Friday, January 30, 2015

All ye Veerappans

Why on earth do some men use Sandalwood based perfumes?

Come on please.

There is a guy who smells of incense sticks and another who smells of Vicco Turmeric. And every time he passes by I hear the song "Vicco Turmeric nahin cosmetic..."

I am sure men wouldn't want to remind women of their Pooja Rooms or their Gokul sandal talc-using mothers or even the forest brigand Veerappan.

Try musk, there's amber, Try grass, or the ones with aquatic notes, why, even citrus (though that's a risky one in my opinion). If you want to go woody, try patchouli with a woody moss combination.

But save the forests and stop the sandalwood perfumes.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Bhima - Lone Warrior

Pic courtesy:
Ever since I read a review of this book in The Hindu Literary Supplement, I have been wanting to read it.

Thanks to a friend, I finally got a chance to read this book originally written by the great Malayalam author, Shri M T Vasudevan Nair,with the title Randa Moozham. This is the story of the Mahabharata as told by Bhimasena, the second Pandava brother, fondly called Bhima.

The character of Bhima has always intrigued me, especially after reading a similar book by Chitra Banerjee Diwakarunni, Palace of Illusions. Was he just all brawn? Did he ever feel pain? What was the real person like?

These are the questions that Lone Warrior answers for you. It introduces you to the person that Bhima might have been. It traces the story right from Bhima's childhood to the end of his life. Just like how a warrior's perspective should be, Bhima mostly talks about his valour, the duels and the battles with various people and armies. The description of the Kurukshetra war is told in complete detail, keeping the logic completely intact. We, as readers of the Mahabharata know the story from many perspectives but Shri M T does not talk of things Bhima would not have possibly known.

The most endearing part is when Bhima talks about his feelings and emotions. The hurt he feels at being insulted by the Kauravas as a child, his love for food, his first love, Hidimbi, his feelings towards Draupadi and his lament for his dead sons, especially Ghatotkacha who, for being a tribal woman's son, does not only get his due credit but does not even get a decent funeral. One really feels sorry for Bhima when everyone keeps calling him 'blockhead' right into his adulthood. We, as readers know, he isn't. That fraction of a second when Bhima almost dreams of becoming King after the war is conveyed so beautifully.

For me the most striking part is his relationship with his brother, Yudhishtir, who is generally looked upon as a symbol of righteousness and high morals. Though he is always respectful towards his brother, Bhima is often miffed when Yudhishtir's virtuousness becomes more important than fairness. This makes Bhima think some very sarcastic, often irreverently funny things about Yudhishtir.

Interestingly, his equation with Krishna is also not great,  though there is immense outward respect. He adores Draupadi, though she seems to use him. Even Bhima doesn't know this but the writer secretly conveys it to the reader through his wonderful craft.

We've all grown up listening to the glorification of the Mahabharatha heroes, giving them an almost godly status. But Shri MT turns it all around and portrays everyone as normal human beings but much more strong - emotionally and physically than the average queen and king. The vastraharan scene is explained in detail but the most popular incident of the endless yards of saree is not even hinted at. Similarly the mayasabha event is not made a big deal out of. Even Bhishma's bed of arrows is not mentioned. Many such surprises. This kind of interpretation makes the story-telling so much more stunning.

There is an ample sprinkling of wry humour by the way of Bhima's thoughts and this brings us closer to him.

I had two wishes while I was reading this fantastic book. I wished I knew how to read Malayalam so that I can experience the joy of such brilliant writing, first hand. It would have sounded so poetic. Since that will not be, my second wish was that the translation could have been much better. Though the translator (Gita Krishnankutty) has captured much of the essence, a lot of emotion has been lost in translation, as the cliche goes. Also she has used many terms which seem inappropriate in a book like this. Though there are many instances, the one I am unable to forget is the use of the phrase "red light area", which I am sure wasn't used in Bhima's time or even Shri MT would not have used! The title however, is very apt to the story.

The narration sometimes seems a little too prosaic and monotonous, like the drone of a man talking without a pause in unending baritones. I need to check this with someone who has read the original.

Yet, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in the human nature or the lives of celebrated people. Men and women readers will like this book equally. While Palace of Illusions uses every thread of emotion possible to weave its story, Lone Warrior makes use of a perfect blend of fabric to build a sturdy tale.

Thottal Thodarum - Sparking Off a Flying Start

Thottal Thodarum - a film that made its way quietly to the theatres, relying on no fanfare or hullabaloo but just the confidence of the makers.

Just like its title does, the film builds up a good air of mystery around it right from the start. The story line is so tightly packed that putting together a synopsis becomes difficult without giving away at least some of the suspense. So, the central idea of the film is how a small incident can take you to the most unexpected and dangerous corners in life. A thriller weaved into a sweet love story is Thottal Thodarum for you.

To my surprise and to the I am sure to many others as well, the story revolves around the female lead. And this is such a welcome relief amidst all the misogynistic 'hero' glorification happening in our films today. What happens in Thottal Thodaurm is kind of a heartwarming 'team work' between the male lead and the female lead, played by Thaman Kumar and Arundhathi. 

The film is a debut directorial venture of Sankarnarayan, known by his friends and fans as Cable Sankar. 

That he is a lover of quality cinema comes across clearly in the way Cable Sankar has envisioned, written and executed the film. He seems to have put in everything that he had ever wished for in a film. Oodles of sugary-sweet romance, some good music, extra-ordinary events that can take the love story forward and some good comic moments. It normally happens that when you are dreaming of something for a long time, there is a baggage that gives away the start date of the dream. However, nothing of that shows and the film has a young, breezy air about it. There is the internet, there are the apps, there are the gadgets..things that youngsters can easily relate to.

Running to just about 2 hours, the film comes with a taut screenplay with interesting twists and turns. The love story does, at a point make you impatient. Perhaps it was deliberately done to make you root for the new lovers. One is almost goading them to meet and kick start their love story at a point. And this is exactly the point when the story takes a sudden twist.

There are a lot of small touches that the director has put in to show the depth of his involvement. Like the ring tone of the hero's phone that in a way establishes an endearing feeling towards him (who can forget the sweet but naughty music from Geethanjali/Idhayathai Thirudaathey?), the heroine, someone from a middle-class background repeating her normal-looking, realistic costumes in more than one scene, the hero actually clicking open his car lock each and every time he has to open the door (I've only seen people directly getting into their cars, no matter where they are parked). I particularly liked the way the heroine looks up to the hero for moral support at a moment of crisis. This is the first natural thing likely to happen in a relationship built on trust. There are many more such small things. These are touches that speak about the director's efforts. 
Coming to the casting, Thaman Kumar and Arundhathi have given their all to portray their roles to the maximum perfection. Thaman Kumar is sure to get noticed for his confidence, looks and voice. Unusually for Tamil films, be it the way he carries himself or his comfort with both Tamil and English, he looks every inch a city slicker. Tamil films have a distance to cover where girls still need to be shown with a bindi, saree, half-saree. The heroine in fact doesn't have as many lines in English as the hero has. I wonder why? Just because he is from a better financial/educational background? But with due credit to the director, though albeit coy in appearance, the protagonist Madhu is no way demure or weak.

The hero and heroine are not under any pressure to showcase their dancing prowess or rib-crunching action shots. They come across as just normal people who face just one abnormal incident that they deal with cleverness.

Balaji plays the role of the ubiquitous side-kick with a funny streak. He has done his best and has given some really funny lines. But I really wish these side-kicks (everyone starting from Santhanam) stop making know-it-all sweeping statements about women and matters of the heart. The "dei ponnungaley ippidithaan" theories can get your goat after a point. 
Thankfully this film has no place for the ever so common TASMAC (and its aftermath purgatory) scenes. There are in fact no scenes depicting either smoking or drinking. 

Talking about dialogues, they have general been written very well - crisp, contemporary and clear.

The music by P C Sivan is quite catchy. The background score is worth paying attention to. Two songs are particularly nice - Penney-penney and Poo pola-poo pola. The latter in fact, even when I heard it before watching the film, imagined it to be a road-song and I am not disappointed. The way Penney-penney has been filmed is very pleasant, just like the song itself. The famous Bossu Bossu serves as a montage for the very interesting opening credits. Again a first in a long time, there are no 'kuthu songs' in the film. In fact, the director has broken away from the heavily choreographed-100 dancers-exotic locales-weird costumes routine completely. 

The cinematography is noteworthy especially the aerial highway shots. 

The writer of the film has cleverly given his debut film an auspicious title of sorts (Thottal Thodarum, loosely translated to "just get it started and it goes on forever") because the film has certainly paved a way for not just the director but also for Thaman Kumar, Arundhathi, P C Sivan and the entire young crew that is raring to go.

Photos Courtesy:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Loving my Levis

Just like good leather (though I don't use leather), good jeans age well. Jeans of a good quality look better with more use.

Pic courtesy:

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My Girl (Fan Chan)

I was reading a story by Ruskin Bond - The Meeting Pool. And I remembered this fantastic movie that I watched at least three times many years ago on TV. (Those days when movie channels used to play good films).

Anyone remember this?

Could Nee Thaane En Pon Vasantham have been based on this?