On the train

I miss you
I remember the times we had together
How much I was in love with you
The lady on the train thinks
we are brother and sister
Even after I clarify
She seems doubtful
That brings a surge of joy,
I grin widely,
She smiles slightly
I think you will be smiling too
Only if you knew
I know I will remember this moment forever

Behind the scenes, at the CAG

Not Just An Accountant – Diary of the Nation’s Conscience Keeper

Rs 500, Rupa Publications, New Delhi. 2014

Author: Vinod Rai

Vinod Rai’s voice is one of reason; more sober than sensational. His analysis on Coalgate and 2G scam in this book should not be missed. His argument is piercing and book reads like a thriller He slowly builds up, solely based on facts, the now famous accusation that lakhs of crores were lost in these scams.

When it comes to gas exploration and drilling, Rai unequivocally hits out at Reliance. With ample proof, he establishes that government departments toed the Reliance line under the guise of being corporate-friendly.

The book starts with a one-page forewoaccountantrd by former President APJ Abdul Kalam, where he calls upon people to act with righteousness in the heart and excellence in their endeavors. (Kalam, sadly, is no more)

In the preface, Rai lays down the contours of the book and its various case studies.  In a short chapter, he recalls his journey to Delhi after working in Kerala and a couple of other places. The book begins in earnest only after he was appointed Comptroller and Auditor General.

He repeatedly points out that had the government taken a different stand on the various scams, we would be on a different level economically. He eviscerates the various decisions taken during the rule of UPA II, most of during which Rai was CAG.

He also records his correspondence with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on various subjects, including leaks to the media.

He takes us behind the scenes of the CAG’s office and also questions how media leaks happened frequently and were in many cases before the final draft had been drawn.

He also exposes how civil aviation ministers considered Air India to be part of their fiefdom and expected bureaucrats to fall in  line. When anyone opposed, they were shunted out to unimportant posts.

He also bemoans the corruption in the holding of the Commonwealth Games. He accuses the government of withdrawing supervision enabling the organizing body to indulge in corruption.

His steadfastness, persistence and honesty are to be appreciated. I hope this book is widely read.

Ooty- Part IV

Coldness and its various forms. It is different in Ooty compared to Chennai. Even when it’s raining, Chennai is humid this time of the year. Chennaites like the rain. People in Ooty don’t. When they say that the weather is pleasant, they mean one thing in Ooty and another in Chennai.

Chennaites yearn for freedomooty from humidity and here in Ooty we yearn for the sun.

I had the occasion to be in Chennai recently. It’s raining out there. But still it is quite humid. Ooty is cold and I need a sweater, which is unthinkable in Chennai. May be in Decemeber I will need one especially if it is late in the night, when I like riding my bike.

But people can be cold in Chennai. They are all warm in Ooty.

It’s a nice place to live in and I am having fun.

Missing Balu Mahendra

Balu Mahendra with Bharatiraaja

A few years ago, I accompanied my grandfather to a literary meeting. That’s where I laid my eyes upon the late Balu Mahendra for the first time. It was funny as a character in my grandpa’s novels was named Balu. There was no connection. Mahendra was familiar with the novel. He read voraciously. Much before he was a Pune film school student, he was the editor of a magazine.

Going through the Wikipedia entry on the director, I realised that he was a great director, but not a particularly gifted screenplay writer. Also, he remade films that were hits.

But during the 70s and 80s, Mahendra was unvanquished. His influence on a host of new age directors and cinematographers is beyond doubt.

I have seen Veedu, Moondram Pirai, Marupadiyum and a host of other films. When he dabbled with comedy, he was inimitable as was evident in the Kamal Hassan starrer- Sathileelavathi.

He was a sensitive director. He had strong opinions on how women should be portrayed in cinema.

Mahendra developed naturalism as his style of filmmaking. Also, he kept it real. He knew that he need not sacrifice drama for realism. He could be both real and dramatic at the same time. I think he desisted melodrama.

One day, I ran into him at the now defunct Cinema Paradiso, a video store. I told him about my grandfather. He then instantly remembered me. I told him I was a journalist. He joked that he had to stay away from my tribe. That was the last time I met him. I am sad to see him go.

Ooty – Part III

There is a stream at the back of our house in Ooty. The backdoor opens to it. A stream, which not long before, was made of clear water. It is now a drain. Thankfully it doesn’t smell too bad though it looks like it has things floating on it.

When I light up my first cigarette of the day, I open the backdoor, watch the stream and the buildings looking on to it. It is cold and I am thankful of what I am smoking; though it is killing me slowly.

I wake up late and make my way to the Internet café. After a cup of coffee, I am refreshed and soon begin to read, and with some difficulty, write. I am so grateful that the café is so close to my home though I spend a fortune on it. We haven’t hooked up the computer or the TV.

Our house is close to Ooty’s nerve centre, Charing Cross. We went shopping yesterday. We picked a sweater, a woolen cloth cap and a pair of gloves.

My wife is into pizzas. So we went to Dominos two days ago. We have also been to Subway. We are slowly ticking restaurants off our list. The good thing about chains is that you get what you expect.

I am thinking of looking around Ooty on Sunday. May be I will have more to write.

Bahubali – of biceps and banal film-making

The movie begins with a shot of Ramya Krishnan struggling to save a child. A waterfall, probably bigger than the Niagara, looms large into the frame. I will not tell you what happens next. But be prepared for a twist, of which there are many in Bahubali. Let me warn you, this movie doesn’t end. There is a second part.

Bahubali is a kind of movie that seeks to skirt criticism and directly woo the audience. Critics I read, more on less, gave the movie a thumbs-up. It is already been tagged as the most expensive movie ever made in India. I found the special effects to be woefully lacking. But sometimes you can’t make out sets from paintings and graphics. Kudos to Sabu Cyril and cinematographer KK Senthil Kumar.

There is a war scene at the end, which is mounted on the scale of LOTR. The kingdom is attacked by barbarians; much like Gladiator, where Maximus’ army takes on the horde.

The music reminds me, in certain parts, of Couching Tiger Hidden Dragon. And it doesn’t fit in. I have never been a fan of Maragatha Mani, but I always thought of him as a dignified composer. His image may be tarnished if he lifts the music from a lot of places.

Director SS Rajamouli

Director SS Rajamouli

There is a plum role for Sathyaraj, who nails it. As the narrator of the mandatory flashback sequence, and the guardian of the throne, the actor is excellent. He is organic in a movie, which is largely plastic.

But the performances in the movie are uneven. Tamannaah, especially, displays her lack of histrionics. But she has a navel, which the camera keeps cutting to, during a duet. Well, all of us have one, don’t we? As if this is not enough, there is an item number, too.

I will be there for Bahubali, The Conclusion. Not just to watch, but to criticize it too.

Omar Sharif dead

Omar Sharif was a larger-than-life presence in my life when I was a teen. I had seen him ride into the desert in Lawrence of Arabia. Needless to say, I was floored and became a fan of Davin Lean too. Sharif was handsome and had a commanding presence on screen. He acted in a few Egyptian movies before Lean cast him in Lawrence. But his best performance was in Dr Shivago. It was a movie in which his competition was Julie Christie and the snow.

Omar died today. He was 83.