Monthly Archives: April 2006

Walking the line

Johnny Cash began singing sometime during the 1950s, may be early 40s. I don’t know. He was pre-Dylan, though. After quitting the Air Force after a brief stint, Cash, in his twenties and newly married, began selling home appliances.
In the movie Walk the Line, which was recently released in Chennai, Joaquin Phoenix plays Cash.
Joaquin is a good actor. His performance in The Gladiator was meticulously conceived and executed. Even in trash like Ladder 41 (was that the name of the movie? Lauda 41, my friend called it then) he shines, and almost manages to rescue what is otherwise a rather pedestrian and predictable film.
But by playing the legendary Cash, Joaquin, I think landed the role – perhaps the first – of his lifetime. The movie is not too great, utterly failing in one thing that it really should have spared no effort to unravel. The creative genius behind such songs as ‘I walk the Line’ and ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ is hardly explored.
Another movie made a couple of years back, Ray too failed in this aspect.
Both Ray and Walk the Line follow a similar plot trajectory – the first big break and the racy, intoxicating life and career of the artists, the love of their lives, one childhood memory that haunts them, their addiction to drugs, a descent into near obscurity, and ultimately their redemption and second coming.
John loses his older brother in an accident at a carpentry shop. His sorrow and guilt at not being there to help his brother when he most needs him is doubled when his dad, weak with drink, blames John and then God. In a early pivotal scene, Cash Sr blames God for taking away “the wrong son”.
John and his complicated relationship with his dad is a recurring theme throughout the movie, and in a proportion that can match any Russian novel. Years later, John is struggling with his drug addiction when Dad points out that John has nothing in his life. His wife and children have fled. His life is empty just like his big wooden house. Cruel blow it does seem, but it is also the starting point of John’s redemption.
The title Walk the Line itself has a famous story behind it. Please be patient and read on.

Early in his musical career, Johnny, 23, then opening for The King (the Elvis Presley), 20, meets June Carter. In the movie, this is presented in a dramatic fashion. Reese Witherspoon plays the effervescent and bouyant June, bringing with her in the early scenes a radiant charm and, then later on, superbly subtle acting.
Joaquin is hardly Jude Law – meaning, he is hardly romantic. At least in my eyes. I suppose millions of his female fans would disagree, but to me it was Ms. Witherspoon who saved the romantic scenes of the movie.
One of the first songs the two sing together has something to do with arms and lips and about using them. 🙂
Johnny, by now, is into drugs as much he is into June. And on a morning when Johnny’s band and June are to perform together, he gets stoned and drunk. After bombarding the entire band with whiskey bottles, she screams “You guys can’t walk the line”
Thus, remarkably enough, is the born one of the most famous songs on fidelity. I reproduce the lyrics here and I think you should read them and if possible listen to the song too before continuing.

I Walk the Line
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you’re mine, I walk the line

I find it very, very easy to be true
I find myself alone when each day is through
Yes, I’ll admit that I’m a fool for you
Because you’re mine, I walk the line

As sure as night is dark and day is light
I keep you on my mind both day and night
And happiness I’ve known proves that it’s right
Because you’re mine, I walk the line

You’ve got a way to keep me on your side
You give me cause for love that I can’t hide
For you I know I’d even try to turn the tide
Because you’re mine, I walk the line

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you’re mine, I walk the line

I am too tired now. It’s like the hour that God eases the Lucifer out of me and pushes me to bed. I promise to continue on Walk the Line sometime soon. Good night folks, and happy reading.

If you have Real player or its equivalent, visit
Happy listening too.


Falling in love….with Big City Chennai

The two suitcases, that my grandmom had helped me pack, were old and worthy of the uneasiness with which I carried them. I landed at Room 206 at E-Block, Heber Hall, Madras Christian College, with these and a shopping bag full of odd things. I had a past to forget and a future in journalism to look forward to.
My hallmates were a combination of the rustic and the sophisticated, with me sandwiched somewhere in between. I had visited Chennai a couple of times before, but this time it was for good. MCC is a sanctuary for odd people and I fancied that I was odd and found out during the first week that I would indeed survive.
I saw a bit of Chennai that year. At first I was wide-eyed, gaping at the big building and the wide roads. The eataries, the coffee shops, the girls, the multiplexes – those first few weeks were passed in feverish delirium.
My room at my college was my own sanctuary, where I endlessly read, having nothing else to do. I was quite shy of my classmates and in the first few weeks, my only real friend was a guy who constantly talked of death and depression. We later named him Dr. Death. He just loved depression, and loved to be depressed. I told him so. For once, he laughed uproariously.
These were the days before the mryiad flyovers that have sprung up across the city to accommodate its booming traffic. During those days, the IT revolution was just a promise, a bubble which everyone said was to burst soon. And, well, it did.
For me coming from a small town down south in Tamil Nadu, Chennai was both intimidating and exciting. Satyam Theatre even then – before Sree, Studio 5 and Six Degrees were built – was a multiplex of my dreams. I was in love with Tambaram station – on a busy weekday the crowd that gathered there was probably more than the entire population of my hometown. The efficiency of the suburban trains was a marvel.
The dirty slums, haphazardly built houses, the electric posts, the railway bridges, which were constantly being repaired – the sights that I caught as I took the train to Saidapet or Nungambakkam were strangely fascinating.
My college itself was endlessly fascinating as well. Guys and girls sat on the gutters of the college all day chatting. Some of them were smootching, as I watched with a mixture of shock and obvious envy. The roads within the college, which were thickly surrounded by trees, were pleasant to walk on. On most days, my friends and I would sit for the morning classes – at the most an hour or two – and then hit the canteen or our rooms. Charminar was the brand that MCC smoked. At Rs 3 a packet, it came cheap and towards the end of the month, everyone would give up their more expensive cigarettes to smoke this marvel. If you smoked more than three a day, you are bound to get some special respect from your friends for your amazing lung power. But the girls would shun you, if they already weren’t doing that. I took me six months just to learn the language of the college. A girl was hot, a movie was cool, a man was a dude, a slightly goodlooking woman was a babe, a bad looking one was a female. The jargon I had to learn was tough.
I never had thought that the word ‘cool’ could be used in so many ways. Back home, nobody used it. Not even in the books that I had read. True, some movie characters did say cool, but I never had thought about the sheer versitality of the word. Only the F word, I think, comes close. There was a lot of ins and outs to learn as well. Porn was in, PJs were in, good clothes were out, cutting your hair was out, facial hair was in… this list too was endless. Well, I am surprised that I survived.
I spent hours at used book stores. Some of these were on the pavement. One of the best ones was in Mylapore. A guy with a larger than usual shop, somewhere near Luz, took me to his home to show me his private collection. Hemingway and Kafka were household names at his place. I visited his place twice, but I never had enough money to buy out his collection. Today though, the book fair has made the my affair with book shops less interesting.
Chennai architecture, I think, despite the columns Mr. Muthaih writes for The Hindu, is grossly underestimated. Just have a look at the buildings along Beach Road. They are poorly maintained, no doubt, but that is a part of the charm.
Marina in the mornings is a mayhem of activity. I dislike crowds, but at the beach, I can stand for hours observing the morning exercises and rituals of the people. Particularly, the old. It is so good to see an old man walk. May be it’s because this is an indication of his untiring enthusiasm for life.
One of my favourite haunts back then was the Theosophical Society. Apart from the marvelous campus, the building is home to a great library of spiritual books. I quickly discovered that Saravana Bhavan was famous for Idlis just like Ranganathan Street for shopping or Burma Bazaar for cds or Richie street for all things electronic.
The Max Mueller Bhavan on Khader Nawaz Khan Road was also a big hit with me. So much so, I signed up for a German course. Well, I was also hoping that I would meet someone interesting there. Though I never did, one of my German teachers was, indeed, in MCC parlance and otherwise, a babe. And she taught well too. But I don’t remember any German now, except Guten Tag. May be I was a bit too distracted.
Chennai, I am afraid, is deeply conservative. The lack of night life, by which I don’t just refer to the discos and bars, is appalling. The older crowd always seems to faintly chastising the younger, more on-the-move crowd.
There are more negative points. You can never find your way around the city, if you are new to it. Five people would give you 10 different directions. Sometimes, they are rude too. Traffic is a bitch, particularly on Mount Road, 100-feet Road and Pondy Bazaar. The city also hosts a nightmarish number of signals, none of which anybody can be trusted to follow. But despite all this, and the humid summer that is just arriving, I am a willing victim to the charms of the city, quite seduced by its sounds and smells.

Suggest a story, but not here

A couple of days ago, I said that I am writing for Chennai metblog. We have a new facility at Metblog. You can now suggest a story for the metblog team to write about. It should be relating as far as possible to the city of Chennai. Please feel free to ask our team to write about anything you want us to feature. Click here to make the suggestions. Do take the trouble of reading the instructions first.
For the blog on what is Metblogging that I put up recently, click here.

Dumbing down

I was watching IBN yesterday afternoon. I must have watched for at least two hours, and three fourths of that was movie and entertainment related news. Why is such stuff forced down our throats, while all that we ask is that the channels, into which hundreds of crores are being pumped into, report the day’s news. Honestly, with credibility and without missing any of the major events. The geninue investigative report or the occassional sting operation is quite welcome. But mostly we tune in just to get the day’s news. But all we get is bullshit.
Admittedly, IBN does cover hard news in a slightly hysterical fashion in the evening. But through the day, the channel doesnt even do news.
Why can’t news channels leave entertainment to the movie channels? Are advertisers dictating this? Or are the viewers not interested in news anymore? Or is it self-imposed by the channel itself?
I think whatever compulsions IBN is facing, it must stop flooding the channel with irrelevant programming and cover the news. People do like to know what is going around them. Mallika Sherawat’s curves – well, ya, we are interested in that, but such trivia should not push out the geninue news content.
Even when a major story breaks like Sonia’s resignation as MP, the channels just flood viewers with that one news. There is no attempt to recap the day’s events quickly and cover the breaking story more aggressively. Which is what they should be doing, dont you think?
When Prannoy Roy began showing World This Week on DD or then tied up with Star, there used to be news on NDTV. But I believe NDTV has also rotted. Thankfully, in CASed Chennai, I am not getting NDTV at home.
I really hope both channels are making a lot of money, because if they aren’t there is no point in indulging in this nonsense.
If this isn’t dumping down, I don’t know what is. I am disgusted, needless to say.

Graveyard Shift

Reprobate, owner of a particularly messy blog, has towards the end of March written on a term that is quite familiar for journalists – The Graveyard Shift. I am on one this week, after quite a while. I moved jobs recently and have been put on this dreadful shift for the first time. Yesterday, a couple of fellas on the sports desk decided to stay back. So the loneliness didnt quite get to me. Today, they disappeared and I am sitting here, listening to Dylan’s tribute to Woody Guthrie, and it is quite depressing – the working in the night business not the song.
My office consists of just three floors and most of it is taken up by this huge Rs 40-crore printing machine, which churns out three lakh issues in about three hours or so. The rest of it is office space and the editorial is this large hall, full of cubicles. Inhuman, I say. It’s a bit like being in a factory; your only friend is your computer. The fella in the next cubicle often exchanges only ten words with you the entire day.
I used to enjoy working in the night. It’s anti-social, against the grain, and is everything I value in life. I can sit alone, and work on anything I want, read the whole night, watch three movies, do anything I want. But after doing this for about three years in a row, I am sick and tired of it. I wanna a day job. Nine to Fiver- like in a bank. Doing something that is even more pointless than this.
I have rarely rambled on my blog. But here is how is sound when I ramble. Tune off, if you dont like it.

Everyman in love

Everyman(Shain) has posted his blog about Ziyi Zhang, or more about what he claims are her elfish good looks and how he has been smitten by her. Now that he says it, she does look a bit like an elf. But Liv Tyler was the better elf anyday. My blog that Everyman saw is here. Check out that pic and our posts.


I joined the Metroblogging team in Chennai recently. We are a group of 20 or so bloggers who write about Chennai. Metroblogging is slowing catching up across the world, with a site being devoted for each city. Most cities in the US already have a Metroblog. My first post is here. Learn more about metroblogging by visiting their home page. You can even mail them and find out if there is metroblogging in your city.