Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A brand new year

A measly dozen or so posts this year. Abysmal performance by Radhika. I already rue what email and blogging have done to my writing skills. I used to write letters that would span pages and pages - after all it didn't seem worth to post a letter that was roughly ten lines. Then came the email revolution and blogging. Now we have micro-blogging! I just have to package my feelings, profound thoughts and moods into a nice capsule of eighty words and voila my friends can follow the nitty-gritty details of my life. I have promptly registered in micro-blogging sites, of course.

Back to Madurai for a short trip. Heard FM radio on the way - somehow had this strong feeling based on TV/Radio, there is hardly any serious discussion going on among the youth. I must be getting old! There wasn't anyone who said anything surprising - people reacted extremely predictably. Very depressing!

Had spent October in Ooty. Was a lot of fun. Now in Yercaud. It is much less touristy than Ooty. I was romanticizing about the bygone years. How much fun it would have been to walk into a lamp lit ball room of an English collector in one of these hill stations. Consoled later that as a brown woman I would not have been allowed or most likely wouldn't have survived the Mudumalai forests.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Flowers on the road

This morning I decided for a change I will walk to the shop that is a couple of kilometers away instead of wimping out and catching an auto. Thanks to my inability to raise the windows in my car and the rain that had battered the previous evening, I had to navigate potholes and open drains, brave extremely irregular and uncaring traffic, a battalion of street dogs and the strong stench from large dumps with their rotting filth.

African tulips on the rain washed asphalt are easy to spot from within a car.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Monkey Menace

Apparently some neighborhood monkeys have discovered my apartment complex. I opened the utility patio door to a chaotic scene the other day. Unwashed dishes strewn about, trash can upturned.. I have to read up on what all monkeys can do. I wonder if they can open doors or turn my gas on. They could sneak in through the ventilation slots too. One of these days I am going to find a little monkey sitting on the couch watching TV when I get back home. Then again, it will be in good company.

Remix on the road

Drove to Thiruvannamalai to see SS. Rain clouds followed throughout and the drive was beautiful. Much to the displeasure of everyone in the car -"You don't like melodies do you" - I played upbeat song, including some remix. "My name is Billa" was fast enough but "Ponmagal vandhal" is the best of the lot. "Engeyum Eppothum" has a hilariously brilliant moment when right after the initial intro you hear a voice, very quick saying "Tharumararukudhuppa". I think quite a few ols dongs will do well with a remix.

Well paved asphalt till Krishnagiri, young trees with flowers on the roadside, the mellow sun made me momentarily wonder where I was.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


Dasavatharam was my third choice after finding out 'Indiana Jones' and 'Sex and the City' were sold out. I wonder if that somehow disqualifies me from writing a review. But whatever my lofty opinions about Kamal and Dasavatharam may be, I decided to watch the movie with an open mind.

Why would any actor want to play ten characters in a movie? It does not seem like a great testament of one's acting ability. After all whether you play ten or a hundred, each one has to be studied and expressed with sensitivity and intelligence. Once you look at it from that angle the ten characters seem to be an unnecessary distracting circus that Kamal doesn't need. It is a bit of a surprise he still feels he needs such gimmicks to show off his acting caliber. Or perhaps he felt he needed it to win in the box office.

The much acclaimed Nambi was a disappointment for me. I felt the character was contrived and over-acted. So was Govind and the other forgettable avatars. If not for the Telugu police officer , Poovaragan, and the grandma, the movie would have been a disaster. Forgetting for a minute the mis-placed accent, Kamal shows what a great actor he is when he plays the character Poovaragan. The sensitivity, the moral anger , the love for the language, the greatness of the character shines through memorably in Kamal's voice and expressions. The grandma and the police officer are equally hilarious.

But at the end of the day these characters are only there for one purpose. To show what a great actor Kamal is. And that is where it all starts tumbling down. There is no depth to most of the characters Kamal plays and the characters played by others are completely cardboardish, for want of a better word. It clearly shows a failure on the part of the screenplay writer to care about even his heroine.

That brings me to the puzzle of the story and screenplay. Let us set aside for a moment the story and the movie exist only to showcase "World-hero" Kamal. After all there is also the intellectual screenplay and story writer Kamal.

Kamal seems undecided on what he wanted to say. Why bring this whole story to imply even the tsunami must have had a purpose and then backtrack by having the lead character express skepticism to that idea? That too somewhat carelessly and callously. I could see his intellectual side would be horrified to take a stand where that question is even given some serious thought. But that is what the story stands for. At the end of the day, according to this story, if the tsunami had not happened more lives would have been lost.

This movie is not serious enough to ponder a profound question like that and it seems pretentious at best. Or was the purpose of the movie as Kamal pompously states at the beginning of the movie about chaos theory? If we were to look at movies like Babel the connections are seamless and believable. Perhaps they are unlikely but still they could happen and that is what makes such movies interesting. Here again in Dasavatharam, everything seems contrived lik the bullet that 'operates' avatar singh.

Kamal tries to be too intelligent. Tries to prove a point. He tries too hard, period. And that I think is the movie's biggest handicap.

As for the make-up I would prefer the blond, white Shivaji any day to Fletcher.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

American food

Did a short US trip. After a really bad flight full of turbulence that I spent throwing up, I landed in Paris somewhat in a haze. Paris airport folks do a good job of hiding the rest rooms. After spending a lot of time trying to figure out where they were and struggling with the non working water fountains I embarked on the next leg, the haze still quite in place. Every time the air hostess brought the standard airplane fare I was ready to dig my head into the sick bag.

I landed finally in Atlanta after what seemed an eternity and I walked to this food court. Bought this huge sandwich loaded with veggies and a nice thick soup. It was the best lunch (or was it dinner) I had in a long time.

I miss some of those nice sandwiches and soups I used to eat a lot. Getting reminded of the 'is soup a meal' Seinfeld episode.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Donate blood

I had to struggle to get A negative blood recently for someone undergoing a surgery. Apparently it is rarer than I thought. After multiple phone calls I found a few friends who came by and donated the precious liquid. That in itself was heartening.

And then there was this guy - he caught a bus to travel for about an hour to the hospital, gave the blood and off to catch another bus for another hour long journey. He was not one of those 'I have made all the money - and have all the time in the world' kind of person. From what he told me initially on the phone it looked like he had a regular job and most likely struggled to make ends meet. He must have got 'permission' from work.

He left without any expectation of anything - not even a thanks which he could proudly accept - he didn't bother to wait to see me. In that one stroke my cynicism faded and my faith in humanity was restored. They still make people like this?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Do we need weddings?

It was quite thrilling to get up in the morning in anticipation of hearing tamil in all it's glory. Having roped in my uncle to give us [VS, TSL and me] some tamil lessons, I was already making a wish list on all the things I wanted to cover.

The first morning my uncle [Mr. V Srinivasan] treated us to a lovely poem from kurunthogai. But that is a separate blog. To give us the background he talked about the main characters of the love poems - the hero, the heroine, the friend, the mother, the nurse - etc. It boggles my mind these poems from hundreds of years ago don't talk about great kings or great religious figures or even gods. But they talk about nameless, average people with their everyday emotions.

We digressed to the institution of marriage and my uncle commented on how the really ancient poems don't seem to give much importance to weddings. And then he proceeded to recite this -

"Poyyum Vazhuvum Thondriya Pinnar Aiyyar Yaathanar Karanam Enba"

பொய்யும் வழுவும் தோன்றிய் பின்னர் அய்யர் யாத்தனர் கரணம் என்ப

Here is an answer to a very twentieth century question why do we need an institution called matrimony - 'after lies and mistakes and deceit there were ministers and ceremonies'.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Happy Bithday

I was in the middle of an irritating meeting when the phone rang. I did not recognize the overseas number and I picked it up with an abrupt 'hello'.

'Are you busy?', asked the familiar voice. RR calls me whenever the mood strikes him, sometimes once in six months or so. And we pick up the conversation where we left off seamlessly. But it was an odd time for him to call.

'Are you busy?', he asked again. Some wheels cranked in my brain and I asked somewhat frantically - 'What day is it today?'

His voice laced with laughter he said, 'March 6'.

For more than a decade plus now, RR has never once forgotten my birthday. He would call me from wherever he was and wish me. And in the decade plus years I have known him I think I have always managed to miss wishing him on his B'day.

I don't know what I did to deserve a friend who called me on his birthday so that I could wish him and not feel bad later for missing it.

Happy Birthday, Best friend.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Jodha Akbar

Akbar as a cinematic character has so much potential that the smartest thing a director could do is take one aspect of his complex life and through that navigate the immense material available to play with. When I first read the premise of Jodha Akbar it seemed like a brilliant choice from that angle. What a splendid idea to take a young Jalaluddin Mohammad, before he became Akbar with the backdrop of a romance as the plot!

A historical, many feel suffers from a known climax. I do not think that is always necessarily true. The audience imagination and interest could still be captured with the way we approach that climax and with the way a known historical event could be reinterpreted. Jodha Akbar, however, suffers from an indecision about what the climax of the movie is. In a romance, you would typically have a wedding or a declaration of love. In a historical such as this it could be along with the usual romance climax, a pivotal war, it could be a coronation. All these are there in the movie but in bits and pieces and all over the place. The movie meanders sometimes towards one ending and sometimes towards the other. He gets awarded the title Akbar with a song thrown in and then there is the declaration of love with another song thrown in and then there is some battle with a not so strong antagonist, thankfully without another song and then he makes a speech about tolerance and then Amitabh reminds us Jodha and Akbar are one of the greatest lovers of all time. This did not seem like a natural progression towards an ending to me. It was more of a few visual treats put together in random order.

Akbar became a king at the age of thirteen. Most of the dramatically interesting events happened early on in his life. His powerful regents, his politically motivated marriages, the decisive violence with which he dealt with some of his enemies and the contradictory benevolence he showed a few other. These are not fully explored in the movie. Why do we suffer from shallow characters when it comes to historicals. Why do we always have Achilleses, Alexanders and Akbars all one dimensional?

The reason why Jodha Akbar could be a rich love story is really the politics, religions and the personalities involved. Does the movie exploit it? Yes, in some simplistic level. We see glimpses of Akbar's piety - the moving 'qwaja mere qwaja' though the twirl was a bit overdone, when he prays before accepting the wedding proposal, her religious concerns - she wants a temple inside the mughal fort, the other scheming rajput kings, Soojamal, the scene when Akbar orders for the death of his cousin etc. But throughout I had this feeling of disappointment.

It is not as if Gowariker doesn't dwell or linger on something that he wants to say. Best example is the very lovely romantic scene when Akbar sees his wife's face first time unveiled. If only similar amount of screen time were given to develop more complex characters. Was that lengthy scene with Akbar practicing with his sword necessary? Er.. scratch that, what am I saying, it was necessary :) All the scenes with Hrithik, for that matter was necessary.

The princess who grew up with Rajput pride and politics against the moguls, very pious and religious, strong in her understanding of the sacrifice she must make for her people - she doesn't swallow the proffered poison nor does she sends a letter to her brother. The young king - still not out of his violent past with its many wars, struggling to establish himself as a true monarch in the hearts of his people by religious tolerance and better governance. There is a key dialog in the movie where Jodha accuses Akbar of knowing only to lay siege and capture but not win hearts. The movie is about how Akbar learns to do just that and in the process winning her heart and the title Akbar. But due to a confused ordering of the scenes and a lack of crisp editing, the point is not necessarily lost but it doesn't stand out.

It is unnecessary really to comment on the richness of the shots or how gorgeous Hrithik and Aishwarya look. It is definitely worth watching for the grand sets and elaborate costumes and the scenes oozing of romace - perhaps as a chick flick or a date movie.

There are some movies like 'Shakespeare in love' which work in many levels - entertaining without compromising on the cerebral appeal - Jodha akbar is not one of them.

Pillion Rider

A couple roared past us scorching the asphalt. SR observed - "Good. The wife is wearing a helmet too"

I said with a superior smile - "You mean the lady on the back. You can't be sure she is his wife"'

SR gave me this pitying, 'don't be silly' look. "Of course it's his wife. If it were his girl friend she would be plastered all over him", he said.

I had to smile.


Spent last weekend pseudo camping. Its pseudo because there was a farm house nearby. RT and AK from work had suggested this idea of a camping trip - trek, tent, cooking outside etc. only we will do all that in AK's farm house.

This was the first time I did anything like it and AK and RT had a great time pulling my leg about the tigers from Bannerghatta possibly visiting my tent. At one point I was seriously doubtful but decided to do it anyway.

AK and his dynamic wife SK are such gracious hosts. After a leisurely lunch, we relaxed for a while. The windy patio, the sun beating on the young trees, the hues of the afternoon mountain made me feel drowsy.

RT set us to work before sunset and we put up our tent.s. RT and his wife AT are ace trekkers and campers. While pitching the tents we were treated to many interesting camping stories from all over the world. Later RT served delicious corn and burgers from his grill.

I rediscovered how bright a gibbous moon would be and heard the night sounds that I had long forgotten. AK treated to us to a melodious rendition of 'Poomalai Vaangi vandhal'. Even his mis-pronunciations were sweet.

The next morning we trekked up the hill. Another first for me. I thought I wouldn' t make it but it was a moment of intense satisfaction to finally go up there and sit on the rocky surface and survey the land below.

I thought I was going to be out for a week or so but I did not feel a thing, except of course a sense of calm.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday afternoon

I need more than two days for the weekend.. By the time it is sunday afternoon is when I am really ready to unwind. I have finally finished all my weekly chores and I am about ready to decide the music I want to hear and the book I want to read - but it is already time to go back to the weekly grind.

Saturday, February 02, 2008


There was an interesting article in Ananda Vikatan about letter writing. The author after sharing fond memories of letters- , had listed those friends names wondering whatever happened to them, puzzled why there weren't letters anymore. I could immediately identify with it - having written and received hundreds of letters during the course of high school and college. And these letters were not one pagers. Some of them would require extra stamps. I remember writing letters - sitting on a lonely train compartment once on a journey to Madurai, getting up earlier than usual and writing when the rest of the house was asleep still, scribbling a page in the back of a bill on a rainy afternoon and mailing it as is... Is it the sheer lack of time that has prevented me from writing or the fact that my friends have moved on or perhaps that I use the phone more often?

Or perhaps it is more ominous than that. Even if I were to think while I used to write letters when I wanted to share something and instead now I blog, none of my blogs seem to be more than a page, heck not even a paragraph most of the time! Perhaps I have lost the ability to ponder and have settled for capsulated one liners.

Or perhaps I have discovered finally that brevity is the soul of wit.


This Republic day I had a chance to visit two schools.

The first one was a school upper middle class children go to. I sat through an extended assembly. This school had a nice prayer - a poem by Tagore - which could be neutral in terms of religion and could actually also satisfy the atheists if a few lines were dropped. The Pledge, news for the day, thought for the day, the national anthem all brought me back memories of school days. I don't remember ever enjoying the assembly, nor do I remember ever learning anything from it. The kids often speak in a hyper speed, highly nasal voice and half the words are swallowed by the amplifier anyway. Things didn't seemed to have changed much. Except may be the parents with their high tech camera and video equipment capturing that prize winning moment.

The other one was a government school in one of the outskirts of Bangalore. A bunch of us brought some shoes for the kids. This school just a few miles away had seven grades with four teachers and five classrooms - there was no playground and the building was a bit old. It was clear they got their news from kannada movies. There were no parents hanging about - the children dispersed merrily walking home by themselves. [There was the old man who came and promptly took all the empty cartons - talk of entrepreneurship.] There were a couple of computers though I wondered if the kids were really exposed to them.

But at the end of the day - one thing struck me - there wasn't any difference in the brightness in the children's eyes.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Some of the blogs have this pithy single word update on one's moods. Is one happy, peppy, sad, etc.etc. I wonder whats the right word for my mood these days - probably fatigue - kind of an emotional fatigue - making microwave popcorn for lunch seems such a chore . Makes me wonder if I have finally crossed over and become a bitter, cynical woman who doesn't think anything is worthwhile. -

2007 is the worst in terms of my writing output - no stories. Not even one blog a month!

Finally got back to my one unknown author a month plan. Maybe I'll fare 'better' in 2008.