those guys who are p*ssed off about being blamed even when they did nothing... you ain't seen nothing yet :)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Heartbreak Kids

Around the time Alaipayuthey released, I wrote a piece on actors who became heartthrobs in Tamil cinema. Starting off quite late(the 90s), I picked Karthik(in/after Mouna Raagam), Arvind Swamy and Abbas as the members of the short list. Since its been awhile since Alaipayuthey and Maddy arrived, I thought the piece could use an update but it wasn't that straightforward.

I don't think any of the actors since Maddy have created the kind of rage that those actors did on their debuts. Sure there were a few actors who generated some buzz before their movies released and a few others who were launched quietly but got noticed after their movies came out. There was Shaam, who got to act with the two leading ladies of the time in his very first movie 12B. There was Arya, who stole the limelight with his casual performance in Arindhum Ariyaamalum. There was Sidharth who was sincere as he stole Genelia's heart in Boys. There was Vishal who was introduced as the next big thing in Chellamey. There was Karthi who surprised us with his mature performance in Paruthi Veeran. There was Vinay who director Jeeva promised, would be the next heartthrob after Unnaale Unnaale. And most recently, there was Nakul, who underwent a drastic transition to play a disturbed hero in Kaadhalil Vizhundhen.

There are atleast 2 things common to the heroes who became heartthrobs. They appeared in films in an urban setting and they played cute, playful and decent characters. Some of the aforementioned actors didn't ascend to heartthrob status because they didn't follow these 2 rules. Karthi appeared in a rustic role while Sidharth lost out because of the shades of perversion in his character. Nakul's role, on the other hand, was simply too dark and tragic. Shaam and Arya(the former much more than the latter) had only their choice of films to blame as they starred in critical and commercial duds. Vishal is no longer even in contention, what with his focus on becoming the next action hero while Vinay hasn't generated much enthusiasm though both movies so far have been hits.

One trend in Tamil movies so far is that the overnight heartthrobs fade out soon after their 15 minutes of fame (this is different from Bollywood where actors like SRK, Aamir and Salman debuted as heartthrobs and are still reigning stars there). Actors like Arvind Swamy and Abbas are posterboys for this. But other actors with comparatively lower-profile debuts go on to become heartthrobs and have a much longer run. Like, for instance, Ajith. He debuted with Amaravathy but it wasn't until movies like Kaadhal Mannan, Vaali and Kaadhal Koattai that he became a heartthrob. Same is the case of the actor who, I think, carries the title of heartthrob today - Surya. Overshadowed by Vijay in his debut film Nerukku Ner and being known as a low-profile hero with weak dancing skills in his next few movies, he has been making girls go ga-ga over him in his last few movies. And the loud cheers and screams from the fairer sex during Vaaranam Aayiram - and closer to home, the oohs and aahs from the wife and her cousin during an interview telecast on Vijay TV - confirmed that he is Tamil cinema's latest heartbreaker. Let's see how long he holds on to that crown...

Monday, December 01, 2008

India Trip

Got back Saturday from a 3-week trip to India. Here are a few highlights...

- Made a 4 day Bangalore-Mysore trip a few days after we landed. Started off with a woefully short pitstop at Bangalore to meet a couple of friends. Spent the next day in Mysore where we visited the Tibetan Monastery and the Palace. The former, with its tall, shiny statues and the Tibetan monks, was a rather unique place. The highlight of the trip though was the visit to Kabini Resort, which is about 75 kms from Mysore. We did the 1-day package which included lunch, tea, an open jeep jungle safari and dinner on Day 1 and another safari, a parisal ride and brunch on Day 2. The resort itself was beautiful with nice views of the Kabini River, a few short hikes and some tree houses. It was really serene and peaceful and a good break from the hustle and bustle of city life. The accommodations were very comfortable and the food was sumptuous. The safaris were fantastic experiences as the jeep bounced and rattled along narrow, unpaved tracks - with greenery all around us - in the middle of the forest as we looked for wildlife. We saw monkeys, peacocks, elephants, deer, Gaur(supposedly the largest cattle in the world) and wild dogs but the most exciting was a brief look at a leopard as it walked off into the forest. The safari included an elephant ride, which thrilled the kids.

- The only other trip was a day trip to Vellore to see the new Golden Temple. It was more a tourist attraction than a temple, though. The gardens around the temple were well-maintained and the long walkway to the temple was bright and colorful. The temple itself, with its golden surface, looked rich and shiny.

- Several restaurants have mushroomed in Chennai. Rather than just put food on the table, many new restaurants seem to be trying to make the food just one part of the whole experience. And it works. We tried out a few restaurants and my top pick was Mocha. Here we got to smoke Hookahs on some comfortable seats outdoors and then move indoors to a tastefully decorated room to have some very delicious snacks. Also enjoyed the ambience and the food at Rainforest, a tiny restaurant nestled into the basement of an apartment complex. The place was decorated to look like a forest with stuffed animals and forest sounds adding to the atmosphere.

- As the quick review indicated, saw Vaaranam Aayiram on the opening day itself at Abirami Mega Mall. Had cast my net far and wide to get tickets for the first day and finally managed to get them via my cousin's friend. The crowd was expectedly quite boisterous but they were there to actually watch the movie, as indicated by their silence during the serious scenes and their applause for Surya's performance at many places(in contrast, at any Tamil movie in the US, you will find quite a few who appear to have come just to make loud comments at inopportune moments).

- Also saw the Malayalam multi-starrer Twenty-20 at Sathyam. The theater was awesome with very comfortable seats though the sound was a bit too loud for my ears. The movie was pretty good with equal, well-tailored roles for all the major stars and an interesting story with a few good surprises. Got a little confusing and stretched towards the end though. The major attraction was ofcourse Mammootty and Mohanlal sharing the screen and the couple of scenes where they clashed was worth the price of admission. Suresh Gopi looked bloated but earned some claps with his trademark intense dialog delivery while Dileep stole the few scenes he was in with his comic timing. Nayan, along with Prithviraj, appeared for a single song sequence.

- Was trapped indoors by the non-stop rain the last few days of the trip. Streets turned into rivers and driveways turned into beaches as the rain came down in torrents without a break. Had to make a trip to the in-laws' house(in Mambalam, traditionally one of the worst-hit areas during rains) the day we were leaving. And even as we were bemoaning the lack of proper drainage and infrastructure, it was definitely an exciting and unforgettable experience to walk in the pouring rain, go on the bike on the flooded streets and wade through thigh-high water to reach their house.

The rain let up by the end of the week to allow us to get to the airport without any hassles. As always, boarded the flight muttering to ourselves that 3 weeks was just too short for an India trip...

A few photos from the trip can be seen here.