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
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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”?

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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