Thursday, 17 November 2011

Preparing the Meat.

I was lying on my bed, not thinking of anything in particular, when there was a knock on the door.
"Come in," I said suavely, as though I would have normally said "Entree" but for the fact that I was in a hospital ward.
Minister Azhagiri looked in on me, intent shining through his gold rimmed glasses.
Well, it wasn't the Kalaignar's firstborn, but the man who wore a hospital uniform was close enough in appearance for Government work.
I looked at him.
He said - "Saar, shaving".
"Ah", I thought. I was going under some scalpels the next day, and figured said scalpels preferred a smooth surface for better operation.
"Seri, OK."
"Saar, dress", Azhags said.
I took off my T-Shirt, cringing a little. "Full shaving, saar.", Azhags said. "Um, pantuma?" I quavered, self possession shot. He grinned - "Pant, jetti ellaam".
Now, I dont know about you, but its been a while since I was naked and alone with a strange man. And I've never been naked and alone with a strange man with a razor.
I shrugged out of my tracks and undies, highly conscious of the fact that I was hung like a raisin.
He asked me to lie down and you obey the guy with the knife.
He slapped the razor across his palm, with a bzzp bzzp that grated on the ears.
I gave up and closed my eyes.
I wondered. How often do people have their bodies shaved? All over? I'm not talking about Jenna Jameson and Jesse Jane shaving each other’s pubes with an elegant little golden razor, using liberal amounts of saliva to disinfect the shaved area - or my grandfather raising his wrinkled arms over his head as his barber scraped off the three or four stragglers that managed to emerge every four months.
I'm sure that there is are more applications of rule 34 here somewhere, but by and large, all I could think of was food preparation. And as Azhagu's razor moved down from my chest to my groin, I was absolutely convinced that there would be something about meat shaving in the urban dictionary. I did not want to go and look. It also struck me that in the technical sense, meat shaving was done to food, which eventually was consumed and turned to shit,

As these cheery thoughts paraded the darkness behind my closed eyes, I could feel the razor going down my torso. Now my penis wanted to withdraw itself into my body, like Ian Fleming’s sumo wrestlers. I was terrified of that misplaced razor swipe, and the apologetic remark “Oops, sorry saar, I thought that was a hair”.

“Scrape-scrape-scrape” went the razor, “Eeeeargh, Eeeeargh, Eeeeargh” went my mind.

And then there were hands on my hotdog, , and the barber at my berries – for what seemed like forever. My eyes clenched shut, so hard that that I could see purple erections sliced off by silver swords in brilliant starbursts of pain.

I don’t know if you’ve read Dr. No. There’s a scene where Bond – who sleeps in the nude, naturally, wakes up to find something crawling up his leg. It’s a centipede and Fleming devotes a page to the creature’s journey from 007’s ankle to his shoulder and then on to the carpet where it meets it’s end at the hands of Bond’s shoe. Bravura set piece. I felt kind of like that. – especially this bit

"God, it was turning down towards his groin. Bond set his teeth. Supposing it liked the warmth there! Supposing it tried to crawl into the crevices! Could he stand it? Supposing it chose that place to bite?..."

I empathized.

And then the razor was on my inner thighs.

“Kaala viriyunga, saar” (Spread your legs, sir)

I’d moved from James Bond to a literotica gay BDSM fantasy.

After what seemed like hours, I heard a voice saying “Finished saar. Neenga dress sanjikalam” (Finished, sir, you can dress now…).

I risked a look down. I was horribly pale skinned, more than naked than ever before. I quickly dressed as Azhags packed up my hair. His teeth and glasses linted with sinister purpose as he lingered. Despreate to be rid of him, I snatched a 100 rupee note from my wallet and thrust it at him. He took it, and said sadly “Ennum moonu patient pannanum saar” (I still have three patients to shave).

I felt like a fool…

Thursday, 6 October 2011

On Jobs

Steve Jobs died today, and the Internets are heavy with mourning.

By now, if one more person mentions "Stay hungry, stay foolish" I WILL try to throttle him or her. I wish the killfiles existed for facebook, that I may terminate posters of the Stanford address. My fingers twitch at every word beiginning with the lowercase i, and I scream iDiot.

Yes, Jobs was a fantastic designer of things sleek and shiny. He was loved by a gazillion macpies. But all this crap about how he continued Einstein's legacy HAS to stop. Classify him with the Frank Lloyd Wrights or the Yves St Laurents if you will, stop mucking about with Albert.

The "revolutionary" iPod was a stylish version of Audio Highway's Listen Up and the Creative Nomad. The iPhone? A normal cell phone with excellent touch screen implementation and slick wipes.

For all his bitching about Gates and Microsoft (I’m looking at you, Krishna), he did learn one thing from them. The importance of the app developer. Isn’t that why the PC left the Mac in the dust so long ago? Now Microsoft has forgotten that and Apple is the one with half a million apps in its AppStore.

You can possibly call me a Mac Hater. I do love my PC and my laptop and I was even able to tolerate Vista.  I like the look of Mac products – but always balk at the price. Ultimately, I think Jobs genius was to get us to pay more for less.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The 12 New Night Frogs

I had written a story about Biju’s night frog discovery. I still have some of the photographs, so here goes

Spinular Night Frog
SPINULAR NIGHT FROG- Nyctibatrachus acanthodermis

Nyctibatrachus acanthodermis

The species name is derived from two Greek words – ‘acanthos’, meaning spine or thorn, and ‘dermis’ meaning skin – referring to the spiny skin of this species.

Daniel’s Night Frog
DANIEL'S NIGHT FROG- Nyctibatrachus danieli

Nyctibatrachus danieli

This species is named after J.C. Daniel of the BNHS, in great appreciation of his contribution to Indian wildlife research.

Deven’s Night Frog
DEVEN'S NIGHT FROG- Nyctibatrachus deveni

Nyctibatrachus deveni

The species is named after Deven Brian Sheth, a young nature lover in honour of his parents Mr Brian Niranjan Sheth (of Indian origin) and Mrs Adria Marie Sheth, for their contribution to global conservation of Indian amphibians.

Gavi Night Frog
GAVI NIGHT FROG- Nyctibatrachus gavi

Nyctibatrachus gavi

The species is named after Gavi, where the specimen was collected.

Wayanad Night Frog
WAYANAD NIGHT FROG- Nyctibatrachus grandis

Nyctibatrachus grandis

The species epithet grandis (Latin word) is an adjective meaning large, referring to the largest adult size reported in Nyctibatrachus.

Indraneils Night Frog
INDRANEIL'S NIGHT FROG- Nyctibatrachus indraneili

Nyctibatrachus indraneili

This species is named after Indraneil Das, to honour his contribution to herpetological research in south and south-east Asia.

Jog’s Night Frog
JOG'S NIGHT FROG- Nyctibatrachus jog

Nyctibatrachus jog

The species is named after Jog Falls, where the type series was collected.

Periyari Night Frog
PERIYAR NIGHT FROG- Nyctibatrachus periyari

Nyctibatrachus periyar

The species is named after Periyar Tiger Reserve, where the type series was collected.

Pillai’s Night Frog
PILLAI'S NIGHT FROG- Nyctibatrachus pillaii

Nyctibatrachus pillaii

This species is named after R.S. Pillai of the ZSI, in appreciation for his contribution to Indian amphibian systematics.

Meowing Night Frog MEOWING NIGHT FROG- Nyctibatrachus poocha

Nyctibatrachus poocha

The species epithet poocha (Malayalam word, the major language of Kerala state) means domestic cat, referring to the advertisement call which is reminiscent of the call of a cat.

Shiradi Night Frog
SHIRADI NIGHT FROG- Nyctibatrachus shiradi

Nyctibatrachus shiradi

The species name shiradi is derived from Shiradi Ghat

VUB Night Frog
VUB NIGHT FROG- Nycyibatrachus vrijeuni

Nyctibatrachus vrijeuni

The species is named after the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, where S.D. Biju, Ines Van Bocxlaer and Franky Bossuyt completed their PhDs.

Monday, 26 September 2011

That Cigarette

I’m not supposed to smoke anymore. Oh, yes, I know. I was never ever supposed to smoke. Smoking causes cancer, arterosclerosis, thrombosis. emphysema, Crohn’s disease, bad teeth and impotence.

But I , like so many of my fellow lovers of the common smoke, my fellow ten o’clockers,  have been able to ignore all those irritating warnings on pasteboard packets. After a point you’re able to switch off the lecturing of family members who may have never tasted that lovely sweet bitterness of a lungful of tobacco on top of a heavy thayir saadham.

I think I blame Biggles.  Adults in Enid Blyton books smoked pipes and cigarettes, but as adults in Enid Blyton books had lower IQs than Buster or Timmy or Loony or whatever the team pet was, their smoking never was very attractive. Biggles, Biggles was a different matter. A seventeen year old who would fly out across enemy lines in his Camel shooting down a brace of Boche and escape Richthofen for a bet? When he lit up, it was awesome. And underage!

The screw up is that feeling of something missing from your day.  That taste. The smell between index and middle.  The blissful feeling as you take your place on the morning throne – with newspaper in the other hand.

I was in the hospital ward with about sixty other angiogrammees. My loins had been shaved and several meters of wire had travelled up my femoral artery to take a dekko around my heart.  As I lay recovering, one of the doctors bandaged my legpits.  “Being a doctor is the worst thing in the world”, he said. My feeling at that point was that being a patient was the worst thing in the world, but I said nothing. “You see so many people come here with really bad heart disease because of those bloody cigarette companies. The game is rigged. The Government needs the money. The Cigarette companies need profits. And we end up spending more in healthcare than we  make in excise.” It’s a line he has used many times, said without vehemence. One of his patients had died yesterday.  He wasn’t happy about it.

It was unlikely that she was a smoker though.

Or maybe it was Sherlock Holmes who glammed the tobacco on? Come on, Watson was a Doctor. Who smoked “Ship’s”.  And Holmes smoked toe jam.  And Watson bhashaned him only about ruptured nasal septa and other 7% solution stuff.

Or was it the Foundation crew? Salvor Hardin with his Vegan (a book from the time the word meant “from the planet Vega” and not holier than though cultists doing what millions of folks considered a way of life for centuries) -  cigars in Jara Ford’s silver box? Merry and Pippin with their Longbottom Leaf from Southfarthing and the inferior Southlynch? Unlikely. While Hardin was cool, Vegan cigars sounded unappetizingly fungal. Merry and Pippin were kids, for Gods sake. And while Aragorn did smoke a long carved pipe and Gandalf would wipe the floor Bilbo’s  bottom smoke ringing, they never made it look cool.

I’ve got the twitchies now. I was on my feet and half way to the potti kadai down the street where the shopkeeper automatically takes out two packets of charms when he seems me approaching at a high mph. Had to turn back cursing lesions and blockages.

“Bond took out his black gunmetal cigarette box and his black oxidized Ronson lighter and put them on the desk beside him. He lit a cigarette, one of the Macedonian blend with the three gold rings around the butt that Morlands of Grosvenor street made for him…”

Aaaaaargh. I can’t take it anymore, and I haven’t even come to Wodehouse’s “The Man Who Gave Up Smoking”, Joseph Cotten’s masterly rings, Bogie in Rick’s CafĂ© with a bottle of booze and Dooley Wilson on the piano. Gatzing along to that orange light across the dock.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011


I haven’t done anything for the last few months – part because of general dijness, part because of moving to Bangalore and being without an Internet connection at home for a couple of months and partly because of the truly terrible net access at work.

Anyway, going back to the blogs that I have missed out on in during my limited net access months - there are a couple of things that I found interesting. The first was an article in the Smithsonian Magazine about Finland's successes in education. Picked it off Pharyngula - where Myers sums up with "They put good teachers in charge of deciding how students should be taught? How radical."

The other thing is the explosion at one of my favourite blogs, Balloon Juice. I've loved Cole's blog since I came across it - via Greenwald - when Cole got pissed off about the whole Schiavo shitfest. I loved the fact that among the heaping amounts of politics and media snark there would be intense discussions on the Dead or the latest Bioware game. But things blew up this morning with this post from Anne Laurie. I don't really think she should have done it the way she did, but I kind of get the frustration. While ABL may have her good points, I found her tedious and frankly depressingly fanatical in her defence of Obama. And she has her own crowd of Obots that do nothing but crap on anyone who dares criticize the dear leader. Plus you get the feeling that she confuses offensiveness with directness and any criticism made becomes racist. I've kept away from her posts and their threads - sticking to Cole, DougJ, Freddie DeBoer, Levenson and Laurie's posts instead. I always thought that Anne was one of the sweeter posters - with her pet rescue blogs and food stuff, which makes her meltdown all the more spectacular.

Its a huge pity, but I think Anne will lose this one. Plus, I wonder what Cole will do. He can't ignore this war any longer. The best thing to do would be to get the two As - ABL and AL into a room and shout at them until one agrees to tone down and the other agrees to back down, but I don't see that happening. Or will he chuck them both out? Or go Narasimha Rao and do nothing? The fight may be good for page views, but not for the blog. Whatever else, its more drama.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Hal Wallis and Casablanca

Yes. I know. Everybody comes to Ricks. Everybody knows about Casablanca. A movie that returns 16 million results in .13 seconds in Google.

Heres a niblet. Lena Horne or Ella Fitzgerald instead of Dooley Wilson? Hal Wallis did consider this.


or the alternative to the most famous movie ending of all time


Heh. August 7th . My birthday

Hal Wallis. Often overlooked. Always significant.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Fred Astaire

I’m watching the Fred and Ginger Box Set that Hari  bought me so kindly. I’m doing this for the fifth time – I think.

The first box (Or is it the second?). And I will drivel about the guy down there later.

The whole RKO bunch – especially the best of them – Top Hat and The Gay Divorcee are stand outs. Though I wonder how Universal got the rights for RKO movies in the UK.

Anyhoo (to quote Major Monogram), back to Mr. Astaire. Or, back to Mr. Astaire, Ms. Rogers, Mr. Horton, Mr. Blore, Mr. Polglase and Mr. Plunkett and Mr. Pan.

I think David Thomson in his review of Joseph Epstein’s Fred Astaire – called the stories “they were irrelevant upper-class fables with the sketchiest plots, a string for the pearls of dance routines married to some of our best popular songs”, and he isn’t too far wrong about that. The rest of the article is utter crap1. (I have to mention Self Styled Siren’s amazing blog here – its essential for anyone interested in old English movies) .  Even without the songs, the movie (Top Hat is what I’m on about, mostly, but the others qualify) would be a splendid little confection, a souffle that melts in your mouth, leaving just a lingering sweetness – a Joseph Cotten smoke ring, ethereal, ephemeral and its gone…

The thing to remember about Astaire was that he was deeply insecure about his dancing. He worked at it. It all seems so effortless and easy, but just take a look at the picture here

That doesn’t seem so easy. And he knew that he made it look good – as he famously said later “I suppose I made it look easy, but gee whiz, did I work and worry”. Or at another time – “I don’t think I was completely happy with any of my dances”2 . You get the picture of a perfectionist who knew he would never be perfect, doing what he would call “A sweat job”.  And in an age when every two bit celebrity calls himself or herself a perfectionist, it is refreshing to find someone whom everyone else called a perfectionist, but never applied that descriptor to himself. 

But there is perfection – whether its in the rollerskate dance to “Lets call the whole thing off”

Tapdancing on Roller Skates, to Gershwin

or the sandman dancing with an ashtray under his arm or a drunk destroying a bar while maudlin in self pity  in “one for my baby”

And thats not candy glass either–wartime sugar rationing meant it was the real deal

Astaire also seems a genuinely nice guy. Debbie Reynolds tells a story of how he found her, a seventeen year old crying under the piano, after a particularly harsh and punishing rehearsal during “Singing in the Rain”. He takes her out to his sound stage and asks her to watch him rehearse. She watches him struggle and struggle for an hour, sweating and red faced, at the end of which he comes up to her and says, quietly – “You see how hard it is? It never gets easier. This is how it always is”. Or take Cyd Charisse describing how Tony Martin knew who she had been dancing with that day – “If I was black and blue, it was Gene. If I didn't have a scratch it was Fred” Or David Niven’s summation- “a pixie — timid, always warm-hearted, with a penchant for schoolboy jokes”.

Recording "The Fred Astaire Story"Recording "The Fred Astaire Story"


For a guy who introduced some of the most famous songs in “The Great American Songbook”, he was remarkably diffident about his singing voice. “   It`s nice that all the composers have said that nobody interprets a lyric like Fred Astaire. But when it comes to selling records I was never worth anything particularly except as a collector’s item”, he said. Well. Not really.  Eight number 1 records and 18 top 10 hits isn't really “never worth anything”.`  Especially if one of them was “Night and Day”


Take a look at the song. Its a love story – the chase and the pursuit, the reluctance, the adoration and finally, the fantastic consummation – in four economical, graceful minutes. And Ginger’s look of astoundment in the afterglow of the that amazing dance sequence – I wish I could have some woman look at me like that – even if she was faking it Smile with tongue out.

Rejection, Persuasion and Consummation

If you want a much better discussion of the Astaire Rogers dance head over to Richard Corliss at Time – where he breaks down the “Caught in the Rain” song from Top Hat. The entire article is worth several reads, as well.

David Thomson says that Astaire was “Fred Astaire was not human, not sexual, not sexed”, but that’s just utter crap.  Look at the song and the dance and tell me it’s not about fucking.

Since Astaire started his stage career when he was four and a half, and was partnered with his sister. That must have taken its toll on the whole dancing bit, because his first partner, Clare Luce – had to prod him to amp up the sex appeal. “I’m not your sister, you know, Fred!” she’s said to have told him. Astaire romancing anyone seemed to be like a kid cajoling a female relative for sweets – “Oh, please don’t be that way”, he’d say. And then he would be tap tap tapping all around her, grabbing her hand and letting go at a look – he was a gentleman, after all, and before you knew it, there would be two pairs of feet tapping, skirts swirling over sofas and tables, and you would have forgotten your late 20th century cynicism and irony and be watching in slack jawed wonder.

When it comes to dance, I’m a philistine. The kind of thing I would normally watch involves well endowed women and metal poles, in dim lighting. My father still reminds me that I slept through a Padma Subramaniam recital. But I can watch Astaire again and again. It doesnt matter if he’s dancing  with a girl (The Ginger dances are special, of course, but Ginger needs a whole writeup herself) or a hatrack or a bunch of shoes.

Tell you what. I’m going to watch Swing Time. And leave you with Corliss’ last words

In the pop culture war, sex won — real, insolent, dirty sex, not Ginger's kind. And class went to the back of the class. It sits there, ignored and aloof, waiting for the young to recognize it. Can't they see how sensational that slim figure back there looks in his top hat, white tie and tails, as an indulgent smile plays on his face and his feet describe elaborate designs on the schoolroom floor? Can't they see that Britney Spears is not dance — that Fred Astaire is? I hope, some day, the kids will get Astaire. He's too cool to be the property of fogies like me

1. Though Epstein writes for the Weekly Standard – which means I should automatically hate him. David Thomson wrote some excellent stuff about Howard Hawks and Cary Grant But this time, much as I dislike this,  I’m firmly on Epstein’s side. Astaire was no matinee idol, but to quote James Agate “May I suggest that the solution hangs on a little word of three letters? Mr Astaire's secret is that of the late Rudolph Valentino and of Mr Maurice Chevalier — sex, but sex so bejewelled and be-pixied that the weaker vessels who fall for it can pretend that it isn't sex at all but a sublimated projection of the Little Fellow with the Knuckles in His Eyes. You'd have thought by the look of the first night foyer that it was Mothering Thursday, since every woman in the place was urgent to take to her bosom this waif with the sad eyes and the twinkling feet.”

2. I paraphrase this one, couldnt find the original quote

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Hindu Wars

Are disappointing. My first clue that “The Hindu” was not completely objective came when I was living in Hyderabad. Hyd was changing into Cyberabad at the time, and Naidu could do no wrong – atleast as far as the Hyderabadis were concerned. I tended to agree. After NTR’s populism and the Congress’ corruption, the man seemed like a breath of fresh air. You could see the city transforming from a sleepy grubby town that had grown too big to an actual city. But “The Hindu”’s Hyderabad edition was relentless in its criticism of Naidu. Some of the criticism was well founded – based on criticism of blind Neoliberal/IMF prescribed policies. Sainath’s excoriation of the TDP for ignoring the rural communities and the numberless suicides was appropriate and necessary. But the bulk of it was the way coverage was slanted. Every two bit Congresscreature who railed against Naidu could count on coverage, but very little Naidu said or did ever made it to the newspaper.

At first, I thought that it must be a local thing, that the Hyderabad editor was anti-Naidu and that the family wasn’t too concerned about what was primarily regional reporting. Naive? Yes. Plus, there was no doubt that the changes made to Hyderabad – the improved infrastructure, the cutting and streamlining of the bureaucracy, the excellent power situation – in my three years, I experienced only one major 7 hour power cut – and that was because of an accident at a power plant  - blinded you to the fact that farmers in their hundreds were killing themselves.

I could respect the position the paper took. It was going against the tide, at a time when everyone was going gaga about India Shining.

But these days, the paper has become ridiculous. It’s pretty much acknowledged that the paper is a daily apology for the DMK, and more than the DMK, Dayanidhi Maran. Oh, yeah. There are mealy mouthed editorials that come up once in a while about corruption, but these happen, not before reports of corruption become common knowledge, but well after. However, if the DMK is not implicated. Fire and fucking Brimstone, folks. Dayanidhi Maran – Oh Good guy – broken hearted over corruption. 323 telephones in his place, under the BSNL . See, we just found this on  Wikileaks, the same Wikileaks we were examining for several months now. As for the phone lines, why, here is Mr. Maran’s statement that he did no wrong. When the Express story was explicit that the lines were NOT in Maran’s name.

Then there are the tales of cowardice. An article on the SCV monopoly being shot down. Or this one, on the Radia tapes. Or this one, an abject apology for what? An article that mentioned the low opinion a German student had on a Kirloskar exhibit.

It just makes me sad. I think I preferred it when it was staid and bourgeois.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The Best of Tamil Cinema–Merchandising

Well, yes. There were Chaplin dolls in the 1920s. And there was Mickey mouse – with his pocket watches and train sets in the 1930s.  But merchandising really took off, as far as I know, in the Star Wars era.

Here, we don’t really have anything comparable. Oh, the shops are full of Spiderman and Ben Ten and Speed racer figurines, but I can’t really remember ANYTHING from the Tamil cinema world, apart from fan made Rajnikanth T-Shirts. And you have to order them from the US or buy them handprinted on duster material from the pavement opposite Loyola college. [Unless of course, you’re Rose Tyler – Annamalai T-Shirt ahoy at 0:51]

So I was surprised to read about a merchandising boom in Madras presidency – way back in 1939 – starring – wait for it – Papanasam Sivan. The Tamil Thyagaraja himself. And it was the first Tamil movie to be banned. Of course, it was made during a time when you could say “Congress ideals” without cracking up. The story was serialized in Ananda Vikatan – written by Kalki, it was one of the first to use movie stills instead of the customary illustrations. It dealt with progressive issues of its day – untouchability, domestic abuse – to the extent of the battered wife telling her repentant shitheel husband to fuck off when he returned on bended knee – and the Independence movement (Or is it freedom struggle?). It even starred a spinning Mahatma – via interpolated footage.


And the poster, above? The guy in the suit is the philandering husband,  the girl in the suit is his mistress – obviously evil – they’re aping the Brits.

So why the FUCK haven’t I heard of this before?

Why haven’t I heard that this ran at Gaiety? Fucking Gaiety  theatre which used to show Ramarajan films? The theatre I visited once – when I watched “The Perils of Gwendoline” to see Tawny Kitaen’s tits? And that the director – hearing that the Government planned to ban the movie – announced free shows (can a director do that? Was he related to the theatre owner?). And people flocked in and watched until the police came in and lathi charged everyone out of the place.

Funny. Watching a movie can be revolutionary act, after all.

Which led to a whole deal of merchandise. Thyaga Bhoomi saree falls and handbags, blouse pieces and bangles. I wonder if anyone has them still.

Friday, 27 May 2011

The Legend of the West

He’s a pal of Calamity Jane. He’s arrested Jesse James.  He’s spanked Billy the Kid and taken down Belle Star. He introduced Frederic Remington to Hiawatha. He skips rope on a highwire, on his horse. He taught Buffalo Bill Cody – the original, not the one killed by Clarice Starling – to ride and shoot. He’s a poor lonesome cowboy a long way from home who shoots faster than his own shadow.
So here’s a little adventure for fellow fans
Image (2)
Image (3)
Image (5)
Image (6)
And the link to the footnote

Saturday, 21 May 2011

The Best of Tamil Cinema

So I’m reading this coffee table book on “The Best of Tamil Cinema, 1931-2010” by this guy G.Dhananjayan.  It’s not unlike Halliwell’s Hundred or Halliwell’s Harvest, though its quite snark free.  It’s quite obvious Dhananjayan is a fanboy – which is all right with me, I’m a fanboy myself. It’s got introductions by K.Balachander, Mahendran and Balu Mahendra. There’s a painful introduction trying to define trendsetters and landmarks, and the book itself is split into two volumes, the first  covering 1931 to 1976 and the second from 1977 to 2010.

The first volume covers Kalidas (1931) to Bhadrakali (1976) – bookended by Kali – as it were. The second volume takes up from 1977’s 16 Vayadhinile to 2010’s Nandhalala.

The book is a labour of love, obviously. Dhananjayan notes that it took two years to put it together, and it’s obvious he thoroughly enjoyed doing it. There are some amazing pictures – ancient photographs, posters, newspaper clippings, review scans and other material. 

Add some hilarious lines – like this one on 1979’s Panchakalyani “A film which succeeded due to the excellent action of a donkey”. (If it was LH, that would have been a devastating put down – but here, it’s delivered perfectly straight); No prizes for guessing what it has to say about “Aattukkara Alamelu”; some cryptic ones “Unparallel output, which became a benchmark” on Nayagan.

So, the book itself. Volume 1 begins with Kalidas, and covers the earliest Tamil Movie Queen – T.P.Rajalakshmi. A homely (and by that – I mean – a not very attractive woman – and NOT the way we use it normally) woman who looks like someone’s mother, a mother who doesn’t take too much pains with make-up.

T.P.Rajalakshmi, the first Movie Queen of Tamil Cinema

Did you know that the first secret identity guy in Tamil Movies was called “Madras Mail”? And it starred a hero billed as “Batting Mani”.  Made in 1936 – the year that Hollywood gave us My Man Godfrey and Modern Times? And it starred a heroine nilled “Miss. Meenakshi”?

Image (4)

Or that the first woman to wear a two piece outfit in Tamil Cinema was a woman with the decidedly unglamourous name of K.R.Chellam, who was reviled in the popular press for doing so? And it was in a Tarzan rip-off called “Vanaraja Karzan”?

Or that Swadesamitran gave glowing reviews to Kalidas – predicting a run of a couple of weeks? Or that Samikkanu Vincent built  South India’s first dedicated movie theatre in Coimbatore – the Variety Hall. In 1914? That both Chandralekha and Aboorva Sagodarargal were directed by an Iyengar mama – T.Raghavachari – who was never heard of again?

I think I’m gaing to be making a new list of films – something I haven’t done since my summer hols in 1985 – when I discovered Halliwell in the BC,

Oh. and there’s not much on the cinema politician nexus, but did you know that the old dude in the middle was a movie buff?


Thursday, 12 May 2011

I'm Commander Shepard and this...

Well, you know how it goes.

If you don't, you're still not beyond redemption. You can still play Mass Effect and Mass Effect II.

It begins here
Works its way through here

And come to where I am, along with about 20 million others, waiting for Mass Effect III

And does it end here?


You can join us in our daily ritual of praying to St. Casey of Hudson, High Priest of Bioware, patron saint of epic space operas, that he doesn't screw things up. And that he delivers what he and his team have delivered three times before, each time as good as the last - and given that the first was KOTOR, very good indeed.

You can join us in praying that the demons of Executive Meddling are kept at bay by the forces of artistic integrity, gameplay awesomeness and huge commercials from the first two games

And you can wait and wonder what happens next

Marriages and Baby Carriages

Does the soap opera continue in other ways? Does Tali die in labour when when Shepardetta Vas Talizorah's emergence damps her mother's nanosuit? Or does Femshep have Garrus's baby, making Kaiden Alenko wander off into the sunset singing "FemShep, is not my lover...but the lizard is not my son..." - which becomes a breakaway pop hit on Galactic Radio and a staple of Citadel elevators?

Do they travel through star systems looking for a cure for Thane?

Doleful: Eye of Rachni, Toe of Krogan,
Wool of Vorcha, Tongue of Turian,
Volus Fork and Thresher Maw Sting
Elcor Leg and Collector Wing
For dealing with Kepral's trouble
a swill to make Drell eyes bubble?

From the Elcor adaptation of Macbeth, directed by Francis Kitt

Or does Sheploo have bouncing blue babies with Liara, blue biotic bullets that charge their way out of her singularity? Or is it Femshep who mated with our blue centurion and raised the question of two mommies - causing paroxysms of Fox outrage and more interviews with Cooper Lawrence? Or will there be options for Shepard to sleep with other species - a threesome with a hanar and an elcor? Will there be an email to Shepard asking him if he wonders what a Volus looks like under the suit? Or does Shep find Shiara's baby in the Normandy airlock? Does Shepard boink a Krogan?

Do Jack and Miri make a porno? Will Joker get to watch?

And will Joker consummate his simmering romance with EDI? Will she fabricate for him an exosuit that goes easy on his Vrolik's? Or will Joker borrow Shepards Heavy Bone Weaves to survive his boner?

Is Khalisah Bint Sinan al-Jilani a romantic interest in the third game? Is she into the “M” in S&M? Will you slap her, kick her or punch her on the face? Will you get tired of duplicitous asseverations in addition to her snide insinuations  and disingenuous assertions?

Minor Questions

Does Shepard destroy the EArth? Or does he save it? Will there be an EArth left to save

Is Harbinger the biggest boss? Or are there others reaper than he? Are all Reaper names trisyllabic? Do we meet the Reapers Binswanger and Rumpswinger? Or, to use Crowshaw convention, Reaper Gobblecock

Are the gasbags of Eden Prime the secret weapon? Is Shepard an amnesiac Reaper?

Do the Reapers have a kill switch? Is Shepard really Scooby Doo in a mask? Are the Reapers Mortgage Bankers in Mecha Cthulhu costumes?

Creeper! Reaper! Forget the rest of the world

And Urdnot Wrex, Urdnot Wrex. He'll steal your woman, then he'll butt your head, Urdnot Wrex, Urdnot Wrex.  I'll be searching all the joints in Tuchanka for Urdnot Wrex . Does the awesome Urdnot return?

Is Chorban's research good for anything? Do the Keepers mutiny? Does Executor Pallin see the Reapers from his office?

The Trial

Aaaah. The trial sequence. So who gives evidence? Who does Shep call? Samesh Bhatia?Random couple off street, recipients of parenting advice?Helena Blake, Mob boss and Missionary?The Kirosa Family? Father Kyle? Matriarch Aethytna? The consort? The Turian Councillor - "Ah. Genocide. We have dismissed that claim?" Dr. Chloe Michel? Conrad Verner? Does Harbinger bust in and deliver a scenery chewer in the courtroom? I know, Charn and the Blue Rose of Ilium appear on the stand, Charn denouncing the charges against Shep in verse. In e.e.cummings verse! And talking of poetry, does Ashley Williams move from Alfred Lord Tennyson to Allen "God" Ginsberg? Is Shepard's loquacity influenced by accumulated Paragon/Renegade pointage through the first two games? Does Morrigan - Aeryn Sun - Admiral Whatshername give evidence against Shep? Will there be vocal schizophrenia when the Rachni rep lands up as well?

Who prosecutes? Little TIMmy? "I bring additional evidence, m'lud - he blew up an entire space station full of Protheans. The last of the Protheans. If that is not genocide, I'll switch to Nicorettes".

Will Moridin be the Judge? Will he sing "The Punishment Fit The Crime"?


Right. We've gone through the galaxy on a pig with wheels, looking for heavy metals, light metals and rare earths. We've scanned and surveyed star systems and strip mined them to depletion for Iridium, Palladium, Platinum and Eezo. So what next? The Sol system is dead already. Even Uranus, a source of endless chemicals - is dead. Would Uranus sound better if we used the traditional spelling of Ouranus? Hmm. I guess not.



Yes, I know. I'm a sad sad man...

Monday, 9 May 2011

Aha ha ha ha!


Maya Bazaar. It’s a movie that most middle class people from Tamil Nadu and Andhra of my generation would have seen – though it was made atleast a decade before most of us were born. A movie that would have rerun in several theatres that did not have the new fangled airconditioning and it didn’t matter.

The movie was made at a time when filmmakers weren’t ashamed to mine Indian mythology and folktales for story, when everyday language in the mouths of Gods and mythical warriors didn’t sound strange or constrained.

Mayabazaar is the movie version of Sasirekha Parinayam, the story in which Abhimanyu marries Balarama’s daughter, Sasirekha. It’s not there in the original Mahabaratha, if such a thing exists. It takes place during Vana Parva, when the Pandavas and Draupadi were in their 12 years of exile in the forests. Arjuna sends Abhimanyu and Subhadra to Dwarka, to stay with Krishna and Balarama.

Now Abhi and Sashi have had the hots for each other since they were kiddies – and this was regarded as right and proper cousinly behaviour in the Tretha Yuga and earlier. The whole Athai magan/Maaman Magal bit has probably beaten to death in Tamil films as well, making it Kali thing. And Balarama is indulgent – afterall, there’s no denying that Arjuna was a badass and Abhimanyu had already shown himself to be a badbutt.

The game of dice happens, and the Pandavas are now banishees, living on nuts and berries and the meat of whatever animals they snag. Balarama, like most Indian dads wants to deliver his daughter’s defloration to the wealthy and powerful, and wealth and power now point due Hastinapuri. His point of view is reinforced by his wife, Revathy (played here with bug eyed bitchiness by Chaya Devi) which ends in Abhimanyu throwing a tantrum and dragging his mum off to join his father and uncles in exile.

In steps NTR – or Krishna – who has a quiet word with the charioteer, instructing him to take the scenic route, via Abhi’s cousins jungle territory. And the charioteer does that and gets to sing a song to Krishna’s inscrutable omniscience as a perk. 

Ghatothkachas forces – would loosely be translated as imps and goblins – given that they don’t seem very fearsome – despite some impressive stick on mustaches are busy at school – it’s roll call time, even for Rakshasas – and their Asuraguru seems to be having some trouble with a couple of extra dim imps called Jambu and Ambu - or is it Jambu and Shambu. In the background is a huge drum - and halfway through the gurus instruction, it starts beating. And SVR appears - crowned and jeweled and impressively mustached, singing a song to his own awesomeness - Ghatothkacha's awesomeness, that is. I can almost hear the hooting and whistling in the theatre when this happens

The song ends and Rakshasa radar kicks in - "Who is that trip trapping through my forest", he asks, and sends some of his flunkies to apprehend the intruders. His guys don't do much though, just boo at Abhminayu and Subhadra from behind the trees, more like Casper and the ghostly trio than, say, Duriel or Uldred. One of them conjures up a wall with badly painted demon grafitti, but Abhi just blasts through it. Ghat's curiosity is piqued, and he decides to deal with this boisterous balaka personally.

He lands up in the clouds, and praises Abhi for being a worthy rival and asks for name, rank and serial number. But Abhi is still in a huff and he refuses. The enraged Ghats then engages Abs in a 1957 special effects battle - which begins with A shooting everything G throws at him - lots of cutlery, the occasional mace. G decides this foe is worth a prayer - so he prays for and gets a special mace which he flings at A. Abhimanyu crumples.

Now, Subhadra goes into Mama Bear mode, and gives Ghatothkacha, not only her name and rank, but her entire family history - for what seems like fifteen minutes, vowing to smite the smiter with her mad archery skillz, which have rubbed off on her as a result of her constant rubbing against Arjuna. Ghatothkacha is aghast, and falls at her feet, slapping the ground thrice, screaming "Auntie". Auntie forgives him, they revive Abhimanyu and they go home. Ghatothkacha's home. There Abhimanyu and Subhadra tell Ghat and Ghat's mom, Hidimbi (You know shes a Rakshasi because she's wearing fur and feathers) all about Big Brother's badness. Ghat tells them not to worry, and that he will handle it.

The rest of the movie, of course, is how he handles it. There is no need to go into it further - as most people who have seen the film remember either this

Kalyana Samayal Saadham

or this

Vivaha Bhojanambu

The movie is awesome. And it radiates fun. You get the feeling that the cast was having fun making it, the crew had fun filming it and audiences came away filled with a warm glow of happiness.

The casts, in both Tamil and Telugu are perfection. Take Savithri, for example – someone who has always been identified with weepies – holds her own. Sambar and ANR are good, though both seem to take their participation in the Ridiculous Little Moustache Stakes very seriously. There’s Thangavelu/Relangi doing Lakshmanakumara, Duryodhana’s son.

NTR steals every scene he is in, with just a smug smile and an occasional word. For NTR, it must have been a second skin, considering the number of avatars of Vishnu he has played through the years. The ultimate Xanatos Speedchess Masters never have to do much, because everything is going as planned.

But ultimately, the movie belongs to Ranga Rao. SVR is a big man, he towers over the rest of the cast. As one of the pioneers of underplaying roles in an actors universe of gigantic hams, and an actor who could invest more meaning into the simple act of taking his spectacles off and cleaning them than any scenery chewing Sivaji Ganesan speech, he romps through his role with undisguised glee, making you count the seconds between appearances

And theres also this.

Sambar and Savithri
Or ANR, if you prefer it

The song begins with Abhimanyu and Sasirekha. When a guard spies them rowing and warns Balarama, Krishna and Rukmini drive the young couple off and take their place. When Balarama and Revathy come to the lake to catch the young couple, they find a not so yound couple just getting out of the boat. Revathy sniffs about people not acting their age, but Ballu’s in the mood for love, and before you know it, the ostensible heavies of the movie are in the boat, completing the song’s last chorus.

There’s so much to like about this movie – Ghantasala’s music, Marcus Bartley’s cinematography – the Aha Inba Nilavinile/Laahiri Laahiri was shot on location – in, of all places, Ennore  reservoir in broad daylight.

It’s not canon, of course. But it’s good fan fic. And I’m glad, as one who has loved these stories since when I was a kid, to see variations, using those beloved characters.  There’s Chithra Devi Divakaruni’s fanfic of the love affair between Draupadi and Karna.  Vasudevan Nair’s retelling through Bhima’s eyes. Who knows, maybe there will even be a telling of the illicit love affair between those two notorious pussy hounds, Krishna and Arjuna?

But thats for later. Now, I look at the picture of Ranga Rao and find myself with a huge grin on my face

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Roja Malare Rajakumari

Back when there was only radio  - and the dinner bell was the Gopal PalPodi advertisement, there was Vividh Bharathi’s varthaga olibarappu. And there were songs from black and white Tamil films – songs about liberty and new worlds from MGR movies channelling Captain Blood and the Prisoner of Zenda, tearjerker and rail against the  universe songs from Superham Sivaji Ganesan, sensitive love songs from that King of Love, Sambar. There were some lovely songs from that time – before colour and Kamal and Rajni changed the face of Tamil cinema beyond recognition.

There were other heroes from those days, the days before Balachander and Sridhar – when Apoorva Sagadharargal  was not the Kamalahasan egofest but a swashbuckling sequel to Chandralekha where drumspawned M.K.Radha and Ranjan duelled for the affections for T.R.Rajakumari.

And then there was this movie called Veera Thirumagan – starring a guy called C.L.Anandan – whose two initials were too little and too late. It had this song called Roja Malare Rajakumari, one of the loveliest I had heard. It was a song that I would always associate with the Modern Hairdressing Saloon, on Village Road, where my father would take me for my quarterly shearing. He would busy himself with the Ananda Vikatan while I would fidget until my turn on the barber’s chair. And this song would play, on All India Radio.

It was a total ear worm, and one of the first songs I noticed that I actively liked.

A few days back, I remembered the song, apropos some scarlet  roses that had sprung up in my cousin’s garden. I went looking for the video on the web and I could only come up with this.

The Old and the New

The first thing I see was this guy point to the camera with a shit eating grin on his face going “My Beauty Queen”. Then in the next minute, accompanied by a ridiculous synth, a woman wielding a shaker, a reefer changing hands,  a few item number extra types taking a few tokes and a lot of jiggling. My jaw hits the floor and my eyes bug out. Then the original visuals start and then I start beathing easier.

It doesn’t last though. Before you know it, theres a berk smoking a cigarette and there’s a lot of smoke behind a terrible CGI bullet.

My first instinct was to rage quit, but I was in a mood for reflection. After all, the remix was a symptom of our culture now. We have come far, from the time when a calf was enough to get the repressed masses – who were busy at work booming the population – in the mood for a good boinking. Isn’t it better now, where “Tonight I’m Fucking You” plays in the mall and this is what we are today. We are the new India, we are out there, competing with Flo-rider and Snoop Dogg. This is us, uncloseted and sexually liberated. (the guys of course. the women are, after all, sex objects). 

Then I thought “Naah.” This is just some wanker laying a huge turd on a beautiful song.

So I did quit. And soothed my senses with the original.

And washed that down with this

The Ultimate Job Application

and this

Sambar and Vyju. He leers, she sneers