Monthly Archives: May 2006

Madras Talkies


Mani Ratnam’s Madras Talkies’ website is up and running. This is only a temporary page, but worth a visit anyways.

Happy B’day Dylan

Yesterday was Bob Dylan’s birthday. He was born on May 24, 1941. Belated wishes Dylan. I worry you wont’ have many more of those coming your way now.
Here are the lyrics to the song Bob wrote for his son. May you stay forever young, a sort of tribute.
Oh, I almost forgot. There is a collection of interviews of Dylan that has recently been released. Copies are available in Landmark, Chennai.

Iqbal

Iqbal is in many ways the first of its kind movie in Hindi. I don’t remember seeing a Hindi or Tamil sports movie. Lagaan was not about sports really, and if Nagesh Kukunoor is to be believed neither is Iqbal. He claims it’s about the human spirit, but the only spirited performance in the movie comes from Nazeeruddin Shah. The rest of the cast just pale in comparison.
Entering the movie only after its twentieth minute, Nazeeruddin, playing the town drunk, brings a kind of freshness that Kukunoor is probably desperate for. But to the director’s credit, he lets the actor just do his thing.
Sports movies about underdogs are nothing new. From Rocky to Million Dollar Baby, Hollywood has made a few every year. But in Hindi sport movie genre, Kukunoor may have just beaten everybody to the box office. But the heaviness with which he handles the subject is just a little too much – the deliberate and contrived style of editing, the heavy score and the one song that underlines Iqbal’s early training days are all tacky stuff.
The story is pretty simple. Iqbal, a dumb and deaf 18-year-old, makes an unlikely journey from talented but untrained bowler to find a place in Team India in a matter of months. On the way, he has to deal with the wrath of his father, who hates cricket and wants him to be a farmer; and then a snobbish, deal-making coach who throws him out of the cricket academy after an incident with the local ‘Richie Rich’, and most of the time, just the process of discovering and believing in himself.
He has two staunch supporters who support his dream, his mom and his bespectacled sister. Here is where Kukunoor Indianises the movie. In a clever move, he throws out the mandatory lover-supporter of the underdog sportsperson from the screenplay and replaced that role with that of the sister and mother.
But the journey while being interesting is not full of surprises. The best cricketing scene is the one with the numbered buffaloes. In this scene, Iqbal has to bowl in such a way that his coach can only hit the ball on a particular buffalo which only the bowler can see. Pretty neat.
After Iqbal convinces ex-cricketer and now alcoholic Mohit to coach him, they jointly begin training. Iqbal becomes a cricketer, as expected, and Mohit almost gives up alcohol and enjoys a second life of sorts.
Shreyas Talpade is all right as Iqbal but I would wait till a couple of his movies are released before making an assessment of his acting. Girish Karnad is good too, but the playwright is not really such a great actor. Or may be he is too subtle for me to tell.
But what ruined the movie for me was its utter predictability. Just because there is no one running around trees on screen, a movie cannot be called artistic and great. I find the euphoria surrounding the movie upon its release stupid. And Kukunoor is consistent in only one way. Just like in Hyderabad Blues, this film’s climax is also pure junk.

Chennai Potter


When I was back in college, smoking pot was a big deal. A really big deal. Only landing a girl was considered a bigger deal. Before college, I had learned to smoke, to drink and more importantly to hold my drink. At least in small quantities. Pot is Ganja, and nobody I knew smoked it till I started my PG course. Ganja was then to me the equivalent of LSD, which it is not. Pot grows on plants and LSD doesn’t. I didn’t want me to become a drug addict. So the first time somebody offered me a drag, I simply refused. That college was in Chennai, and this is not a blog about the harmful effects of drugs. You already know that. This is about how you smoke pot and still survive. And about how you it can even be a learning experience.
Anybody who doesn’t drink or smoke or doesn’t have any of the so-called “minor vices” is suspect in my book. I always look at such puritanical people with a healthy amount of suspicion. It helps. It’s like this guy who goes to temple twice a day and his forehead is the repository of all prasadams. But he is also the biggest fraud in town. Well, praying doesn’t help if you really are a dirty rotten scoundrel. I like people who don’t pretend to be pure. I like people who pretend to be more corrupt than they actually are. There is a reason why I am boring you with this. Somewhere between all this philosophy I will get down to telling you how my first drag was. So hang on.
There are a thousand reasons why you should not smoke. But if you do, you really have the best excuse in college to drop in on your buddy’s room. The camaraderie felt while sharing a Charminar is rare. Try and beat that when not smoking. Drinking breaks ice in college hostels. That’s as true as sun rises in the east. My friends and I used to get drunk every Saturday. Or so we said. But it was more like I had a peg or two every month or so. But we used to spend countless nights talking about the last party, that hostel life itself felt like one long party. So drinking and smoking helps making friends.
It’s not that guys who didn’t drink didn’t make any friends. They sure do. But they more often than not turned to be assholes. You can test this. So when my friend invited me for a pot session, I first refused. Then I was in two minds. Then he convinced me that pot was actually not a drug at all. It was less addictive than nicotine, which is what you find in ciggies. So the trained potter, a virgin potter and then I – three of us – sat together one night, rolled one, and smoked it.
Buying pot in Chennai is very easy. If you are a regular customer you can buy it even on EMI. But I won’t tell you where. That kinda information is closely guarded. The ultimate test any pot smoking senior student in college- and it seemed there were quite a few – gave his junior is sending him out with money to buy him pot. Once you did that, the chained of loyalty would be sealed. It’s almost like marriage. And there is better trust between the people concerned.
Ok, let me get back to the session. There are ways that you actually smoke pot. It’s very different from smoking a ciggie. But I again am not telling you how. Anyway I cheated, because as I said, I didn’t wanna become a pothead. But my friend, who was new to this business, didn’t cheat. He was the adventurous type. So he puffed on, and soon he saw a snake under the bed. And he screamed. And he screamed. I was miserable. I didn’t care then if pot was less addictive than ciggies. It was really mind-altering and my dear friend was a living example. I was disgusted and so I left the room. But my friend screamed and moaned for quite a while before he rocked himself to sleep. That snake really troubled him all night.
And next morning, of course, he remembered everything. Except the damn snake.
Recently, I was watching Being Cyrus. Nazureedin Shah plays a pot head who has fried his brain with you know what. I don’t think his potrayal was authentic.
I have had acquaintances who smoke pot day and night. They are intellingent, well read and well meaning people. They are not drug addicts except when they are under the influence. I decided after that session that I don’t like pot. The statement ‘why drink and die when u can smoke and fly’ didnt quite work for me. I rather drink and die.

Kadavul pathi -translated


Following is a hit song from Aalavandan, Kamalhassan’s movie from five years ago. A friend considers this lyric special and asked me to translate it for his blog. I really slogged and then he made a couple of good changes and this is what the song is like is now. Tamil lyrics are followed by the English lines.

Opening
Kadavul pathi, mirugam pathi,
Kalanthu seiytha kalavai naan.
Veliye mirugam, ulle kadavul
Vilanga mudiya kavithai naan.
Mirugam kontru, mirugam kontru
Kadavul valarka parkinten
Aanal, kadavul kondru, unavai thintu
mirugam mattum valarkirathe

Half-god, half-man,
A mixture of the two made me.
A beast outside, a God inside,
I am incomprehensible poetry.
Killing the beast, I try to raise god
But, killing and usurping god,
The animal alone grows in me.

Nandakumara, Nandakumara,
Naalai mirugam kolvaya,
Mirugam kondra echam kondu
Meendum kadavul seivaya
Kurangil iruthu manithan ental
Manithan niryai velvana
Miruga gyathiyil pirantha manitha
Deva jyothiyil kalappaya

Nandakumara, Nandakumara,
Will you kill the beast tomorrow?
Will you raise god from the beast’s remains?
If man evolved from monkey,
Will he completely overcome it?
You who are born in the animal species,
Will you become one with the eternal flame?

Repeating
Kadavul pathi, mirugam pathi,
Kalanthu seiytha kalavai naan.
Veliye mirugam, ulle kadavul
Vilanga mudiya kavithai naan.
Mirugam kontru, mirugam kontru
Kadavul valarka parkinten
Aanal, kadavul kondru, unavai thintu
mirugam mattum valakirathe.

Half-god, half-man,
A mixture of the two made me.
A beast outside, a God inside,
I am incomprehensible poetry.
Killing the beast, I try to raise god
But, killing and usurping god,
The animal alone grows in me.

Slurring
Kadavul pathi, mirugam pathi,
Kalanthu seiytha kalavai naan.
Kaatril yeeri, mazhayil aadi,
Kavithai padum paravai naan.

Half-god, half-man,
A mixture of the two made me.
Riding the wind, dancing in the rain
I am the bird that sings poems.

Faster
Kadavul pathi, mirugam pathi,
Kalanthu seiytha kalavai naan.
Kaatril yeeri, mazhayil aadi,
Kavithai padum paravai naan
Kaatril yeeri, mazhayil aadi,
Kavithai padum paravai naan
Ovvoru thuliyum, ovvoru thuliyum
Uyiril verkal kulirkirathe
Ella thuliyum kulirumpothu
Iruthuli mattum Sudukirathe.

Half-god, half-man,
A mixture of the two made me.
Riding the wind, dancing in the rain
I am the bird that sings poems.
In every drop of rain, my soul grows colder
Even when all drops are cold, only two remain hot.

Nandakumara, Nandakumara,
Mazhai neer sudathu theriyatha,
Kannam vazhikire kanner thulithan
Vennir thuli ena arivaya
Sutta mazhayum, sudatha mazhayum,
ontai kandavan neethane
Kanner mazhayil kanner mayayil
Kulikavaithavan neethane

Nandakumara, Nandakumara,
Don’t you know that rainwater is never hot?
Do you know that the tears that
flow down your cheek that are hot?
You are one who got wet in the hot and cold rain
You are one who got wet in tears.

(Any improvements on this? You are welcome to make suggestions)

Fear psychosis among TN govt staff


Government employees in the state, who continue to be haunted by the repercussions of the 2003 strike, are hesitant to vote in the May 8 polls, fearing that they would be victimised by the government that comes to power, a top union official of an employees’ association said here.
Pointing to the “vindictive attitude” of the political parties, the union official said a fear psychosis prevails among government employees about taking part in the electoral process.
More than 3.5 lakh government employees are engaged in election duty, often in places faraway from their hometowns. Till now, many of them have frittered away their votes.
“There are two reasons for this. One is that government employees have been deprived of their political rights. They feel that they have no reason to vote. Secondly, the postal ballot system is cumbersome and many feel that it lacks secrecy. There is feeling that the powers that be may come to know for whom the votes were cast,” said Mr. Muthu Sundaram, general secretary, Tamil Nadu Government Employees’ Association.
Over 1.76 lakh government employees were dismissed invoking an ESMA ordinance after a statewide strike in June-July, 2003. Hearing the case, the Supreme Court, while ruling that government employees had no right to strike, had ordered the state government to reinstate most of the striking employees.
“However, we lost our ability to collectively bargain for better pay or bonus. That was a turning point for us,” Mr. Sundaram said. Government employees’ unions are mandated by law to be neutral and cannot campaign for a political party, he added.
While such unions maintain neutrality, the statistics available on the 2004 Lok Sabha elections indicate that government employees in large numbers voted against the AIADMK. In many constituencies in which only 100 postal votes had been recorded in earlier elections, the number of votes shot up sharply to 6,000 postal ballots. Much of this was negative voting by government employees against the AIADMK, sources said.
Government employees, in spite of all reservations about the electoral process, continue to be keen about casting their votes during this election. “We have asked the Election Commission to make the process of casting postal ballots easier. We have been assured about the secrecy of our votes and we are keen to cast our ballots,” a high-level official of the TN Government Officials’ Union said. He said it would be easier for employees to vote if they were engaged in election duty close to their hometowns.
Asked about the perceived lack of interest among government employees to vote, he said, “We are conscious of our democratic duty and are keen to show a better voting record this time around.”
Mr. Sundaram called for a better understanding of democracy among government employees. He said he would urge members of his union to actively take part in the elections and fulfill their democratic duty.
Amidst all this, posters depicting the entire strike saga – right from its beginning in June 2, 2003 to the sops announced for government employees in the wake of the 2004 Lok Sabha election results – have been posted at the DMS Complex, Teynampet. The poster allegedly posted on behalf of the government employees recalls the harrowing chain of events and warns that the employees have not forgotten their past. There are also reports of pamphlets being distributed to government employees.

A curious review

Christopher Boone, a 15-year-old living in a small town in the UK, suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, an autistic condition. He has two gifts: a photographic memory and he is a whiz at maths.
But on the negative side he just can’t understand emotions. Metaphors like “He is the apple of my eye” go above his head. He finds people confusing. And because of all this, he is, in a way, an unreliable narrator.
But Christopher can’t tell lies. He seems incapable of doing so. In using him as his narrator, Mark Haddon, in a light-hearted, warped and funny fashion, makes a commentary on adult relationships, particularly the failed marriage of Christopher’s parents.
Christopher claims he can’t tell jokes. He says he doesn’t understand them. But the book itself is quite funny. Plumbing Christopher’s innocence to its full potential, Haddon offers a delightful criticism of the oddities of human life.
Christopher doesn’t like to be touched. He hates yellow and brown, and can’t eat anything in that colour. He constantly dreams of going into outer space. Christopher loves Sherlock Holmes but hates its author Arthur Conan Doyle for his superstitious beliefs. He is investigating the murder of Wellington, the dog that lived across the street, which is gruesomely killed using a garden fork. But this investigation is really not into the murder of a dog, which is clear even as you begin reading the book. This is just a pretext to portray the life of an autistic person and of a world seen through his eyes.
For instance, Christopher often recalls his harrowing journey to France. He says that he was unable to relax like other people because he sees everything. At one time, there is a detailed description of every cow that stand in a group on a field. Christopher’s memory is indeed that photographic.
The book is filled with pictures, maps, puzzles, digressions, and is a seemingly hotchpotch affair. But these are actually devices used to offer an insightful glimpse into the life of a boy suffering with Asperger’s, though the disease is never mentioned by name in the book.
Christopher lives with his father, as his mother is dead (or is she?). Halfway through the book, Christopher learns who killed Wellington and why. It’s then that the book really takes off and begins to talk of the things that it wanted to say in the first place.
By the time the book ends, we realise that Christopher, for all the lack of emotional IQ, innocence and naivety, is actually a model for decent and practical adult behavior.

(When I put this up on desicritics.com, I was rapped for writing a synopsis and not a review. I agreed and then decided on this title. It’s all a mess anyway.)