Dec 23, 2007

Taare Zameen Par


My interest in movies revolving around children first started when I watched Anjali, my all time favorite. After a huge gap, a movie on a defective child plus direction by Aamir Khan really made me to go to the first show itself. My expectations for the movie rose as the main character's name was credited before anyone else, including Aamir.
Ishaan is an inattentive child, lagging from his fellow classmates in studies. He also engages in fights. The initial few symptoms made me to wonder if he's having Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). As time goes by, his problems become severe and he bunks class to prevent being punished by his teache. His parents fearthat he wouldn't be a studious person like his elder brother and send him to a boarding school. The movie which was revolving primarily ard Ishaan, now onwards takes a shift. Here after, it is about how Aamir Khan (art teacher) recongnizes the disorder in Ishaan, Dyslexia, and helps him to overcome it, and in the climax eventually the child succeeds.
The movie doesn't engross you as good as the story promises. The second half is way too lengthy, with Aamir Khan uttering several monologues to bring forth his opinions about non-understanding and demanding parents. He burdens the movie with himself, and cries too much to test our eye glands, unsuccessfully. The moment we realize that Aamir Khan is after Ishaan, we know how it is gonna end, exactly. Too much predictability takes away any further attachment we can have in seeing the success of Ishaan.
The kid acting as Ishaan was terrific. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy do a fantastic job with some slow numbers in the first half. Nothing much to say about the supporting cast, including Aamir.The argument Aamir has that the dyslexic kids do have the rights to study alongside 'normal' kids holds little water after we see what a specially trained and well-aware Aamir can do. Also, instead of addressing the larger problem of undue pressure on children in the present times, the attention in the second half is only on dyslexic kids. Sure, it is not to be taken lightly, with 10-15% of population reported to have it, but I am not sure if it is them (and their parents & teachers) whom Aamir wanted to target this movie for.
With Aamir Khan touted to act in next Mani Ratnam's movie, I wish he had sought an advice or two from the master director on how to take a movie based on a child. Nevertheless, Aamir needs to be applauded for his good intentions.

Dec 13, 2007

Science in song lyrics



Some songs have the knack of stimulating some interesting scientific thoughts when I hear them.. It so happens that most of the time the lyrics remind me of the scientific content.. A few such lines from songs, retrieved by a quick recollection:

1) நிலவில் பொருள்கள் எடையிழக்கும்
நீரிலும் பொருள் எடையிழக்கும்
'Nilavil porulgal edaiyizhakkum
neerilum porul edaiyizhakkum' (Ratchagan)
This song easily gets the top spot for such a beautiful comparison for love. Things lose their weights in moon and in water. Gravity explains the loss in moon and the viscosity, in water. When Vairamuthu compares these apparent sense of weight loss with feeling light when in love, it is more apt, in another sense too: one says 'I fell in love'.. when you 'fall', your body feels lighter, doesnt it?

2) அழகிய நிலவில் ஆக்சிஜன் நிரப்பி....
'Azhagiya nilavil oxygen nirappi' (Jeans)
Though trivial, it reiterates a couple of facts: one- there is no oxygen in moon, and two- humans need oxygen to survive.

3) தாமரை மேலே நீர்த்துளி போல்....
'ThAmarai mElE neerthuLi pOl' (Mouna RAgam)
Though it has been used for comparison since ancient times, in the modern times scientists are trying to mimic the lotus for coatings of some applications. Water doesnt wet lotus (flower and leaves) because of surface tension, which arises from its unique surface chemistry due to water-repellant chemicals.

4) வண்ணத்துப்பூச்சி உடம்பில் ஓவியங்கள் அதிசயம்
'Vannathupoochi udambil OviyangaL adhisayam' (Jeans)
Again, man has been wondering about the beauty of butterflies. The exotic colors in the wings of butterflies arise due to an optical effect called 'thin film interference'. Amazing that there are no dyes which give the various colors to butterflies.

5) உலகம் திரியும் காற்றுக்கு உருவம் தீட்டமுடியாது.
'Ulagam thiriyum kAtrukku uruvam theetta mudiyAdhu' (Mozhi)
It is simply explained by the fluidic nature of air.. Air, a fluid, doesn't have a shape by itself and it takes up the shape of the container it is in..

6) வெண்ணிலவே வெள்ளி வெள்ளி நிலாவே
போகுமிடமெல்லாமே கூடக்கூட வந்தாய்..
'VennilavE veLLi veLLi nilAvE
pogumidam ellAmE koodakooda vandhAi' (Vettaiyadu vilayadu)

That is simply because the distance between earth and moon is so large that any distance that a man covers by whatver means is too small to make a difference to the relative position of the moon. This creates an illusion as if moon is moving alongwith you.

7) நீலநிறம் வானுக்கும் கடலுக்கும் நீலநிறம்
'Neela niRam vAnukkum kadalukkum neelaniRam' (En aNNan)
Sky appears blue because of Raman scattering.. Sea appears blue bcos it simply reflects the sky. To say that they are blue, bcos the girl's eyes are blue is, well, poetic freedom..
All these lyrics talk of 'correct' scientific events. The reason for this post is a recent song which has the lines
மேற்கு திசையை நோக்கி நடந்தால்
இரவு கொஞ்சம் சீக்கிரம் வருமா..
'MERku dhisaiyai nOkki nadandhAl
iravu konjam seekkiram varumA' (ATM)

Nice ones.. The lyricist's inclination is clear.. but he is going in the wrong direction.. Since earth rotates eastwards, one has to walk in that direction for the night to approach faster.

Nov 27, 2007

Indian vs US Undergraduate Education


Over the past few months, I have got quite a bit of exposure to the undergraduates here. Interacting with them has inevitably led me to compare the system of UG education in India and in the US.
1) Courses:
There is a great deal of flexibility in the kind of courses that a student here has to take to complete the degree. There are only a few 'core courses' that every major student HAS to take. Most universities require 120 credits for the degree, of which only about 20-30 come under the 'core' criteria. This is in total contrast to the requirements in India, where a student has to take and clear all the courses specified by the college/university. That is the case with the arts colleges, and I think it is the same with the Engg. colleges as well. If I am not wrong, pl. do correct me.
2) Diversity:
The language courses here are much more useful than the mindless 'memorize-and-spit' stuff an arts college student in India has to take. There are a couple of courses in 'Academic writing' or 'Analytical writing' which greatly enhance one's language and writing skills. Also, the educational curricula are quite diverse in most universities, which means the students HAVE to take at least one course each in areas such as US history, European history, Fine arts, philosophy, maths, physics/chemistry/biology, and psychology/sociology. This widens the student's perspectives in several disciplines.
3) Class selection:
So, the student here chooses the subject based on: a) the general liking of the course; b) the teaching/grading skills of the professor from ratemyprofessor.com; c) time-conflict with other courses; and d) interestingly, most want to avoid classes on monday/friday, so that they can have a long holiday. Also, the students who commute long distance, like to have most classes on the same day itself.
Moreover, if a student is very good, he/she would be allowed to take more courses in a semester. Many students make use of the summer courses (which most dont do - they take time off from studies during summer) and even the 3-week Winter courses and it is possible for one to finish a 4-year program in just 2 years.
4) Quality at the entry level:
I was shocked to know that most students get their first introduction to mainstream chemistry, physics and biology when they enter the degree program. I was told that, during school education, they are mostly taught as to how to attend the classes, how to take notes, etc. In essence, the things that we learn in class 11 in India are taught in the beginning of the UG program here.
5) Concept of 'class':
The concept of a batch hardly exists. It is highly possible that two students who join a given major in the same year may never be in a single class together throughout the entire UG program. The strength of some of the classes is humongous, with some having even 400+ students. Sometimes, there would be several sessions of the same subject offered in the same semester.
Because of the huge number of the students admitted to a major in the same year, the busy schedule of the professors (teaching + research), and the work that the students do to earn their tuition fees/living, each student attends only about 15-18 hours per week of classes. In India, it is 25 hours a week, mostly. That gives more time for a given course to be taught, without too much rushing. Here, the profs with improper planning would end up short of their syllabus or hurrying up.
6) Grading:
All colleges and universities work the way 'autonomous' institutions in India work. It is upto the instructor how he/she wishes to handle the tests. So, there are cases like (i) frequent quizzes/tests followed by a cumulative final, similar to the Indian system, (ii) only short quizzes/tests, with a final being just another short test (non-cumulative), and (iii) grading based only on presentations/papers submitted. The questions could all be multiple-choiced, or descriptive. There is no guarantee that the grading system of a professor in one semester would continue to the next sem. If the whole class performs poorly, usually there is a 'curving', which means a few marks would be added to all the grades.
Unlike in India, where 35% is a passing mark, one can fail here even if he/she scores 60%. Also, most papers would require one to answer all the questions.. so the spoilling system of 'choice' in India, where one student can skip a chapter fully and still score 100%, is not possible here. Because of the tough grading, IMHO, the student has to learn more here than in India to pass or get high grades. Due to the letter system of grading, someone who has got 100% answers right might be considered equal to one with 91% answers - both get an A.
7) Professional degrees:
While a BA/BSc student inIndia takes about 30 courses towards a 3-year degree, one here takes about 40 for a 4-year degree. Similar to the way a BE/BTech student in India spends 4 years for the degree, an engg. degree in US too requires about 140 credits. Unlike in India where a student can join a medical/dental/pharmacy/law college after class 12, in US, one has to complete the UG degree, or some form of pre-medical or pre-dental program to enter such specialized schools. That is bcos of relatively low quality of class-12 education.
8) Attendance:
In India, all instructors take the attendance; so if someone misses a lot of classes, he/she could be debarred from taking the final exams. Here, there are some who would not take attendance for even a single class.. thus, by simply studying the prescribed book at home, and getting the notes from the friends, a student can get an A. On the other extreme, there are some who would reduce the grade point to the next lower letter grade, for a student who has been absent for just 4 classes.
9) Class timings:
Unlike the fixed 10AM-4 PM or whatever fixed timing in Indian colleges/universities, here there are some classes which start at 8 AM, and some which go on till 10 PM.
10) Choice of university:
The students choose the university based on (i) its national ranking, (ii) presence in the same state (to save tuition fees), (iii) the quality of the particular program in the university and (iv) the performance of the university's football/basketball teams, though not necessarily in the same order.
Considering all these things, I was wondering which one is better - Indian or American system. Though in India one gets good opportunities to do well, not many grab them. Moreover, the Indian system encourages 'mugging up' bcos many times one has to reproduce the answers verbatim. In US, many courses make one to think a lot, do quite a bit of reading outside the books, and enhance writing, presentation skills, non-linear/abstract thinking.

Nov 13, 2007

Deepavali movies - Back to the Past



Watching two supernaturally inspired movies in less than 24 hours is what Deepavali had to offer. Both the movies are a little too late.. one by 20 years and the other by 30 years.

1) Azhagiya Tamil Magan (ATM):
After watching this, I will have to think a thousand times "Do I HAVE to go to ATM to withdraw money?" It is like post-traumatic disorder, recalling the trauma upon hearing something connected to it. Probably I should have known what to expect of a Vijay movie when I sat to watch the film, but still Vijay and his directors have the uncanny ability of testing the patience of the 'patientest' people. When you have some of the scenes resembling 'Durga' and forcing you to recollect its mundane details, you know you are watching a wrong movie at a wrong time.

This movie makes other movies in which we questioned the logic, such as 'Sivaji', as blemishless classics. The first half was atleast palatable..The climax scene is as cliched as it can get.. (am not talking about Namitha appearing in a properly-worn-saree). As Vijay says, my consolation was "ethanaiyo kuppaigalai parthuttenn.. Idhai parthu porukka mudiyadha?" Vijay's dance, 'Pon magal vandhaal' remix, and two more songs helped somewhat to bear the torture (the insertion of the last song is among the most atrocious in recent times).

2) Om Shanti Om:
Shah Rukh and Farah Khan had earlier combined to give a 'lotsa-holes-but-still-light-hearted' "Main Hoon Na", where Farah had showed her liking for old Hindi songs by incorporating them in the scenes where Shah Rukh meets Sushmita Sen. One would wish that she is through with showing off her love for old movies. In OSO, she fills half the movie with the old wine. Next what - a period film, may be? Pray to god using the title mantra...

The story is thinner than the heroine's (Deepika Padukone) waist. And it is older than the careers of most of the actors who dance for the much-hyped '51 special appearances' title song. The chemistry between the lead pair is as strong as between water and oil. The predictability is as much as an India-Australia one-day match. The choreography, expected to be top-notch, is as good as what the early-eliminating contestants of a dance competition would come up with.

The only pluses of the movie are its peppy music, a younger-looking-and-hot Shah Rukh and the freshness of Deepika. Shah Rukh continues his speaking-telugu-thinking-to-be-tamil act of KBC here too, with mixed success. Some of the other lighter moments make use of liberal digging at the Bollywood, its functioning and its personalities.

Farah educates us with some hair-rising facts of the 'other world': the ghosts too apparently need visas, so they cant fly abroad to take revenge on the villain.. they patiently wait till he comes back to the same city, same building, same room. A kid born at the same time when someone dies closeby will have the same features as the dead man, though there is no blood relation. Reincarnation, you see.. There is even a dialog in the movie in which someone suspects if a movie based on reincarnation will be accepted by Indian audience. I wish she attempted the story with some other lead actor to put her test to practice.

Nov 7, 2007

In spite of the Gods



I chanced upon the book when I was just browsing through the books in my library, and found this book to be very interesting. The author of the book, Mr. Edward Luce is the Washington bureau chief of the Financial Times, London. Earlier, he was their South Asia Bureau chief based in New Delhi.

Having spent a considerable time in India and interacted with a lot of people who are in a position to shape the future of India, Mr. Luce has written this book to give an all-encompassing and insightful account of India at the dawn of the 21st century. He deserves to be applauded for giving a near-complete picture of modern India, from almost every possible viewpoint, without making overreaching judgments. His intended audience are the Westerners and Indians alike. His intentions are twofold – to the westerners, he explains the nature and the cause of near-bimodal distribution of the populace of India; to the Indians he reminds them of the obstacles India faces in this new era and advises to tread the path with care, enthusiasm and optimism.

This book would help anyone understand South Asia better, because most of the contemporary issues of the Indian subcontinent are described in detail, with historical reasoning. He is well-informed and uses his wit very well to portray some of the traditions of India, such as the wedding , some of the festivals, and the Bollywood. Since he is an Economical journalist, he compares several numbers, such as, the population, the work force, the literacy rate, extent of corruption, the per-capita income and the savings investment, of India with China and with the U.S., throwing light on India’s position vis-à-vis other leading powers. This being a very recent book, many contemporary controversies, such as, the religious extremism , casual criminalization of Indian politics, reservation for lower castes, separate civil codes for each religion, Kashmir issue, South Asia’s nuclear rivalry, and child labor are described well in detail.

He strongly feels that it is the best option for India to remain secular. His dislike of the (BJP), and its arms of Hindu movements, is apparent in the fourth chapter. He dwells on the Gujarat riots of 2002, which still remains a highly controversial issue. However, his use of certain strong words such as ‘Hindu militants’ , ‘fascist salute’ (of RSS cadres), and an unexpected short description of Hanuman, could have been avoided, since it tends to stereotype. Also, his coverage of South India is quite incomplete compared to other parts of India, probably because he feels that the North have to catch up with the South. Some of the lingering problems, such as, water-sharing dispute among neighboring states, the pathetic negligence of outdoor sports, over-adulation of movie stars, and the destructive politics played by opposition parties in most of the states, have not received any attention.

True to the diversity of India, his views on India are also diverse. He approaches an issue from several angles, which sometimes gives a feeling of the author making some sudden jumps in the topic. Nevertheless, he backs his facts and arguments with credible literature – both old and new, and uses a lot of statistics (journalistic insight) to validate his points and draw his conclusions. Though he claims to have written the book from a neutral perspective, his affection towards India and his longing to see India succeed is apparent in several places. A must read. I would recommend this movie to director Shankar, to get some ideas about making his trademark vigilante movies in the future .

Oct 25, 2007

Tamil vs Hindi: 9. Choreographers



Choreography is an important component of Indian movies, since it is vital to most of the songs. South India prides itself for the birth of Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, and Kathakali, whereas North India can boast of Kathak and Bhangra. Over the years, the Western influence has changed the dance style of both Tamil and Hindi movies alike. Now, we rarely have the purest forms of our classical dance; I think it is a fusion of both worlds. There are a few in both movie industries who have stood the test of time and outshone others. Let us see who fares how.
1) Tamil choreographers:
Thankfully, gone are the days of 'Puliyoor' Saroja, and, to some extent, Raghuram, both of whom approached cine-dance as just 'dancing to the tunes'. In the late 80's, Maniratnam showed in his movies what new and innovative choreography and picturization can do to the viewing pleasure. Atleast a couple of songs in each of his movies, since Mouna Raagam, had some great dance numbers. The person whom he teamed up with, Sundaram, was undoubtedly the best of his times. It is very apt that, he and his sons were utilized to maximum possible extent by another master of visually pleasing cinema, Shankar.
The 90's saw Prabhu Deva and Raju Sundaram taking the central stage in choreography. There were others too, such as, Kala and her sister Brindha, who shone occasionally but they paled in comparison with the Sundaram family. Then, in 2000's, Lawrence Raghavendra entered the scene and he has created his own style in choreography.
The main problem with the choreography in Tamil cinema is not with the masters, but those who matter, i.e. the actors and actresses. Barring a handful, most actresses dont dance well. The less said about the actors, the better. Due to this, we often see some great dance scores wasted as item numbers.
2) Hindi choreographers:
Khans rule here too.. there is old-but-still-gold Saroj Khan, Farah Khan (who is undoubtedly the #1 now) and Ahmed Khan. In addition to them, Ganesh Hegde, very stylish and highly talented choreographer, Vaibhavi Merchant (young and very promising master) and Shiamak Davar (selective but delivers unforgettable hits like 'Dhoom 2', 'Bunty aur Babli') and Remo. Unlike their tamil counterparts, these masters are blessed with very good dancers in the hindi cine industry. It is hard to pick lousy dancers over there, which makes their job much easier and the outcome much better.
It also happens that the language/regional barrier is broken quite astoundingly. Saroj Khan won the National award for the Tamil film 'Sringaram' whereas Prabhu Deva won for the Hindi film 'Lakshya'. All of them command respect among each others, and so, I feel that Tamil and Hindi choreographers are quite evenly matched and hence share the honors.
Tamil leads Hindi 4-2, after 9 rounds of competition/comparison.

Oct 13, 2007

Nobel Prize Winners of 2007


(Pics adopted from Nobelprize.org and Answers.com)

There is one common thread connecting this year's Nobel awards in chemistry, physics, and peace. They deal with 'solids' of various kinds. Lemme explain..
Chemistry:
A German chemist, Prof. Gerhard Ertl, won for his work on 'surface chemistry'. Most of you would imagine a chemical reaction as colorful events happening in glass vessels but, a great deal of chemistry happens right in front of our eyes every day, detailed study of which is extremely difficult. Examples are rusting of metallic objects and fading of clothes on fabrics. The smoke coming out of motor vehicles is cleaned up by filtering off toxic gases using special metal coatings in the exhaust pipe. The whole area of catalysts that don't dissolve in any solvent, is driven by surface reactions. Prof. Ertl has been studying them using sophisticated techniques.
Physics:
Two European scientists have won it for their discovery of a unique property called 'giant magnetoresistance' (GMR) or 'colossal magnetoresistance'. This is an exclusive solid state property.This property is used in 'magnetic writing' which is the basis for all the magnetic disks, data writing on disks, etc. Their discovery and subsequent development by IBM scientists helped a lot in the miniaturization of memory parts.
Prof. C. N. R. Rao, India's eminent scientist, has worked quite a lot on both these two fields, especially in the past 15 years. I am sure he would be very proud of the recognition given to the areas close to his heart.
Peace:
Al Gore and the 'Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change' (IPCC) have won it together. A lot of their concern has been towards the polar ice melting (the 'solid' connection). Will Al Gore's win affect the race for the candidature for the next year's presidential elections? We have to wait and see..
A proud moment for Indians.. The chairman of IPCC is an Indian, Mr. Rajendra Pachauri, who is heading IPCC for over 5 years now. Rediff has a story on this, in which it has put him alongside individual Nobel-winning Indians, like Tagore, Raman, Teresa, Chandrasekhar and Sen. IMHO, that comparison is absolutely out-of-place.. It will be sensible if the media doesn't go overboard on Mr. Pachauri. He himself has said that it is the victory of IPCC, not his. In the official Nobel prise website, there is mention only of the organization IPCC but not any individual, including its present chairman. I feel it is justified.
Congrats to all the winners!!!

Oct 1, 2007

Hey Ram!!


(Pic adopted from NASA)

Still having no internet at my new home, I was out of touch with my usual update on TamilNadu and Indian News. Just realized that Ram has been politicized (again). Hailing from the contentious place (i.e., Rameswaram), my two cents on the whole issue:

* It is clear that the Sethu Samudram project is more of a prestige issue for the Dravidian parties. The canal is not even remotely as important as Suez or Panama canal, where huge landscapes prevented easy access to financially and industrially important places. Sri Lanka is too small an island for ships to worry about extra costs to reach India's east coast. Sure, it would make a difference for, say, a cruise from India's west coast to east coast; but, road is a far more viable option than the sea route. So, bypassing Sri Lanka through the new project, causing irreversible changes to the water world of Southern Tamil Nadu is, IMHO, literally, dissolving hundreds of crores of rupees into the sea.

* For those religious ones to protest against the damage to the 'Sethu Bridge', I donno what to say.. If we assume that the thin line of rockbed seen in many NASA photographs is indeed the bridge built by Ram, what has anyone done so far to increase its importance, than it being merely on photos? I can say that less than 10% those who visit Rameswaram, go to Dhanushkodi, the Indian tip where Ram is believed to have started building the bridge. And, no pilgrim takes a cruise or even a motor boat to travel the path of Ram in the ocean, atleast until the Indian limit. So, make a big deal about something which we haven't cared about at all, for centuries?

* Having said that, the remarks by Mr. Karunanidhi on the existence of Ram, and questioning which Engineering college he went etc. were totally unwarranted. Which Engg. college did Karikalan, who built the great 'Kallanai' attend? What degree did the architects of many wonderful Tamil Nadu's temples, such as the 'Thanjavur temple' and the 'Rock temple' of Mahabalipuram have? Such frequent and uncalled-for comments of his, spoil the good impression I have on him.

* Lastly, his hunger strike and his call for a Bandh, especially against the court orders, are shocking. People say he is just following Gandhian ways of showing his protest by Satyagraha, and by non-cooperation; but, if Gandhi was alive, all he would have said is "Hey, Ram!"

Sep 25, 2007

Congrats, India !!!



It was a memorable win indeed by the Indian team in the inaugural T20 Cup.. I hope that the tournament is not played every year, to dilute its importance.. Once in 2 years is OK.. I wish I had subscribed to the telecast on DirecTV when low-profile notices were distributed last month. Anyway, the last two weeks gave a glimpse of idea about what to expect when the 'Big Three' of Indian cricket retire in a few years. I see a lot of promise..

Some tidbits to give u glimpse of my suddenly busy schedule:

* I have driven over 6,000 miles in less than 3 months, which would translate to over 100 kilometers per day.. Poor car..

* While desparately house-hunting near my new workplace, I saw an ad posted at 5:45 PM, and when I was there at the property at 6:45 PM, one more person had already arrived.. and the landlord was getting phone calls too.. Luckily for me, she was an old Alumnus of my new university, and having a PhD degree at last helped to impress someone. At last, I have got a house in an area which is like "A Europe in US".
* My landlord has a dog (which looks dirty) called "Poker" !?! and she (I mean, the dog) almost 'kaatti-koduthufied' that I was shoo-shooing her away from my room by barking to her owner and running around my legs..

* One landlord's wife told me that her husband's name is "Tuna, as in Tuna fish".. and he too happily introduced himself to me thus.. :) Enna perumaiyo...

* Since my last post, there were many a times when I really wished this city called "New York" was far far away and not affecting my daily life as a tenant, as a commuter and as an employee. Now, I have learnt to live with it.. it is all about finding the city's pulse and acting accordingly..

* Finally, on movies: Yuvan, after watching Satham Podathey's songs would have felt how a great artist would have, upon seeing his fine paintings hang on the walls of a dirty store-room.

Jul 29, 2007

5 People You Meet in Gym



1. Muscular Men - Guys with little soccer shorts.

They are the real macho ones..the 'Bouncer' material. U can recognize them not only thru ur sight but thru your auditory - due to their "arggggggghhss" while weightlifting.

2. Wanna be models who don't work more than 5 mins

They'll come in long fitting clothes with navel exposing slits. And, oh yeah , they also come to gym wearing makeup.

3. Skinny guys and gals

You wonder why the heck they come to gym, and all of a sudden u pick up on ur self conscience and start doing xtra minutes of workouts.

4. Monotonous ones

Those who go, workout, shower, and leave..they dont flirt around. They look constipated working out and they wear damn loose clothes.

5. Mega serial gang

Aunties and uncles in 60s. They come to gym only to catch up with their buddies and bitching abt each others family matters.

PS: My 'Current fav video' changes now.. to 'Meenamma' of 'Aasai'.. It is among my 'All time favorite songs'. I love this song for the following reasons:

---- The beautiful backdrop of Himalayas
---- Great chemistry between the pair
---- The dancing by Raju Sundaram's troupe of two behind a screen
---- Melodious voices of Unni Krishnan and Anuradha Sriram
---- Different picturization : The romance moves from wild (when Ajith throws a big snowball on Suvalaxmi at 00:41 seconds) to soft (the huge checkered sheet on which they are lying and talking starts sliding.. 2:25); the Roman costume (1:30) the Hare Krishna guys dancing to the tune towards the end ...

Jul 23, 2007

Advice


(Pic adopted from Behindwoods)

Kamal to Top Star Prashanth: Seminar mudinjadhum ennai vandhu parunga.. Thondharavu panRa poNdAttingaLai eppadi samAaLikkiradhu eppadinnu tips kudukkuren..

Jul 20, 2007

A New Avatar


I have been pretty busy in the past 2 weeks bcos of a new role. Suddenly I was offered a chance to teach in a college for a month; in the US, the summer has two sessions, each about a month long. My chance was to teach my fav subject -Organic Chemistry to UG students in a college at Queens. The morning had a 2 1/2 class and immediately afterwards, the lab session for over 3 hours. Though I was never seriously interested in taking up teaching, I was interested in this new avatar since it would tell me how good I am at it.

It turned out to be OK.. A few of my students were kind enough to come and tell me that I am teaching well, but that was during the first week when I was teaching quite slowly, without realizing that, in this crumbled semester, I need to teach pretty fast. I am doing that now, and the students are complaining that there are two many reactions already. The course is somehow setup that way; hundreds of reactions to understand and memorize. But, that is what organic chemistry is (in)famous for.

The worst part about the whole thing is the long drive to the college. Though it is only about 30 miles away, the drive involves some of the busiest highways around Manhattan. With me having been blessed with ~ 1 mile commute to work in Florida and here until now, this long drive is quite frustrating. At times, it takes even 2 hours to commute. Worse was yesterday, when the sudden storm/tornado made me get stuck on the road for 4 hours and I had to leave home very early today to avoid any delay due to a predicted storm. Just today, one student recommended me an alternate route, which sounds promising, and looking to keep my travel time to about 80-90 minutes.

Jul 11, 2007

Tamil Movie Quiz - 4


1) A youngster, who hails from a family of cinema artists, did his MS in State University of New York (SUNY), Binghamton. During his stay there, he was a brilliant student, and was one of the "Student Employees of the year" in 2002. His project included setting up the main web page for the Research in SUNY-Binghamton. After working for a few years in the US, he returned to India, and has picked up a career in Tamil cinema, thanks to a movie released in the last 12 months. Who is he?

2) Some (anywhere between 2 and 30) years ago, an artist sang a beautiful song and was almost about to win the National award for 'Best Male playback singer' for that year. Due to a silly reason (he was not a registered member of the playback singers' association), he couldn't get it. For the same movie, he won another national award in another category though. Had he won for his singing as well, he would have probably been the only artist to have won two awards for the same movie. He has won national awards in his main profession twice more, once before this movie and one after. He has been singing sporadically in his movies (and occasionally in some other movies in which he is not primarily involved) from about 10 years before the release of this movies, until now. Who is he?

3) A singer, who is trained in Carnatic music, rendered his voice to the songs of a famous Tamil film and was all set to win the National Award. The problem was that, the juries of the award committee decided not to give him the award, just bcos he was already a 4-time recipient of the National award, and they thought that someone else s'd be given the honor. This angered the singer. The very next year, he was selected for the award, but, due to the anger, he didn't go to receive it. It took him a few years to cool down, and when he was selected again twice, he went to the function to collect them. His son has also followed his footsteps. Who is the singer?

Jul 2, 2007

Satham Podathey - Songs



Yuvan teams up again with one of the first directors he worked with - Vasanth. This album is like 7G Rainbow Colony; some songs have the same 'haunted' feeling and remind in tunes, of the songs of 7G. Nevertheless, they are very good. I started liking them from the very first time I heard 'em. Na. Muthukumar has recreated the magic with Yuvan. So far the best album of Yuvan in this year.

1) Pesugiren - Neha Bhasin:

After Anushka, Yuvan introduces another member of the famous 'VIVA' group of girls to Tamil. To her credit, she has sung beautifully; despite being from North. The saxophone and guitar bits in the interludes, especially in the second interlude, are great. Somehow the voice can be easily related to that of Padmapriya. Superb song. 95%.


2) Azhagu kutti chellam - Shankar Mahadevan:

If it was 'Aarariraro' as the best song of the decade for mother, this song is for a toddler. The beat of the song, which is a combo of 'Thavil' and some 'kilukiluppai' is surely foot-tapping, and gels well with the mood of the song. The lyrics are cute too.

Unakku therindha mozhiyile enakku pesa theriyale

Enakku therindha baashai pesa unakku theriyavillai


Lots of 'konjalgal' in the song; very well rendered by Shankar Mahadevan. 90%.

3) Endha Kuthiraiyil - Shreya Ghoshal and Rahul Nambiar:

This reminds me of 'January madham' from 7G.. but the fast beats and some catchy lyrics makes the song likable. Shreya is awesome, as usual. After several generations one can hear 'Praananaatha' in a Tamil song.. :) 90%.

4) KAthal periyatha - Sudha Raghunathan:

Yes, you read it right.. After 'Ivan', she is back.. The 'Krishna Krishna' bit used is a surprise piece and Yuvan has blended it very well with the song. This competes with the first song for the my vote for the most favorite song of the album, thanks to the clever innovations spread throughout the song. I wish Sudha sings more songs for Tamil films.. 'Kadalil kulikkumbodhu' part also suddenly pops up and amuses, as does the short punjabi folk bit used subtly. 95%.

5) Oh Indha Kadhal - Yuvan and Adnan Sami:

This song surely sounds familiar, donno which song though.. Adnan manages to pronounce Tamil better than Yuvan, especially the 'La'. Just a routine song, IMHO.. 70%.

Overall, a must-hear album.

PS: Watched 'Koffee with Anu' in which Kadri Gopalnath and Vinayakaram were the guests. Nostalgia time, listening to Kadri's sax.. which made me change my current fav video to 'En Kadhaley' from Duet.. Kadri was just awesome in that, esp. in this song and in 'Naan Paadum Sandham'... An unforgettable song!! Another 'Anjali' memory.. :)

Jun 27, 2007

Lose neck, risk life

When I woke up y'day, I was shocked to see the sad news about the sudden demise of Jeeva, the noted cinematographer-director. First, my deep condolences to his family and friends; may his soul rest in peace. Cardiac arrest at the age of 43? Initially I thought that the extreme weather of Russia was a factor but it is summer there. Now, the reason looks like a combination of stress and lack of fitness.


When the credit started rolling at the end of 'Unnale Unnale', one can see Jeeva directing a few scenes. His appearance was stocky. I was wondering why a reasonably good-looking director, who choses fit and handsome heroes for his movies doesn't take care of his own appearance. Just this monday, I was looking at a recent foto of director Shankar. Sorry to say, but his face is getting unrecognizably swollen as time passes by. I understand that, with age, the skin won't be as tight; but making the neck disappear with a double chin is a bad symptom.

Nowadays, it is getting common for men in India to die of heart attack at an earlier age than women. I have heard the relatives saying "he was so good in his habits - won't even consume tea or coffee". But, they were overweight. Just a cursory look at the remedy for most diseases would reveal the presence of the word 'exercise' in every column. A guy doesn't need an Einstein to tell if he is fat or not; I would say that one just has to stand in front of mirror and look at the neck. If the Adam's apple can't be seen, it is time to exercise and watch out the tasty fried stuff in ur food.

One can't do anything with the hereditary passage of some diseases; but weight is something which is controllable. Prakash Raj, in 'Vyabari' says: "Oruthan ezhaiya pirakkuradhu avan thappu ille; aana avan ezhaiya setha kandippa avan thappu" (It is not one's fault that he is born poor; but it is definitely his fault if he dies poor). On a similar note, I extrapolated it to "Oruthan chinna kuzhandhaiya gundaa vazharradhu thappu ille; aana saagumbodhu gundaa irundha avan thappu" (It is not one's fault that he is nurtured well at the young age as a chubby kid , but it is definitely his mistake if he is fat when he dies).

Jun 24, 2007

Acrimonious Anon's


(Pic adopted from Keyhole)

In the past 10 days, I have observed a drastic increase in the number of 'anonymous' comments in Tamil blogs, mainly due to 'Sivaji' reviews and related news. Some of those who couldn't accept the verdict of the bloggers unfortunately chose to express their protest trying to chagrin the authors. This is true for both the non-fans and the ardent fans of Rajni. This has resulted in quite a bit of distasteful comments and abusive language as well.. This, coming from the educated-and-thus-supposedly-good-mannered people, is disappointing.

If you are a regular reader of 'Rediff', you would have observed a lot of attention devoted to 'Sivaji' in the main page itself, for nearly 3 weeks. Initially there were comments ranging from 'why to cover regional films on the main page' to 'I donno who is Rajni'. As more and more articles started to appear, the comments got derogatory along the lines of northies vs southies. The color, habits, food, languages and films in general were abused to such an extent that they had to be removed by rediff.. but by then the damage was done.

Another relatively new feature in Rediff is 'Spotting the stars'. Those who spotted VIPs from cine industry and cricket, clicked fotos and sent to Rediff with the excitement that their fotos will be published, were made to repent later. Several readers started using expletives, commenting on the appearance of those in the snaps, attacking their region and so on.

All these instances leave a bitter taste in the mouth. These show that it is so easy for us desis to hate each other and show it as well; the anonymity that the internet provides is exploited to the hilt to spit venomous remarks at will. No wonder that, when there is an event that tests our unity, the result often reflects a failure in humanity.

Jun 18, 2007

If I were in Shankar's team..


hmm.. not that he invited me, but I would have at least put forward the ideas in the next para. I can't believe that, despite the involvement of so many directors (Shankar, Balaji Shakthivel, KV Anand, JD and Jerry), many scenes sounded amateurish.. With my miniscule brain's limited cinema knowledge and logic, lemme think:

Rajni's profession: To be able to earn Rs. 200 crore (~$50M) in 20 years, I am sure it is not possible by doing any 'job' in US. When Vadivukkarasi asks him in the car, it is certainly meant to tell 'us' what he did, rite? I donno anything about 'Software Systems Architect'; but that doesn't sound big enough to make one save this much.. A far better option would have been to own a software company, or atleast a unique website portal.. U software people, lemme know if I am wrong.. Is this too much to ask from Sujata, who is a tech geek?

Ballelakka song: It suddenly jumps at you, out of nowhere, from inside a pub. Just 1/2 more min. would have been enough to show that Rajni is visiting his native village or 'kuladheivam' and then the song starts. And I am not even mentioning about a couple more days of practice to improve his dance steps.

Shriya wooing technique: Anything else would have better than the whole technique. Who would lock an adult daughter in a house, along with two suspicious strangers? They could have just locked themselves from inside? I know it is a small thing, but makes sense, no?

Bringing the black money out: Did Rajni and Vivek have that kinda power to assemble the auditors, drivers and servants of all the industrial bigwigs under one roof? Foolish to assume that the auditors would succumb to revealing their clients' information if beaten up by some goondas. How about this? Rajni being tech-savvy, writes a super program which enters the PC's of all the industrialists and their auditors, copies all the data and sends him.. By the time Rajni writes such a program, Vivek collects all their address, and by bugging the BSNL's main server, they are able to send the virus to the PC's in those addresses.. An inspiration from the climax of Independence day, but hey, why not introduce this kinda techniques to Tamil audience?

Transfer of hunderds of millions of rupees and dollars: One Muslim 'Bhai' staying in one 'kurukku sandhu' would be able to do such a monumental transaction? As a corollary to my previous point, the money transaction could be completely on-line, from the industrialists' a/c to Rajni's Swiss bank a/c, to his US a/c, and finally to his friends.

Shriya saving Rajni: True, trains will stop if anything 'red' is waved at them.. but Shreya manages to run towards the train, between the rails, holding the thaavani, but still the train manages to stop a few feet in front of her. At that speed, wouldn't the driver have managed to see a man standing mid-track and stop it, anyway? It would have made sense, if Rajni is standing at such a place that the driver can't see him (say, after a turn) and then Shriya is waving red at the train at the linear path, before the curve and makes it stop.

Climax fight: Even if you assume that Suman is storing all his money in that 'auspicious' place, wouldn't it all be in bundles, and stapled? How can they all fly as individual currency, oh, bcos Rajni is fighting? And when the whole floor is filled with 1000's and 500's, why are all the students (esp. the 'capitation fee collecting' kid) catch them mid-air? The whole thing could have been compressed to just the fight by the Mottai boss, which would have been more than enough, without the currency flying effect.

Shankar is known to take care of such minute details usually (e.g., Nasser asks Vikram in 'Anniyan' about where Remo manages to get money to spend a lot for wooing Sada, and Vikram gives a reasonable answer). I think that's what made him stand apart from other directors. God only knows what happened in 'Sivaji'.

Jun 16, 2007

Sivaji


(Pic adopted from The Hindu)

In Gentleman, Shankar invented the concept of 'Fantasy solution' for India's problems, and he continued it in various forms in his subsequent 'odd-numbered' movies - Indian, Mudhalvan and Anniyan - very successfully. After handling a very heavy subject, he usually resorts to lighter themes, as he did in the even numbered movies - Kadhalan, Jeans and Boys. After receiving lot of flak for 'Boys', Shankar had to prove his worth to the critics, and he did that, quite emphatically, IMHO, in 'Anniyan' by toiling hard for almost 2 years and pulling all stops. Then, he had the chance to be a part of the dream combo 'Rajini-Shankar-Rahman-AVM' and he took that offer. In hindsight, he should have done that after taking a break.

If you have been following the news and gossips on the story, and subplots of Sivaji from various sources, most of it is true. He is a multi-millionaire NRI who returns to India to help eradicate poverty by providing free education, medical facilities, etc. to all. An educationalist, Aadiseshan (Suman) feels threatened by Rajini's plans and uses all his connection to stop Rajini's dream projects. The story is pretty much Sivaji vs Aadi, with Sivaji's love on Tamilselvi (Shreya) and Vivek's comedy providing the lighter moments.

This is strictly for Rajini fans only. Usually Rajini becomes inspirationally rich after one song, or after 15 mins. of sequences in the movie, but here, by the time I returned to the seat after the Intermission and settled down, he is a millionaire. Some of the tactics used by him are amateurish, and it appears as if Shankar realized that everything could be overlooked just because it is Rajini doing them. So, the product has very little of Shankar's trademark stamps/innovations, and mostly Rajinisms. It was certainly not as expected, and one gets a feeling that even an ordinary director would have done this or better.

Shankar's presence is seen in all the song sequences. They are different; pretty cool. Before going into the theater, I was thinking "the first half would be a typical Rajini movie and the second half, a Shankar movie". Unfortunately, it isn't. Only that, the pace post-intermission is higher than the first half. Rajini-Shreya chemistry was probably among the weakest Rajini had in his recent movies. The wooing methods and the origin of love between them are less than inspirational, sometimes becoming downright irritating. Shreya's refusal to accept Rajini would compete with Vijayakumar's reasoning and adamance shown in 'Mudhalvan'.

One also gets the feeling that even the vigilante theme in Sivaji is a linear combination of Shankar's previous movies, and of some others who tried to copy him. So, you get the 'Free education and eradication of child labor' from Gentleman, 'Dishonest governance and bureaucracy' from Indian, 'Corrupt, selfish and regressive politicians' from Mudhalvan, 'Income-tax violation and bribery' from Anniyan, and some scenes reminding of Murugadoss' movies like 'Stalin'. One really wishes that this is the last attempt by Shankar on vigilance and 'social reformation by dreaming big - of the hero'. In the end, when it is shown that India joins G10, it is all deja-vu..
  • The music stall fight - yeah, no one has shown a fight scene in a music stall, but, was that really necessary? And the villains run away after being 'hit' by guitars a few times.. LOL..
  • The 'hawala' technique of money exchange - very amateurish. The 'genius' of Shankar, Sujata, Balaji Sakthivel and co. could come up to only this?
  • The location of Suman's money - a big joke; as if it had only one purpose which eventually gets fulfilled.
  • Suman's reasons for being worried about Rajini is another joke; this is not 1992, with only 50 Engg. and medical colleges, Mr. Shankar, there are over 200 now!
  • Goutham showed 'Exit 13A' for Newark airport in VV.. so Shankar decided to show 'Exit 14 A to D'.. Giggles all around..
  • Building a university is one thing; running it successfully, that too without collecting fees or donation is another.. Where are the logistics, when he is investing everything to just build it?
With all the hype notwithstanding, the movie is just for your eyes and heart only.. Don't try to dissect it or look for logic, like I did.. After all, it is a Rajini movie. ;)

Jun 8, 2007

Why I love U2

Unnale Unnale, that is.. :)


(Pic adopted from Dinamalar)

* The songs rock.. all of them.. Esp. 'June ponaal'.. superb dance and picturization.
* It has got rich looks - Nice locales, good cinematography.
* Its urban feel.
* Totally youthful... probably one of the rarest with over 95% screen time occupied by actors below 30. Raju Sundaram is the only 30+ guy.
* I absolutely loved Tanisha's role.. Many people had trouble accepting her playing cupid, while at the same time falling in love with Vinay. I felt that, being the 'happy-go-lucky' gal she was, all she wanted was her love to be happy always. She knew that she can be an excellent match for him, but since he was still longing for Sada, she would help him trying his best to woo her back. This, she despite knowing that Sada and Vinay can never get along.
* Tanisha proposing to Vinay was something new to Tamil cinema. She was genuinely in love with him, so her awareness of Vinay's on-off relationship with Sada didn't prevent her from confessing her love to him. It came along genuinely, I felt.
* There were many sweet moments - when Vinay tries hard to control his temptation to turn back and look at a girl passing by but then he does, and the girl shows mocking face and moves away; Vinay and Tanisha's first meet in flight; the discussions on man vs woman and the simple, emotion-free but nevertheless strong climax.
* Hardly any tears are shed..
* The casual friendship and conversation throughout the film. Ever since 'Before Sunrise', I look forward to good, if not brilliant conversations in movies; U2 had quite nice ones.
* Welcome, Vinay! For a newcomer, he was excellent as the harmless flirt. Looks most promising among the heroes introduced by Jeeva.

PS: Managed to get a ticket for the Shankar's movie releasing this friday.. ;) 4:30 PM show.. After finding the first two days completely booked, I was surprised to find the sudden availability when I checked y'day.. mins. after I booked, the tickets were sold out.. :) Why not any thursday show in NJ? :(

May 31, 2007

Tamil Movie Quiz - 3

1) While watching some video which I would probably write about in my next post, I was mesmerized by the super slow-mo shots. My mind went to the use of slow-mo in Tamil movies, esp. in songs. My current fav video, 'Anjali Anjali' is a good example. All the action is in slow motion, which elevates the song to new heights. I don't know what is the first Tamil song to appear fully in slow-motion; so, if anyone knows the answer, you are encouraged to enlighten me..

The more difficult part is to blend lip-sync with slow-mo. Just imagine this.. if the artists move at half the original speed, the song has to be played at double the speed while shooting the song, to enable proper lip-sync. Bcos of this reason, all the slo-mo songs have reasonably slow flow.. and it involves quite a bit of vision and trial-and-error to get the desired effect after slow-mo. Now the questions:

a) Which is the first slow-mo Tamil song with lip-sync?

b) Which is the first slow-mo Tamil song with lip-sync, and a dance sequence as well? Incidentally, the movie having this song has also got a slow-mo song, without lip-sync..
[Clue: All these three movies - Anjali and the other two were released within a period of 16 months]

As one can expect, some of the best brains have been involved with them. All the three songs, along with 'Anjali', are timeless classics.

2) The guy in the pictures above (the second foto was added... does it help?) was the hero of a movie released last year. Honestly, I hadn't heard of that movie until then. His adopted name is a very special one - that of a very famous personality, and that's what made me take note of him, after having a ROTFL moment. What is it? :)
[That name is very well known all over India..]

3) In the late 90's, a director, who has earlier given some super hit movies, wanted a unique name for a new heroine of his movie, since there was already another upcoming actress sharing the new heroine's original name. He made it as a competition in 'Kumudam', urging the readers to choose a unique name for her; the person whose choice pleases the director would get a prize. Her screen name, with three Tamil letters, was chosen thus and she was introduced. Unfortunately, the movie flopped big time, and the actress had to act opposite less famous heroes for survival.

A few years ago (6 years after her debut), she got a new lease of life out of nowhere, with a very famous director choosing her to act in a multi-star film, keeping her original name itself. The movie was a huge success and her character in the movie was praised well. She has shown good promise and talent in the few select roles she has got since then. A movie released last year brought her good fame, and some meaty roles. Who is she?

PS: Comments are moderated as usual, to keep the quiz going.

Answers:
1. a) MMKR - Sundari Neeyum.
b) Thalapathi - Kaattu kuyilu (and the other song is 'Chinna thayaval')

2. His name is 'Shah Rukh'.. ;) He was the hero of 2006 release 'Aattam'..

3. Rasika/Sangeetha.

May 27, 2007

Half a movie a day...

keeps a doctor away. That's been my mantra for fitness for a year now. Last year, buying an electronic gadget during the last weekend shopping of May was a turning point for me. Lemme explain. For the previous 2 years, my gym workouts were helped by listening to music. During early last year, I realized that, in order to lose weight (fat), it is not enough to lift weights.. a lot of cardio workouts was a must.

I would listen to my favorite songs from my iPod and work on the elliptical/treadmill/cycle. But then, doing for long duration of time was tough - Boredom soon starts setting in, since the songs are already listened hundreds of times, and there is nothing new and exciting in it. Then, I moved to NY and joined a professional gym for the first time, since the school gym was useless. Paying quite a bit of money for gym, I thought that I should utilize the gym time very efficiently.
A month passed by, and my weight remained the same or marginally lower. On one fine day, I saw a lady working out while WATCHING MOVIES ON A PORTABLE DVD PLAYER. The novelty immediately stuck me.. and I started realizing the advantages..

* There is always something new while doing the workout.. a movie watching experience is totally different to music.
* A nice multitasking, by blending fitness and entertainment, both of which are my favorites.

I immediately bought a portable DVD player, and voila.. that was it.. I borrowed a lot of movies from my library and started watching them while working out. No matter what the genre of the movie is, time just flew by during the multitasking, and before I know it, I would have burnt hundreds of calories. Sometimes, getting engrossed in the movie made me lose unthinkable amounts of energy. Though the screen (7 ") was unfamiliarly too small, I got used to it pretty soon. No complaints.

I checked my weight the very next week, and I could see a difference!! I have got a best companion for my workout!!! My weight reduction was so drastic (and within allowed limit), that I could start sensing it. The whole body felt so good with unnecessary weight going away regularly.. There were times I would burn close to 1000 Cals a day on the average, 7 days a week.. Once while watching a Hindi movie, I didnt feel like stopping it and ended up burning 2000 Cals.. (that is a bit too much.. dont try it until u r very comfortable).

I have been noting my weight down for almost 2 years now. Being a scientist, I plotted the weight over time.. there was a change in the slope of the line at one particular point (inflection point). And it was the last week of May, 2006. My face and body underwent a change in a period of just months. I read quite a bit on fitness and corrected a few mistakes that I was doing. Some quick tips on weight loss..

* Doing cardio for the duration of half typical Hollywood movie, say, 45 mins at a decent rate of 14 Cals per minute would help you burn 630 Cals a day or about 4400 Cals a week. A pound of body weight is equivalent to 3500 Cals. Thus, 5 pounds (2.2 kg) can be lost in a month. Do more and lose more..

* Doing little bit of weight-lifting (for both genders) would enhance weight loss, thanks to some hormones which are secreted during the work-outs (when muscles are stimulated). It would also help maintain a good tone.

* Follow the age-old saying: Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. I used to do the mistake of skipping breakfast... What a blunder.. when body needs food the most, the first thing in the morning, depriving of it would make the body angry, and it would be waiting to punish you by storing as much as fat you would feed it the rest of the day.

* Olive oil is a wonder oil for cooking.. the body yet doesnt know how to store fat from this oil.. b4 it does, make use of the opportunity. Believe me, the taste of food cooked with olive oil is absolutely fine.. Keep ghee, coconut oil and vanaspati to a minimum. Body loves them..

* There are many machines one can use for cardio.. the treadmill, the elliptical trainer or the cycle. I dont like cycle, since it involves a sitting posture. Many would have felt knee pain after a long walk/run on the treadmill or in any ground... thats bcos you are banging your feet against the platform. IMHO, the elliptical trainers are the best, since the feet dont move at all, and the up and down motion is equivalent to climbing staircase against gravity. Also, they are easy on the eyes while watching movies.

The only problem with the weight loss is that, your pants would get so loose, you will have to buy new ones.. but that is the reward you give yourself for looking lean and fit.. :)

May 19, 2007

Tamil vs Hindi Cinema: 8. Lyricists


This is one area which I am not knowledgeable enough to pass a comprehensive judgement on, since I can hardly follow the lyrics of poetic Hindi songs (e.g. in Fanaa). Nevertheless, let me try my best.

Tamil lyricists:

Thanks mainly to Kannadasan, very high standards were set for tamil film lyrics. Almost all his popular songs had excellent lyrics, and those aspiring to make it big in the industry wanted to emulate him. We were lucky to have a Vairamuthu ready to take over after Kannadasan, and continue the trend. Since 'Mudhal Mariyathai', he has won the national award for best lyrics 5 times. No words of praise are enough for him, and he continues to surprise us with his imagination, comparitive skill, humor, and at times, philosophy.

Following on his footsteps are talented and promising lyricists such as Na. Muthukumar, Thamarai and, Pa. Vijay (who won the national award for 'Autograph'), to name a few. Even Vaali comes up with a few surprises at times. Good quality tamil lyrics effortlessly flows from them, and despite the popularity of 'Kuthu' or 'Gaana' style songs, the quest for penning ever-lasting melodies is what gives them the ultimate satisfaction.

Hindi Lyricists:

Though they have a few very good lyricists in Gulzar and Javed Akhtar, the quality and the ethereal poetic purity are somehow inconsistent. Only Gulzar has won the national award, that too just once, for 'Ijaazat' long ago. Whenever I translate some of the gems of Vairamuthu or Na. Muthukumar to my Hindi-speaking friends, they have told me that Tamil poets' imagination is too good, romantic, and 'unimaginable'. Such quality exists only in Ghazals, which mainstream Hindi music somehow doesn't embrace much.

I think it is fair to hand over the victory to Tamil lyricists. This makes Tamil cinema lead Hindi 4-2.

May 17, 2007

Who are they?





Some exclusive fotos from a new book, clicked by my camerafone during a visit to a bookshop.. Nzoy.. :)

May 11, 2007

Time of the Siblings

1980's saw the emergence of offsprings in Tamil cinema - Prabhu, followed by Karthik created their own magic and survived long enough. The recent times has seen the arrival of siblings.. first, it was 'Jithan/Jerry' ( ;) ) Ramesh following his brother Jeeva's footsteps, supported ably by their 'Can-waste-all-my-hard-earned-money-to-make-my-boys-into-heroes' R.B. Chowdhary. Jeeva didnt do much to attract attention in his first few movies before 'Raam' but since then has hardly looked back. Will there be any 'Krishna' for Ramesh? Only time can tell..

Then there is Karthi, who, in his very first attempt, has given a bigger blockbuster than what his elder bro Surya could manage in a career spanning almost a decade. Haing a good mix of acting skills and looks, he is surely here to stay.

Now, about some 'expected' cases.. After a successful transformation from 'Baby' to 'Kumari' Shalini, her younger sis Shamili is rumored to make a (re-)entry into Tamil/Telugu industry. I wish she is re-introduced by Maniratnam, who has an excellent track with her family, in Anjali and Alaipayuthey.. but, my foresight tells me that I would prefer to think of her performances in Anjali (and even Durga) rather than as a heroine in the future.

And then there is 'Kuralarasan', who is chubbier and hence believed to be cuter than Silambarasan(!?!?). With the dad Vijaya TRajender having been re-energized after 'Veerasamy',and wishing to make more movies with him as the hero, the fate of Tamil rasigars is on the hands of his family.
The downside of such a thing is a possible rivalry between the siblings.. inspired from politics (two MK siblings' recent fights fuelled by two united brothers comes to mind..). Reminding of the good old tamil proverb "Rendu Aadunga sandai pottaa ...."

PS: Time to change my 'Favorite Video'.. Doesn't mean that the previous song has lost its sheen... The new favorite song is a very special one for me, especially since last Wednesday.. :) It is from my all-time favorite movie, Anjali.. I am sure most of you would have watched this many times. A beautiful song involving some of the cutest moments.. Shamili was just awesome.. especially when she is sitting on the bench holding a leaf, or when she is wiping the cheeks after receiving a kiss.. so artistic yet so natural.. Njoy..

Apr 23, 2007

Optimism



I lost my 'poonool' recently while I was trying out some dresses in a mall. When I was thinking about it, my mind wandered into what could be its potential advantages. Suppose during my forthcoming India trip I get caught in the middle of an unexpected carnage against Hindus, or, specifically, Brahmins, me not wearing a poonool might save my life!! :)

It reminded me of a scene in 'Hey, Ram!' in which Atul Kulkarni, when confronted by Kamal, cites some mantras to save his life. I was wondering what if he was mute, and he had no other proof to show that he is a Hindu. Similarly was the scene in 'Mr. and Mrs. Iyer' when the Hindu mob attacks the bus. That these things still happen in some parts of the country is a disturbing thought. Anyway, back to the discussion.. I was thinking, 'what if, on the contrary, I am caught by a Hindu gang, when I am without my poonool?'. The mantras that I learnt long ago would probably come to rescue me aka Atul's case.. hmmm.. mind is truly a monkey..

Apr 16, 2007

Tamil Movie Quiz - 2


1) A famous line uttered by Kamal in Pammal K. Sambandham is:

"Pazhamozhiyai anubavikkanum; aarayakkodathu".

Last weekend, I was watching an old movie in which, surprisingly, Rajini commented the same - but it was not on 'pazhamozhi'. When I was discussing at length about this movie to my close buddy, this analogy was invented. That was not a very successful movie, but was critically highly acclaimed. It was directed by a debutant. This comment by Rajini shows him as a sexist in that movie. Interestingly, it had Kamal as well.. Which movie is it?

2) One more qn. on assistant directorship. Probably the longest chain of directorship in Tamil, may be even in the entire Indian cinema..

'A' was a director under whom 'B' was an assistant director. The initial of 'A' is 'A' and the first letter of 'B' is actually B... :) . 'A' is not such a famous director as 'B' but still has directed big stars such as Kamal, Rajini and Vijayakanth (after 'B' left him). Many assistant directors of 'B' got very famous, but his most famous disciple was 'C', who had even acted in a few of B's earlier movies. 'C', until recently, was always the hero in his movies. 'D' was assistant to 'C', and the first movie of 'D' had a hero and heroine introduced in the same movie by B, along with 'D' himself.

In that super-hit movie, he introduced a new heroine, on whom he apparently had a crush. He made his second movie with a title conveying to the world indirectly that he is set to pair with her in real life too. Probably she didn't like that kind of arrogant behavior, so they parted ways. 'E' was assistant director to 'D' and he directed his first movie with the aforementioned actress as the heroine. He too named his second movie along the similar lines of second movie of 'D' but it was more of an open proposal. Soon, they got married.

'F' was assistant to 'E' and his first movie too was a run-away hit. He has made himself a name for directing soft and decent movies. He has provided new lease of life to many famous stars, when their careers were in crossroads. 'G' was assistant to 'F', and his movie, surprisingly was a thriller, with the heroine that 'F' had introduced in his first movie. 'G' has been highly successful with only countable number of flops. He is labeled as 'The Distributors' Director'. He tries to appear in at least a few frames in all his movies, and has acted in -ve and character roles as well. 'H' was assistant to 'G' and is known for quality movies. He is recently into acting as well. His first successful hit as a hero was a superb film. 'J' was assistant to 'H' and directed one of the most successful movies of last year with a totally unexpected actor as hero, and choosing a very different genre. His name has two parts, the first part the nickname of an upcoming, talented young hero and the second part, the name of a villain actor from Kerala. All the first movies of B to H were super-hits.

The offspring of B, C, D and E have all acted in movies.

Identify the directors B to J.. if you can guess 'A', it is a bonus as well..

3) Often in movies we see inspirational stories.. someone struggling to make it big, becoming hugely famous after getting his first chance. A few years ago, a movie, which was a Pongal release, had the story of a talented singer waiting for a breakthrough.. The movie is not all about him, though. It had a female protagonist. He is shown to become very famous with his very first song. I thought "Hmm.. in this competitive world, it would be an ideal case".. how I was proven wrong.. Less than 20 months later, the audio of a famous director's second movie was released, in which a song rendered by a newcomer was a huge hit. He went on to win national award for that song (and for another beautiful song for a movie released the month after his first movie). That was a real turning point in his career. I must add that he was famous in another elite league but his first song made him famous all over the state. Who is the singer in question?

PS: Comments moderated as usual, for sometime.

More clues are added - in yellow.. Have fun cracking.. :)

Apr 6, 2007

My Fav TV Shows: 2.Nach Baliye



'Nach Baliye' was a dance-competition for the couples of Hindi TV industry. Here again, I watched only the second season, and from the limited knowledge, I feel that it was better than the first one. There were 10 couples chosen, and after the first week, the poorest performing couple would be eliminated in each week, similar to the 'American Idol'. Most of them were good-looking, and danced reasonably well too. Three judges - Malaika Arora-Khan, Saroj Khan (famous Hindi film choreographer) and Kunal Kohli (Director of movies like Fanaa and Hum Tum) and the public would cast their votes.

Each week would have a theme for which the couples would practice hard for 6 days and perform. Some of the themes were love, marriage, comedy and Indian diversity. It was very interesting, since the competition was pretty intense. Most of the couples had almost no prior experience in dancing, so each of them was provided with dance masters, who were assistants to famous choreographers of Hindi film industry. It turned out that lucky were the couple who got the best choreographers. I almost always liked the performances of four couples. The eventual award-winning couple, Hussain and Tina, danced fantastic in the last 3 or 4 rounds, and were hands-down winners. Click the following clips, in which they danced blind-folded, or with a rope, These were some of their best and my favorites too..





There were some cool dances by other couples too, which were available in youtube at that time but not anymore.. :( Eagerly waiting for the next season now..