Monday, June 27, 2005

Introducing my sitcom alter ego - Raymond Barone

This evening, I was watching an old episode of everybody Loves Raymond, a re-run from season 2, where Ray reminiscences about the day he proposed to Debra.

Ray, in a totally un-RC manner, writes the proposal into his debut column in Newsday. She accepts (in the accidental presence of Ray's parents), but Ray is consumed later by worries. He thinks Debra was under pressure to accept - just like those gals, while being serenaded by their boy friends in full view of millions of people watching on TV and on the jumbotron, worry about having beer emptied on them in case they refuse and accept.

And I realized right then that in some ways, Ray Romano's character defines me. This is why:
  1. He is supremely RC!
  2. He hates PDA (Public Displays of Affection), verbal or physical.
  3. He is the essential cynic who worries about everything life has in store for him, good or bad and is sometimes right on those counts.
  4. He uses humor like a defense mechanism, quite unsuccessfully, sometimes.
  5. He is totally into sports and writes about it, but does not seem to play anything other than golf.
And I have a faint idea that, just like Ray, I might do something similar, off the beaten path (but certainly not as stupid) and end up worrying if I got the message across just right. That scenario is certainly in my ballpark!

Oh, BTW, just after lunch today, I was reading some of Rajesh Advani's older posts. Ladies and non-RC guys who come here often, should check out his work (chances are that you might have read his work surely as email fwds or otherwise on Sulekha). They are of the kind that will make you go "awwwww". Hell, a couple of them made even me go "awwww"! Now, if that's not a compliment, what is?

And I have a related question that came up in my mind from reading Rajesh's short stories. In ficticious works of art, like the ELR episode mentioned above, I notice that a lot of protagonists getting the message across in full view of a lot other people. Does this happen in real life too? Do you guys know of any incidents where such acts have backfired, and the gal goes - "Hmmmm...., I am not so sure"? I know such a situation might be sad, but looking at it objectively, it is a possible scenario and single guys have to prepare for such a twist in the tale. People, please enlighten me!

Ok, if you are my mom, hold on! Amma, I am not thinking about popping the question to anyone, certainly not in the immediate future. And if you are not my mom, you can hold on to the "awwwws" for later.

(P.S: This post was not meant for self introspection. It was just to highlight some similarities between this blogger and the fictional character mentioned above. It has to be said that the similarities end with those few attributes and some more, which unfortunately are beyond the scope of this blog.)

(P.S II: If you came here from the BBM hosted by Amit Varma (thanx for linking to this post, Amit), or want to know what R.C stands for, it is Romantically Challenged. To give you a simple explanation, you are R.C if you believe that candles are of use only when there is a power outtage. You don't run to a door to open it for a lady who is walking 5 feet in front of you, but will keep it open for someone walking in just behind you regardless of whether it is a guy or a gal. In short, you are a cool straight forward customer who walks his talk placing all his cards on the table when it comes to women. Hidden messages and symbology don't matter and what is out in the open, which is everything, counts! And ya, R.C's usually don't put Mills & Boon's on their reading lists, but will surely make a serious attempt to appreciate them if they believe that the gal who recommends them is the ONE. And yes, there is usually only ONE! For an R.C, love is over-rated. It is the compatibility that counts!)

(P.S III: This is The End of this post! Ignore that link that says "Wanna continue reading?" and go straight to the comments section to leave some thoughts!)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

PTC, MTC and me!

Meenakshi Medicals used to be at the junction of Royapettah High Road and Lloyds Road in Royapettah, Chennai. In fact it could be still there, but it has been years since I looked. But, anyways, I am prone to digressions and before this instance proceeds along that road, let me continue.

So, yeah, right at the front of Meenakshi Medicals was a simple waist high wall of metal railing with concrete pillars a few feet apart where one, particularly a pre-schooler like me could plonk their posterior and watch the rest of the world fly past in their multiple wheeled modes of road transport. My favorite part of the day (from when i can remember, till I was around 5 or 6 years old) was when my uncle (was part of a joint family then) used to take me out to this spot in front of Meenakshi Medicals and sit down with me and point out the different cars as they went past. While I was in for the cars, he was in for the short walk and the exercise that eluded him ever since he had retired. Sometimes he even went to Meenakshi Medicals and bought the medical supplies that is so common in homes in India. Maybe he even spent some time talking to the elderly owner and his sons, who were well known to us as neighbors. But I don't remember much about that painless and innocent times.

From the time I spent there everyday, I also picked up the art of identifying models from the sounds their engines made. I also developed this quirk of comparing people's facial characteristics with front of automobiles. For example, this particular bus / truck that Telco made (the Tata 4410 D?) had a front grill which reminded me of an acquaintance who had very striking dental structure. To this day, I can't erase the mental image of the man's face when I see a Telco truck or vice versa. And that's how my love of automobiles began. But it all started with buses and specifically the (then) Pallavan Transport Corporation buses (nowadays called Metropolitan Transport Corporation) a.k.a the PTC buses!

When I was 7 yrs old, my mother moved for a couple of months to my grandmom's place in Egmore to deliver my sister. I spent those months with her at Egmore. Since a change of school is logically not possible for those few months, I traveled to my school in Royapettah in a school bus. My stop in Egmore, next to the police station was the last pickup point and the last drop off point too. And this school bus route covered North Madras (Washermanpet, Tondiarpet, Royapuram etc.) in addition to Triplicane (which is practically next door to Royapettah). I don't remember any of those names, but if u were studying first second or third standard in Adarsh Vidyalaya Branch School, opposite Swagath Hotel during 1983-85, get in touch with me!

Anyways, during this bus journey, me and some other kids on the bus developed this new game. The PTC had just then purchased a batch of chassis from Ford, yup, Ford! So, everytime we passed one of these buses, we used to add one to the existing count. Ofcourse, we were too young to comprehend that there possibly could not be 1000 Ford buses running in the roads of Madras, but we counted anyways.

I also had this private game of looking at the route boards on buses and memorising the start and end points. This game continued way beyond the birth of my sister, which coincided with our relocating to Mandaveli. Since it was middle of a school year, I just changed school buses. But my luck did not change. This bus route covered South Madras (Kodambakkam, T.Nagar, Saidapet, Kotturpuram, Adayar etc.) and my stop was the last pickup and drop off point again.

So the memorising of bus routes continued and soon I was (I think I still am) so conversant with bus routes in Madras that at the age of 8 or 9, I was playing tour guide to my relatives and cousins from out of town, when they visited (my paternal grand mother lived with us) during the summer holidays. My job was to take them to the bus stop, get them on the right bus and get off at the right stop and get them to wherever they needed to go. And their job was to take care of me on the bus. LMAO!

After a year in Mandaveli, we moved to our present home in T.Nagar. For even my father was relatively new to T.Nagar, with most of our shopping trips being confined to Mylapore and Luz corner, areas chock a bloc with stores much older than the Nallis and the Kumarans. I think I was more familiar with the area figuring in my school bus route! A couple of months before we moved, I changed schools in anticipation of our move to T.Nagar.

My love affair with the PTC continued. The next game that I played was to figure out how the PTC kept track of its buses with an alpha numeric code (it seems to have changed slightly now) to indicate the originating depot, the time/batch of induction of their buses. For example, LE 567 (which was a Telco bus that ran on route No.10 between T.Nagar and Parrys Corner in the first half of the 90s) was a bus that was attached to depot L (T.Nagar) and was inducted in batch E (in the early 90s perhaps?) and was No. 567 in that batch. This particular bus was driven by this very friendly driver when I used to take route no. 10 to my school. Till 2001, if you would tell me a letter, I could tell you the depot with very little error, all by corelating the start and end points with common sense that the depot has to be the one closest to either of the two locations, ofcourse with some exceptions. I quickly figured out that there is no depot denoted by the letters "Q" and "O", (at least till 2001). And I THINK there are no depots with the letter N, G and J too, though I am not so sure.

Then close to the end of my school days, one fine day, one of my friends found this "old paper store" where he could buy magazines by the weight. I did not even know that he was a auto freak till he bought a stack of auto magazines (Auto India) specifically to school. I was soon hooked on the automobile reviews and news, not to mention the coverage of the international auto shows at Tokyo, New York, Geneva etc. Of course we did not care that the magazines were at least a year old. Once we had read the magazines, the better pictures were cut out and pasted on the doors to our respective cupboards. I still did not lose my fascination with the PTC and if my mom hasn't noticed it yet, there is still a small picture of a PTC bus on a Ashok Leyland produced Cheetah model chassis stuck on my cupboard in Chennai!

When I got into engineering, my fascination towards cars made me readily join mechanical engineering at a time when computer science was slowly becoming the stream of choice. My fascination remained just that since slowly I got sidetracked into manufacturing as a primary interest, with automobile engineering being just a elective course in our final year. But every month or whenever I had a chance to get to Trichy or Thanjavur, I never got back without a copy of the latest Auto India. I got a wealth of information, not neccasarily technical, from the magazine.

And my love affair with buses continued. With our college and the hostel being right next to the Trichy-Thanjavur highway, a lot of times our days were planned on the basis of buses passing the college. There were a couple of private bus operators who were the preferred service providers for our college students - Chidambara Vilas, Mahalakshmi etc. And there was one particular operator called Deenadayalan who was a speed demon. This particular bus reputedly held the record for making the journey from our college to Trichy a full 10 minutes faster the "next fastest". Needless to say, Deenadayalan usually topped everyone's list, if we were lucky enough to get the bus to stop at our stop when it passed by!

Coming back to Chennai for good after graduating, I did not feel a need for a vehicle and felt right at home travelling by the local buses. A lot of people claim that the Chennai buses are crowded and do not deserve the encomiums thrown at them from different quarters. My view however differs.

If you know your routes, then it is still possible to get to point B from point A comfortably. You might have to spend double the money or go to point C first which is slightly off the route, but it sure is cheaper than spending money on a auto rickshaw. You might not even spend any more time (in some cases) than you would have if you had taken a direct bus, but you will certainly travel comfortably.

For example, if you wanted to go from T.Nagar to Perambur, there are no buses that started from T.Nagar. You had to get on 29B which would mostly be full by the time it reaches T.Nagar from its start point at Saidapet. So, alternatively, you could just take a bus to Saidapet and board 29B there. You also had the alternative of taking 29N which ran between Velachery and Perambur. So if you knew your routes, then Chennai has the best public transport system in India outside Mumbai. You have my word for that!

Monday, June 20, 2005

F1 woes at Indy!

The reasons for Sunday being branded F1's blackest day have been well documented. Michelin should probably take some, if not most of the blame for the debacle. The blame also should be shared by the FIA and Ferrari, the only team, going by most accounts, that did not agree to any of the options given forth by the other 9 teams and the FIA/F1/IMS. Again, depending on which side you are on, you would put one of these two three parties as sole contributor. I am however stopping short of that deed. Make your own choice.

Anyways, the FIA and Max Mosely have come out with a statement which essentially blames Michelin and the seven teams that it supplies, for the events that unfolded yesterday. It also makes this last incredulous argument to support its stand.

Rather than boycott the race the Michelin teams should have agreed to run at reduced speed in turn 13. The rules would have been kept, they would have earned Championship points and the fans would have had a race. As it is, by refusing to run unless the FIA broke the rules and handicapped the Bridgestone runners, they have damaged themselves and the sport.

My take on this suggestion - The FIA is stupid! Here's why! Consider this scenario. At lap 36, Kimi Raikonnen approaches Turn 13 and slows down, as the FIA suggested. One of the Minardi cars that he has just lapped on Turn 11, gains on his car. Now does Raikonnen move aside and allow this car that he has just lapped to pass him again? Or does he hold his position and force the Minardi to brake hard too? Depending on whose side you are arguing, it seems disadvantageous to either driver. So did the FIA have anything to counter this argument, which I am sure would have come up.

Let me make it clear that I do not say that I have a solution that F1 should have implemented yesterday. But I do hate the fact that the FIA seems to be floating this solution among the press as the best possible one that the seven Michelin teams rejected. Blaming Michelin completely is also a convinient of transfering attention from the fact that Turn 13 is an unique corner that is not seen elsewhere in any other F1 circuit worldwide. Reason - The Brickyard's banking that is typical of a NASCAR oval! I could go on and on, but the truth is, this is one of those scenarios where each party has to share blame in some capacity. On the other, as I have said so many times on this post - depending on which side you are on, you are going to blame someone or the other completely.

Ultimately, the solution is to either change the layout of the Indy circuit to slow down the pace around Turn 13 or review the new tyre rules that have compounded the problem caused by the banking. Of these two, the latter seems much more attractive considering that any change to Turn 13 would change the fundamental character of the circuit from ultra-high speed (because of turn 13) to very slow and twisting, as the FIA press release indcates.

Updates: A Q&A with Max Moseley throws up more "options", each of which made me laugh more and more.

Q: Did the Michelin teams have any other way of running the race if the circuit itself was unchanged?
MM: Yes, they could have used the pit lane on each lap. The pit lane is part of the circuit. This would have avoided Turn 13 altogether. It is difficult to understand why none of them did this, because 7th and 8th places were certainly available, plus others if any of the six Bridgestone runners did not finish. There were points available which might change the outcome of the World Championship.

Ummmm, pit lane? Even if he meant that the pit lane speed limits would have been enforced, was he talking about the crowded semi-market place full of walking people, regardless of whether there is a race on or not? Was he talking about the same place where, in the last 10 years, there has been more than one fire accident and at least one incident that would have been classified as a hit and run incident on the street around Spielberg, Austria? My belly hurts from all the laughing. I think Max Moseley and JY Lele were separated at birth.

Anyways, Minardi Team principal Paul Stoddart has made public his own account of the fracas!

What was requested of the Bridgestone teams was to allow a chicane to be constructed at Turn 13, which would then allow Michelin to advise their teams that, in their opinion, the tyres would be able to complete the race distance. It was made very clear that this was the only viable option available, as previous suggestions from the FIA, such as speed-limiting the Michelin cars through Turn 13, could, and probably would, give rise to a monumental accident.

I am gloating now! Someone with far more experience than me, agrees with my thoughts of the FIA's "best option". Stoddart goes on to say that Max Moseley actually threatened to cancel the Grand Prix if there was to be any changes in the circuit (i.e if the chicane was added). If you would recall, Moseley had made a similar threat the day before the Australian Grand Prix this year if Minardi did not withdraw legal proceedings against the FIA.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Profile of a Delusional Sociopath

Just when I resigned myself to a weekend filled with stupid "friendly conversations" at home, came N's call a few minutes ago! It's easy to say that I am cool with all plans, but in reality i am greatly relieved.

R's Rochester visit, G's project transition and some other serious issues coupled with my resolve to spend weekend away from the sight of a computer and several people (for no fault of theirs, I should add) had filled me with great dread. This might make me sound like I am this delusional sociopath. But, you know what? In reality, I am one.

Sociopath (soh-see-uh-path, soh-shee-uh-path)

Someone whose social behavior is extremely abnormal. Sociopaths are interested only in their personal needs and desires, without concern for the effects of their behavior on others.

I abhor solitude with the same revolt that most vegetarians (including me) reserve for red meat. My thinking goes on overdrive when I am left to myself and those thoughts certainly are not positive all the time. So much that, when I was in Athens, even if I was sleepy, had nothing else to do and its way past midnight, I used to wait (sometimes more than an hour) for some company for the 20 minute walk back home from the lab. More often than not, it was M who was that company. I think I am totally in debt to her for keeping me sane and for talking to me about the things that we have in common and for silently letting me "put" my fundaes indiscriminately! I am sure she cursed me under her breath and I know she went through a lot of shit silently too.

Anyways, company calms me. The restless person I am, I tend to think better in chaos. When it is not chaotic, I think the "inner me" tries to mix things up with those ear worms and the humming. It also makes me look for company, a search just to have someone close by, not always to talk to, but to just give me the idea that I am not alone. And in this search, sometimes I have been misunderstood and riled at.

I am trying to change. I might have to get used to solitude, now that a career spent living out of a suitcase beckons (at least for another couple of years). It is going to be a tough job, since spending 4 fun filled years in a hostel (and three more here at Athens/Peoria/Chicago) and after being around groups of people right from childhood, I am more in my elements among people than without them.

So, those of you who have my phone number, do call me when you remember me. For I might just be sitting in Starbucks alone, revelling in my delusions that I have company all around me that I'd offend by taking out my cell phone and calling you myself!

Monday, June 13, 2005

The TFM tag

With great power comes great responsibility. I am no Spiderman and I certainly don’t have an uncle who I fondly call Uncle Ben. But that line ought to fit anybody and it certainly does in my case.

Last week Shwe seemed to be in the midst of a voyage of discovery in the world of Tamil Film Music. She had some questions for me and by answering those questions, it seems that somehow I gave her the impression that when it comes to TFM, I am second to none. It certainly did not help that (as I am prone to do) I did “put” some fundaes regarding TFM and a few trivia junkets too. Now, it turns out that Shwe was bored enough to do another of those now common memes, this time a South Indian Music tag. She tagged me and here is my version!

I am certainly not an “expert in South Indian music” as Shwe has kindly described me on her post. I can however be described as a “not so knowledgable” diehard fan of TFM who is sometimes considered a pain in the posterior, especially if you had to work in the same room as me (like her) and more so if your workstation was right next to mine (like her again). It does not really help that I also get a bad case of the earworms from time to time that sometimes last for the most part of a whole day. In fact, last summer, Ally, a co-worker was flustered after she heard me whistling this song for the entire duration of a work day.

This might be an exaggeration, but I suspect that it is much closer to the truth than you would expect. After sighing and coughing loudly to stop me (she was successful a number of times, before I involuntarily started again after a small hiatus), she interrupted me to ask me what the song was. Considering she was getting disturbed, she thought she might as well learn the words so that she can sing along. Unfortunately that is easier said than done, particularly when the song is in Thamizh. But I think hearing a exasperated voice saying "Anti......." more than a dozen times a day these past few years has slowly started curing me.

Anyways, this is perhaps the toughest meme that I’d have to face, ever. It was a challenge to list all my likes without missing out on anything. All the lists given are in no particular order. I would be doing grave injustice if I were to choose one among them to be the best. They are all equals in my eye. And if you would notice, most are songs by ARR and Ilayaraja. These are two MDs that I have grown up with and though some of you might consider it sacrilege for me to ignore the works of MSV or his predecessors, I simply have not heard enough of them for me to be influenced by them. And regardless how big a fan of Deva's that I might be, I still consider IR and ARR to be the ultimate gods when it comes to TFM. So, here goes.

No. of albums I own
  • Does mp3 count? If it does, I possess an insanely huge collection, thanks to several friends.
First Album that I bought:
  • Recorded combo tape of Roja (A.R. Rahman) and Annamalai (Deva) in 1991
Last Album that I bought:
  • Kannathil Muthamittal (A.R. Rahman)
Currently Listening to:
  • Iyengaru Veetu Azhagu – Anniyan / Hariharan, Harini / Harris Jayaraj
Clever lyrics in this song. For example – Unpol evarum idhuvarai illai, inimel pirandhaal adhu nam pillai!

Albums that I'd want to take with me if marooned on a deserted island:
  • Minsara Kanavu – AR Rahman (ARR)
  • Alaypayuthey – AR Rahman
  • Iruvar – AR Rahman
  • Agni Nakshatram – Illayaraja (IR)
  • Kannukkul Nilavu – Illayaraja
  • Alaigal Oivathilai – Illayaraja
Songs that you are most likely to hear me sing or hum (Song – Movie / Singer(s) / MD):
  • Raja Raja Chozan – Rettai Vaal Kuruvi / Yesudas / IR
  • Vellai Pookal – Kannathil Muthamittal / ARR / ARR
  • En Kanmani – Chittukuruvi / SPB, Susheela / IR
  • Uyirum Neeye – Pavithra / Unni Krishnan/ ARR
  • Kadhalin Deepam – Thambikku Endha Ooru / SPB / IR
  • Ilaya Nila – Payanangal Mudivadhillai / SPB / IR
  • Marghazhi Poove – May Madham / Shobha Shankar / ARR
  • Anbe – Kadhal Desam / SPB, OS. Arun, Rafee / ARR
  • Andhi Mazhai – Raja Paarvai / SPB, Janaki / IR
  • Kannamoochchi – Kandukonden Kandukonden / Chitra / ARR
  • Ondra Renda Asaigal – Kakha Kakha / Bombay Jaishree/ Harris Jeyaraj
  • Minnal Oru Kodi – VIP / Hariharan, Chitra / Ranjit Barot
Favorite Singer(s):
  • SPB – For the songs he has sung for IR
  • Hariharan – For his wide repetoire!
  • Yesudas – The man oozes melancholy when he wants to!
  • ARR – The man tugs at my heart strings sometimes!
To listen to these songs, all you have to do is to go to and search for the particular movie's name under the Tamil section and listen to the particular track mentioned. And its appropriate that I ask someone to continue this tag. And I also know that this game of tag is sort of become stale to a lot of people. So, let me pass this on to just two four people, Arun, Nithya, Curses and Ferrari Prabhu - all hardcore fans of TFM.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

MMKR revisited (a repost)

Note: Extra long post! And thanks to Nithya, I figured out this system of expandable post summaries. Just in time for today.

These last few days, I have noticed that a lot of ppl have been coming here from Zero's post on his Mumbai Express expectations (posted before the movie released in April). The post now finds a place on Teakada's sidebar, which explains why that post is getting lot more readers. It so happens that Zero chanced upon my MMKR post and he had a few kinds words to say about it in his post.

I posted my "exercise in appreciation" for MMKR in July 2003, just after I saw it for the zillionth time in Ohio and found to my surprise that I could reel off lines from the movie a couple of seconds before they were on the screen. That was when I realised that the movie was something I'd never fail to enjoy, regardless of how many times I watch it.

I wanted to take advantage of the sudden spurt in comments here on my blog these past months and also share with more people what I really enjoy. So enjoy (hopefully).....

Bheem boy Bheem boy!
Bheem boy Bheem boy, andha locker lendhu aaru latchathai eduthu indha Avinashi naayin moonjiyil vitteri…”! “I mean what I mean, but they can’t be so mean” - Words that will leave me in clutching my stomach in splits for a long time to come. Credit goes to a dialogue writer whose dialogues (not to mention his stage plays and TV series) are as “Crazy” as his name (or I should I say, title). Crazy Mohan has long been a source of clean entertainers in the stage scene in Chennai and the rest of the Tamil speaking world and his efforts in the big stage have not been off the mark. His dialogues right away strike the mark in Michael Madana Kamarajan where the opening lines of this post play quite a role in the proceedings. An ensemble cast of seasoned actors, all of which have excelled in comic roles both before and after this movie, play stellar roles in this comic classic, which released in 1991.

Kamal Hasan plays a set of identical quadruplets who are separated right after their birth and find their way into completely different strata of society. Fortunately Singeetham Srinivasa Rao is not from the "Manmohan Desai school of filmmaking" and hence the whole “different religion” bit is not a part of this rib tickling offering which seems to ooze comic sense in every frame. But if you had seen his immediately preceding offering – Apoorva Sagodharargal (a.k.a Appu Raja, for the Bollywood audience), you would have had a sense of deja vu in the opening frames of the movie. Like most other movies starring Kamal Hasan, this movie packs quite a bit of the story into the credit sequences. The quadruplets separate during the credit sequence during which the director makes a guest appearance as a street performer with a “bioscope” (which a small movie camera like apparatus through which you can view small pictures which are on slides). In fact the whole of this movie is seen through the eyes of a small kid who comes to see through the bioscope. The boys.. Wait. Did I mention all of them are boys? In fact with Kamal around and with his other movies both before and after this one, this fact needs to be mentioned. Well, the boys each grow up to be a counterfeiter, a fireman (who grows up in a orphanage which is only hinted), a rich kid and a cook.

The last mentioned character, named Kameshwaran, would be remembered by Tamil movie fans for eons to come. He grows up at the home of a Tamil Iyer from Palakkad (which, for your information, is a district in Kerala, bordering Tamil Nadu) who ekes out a living as the head cook at weddings and other events. “Delhi” Ganesh who has been a staple in almost every Kamal movie plays the foster father’s role to perfection. The exchanges between foster father, Mani Iyer and son, Kameshwaran, at a Brahmin wedding where a fish finds its way into the saambhar (from Kamal’s shirt pocket) is classic comedy, which sets alight the audience. Both Kamal and “Delhi” Ganesh use the nuances of the Tamil language as it is spoken by “Palakkad Iyers” to make the audience laugh at exactly the right places. Kameshwaran’s character is similar to a multitude of others played by Mehmood in Hindi movies like Padosan and more recently Mithun Chakroborty in Agneepath. I use the word “similar” here, because of the possibility of the character dissolving into a caricature of a Tamil Brahmin (who oozes out stupidity) as seen in the previously mentioned Bollywood movies. But Kamal adroitly goes around this fault and gives the audience something to identify with. There is nothing “out of the world” in this character and still he brings out the simpleton in Kameshwaran. The dialect spoken by Kameshwaran is the best part. I think that being an Iyer from Palakkad myself, probably made the lines hit the bulls eye with me, because I could identify with the language as it is spoken by my own family (and me, of course, when I am around relatives). But judging by the reactions of others sitting around me whenever I watch this movie, the lines hit bull’s eye with them too. There is nothing derogatory about this character and that is what makes the director and Kamal's treatment stand out.

One of the aspects of this movie which has me still shaking my head in surprise, is the apparent link in every scene of the movie, even between different threads. Imagine, 4 brothers who don’t really meet each other at all till half way through the movie. Even in a movie like Amar Akbar Anthony (read a review here), which incidentally was aired on TCM in June, the brothers lead separate lives and each one’s actions do not really play a role in the other’s life. But not in this movie. In fact barring just a couple of breaks, the whole movie can be really considered one long sequence of events each of which affect the next one in line. For example, at the start of the movie, Michael (one of the brothers who is a counterfeiter) and his foster father (who seems to be drunk, throughout the movie, la Keshto Mukerjee) run from the police who land up at their door. At the end of this chase, Michael who is driving the car, inexplicably rams against electricity supply main which short circuits causing a fire, which threatens to destroy Shalini’s (played by Khusbhu) paintings.

Raju (again Kamal), a fireman arrives with a team and saves Shalini. A dream song sequence follows this incident and ends with Raju and a Pathani money lender locked in embrace. Raju owes the Pathan money and as a result wants to get out of this sticky situation. A plate with fish gets knocked off Raju’s hands (in the door of his room) and one of the fish finds its way into Kameshwaran’s shirt pocket when he’s shopping in the market right outside Raju’s room (which is on the first floor of the house). He does not realize this and after a hurried threat to the Pathani who’s still standing shell-shocked looking at him (because he looks just like Raju, minus a moustache), leaves for the wedding where he and his father are cooking. This fish finally falls into the saambhar and causes some really funny exchanges between Kameshwaran and Mani Iyer, Kameshwaran’s apparent ignorance of the English language also adding to the humor.

This is where the film starts showing some faults. Once the baton is passed from one thread to another (like the end of the Michael’s chase to Raju’s fire), nothing is mentioned of the previous thread until much later. For example after the accident that causes the short circuit, nothing ever is mentioned of Michael or whether he successfully escaped from the police who were in his heels, well sorry, his tires. It is that abrupt. But Kamal’s genius and Crazy Mohan’s dialogues actually make us forget what transpired earlier and keep us occupied with the present. The fact that Kamal plays all the major roles in each of the threads plays no small part in this successful effort. But its disconcerting none the less, if u are realist who can’t stomach illogical movies, to see the truant fish in the saambhar, which could cause a huge loss of revenue for a Brahmin cook, ignored for the rest of the movie. But I am not that realist and so I was not complaining.

The fourth brother, Madan, grows up in the household of his biological father (who in true Indian movie fashion, does not know this fact) and comes back to India from London (with a MBA degree) after his father’s supposed death to reclaim the family business from his cousin and uncle who are on the verge of usurping it. He throws them out and they are out soon plotting his downfall with the help of the secretary, Avinashi (played by another veteran, Nagesh), who himself has misappropriated Rs.25 lakh from his father. Praveen Kumar (a.k.a Bheema from B.R.Chopra’s Mahabharath) plays Madan’s bodyguard, Bheem, a kid in every sense else other than his huge physique. The guy watches cartoons all the time and jumps out of windows whenever Madan tells him to (??) and even climbs up to the same room through a pipe when Madan asks him to come up after he had jumped down.

Urvashi, who’s another comic genius in her own right plays Tirupurasundari (fondly called Tiruppu) who, when not drawing Rangoli at weddings for a living, spends her time trying to replace the stuff that her grandmother (played by veteran actress S.N.Lakshmi), a compulsive kleptomaniac, steals from people attending the same weddings. After the above mentioned “fish sequence”, she meets Kameshwaran and after some comical (unintended) courting due to the kleptomanical S.N. Lakshmi, gets married to him.

Madan and Raju meet and Madan pays Raju to impersonate him. The villains recruit Michael through a middleman to kill Madan and when Michael sees Raju and Madan talking, he decides to impersonate Madan too, to get some easy money. Meanwhile Avinashi chances upon Kameshwaran and recruits him through Urvashi’s crooked grandmother (played by veteran Tamil actress, S.N. Lakshmi) to impersonate Madan. All that Kameshwaran has to do is mouth the line – “Bheem boy, Bheem boy, andha locker lendhu aaru latchatha eduthu Avinashi naayin moonjila vittu eri” (Bheem boy, take six lakhs out of that locker and throw it on the face of this dog, Avinashi). Kameshwaran’s heavily accented English is the highlight of this movie and he keeps repeating his "line" to everyone in sight much to Avinashi’s consternation, as is Raju’s attempts to ape Madan’s mannerisms and language, particularly the Madan’s use of the phrase “Catch my point?”.

Hence 3 brothers set out to impersonate the fourth leading to hilarious sequences that end at a hill top bungalow which seems be nothing more than a rickety single room apartment waiting to fall down anytime from the top of the hill. The movie finally ends with the “alls well that ends well” formula, after some hilarious sequences like a madisaar clad S.N.Lakshmi showing some karate moves and finally getting her haunches on fire.. It is a highly illogical affair, but we have seen so many like these from the likes of Charles Chaplin and others, where the only intention is to generate some laughs and nothing else.

This movie probably was the second successive attempt by Kamal (the first being Apoorva Saghdharargal) to play multiple roles. A string of serious attempts at parallel roles followed, like Guna etc., which has continued till the present day to Hey Ram and Abhay, barring a handful of ordinary attempts in between. Still his losses from his attempts to kick-start his dream venture (Marudhanayagam) have to be recouped and hence he has started to play to the front benchers again after a long time. Well, these attempts have not been successful. Will someone tell him that he just needs to look at what he did in movies like Michael Madana Kamarajan to strike the right chord? Clean humor always works, and his recent attempts have not really been clean.

I have always preferred Thalaivar Rajinikant to Kamal. But Michael Madana Kamarajan shall remain one of my favorite movies, more so for the humor in the movie than for the actor in Kamal.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Aniruddha, I apologize!

Kitchen trivia is one of my pet peeves and if you have been coming here regularly, you will remember a couple of instances where I have taken the effort to clear some of these "facts". My last post (part of it) was just another such effort. I have encountered words/terms such as anti maccasar in quizzes and have wondered about them. I have also heard questions about terms that apparently refered to acts as mundane as throwing things out of the window (Defenestration) and shaking wrapped gifts while holding them close to the ear to guess what they contain (Histoblogination??). They were odd words that I did not see used anywhere, but I could find etymological references. So when I saw a word like Blogsnob, I set out on a similar hunt. But I did not find any references. Or maybe I did not look hard enough.

Then, this morning, I found the comment from the man indirectly referred to in the previous post. Aniruddha Dutta, the QM for the Quiznet quiz left a comment with an exhaustive set of links that he used to set that quiz. And the first page, I went on, was the wiki page for "Blog". There I found the exact "definition" for Blogsnob. But the Wiki, sadly was created anonymously and this particular word has not been cross referenced. Moreover, the discussion page for this wiki contains comments from a number of people calling for the deletion of this wiki, since the whole concept of Blogs is still fairly new and evolving.

So even after see all those sources from Aniruddha, I am still not so sure about the validity of the question as my reply to Aniruddha's comment indicates. IMHO, It might just be too early to use the term "blogsnob" or in fact any other blogging term as subject for a proper trivia question.

However, I think I have to apologize to Aniruddha for seemingly hinting that he might have cooked the question up.

I am sorry, Anirrudha. I am sorry if it seemed I was faulting you. In some ways, I was, but not now.....

(Update: Thanx da Dev, for refreshing my memory about defenestration and histoblogination! I did shoot an email to MVL this morning about it.)

Monday, June 06, 2005

Blogsnobs, dreams, love and being RC

I read this question on a Quiznet quiz today- In the blogging world, what is a Blogsnob?
The QM mentions the answer too - "A person who refuses to respond to comments on their blog from people outside their circle of friends". Hmmmm, haven't heard this expression bandied across cyberspace before this. In fact a google search turns up results for the other better known "Blogsnob", the text ad based service developed by Arnab Nandi and his friends that was acquired last year by the Kalsey Consulting group. If you guys have seen this term spoken about somewhere else do leave your comments, because this seems to have every chance of becoming another of those kitchen trivia questions like the one about the Swami Vivekananda "Pfeiffer" and the 555 cigarrette - Holmes/Sutcliffe partnership connection.

I have a penchant for dreaming. Last night, in the midst of disturbed sleep caused by a non functional A/C (ya i know Chennai is hotter, but then here, I don't have a fan either) I had a dream last night that I met SPB at a concert. We have this nice conversation and he wants to know if I have a song that I would like to hear him sing. And you know what song I request? Sach Mere Yaar Hai (UPDATE: Click link to hear the song) from Saagar. Yeah, that happens to be my fav Hindi song by SPB. But then, in the face of a zillion SPB-IR combo songs, I choose an otherwise obscure Hindi number that a lot of people dont know about? Funny, really funny.

A lot of people I know have been blogging about love. Mushy stories about first crushes and thoughts yearning for that elusive love interest seem to be the order of the day. I smile when I read them, but having seen so many "love" stories go sour, I am wondering if people know what they want when they use the four letter word. Ya, thats what i call it, another four letter word. I still can't figure out why some people claim that a rose and silent conversation while looking into each others eyes is better than a nice analytical conversation about Sachin's tennis elbow. Ok, I know that there is the small matter of both the people being compatible, in such a way that Sachin's tennis elbow seems important to both of them. They are spending time together after all right? And spending time in a way that both parties enjoy. So is compatibility synonymous with love? Or is love synonymous with compatibility. I hope to find out one day! Yeah, I am still RC.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Bees and the birds again...

It is that time of the year again. And this year, Anurag Kashyap, an Indian American won it for the fifth time in seven years (and not for the first time, as my otherwise favorite newspaper quotes from UNI sources). And ESPN goes ga-ga over the exploits of Indian Americans! The article is itself written by an Indian American, but nevertheless it is ESPN, for gods sake!

This year, ESPN came out swinging. Their coverage of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee this year included, among other things - the First Annual Spelling Bee Fantasy Draft and a guide to picking the Spelling Bee winner. And do check out their Sportoon! It is both fitting and hilararious, particularly Larry Brown spelling "DISTRACTION"!!

Btw, what's ESPN doing treating this Spelling Bee like its the NBA! It's a group of kids spelling words for heavens sake. But it is tough, esspecially if u are a pre-teen. A lot of the words seem alien even for someone who has gone through the grind of the GRE and the TOEFL, not to mention the CAT.

Btw, CNN had a interactive spelling test comprising of words that decided the winner in the last ten years (look in the Related section in this page for the interactive test). I am proud that I got 9 out of 10 the first time i took it yesterday. And 2 of those words, I remembered cos I had watched the finals of the competition this past two years. But I missed one that I should have remembered, considering that it's on the word list for letter A and I knew the meaning! Thalaila adichinden.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Niagara or Mini India?

Somewhere along I-190, just past the city of Buffalo, there seems to be a portal, a kink in the time-space continuum, a gateway into an alternate universe where the denizens of the Indian subcontinent seem to have taken over at least a swath of land bordering what is now, Canada. In that alternate universe, this area seems to be attracting a large number of visitors from India, particularly the southern parts and these entrepreneurs from the sub continent seem to be making a huge deal of money from catering to the culinary interests of these visitors. This area seems to be devoid of most locals, who seem to have been banished to some hinterland beyond, with just a few being employed as minions. And the sign boards leading to this place all bear the name – Niagara Falls.

And that is just where I was this past weekend, out to spend the weekend on a road trip that started on Saturday and ended early on Monday, including a brief couple of hours spent strolling on Times Square in the full glare of the billboards.

We reached Niagara close to 8 pm on Saturday after an 8 hour drive and after a brief break in our hotel, started walking around and saw the light show ( see pics here and here, taken with my trusted V300). Then we got in to this balloon ride office and bought tickets from a hot Asian looking chick who seemed to understand what a stir she was causing with all those undone buttons on her shirt. Not that I looked (and I swear that my eyes were looking into hers and they were mesmerising!), but she certainly carried it off with the knowing looks of one who knows she’s being ogled at.

Anyways, a few years back, a single level 5 roller coaster spoiled my whole visit to Kings Island and that incident was still fresh on my mind. So I took the mind numbing decision to excuse myself, in spite of the two ladies with us who were all enthu about seeing Niagara from the sky. Hell, I am RC enough to think objectively about anything and I decided not to risk any chance of hurling which was bound to happen with all that movement up there. Thankfully, the guys understood, with M, having been with me on that aforementioned Kings Island trip. So they went on up and once they came back, it was back to the office and the hot chick (for the refund), where I attempted a few smooth jokes to gloss over the fact that I was the one who had chickened out.

After a take out dinner from one of those roadside desi run dhabas, we hit the sack in our hotel room by midnight. Got outta bed early and got to the Maid of the Mist just in time for the first ride of the day. After a few pics against the backdrop of the falls from the viewing platform, we were then browsing through the Maid of the Mist Souvenir store, when N got this brainstorm of buying identical t-shirt and cap sets and wearing them for the rest of the trip. We changed in the nearby rest rooms and wore the outfit for the rest of the trip.

We made a complete fool of ourselves in front of the handy-cam that U and N had brought. I think I did my worst ever imitation of Thalaivar in Baasha. I also got into a heated discussion with M about whether some of Thalaivar’s mannerisms where actually inspired by Michael Jackson. That was as close to sacrilege as M has ever gotten. U also got into the act, playing the air veena, doing what Chiru does in one of his songs in Indra.

In doing all this, we made our way to the Cave of the Wind area when we experienced the second incident of what we were warned/informed about - the fact that we'd meet someone we know (the first being the fact that Niagara would be like mini-India). Ya, we met F and her hubby. F had been a fellow student at OU and we were totally amused.

At the Cave of the Wind walk through, I promptly got wet, having left my poncho untied. We were jumping up and down like kids in the water as it cascaded. And the view was exhilirating! We then did a brief walk-through close to the Horseshoe Falls and decided to hit the Top of the fall restaurant to blow a hole in M’s pocket. And that was when the rain started. We had beautiful warm sunshine till then, but we did not bother too much, since we were ready to hit the road back again, with the Canadian side being out of bounds for us just graduated, to be graduating students and the sole "non-immigrant worker" visa holder. So we hit the road to NYC at around 2 pm, encountering brief thunderstorms from time to time.

We reached Times Square at 10 and walked around till 12:30 when we shared a pizza at Sbarros. On the way back, I caught this nice ad in front of Toys or Us featuring Geoffery, the Toys R Us mascot. The sight of Geoffrey the Girafee peeking out from the billboard was hilarious. U also caught a nice snap of S (his bro) against the backdrop of the billboards on Time Square, just as one of the boards was flashing an ad that read “Hit me baby one more time”. Purely a coincidence, but hilarious indeed, considering that he had us all in splits through the weekend with his impression of Britney Spears singing "kottu kottu, inka oka saari" (or something like that in Telugu)! We then hit the road back again and dropped back to Newark at around 2:30. In short, it was a weekend of all round fun.