Jun 27, 2007

Assistant Electoral Enumeration officers from the Election Commission of India

Great comedy by Rajini and Vivek. Superb entry by Livingstone at the end.


Jun 26, 2007

The 'Sivaji' Experience

The long wait was finally over after I saw Sivaji on 24th. It was a thrilling roller coaster ride for about 3 hours during the course of which we shouted ourselves hoarse. Columbus Tamil Sangam gave each of us two coloured sheets that basically told us not to throw confetti in the theater and other such stuff. Talk about devilish minds: we did not have confetti with us but we tore into pieces the coloured sheets we got and used them as confetti. The first few rows were occupied by fans wearing specially designed Sivaji T-Shirts. Before the movie began, one of my friends warned a family sitting right behind us "we will be shouting a lot so please excuse us and if you prefer not to be disturbed please relocate yourselves" Before the man could reply, his wife told us "Oh thats great. We also want some company to shout with us, so no problems". And so it began. We shouted at Rajini's intro, threw the papers and basically rocked the theater with ample suport from the rest of the audience. Our slogans of "Panamarathula Vauvaala, thalaivarukae savalaa" and "Adho paaru lightu, thalivarudhaan weightu" rocked the theater. The first half was a laugh riot. I would not say that this is one of the best efforts by Vivek. But the synergy of his teaming up with Rajini proved to be a dyamite.

Before going to the movie I had read a lot of reviews: ranging from ones that eulogized even the appearance of Rajini's name in the titles to ones that pronounced the entire effort as shabby. The negative reviews subconsciously made me to be more critical of the movie then I would have been otherwise. So I found myself looking out for glitches and idiosyncrasies in the movie, and I am glad to say that I did not find much. The movie has been shot with a high resolution camera and the pictures are quite vivid. The Balaelakka song was very colourful.

The storyline is a concoction of Rajini's time tested themes of 'rags-to-riches' and Shankar's patented 'anti-corruption'. Looks like Shankar wanted Rajini's fans to enjoy everything that Rajini has to offer; from comedies to punch dialogues to action scenes and at the same time wanted his protagonist to fight against corruption at all levels. And there had to be the mandatory 6 songs: 3 in either half of the movie. The result is a movie lasting 3 hours packed with scenes, the transitions between which were at times too rapid and discontinuous.

Rajini's usual intro-scene in all his recent movies were through a song with only Chandramukhi breaking the mould with a fight. Shankar has gone one step ahead and made all the fans have goosebumps by showing Rajni behind bars in the first scene. A very novel idea that, but unfortunately he wanted to include a pseudo-intro song (as in Chandarmukhi) but could not quite come up with a reasonable situation for that. Rajini says in the middle of a party that he wants a traditional tamil girl and the next second we find him dancing with Nayanthara (and she was gorgeous to say the least!!!) in a rural setting. These jumps in scenarios will jingle the nerves of purists, irrespective of their fanaticism for Rajini.

Thalaivar looked old in the first half (irrespective of the 'murattu kaalai' looks). In the second half his looks transform almost to that of 'Thalabathi' movie.The second half was mind blowing. The 'tea kadai' scene will go down as one of Rajini's best performances. His coin tossing scenes were a treat to watch. And I guess soon farmers in thanjavur will be saying 'coooolll' every time it rains. As far as I can remember, I dont know of any movie in which Rajini attempts suicide and it was a surprise to see him do that. And the fights sequences were good. Especially the one after he collects money from Adiseshan (shot in Binny Mills). Rajini in keeping up with his image bashes up lots of baddies. But he does that while he is running away from them. That was a deft touch in portraying reality bordering on the impossible.
The fight scene at the musical shop and the one with cars were a bit too long for comfort. 'Mottai Boss' is out of the world. Chandramukhi in a way has influenced the movie making in lots of ways. Be it the 'Raa Raa' song to which shreya dances, Rajini's hair style in 'Vaaji' song (the sets for which were stunning), or the way Rajini blows a kiss at a corrupt official.

Even though
Shankar was nowhere near his best , I observed that most of the negative reviews were due to half-baked understanding of the movie. The scene of shreya saving Rajini from the train is a comedy track and not to be taken seriously. Some people have been insisting on more heroics from Rajini. Already Shankar has given an overdose of action and Matrix style fights. And Rajini flips the coin the way nobody would have ever done. To ask for more is stretching the limits which Shankar had recognized thankfully.

Rahman's songs for the movie were a treat per se and he has not failed to deliver with the BGM for the movie which was great. There were touches of Baba's theme song (both the melodious tune and the B-A-B-A one) but it was unique. But he should refrain from lending his voice in one way or the other to almost every song of his, either as the main singer or the background humming and shouting. It is not irritating as of now but it soon will be as it will become too drabbing like Harris Jeyaraj's usage of Bombay Jayashree.

Thalai's imitation of Vadivelu by saying " Enna vechu edhuvum comedy, keemadi panalaye" was awesome. The projector in the theater went off for a few minutes and did not come on even after 3 minutes or so. Me and Deepak spontaneously shouted that dialog and everyone in the theater burst out laughing. That was a good moment.

As I came out of the theater I knew that the experience was a 'once in a lifetime' one. When I saw Chandramukhi in Sathyam, the majority of the audience was composed of families who kept mum except for the comedy tracks. But this movie was different. The audience kept up with the pace of the movie. So when Vyas asked me if I am interested in seeing the movie again tomorrow, I said yes without a moment of hesitation and we immediately bought the tickets for the next day's show (as its the last in Columbus). So here I am, going once again to see The Boss for second time on consecutive days, hoping to relive every moments of the first show.


Jun 22, 2007

Of politics, power plays and the people's choice

Its no secret that among the Indian populace Dr.Kalam is well respected and liked by all. Be it for his down to earth character, love for children, or the eagerness to make a difference in the society (irrespective of the fact that some people are bored to death by his overzealous ways of either asking the reporters to repeat after him or egging the youth to take oaths to serve the society). He is been the most easily accessible of the lot and the most pleasant to interact with.

If there is any semblance of pride and honesty left in the current Indian Government set up it is not because of any of the politicians but rather due to the presence of stalwarts like Kalam.When such a man is made President, one should understand that the Honour is not only for the incumbent but also for the office. He is not a politician who mongers for votes and fights for power. He accepted Presidency as a Honorary post (which it is anyways). The common man would prefer him to have a second term because he represents the ideal persona that every Indian would like to have in the Goverment: friendly, sincere and most importantly incorrupt. He is somewhat like a brand image.

Consider the scenario in which he was made a President. Kalam did say he will take over as President provided there is a consensus. And unlike the fickle politicians he has not changed his stance today and has reiterated the same thing. I think he is being professional about it. The position in question is not that of a Prime Minister or Party Chief, the powers of which tempts many people to fight for it. Its about being the President of India, a position equivalent to that of a bird with clipped wings. He said he is willing to be the President for a second term as long as there is no squabbling among parties. Meaning: if everyone likes him to stay he will, else he will vacate the office.What he implies is that he does not wish to stand for an election as if he is personally interested in occupying a position of power. For people like Pawar who fish in the troubled waters of politics its fine to stand in elections and to be amidst controversies. But for a person like Kalam who represents the timid, educated section of the populace, it is awkward and embarrassing to say the least.

Under these circumstances, Pawar has resorted to rhetorics against Kalam when he made public his decision for the second term. Pawar has said:"The game is over for Kalam. He is no longer in the team....". And the I&B Minister has said that the statements are "unfortunate, uncalled for and unexpected". It is despicable that Kalam has been relegated to a level where people like Pawar and Dasmunsi make comments about how he should behave.

The elections for Presidency is not as Democratic as Pawar makes it out to be. When Congress decides upon a candidate, the party head is going to instruct all its voting members to vote for that candidate. There is going to be no room for individual reasoning and voting. Same is the case with the other parties. It finally boils down to what the heads of the main parties think. So when Kalam means there should be a consensus he just wants to know that he has the support of the main party heads. Its not like candidates contest and after an uncertain period of vote counting, the results will be known after a week. Once each party puts forth their candidates, the winner is going to be obviously decided by parties having the majority share. So there is no blatant breach of Democracy by Kalam as portrayed by the politicians. It is really funny, this case of the pot calling the kettle black. Though in this case the kettle is nowhere as black as the pot is.


Jun 17, 2007

Rahman Concert in Chicago

I went to Chicago for A.R.Rahman's concert on June 9th. To be frank I did not have very high expectations but the concert surpassed whatever I had. The acoustics of the Arena was good though a bit too loud at times. The music was flawless almost replicating the original versions. The singers were great too. Chithra was accorded a grand ovation with shouts of 'thamizhkuyil' piercing the air. Madhushree, who I hated for her North Indianized rendering of tamil songs especially the Vaaji song, redeemed herself with a great performance supported by her sweet dance steps and facial expressions while singing. Hariharan was great except for the Venilave song which he sung as if Udit Narayanan was singing it. No idea why he did that. Most of the singers were gyrating while singing except for chithra who was calmness personified as she has been from time immemorial.

Adhiradee and The Boss rocked the show. We were all shouting 'sivaji, sivaji' non stop and soon even non-tamilians picked up the cue and started chanting with us. That per se is a moral victory for us 'rajni fans'. After that there were lots of high octane songs including Paatshala,Secret of Success (Boys), etc., When Chaiyya Chaiyya was performed we shed all our inhibitions (the remnants of it rather) and went to dance in the aisle. Rahman's rendition of Humma Humma from Bombay even had timid looking, saree clad women coaxing their equally shy husbands to get up and dance with them to the tunes. I should say that SPB was badly missed by us. He would have sung a few songs from thalaivar's movies.
On the whole it was a memorable event.


Jun 14, 2007


When the whole world conspires against me, what happens is Sivaji gets released in Columbus nearly 10 days after all its premiere in other US cities. If the 'conspirers' feel that is not enough, what they do is release the Telugu version before Tamil.
Already the hype by the press is killing. Adding to this is the constant taunts of friends who are lucky enough for the movie to be screened in their cities on the D-Day!
Woe is me!


Jun 2, 2007

At last

Finally the State Governments are discerning the difference between a rule and an option. The Section 129 of the Motor Vehicles Act (which was passed quite a long time back) mandated the wearing of helmets by all motorcyclists. But subsequent amendments gave the State Governments the right to declare it as an option.
But increasing two wheeler accidents and widespread awareness have resulted in widespread support for making the Act mandatory. As a result, many State Governments have passed a rule that declares Helmets mandatory for two wheelers. Also front seat riders in car are required to wear seat belts. In Chennai these two rules came are in effect from June 1, 2007. It will be interesting to see the seriousness with which the Chennai City Traffic Police (CCTP) follows it up, especially the seat belt rule.


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