Posted in On such things...

On Good-Byes and such things…

Ok. I have been teaching a class for the past 9 weekends. Even though I am not a certified teacher or a professional trainer, what I experienced in the last few weeks was truly addictive. I can probably go on and on and fill this page with how much I enjoyed doing this (teaching). Most certainly, the intent of this scribbling is not that.

Today was my last day in the class. The embroidered mix of the class was one of the reasons why I could pull myself to be this involved at a certain emotional level. So when it came down to saying, ”wrap up”, notwithstanding the fact that I actually did it by wishing my wonderful students the very best in a quiet & a cheerful way, I do realize now as I reminisce over my shoulders on my day’s happenings that it indeed was hard. Hard to accept that my role as a trainer to these 12 professionals had come to an end. I made sure I never said “Good-bye” to anyone today. It was not really something I was conscious of until later on. I guess I really did not want this to be the last time I met them.

I cannot recall any instance in the past when I enjoyed saying good-bye. Actually, I do not say good-bye unless and until the other person is a real close friend. My usual parting away process ends with just a “bye”. And in those occasions when I say good-bye, I know that the word itself is something I particularly dislike using. It is true that when I say good-bye, in the heart of my heart, I wish and hope that I can meet the friend again. But then when I say good-bye, I do get the feeling that it means that I have learnt something from the other person whom I am saying good-bye to or a lesson is to be learnt from the other person or the other person is no longer needed in my life in that particular manner anymore, that I have known him/her.

There were instances in the past when I have had to say good-byes – bad good-byes. Some real good friends or family members that I never got to see again. I grew up as the most colorful grandson of my grand father. He had been my guide in a lot of ways and it is just not right for me to try to put my love and respect for him in words. The last time I visited him in India, he was 96. He was thin, frail, unenergetic, weak & weary – everything that he was not in my mind because he was such an opposite character even in his 70s. When it was time for me to leave my folks as my vacation was getting over, I detested the fact I had to say good-bye to him, for the fear that I may not meet him again. In fact the last few times I visited him, whenever it was time to leave, I would seek his blessings and for a brief moment a nerve of chill would come alive inside me. A few seconds of fear and a few seconds of hope later, I would just put a brave front & check my emotions just to get on with my journey. My flights back to the USA would be filled with a mixed bag of thoughts. My grand father passed way in the winter of 2004 – about 9 months after I last visited him. So I guess my fear came true in a way this time. Even though it was not so much a good-bye that I told my grand father when I met him last, it was at least the equivalent of it in Tamil.

Of course, a few bad good-bye experiences don’t make the word bad. It is more of a denial process that makes me resist saying good-byes. To put things in perspective, many of my good-byes have really been not so bad ones, albeit, it is only the bad ones that stick out. I have had to say good-byes to many friends with whom I had spent a long time, only to get opportunities to meet them again in future for a short time at least. So every time I get to meet these friends and it is time for me to say good-bye (again) to them, it is that hope of meeting them again, that makes that moment pass painlessly.

Sometimes you are the receiver of these good-byes. You may be moving on or may be moving away from the other person physically, spiritually or in some other manner. I really do not know how much it affects the other person but I do feel the same way whether I am the donor or recipient of good-byes. And there are days when the good-byes are mutual.

Today was one such day. My friends from the class were done with the task of completing the course and I was done with the task of imparting them with the new skills that they sought out to learn from me. I did meet some wonderful people in this class I taught. If I have to sum up, my total interaction with the class would be about 90 odd hours. But in these 90 hours, I got to know may of these people and various facets of their personalities. It opened up the door of learning some new things from them on things that I had no idea of before or things that I always wanted to learn but needed a role model to do so. With all those good memories behind, parting should not be that easy. Actually parting with my class, in retrospect, was not that difficult when compared to some other good-byes in the past. Because most of these friends from my class do not live far off from where I do and at a professional level, I know, even if I do not get to meet them in person always, there will be opportunities to interact with them. This parting signified the fact that they had moved on.

Hmm…so after all, saying good-bye is not that bad. It means how much the other person meant to you and means to you. It is your way of showing that appreciation for the person. For things he/she has done for you, things you have learnt from him/her and most importantly for what he/she meant to you. So I should honor my good-byes. I should accept them and learn from them. I should reflect on these experiences – both good and bad & learn from them. I should remember that these good-byes are just temporary. I will meet my friends again – somehow, sometime and somewhere.

Posted in Movies - General

Mumbai Express – Part II

Mumbai Express


Only when I watched the movie the second time, I realized that there is a style in which Kamal had attempted to make the movie, which more or less has been consistent throughout the movie. That is a plus. I am trying hard to put what I interpreted as the style of the movie, into words. May be at the end of this analysis, I would be able to sum up that “style”.

Once again, screenplay (or script), which is Kamal Hassan’s fortress of strength comes into forefront in Mumbai Express. His ability to connect sequence of events logically not losing his focus on the main plot makes him a good scriptwriter. Of course, like Virumandi, he ends up with a long script (this is without any song being shot in its entirety). But unlike Virumandi, this script, fortunately has comedy interwoven making the theatre goers not squirm so much in their seats.

The opening credits roll by very fast and the script pretty much starts of with 3 of the 9 or 10 main characters getting introduced (to us) in a very natural manner, also revealing the main plot quite wisely to the viewers, without any dramatic effort. Pasupathy, the actor who was being typecast as a rustic villain in tamil movies with cruel stares and vengeful dialogues, gets an opportunity to work with Kamal again. Boy! What an opportunity it turned out to be. He still has some stares in the movie – but not cruel ones. He is not a comedian, delivering humorous one liners every 3rd line he speaks. But his character of Chidambaram (Mr. A) is very well etched and more importantly, very well portrayed.

He comes off as a desperate man in need of some quick money, filled with ideas to get that but lacking all the expertise and skills to do so, committed, not trusting anyone around, yet willing to work in a team and just be normal. Everything a regular bad guy in your neighborhood would do. Nothing cinematic here.

Vyapuri’s character (Johnson or Mr. B) is definitely there for some laughs. But even Mr. B doesn’t do anything silly or quirky to bring out the laughter from us, the character had some high points in the movie. The confession joke, constant reminder to Mr. A about the usage of code words are some.

For any actor willing to experiment, take up challenges, etc., Thambu Chetty’s character is a welcoming opportunity. Like Pasupathy, Ramesh had a very good opportunity and he made full use of it. He is an annoying insurance agent – never losing focus on his job, even when he is badly injured. He had some great lines in the movie (“headukku maelae floodu..John poanaa enna? Johnson poana enna??”). My mother who watched the movie with me did not even know that it was Ramesh Aravind till I told her the following day. So whoever worked on Ramesh’s facelift needs to take some credit.

Hardik (10 year old), did a decent job. Even though his character crossed limits of a 10 year old at times, his character was neither too lovable nor too repulsive. Kamal Hassan probably did not want the focus to be on the boy & his characteristics too much – instead wanted the focus to be on the actual kidnapping of the boy. If that indeed was the case, then he, as a scriptwriter, lost his grip for a few minutes in the second half of the movie, when Manisha-Kamal relationship was being portrayed.

Nasser and Santhana Bharathy seem like they have played similar roles before. But that factor definitely does not hinder us from enjoying their respective characters’ antics. Sharad Saxena has a small part. Nothing to brag about.

Dheena, the new comer, needs to learn to speak better. His voice (and his lack of modulation) was my pet hate pick of the movie. Sarala was annoying at times, but I think she can blame Kamal Hassan, the dialogue writer for giving her some real jerky lines. The good part was that her screen time was less.

Manisha – It could have been anyone playing this part. I am not sure why Kamal was desperate to get Madhuri Dixit for this role. Or was the role underdeveloped and under portrayed because Manisha ended up doing it? Anyway, I am glad that some really talented actress was not wasted for this role. I like Manisha, but I think she seems to have lost her passion for acting in movies. She seems more distracted than being involved – may be her body language. But that’s my observation.

Finally Kamal the actor. He has definitely underplayed his role.. so much that some critics have termed him as the weakest link in the movie. For me, it is exactly what Kamal had wanted to do in this movie. In fact, I believe right from Anbe Sivam, Kamal has managed to bring in an air of reality around his characters, which means, he underplays his roles dramatically. For those for whom “Nayagan” is the benchmark for Kamal’s acting, this may seem like under par. But this is what an actor should do. Evolve with the ages, with generations and with cinematic growth. That is exactly why, I like the fact that Avinashi’s character not taking a bulk of the share of the script. Avinashi walks in and walks out of the script as needed.

The strongest link in the movie is definitely the screenplay. The screenplay has been developed without taking the audience for granted. There is no repetition or reinforcement of sequences just to make sure the audience is with you. Even dialogues for the most part are written for an intelligent audience (intelligent by Indian movie standards). Some dialogues bring out a smile instantaneously and some don’t. Some drag you and some make you weary. On the whole, Kamal could have had Crazy Mohan, his favorite writer for comedy films, do the job. But may be, he was afraid of stereotyping. I get the feeling, Kamal Hassan’s dialogues are definitely not the kind that an average moviegoer enjoys. Having said that, I thought Kamal really did a very decent job in MX with his funny one liners. It is only when he has to write some not-so-funny stuff, he loses his perception or his plane of thinking is never the same as the audience’s.

Direction – A man of Singeetham Srinivasa Rao’s caliber needs to be appreciated for taking up such challenges even at this age. He is a Raaj Kamal favorite and probably on a permanent payroll there. But I am sure, he added his dimension to the movie even though it is a given that Kamal pretty much wore the director’s hat while letting Rao gaaru sit in the director’s chair.

Ilayaraja is a star of background music. He has done an amazing job in MX but is all the Budapest hype worth? No. Not in my view. The way the songs have been handled in the movie has to be mentioned here..I really liked the way no song was fully shot. There was no forceful entry of these songs either. As for the songs go, I think Ilayaraja owes it a big time to Sivamani for the mood he created in every song he worked on. Even though the melody is very much Ilayaraja’s (reminds you of Kamal-IR combination’s 80s/90s music), the sound layering, rhythm and overall recording have been done by someone else making the album sound a little modern. But I am not sure if the album will cut into the skin of any generation. “Poo Poothathu” stands out just because of its sheer melody.

Cinematography was very unique in this movie partly because of the digital format. But there were some camera angles that only Kamal could have conceptualized (reminding you of some famous Hollywood movies) setting a very natural & calm tone throughout the movie. If not for the poor picture quality that it turned out as a result of going digital, may be we would have appreciated Siddharth’s work better.

So Mumbai Express on the whole was a carefully scripted movie, with a deliberate attempt to portray the characters as real as possible. The movie has its ups and downs. Every actor has played his/her part close to perfection. “Comedy of Errors” it was.

If I have to summarize – MX is an “Up close look at reality being underplayed resulting in some comedy of errors”!!

May be this is the style that I was talking about!

Posted in Movies - General

Mumbai Express – Part I

Mumbai Express

-An objective stand-

An aging Kamal Hassan tries to foray into a new dimension of film making through Mumbai Express. Like many of his previous experiments, even this one evokes a lot of applause from those of us who appreciate anything creative. But there are many more unlike “us” – who will be ready to get their daggers out to chop these kind of ventures into simply invisible pieces by throwing out their critical views eventually leading these movies into a box office abyss.

I belong to the former category so I enjoyed the whole experience of watching Mumbai Express twice in Tamil. I am waiting for the Hindi version to be released in some nearby theatres or be available in some legal form for home viewing. Either way, I know I am going to be buying the Tamil and Hindi DVDs as soon as they get released.

If at all there were places in the movie, where I got some dreary feelings while watching the movie for the second time, I realized they were places when characters were involved in some lengthy and serious conversations. The case in point being – the initial hospital sequence when Kovai Sarala and Dheena indulge in some real “documentary style” dialogue exchange. Then the Manisha – Kamal sequence when they talk about love, at a point in the movie when that seemed totally irrelevant & pushed in. So sometimes, the dialogues, although inventive and intelligent, lacked the punch to keep the audience glued to their seats. They definitely gave a dragged feeling to many movie watchers.

Climax – Probably the censor board’s firm stance on that (“yele”) song gave very little time for Kamal and crew to come up with a better idea as there was less than a week left between censor certification and movie release. They resorted to some optimal editing which has resulted in a rather abrupt end making you wonder if that kind of seemingly dramatic ending was necessary.

Kamal Hassan is a very good media agent. He has got a lot of good friends in the media (Hindi, Telugu and Tamil) but I am not sure if his PR skills always work, specially the pre-release ones. This movie, albeit a little late to get a good share of media’s attention (partially because Chandramukhi hogged the limelight), did eventually get all the pre-release hype all Kamal Hassan’s movies, of late have been receiving. May be Kamal, in an over enthusiastic tone has always managed to build a bubble which is ready to burst as soon as the movie gets released. The bursting here is definitely a reference to the BO stand. I can’t recall when this trend started – probably after Avvai Shanmughi. I am sure some movie goers who feed on such media coverage, always find Kamal Hassan’s movies (in the post-bubble era) not living up to their expectations.

What surprised me this time around was that I could clearly see myself taking a stand a little far away – may be too far away from Kamal Hassan’s diehard fans. Most of the Kamal DHFs reacted to the movie as if this was the worst thing that had happened to Kamal and that he had let them down miserably. I just do not seem to understand the reason. Some of them have gone to the extent of declaring the movie an utter flop already (4 days after its release). I thought of myself as a very big admirer of Kamal but I certainly miss something that would make me a KDHF – I think I am glad I don’t know what that is. I can be critical of Kamal Hassan without getting emotional, this way.

Posted in Miscellaneous, Poem

Where I was born

Pearl City

There, to the west of the eastern sea,
Embraced by a drifted saltpan necklace,
Where the oysters sweat out nacres of pearls,
Clustered in their mantles and shells.

A temple, a center and every life around it nearby,
An archaic fold of a southern Indian city,
Waves and knaves sing in harmony,
As the land and the sea strive for unity.

This is Tuticorin, the city that bedded my birth,
This is Tuticorin, a paradise for marine merchants out here in the Dravidian land.

Hot and humid, sunny and sultry, the weather is,
Warm and welcome, hearty and healthy, the people are
Rough and rowdy, crude and crass, on their irksome days
Some make a living and some make a better living.

This is Tuticorin, where salt is in its breath and sweat,
This is Tuticorin, where a drop of blood is worth a treat.