Saturday, December 31, 2005

"The Hindu" beat me to it on this one

I noticed that some of my posts preceded similar articles that appeared in "The Hindu". Both my "A Bevy of Beauties from Kerala" on this blog and "Yuvan's latest offering, a must listen" on my music blog preceded similar articles published in "The Hindu". I am in no way trying to imply that I am competing with the newspaper but it was interesting to observe the similaralities in the points of interest. I could have really nailed another big one had I only posted my article on the up and rising singing star from Kerala, Manjari. Ever since I watched her on one of the Malayalam channels and after Illayaraja's mega concert where she even dueted with him I thought a post was long overdue. Last Sunday "The Hindu" published an article on her. Anyway it is better being late than never having written at all. Read all about it on my music blog titled "Who is likely to replace Chitra".

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Shame on Aachi Masala's "Ungal Choice"

I am so upset at the horrible incident in today's episode that I didn't care to watch one bit of it afterwards and I give a damn for the show hereafter. I am sure even regular viewers would have been shattered at what happened. Karunas, the comedian, was the new guest of tonite's show. After the boring formalities by Uma I found Karunas beginning enthusiastically and humbly in the programme. Then the first caller called. She was asking Karunas several things to do, such as asking to say a favourite dialogue, a song to sing etc. all of which Karunas conceded to in perfect fan-gratifying fashion. Then came a question out of the blue and it hit all of us like a thunderbolt. The dumb caller had the stupid audacity to ask him, "How do feel now that you look like a negro?" Our jaws dropped. What the **** was that? Karunas must have literally given a slap in the face of an answer to that abominable caller but we should thank his modesty for not doing so. Uma did try to offer some solace but that wasn't enough. She should have never encouraged the caller or the question. But why would she do that? What is she and the production interested more in? The dignity of the host or the ratings of the program?

Although the show has had a very successful run Uma's lines have become very stale over the years. The fact that her star-interview-show (I don't remember the name) flopped so badly is testimony to the fact that she is unsuccessful with personal interviews. Without the ambience of her "Ungal Choice" show she will not be good at interviewing her current hosts either. Even if she could why watch a programme that is so poor both at controlling caller behavior and protecting the dignity of their guests.

How favouritism even goes for hosts. If the show can censor (how they fool viewers into believing it is a live programme) unfavourable questions asked to Uma why not do the same for the stars and guests of the show.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Unfortunate Kushboo

I just read in a previously dated issue of The Deccan Chronicle that Kushboo has once again been asked to appear in court. This time for something that she said about the abuse and murder of a minor girl in a hotel in Chennai. It seems as though her woes are not going to end for sometime though her T.V show seems to be proceeding unperturbed. I am hardly interested in the political connections to her stories but here's a look at some other related stories and news.

Months ago, before the Kushboo incident director Thangar Bachan made some derogatory remarks about the heroines and female artistes of the Tamil film industry and for which he was forced to make a public apology. A photograph also appeared in the "The Hindu" of the director doing so.

I am sure the public must be having their last laugh at all this. Their letters in "The Hindu" express their anguish at all this hypocrisy. What are we supposed to believe? That debauchery and excesses hardly exist in the world of showbizz?

Way back in the 80's (I am sure it was the years 85 - 86) an unusual article appeared in the magazine Sunday (it might have been another magazine, I am not sure which one) but the article was titled "Sexy Sania bares it all". It was the talk of the hostel when we visited our classmate's room there. It was all about a low key actress who had spilled the beans on all the affairs and relationships she had had to ascend her way up the ladder of stardom. From someone who made a pass at her to physical relationships she mentioned every major guy she was involved with. I remember she mentioning Dharmendra, Sunny Deol and Vinod Khanna although I do not recall exactly the relationship she had with them. She also gave details of the wild partying and other similar gatherings in these circles and the wild things that had happened to her there. I also clearly recall how she frankly spoke of her fascination for some of these stars too. Mind you, this was in the 80's. Two decades have gone by and you can imagine the situation now.

Next the acclaimed and moving Malayalam film "Lekhayude Maranam, Oru flashback" which actually depicted the life of the late tamil film actress Shoba comes to mind. Even if it were a first hand account of the exploitation and excesses about the film world and their nexus with the network or pimps and customers there was hardly any outcry. What shook my out of my senses was a film made in Malayalam ridiculing the ways of the Chief minister of Tamil Nadu and her friend/aide and even politically there was hardly a protest. Besides depictions of real life stories and happenings, the scale of violence, vulgarity of language (I couldn't believe it, you can almost hear Vijay say the "O" expletive in the movie "Sachin") and obscenity in the scenes have all reached intolerable levels and yet, all of them are forgiven.

My tip for the stars and directors is this. Do whatever you want, say whatever you want on film and you can get away with it. Off screen, MUM's the word.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

My music blog goes live

For all you audiophiles this is to inform that my blog on music from India went live today. I will be posting reviews regularly. So if you want to be in touch with the best of the latest in Fusion, Indipop, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi and other music from India this is one place you need to check regularly.

Madras Bee, blog named after the popular short wave radio station in Chennai where I listened to a ton of great music in the late 70's, the 80's and the early 90's.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The unusual story of how I saw Catherine Zeta Jones

Now that her movie "The Legend of Zorro" just finished playing in Chennai's cinemas what better time to write about the interesting situation of how I saw her, than now.

It was late November 2001. I would have hardly guessed that my days in North America were coming to an end. I was in Toronto, Canada with my sister who was having her first baby. My mother was also there. 9/11 had just happened and I was also wondering if I would have problems getting back into the U.S. My brother was in the U.S.A too just across the border in Michigan on a company assignment and it was only natural for our mother to visit him too. However she needed a US tourist visa to visit him. This could be obtained at the US Consulate in Toronto.

November the 21'st, 2001 was a cold day. It was raining softly but not snowing yet. Dampness was everywhere. After meticulously checking and re-checking the visa application and attached documents I drove my mother to the consulate that was located downtown. So after exiting off the freeway I made some turns into streets near the consulate. I may have to refer to Google earth for the street names. But then as I was just passing through one of them I almost screamed in delight when I saw a very familiar sight. It was the triple arched entrance of a building that I have seen a thousand or more times on the cover of one of rock's greatest albums, "Moving Pictures" by Toronto's very own band RUSH.
I had seen this triple arched entrance in a friend's album in Toronto and even asked them where they took it but forgot all about it later. I tried to drive as slow as possible and savour the sight and at the same time commit to memory the name of the street, St.Mary's street that I now realize that I might have got wrong. The actual entrance featured on the cover is of the Parliament building at Queen's Park located in the same vicinity and after some investigation I doubt strongly now if that was the building that I saw or another with a similar entrance. Maybe it was another entrance to the same building (like the backside). I just told myself I would come here some day to take a pictue. Anyway this surprise was no match for what was in store inside the American Consulate.

Having stood in the mile long queues from 4.30 A.M in the morning at the American Consulate for my H1B visa in Chennai (the situation was just the opposite at the U.S consulate in Singapore though) I knew the situation in Toronto wouldn't be that bad. By the time we got there the queue inside the consulate's compound was slowly moving into the office. Even if we had to stand outside the office it wouldn't have been a problem as the area was fully roofed. Once inside there were several counters. Already an Indian family were having a tough time with the person behind one of the counters. Of the applicants present 90% of them would have been Chinese. The atmosphere seemed very tense with the apprehension of the prospective applicants. As I realised it would take some time for our turn I asked my mother to sit in one of the seats and wait for my call when our turn to move to a counter would arrive. The waiting was frustrating. No one seemed to be even talking. The crowd inside was also swelling gradually.

Then it happened. Just as I was looking at the tinted glass of the counters a familiar face suddenly appeared behind it. It didn't take long for me to recognize the face and form that had cast a spell on everyone who saw the "Mask Of Zorro".
"That is Catherine Zeta Jones", I screamed to the Chinese guy standing in front of me who only responded with the most dumbest nonchalant look that I could ever elicit as a response. I frantically looked for my mother but she was seated somewhere I couldn't see and I didn't want to make a scene about what I had just seen. How slender and beautiful Catherine looked. She was being introduced by a sharp dressed man to the personnel behind each of the counters and some were so busy that they didn't even seemed to care. But my eyes didn't want to spare even one second of her view. It followed her like a hawk. For a couple of seconds I tried to look at the people in the hall and to my surprise not one seemed to know who was in the house. "How strange", I though to myself. Maybe no one expected such a thing. The tinted glass was the real deterrent.

I was only wondering how it would have been if I had been at one of those counters when she passed by. (Imagine screaming to CZJ and asking for an autograph when you are being interviewed at one of those counters!) One thing was sure. I wasn't going to be called at one of the counters before she left the scene. The whole introduction thing would have lasted just a few minutes and she was gone.

When it was my turn I went to one of the vacant counters. Mother quickly joined me as she was looking at the counters too and there was no need to call her. The interview for the visa was fun partly because of the comfort created by CZJ's coming and going and the rest because of how mother was answering her questions. Here are two of the questions and her answers to them.
Interviewer: "Maam, are you sure you will not overstay in the US on your holiday there?"
Mother: "No. I have to go back to my daughter who just delivered. I have to look after her and the baby."
Interviewer: "Maam, can I take it that you will not apply for a Green Card while in the US."
Mother: "No. No. I don't want to stay that long. I have to hurry back to my husband in India. He is alone there." I almost laughed for this one but concealed it with a big smile to maintain the seriousness of the interview. I was confident that things would go fine. We were then asked to go to another room for something (I now don't remember for what) but I was just waiting to get out of the tense room. Outside there was a cheerful looking security person at the door dressed in an attractive uniform and to whom I couldn't wait to ask, "Wasn't that Catherine Zeta Jones a short while ago?". The unforgettable reply "Amazing girl, isn't she?" confirmed who I had seen that morning.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Chetan Bhagat's One Night @ the call center

After working for over two years with a Multinational that also does Technical Support of their products via a call center here in Chennai and being associated with people working in call centres I have finally decided to not read any further this book that is being talked about so much. It literally bored me to death. Why read pages and pages of things that go on in the lives of characters in this book that you see almost everyday. The irritating part is this. I am on page 134 out of the 289 page book and I cannot wait any longer for the dramatic turn of events. In fact I am beginning to wonder even if there is one. The teaser on the back cover of the book tells you that "...they got a phone call. That phone call was from God." So far that has not happened (the reference to God might have been something else too) and neither do I care. But what really puts you off is this. Chetan admits this story was told to him by a girl he met on a train and that too in the middle of the night. It's obvious that 134 pages of bullshitting merely served as fillers Chetan has done for the book so far (maybe to say something later). But is he trying to say that the girl on the train told him all this. Give me a BREAK! One thing he does well though, is describe beautifully, beautiful girls. I found the characters in the book, too touchy, rebellious and unusually bright (Bagat needs to know the I.Q of call center folks as they can be quite different from those at I.I.T or I.I.M). I even found situations where the book can feel racist like in a call center training class where the trainees are taught that the I.Q of a 10 yr old Indian equals that of a 35 yr old American. Why belittle the U.S when the author an ex I.I.Tian himself will know that an exodus of students from the I.I.T's move to the U.S for higher studies or jobs every year.

After weeks of reading in fits and starts (that should give you an indication of how interesting the book is) I am promptly returning it to my friend who I am sure is not going to be very pleased about it or about this blog. I certainly have better things to waste my time on. Maybe I am old for these books but I also do not subscribe to this style of writing. I am sure even younger audiences and even young things working at call centers are going to find it boring. Maybe if you are those one-novel-in-a-day reader you could give it a try.

At this point I don't think I will care for his earlier work Five Point Someone either.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Oh Sivamani, What a let down!

It was the early 90's (must have been 1990). The scene, the Western Music Finals of the Mardi Gras cultural festival at I.I.T Madras. The last but one band to go up on stage is a band called "3.00 A.M" fronted by I.I.T's very own Prasanna on lead guitar. However my attention is drawn to the drummer dressed in white shirts and pants who is already dishing out mini solo's on the modest drum kit there ever was. Soon the name Sivamani is in the air. This was the first time I was watching him and I knew instantly why the crowd was going ga-ga over him. For the rest part of the band's show Sivamani played the drums like a man possessed grabbing solo's whenever he could in the middle of songs. Playing numbers like Rush's "Freewill" and Santana's "Open Invitation" (also played encore) 3.00 A.M went on to win the competition (although in my opinion they deserved 2'nd place). But that was Sivamani in his good old heydays.

Over the years I have read about him and also watched him but nothing could compare to that Mardi Gras performance at I.I.T. I then watch him at the A.R.Rahman's mega concert at Toronto. Sivamani was not in charge of the drums that night but he had an impressive set up of drum and percussion equipment on stage almost burying his huge figure. He had also changed his playing style (that's how I have seen him ever since) from a sitting position to a standing one. It didn't look cool. Well it could have if there were some real playing. Another drummer shared the limelight that evening, even during a tabla/mridangam-drum "jugalbandi" session. Moreover his stick antics were becoming too stale.

I then remember watching him on T.V where he played with Shankar Mahadevan in a concert in Singapore. Again stale stuff. His solo's were getting nowhere. Drum solo's tend to gradually ascend to a climax but the guy seemed to anticlimax repeatedly during his solo's and this can be a real turn off.

So when I was told that he did a 20 minute solo as a finale for Illayaraja's recently held concert I watched with fanatic enthusiasm for three consecutive Sundays (it was telecast in parts) hoping I could see something close to his performance many years ago at Mardi Gras. But what a let down it was. So little from such a huge set-up. The guy anticlimaxes again and again and after a while I totally gave up on him. He hardly touched the cymbals or the snare and I can't imagine what a drummer can do without the snare drum. This guy must watch what Neal Peart of Rush pushing 50 can do now instead of wasting his time on stick gimmicks and "saavu melam".

I even watched the frustration on Chithra's face when a beat (actually not poorly timed) was jerked in between, when she would just finish her charanam and get back to the pallavi again on the classic "Ninnu Kori Varanam" film song.

Not that he is incapable of putting on another great performance but he'd better remind himself that the drums is best for ROCK.

But then does that mean we don't have another drum hero. Is all hope lost? No, not in this country of percussionists and drummers. I have been reading quite a bit on Tirlok Gurtu but I am yet to see or hear his work. But there's a new kid on the block and his name, Arun Kumar. I think it's high time we give more time, appreciation and credit for other drummers in the country too. Check out the new fusion album from the violin duo Ganesh-Kumaresh called "Colours of India" (more on that lovely album later). Arun is the drummer and you'll know what I mean.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The person who executed U.S.A's 1000'th capital punishment victim

The U.S just executed their 1000'th death-row victim after capital punishment was resumed in that country from 1977. Kenneth Lee Boyd was put to death after a lethal dose of drugs was injected into his body.

My question on this event is this. How is the person who injected the lethal drug into Boyd's body any different from any other homicidal killer? Boyd is being put to death for two people he had murdered. By injecting the lethal drug into Boyd's body isn't Boyd's executioner also doing the same, i.e murdering someone. Just because the law permits the execution how can the executioner's act of taking Boyd's life (or killing Boyd) not be a crime? Is there no sin in the act of putting Boyd to death? How does the executioner feel when he/she goes to bed that night? Elated at having done a job (killing someone) so well?

Boyd's last words were "God bless everybody in here", probably refering to the executioner and the others who were overseeing his execution. Reminded me of what Jesus said of his executioner's as they nailed him on the cross, "Oh God forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."

Thursday, November 24, 2005

"Love all, Serve all" - The essence of the Vedas and the basis of Hindu thought

A day after the 80'th birth anniversary of Bhagwan Shri Sathya Sai Baba I am happy to share with you the address of a great site that I have refered to many a time to remind myself of the divine knowledge of the vedas. The truth that has been explained here is what I believe to be the same truth that is explained by all the true and great religions of the world. The teaching will make clear the meaning of Baba's most popular saying, "Love all, Serve all", a saying that was used by Hard Rock Cafe as the restaurant chain's chief marketing and hospitality slogan.

http://www.vedanta.org/wiv/overview.html

From the main overview page follow the appropriate links.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Two touching stories from two weeks ago

It is sad and appalling that so many people are being killed in Iraq everyday and we can only be mute witnesses to these reports. Will there ever be an end? I can only pray for those helpless people there. My heart goes out to those helpless Americans too who have no escape from the totally unwanted situation they have been put into as they are suffering human losses too. When I was studying ancient civilizations in school little did I realize that this would be the Iraq and Mesopotamia I would be hearing, seeing and reading about then.

When there is so much of hostility in the world today there are incidents that move you and one's that the world can learn from. One such incident happend two weeks ago.

In the sensitive West Bank area Israeli soldiers gun down a 12 year old boy mistaking his toy gun for a real one. (Can you imagine that? If you are within the visual vicinity of these soldiers make sure you don't scratch your head even if it itches real bad. The soldiers may mistake you thinking you are gonna hurl a grenade!) The parents of the dead boy then donate his organs to needy Israeli patients awaiting transplants.

Read all about the moving story by following this link:
http://web.israelinsider.com/Articles/Diplomacy/6961.htm

We are all one. Aren't we? How man's thinking separates him and his brethren biased on colour, caste, religion, language, country, even accent. God proves this oneness time and again with incidents such as these.

-----------------------------------

The second story is certainly not for the squeamish.

Human Guinea pigs were not made out of war prisoners alone. Scapegoats and misled people were easy targets for researchers and here is one very tragic story. It is sad I missed this one in all these years. Already a popular book titled "The boy who was raised as a girl" this is the sad and moving story of David Reimer and the dangers of pitting science vs nature.

Here are links to the full story.

BBC Horizon's report for a report that I read on BBC

and for the original story by John Colapinto as it appeared in Rolling Stone magazine,
http://infocirc.org/rollston.htm

and finally a similar report but one with more pictures of David,
http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/reimer/

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A bevy of beauties from Kerala

Audience: Tamil and Malayalam movie goers.

It looks as though every other heroine in today's next big hit Tamil movie is a girl from Kerala. Why not? They are talented, quick learners and are beautiful. The Tamil film heroine-industry seems to be run over by Asin, Nayanthara, Gopika, Meera Jasmine, Renuka Menon, Navya Nair, Priya Mani, and Sandhya to just name the top few. Some of them have been overbooked for almost two years. Asin, clearly is on a roll. She has been cast with the top heroes of Tamil cinema and currently three of these movies are among the top grossers in the state. Two of her movies were simultaneously released on Deepavali. Also on the festival day she was on every other TV channel for special programmes. People are lauding her performance in "Gajini". Already having had a successful run in Telugu with the top stars there (Venkatesh, Chiranjeevi and others), she is now making waves in the Tamil film industry.

I then decided to make a list of all the "mallu" artistes who made it big in the Tamil movie industry and I was quite surprised with the number of names I could come up with. Send in your entries and comments if I missed anyone or if I got someone wrong.

Pardon my inaccuracy, here is the list in reverse chronological order: (the movie(s) and other relevant info are mentioned in parantheses)

Abhirami (Virumandi), Shalini (Alaipayuthe, Kaadalukku Mariyadai), the late Shalini Kumar a.k.a Mayuri (Shock), Kavya Madhavan (Kasi, En Mana Vaanil), Kaveri (Kasi, Kannukul Nilavu), Geethu Mohandas (Nala Damayanthi, was also the child artiste in "BommakuttyAmmavukku"), Sindhu (Kadal Pookal), Divya Unni (Kannan Varuvan, Sabaash), Samyuktha Varma (Thenkasi Pattanam), Anju Aravind(Poove Unakkaga, Vaanathaipole), Charmila (Kizhake Varum Paattu), Sithara (Pudu Vasantham), Sabitha Anand (Chinna Poove Mella Pesu, Vaanathaipole), Lissy (Vikram, Manasukkul Mathappu), Shreeja (Cheran Pandian), Chithra (Cheran Pandian), Revathy, Shobana, Nadia Moidu, Radha, Ambika, Urvasi, Kalpana (Urvasi's sister, movies - Davani Kanavugal, Sathi Leelavathi), Shari (Meendum Liza), Karthika (Poovizhi Vasalile, Nayakan), Shanthi krishna (Panneer Pushpangal, Sivappu Malli), Menaka (Nettrikan), Jalaja (the movie that had the song "Nee varuvai enna naan ninaithen.."), Poornima Jayaram, Deepa (Meendum Kokila, Johnny), Rani Padmini (the yester-years' girl who was stabbed to death by her driver), Seema, Jayabarathy (Marupakkam, Michael Madana Kama Rajan), Sumithra, Pramila (Thanga Pathakam, Arangettram), Rani chandra (Bhadrakali), K.R. Vijaya, Padmini & Ragini (Shobana is related to them) and Sukumari.

I think I can also mention Shyamilee, Shalini's sister who did an adorable role in "Anjali" and later in "Kandukonden Kandukonden".

I am told that Meena is a Malayalee too but since I am not sure I'll wait for your comments. So also of Aiswarya (Lakshmi's daughter), Lakshmi and veteran actresses Sri Vidhya and Venniradai Nirmala. I am also told that other veterans of Malayalam cinema such as Sheela did also act in Tamil movies.

By the way I haven't included those from the TV Serials. One of them was also a child artiste in the movies "Mundanai Mudichu" and "Poovizhi Vasalile".

Sunday, November 06, 2005

After almost a decade I visit "Rajalakshmi"...and "Ghajini", the movie we saw there

"Rajalakshmi", the cinema in Velachery, where I used to watch a film almost every week with my family during my school days and early college days. Visits later became sporadic and if I can recall the last visit was in the mid nineties for the unforgettable movie "Idhayam" that I went to see with a friend. The theatre hasn't changed much. The same old claustrophobic dungeon like chambers for queues for the lower fares, the caged fight-for-space chambers for the higher fares and one counter for different ticket dinominations, all exist to this day. The boxes on the first floor each seating about 25-30 people have been converted into air-conditioned chambers. So instead of an opening from the boxes (from where one could literally jump down) a glass wall has been put into place. It is not continuous though. This means that if you got the unlucky seats in the middle of the box you would actually see a line (the gap where the two big pieces of the glass wall meet) on the screen of the movie. The best part was the sound. Thank God it wasn't the poor fidelity, ear-schreeching sound. There was a decent woofer-tweeter combo in our chamber and unlike in the past it wasn't switched on and off for "special effects" during the fight scenes. Anyway things weren't as bad as expected. What a feeling it was after watching Tamil and Malayalam movies in cinemas in Altanta and Toronto.

Now for the movie. If you are planning to watch "Ghajini", the Suriya, Asin starrer, still running in the popular cinemas in the city I suggest you don't. You are better off watching it on DVD or CD at home for reasons I'll explain. The first half is a gem. Thoroughly enjoyable and literally flawless. Then, after the interval comes the unexpected. Excessive violence, dripping blood, maiming, bludgeoning and murder are what you get and tonnes of it. You have no idea of how the heroine is killed. I haven't seen anything remote to this in recent years. I had to cuddle my son from time to time and cover his eyes. Has the public become completely innured to violence? It looks as though the only other formula to violence is again more brutal, realistc and sadistic violence. Ah! the things our directors ape from the west. But even in English movies I haven't seen this much violence depicted on women. Nayanthara is bashed by a man on her abdomen and she is shown reeling from the pain in an unusually long scene. Was it suggesting that she was hit somewhere else? And all this in full presence of her entire college hostel. The audience in the theatre complimentng to that audience. Psychologically it aids the feeling that we can all still be mute spectators when we see crimes such as these in our real lives. A hostel girl is then shot dead and stripped naked. By now you are left wondering why no one even thought of calling the police. Had these girls and hostel staff seen "Mirch Masala" I am sure they would have got an idea of what to do in such do or die situations. This is then followed by the never ending bashing of the villians by the hero. More blood, gore and mutilations follow with the female lead screaming "Kill, Kill" again in the full presence of the women's hostel. The movie has several other serious flaws too but I will not be getting into them. Suriya did put on a great performance. Asin is pretty and does a cute role befitting her personality but I have reasons not to be carried away with her performance, though I do get moved whenever she cries or feels pain.

All the fun gone, I was just praying that the shit ends. It was just goin on and on without end. That's another feeling you get watching movies in the cinema unlike home where you can reach for your favourite fast-forward button.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Writing about Meera's film I recall an unforgettable incident

In my earlier post when I wrote about Meera's movie and marital rape I was reminded of an incident that I would like to share with you.

It was the year 1991. I was working for a company in Peters Road, Royapettah, here in Chennai and it was my first job. There was a senior citizen in the company who could blow away anyone with a first impression. Always sharply dressed, polite and courteous he spoke very little and always kept to himself. He must have been well over 60 and seemed in perfect health. He was in charge of public relations and a job that befitted his personality so well.

One day during a lighter moment in the company he called me aside and asked me for my age. When I told him (me, in my early to mid 20's then) I was surprised to hear him say, "You should have been married by now or must be married in the next year or so." To which I responded, "But in our community boys normally get married around 27 or 28." When I asked him why he had said so, he replied, "24 or 25 is the best age for a boy because the real joy of marriage lies only in these years. By the time you reach 27 or 28 you have actually missed out a lot."

I then asked him about his marriage and I was totally unprepared to hear what he had to say. Here is his story in his own words. "I got married in the 1940's. I was in my early 20's then. The marriage was an arranged one based on the horoscope. When my parents decided it was time for me to get married they went to their village and picked a girl. The girl was just barely out of her teens. I saw her for the first time on the day of the wedding only. She too was seeing me for the first time only then. Unfortunately in those days life in the village was very backward and rural. My wife had never seen a movie. There were no cinemas either. Reading novels was forbidden too."

He paused for a while and continued, "Consequently my wife had very little knowledge about men and relationships and I had to wait for almost two years to consummate my marriage."

He paused again as though he expected me to ask him something. In my disbelief I just couldn't say a word. He resumed, "We later had four children and have never had to use any of the contraceptive methods in all our married life."

I was taken aback so much at his openness and frankness that I was hesitant to ask him for details although I am sure he would have enlightened me appropriately if I had done so. "What a beautiful love story", I thought to myself then. Wasn't there beauty in his waiting and giving his wife time to get to know things. I can imagine the love and respect he would have elicited from her.

Our older generation, unbeatable, even in love.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Meera Jasmine's not-to-be-missed film

Audience: Malayalam and Tamil movie-goers, Indian movie-goers, Anyone who cares for and respects a girl/woman's life

I began writing about Meera Jasmine's debut movie in Tamil, "Run" a few posts ago when I posted an article on Sada. Unfortunately I was unable to watch the entire film.

But here's a Meera Jasmine film that must definitely go on your movie-list. On Sunday the 16'th of this month, "Paatam Onnu Oru Vilaapam" was aired on TV (I think it was on Surya TV). It was already telecast earlier on another Malayalam channel. The performance in this film fetched Meera this year's National award for best actress (her first) and I can clearly see why. This movie is a must see. It is about customs still prevalent in some Muslim societies in Kerala and how young girls become helpless victims of this system and pay a huge price, some with their lives too. Even abject poverty pales to other crimes that are perpetrated on young women and girls such as dowry, honor killing (not in this movie) and divorce. Divorce seems to be a convenience being exercised on frivolous grounds or for the personal comforts of the husband. Polygamy might have prevented or checked prostitution and rescued widowed women and women in dire straits in the past but does that mean a 50+ yr old man already married to 3 or 4 women, can still take home a teen bride.

In societies such as these it looks as though girls and women are used merely as objects of desire and pleasure and literally dumped after use. How sad and stupid that the men in these communities hardly realise the beauty and strength of a woman. Isn't the noble task of the creation of the entire human race in a woman's hands? Bearing a child is a sacrifice and not just an obligation. Man can always argue that he is also responsible for procreation. But although he can claim to be physically stronger he needs to constantly be reminded that it is the woman who goes through child birth. I am not denigrating or condemning all men but films as these do make you think in many different ways.

Meera moves us playing the character of the innocent, young and happy Muslim girl whose joy was in going to school, being with her friends and teachers and excelling in her studies. Her child like charm was a perfect fit for the role of the teen she portrayed. However her happy days are cut short when she is married to be a second wife of a man. Robbed of all of the joys of her young life the harsh reality sets in and her nightmares begin. From then on till the end it is a story and a performance to be watched; the life and agony of the young teen-wife poignantly performed by Meera.

The movie also touches on a topic that is very relevant to a society such as ours and yet hardly debated or depicted - marital rape. For these girls who have been victims of this crime, even the joy of the physical pleasures is lost and is replaced by constant fear, sleeplessness from nightmares and subsequently a total withdrawal from any kind of normal sexual activity. In countries such as the USA and Canada there is a lot of focus on a woman's psychological health. Unfortunately in these communities people are ignorant of it leave alone think about it. Women simply have to live with their psychological problems, fight them, find a way out for themselves or leave it to providence or nature to help them.

It's a pity that our secular government can do nothing about these crimes. Why are the lives of young girls and women being controlled by false believers of a religion and people who have no idea or concern about a woman's mental and physical well being.

Throughout the film our attention is drawn to an ostracized group of young muslim women. As someone put it, these girls are better off living alone with their fatherless children, shunned by their societies than to live with ignoramuses preaching and practising falsehood in the name of the Koran and Islam.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

IIPM exposed?

There are articles being posted on blogs by the Indian blogging community about an ex IIM(L) guy, Gaurav Sabnis, who was working with IBM and who had to put down his papers because of what he had written about IIPM on his blog. Actually another web site did the Expose on IIPM. Gaurav reported this matter on his blog after adding some of his own comments on the institute. This lead to a tumultuous turn of events that eventually culminated in his departure from IBM. Read all about it by following the links below.

http://www.zdnetindia.com/news/national/stories/129642.html for the report on his news (this page might not load properly on some computers),

http://gauravsabnis.blogspot.com/2005/10/update.html for the story in his own words, and

http://gauravsabnis.blogspot.com/2005/08/fraud-that-is-iipm.html for the post that started it all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A chain mail for some fun

We get them everyday, sometimes too many of them. The intent and the dissemination of the following e-mail is obvious. In fact I am sure many of you have read similar e-mails warning people of strangers in the night. However I am posting this one here for another reason. Read it and you'll understand why. Like a friend of mine commented, it's quite a masterpiece.

----- Original Message -----

From: XXXXXXX@xxxxx.com
Sent: Sunday, October 16, 2005 11:06 PM
Subject: FW: [Fwd: Incident happened Yesterday Night....Please pass on Urgently to all IT Guys]


Hi

This is a story happened Yesterday in Hosur Road Madiwala. A guy named Vijayendra Kumar (Name Changed) an Embedded systems engineer working in one of the IT industry which is very near by St John's Hospital was walking late night may be 11pm to his room which is located near by to the office. Suddenly one of the girl who was looking like a family girl, she stopped Vijayendra and told that she is staying nearby JP Nagar and as she was looking nervous he asked any help is required ? She told I am very much feared of going in Auto at this time, Can you accompany me to my way home. I will pay you back while returning, This guy believed that and he thought
it may take few minutes to drop and return by auto from there and they started to find an auto. A auto which was standing quite far from some time suddenly driver came to him and asked "searching for an auto". She said yes and didn't asked where she wants to go and suddenly they started moving near JP nagar side.

After some time she started her story that she is from Pune and working in BPO and I am having my own vehicle Active Honda, while coming it got stopped and I had parked it on either side of the road where I met you. She was sitting very close to me and acting in different manners.

After traveling 2 kms, another guy near Bangerghatta road stopped the auto and whether he can accompany us, she told there is no problem and my side too. Suddenly the auto turned to some unknown area, where there were no houses or no one been seen. Suddenly the driver stopped the auto and showed the Knife which is very well known as "LONG" and they started to tie his mouth with some long cloth, Suddenly Vijayendra screamed to girl to run off, But one amazing thing happened that, She was one of the Gang member and observing that if anyone enters that road or not. She was just shouting Be fast Be fast................These two guys took 3000 Rs Cash, His Purse including all the Credit Cards and They tortured to tell the Pin numbers too.

They tied his Hands and Mouth from Some cloth and they warned him that, If you give complaint to the police.........You will be killed...............

All of sudden these three escaped with an auto, after some time he tried to remove cloth from my mouth and started walking towards main road and ................

As usual he gave complaint to the police and they are on their way to catch these Buggers.

" Guys, Don't ever drop any girls or Boys in the Late nights and You will Pay for that if you do so"

Just I request all the IT Guys, If you are leaving late night to your rooms or your residence. Please This is my Humble request that Never Drop any Unknown Guys and Don't mess with anyone During nights, as they will be fully drunked and they harm you for silly reason"

Please convey this to all of your IT friends......................................Its a matter of life

----- End of Message -----

Friday, October 21, 2005

Navarathna Oil.....A Pain in the Head

Audience: Indian TV viewers, Those of you wanting to try the product

How deceiving the Navarathna Oil ad on TV is. Amitabh using it at a time when he did "Deewar"? Chiranjeevi seeing himself though his entire movie career with this oil? Whom are these guys trying to fool? This thing didn't even exist until a couple of years ago. I wonder how Amitabh and Chiranjeevi signed up for the ad with such a script.

And as far as the product is concerned, don't waste a dime of your money on this crap. It's menthol disguised as some ayurvedic oil. Does cool your head but it also gives you a bad headache with its strong and repulsive eucalyptus oil like smell. Try a small bottle if you are really curious.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A lesson from my wife's Dentist?

Note: My longest post so far, so give it some of your time.

I will be taking my wife to her dentist soon for her monthly check-up and for the tightening of her braces. But the most intriguing and interesting part of visiting the dentist is this. It will be my third visit to the dentist and I actually don't know who she is. Confusing? Let me explain. After her initial examinations/x-rays/consultations/other treatments etc., with the senior dentist at the clinic my wife is checked regularly by this lady dentist who I guess is a consulting dentist at the clinic. I am allowed to be in the room while the dentist is at work. We speak and discuss with one another and all the while the dentist wears a mouth/nose mask and a white coat. All I can see while speaking to her is her eyes. I can deduce that she could be in her mid to late 20's or mayble in her early 30's too. Now suppose she were to run into me anywhere outside the clinic it would be impossible for me to recognize her unless she would tell me who she is. In fact it would also be difficult for me to identify her among the other dentists who work in the clinic as most of them are more or less of the same age group, size and stature, given I see them without their masks and coats on.

Drawing a parallel here to the usage of the "Burkha" worn by muslim women (in many cases whose eyes are also hidden behind a meshed cloth-screen), I think the biggest success story of the costume is in the fact that it prevents the creation of any sensuous feelings or thoughts in men. Besides that the "Burkha" also helps in protecting the identity of the wearer. My muslim friends tell me that the key feature of the costume is "modesty" because it hides the physical form of the wearer. So, "no flesh/curves/curvature-revealing, no turn-on's". However it is also understood that it is impractical to dress the women of the world this way. When Delhi was plagued by rapes a few months ago (even now they have a pretty bad rating) a surreptitious video made by the Police Commissioner on the skimpy dressing of girls and women, most of them shot in public places, was aired on one of the private TV channels. The video was so "wild" that even pious men would let go off their restraint. What to say of the others then? Here is where the "Burkha" triumphs.

And writing of the physical form, assuming Aiswarya Rai had the same face but an obese body would anyone call her beautiful? In that case aren't we also taking into consideration the rest of her body besides her face while making that judgement? Let's face it. When we call Aiswarya beautiful we ARE considering her entire physical form. Even if we were only looking at her face there are other elements of a face that constitute a woman's beauty besides her eyes. You just don't look at an only-eyes-revealing face and come to a conclusion. Do we?

Now this leads us to another question? Aren't we also enjoying Aiswarya's beauty when we call her beautiful? When do we find a song or a scenery beautiful? Only after we enjoy it, don't we? However unlike songs or sceneries is it ethical to enjoy another's beauty? Yet we do it all the time unconsciously. Why isn't that wrong or called sin? Or is it? At the same time it is also ridiculous to say to someone, "You look great today and I do enjoy that". Beauty is to be appreciated afterall but then are we all sinners when we do so?

I am not trying to say that you, I, and everyone drool at someone's physical form (although I am not denying that, THAT never happens either) but I personally feel that when you find someone beautiful in the physical sense the motive need not always be sensual. However I also find it difficult to not call that feeling completely "non-sensual" either. It is just that the level of sensousness varies from commentor to commentor, thinker to thinker and also depends on the object of appreciation. When I look at my sister or my pretty niece and tell them how beautiful they are I know I cannot be enjoying their beauty. Even if I were it would certainly not be sensually. It's my feeling again that the level of sensuality, the more stronger it is, the more we tend towards being and doing "WRONG" (can I use the world SIN here if not ADULTERY).

By now I can almost hear you screaming, How about inner beauty? Well that'll be another post...

Finally I am reminded of a lesser known episode in the Ramayana. Sita has just been abducted by Ravana, and Rama and Lakshmana are frantically searching for her. After some searching Rama finds Sita's jewels on the ground. Rama picks them and exclaims, "Look here Lakshmana, these are Sita's jewels. Aren't they?" To which the humble and benovelent Lakshmana replies "I know for sure that the anklets belong to Sita but I haven't got a clue about the necklace and the bangles." For Lakshmana even looking up towards any woman was a violation of his Brahmacharya. Hail Lakshmana! But did he have a message in that answer for all of us?

Friday, October 14, 2005

A "touching" article from another blog

I chanced upon this post and I decided to spread the news about the same. Beautifully written and touching indeed. Check it out at the following link.

http://nermeensaba.blogspot.com/2005/09/to-little-girl-i-met-on-train.html

Check out some of her other posts too. Worth spending your time.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Death the leveler?...250 girls crushed to death in a school in Pakistan

250 girls die, crushed to death in their school in Pakistan. What a terrible tragedy! What was going on in their minds in their final moments of excrutiating agony? What a waste of precious human resource.

What a play of Karma is this? How frivolous and small our earthly possessions feel in the face of this insurmountable loss. How fragile we are (like Sting sang it) and yet many of us live each day thinking we are going to live forever. But is that all to our lives, not knowing whether we'll last another day, another second? But isn't there something more grand to our lives than this feeling of nothingness and no-value to our lives. Definitely God isn't dumb.

So much of LOVE was also lost. There are instances of 50 and 100 or more guys trying to win the heart of just one girl; for many a mere glance from her is all that is needed to make their day and here 250 girls vanish off the face of the earth without giving their love or being loved.

Was Good Earth cruel or just or both? Don't these incidents add validity to the Hindu and Zen teaching of living each moment fully. After all it is the only moment that we have NOW, this very instant. Don't we?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Shady Hoardings in Chennai

Audience: Residents of Chennai

As we were driving around coastal Chennai and the city last Sunday we couldn't help reading the notorious hoardings erected for the Fitness One fitness centre at various vantage points along our route. I am sure there are many more of them all over the city. Let me reproduce some of the lines from these hoardings.

"All my senses want me to do it."

"I always enjoyed doing it, now he enjoys it as well."

"I used to do it once a week, now I do it everyday."

...and so on.

Here are some deductions:

1. The people behind this advertisement campaign fully understand what these lines can also refer to because if they didn't, why use them?
2. These guys also know the viewer-group they are targeting and that means they also know what those viewers will be thinking as they read these lines.
3. And for those who don't understand them, these statements obviously are referring to exercise. I don't think the ad-guys care a damn about them.
3. So the fun in the ad is when they are targeted for people described in statement number 2 because if it wasn't then these lines serve no purpose at all, right?
4. This also goes on to say that to make their idea really ring, the ad-makers would want more of these "double-meaning"-understanding-folks as their viewers. Probably they even want people to comment, the press to report or post a blog as this one.

Unfortunately the questions that they have obviously not considered while creating this ad-campaign are:

1. What will school children make out of these statements as they read them?
2. What will senior citizens (that includes their own parents, grand parents, uncles, aunts, teachers...) feel when they read them?

And some other obvious questions that come to mind are:

3. Was this advertisement designed by an all-male group or an all-female group and if they were a mixed group how exactly did the discussions, the planning and the execution go?
4. How are the models feeling about being cast in these ads?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

"Kannathil Slap Seithaal"...Dangers of slapping a child's face

Audience: Parents, Teachers, Nannies, Child Care Personnel, Anyone who cares for and looks after children, Tamil-movie audience.

Besides causing severe personal injury and insult, punishing a child by slapping on its face can also cause severe hearing problems if the palm that is striking the face strikes the ear or the ear lobes of the child. The closer the striking palm is towards the ear or the earlobes, the more severe is the damage. Maximum damage is done if the palm misses the face and strikes the ear directly.

Unfortunately a lot of face-slapping is seen in movies. Other than the dramatic effect it can create on screen it is never to be imitated in real life particularly if the victim is a child.

I was in the USA when the Columbine tragedy took place and I remember an Amercian colleague at work asking me for my opinon on the corporal punishment, to which I replied, " I would advocate it." My American friend agreed and said, "You know the butt has two purposes. One is for sitting and the other is for being beaten." He also went on to say how as a child he was beaten (on his behind of course!) and that when he had children he did the same thing to them, when it was necessary. My friend also insisted that with the right combination of love and punishment many a today's disturbed teen could be saved. If someone from a country where the corporal punishment is forbidden by the law can say so, it is time physical punishment is performed correctly on children.

I am of the opinion (and that which my parents taught me) that sparing the genital area anywhere from waist downwards is the appropriate place for physical punishment and not on the any other part of the child's body particularly the chest, face and head.

In the Mani Ratnam film "Kannathil Muthamittal" there is a scene where the father (played by Madhavan) when enquiring about his daughter's whereabouts, slaps his son, a small boy, on his face . What irony! The name of the film "Kannathil Muthamittaal" translated into English reads - "To place a kiss on the cheek..."

Monday, September 05, 2005

Be aware of Amway

Audience: Prospective Amway Distributors, Existing Amway Distributors and others who wish to learn about Amway

Before you sign up to become the next Amway distributor or if you have already signed up as one here is a site that you must visit.

http://www.merchantsofdeception.com

This is no run of the mill hate-Amway or anti-Amway propoganda site. The site is run by a former Amway Emerald, Eric Sheibeler. Those of you in the Amway business will be familiar with the Emerald status. Only a small elite percent of the Amway distributors world-wide have achieved this level. The site is certainly an eye opener. The content of the site and the images of the former Amway distributor with important Amway dignitaries including the founder of Amway, Rich De Vos seem very genuine and add credibility to the site and its reports.

Amway themselves are aware of web sites and reports against them and I believe that they are constantly taking legal action against them and this website is no exception. So rush to the site before it is shut down. There are numerous documents that you can either read or download, all for free. Don't forget the quintessential one titled "Merchants of Deception". This is a professionally written e-book that runs into over 300 pages and grabs your attention instantly from the very first page. It is an autobiographical account of the author's initiation into the Amway business, rise, downfall and eventual ruin as an Amway distributor. Along the way the author details the fraud and exposes the evil secrets of the trade. Several eminent people have endorsed the book and it is highly recommended if you are considering the Amway business seriously.

A brave effort by the author to educate the masses. Check it out.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Talented Sada

Audience: Tamil movie-goers.

After watching her second (atypical and focussed) interview on TV on "Vinayaka Chaturty" day I had better write about this new talent before it is too late.

It was early to mid 2003 when the Telugu version of Jayam (I think it was Sada's first movie) was released. What I cannot forget is the very poor and insulting comment made then by a female colleague about the upcoming actress. I did not watch the movie and neither did I watch the Tamil version realeased months after the Telugu one. Only a couple of songs ocassionally caught my ear. I was also under the impression that Sada was from A.P. Now that was a poor guess, something one should never make about heroines in Telugu movies. After the Jayam run I remember Sada in a saree advertisement and then a Madhavan starrer called "Yethiree" which never saw the light of day. But I did notice that Sada seemed to emote very well in her song sequences and also make some fine moves. All the while I did remember the insulting comment made on her.

I then watch the movie "Anniyan", released just a few months earlier. Sada blew my mind away! This was the first time I was watching a full lenght movie of her's and I couldn't believe her evolution and tranformation from the girl in Jayam. Her dancing was flawless and her acting dedicated and confident. She exuded genuiness and enthusiasm. For a girl from the north and someone who speaks very little Tamil her lip-syncing was perfect. She was just adorable.

Coincidentally "Jayam" was being telecast and I couldn't believe I sat through 4 hours of Sun TV to watch the movie. Sada did not disappoint. She was perfect in every frame. Luckily for her, both the Jayam and Anniyan scripts and screenplays provided for and matched her spontaniety. For a girl who does not have even a sari in her wardrobe (yes, she said that in her interview) she was such a natural in the traditional south-Indian half-sari.

Her next movie "Priyasakhi" is running in the city now. I hope I get a chance to see her again. By the way, I believe she stars with Ajith in his next venture too.

I am sure my colleage who made that remark on her has a very different opinion on Sada now.

I am just watching "Run" on Sun TV (yes, that old movie, even remade in Hindi). Meera Jasmine is looking pretty and doing quite well. The movie seems to be moving well too... but that will be another post.

Leave the President Alone!

Audience: Tamil movie-goers, Tamil music-listeners.

Do you remember the lyrics of the song " Mercury Mele Medai Idu" from the movie "Majnu". It went like this " Mercury mele medai idu, Pudu century raagam paadi vidu....Vajpayee varatum paatu ezhutha, Bill Clintonai kupidu isai amaikka, Vandu Saddam Hussein paadal paadatum....". Listening to these lines made me cringe. Maybe some or many of you felt the same. Eager to listen to Harris Jayaraj's next offering it was kind of a letdown to listen to this song with such lame lyrics. Though the "charanam" had a decent tune the "pallavi" was unbearable to listen to with lyrics such as these.

Then came the song from the movie "Boys" - and the lyrics of which goes like this "Maro Maro....Abdul Kalam kaiyyal virudugal vangalam...".

What is with lyricists these days? Why are the names of political figures overused in their songs to an extent where it has become stale and nauseating.

Then to cap it all came the infamous report on BBC's news website of an Indian boy who passed the very competitive NASA International Scientist Discovery examination. Subsequently he was to meet the President at the latter's residence . In this report BBC had also indicated that Mr. Abdul Kalam was the only other Indian to have passed this examination besides Kalpana Chawla. However NASA has emphatically denied that no such examination has ever been conducted by them. I haven't been able to locate this report on BBC's archives. Maybe it was removed because BBC might have realized by now that the news about the examination was false. However the news of the hoax can be found on their site at the following address: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/4283733.stm

It is anybody's guess these days when one receives e-mails asking to name the person who passed this-or-that competitive exam or developed a certain technology. The correct answer? President Abdul Kalam of course! It suddenly seems that our President has passed every concievable exam and has had a hand in all of our Government's science and technology projects.

And then comes the killer. A couple of weeks ago the movie "Ullam Ketkume" is released. There is a song in the film that goes like this. "Kanavugal....kanavugal kaana...Sir Abdul Kalam.. pole kanavukal kanbom nanba..." This is the LIMIT. Lyricists, Musicians, give our President a break.