Billy Joel’s Downeaster ‘Alexa’

Itzhak Perlman

A song that refuses to leave my head. It was my cousin who first played it for me a few years ago. I have been playing it almost everyday for the last few months. Now, I share it with you.

Papanasam: Small budget, taut thriller

In the 1990s, when Kamal Haasan was so successful as an actor, producer and director, I yearned for him to act in a small budget movie. A movie, which would showcase his acting skills, and not distract us with elaborate set scenes. That’s happened now after all this years with Papanasam. I haven’t seen Dhrishyum, the Mohan Lal starrer in Malayalam, and so this taut thriller kept me interested till the last scene, which is superbly done.

Hey Ram, Virumandi, and the latest Uthama Villain are essentially vanity projects in which the star is showcased. Compared to that string of movies – and I don’t want to take anything away from the actor – Papanasam has Kamal giving the star in him a rest and this gets us to look forward to the actor in him.

When I first heard of Dhrishyum – my Malayali friends were in considerable awe of it – I had it pegged it as an art film. So the commercial elements in Papanasam surprised me. I am also surprised that Kamal chose this project. But admirably he has and it shows his penchant for new material, which he often writes himself.

But Papanasam has Kamal working in what is essentially a Jithu Joseph project. Kamal, for a change, hasn’t written or produced the movie. And, because the material is so refreshing, we are on the edge of our seats till the end.

Kamal is very good till the climax when his dialogues become an incoherent mumble. But we are in awe of the actor and are willing to let this one pass. Gauthami, Kamal’s real life partner, plays the role of the wife to perfection. And in a particular scene late in the movie, I was reminded of the attempted rape scene in Kuruthipunal.


Niveda Thomas as Kamal Haasan’s daughter in Papanasam

The first 20 minutes leading up the disastrous nature club tour are leisurely paced typical of the town it is set in. I was left wondering when the movie would start. But once it does, it propels on in high speed. Kalabhavan Mani is a brilliant actor and his villainy is admirably characterized in this movie. His corrupt cop is at loggerheads with Kamal’s villager right from the beginning, when he mentions the hero’s powder smell.

Kamal’s family life is brilliantly evoked. He plays Suyambu Lingam, a school dropout, who runs a successful business as a cable TV operator and farmer. His transformation from rustic villager to shrewd father and husband who needs to keep his family protected from the police is well evoked.

But the movie doesn’t capture your complete attention till the final 20 minutes. The slow-paced first half can get on your nerves. But one has to admire the way the characterization is done. I like the tea shop owner played by MS Baskar.

I also thought the cinematographer Sujith Vasudev was brilliant. It becomes a part of the movie without standing out. It takes brilliance to do that. Gibhran’s music could have been better. The songs were forgettable, but the background score stood out.

Since this review is written a day after release, I will refrain from writing about the plot.

Ooty – Part 1


It is cold. So cold it freezes my feet when I try to sleep. The locals are used to it. But coming from hot Chennai, I need that extra woolen blanket. Dhenuka loves the cold. So do I. I pull my feet inside and go into a womblike position to sleep.

I haven’t been to the botanical garden. Not even to the lake. This is a not a tour of the town. Just an excuse to let friends and family know that I have moved here. Also, this is an excuse to revive my blog after years of idling.

I have been to the municipal market. It is huge considering that the town is so small. You get all sorts of stuff. So Dhenuka and I go belt hunting. Both of us have lost weight. But no luck. They don’t have our sizes. I make a mental note to buy one in Coimbatore, which is three hours away.

It is gonna get colder. I look to the winter with dread. In October and November, it rains cats and dogs. And it gets colder in December. During the first trip here – when we were house hunting – it was raining non-stop. After moving our stuff into a house in Glenfield, the rains have stopped. The sun came out, at first without effect and then slowly it got warmer. I still wear a sweater. I haven’t worn one in a long time. So I admire my visage every time I leave home.

You can’t see that many people without sweaters, mufflers, shawls and blazers. In Dhenuka’s college, which is half-an-hour away, students are required to wear blazers in addition to their ID cards.

The house has two bedrooms. We have dumped all our clothes in one and are sleeping in the other. We have access to hot water, which is a boon. We haven’t unpacked completely and haven’t started cooking. I like eating out, so it is cool.

Our house is surrounded by joints – from non-veg messes to Jain food to the usual multi-cuisine affair. We are broke and happier for it.

I will write more when I get the time.

Actress SN Lakshmi dead

SN Lakshmi, the actress performing as a widow in the first half of this bit of Micheal Madana Kama-rajan, is dead. She was a regular in a lot of recent Kamal movies. I distinctly remember her superb role as Kamal’s mom-in-law in Mahanadhi. Naturally gifted actress. I miss her with a pang. She was 85.

Tambourine Man

One of the first songs I liked of Dylan and one of the best. But lyrics are so bizarre, wonder if it is a drug trip.

Yuddham Sei

Why so pretentious, Mysskin?

Chabrol no more

Claude Chabrol is dead. I always thought I would get around to watching at least one of him movies before he dies.  That sounds so selfish, but I feel a real sense of loss and disappointment. Loss that he is no more and disappointment in myself that I never got to know him through his movies.

With luck, I will be able to set right the second feeling.