Sunday, April 27, 2008

A friend whose mention is long overdue

He is none other than cartoonist Sajjive Balakrishnan popularly known as as Sajjive to his friends or "Fatso", who is a senior official at the Income Tax Department at Ernakulam. Apart from his skill as one of the best caricature cartoonists of our country today I also admire his writing skills. He has two blogs in Malayalam but I also wish he starts a blog in the English language for his fans. He is also a man who lives heartily, loves to eat and loves music too. He confessed how one day he woke up at 1.00 AM to finish off whatever food that was available in the kitchen and the on the dining table. As of now he gladly confesses there is no one heavier than him in the IT department in Ernakulam. Here is a caricature of myself, Chaithanya and Jaya that he did in 2005. It might have taken him just 10 minutes or less to complete.

Sajjive's wife Lekha is an accomplished singer who also sang for Illayaraja during her heydays. Two of her hits are: 1. "Vandhal Vandhal Rajakumari" from Bagyaraj's film "Oru Oorila Oru Raajakumari" and 2. "Ippo enna thevai, Thappa enna paarvai" from the Tamil movie "Makkal Atchi" starring Mammooty. I recall watching an old performance of Lekha's on the Malayalam DD channel and I couldn't help admiring and comparing her voice to that of veteran singer Vani Jayaram. If there is any singer whose voice can come close or resemble Vani Jayaram's voice it should be Lekha's. It is unfortunate she doesn't sing for movies any more.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Early morning laugh

I followed this news link on Yahoo and I couldn't help laughing with the hosts of the spoof of Kobe Bryant's latest Nike ad on YouTube. Kobe is also watching the spoof and everyone's having a good time.

Nice to begin the day with laughter.

Monday, April 21, 2008

ISS concludes, IPL begins

I really didn't bother to write about the conclusion of ISS because I knew Najim would be crowned the winner. However I wished Amrutha could have been in the top 4 instead of Arun Gopan.

Like SSG, the winner was already pre-decided and all that last minute voting are purely rigged. ISS put on a better finale than SSG which was nothing short of chaos. Only twice there were transmission problems but otherwise things seemed to go smoothly. Ranjini was good and bad at the same time. Throughout ISS and the finale she seems to be handling too many things. When Najim finally won it she persuaded him to do a repeat performance of the song that was not fully telecast during his performance. Najim struggled to get back his cool to sing the song. I can't imagine we all have to put up with her for another year. And why that song with Ranjini being chased by those 4 guys? Did you also notice how many times she used the phrase "and of course".

For many of the performances the singers were only lip-syncing. Even my son could detect that. How can Asianet be so foolish to make us believe they were not. Remember the first song where all the singers came in to sing the prayer song. They could have at least fixed a non-working mic on the dress of each performer there to make it look real. Many other things suck but then they are all a part of the shows we poorly imitate from the west.

Will I watch these shows again in 2008? Certainly I will not be wasting time as I did on these shows like I did but it is always nice to watch new, true and good talent. However there is this sense of middle class longing which I wouldn't want to be a part of. Programmes such as these are only capitalizing on such a thinking. The way Ranjini was screaming repeatedly "40 lakh apartment" is proof of such thinking. It also makes the participants feel that the goal of their singing career is eventually the prize and not what lies beyond the competition which should be their true goal.

Where are these winners going to go? Like veteran singer Hariharan said these new singers will hardly last a couple of years chiefly because there is too much competition from a very big talent pool. So singers who lasted decades are soon going to become a thing of the past. Roopa confessed to me that after she won Gandharvam Singer Senior in 2002 she hardly got one offer. This time though she told me she has already sung one song (a duet with Yeshudas) and awaiting more promised offers.

Meanwhle the much awaited IPL (Indian Premier League) begins. More on that later.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

One of the most memorable scenes on film

I was tempted to check out the unforgettable chariot race of Ben Hur on YouTube and there it was that you can watch countless times, pause and watch your favourite part from the 9 minute race. I recall watching the movie in the late 80's (maybe early 90's) at the O.A.T in I.I.T Madras, and feeling bored with the long movie. The unforgettable chariot race was of course the most loved part of the film. When the movie was screened a second time there I went with Sathish to watch just the race portion of the movie. On screen it is pure delight compared to the tiny YouTube window. Here it is on YouTube.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Never expected this from "The Hindu"

"The Hindu" has been the trusted Newspaper in Chennai for several decades and it is the newspaper of choice for millions in this country now that is being published in several metros all over the south.

I have great regard for this newspaper and it has been the choice in our family since the day I knew newspapers.

Over the years I have had my own difference of opinions on several of its articles particularly the ones that serve as last minute fillers. However nothing beats what was published today. Turn to Page 7 of the Friday Review to the article on the famous Chariot Race from the epic movie Ben-hur. Someone called K. Rajgopal claims to have written the article but it is in fact A WORD FOR WORD, LINE BY LINE copy of the same article in Wikipedia. I am not sure if Wikipedia can take The Hindu to court but if the article is on their online version then this can be a case of copyright infringement. You can view The Hindu's online version and they have replicated the page online too. Strangely it even carries a copyright message at the bottom of the page claiming authority of the content.

It is such a shame to see a reputed newspaper as The Hindu resort to this and why the copy editors couldn't detect it. Such callousness from the "The Hindu" is unpardonable. Everything verbatim has been copied that even mistakes from the text on Wikipedia have been copied over. If Mr. Rajgopal at least knew how to correct the text in print or better still re-write the text he could have avoided this disgrace. Check out the line, "In reality when the jump was planned, the character being flipped into the air was not, and stuntman Joe Canutt.....". The error "the character being flipped into the air was not," is incomplete on the article in Wikipedia and it so in print on the article in The Hindu too. This is not careless but irresponsible work.

If it was missed in print Mr. Rajgopal could have saved himself if he only knew how to edit the article on Wikipedia. It is a pity that he doesn't know that too. As of now the error on the text in Wikipedia remains as I have explained here or maybe Mr.Rajgopal is already racing to have it fixed after reading this article. Even then the act of copying cannot be concealed. Can it?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Happy Vishu

To all my Malayalee readers here's wishing you all a very Happy Vishu, peace, prosperity and happiness.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Amrutha makes a sad exit

It sure came as a blow to all of us that Amrutha would exit the competition as I expected her to be in the final 4. Arun Gopan whom I though deserved to be out is in instead. The talented Hesham was also shown the door. In the final tussle between Durga and Amrutha I actually thought Durga would go. Instead it was the sensitive Amrutha who had to leave based on votes though Amrutha had a small lead (I believe 1 vote) over Durga when it came to marks. Amrutha was inconsolable and I am sure she was shocked with the result. It was really sad to the see the child cry one more and last time on ISS. It was really sad when she confessed how much she wanted to be in the final 4 and why people didn't vote for her.

The melodrama surrounding the event was unbearable with the organizers creating so much unnecessary tension for announcing the results that Amrutha's mother almost collapsed on stage. Asianet cruelly telecast her mother's discomfort who seemed to be relieved only when the result was announced. Why build up such tension when the result can be simply announced as it is done on Super Star Global. There are people who tell me they don't watch ISS just for this unnecessary hype. Amrutha's mother could have even fainted or had a stroke and were they prepared for that?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Roopa wins Super Star Global

After a horrendous show by the organizers Roopa was ultimately crowned champion at the live show just a few hours ago. Even her performances today on the show were stellar. My dream that I saw of Roopa winning and that which I told her, ultimately turned out to be true. The telecast was so painful with commercials thrown in at odd times disruption the show, even Roopa's acceptance speech was cut in half.

Thanks to all who voted for her. After the lead narrowed down between Roopa and Jeethu we voted like crazy till the lines were closed at 10.00 PM. By then Roopa had overtaken the leader in the number of votes and from then on there was no going back.

Let this mark the beginning of a very exciting career for Roopa. God bless her.

Dith Pran passes away

The man whose life was immortalized in the movie "The Killing Fields" by yet another Khmer Rouge escapee Haing S Ngor is no more.

Ever since I saw "The Killing Fields" my all time number one war related movie I have been overwhelmed and appalled at the atrocities of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. Although more people were killed during the second World War genocide and other genocides the nature of the deaths and killing in Cambodia shook me more than anything I have seen or read about. I have spent countless hours reading and watching documentaries of the same. A well known documentary on the atrocity was made called S12 The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine by a Cambodian. I reviewed both the movie and the documentary on Amazon.

Dith Pran moved to America and worked as a photographer. He dedicated his life to spreading the information of the genocide in his country and was involved in several related activities such as publishing a book on the children of the genocide and the Dith Pran Holocaust Awareness Project.

Here is a rare photograph of Dith Pran and Haing shortly after the latter won the academy award for Best Supporting Actor.

Haing's oscar award acceptance speech was one of the more heart touching speeches I have ever heard where he dedicated the award to his country, Cambodia. Haing was killed in L.A during a robbery. I very much wanted to write to Dith Pran but now it is too late.

I must also mention that in the recent past there have been quite a number of important people who passed away and whom I thought deserve mention because I admired them in some way or the other. Tamil movie actors Raghuvaran, Srividhya and Padmini (last year) and Malayalam movie actor Gopi.

May their souls rest in peace.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Roopa and I

Tomorrow is the Grand Finale of SSG, and it is going to be telecast live at 6:30 P.M. My home is going to be full to some extent as we intent to make it a family viewing event. I have voted like crazy for Roopa but I am weary of the outcome because Roopa is still trailing behind the leader Jeethu. In fact if Roopa loses it will be a shame for the show having voted a winner just on the basis of votes. I just can't imagine Roopa not winning the crown after all those memorable performances. If she wins it will certainly be a celebration for us.

Anyway here's something I wanted to divulge only after the show because I didn't want people to misunderstand I was canvassing for Roopa on this blog although I can perfectly be doing just that, why not? The fact is, I have been in touch with Roopa. It all happened exactly one week after I wrote that big post on this blog just a few weeks ago. Sometimes the "law of attraction" is unbelievable. I was so passionate about the post on Roopa and I couldn't believe that a distant relative (Jaya's cousin Shuba's husband Ajay) actually was a close friend of Roopa's violin teacher. After getting Roopa's number I didn't call but sent her a couple of SMS messages and to the second one she replied asking me to call her whenever I found time. I was so overjoyed that I still retain that SMS on my mobile. I called her that Thursday morning and both I and Suji spent a good deal of time talking to her. She was going to her old school that day for a shoot. After that we have spoken several times although I make sure she isn't disturbed or taking her voice rest before her performances. Sometimes I just send SMS messages.

I consider myself priviliged to have helped Roopa by providing the tamil lyrics for four of her songs on SSG, Kaatril Enthan Geetham, Thulluvadho Ilamai, Enthan Nenjil Neengatha and Singara Velane.

If you find Roopa worthy of the title please do vote for her. As of this writing she is trailing behind the leader Jeethu on SMS votes. If you think you haven't watched her performances check out my earlier posts on her or check out the site made for her at You can also watch her performances on YouTube. Just enter "Roopa SSG" in the search field on the page and perform a search. Here is one of her recent memorable performances.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A once in a lifetime performance on T.V and on ISS

Yesterday was an unforgettable day in the life of Thushar, contestant on ISS (Idea Star Singer 2007), the audience that watched his performance on the sets and the audience that tuned in to the show last night on Asianet. With the highest ever score, 96, given to a performer on ISS the audience, judges and other performers were left speechless and in tears. M G Sreekumaran in tears confessed that Thushar was the best performer on ISS and Sharath almost speechless towards the end of his remarks admitted that this was the best performance ever on ISS by any contestant. What to say of Didi then. Thanks to Amidala to have uploaded the entire performance in three parts followed by the comments of the show.

and the comments.

Thushar isn't an underdog but it was a shot from the blue and probably the biggest comeback for a contestant on any of the reality shows conducting a singing contest. Thushar himself broke down after the performance. I am sure this performance of his is going to give Najim the current favourite a run for the grand prize. I will not be surprised with a perfect 10 performance as this from Thushar.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Can people look beautiful when they cry?

You bet they can be. One of the earlier instances in my life was when I saw a classmate, a girl, cry in school. It must have been in the 5'th or 6'th grade. It was the first time I saw her cry. She was a studious girl and she was crying becuase she got very low marks in a test. Instead of feeling sorry I was only surprised at how beautiful she looked when she was crying. It was a strange yet beautiful experience. I have been witness to quite a few similar incidents later in life too. Sometimes even a teary eyed face looks beautiful as it happened on a recent trip to Kerala. The scene wasn't actually one of pathos. This time a relative of mine, someone in her early teens had some physical discomfort that got her teary-eyed and I couldn't help admiring the beauty in those eyes.

So why am I writing all this? I was just reminded of these incidents when I saw Amrutha cry on Idea Star Singer (ISS) on Asianet. Please don't get the impression that I would like to watch her cry or that judges should make her cry. Amrutha is a softie and easily breaks down and yesterday Usha Uthup's comments were harsh enough to make her cry. Didi is aware of Amrutha's sensitivity but I wonder what made her be so rude to the girl. As I wrote before even the judges are cracking on ISS these days. Amrutha made a genuine mistake but one that didn't deserve such a treatment. This is the second time I am seeing Didi make such a harsh comment. Earlier she had done it to Vani. It was hurting to see Amrutha sob and when she said "I am sorry Didi", it broke my heart. I am sure she did break many other hearts as well. Though Amrutha tried best to recoup she could hardly speak and Ranjini (thanks to her) had to speak on her behalf towards the end while requesting for votes.