Thursday, December 29, 2005

Black - Modern Classic or Ponderous Self-Obsession?

Today's edition of DNA reports that Bhansali's 'Black' has made it to the Time list of top 10 movies of 2005. 'Black' has been a much-discussed movie in 2005, be it for the vociferous reviews or for the Oscar nomination controversy.

IMHO, 'Black' had all the potential to be a true classic, but Bhansali messed up in trying to belabor the point in all those black, white and grey frames. Moreover, IMO I consider 'Khamoshi', and not 'Black', to be Bhansali's best movie ('HDDCS' was all-gloss-no-substance, and let us not even discuss 'Devdas' here!!). 'Khamoshi' had an unpretentiousness to it that 'Black' sorely lacked. Everything about 'Black' had Bhansali screaming 'Hey! See how great I am!', somewhat like the kind of movies Kamal Hassan makes nowadays. The Big B was sorely out of his depth in the first half of the movie - eccentricity doesn't necessarily equate to decibel level, as Papa Bachchan amply illustrated in the pre-interval portions of the movie. Ayesha Kapoor effortlessly overshadowed the Big B in what little screen space they shared together.

However, in the latter half of the movie, Amitabh was reasonably good (though I still do not think he was as good as all the reviews claimed. IMO AB is no patch on N.Shah, Om Puri, Kamal Hassan or Mohan Lal). Rani Mukherjee makes the most of an author-backed role. The rest of the cast is competent.

As for the accusations of 'copy-and-paste', I have to confess that I have not seen 'The Miracle Worker'. However, if the book (of the same name) is any indication, Bhansali seems to have 'borrowed' more than a few scenes. However, I am convinced that Bhansali is too talented a director to shamelessly pilfer, like Sanjay Gupta and Mahesh Bhatt do with such aplomb and gusto!

If only Bhansali could have been a little less self-indulgent !!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Indian English

This idea for this post/rant came from HawkEye's inspired post on the latest Indian fad of saying 'Pls revert back to me if there are any questions', and that too in official mails. My initial reaction upon receiving an email with the 'revert' clause was much the same. Gawd knows who began this nonsense.

Some other typical Indian English, or Indian-isms, if you please!!
  • Say me, no !! This roughly means, "please tell me".
  • He is knowing the answer, ma'am. This usage of the present continuous is one I find most irrittating, personally.
  • Convey her my greetings. Wrong, but acceptable.
  • She is my cousin-sister. Now, what the heck is a cousin-sister? Does this expression pass on the message that the cousin is especially close, or that the cousin is of female gender, or both - would somebody please tell me this ?
  • This is my co-brother. AAAAGHHHH !!
  • She is carrying. A bag of potatoes?
  • My son got cent percent in English. Talk of irony.
  • Country-Fellow !! Unforgiveable abuse !!
  • This is my would-be. I hate this usage too. Would-be what, for chrissakes ?
  • Off the light, no. Reminds me of the Queen in 'Alice in Wonderland' everytime, somehow !
I am sure you can think of plenty more. Of course, there are valid reasons for the origin of these expressions in the first place. In many of our schools, English is taught only from the IIIrd of IVth standard, which essentially means that the student is already rooted in the grammar of his or her regional language. Faced with a new language obeying an entirely different set of rules, the student opts for the easy way out - compose the sentence in the language (s)he knows, and then translate. I'd guess 'country-fellow' and 'off the light' (and many more expressions) originated this way. Doesn't explain 'revert' though !!

What gets to me most is not the incorrect usage, but rather, people defending it: 'even people in North America use English this way'. They might, but not in idiotic ways like this - they use it the way we say 'tell me, yaar'. Accept it - it's wrong English, just like its wrong Hindi, Malayalam or Tamil if somebody murders the language.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Book Reviews: My Sister's Keeper & Kindred

Have been searching for a copy of 'My Sister's Keeper' for a long time now - its got a fairly intriguing plot, and is by Jodi Picoult. I kept telling myself not to buy the book, but a copy from the library continued to elude me for almost a month. It was almost as if I were destined to buy the book - so buy it I did.

For those who haven't read Picoult's 'Keeping Faith' and 'Songs of the Humpback Whale', its a great book. For those who have, it is still a pretty good read - but slightly sappy at times (akin to Danielle Steele). The book deals with the issue of 'designer' babies - in this case, genetically created for the purpose of being a donor for an elder sister afflicted with a terminal disease. What happens when the child doesn't want to be a donor any more ? Picoult does manage to raise some valid questions. But the so-called twist in the tale, though unanticipated and all that, felt like a sort of anti-climax to me. And the climax itself, be warned, is a letdown (or perhaps, my expectations were too high). Neverthless, worth a read.

I have not read anything by Octavia Butler before, and so I approached 'Kindred' with no idea of what to expect. The writing style is lucid and sympathetic, and the book is easy to read. However, as a book that tries to highlight the atrocities of slavery, it falls short - IMHO, the writing is not powerful enough for that. But on the other hand, the characters are multi-dimensional, and are developed beautifully. The book deals with how an African-American woman from the twentieth century time-travels to the 1800s (when slavery was rampant), and narrates the course her life takes.

The book is termed a classic by most avid readers, but somehow it failed to really appeal to me in that genre. Perhaps, the fact that I have already read two fine books with a similar (time-travel related) narrative - 'The Time-Traveler's Wife' and the Diana Gabaldon-written 'Outlander' series have contributed to this. It is a fine book, nonetheless.

Just a thought: this style of prose offers several possibilities to the author. The protagonist thrown into the corresponding time-frame essentially echoes the author's view on the happenings of the time, and offers us a sense of perpective as well. My question: why has this technique been adopted by all these female authors, and not by any male ones (aren't there any testosterone-driven action packed stories in the past, goddammit !!!) ?

Friday, December 23, 2005

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Long Hair Day

Me wearing my hair long has aroused the curiosity of quite a few people. 'But, why?' is the inevitable question that I am asked every time I am introduced to somebody , or renew acquaintances. Quite a few of my colleagues rib me about it too. Am sick of answering questions about my hair.

I rather feel like Agastya Sen in Upamanyu Chatterjee's classic book, 'English August: An Indian Tale'. The protagonist is Agastya Sen, a yuppie nicknamed English August for his anglophilia, who's posted to a remote town called Madna for 'IAS training'. The book is hilarious - I still remember laughing aloud in school, and the book being confiscated by the Physics teacher (who used to pronounce 'blue' as 'bleeyu', for some reason).

In the book, everybody in Madna asks Agastya why his name is English August. Agastya makes up some really wierd reasons (excerpts below):

'Agastya? What kind of a name is Agastya?' asked the engineer, almost irritably. He was a large unpleasant man, the owner of a trunk that wouldn't fit below the lower berths, but on which he wouldn't allow anyone to place his feet.

'He's a saint of the forest in Ramayana, very ascetic. He gives Ram a bow and arrow. He's there in Mahabharata too. He crosses the Vindhyas and stops them from growing.'

The engineer looked dissatisfied, almost suspicious, as though Agastya had just sold him an aphrodisiac.

Srivastav smiled at Agastya. His sideburns were like right-angled triangles, the hypotenuses of which looked like the shadows of his cheekbones. 'So? Agastya, what kind of a name is Agastya, bhai?'

When you were in your mother's lap, you ignoramus, he said silently, drooling and piddling, didn't she make your head spin into sleep with the verses of some venerable Hindu epic? 'Agastya' is Sanskrit he wanted to say, for one who shits only one turd every morning. But the Collector didn't really want any answer. Staccato conversation, while he rushed through his files.

'Yes, I've heard about you. But I can't call you Sen, that's for my husband' Here a half smile at Srivastav. Agastya was reminded of Joshi's room on the first day, and Ahmed's voice dropping to a hush to pronounce 'Mrs'; to all the admission of conjugality seemed a cause for embarrassment. 'What's your full name?' Mrs Srivastav was wearing a black bra beneath a yellow blouse. Agastya sneered at Menon (startling him a little), that would be a hilarious dress sense in Trinity, but it's OK in Madna, no?

'Agastya', half-ready to answer the next question with, 'It's Sanskrit for one who turns the flush just before he starts pissing, and then tries to finish pissing before the water disappears'.

'That's even worse. Most Bengalis have such difficult names.' Mrs Srivastav had a nice smile. 'I'm sure your parents or friends don't call you that. What do they say?'

'Ogu and August.' He thought of lying but couldn't immediately think of anything but obscenities.

She laughed. 'August. That's nice.'

'August?' asked Srivastav, abandoning his children who scrambled off the divan and crowded around Agastya. Perhaps you would prefer another month? asked Agastya silently.

I wish I had the audacity to make up such far-fetched reasons. For now, the reasons I give to the inquisitive are:

a. that I am growing my hair until the day of my marriage, since despite my advancing age, I am not experiencing 'marital bliss' yet, or

b. that I am growing my hair in protest because my boss isn't granting me a vacation, and that I will cut it only on the day I go to India (this is the version I feed my colleagues and clients, much to my boss's indignation).

But I intend to get a haircut in Jan '06 - maintaining this is such a pain, wonder how girls manage! The barber will probably charge me extra, for trimming this mane !!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Lauch of Chiseled Space

Have been meaning to do this for a long time - post some of the stuff I draw. But then, I found out there's too much stuff I've done over the course of a year, and a drawings-blog seemed to be a better idea.

Btw, please note that I hold no claims to originality. I draw mainly about mythological characters, or stuff with religious connotations - irrespective of what religion it is. I get ideas, I 'google' them, find 4-5 images, and then draw them using the mouse (most of what I post here has been drawn using the mouse). Hence, while my ideas are original the actual pictures themselves could be amalgamations from different sources. Hence the name - Chiseled Space.

There should be plenty of updates on this one, as I have a huge backlog to post upon - so watch the chiseled space, folks !

Monday, December 19, 2005

Yet Another Weekend Out of Town

This quarter, I have been travelling a lot. In fact, I probably haven't been in NY for a weekend more than thrice this entire quarter. This weekend, it was Greenville (SC).

Greenville was almost like being back at offshore - lots and lots of familiar faces. Saturday was really, really hectic, though - started to the Wolf Laurel Ski Resort by around 7:00 AM. Skiing was fun, found myself getting the hang of skiing much easier this time (my previous attempt was disastrous). Got back and went for King Kong. The movie is as amazing as the reviews claim, although it does get a bit tiring to see all the different kinds of creepy insects, bugs and other animals that Peter Jackson thought up. The ape's face displays an astounding gamut of expressions, ranging from petulance and ennui, to sheer animal fury and tender love. Even the most uncouth audience would gasp at the irony when a character in the movie says "it's just an animal; it has no feelings", and this is where Peter Jackson has succeeded as a director. A must-watch, this King Kong.

But I digress. The Greenville trip's been one that has been pending for a long time; my friend Ramya has been urging me to come over for a long, long time, and so this week I took a spur-of-the-moment decision to go over. She's one of the close friends I have gained through the chat-syndrome that I talked about here. I also met a whole lot of people who I'd seen in Chennai, but not really had fun with. Makes me glad I made the trip. Isn't it funny how sudden decisions turn out to be good for you most of the time?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Downfall: Movie Review, and Related Thoughts

Downfall is one of those rare films that holds you spellbound, despite its culmination being known upfront. The movie takes on the ambitious task of humanizing the much-vilified Adolf Hitler. Over the course of 145 minutes, the film explores the fall of the Third Reich, at the same time affording us an insight into Hitler's psyche. As a cornered Hitler descends further and further into apoplectic fits of rage, the film also depicts a crumbling Berlin and the growing indiscipline in the ranks.

The film succeeds in making one empathize with the young secretary Traudl Junge, who delivers a charming performance. Eva Braun is shown making merry most of the time, despite the growing uncertainty of the collective fate of the Third Reich. However, there's a marvelous scene featuring Eva Braun, where she looks speculativey into the mirror and then smiles ambiguously - as if to imply that she fully knows, and calmly accepts what lies ahead of her. One of the most haunting scenes of the movie is Magda Goebbels giving all of her children sleeping draughts (even forcing it down the throat of the oldest child, who suspects what her mother intends to do), and then inserting a cyanide capsule into their mouths and forcing their jaws closed to bite the capsule with a sickening crunch - apparently, she strongly felt that her children need not - NEED NOT - grow up in a world with no National Socialism.

The film, however, belongs to Bruno Ganz, who plays Hitler to perfection. Sweet and charming with the women and children, he flies into rages every time something goes wrong. With the twitching left hand, the spittle running down the jaw during his famous temper tantrums and the solitary tear running down the cheek when the last of his trusted lieutenants deserts him, Ganz manages to carry off the impossible - evoke a tiny twinge of sympathy for one of the most loathed figures in contemporary history. Long after everybody accepts that the war is a lost cause, Hitler continues to indulge in impossible dreams of a final truimph. He eschews the inevitable, and fingering vast maps lovingly, conjures up armies that can cut in and carry off a brilliant coup de main. In a telling scene, in one of his sane moments Hitler confesses that irrespective of the outcome, he is proudest of the fact that he managed to 'exterminate the Jews'.

It is impossible that there are still people who admire and respect somebody who single-handedly caused the destruction of more than 6 million jews. But then, in our own country, people who directed racial policies that directed the genocide of more than 5000 Muslims (at least) lead prominent political parties. I think that's the most disturbing thing about all this - an appeal to a supposedly injured sense of collective pride - whether it be Aryan, Hindu or Muslim pride - still finds followers from a group every bit as racist and/or xenophobic as the Nazis were - an appalling thought, but true nonetheless, I feel.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Gentleman No More

There used to be a certain gentleman in the early 1990s who'd cause the entire nation to cringe when he walked out to bat in an ODI. His strike-rate in those days hovered in the mid 60s. He was a certain exclusion in any Rest-of-the-World ODI team of the time, despite being an equally certain inclsuion in a similar Test team. However, despite an absymal strike-rate, in spite of having a reputation of being one of the worst ODI finishers in the game - he was persevered with. His captain even increased his utility to the side by forcing the wicket-keeper's job on him - which, coincidentally, seemed to bring out the ODI batsman in him.

Its fairly obvious who I am talking about: Mr. No-Controversy, Mr. Loved-By-All, The Wall - Rahul Dravid, current captain of the Indian cricket team. Who was one of the 7 people who participated in the unanimous - UNANIMOUS - vote to drop a certain Mr. Sourav Ganguly, who, incidentally, was the captain mentioned in the above paragraph.

Let's face it: before Ganguly injected the team with his own brand of macho jingoism, the Indian cricket team was a bunch of losers. Oh yeah, I know that there were some great, match-winning innings from SRT, Azhar, Jadeja and Ganguly himself. But the general perception of Team India then was that of a meek, ready-to-be-licked outfit who would put their tails between their legs meekly and capitulate at even a brief sign of resistance. As for sledging - well, it was against 'Indian culture', you see.

Remember a certain Mr. Javed Miandad hopping like a fat toad, pointing his bat at the cowering Kiran More (the mouthpiece of the current bunch of selectors who have dumped Ganguly like a hot potato)? The captain, Azhar, looked very upset and at a loss for words. Nobody even walked over to Javed and said 'Enough done, mate!'. Instead, they made a complaint to the umpire (perhaps a petulant 'Sir, he is making fun of me!!' ) !! Well, I, for one, would certainly like to have seen Javed try it against the current Indian team; he'd never have tried it again !!

All this changed once the Maharaja took over the mantle of captaincy. The Indian team acquired a sudden toughness - one that certainly suprised the Aussies during their legendary Down Under tour. SG revelled in, and exemplified his team's new-found machismo, the best instance of which perhaps occured in the famous Natwest Trophy final at Lords - the sight of a bare-chested Ganguly jumping up and down in jubiliation is hard to forget. This famous win was engineered by powerful knocks from Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif, two of the many youngsters whose causes Ganguly advocated. Isn't it ironical that today, Ganguly finds himself on the sidelines chiefly due to Yuvraj's claims to a Test berth ?

During Ganguly's entire tenure as captain, Dravid was the reliable deputy. Indeed, by now Dravid had become a competent ODI batsman, though sheer aggression seemed to be beyond him even then (this seems to have been added to his arsenal only recently). It'd not be incorrect to say that Ganguly owed much of his great win-record to Dravid's contribution with the bat.

Which is why Dravid's complicity in this whole affair is downright disgusting. As one of the world's greatest players and the current captain, his suggestions would indeed have carried weight with the selectors. The least - the absolute minimum - that the most successful captain of India deserved was a graceful exit, and Rahul Dravid, despite knowing that he is not beyond facing a similar situation, chose to remain reticent. In fact, he chose to be an accomplice in this whole farce - whether it be to enjoy an unrivalled incumbency, or to cozy up to Greg Chappell (supposedly, the latest 'Messiah of Indian Cricket'), the dice has been cast.

Et tu, Rahul Dravid ?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


of a book I read recently called 'Flowers for Algernon', and of A.R.Rahman's latest album, 'Rang De Basanti'.

'Flowers for Algernon' by Daniel Keyes is, in one word, an almost-classic. The book proceeds through the progress reports submitted by the mentally retarded Charlie. Charlie, who'd do almost anything to become 'normal' and have more friends to hang out with, has agreed to an experimental procedure that has only succeeded on an animal before: the super-intelligent mouse called Algernon. However, after surgery Charlie becomes so intelligent that he is soon 'smarter' than all the doctors treating him. More importantly, Charlie comes to realize how people have been treating him all this while - including his own family. Is it all worth it ?

The book is extremely touching in some parts. It's almost a children's book, except that it's probably too depressing for kids to really appreciate it. The only bad part for me was that I'd already read a similar novel called 'The Terminal Man' by Michael Crichton (of 'Jurassic Park' fame), hence there was a feeling of deja-vu throughout.

'Rang De Basanti' is an Aamir Khan movie, and so there's quite a bit of hype associated with the movie. Add A.R.Rahman to the fray, and it's pretty much apparent that expectations are going to be sky-high. This is not intended to be a comprehensive review, is more like an opinion piece on my fav' songs in the movie.

For me, the pick of the album certainly was Tu Bin Bataye, sung by one of my favourite singers, Madhushree. She's got a glorious voice, as Aap Ko Mujhse from Tehzeeb, Hum Hai Is Pal Yahaan from the excreable Kisna and Mayilirage from the even more revolting Aa Aah have amply illustrated in the past. ARR does full justice to her voice in this soaring melody.

Another awesome song in the album is Luka Chuppi, sung by Lata Mangeshkar and ARR himself. After a long time, Lata 'sings' her age.
ARR sings well in his inimitable, nasal, high-pitched voice. The result is a great song - one of Lata's best in the last 5 years, certainly.

The Punjabi prayer Ik Onkaar is soothing for the short time that it lasts. ARR wisely chooses not to mess around too much with the orchestration here.

Khoon Chala is a good track, though mediocre by the high standards ARR has set for himself. I found myself liking it more on successive hearings; I suppose its one of those quintessential ARR tracks that grow on you over time. Thought Mohit Chauhan sounded very like ARR, though.

The Paathshaala track is typical ARR stuff - yet another song in the Shakalaka Baby and Fanaa mode. Nothing outstanding here, although the lyrics might delight the college-going crowd.

The title track, rendered by Daler Mehendi and Chitra, is inspid. So is the Aamir Khan poem Lalkaar, despite the fervent patriotic stuff. Roobaroo is nothing special either.

In short, 2 songs in the very-good category and 2 others that might grow on you as the trailors bombard you.

Great Expectations

No, this post is not about the great Charles Dickens book. Instead, its about some of my favorite literary characters, whose next books you wait eagerly for. This is in no particular order, am just rattling off names as and when I get them:

  • Lincoln Rhyme & Amelia Sachs from Jeffrey Deaver's series commencing from 'The Bone Collector' - the whole idea of having a quadriplegic as the main character of the book is fascinating. And the stubborn, dynamic Amelia makes a perfect counterpart.
  • Agent Pendergast from the book series beginning with 'Still Life With Crows', written by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child - to call him eccentric would be an understatement. A razor-sharp intelligence, the prim attire and the fastidious attention to his diet maketh Pendergast one helluva strange man!
  • Harry Potter, Hermoine and Ron - but of course !!
  • Patrick Genzie & Angela Gennaro from the book series starting with the fantastic 'Gone, Baby Gone' by Dennis Lehane. They are partners in a detective firm, and are ex-lovers. The sexual tension and the banter to camouflage it makes for some great reading (of course, the outstanding writing and a great plot helps too). Every single book in this series is awesome.
  • Paul Madriani from the legal thriller series by Steve Martini ('Compelling Evidence' etc). If you thought Grisham was good, then you are still to graduate !! Madriani is as opinionated and sarcastic as they get.
  • Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling probably need no introduction - after all, who can forget 'Silence of the Lambs' by Thomas Harris? This was probably the best personification of a character in cinema, right along with Vito and Michael Corleone; Anthony Hopkins was downright terrifying.
  • The Hieronumus Bosch alias Harry Bosch series by Michael Connelly/Dennis Lynds includes some fine books, such as 'The Black Ice' and 'Trunk Music'.
  • Jack Ryan is the quintessential American, who goes on to become the President of the country. This series by Tom Clancy includes some terrific books - 'Patriot Games' and 'Hunt for Red October' amongst them. All the Jack Ryan novels are very, very good. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the movies based on these books.
  • Fatty (Frederick Algernon Trotville) by Enid Blyton is one of my all-time favourite characters. The Five Find-Outers rocked !!
  • Jupiter Jones from 'The Three Investigators' was pretty cool too. Unlike 'The Hardy Boys' and 'Nancy Drew', old 'Baby Fatso' used his brains. I got hooked onto these at school, and teachers were perpetually catching me reading a '3 Investigators' mystery under the desk :). Those were the days, I have to say !!
  • The Jack Reacher series by Lee Child (full series here) is also pretty good, although I found the character merely a more intelligent version of Rambo. Lee Child writes pretty well, though - he is somebody I regularly 'repeat-read'.
This series (pun intended!) will be continued !!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Sting Operation

on politicians seems to be the scoop of the week. what else is new? I always knew Indian politicians could be bought anyway; its an open secret.

Typically, Mr. A needs Mr. Khadi to have a quiet word in somebody's ear, about allocating some kind of permit, or removing a stay, or something else in the same street. Mr. Khadi lets it be known that a 'small contribution' would go a long way in getting this done. As per current rates, an out-of-parliament politican would probably 'charge' 4-5L (hey, these people have a lot of clout at the state level), while any of the current prima donnas would have 'floating' rates. Unfortunately, that is the way the cookie crumbles.

Pretty cynical, huh? Perhaps, but then I haven't seen too many honest politicians either. Power does corrupt, folks (I thought this was pretty well depicted in Gulzar's Hu Tu Tu, where Suhasini Mulay gave an excellent performance as the idealistic politician who gradually succumbs to the system).

Well, look at the good side. Unlike the Tehelka episode, at least the corrupt bastards got suspended this time. Here's to more and more sting operations !!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Relaxed Weekend

at Philadelphia, at my cousin's ( my dad's uncle's daughter a cousin? perhaps a question that is unique to Indians !!) place - as usual, lots of stuffing myself, and we went for a concert, by Anup Jalota and Ustaad Zakir Hussain.

Anup Jalota had the audience eating out of his hand within minutes - some funny anecdotes and light-hearted banter with the audience soon took care of that. However, IMHO he could have avoided inserting film songs into ghazals - somehow, it took away from the sanctity one associates with ghazals. But then, the majority of the audience seemed to lap it up; perhaps the seasoned performer (apparently he performs up to an astounding 12 times a month) gauged the audience anticipation correctly.

Ustaad Zakir Hussain, on the other hand, resorted to no gimmickry. There's something endearing about his whole persona, although I did find his humility rather exaggerated. He gently rebuked some idiot who had his cellphone trilling shrilly (which kind of nincompoop keeps his cell phone on during a live concert anyway!!). Then he proceeded to give a brief introduction to the history of the tabla (these are not the exact words used, merely a summary of sorts):

According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva's drum (known as the dhamru) represents sound as the very first element in a newly created universe; it encompasses every sound ever emitted by any aspect of nature. Perhaps by inheritance, Lord Ganesh is also an accomplished player of the mridangam, and this is why very often many tabla players pay obeisance to Lord Ganesha. Thus, there is almost a spiritual element attached to the whole art of tabla playing.

Then we have the various styles or schools of music, known as gharanas. A gharana usually develops when a maestro begins to present songs in a distinct, individual style. The gharana is then passed on to disciples, who then enrich it by adding more and more subtle elements to it until it becomes almost a culture. The tabla gharanas are all named after the places where they were developed - the Punjab gharana, and the Benares gharana, for instance.

The ustaad then proceed to play a few solo pieces, after which there was a session where both Anupa Jalota and Zakir Hussain played together. IMO, this was easily the best session, especially the Hindustani classical song at the end.

An evening well spent, eventually.

Friday, December 09, 2005


That's a truly STUPID word: eve-teasing. The very phrase is a misnomer; what women are subjected to in India is no form of teasing - it's more a form of subjugation, of abject humiliation.

Dilip D'Souza links to an anguished post by Mumbai Girl:

...but I don't have a single Indian girlfriend who hasn't been groped or sexually assaulted in one way or another. Not a single one. It happened to my mother, it happened to me, it happened to my sister, it happened to my friends. It continues to happen.

This sort of reminded me of another post on sexual harassment (this is not just another sexual harassment post; Mangs had the guts to have the perverted bastard jailed). Excerpts below:

At 3:30 a.m., my Upper Berth neighbour reaches and touches my breast. I don't know what he was expecting. That I would simper coyly and turn away? That I would ignore him? Encourage him? Mind boggling possibilities.

I was up like a shot; my mind blank in my half-sleep and all I did was scream. It was strange, thinking back on it. I wasn't angry, I wasn't yelling expletives, or hell, even sentences or words. It was just like an animal-in-pain screaming. Shrill, loud, repetitive. No words, just screaming and screaming till the lights were flicked on, people hurriedly woke up, the TC came running.
Upper Berth man was yanked down, the Railway Cops (they had come by too, by this time) grabbed hold of him, and the TC told me to come down and write out a complaint.
The Man began begging for mercy. "You are ruining my life," he told me in Hindi. "Please forgive me." Then, in English, "I could not control myself."

This is back from June, when I did not have a blog. However, I did email the article to several friends because I appreciated what Mangs had the guts to do. All of them - every single girl whom I mailed this to - had similar experiences to narrate. Which is downright pathetic.

There's a school of thought that says that in situations like these, the girl should ALWAYS react - scream, slap the guy, hand him over to the police etc. I used to subscribe to this doctrine, until some of these friends told me of their experiences when they reacted. One was called a whore; another had a bottle of Pepsi emptied over her. And - you guessed it - nobody reacted.

And then we have incidents like this (link from the daily DNA India). Excerpts below:

...they ejaculate in their hands and then brush their hands against girls. It is disgusting.

...When we go to the cops they ask us questions like why do you dress like this? There should be helpdesks attended by policewomen. I and surely most girls feel awkward about going up to a policeman and telling him that there is a guy masturbating outside my college. I don't even know how to explain this to a cop.

...Once when my friend slapped a guy, he and his friends carried her and threw her on the footpath and no one did a thing.

You know, stuff like this makes me feel that movies like Zakhmi Aurat do make sense. Such men deserve to be castrated - without anaesthesia, and with a numb saw - slowly, with the intent to inflict maximum damage.

I do not know what's an ideal answer to this. I do feel that girls ought to react more and more, especially when in public places where they are likely to get support. No pleas of mercy by such men should be heeded. Policewomen stationed near colleges would be a big help too, as a girl opines in the article above. And most of all, we - the men who condemn so easily - ought to express our outrage more publicly (and, it has to be said, it's not much help if the victim herself tells us toforget it, after the guy gets slapped a couple of times).

Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Making of Box Office History

When directors gripe about how difficult it is to predict what the 'audience' would like, I am always amused. For, making a successful movie is not exactly rocket-science. Here are some plots for sure-shot box-office hits:

For Bollywood:
  • Cast SRK and Kajol (Chars #1 and #2). Have the title music of 'Kuch Kuch Hota Hai' play in the background the first time they meet, and at other opportune moments. Of course, SRK is Rahul.
  • Add at least 3 Punjabi numbers. Make sure that the Big B appears in one of these, in a VERY SPECIAL appearance. Make full use of a break in the song for Big B to say something witty in that famous baritone of his.
  • Have Farida Jalal/Jaya Bachchan/Reema Lagoo (JB/FJ/RL - Char #3) as the oh-so-adorable widowed mom; it doesn't matter if its the hero's or the heroine's. She'd have brought up the hero/heroine alone. In every two scenes, SRK should make an inane joke, get reprimanded by the mom, and then hug her lovingly.
  • Have Alok Nath (Char #4) as one of those sidey characters who casts subtle, lecherous looks at JB/FJ/RL. He would have a song to himself, or sing some lines in one of the Punjabi numbers, or at the least, spout horrible shairi at the drop of a hat. JB/FJ/RL would blush suitably whenever he enters the scene, and bustle off to make tea.
  • Have a third male/female character enter the proceedings just before the interval. This would be the 'BEST-est' friend of the hero/heroine, or be the adopted son of JB/FJ. This can be Salman Khan/Saif Ali Khan/Akshay Kumar/Abhishek Bachchan (SK/SAK/AK/AB - Char #5).
  • After enough sobbing, SRK has to try his damned best to make a sacrifice of some kind.
  • There has to be a Karva Chauth scene, where Kajol would make her feelings clear for SRK. A small song can be inserted here. There could be a mother-daughter bonding scene too.
  • There would be some kind of engagement ceremony, and SRK would dance his heart out to yet another Punjabi number. Of course, there would be a suitable lull in the proceedings to show SRK wiping away his tears surreptitiously. Ideally, this song would have another VERY SPECIAL appearance by Rani/Preity/Kareena (Char #6), chosen carefully to match Char #5.
  • At the end of the song, the 'other' character (Char #5) would come up and make a self-effacing speech, at the end of which he'd solemnly put Kajol's mehndi-adorned hands into SRKs.
  • Char #5 and Char #6 would cast covert, coy glances at each other. So would Alok Nath (Char #4) and JB/FJ/RL (Char #3).
  • --- End of movie-----
For Tollywood:
  • Cast Rajnikanth. The rest of the cast doesn't really matter.
  • Rajni would initially be introduced through a gravity-defying stunt sequence. The more goons to bash up, the better!
  • The fight-sequence has to be followed by a loud song, with Rajni's name repeatedly intoned as the chief chorus. The lyrics would typically ridicule his political opponents. The song has to be sung by S.P.Balasubramaniam (affectionately known as SPB).
  • Establish Rajni firmly as the happy-go-lucky youth, loved by the entire neighborhood/village, whose sole vice would be puffing away at a cheroot. Rajni would be the head of the nuclear family, comprised of a mandatory mother and younger sister, optionally with younger brothers. The dad would be widely respected, but otherwise usless.
  • Introduce Rajni's cronies, who'd be the popular comedians of the year. Light-hearted banter follows.
  • Introduce the haughty heroine, who's quickly put in her place by Rajni. Without much ado, she falls for him, and a dream sequence follows. More political messages here.
  • A member of Rajni's family is humiliated in some fashion, and Rajni suddenly turns into a psychotic maniac who indulges in indiscriminate bashing up. More gravity-defying sequences follow.
  • Show a past of some kind (to justify Rajni's sudden transofrmation), where Rajni was a dreaded don, or the new 'cleanup' S.I in town. After much mayhem and bloodshet, an elder sister or a close friend dies, and Rajni is exhorted by his parents to give up all violence. A much-chastised-but-reluctant Rajni obliges.
  • Back to present. Dramatic discovery - Heroine turns out to be adopted daughter of chief villain(s) responsible for all the mayhem described above. She, of course, is a rich heiress, and the villain is waiting for her to become 21 (!!!!) before usurping her property.
  • Rajni meets villain and challenges him that he would take away the heroine right on her fast-approaching 21st birthday. Heroine watches with awe. Cut to song sequence.
  • Villain sends goons to attack Rajni, who, of course, swats them like flies.
  • D-day - heroine's 21st birthday. Villain throws grand party, where Rajni dances with gusto. Rajni's drink is drugged, and his dancing style seems to hint that the drugs are indeed taking effect.
  • At end of song, Rajni sneers and scoffs at the impotent drug, and bursts into action. Villain, however, has taken precautions by kidnapping Rajni's entire family - touche.
  • As Rajni stands undecided, heroine leaps at adopted dad and throws him off balance. This is the cue for Rajni to burst into action and display hitherto-undisplayed martial art skills.
  • All goons vanquished, Rajni is willing to forget and forgive, but the villain attemps one last act of betraya by reaching for a hidden pistol. Rajni's dad jumps in front before Rajni can commit any more 'inspired' acts like catching the bullet with his teeth, or something of that sort. An enraged Rajni can take no more - he shoots up the villain into little ribbons.
  • Dad dies. Rajni buries face in dad's chest and shakes shoulders inconsolably (it's passe to show Rajni sobbing).
  • Scene of first-night, with Rajni bashfully entering bedroom decorated with jasmine and other flowers. Heroine lingers at the bedroom door, casting horny glances at Rajni occaisonally. Rajni pulls squealing heroine into bedroom, winks at audience and closes door.
  • --- END OF MOVIE ---------
More, on how to make a successful Mallu movie, later !

Religious Coercion

DNA reports that a Pakistani Christian student sues a premier institution, King Edward Medical College, accusing them of discriminating againt non-Muslim students. She challenges the whole concept of awarding a student extra internal marks just because he or she has the Quran memorized. I wholly agree, and sincerely pray that she wins her lawsuit. Click here to read the whole article.

I have always been of the firm belief that religion is something that you practise in private, irrespective of what religion you belong to, or follow. IMHO, the whole concept of collective worship is highly overrated; more often than not, its devotion born of fear. Even worse, many a time it is devotion born of a desperate need to impress your contemporaries. But then, this is subjective - I am entitled to my opinions, and you to yours. What gets my goat is religious coercion of the form described above. If giving more internal marks is not an incentive for a student to get all 'holy', I don't know what is. This is the worst form of education, for it breeds hypocrisy. Schools/colleges have no business dictating religion; that's what parents are for.

Much to my dismay, such 'religious' institutes are springing up with alacrity all over India as well. We now have Hindu colleges preaching 'holistic' education (whatever that means), Muslim institutes named after Hajis and hellfire-threatening Christian institutes trying to attract more to their flock. Whatever be the religious inclination, all these institutions have roughly the same POAs - prevent sleep in the morning by blasting those darned devotional songs, conduct prayer meetings at the drop of a hat
, and of course, assume the responsibilty of protecting 'Indian Culture' by preventing guys from talking to girls, enforcing pinned dupattas etc. Of course, these religious institutes have an unwritten policy of 'rejecting' students of other faith, irrespective of their academics.

My apologies to all those fine institutes who happen to be named after a religious figure of some kind - it is not you who I am talking about. I did my schooling at a Don Bosco, and was never forced into doing anything I did not want to do -I still remain fond of those memories. I wish I could say the same of every other educational institution I have been to.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Film Review: El Bola

As I write this, my hands are trembling. From sheer adrenaline. Its been a long time since a movie did this to me.

El Bola (The Pellet) narrates the tale of young Pablo, nicknamed Pellet for the ball-bearing he always carries around with him 'for luck'. The film slowly reveals that Pablo is the victim of a brutal and vindictive father, partly through the eyes of his new friend, Alfredo.

Spoilers ahead.

I guess in India, its fairly commonplace to see children getting slapped, even in public. Almost all of us have got flogged, I am sure. But I hope beatings of the sort shown in this movie do not take place anywhere. To see a small child, especially one as likeable as this character, getting beat up savagely is not a pretty sight. The scene is brutal; the director has not held back at all in depicting the helplessness and defiance of Pablo.

The sheepishness of the revulsive father when he realises that he has been exposed has been subtly shown as well. There are questions raised about the sexuality of Alfredo's father, Jose - but the director wisely decided to leave it at that. The comparisons between the outwardly steady family of Pablo and the more unconventional family of Alfredo are merely suggested at, not pushed down your throat - no dumbing-down stuff here, thankfully.

In the end, the more conservative family is exposed for the hypocrites they are, and the bonding of the unconventional family is highlighted. Acting is pretty good, all around - especially the actors playing Pablo, his father and Jose. IMHO the film richly deserves all the international awards it has received.

I pray that Mahesh Bhatt/Sanjay Gupta do not see this movie anywhere.

Weekend Watch

Akale (Far Away) by director Shyamaprasad is based on Tennessee William's semi-autobiographical play 'The Glass Menagerie'. It is a pretty good adaptation, as adaptations go - except for a highly irritating performance by veteran Sheela (of Chemmeen fame), and a surprisingly tame ending. However, Geethu Mohandas is a walloping success as the main protagonist Rose (named so after Tennessee William's own sister - the character in the play was called Laura); she successfully underplays the physical deformity as well as the character's timidity. Worth your time.

Old Boy came highly recommended, and with good reason. It is a terrific movie by any standards; fans of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill series would appreciate it even more. The movie boasts of a unique plot: the hero of the movie is abruptly abducted, locked up for 15 years and then released. The rest of the movie is all about how the hero finds out the reasons for his imprisonment. All I can say is that the climax is wholly unexpected, and mindblowing. Min-sik Choi is truly a great actor. IMHO, its a must-watch, despite somewhat poor sub-titling.

minds(Sanjay Gupta's, in this case) think alike - click here to see why.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Two Powerful Articles

Akhil Krishna composes a powerful piece, almost a soliloquy of sorts, on his friend Manju; Outlook has the honor of publishing this moving piece:

But the details, as they emerged, turned the sighs into a rage - an impotent rage. He was not 'collateral damage'. He was killed. Murdered. In cold blood. Shot six times. Dumped into the dicky of a car. To be dropped off at a paddy field. For vultures to peck on. For having sealed a petrol bunk. A petrol bunk that mixed kerosene in diesel. For having turned down bribes. For shrugging off veiled threats. For having persisted with his ... values.

Read the full piece here.

As has become the norm, Dilip D'Souza has an outstanding post here, this time on a hapless victim of first the Bombay riots, and then our (in)justice-dispensation system.

And I met your father, Raju, some months after you died. He was trying to claim the compensation that the Government had announced for families, like yours, who had lost someone, like you, in the riots. I met him because some Government officials were giving him a cruel run-around, and someone asked me to help.

First, Samiullah paid a Rs 200 bribe for a coroner's certificate for your body. When he showed that to the bureaucrats in charge of the compensation, they said there was no proof that you were actually his son. In fact, had you existed at all? (Easy question, when you no longer existed). Broke because the bakery had been destroyed, your father borrowed money and travelled to your UP village. From the tehsildar there, he got a certificate saying he had really had a son.

My Sojourn in MetMuseum

yesterday was pretty interesting. After about half an hour of aimless wandering, I pretty much decided that this was not gonna work - the MetMuseum had enough stuff for me to meander aimlessly for more than a week. I decided to stick to stuff that I'd at least have a semblance of familiarity with. Here's my (decidedly inexpert) take:

Hercules & Nessus, the Centaur:

The image here shows Hercules fighting the
Hercules and Nessuscentaur Nessus who apparently tried to molest Deianira, Hercules' second wife. Hercules, of course, was the immensely strong son of Zeus (the king of gods) and a mortal (somewhat akin to our own Bheem, or is that stretching too far ?). Centaurs, according to Greek mythology, are Dementor-like (to the uninitiated, Dementors are evil creatures introduced in the Harry Potter books/movies) creatures, sorta like a cross between a man and a horse.

The story goes that while Hercules was attempting to cross a river with
Deianira, Nessus offered his help. But then, in 'a weak moment', he attempted to molest Deianira. Upon seeing this, Hercules shot a poisoned arrow into Nessus. Dunno how the swordplay bit shown above came into the picture - a bit of misdirected zeal on the part of the artist, I suppose.

The dying Nessus craftily plotted Hercules' own death, though, by offering his blood to Deianira as a kind of faithfulness-potion; it turned out to be the poison that ultimately led to Hrcules' demise.

Pablo Picasso - the man and his works:

This chap was sure industrious, in addition to being a genuis; in his 93 years he created over 20,000 paintings, drawings, prints sculptures and costumes - meaning that he roughly averaged 215 paintings a year. Whew !!
Girl Reading At a Table

The painting shown on the right is called 'Girl Reading At A Table', though it did seem to me as if she were writing rather than reading. This painting is based on the 17-year old Marie Therese, who was also the then 45-year old Picasso's mistress. To accentuate the girl's svelte and child-like appearance, the surrounding objects such as the table and the plant have been distorted. The swarthy shades used to paint the atmosphere in the room emphasizes the pinky-white skin of the girl, giving the painting an almost supernal glow.

Apparently, Picasso was quite the womanizer - the Wikkipedia entry for Picasso lists quite a few women (or teenagers, for that matter) he was involved with, many of who attained immortality by ending up his models. I remember reading somewhere that the death of his eight-year old sister affected Picasso terribly when he was a boy. Some of the despondency shows in his paintings.

For instance, there is an entire Picasso harlequin/clown series, one of which is shown here. The central themein all these paintings is that all the harlequins/clowns are forlorn, as if to indicate that the joviality is but a facade. The harlequin shown here appears pensive, symbolised by the two fingers laid to the cheek, despite the beautiful background. The museum suggested that the death of a friend might have been the reason for the sombre paiting, but then that would not have accounted for the entire series. There is a series of thought that suggests that Picasso personified himself in his harlequin series.

Picasso, along with Georges Braque, invented the concept of cubism. As the name suggests, the technique involves breaking down an object into several cubes/planes, and then reconstructing them in a manner that allowed the perceiver to view the object from several different angles, instead of just one. Apparently, the intention was to depict an object as the mind, not the eye, sees it. To be frank, the end-result is pretty difficult to understand most of the time. For instance, much of Picasso's still-life paintings are very abstract, with lots of alphabets, collage (indeed, I believe Picasso invented the collage, as we know it today) and papier colle being used - am not expert enough to understand the more subtle elements of these paintings.

More of Picasso and Van Gogh later. Time to go to bed !!

More Friends on the Bloggin' Bandwagon

It's finally happened - Archana has decided to unleash herelf on the unsuspecting blogging public. She found naming the darned thing much harder than posting her first, if that means anything ;). If she blogs as much as she talks, BlogSpot might have to purchase some new servers soon ! Click here to read her fine maiden (pun intended!) post on the importance of the thaali to 50+ years of Indian filmhood.

And then of course, I palavered Clone-ji into putting something into that blog of hers :). Another fine post, this time on the (in)famous Bangalore roads. To read on, depress your mouse pointer exactly here.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Thoughts Out of the Blue

My post on fractals reminded me of a couple of lines from one of Jeffrey Deaver's Lincoln Rhyme (of The Bone Collector fame) books, called 'The Vanished Man', which I'd jotted down at the time:

She said, 'You know, I'm not sure there is much reality.'
He frowned, not getting her meaning.
'Isn't most of our lives an illusion?' she continued.
'How's that?'
'Well, everything in the past is memory, right?'
'And everything in the future is imagination. Those're both illusions - memories are unreliable and we just speculate about the future. The only thing that's completely real is the one instant of the present - and that's constantly changing from imagination to a memory. So, see? Most of our life's illusory.'

I found the whole dialogue rather fascinating, and also connected to the concept of self-similarity in fractals. A tad philosophical, perhaps, but don't you sometimes think a moment is exactly like a day, and a day like a month etc (in terms of ups and downs, events, resolutions, flashes of brilliance etc) ?

Thinking out aloud...why is it easier to chat (in the IM sense of the word) to somebody than to talk to him/her in person, or even on the phone? I've often found myself typing out something into the chat window, and then do a double-take - did I really divulge THAT about myself ? I mean, isn't it peculiar that I know some of the most personal details of people who, in many cases, I haven't even met yet?

I figure that there's something quietly reassuring about the anonymity of that innocuous little chat window on the taskbar that makes us divulge our insecurities, small fears, aspirations and other such private details. In fact, I even have friends who I do meet once a month or so, but we find ourselves unable to talk with the semblance of intimacy that the small window somehow bestowed. Strange, but true.

I wonder about older generations - obviously they never had the same problem, but then who did they confide in? Did they find it any easier to reveal whole pieces of themselves to friends/relatives?

As you can see, I have a lot of questions, but not many answers !

What's the common factor between Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Mani Ratnam, Kamal Hassan, Ilayaraja, A.R.Rahman, R.D.Burman and Zakhir Hussain?

Yeah, I know they are all geniuses - what else?

They are all SHORT. In fact, even Einstein and Mozart were vertically challenged, if I am correct. Wonder what's the connection here !! In fact, I have often noticed that A.R.Rahman and SRT even have similar high-pitched, squeaky voices and those famous modest shrugs ;).

I have always been unhappy about the fact that I could never claim that I was 6'feet tall (I stand somewhere between 5'11 and 6'feet, to my un-ending regret), but to someone clutching at straws, I guess the height-genius quotient correlation is some consolation !!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Of Snowflakes and Fractals

Its December - the season of Christmas and what's more, lots and lots of snow. I have to confess, I am one of those strange creatures who actually embrace the cold. Low temperatures faze me not a bit; aestial, blue skies and bright sunshine drive me to distraction though. It's no surprise that I'm eagerly awaiting some snow in NY.

While on the topic of snow, I just have to dwell on the fascinating concept of fractal dimensions briefly. In addition to the more conventional notion of Euclidean geometry (where we deal with one, two and even three-dimensional objects), there exist many objects in nature that cannot be described using integer dimensions. For instance, a coastline is neither a straight line, nor a shape that can be described as an area - its dimension lies somewhere between 1 (a straight line) and 2 (an area).

The fractal dimension of an object, speaking intuitively, is roughly an estimate of the extent to which it fills the Euclidean shape in which it is contained. For instance, a coastline with a fractal dimension of 1.2 is closer to a straight line than a rectangle, while one with a fractal dimension of 1.8 has more curves. Nature is full of objects with fractal dimensions - coastlines, trees, mountains, and - you guessed it - snowflakes.

Koch's snowflake
is actually one of the more famous fractals. Its construction is pretty simple - consider an equilateral triangle. Every side of the equilateral triangle is then divided into thirds, and a new triangle is created on each of the middle thirds. Every successive iteration would increase the complexity of the figure, but more importantly, every new triangle in the figure would increasingly look like its predecessor. Use this link to see a demo (uses applets).

Self-similarity is one of the more important properties of fractals. For instance, in the abovementioned example I said that 'every new triangle...would increasingly look like its predecessor'. To put it another way, if you were to take a microscope and take a closer look at the triangles in the Koch snowflake, every triangle would look the same (assuming an infinite number of iterations, of course), irrespective of scale. This is true of a lot of natural phenomena, such as coastlines, mountains, snowflakes, pine-leaves etc - all of them have fractal dimensions. This phenomenon is a characteristic of fractals, and is known as self-similarity or scale-invariance.

Fractals are being analyzed more and more today, as they are being extensively used in fields as diverse as image compression algorithms, graphics & special effects (Star Wars uses it extensively for all those fantasy-landscapes), music compression algorithms, stock-market analysis and biology.

An Introduction to Black Comedy

These were early days, when to a Malayali teenager of 1997, a movie was either an 'action-thriller' or a Priyadarshan-ishtyle comedy caper. Exposure to Tamil cinema was minimal, probably limited to the honourable efforts of Kamal Hassan and the machismo of the self-styled 'superstar' Rajnikanth. Little did we know of the treat that was in store for us.

'Simha...NARA-Simha !!!' - thus roared this ferocious-looking hero, trying hard to make up in volume what he could not in voice-modulation. Dressed in an 'inconspicuous' black pants, yellow shirt and red blazer, this not-so-young angry man literally had a huge screen-presence; when he was on screen, there was not much room left for anybody else ! His introductory scene itself had him striding alarmingly towards the disconcerted audience, coat all ablaze in a huge gale that seemed to have suddenly popped up. Then the hero paused for dramatic effect, and laid his pudgy fingers on something that strongly resembled a TV remote.

PRESS, and dozens of bombs detonated all over the place.

The title of the movie flashed across the screen:

in and as

The audience broke out into rapturous applause.

Subsequently, the hero is caught by a gang that looked like villains to me, though they were dressed in military fatigues. Duh ! 'This seems to be fairly a novel approach' , thought I. Or maybe they would show a flashback sequence. Not to be - I had seriously underestmated the ingenuity of the director and screenplay writer. The villain proceed to remove the shirt of the hero (probably to satisfy the lusty female audience as well), and then tied him down on a slab of ice. Now for the grand finale - they decide to have some fun by electrocuting him. After combing through his manly chest-hair a couple of times (Vijaykanth squirmed uncomfortably a couple of times - tickled pink?), they managed to locate his nipples, and promptly put a couple of dangerous looking clamps on them. These clamps were connected to some red wires, leading to a ... a goddamn TRANSFORMER. One of the villainous-looking characters growls menacingly, while proceeding to a giant switch with a huge board labeled 'DANGER' on top of it. Our hero is unpertrurbed, though - he even has a beatific Buddha-like smile on his grey face.

CLACK - the switch is turned on ! A few dials are shown, needles suitably accelerating.

I don't believe it - the friggin' transformer explodes !! The villains appear as astonished as the shell-shocked audience (like in Memento, this must have been the director's intention all along - have the audience empathise with the villains), and look at Vijaykanth in dumbfounded silence. He calmly breaks open all the ropes that were hitherto binding him, and winks at the audience, saying 'No electric current can harm this', with an admiring glance toward his naked torso, 'body of mine'. And for good riddance, he adds that he is 'Simha...NARA-Simha', and walks out of the clutches of the flummoxed villains.

By now, the audience has realized that they are experiencing something truly special - a novel approach to filmmaking that would irrevocably alter South Indian cinema forever.

Enter the heroine: a nubile-looking Isha Kopikar. She is dressed in really tight clothes, covering less than 10% of her anatomy (perhaps she wanted to get a tan in the famous Chennai sun). There are a couple of dumb comedians with her. Some sicko astrolger pronounces importantly that Isha will meet 'her man' in the sky, and she is suitably impressed. The audience begins to get restless. Not to worry, our man is soon back, with some more bombs. He flashes his detonator again, and some more bombs explode. Oh no - our heroine is on one of the buildings where some of the bombs are set.

Vijaykanth races upstairs, grabs Isha, proceeds to the rooftop and jumps down in the nick of time, just as the entire building explodes in a ball of flame. While falling down, Isha remembers THE prophesy, and glances lovingly at the hero's chiseled face. She does a couple of flips, and somehow arranges both of them into a Kamasutra-like pose while hurtling down at 9.8 m/s2.

The screen dissolves into a song, with Isha managing to wear even skimpier clothes. Vijaykanth is dressed completely in gold, and wears a pair of sunglasses with golden rims.

I can probably write a complete thesis on this movie; it is one of those unsung gems that get better on repeated viewing. Those of you who haven't seen this masterpiece yet, I commiserate: get a copy from somewhere and enjoy puratchi-thalaivan Vijaykanth at his best.