Monday, June 25, 2007


Murphy's Law states that if you go from C to B to escape the heat of C, chances are when you are in B, C gets cool and some rains. It also follows that when you come back from holiday, C is no longer cool.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Sivaji -a.k.a.How Shankar screwed up

What Da Boss and two and a half hours of movie time could not do, Mottai Boss managed to do with elan in just half hour. For me, Mottai Boss salvaged Sivaji from sure ruin and disaster.

The credit in bringing him on in the end must go to whoever thought of it. It is the cleverest ploy in the entire movie as its strategic position is that an average movie goer will take home the impression of a swashbuckling yet Matrix-like hero, stylish and heroic even in his violence. If this scene had not been there, the thinking audience would have gone home wondering what the hell the hype was all about after all.

The story starts off on a very creditable premise, though it gets wafer-thin and sometimes disappears completely. Shankar, in his role as conscientious film maker has a reputation for exposing serious glitches in social and economic constructs as they exist today. Though it had garish make-up for Kamal Hassan in Indian, some absurd set of circumstances in Gentleman, histrionics in Anniyan, these movies, all by Shankar, were about exposing the chinks in the Indian society. With Sivaji, Shanker is at his favourite theme again, but in an absurder construct than even his sub-standard flighty movie Boys could manage.

How can a director like Shankar forget that the grammar of cinema does not rest in garish costumes, glamourous heroines (Shriya Saran has NO TUMMY and boy! can she dance!), blond wigs, a few good songs, some bad ones, passable humour, glass houses and angels and stunning special effects. These are just the cosmetics of the trade...they serve to embellish and build on the foundations of core movie components -a solid story line, a plot, a script, screenplay. Only a director who thinks the audience is a bunch of idiots will forsake his commitment to these key elements. Or he himself is lacking, which is in Shankar's case, not a tenable argument.

But before I rave further, 'Do gooder' NRI Sivaji(Rajni, who else!) comes home to India with the utopian idea of running a welfare state all by himself. Naturally enough, it is not a smooth ride to the ideal. His plans to set up engineering and medical institutions of learning to provide free and capitation-free education to the youth and free medical care are repeatedly thwarted at several levels. The big spoke in his wheel is Adi, supposedly a JPR clone, only more suave, classy in his villainy and extortion.

How Sivaji outwits the crafty Adi (a fine performance by Suman) and others in his corrupt coterie, cleverly twisting the arm of the law to serve his purpose, as the line goes, forms the rest of the movie. Predictably, in Kollywoodian Psychomachia, the superhero triumphs.

I've a friend who keeps saying "I may not be perfect, but parts of me are wonderful.' M may not be happy to see its use here, but it is indeed true - the parts of Sivaji that are entertaining unfortunately do not make a whole that is equally or more entertaining.

The families of Solomon Pappiah and 'Pattimandram' Raja rock; scenes involving them are hilarious, well crafted. Vivek has some great lines, splattered right through the movie. Their takes on other actors, from MGR, to Sivaji Ganesan, Vadivelu, Kamal and right down to self-styled presumptuous Little Superstars are enjoyable and indeed even seem clever sometimes.

As for the performance of Superstar himself, there is nothing to complain about. We don't find the crazy humour of Thillu Mullu or the action of say a Mannan in Sivaji, but there is much more that the man has given to this movie. You get the feeling that he has given his all, put in great effort for what might (???!!) be his last movie. His dance is still much the same wooden shaking around, but is energetic; his attempts at mimicry (does a good MGR, S.Ganesan, Kamal) are funny and he really exerts in the action scenes. His Mottai Boss avatar (he claims he is MGR- M.G.Ravichandran, and hey we believe that!) is a crowning glory. In villain mode, slightly reminiscent of similar roles in the classics : Mullum Malarum, Aboorva Ragangal and 16 Vayathinile: he is a total charmer.

For Rajni, the movie is watchable. For Shankar, it is a splendid chance all botched up. And Sivaji, the movie, totters in between. If we were to be crudely mathematical, the sum of the parts do not total upto the whole.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007


It must be a very cruel, twisted fate that required me to go to Delhi on the hottest day of the season. Now, who am I kidding? It must be the hottest day in a CENTURY! 49.5 Deg C? That's 50, half the boiling point of water!

Taking the much delayed IC flight, I landed in Delhi at about 1 p.m. instead of at 9-30 a.m. There was much tutting n the plane when the pilot mentioned the weather bit, but NOTHING prepared us for the microwave blast that welcomed us when the crew opened the door.

Now, everything I say is going to sound stale,but if I were to describe how I felt then. It was like sitting in a microwave oven, with heat swirling in circles around you, below you, above you... in you. You feel nothing else. Until you sweat. Who said you don't sweat in Delhi? You sweat so much, the shirt sticks to your body in wet shapeless patches and then if you've worn shoes with socks, well, forget it! The two short days I was there, I survived mostly thanks to Friend B's nice old air con in Vasant Kunj. PheW!

Strangely, the heat doesn't seem to affect Species Delhiite delhiites! But then, it's another world altogether.

* * *

What is with the explosion of North Easterners in Delhi. North Eastern India, I mean, and outside beauty parlours, where anyway they rule the roost along with a handful of Sri Lankans. But you see them in droves, either serving behind elite coffee/tea bars of Vasanth Vihar, or just hanging out together in pairs. I presume this mass migration has happened over the last 4-5 years, give or take a few years.
Is the North East becoming a less friendly place or is Delhi more welcoming?
I'd bet on the first.

* * *

Delhi has a halo these days. Halo of dust, suspended particulate matter, carbon monoxide, dioxide, whatever. It sits on the city constantly making a hot summer day look misty. If we don't watch out, there'd be a gaping ozone hole right where Delhi once was. Perhaps, we should shift the capital city. And if we have a referrendum, please vote for any city by the sea.

* * *

Deccan Airways has me astounded. The return flight was bang on time to the last second, the staff were courteous, the food not THAT over priced. Their pilots are however the very best. You neither feel the take off and as for the landing, its the smoothest I've had in several years of taking flights in different countries. Someone tells me they are Russian. REally? In this part of the world you don't hear much about Russian men as you do about Russian women.
But hey, waitaminute. Was that a toilet roll the air hostess just passed over my head to a colleague??!!!

* * *

Chennai, I've concluded, is heaven. I'm not going to complain about the heat in my home town for a long while to come. When I begin to complain again, remind me take another short trip to Delhi to refresh my memory and be assured that God's in his heaven and all's right with my small part of the world!


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Customers are idiots!

What do you make of a customer care agent that tells you (perhaps, not directly) that you have no common sense? Do you think he deserves his job?

I think not. Got the short shrift from a call centre guy at Fabmall, Indiaplaza while clarifying a point on the clearance of my cheque for a fairly hefty amount. The man speaking to me on the phone was trying to communicate, but failing. He deferred to his boss, and that's where the trouble began: The dolt made that disparaging remark about my intelligence, told his colleague who was trying to give me an answer that he should not bother answering me and then refused to come on line. His colleagues did a fine job of 'protecting' him, but I hope no other customer chances upon this monster.

Surely, if you are paying, at least you like not to be called an idiot?! And to think I'd recommended my friends order books on the site. JEEZ!

UPDATE: I managed to get the number of the CEO in Bangalore, thanks to friends in the media. And told him exactly what had happened. He was shocked, appropriately. But I don't know what gives. I'd have dropped it, except that I figured a lot of people might have had the same experience and might not have gotten this far. Let's see if there is any effect at all. I don't mean I need to see the guy sacked, but maybe I'll get my product faster? We live in hope!

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Movie Mania

I've been watching a whole load of movies these past week, borrowing without judgement, quite indiscrimately, ever since I discovered that a propserous DVD-lending business is being run at office. The difference when you buy is that you keep it to watch for later and perhaps, forget to watch. When you rent a DVD you must watch it within three or four days.

Anyways, the nub of the matter is, movie-wise I've ranged from the sublime to the absurd, and here's how the rollercoaster rose and dropped...

Parattai - Definitely ridiculous. Bad acting, combined with a bad script and bad screenplay. And I'm not even prejudiced that Dhanush looks like a Thundu beedi that picked up a lot of dirt on one end. Also, I haven't seen a crass-er rendition of the Oedipus complex.

Naan Avan Illai - Absurd. Not a patch on the old one, in the Catch Me if You Can, genre. At least Gemini Ganesan, in the original, is better looking than Jeevan. Of course, I dont think both are very strong in the acting department, so then, it becomes a matter of aesthetics! And that was by Director Balachander in his prime. C'est ca!

Anbe Sivam - Sublime. Lifetime role for Madhavan. I'd say Kamal too, but that man has enough talent in him to better himself, constantly. I can watch Anbe Sivam a million times and still be touched every single time. Note to myself: I must BUY the DVD, not rent it anymore.

Trust the Man - A comedy with David Duchovny and Julianne Moore. Hmmm... time pass. And the DVD was a good print. Not many have borrowed this one before me, I guess.

Deja Vu - Sci-fi. Bad print DVD. Denzel Washington plays an ATF (WTF?) agent who goes back in time to save a girl he's fallen in love with in the future and a boat-load of people from a terrorist. The theory is acceptable - that you can fold time and create a bridge between the past and future in the present, but if you die in the past, how can you live in the future? Began watching it with great expectations, but was left thinking: ennagada poo suthareenga?!

The Last King of Scotland - Beautiful. I'd recommend it as a must-watch for movie
buffs. A young doctor from Scotland goes to Uganda on a whim and lands up being the personal physician of Idi Amin, the dictator accused of cannibalism and mass murders. Forrest Whitaker plays Idi Amin, the lines blurring as he moves from being a a fun-loving people's general to one of the most cruel dictators of all time.
O, and check this out as well.

ABC Africa - A documentary by the Iranian film maker Abbas Kiarostami on Ugandan children rendered orphans by AIDS(and/or the various civil wars). It's the usual documentary take on Africa, but for the camera work, which is its biggest credit. It is not a conservative camera, shooting from above or outside of the situation; instead it is inside the community, in their songs, their poverty, their happiness, inside each child who is on screen. We could do with this kind of sensitivity these days, surely!

The Devil Wears Prada - WOW! What a performance- Meryl Streep carries The Devil... on her stately shoulders, right through! She's the boss you'll dread working for, but Anne Hathaway works hard for her approval and fair enough, she gets it. In the process she becomes this really hawt busy woman, but, is this what she wants! If I were not so impressed with Helen Mirren in/as The Queen, I'd have said Streep should have been Uncle Oscar's best actress this year.

Panchathantiram - What a roll! It's hilarious. With Michael Madana Kamarajan and PKS, this is one of my favouritest Crazy Mohan scripted movies. Laugh riot! I seem to laugh every single time I come across that 'Munnadi-Pinnadi' joke! AGain, BUY the DVD.

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