Oct 2, 2009

'A Modest Propoal' by Jonathan Swift

After Kafka, it was time to read another European's masterpiece. A main reason to read it was that the extended title of the essay was the inspiration for the movie Borat's extended title, both of which were damn funny. Jonathan Swift uses satire to arguably the highest extent possible to prove his point in 'A Modest Proposal'. His proposal seems quite shocking at the first instance and upon reading further, one can realize that he intentionally uses that dark humor to deliver a strong message. His proposal: Sell the impoverished children of Irish parents, esp. those of single mothers, to rich gentlemen and ladies as food.

His tone at the beginning of the essay came across as being sarcastic, notably evident where he talks of beggars having 3, 4 or 6 children. His leaving out the intermittent number 5 is, I feel, intentional, to show a typically large number of children. His sincere concern for the poor of Ireland is what has made him to write this pamphlet and we can sense it in several places. For example, his use of the word “melancholy” to describe the state of female beggars gives testimony to that. In several places, his anger can be felt too. Swift writes that “I grant this food will be somewhat dear and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of the parents, seem to have the best title to the children”. We can also find the angry tone when he describes the economy-minded England, the extreme rich and the beggars of Ireland.

I was perplexed by the usage of the word “dam”. Though its archaic meaning is ‘A mother’, it has often been used to denote the female parent of household animals. The very idea of this disturbing correlation apart, Swift’s usage of that word to denote a mother, in the same sentence where he uses the word “mother” is indicative of something meaningful. Either he agrees with the gentlemen who had no trouble correlating a human mother to a domestic animal one; or the author is satirically suggesting that the human mother was indeed treated that way. His usage of the word “dropped”, in “dropped from its dam” is also non-traditional. Since the childbirth is considered to be a delicate process, the birth of a child being called a ‘drop’ sounds, to me, quite rude and insensitive.

Swift’s use of strong words in his discussion of unmarried mothers contributes to his angry tone. This tone suggests his anger he has on the unmarried mothers, which is reflected in the usage of words such as “horrid practice”, “murdering”, and “bastard children”. He considers it immoral and shameful for women to conceive without being married. Though a man is also certainly responsible for such a pregnancy, the absence of preventive measures those days meant that it was hard to control the pregnancy and the woman had to bear the brunt of it by being a subject of shame both before and after childbirth. If the thoughts of a reformist writer were this harsh towards such women, one can understand how the society must have treated those women.

Swift uses unconventional ways to describe the state of poverty in Ireland. By saying that only thirty thousand couples out of two hundred thousand are capable of maintaining their children, Swift means that about 85% of the country’s population is in dire straits. His usage of the word “only” in “There only remains one hundred and twenty thousand children of poor parents annually born” is again quite satirical, since he describes a huge number of one hundred and twenty thousand as if it is minuscule. By saying “we neither build houses (I mean in the country)”, he means that the countryside is in so pathetic a state that new houses are seldom built there, but that is not the case with cities. This suggests the urban-rural divide that was the norm of 19th century Ireland. Also, his mention of the age six as the time the children start stealing is disturbing. While the thought that a child at that age is unknowingly criminal enough to carry out such an act, his satirical tone saying that even younger children are getting into that act is reflective of the deteriorating situation in several parts of the country.

The author uses mostly long sentences, most of which are easily understandable during the first reading while a few of them required revisits. Since he describes several events of the early 18th century Ireland, several passages appeared to be strange and confusing. For example, the phrases “or leave their dear native country to fight for the Pretender in Spain, or sell themselves to the Barbadoes.”, “this expedient was put into his head by the famous Psalmanazar, a native of the island Formosa, who came from thence to London above twenty years ago”, and “Of learning to love our country, wherein we differ even from Laplanders, and the inhabitants of Topinamboo” equire a prior knowledge of Irish history, without which it is not possible to understand the overtone, given his satire-filled rhetoric. His usage of Shakespearean English in a couple of places, “increaseth” and “hath” and certain other words, such as, “cloaths” and “glympse” was unexpected.

Having observed satire in a few movies and in stand-up comedies, it was a unique experience to read a famous writer’s work with a large quantity of satire in it. It made me realize that there are more than one ways to drive home any message. It requires a natural sense of humor by the writer, and the clever play with words to make even a dour message sound funny and memorable.

Aug 23, 2009

Turban Trouble

Last year, The Vancouver Sun published an article about a research study regarding the unintentional prejudice shown by white Caucasian subjects on targets dressed in Islamic outfits in a computer game. The essence of the article is that, due to strong negative stereotyping by the media, people have created prejudice and hatred on Muslims and tend to associate the latter to terrorists.

Researchers from University of New South Wales in Australia conducted a study involving 59 students in which the students were asked to shoot the armed targets – men or women – on the monitor. The targets were manipulated graphically to be with or without a turban or a hijab, and also holding guns or other inoculate objects such as a coffee mug or a bottle of drink. They pre-conditioned the students to be in happy, neutral or angry moods.

It was found that the students showed a ‘shooter bias’ for the targets wearing a turban or a hijab. The students shot the targets appearing to be Muslims even if they were carrying a coffee mug or coke. This confirmed that Muslim appearance is indeed associated with a negative stereotype. This being the case among Australian students who haven’t faced the Islamic terrorism in their territory at all, the authors expect that such a ‘turban effect’ would be much stronger in countries such as the USA and Britain. Nevertheless, the strong prejudice against the Muslims can be felt which the authors claim is due to the media coverage.

Interestingly, the angry people shot more at everybody whereas the happy people shot selectively more at Muslim-appearing targets. Also, men were shot at more than women targets. These results also suggest that men are generally viewed as more threatening/dangerous. A leader of Muslim community in Montreal is quoted saying that “these studies confirm our biggest fear that there is discrimination and prejudice in our society”.

Now, on the Shah Rukh incident, I see no issue at all. Those who cry foul at the US officials are the same who ask angry questions at Indian government whenever there is a terror attack in India. If US also had acted 'semi-secular' like India, for the sake of votes, or in order 'not to hurt the sentiments of minorities', then there would have been several more attacks similar to 9/11. When a terrorist keeps SRK as one of his names, it does get entered into major databases. What if that terrorist tries to enter with the name of SRK? Just for the namesake, is he expected to be given a red carpet welcome?

SRK's face has been changing quite a bit in the past 2 years or so, due to the combination of various factors such as aging, 6-pack tries, IPL fiasco, Asperger, and god knows what else. How hard would it be for a terrorist from Pakistan (many of them are good-looking, mind it) to undergo prosthetic surgery resembling SRK and try to use it as a cover? And, why the heck are the airport officials supposed to know who SRK is? Salman Khan killed a few roadside dwellers while driving drunk and there has been no action against him. In US, OJ case not withstanding, all are equal when it comes to law enforcement. It is so funny and ironic that people like Karan Johar and Farah Khan who often visit US strongly condemned this incident. They should know better. All in the name of hype, blunt support, blind solidairity, stupid friendship, and attention-seeking.

(Pic adapted from urantiansojourn.com)

Jun 19, 2009

Tamil Cine Quiz - 8 (With ANSWERS)

A short one this time.. As usual, the comments are moderated until a certain number of correct answers are received.

1. There is a unique similarity between a song each from Kaathirukka Neramillai, Rang De Basanti and Varanam Ayiram. Though it can be argued that the similarity extends to a song in Silambattam, the genre of the latter song is different, thus making it miss the similarity of t he first three songs. What is the 'relationship' between the first three songs?
Clue: Look at the bolded word. The first ever Ilayaraja song can also be added to the songs mentioned above.

Ans: The songs are: Yeh machi machi (Kathirukka neramillai), Hey saala (RDB) and Machi machi (Varanam ayiram). The Silambattam song is 'Machan machan'. Now you know what I meant by the 'relationship'.. ;)

2. What puts legendary singers SPB, Chitra, Swarnalatha, Unni Krishnan, Vasundhara Das and Shankar Mahadevan in one team?
Clue: The similarity is in achievement and in association.
Answer: All the above singers won the national awards for their singing in AR Rahman movies.

3. What are the similarities among a song each from the movies Rendu, Bheema and Marudhamalai?
Clue: If you were watching one particular TV show at 9:05 PM on the July 6th, you can guess the answer.
Answer: The songs are: "Mobilaa.." (Rendu), "Enadhuyirey.." (Bheema) and 'Marudhamalai maamaniye' (Marudhamalai). These were sung by the finalists of Airtel Super Singer-1 (2006), viz., Maya, Nikhil Mathew and Anita, respectively.

4. What is uniquely common among the AR Rahman albums Uzhavan, Duet and Indian?
Clue: Think about association and a legend.
Answer: These are the only three movies for which the legend KJ Yesudoss sang under AR Rahman's music.

May 28, 2009

'The Metamorphosis' by Kafka

I have heard about Franz Kafka's short stories, so thought of getting a glimpse of his work by reading his famous short story 'The Metamorphosis'. After I finished reading it, I couldn't really appreciate the greatness of the story except to say that it was a very interesting, thought-provoking story of a salesman, Gregory Samsa oneday waking up and finding himself metamorphosed into an insect and how it changes the life of people around him. Nevertheless, it made me to think deeply. Let me share them with you.
In ‘metamorphosis’, Kafka has shown several traits of the society in various places. The fact that Gregory doesn’t even realize his metamorphosis but is worried about his job, his manager and family reveals that in the modern society, most of us keep running towards our goals without having the time to stop and analyze what we are doing. Those of us don’t lead an ‘optimized’ life, i.e., a life in which most, if not all of the important things are optimized to the best. We accept mediocrity and simply want to move forward. Gregory’s plans to get up, even in his bug state, and think of catching a train to report to work is suggestive of the unrelenting pressure that he is under.
His brief mention of the manager and his colleagues tells us about the environment in the working place that one experiences. Highly demanding managers, colleagues who won’t hesitate to backstab if necessary, and an uncertain/unstable job situation are the things that can be seen in the modern corporate society as well. The intense competition at the inter-company and intra-company levels has made this place into a dog-eat-dog world.
For most of the readers from the US, the concept of an adult son staying with and working for reasonably fit parents would appear very strange; but that is the culture in most of South and South-East Asian countries even now. Sons who are married with children still continue to live with their parents. One can also see families in which all the sons live with their respective wives and children in the same house with their parents. In most of such families, the father, or if he is not alive, the mother is like the ‘head’ of the family.
Also, in the US, one can’t usually see an educated and fit female not interested in working or who doesn’t make an earning. On the other hand, in Southern Asia, it is common to see women with even master’s degree not working at all any time in their life. After the marriage, the decision of whether or not a girl works usually comes from her husband and/or her in-laws. Before marriage, her parents decide whether she needs to work or not. Since the education in most of South Asia is government-sponsored, the government’s investment on the girl’s education goes merely as waste. All this means that, a potential and large workforce remains dormant simply because of a combination of laziness, domination and controlling tendency. This trend is seen in many under-developed nations of the world, and I believe that the absence of such an attitude is a very important reason for the success of all the developed nations. In Kafka’s story, these inconsistencies are described quite well.
On one hand, the family wants to be free from its debts; but they hardly join hands together for such an important cause. They have entrusted such a job on the shoulders of their son. Moreover, their son is not even happy with the job he is doing. Even though they are aware of that, they do nothing to help him quit such a job and opt for something he likes. They could have helped his cause by earning some money from their part too. They continue to live in a large house which they don’t have to at all. Reading about such a family in great details first gave me a feeling that Kafka must have experienced a similar situation . Upon reading his biography, in which Kafka was reported to have a sad life with an imposing father, I could agree with others who also believe ‘The Metamorphosis’ to be autobiographical.

I felt that the final act of the family members getting fed up with Gregory and ‘let him go’ is very similar to Terri Schiavo case that stirred quite a bit of debate three years ago. When a family member becomes too ill to live but is somehow managing to merely exist due to life support system, what should the family do? Should they continue to allow him or her suffer in a situation that is far from normal living, or should they just allow them to die and put an end to the agony? This is a question for which there is no clear answer. Similar to the way the Kafka family was hoping for a miracle to happen to bring their metamorphosed family member to normalcy, several other families keep their comatose loved ones in life support hoping that a modern medical advancement would somehow provide a new lease of life to them.
In ‘The Metamorphosis’, many socially relevant themes are dealt quite nicely. It makes one question and analyze the concepts of love, care, career, family and compromise. Its global appeal and the applicability to several issues that the modern society faces help it become a timeless classic. Despite the act of Gregory’s metamorphosis not sounding believable, its underlying themes make this story an unforgettable read.

May 3, 2009

May Madness (Updates at the end of the post)

A cricket post after a long long time, since May promises to be a cricketing month. I absolutely love this year's IPL so far. Quite a bit of twists and turns, plus plenty of drama in the past couple of weeks already.
The perennial problems for most cricket fans are to choose a favorite team, and also to decide whom to support in a clash between two other teams. For example, my hometown is Chennai; I have spent the last 8 years before coming to US in Bangalore; and, my favorite cricketer, Sachin, plays for Mumbai. So, among the 8 teams, I needed to form an hierarchy of sorts, which is the following. What is yours?

#1: Mumbai Indians - Sachin's

#2: Chennai Super Kings - My hometown team

#3: Royal Challengers Bangalore - Team from my favorite Indian city

#4: Rajasthan Royals - For Warney!

#5: Deccan Chargers - For Gilly & Gibbs

#6: Delhi Daredevils

#7: Kings XI Punjab

#8: Kolkata Knight Riders

I am very happy that my least favorite team is loitering at the bottom of the points table. From the time of the 'multiple captaincy theory', I love every controversy that has erupted there. Saurav 'Huge attitude' Ganguly was removed from the captaincy - quite good news; 'Fake IPL player' - Superb fun; 'Kolkata' removal from the team's name - WOW!! And, now, the news of Shah Rukh trying to sell off the team - Good for him!

It is amazing how Deccan chargers - a team every team had fun rolling over last year, has now made a complete turn-around while the current champions Rajasthan Royals are were struggling at 7th place, while the runners-up Chennai are at 6. The first two days of the month have already produced some great nail-biter climaxes. A total anti-thesis to last year when there was gulf between the table-leaders and the strugglers. One look at the points table says that except the miserable Kolkata, all the other 7 teams are within 2 1 points of each other. This, with the tournament at the half-way stage, is a perfect scenario for a thrilling second half in a fortnight.

Also, when everyone who could wield a bat made merry in the first edition, mostly those who have a good technique are able to score in the current one. In fact, the 'Man of the match' winners for the first 8 matches were all proper and proven test players. Also, looking at the success of retired veterans like Kumble, Gilchrist and Hayden, there is definitely a scope for experienced and talented cricketers in the mad world of 20-20.

Tomorrow's Today's matches: Punjab vs Kolkata - I expect Punjab to roll over Kolkata, which should push Punjab from 6th to 2nd position; Mumbai vs Bangalore - Though Mumbai is the team that I would love to see winning (catapulting it to the top rank), a win by Bangalore would take them to the third place and pull down Mumbai to fifth.

Update: Though it was unpleasant to see Mumbai losing a match, Bangalore's win has truly opened up the table. Four teams with 8 points and 3 with 7! And, to maintain the balance, I am routing for Chennai to win tomorrow's match against Deccan chargers, thus leaping from 5th to 1st spot.

Apr 26, 2009

What is the use of handbags?

Why are our female cine-stars always seen in functions, with the cellfone on their hands? They seem to have taken the term 'handset' too seriously.
Not ones to be left behind, the male versions are often seen using the cellfones.

Apr 18, 2009

Go, Jo!

, This Jo isn’t the one what most of you think to be. I am talking about one Mrs. Joania, a mid-thirties mom and a full-time employee, who is on a terrific journey that is leading to better and more better places with every passing week. The name of the journey is ‘weight-loss’. When she started it last December, she was 258 pounds (117 kgs) and she weighs now (as of Mid-April) 214 pounds (97 kgs) – a difference of 20 kgs in 4 months. The best part of her journey is that she decided to blog about it, with pictures. So, there are a lot of ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures to compare the weight loss, which is similar to what one can see in ads for weight loss supplements. Only that this time we know for sure this person is doing it by the best possible way – a judicial combination of hard exercise and proper diet. No magic pills, no crash diet, no surgery and no slogging.

She blogs her weight every Wednesday and posts her pictures every weekend. So there are at least a couple of reasons to visit her blog every week, to check the gradual decrement of weight and shrinking of the girth. I strongly recommend everyone who wants to lose weight to visit her blog. One common de-motivating factor that most people face is a plateau often encountered over a considerable time. She has faced it too (look at mid-Feb), but that hasn’t deterred her journey at all. She works out 6 days a week mostly with the help of a trainer. She has set several small rewards along her journey to motivate herself, which is a suggestion most fitness Gurus give.

Some tips to Women for losing weight:
* Weight loss journey begins at home. Eat healthy and resist your temptation for that extra piece of sweet or the fried item.
* Do NOT compare ur pattern of weight loss with that of other men around you. It is usually easier for men to lose weight than for women.
* Mix various workout regimes such as cardio, aerobics, and weight lifting. And, about the last one, dont worry that you will start looking muscular like men. You dont secrete several hormones that men do, esp. Testosterone, the muscle-building hormone.
* Weight lifting will certainly help grow your muscles, and it has several advantages: a) Any weight lifting activity help burn calories upto 36 hours after the workout; b) Mere presence of muscles will help burn calories; c) Muscles strengthen your body, by supporting ur bones, and ligaments better; d) Muscles help you get a toned-look for the entire body. Suppose you do only cardio and aerobics, your body will lose fat and muscles, which isnt the best way of weight loss. You will see your body look 'loose' due to that, rather than 'firm' which will happen only with muscle build-up.

Joania is already getting famous, with mentions of her in some magazines, and a recent TV ad as well. I expect her to appear on Oprah’s show after she attains her target – 157 pounds, which is a good 46 kgs lighter than her weight in December. With the kind of progress that she is making, I guess she will be there by the year-end. Keep going, Jo! Your success story will surely inspire thousands, if not millions of people to take up the same journey as yours.

P.S.: This reward system surely will work wonders. Our brain has the reward zones which get activated when some tasks are achieved. I blogged about a reward system that some of my desperate friends used almost 3 years ago. Whatever works!! Rewards apart, exercising is recommended by physicians to everyone. In the last few months, I have come across a few blogger buddies who have witnessed critical health issues even before the age of 45 and gone on to weight loss regimes after the warnings. So, like my car mechanic says, "you pay less now, or you pay more later".

Apr 12, 2009

An Inspired Philosophical Song

Below is a translated philosophical song whose original version , I am sure, all of you would have heard. FYI, I didn't do the translation. Read it, guess the original tamil song and post it in the comments section. As with all the quizzes, I will moderate the comments for a few days.

Revealed this city its trueness
Universe unraveled itself
Birth of the practicality in me
Understanding the numbers in people
Oh! My Sweetheart!

Nourished the disguised snake of cunningness
To get stung by the bitterness of life
Void is the relation of brotherhood
For its self inflicting performances
And meticulous calculations of time
For the love designed by the money
Vain are those blood dropped
To get outcaste
Hurt by the horns of mistakes
Scorpions’ sting my wounded soul
Oh! My Sweetheart!

Past step towards present Philosopher
Disembarked the evil from the river of sins
And dance with my naked naive ness
Rainbow of strung affinity disappear
Heavy heart filled with kinship
Inside are those ferocious animals to eat
The tainted money
And there goes the brave cow
To be chopped into the pieces of practicality
Oh! My Sweetheart!

Apr 3, 2009

Ayan Review: Surya's Aegan

Of late, Tamil cinema and expectations are not going along well together. I went into this movie mostly for the director KV Anand and the script-writers SuBa, who had earlier combined together to give a good thriller in Kanaa Kandaen. With Ayan, though, KV Anand succumbs to the second-movie syndrome. So, except a fine cinematography, we get bad screenplay, no story, unimaginative choreography, and some insipid performances.
Deva (Surya) is studying M.Sc. computer science while at the same time working with Das (Prabhu) as a smuggler, who smuggles to and from sub-Saharan Africa and Malaysia. Kamalesh (Akashdeep Saigal) wants to become the #1 smuggler and would go to any extent to achieve his goal. Deva and his friend Chitti's (Jagan) sister Yamuna (Tamanna) fall in love, but Kamalesh's plans threaten the lives of Deva and those around him.
In his recent interviews, Surya was seen yapping about a 'different story that has never been told in Tamil cinema'. No such story is found to be seen anywhere in the movie, even after the end credits start rolling. The main story has liberal borrowings from 'Kuruvi', several of 80's smugglers' movies of Kamal and Rajni, and even from Hollywood movies such as Blood diamond. There is a scene in the movie wherein a Tamil director is shown visiting DVD stores seeking story plots from Hollywood for his next movie. Probably KV Anand self-satirically says that the character is based on himself.
It could have been far better, though. There are several twists in the movie which could have progressed well to break the typical formula of Tamil movies. One such twist arrives at the Intermission, which, if cleverly executed, could have surprised us ala the Hindi movie 'Khakee'. The second half has too many of such twists, but by then we know where the director is taking us - a risk-free zone, so those twists don't amuse us much. Another downside of the second half is the huge increase in the irritability quotients of the female characters. Tamanna and Renuka were so annoying.
The development of love between the lead pair is quite lame. One can see Surya re-enacting his 'SOK' and 'Varanam Ayiram' lover-boy roles here again. His body language and dialog delivery are so predictable nowadays. Time for a change, dude! Tamanna, after a promising role in 'Kalloori', has joined a huge list of talented glamor dolls of Tamil cinema. Prabhu offers nothing new, except half the screen space. Having watched quite a bit of Akashdeep as Ansh Gujral in Star TV's "Kyunki saas bhi..", I know that he is quite capable of a more menacing villainy than what we see in this film.
There are some interesting chase and fight sequences, which have been inspired from the last two 007 movies. In an attempt to prolong the suspense of some scenes by using reverse shots, the director and editor have missed out providing suitable links between some scenes, which make the scenes jump so abruptly. The song sequences are also introduced out of nowhere, and hence they don't gel with the story well. The two songs that I loved to hear the most - "Vizhi moodi" and "Anbe anbe" had very poor pre-song scenes, which took away the effectiveness of the songs. While the dance steps in the former songs were cute, the less said about the latter, the better.
Overall, it is a movie worth watching once, if you go with zero expectations. Otherwise, being a Sun TV production, you can soon watch it in small screen "Ulaga tholaikaatchigaLil mudhal muraiyaaga"...

Mar 26, 2009

Yavarum Nalam Arundhati, but Let the Right One In

My spring break became a week of horror - only in the movies genre, albeit unplanned. Alphabetically,

Arundhati: It is a dubbed movie from telugu with the same name.

Story: Arundhati (Anushka), hailing from a royal family, is about to get married. In her village is waiting Pasupathi (Sonu Sood) who is hell-bent on disrupting her wedding. The interesting details include who Pasupathi is, what his grudge on Arundhati is due to, and what his intentions are.

Presentation: The entire movie is a surprise package. It is not just a heroine-based movie with the female protagonist's name as the title; it is a strong heroine-centered movie, in which the hero is used ala pickle. It has a powerful villain, though. Secondly, we get to see Anushka, who usually stars as a sweet, bubbly but doll-like actress in an intense, multi-faceted, and charming role. Next, the all-important flashback, which is often so important in a horror movie, is split into many parts and appears at different times, which means that the mystery is never fully unfolded.

Coming from the director whose resume includes Amman, arguably the first Indian movie with successful use of CGI in its story, the graphics in Arundhati too (by Rahul Nambiar) is superb. For once, I had the feeling that graphics had totally merged with the cinematography in an Indian film. The camera work by one Senthil Kumar is top-notch - be it showing the colorful palaces, the grandeur, or the dark forces. With minimal songs and drama, Arundhati is an edge-of-the-seat thriller/horror movie. It is a must-watch - a visual treat.

Let the Right One In: It is a swedish movie dubbed into English. A childhood friend of mine had a sweet-looking brother, who would ask everyone to lift him. When they do, he would bite their cheeks and run away. Imagine that such a sweet-looking girl, instead of biting the cheeks, bites your neck and starts sucking blood!

Story: Oskar is a quiet 12-year old boy living with his mom in an apartment. He is bullied by some of his classmates but, having no friend, he cant share it with any one. He is befriended by a girl, Eli, who has just moved to his neighboring house with her father. Soon, Oskar realizes that Eli is no ordinary girl.

Presentation: It is a very unique movie in that the source of horror doesn't wear any additional make-up at all, but still there is an element of fear everytime we look at her (similar to 'The Exorcism of Emily Rose'). The focus of the movie is not on the horror part but on the friendship between Oskar and Eli. The creepiest scene of the movie was the one involving a dozen or so cats and a woman. Apart from that, the visuals are more pleasing to the eyes than horrific. It has a chilling climax, befitting to the genre of the movie.

Yavarum Nalam: It has been reviewed quite a bit in the blogosphere; so all I have to say is, it was good, without the trademark cheap stuff the desi horror directors resort to, for scaring us. And, it was genuinely scaring too. The real hero of the movie was P.C. Sriram, whose camerawork is the one that elevates the movie with a clever storyline from a goosebump-inducing one to a real horror movie.

Feb 26, 2009

Zen and the art of reviewing movies

Last year, when I was reading the book 'Thinking about movies', the phrase 'There is nothing called a bad movie' caught my attention and stayed for a long time. Most of us are aware that movie-making is a tedious process that involves the working of hundreds of hands and minds over a period of several months to years. I have also heard that 'one must watch a movie shooting' to understand how difficult it is, so that one will a) think twice before branding a movie rubbish, b) watch it only in theaters, in considerate of the hundreds of families that rely on the film business, c) learn to look at the movie in a perspective different than that of a layman.
Having said all that, does it mean that just because a movie has been made, it should deserve our unanimous acclaim? Obviously NO! Over 80% movies end up as flops, which is a verdict by the people who have seen that it is not recommended. A layman's movie review will be through word-of-mouth, which is very powerful in this age of superconnectivity between the people. When the movie is reviewed in the media, though, the review itself is open to debates and discussions.
As a side-track, lemme just say my two cents about blog-reviewing: In the blogs, it is a tricky thing. If a blogger rubbishes a movie and someone refutes it, the blogger, IMHO, has to provide a 'suitable' explanation. Now, how 'suitable' the response is, depends on the personality and mood of the blogger in question. Some reviewers are arrogant - they simply say 'this is my blog, I can write whatever I wish, you agree to what I say or if not just shut your mouth and leave'. I would say that, if it is the prerogative of the blogger on his post, the same can be said about an open 'Comments' section. Of course the blogger has the right to moderate/edit/delete the comments, but they cant question a commenter 'how dare you oppose my review?'
Another etiquette about reviewing is to do so without any spoilers, or to put a warning note if any spoiler is present. Sometimes it is unavoidable to discuss an aspect of the movie without the mention of an important scene. Also, a good review is one which highlights the strengths and weaknesses of a movie quite explicitly. Watching different genres of movies made in different parts of the world and at different periods, and analyzing the movies would help the reviewing a lot. Moreover, it is better to have an idea of the intelligence level of the director white sitting to watch a movie or to review one. That would prevent one from over-analyzing it or missing the director's touch. Much of my thoughts arose during the discussion in the previous post. ;)
Now, when a person as experienced as Suhasini chooses to review a film, that review itself deserves a review. An example is from her last week's review of Naan kadavul. I honestly dont know if she reads the blogs, including this, but I found a lot of specific terms that were discussed here in my post and the comments thereof. After praising the movie like there is no end, she said that the movie is not without its flaws, but pointing out at the flaws would prevent the good film-makers from creating 'such good' movies in the future. That remark took me by surprise totally. I felt that she was better off not mentioning about the presence of flaws rather than simply mentioning and not explaining what they are.
My philosophy is very simple: While watching it, I see if I like the movie or not. If the movie in its entirety or in parts doesnt appeal to me, I put it down in words as to why I didn't like it. Like every human, I am biased towards certain people. That bias might make me to watch it in the first place, or to interpret some things in a particular way. Whatever it be, I welcome any criticism for my review. Only I dont want it to be vague like someone in the previous review commented, but to be more specific to the details.

Feb 23, 2009

Feb 7, 2009

Naan KadavuL - Give a miss

This is the first Bala movie that I watched in theater. With or without expectations, this movie sucks. I felt like I was watching a movie on the physically handicapped who are exploited and forced into begging. Arya's role in the movie is just a tad more than a guest one. The story appears disjointed, with the story of the suffering handicapped people and Arya's segment connected only by a bare thread of the location.

After witnessing the depressing story of the 'begging industry of India' in 'Slumdog Millionaire', we get to watch it much more elaborately in this movie. I felt that it was definitely overdone, with Bala's famous liking for morbidity going way too far. Beyond a point, their sufferings made me feel sick. The scene involving 'the man with the scary face' could have been handled quite differently. The closing minutes of the movie have some badly edited scenes and the climax appears to be rushed. The only positive aspects of the movie are the performances by Arya and Pooja.

The climatic one-to-one fight between the protagonist and the antagonist appeared to be very amateurish and cinematic to me. The latter knows the fate of the three people who went to attack the former, but still he goes against Arya bare-handed and single-handedly. Pooja's migration from the hill cave to a church and then to the hands of the villain is not explained; especially the last one could have been avoided, saving a lot of pain. The climax was quite undigestible since it reflected the pessimistic mindset of the director.

The technical aspects of the movie are quite good. Music is OK. The long scene in the police station involving look-alikes of MGR, Sivaji and Rajni was quite unnecessary, what with an overdose of such artists in various TV programs, except for a few seconds of an unhappening twist that is to follow. I found one aspect very ironic. Jeyamohan, who is the dialog-writer for this movie, had strongly condemned Sivaji's style of acting in his blog exactly a year ago. In the police station, someone tells the Sivaji-lookalike that he wishes that Sivaji had taught what acting is, to the contemporary actors. Jeyamohan has even removed that attacking post from his blog.

Back to the movie - the only thing that connects this movie with Bala's earlier ones is that he portrays (again) a dark side of the society. Whereas the previous ones had some humanity in them, here it is all dark and violent. True, the guy and his assistant who are in charge of the temple beggars have some soft corner for them. Other than that, it is hard to explain why Arya is shown attacking some people in Varanasi and why he is angry in the movie all the time. And, Arya appears to be too muscular and fleshy for someone who hardly eats any food and is shown surviving only on Ganja.

You might like it if you are a hardcore Bala fan.

Jan 28, 2009

Race of Inequality

Heard about 'Inequality of races' but the above picture would be one of the opposite.. :) Once the race starts, would the homo sapien run in the opposite direction?

Jan 17, 2009

Tamil Cine Quiz - 7

This quiz again based only on Tamil songs.

1) This famous singer has acted in a number of movies too. In one movie (A) in which he acted as the hero's father, he rendered his voice to the hero in a song B. Interestingly, in a song (C) in which he appears along with the hero, the female singer is his real-life daughter. Who is the famous singer, what is the movie A and what are the songs B and C?

2) In a movie (D) for which the music director and the producer were the same as that for movie A, he acted as the heroine's father. In that movie, he rendered voice to the two guys who are in love with the heroine in a song E. What are the movie D and the song E?

3) Another movie (F) - same music director + producer combo and the singer this time acted as the hero's father. He appears in a song (G) along with the hero, and renders his voice for the hero but his part in the song is rendered by a singer from the North (H). What are the movie F and song G and who was the singer H, who to the best of my knowledge, is the only singer to have rendered his voice to the famous singer?

4) In a movie (I) released in the same year as the movie D (with the same music director), the hero of movie A appeared on a double role. There was a duet in the film involving both the roles of the hero and the two heroines, for which the credit was given to only one pair of male and female singers. In real, another pair of male and female singers had sung the song from the second charanam (stanza) onwards. Who are the four (two male and two female) singers who rendered their voices for the song?

5) In cricket, we have seen one bowler completing the over of another bowler if he is injured in the middle of an over and is unable to bowl. In a movie released in 2005, there is a superb duet, which is meant for the hero and heroine in the movie. In fact, disappointingly, that song wasn't picutirized at all. In that song, just after the second charanam begins, one female playback singer abruptly takes over from the other in the middle of a line and goes on to complete the song. What are the movie, and the song and who are the two female playback singers? (Clues: The producer of the movie has been producing movies for over 20 years and his son debuted as director in 2008. The hero of the 2005 movie is the son of a famous multi-faceted actor-director and his performance in the movie was so unlike him. The villain in the movie acted as the villain in a famous tamil movie released in the same year and in a recent hindi movie with the same name).

P.S.: Comments are moderated considering the top-secret nature of this quiz.

Jan 5, 2009

Kanavey vaazhva?

I wrote about not being able to find a suitable equivalent of ‘missing’ in tamil. Now that a word ‘mizhakkiren’ has been coined, I used it for a kavithai. :)
உன்னை ரசிக்கிறேன் - மனதில்
உன்னுடம் சிரிக்கிறேன் - நினைவில்
உன்னைக் கொஞ்சுகிறேன் - இதயத்தில்
குழந்தையாய் மாறுகிறேன் - கையினில்
உனக்கோர் ஆசை முத்தம் - கன்னத்தில்

இதழின் மென்மையை உணர்கிறேன் - காற்றோடு
இதமாய் அணைத்துக்கொள்கிறேன் - நெஞ்சோடு
மிதமான வெப்பம் - மனதோடு
சுகமான ஸ்பரிசம் - உடலோடு
உன் தாக்கத்தைக் காண்கிறேன் - என்னோடு

நீ என்னுடன் வாழும் ஒவ்வொரு கணத்தையும்
நினைவிலேயே கண்டு ரசிக்கிறேன்
உணர்விலேயே கண்டு உருகுகிறேன்
கண்ணைத் திறந்து தேடுகிறேன்
அருகில் நீயில்லை மிழக்கிறேன்
கையோடு கை கோர்த்து
கண்ணோடு கண் கலந்து
ஊனோடு ஊனும்
உயிரோடு உயிரும்
சிரிப்போடு சிரிப்பும்
உதட்டோடு உதடும்
நினைவோடு நினைவும்
இரண்டறக் கலந்து
ஒன்றாக கூடும் வாழ்வு
கனவே வாழ்வா?
In Thanglish:
Unnai rasikkiren - manathil
unnudan sirikkiren - ninaivil
unnai konjukiren - idhayathil
kuzhnadhaiyai marugiren - kaiyinil
unakkor aasai mutham – kannathil

idhazhin menmaiyai unarkiren - kaatrodu
idhamai anaithukolgiren - nenjodu
midhamana veppam - manathodu
sugamana sparism - udalodu
un thaakkathai kaangiren – ennodu

nee ennudan vaazhum ovvoru kaNathaiyum
ninaivileye kandu rasikkiren
uNarvileye kandu urugukiren
kannai thirandhu thedukiren
arugil neeyillai mizhakkiren

kaiyodu kai serthu
kannodu kan kalandhu
oonodu oonum
uyirodu uyirum
sirippodu sirippum
udhattodu udhadum
ninaivodu ninaivum
irandara kalandhu
ondraaga koodum vaazhvu
kanavey vazhva?

Jan 3, 2009

HNY! How r u?

Happy new year to you all !! :) In the new year, something to tickle your ribs.. I talked to a few celebrities yesterday and asked how they were. This is the reply I got from them:

Aishwarya: Hmmm.. u know, the Indian tradition has always made me a good person.. so I am good 

AR Rahman: yellam iraivan ... (YAWN)

P.C. Sriram: naan nethu nalla irundhen.. night temp check ellam pannenn.. ippo nalla irukkenn..

Vijay: simply “Hmmmm...”

Director Seeman: Azhagu Tamil-il "Neenga eppadi irukkireergal" nu kekkruadhai vittuttu ippadi aangilathule kekkureengale... gnayama? Ange ilankaiyil en thambigaLum thangaigaLum avadhi-p-pattukkondirukkumbodhu naan eppadi nandraga irukka mudiyum?

Goundamani: Dho paruda kekka vandhuttaan.. naan eppadi irundha unakkennada naaye?

Senthil: ANNey...nan nalla irrukenne..

Kamal: Naan nalla irukkennudhaan ninaikkiren.. aana naan nalla illennu yaaravadhu ninaicha avanga ninaikkiraangannu naan kavalaippatta naan nalla irukka mudiyathu

Surya: Naan idhai solliyE Aganum.. nallarukkEn..

Vijaya T Rajender: Muslims-ku allah irukkaru.. Kadaiyile kalla irukkudhu.. bottle fulla irukkudhu.. naan nalla irukken.. en varisu Simbhu-vum Silambaattam aadi nallaa irukkan

Loud mouthed Idiot Santhanam: dei.. pannadai.. nee eppadi irukkennu nana kettanada.. pinne enda viLakkeNNai mAdhiri enkitte kekkura?

Sivakumar: Amma.. naan rommmmba nalla irukkemmmaaaa..

Gaptun: Tamilnaattule 2,37,339 kudumbanga innaikku kaalaiyile kudikka kanji illama irukkanga.. 1,78,536 peru oru vElai soru kooda illama irukkanga.. 8,73,983 peru velai illama irukkanga.. idhai kettuttu naan eppadi nalla irukkamudiyum? Enn, neengalum nalla irukka mudiyuma? *Aanghh*

Suhasini: Naan ponnu-ngirathaale naan nalla irukkeno illaiyO-nnu doubt-le neenga ippadi oru kelvi kekkureenga.. adhunale enakku unga kElvi pidikkale...

Shreya: Naan nalla irukkudhu

Grand master GS Pradeep: Naan nalla irukkanga

Rajni: ennai vaazha vaitha dheivangalaana Tamil makkal ungaloda dhayavaley naan romba nalla irukken...

Vairamuthu: Kaalaiyil ezhum sooriyanai keLungal; kaalgaLai nanaikkum alaigaLai keLungal; kathiravanai maraikkum malaiyai keLungal.. avai sollum.. naan nandraga irukkiren endru..