Monday, December 24, 2007

Slice of the Big Apple

Now the rovin' gambler he was very bored
He was tryin' to create a next world war
He found a promoter who nearly fell off the floor
He said I never engaged in this kind of thing before
But yes I think it can be very easily done
We'll just put some bleachers out in the sun
And have it on Highway 61.

Either he was eerily prescient or Bob Dylan was simply marking time. Whatever, this was my favourite growing-up song.
When it was finally decided that I would trade sultry Chennai for New York's iciness, this was the song that would keep swirling in my head. It simply refused to go away, like an old-aunt's lullaby. I let it stay.

Eight years back, when I had swished past NYC in transit to Toronto and saw, in my mind's eye, the still-iconic WTC towers lost somewhere in the folds of the clouds below, I remember making myself a promise: that I would come back some day and revisit Highway 61, pardon my muddled geography.

Much has changed, much hasn't. Cogito, ergo sum. Whatever.

If at Heathrow Airport, they rubbed your nose in the brownness of your skin ("In transit to NY? Doesnt matter, maa'm. British security is not the same as American. You need to clear us if you want to get there"), JFK was kinder, gentler, not at all like what Henry Miller's black-humour-served-with-coffee, An Airconditioned Nightmare, had said it would be. I cleared immigration in five minutes flat and customs, even less. "From Chennai, maa'm? Have a good day!"

This was not a new country. Eight years back, I had wandered the East Coast like a vagabond, backpack-bound and napping on the hard benches of subway stations, to stretch my overwrought-budget.
Much has changed, much hasn't.

Eight years back, as my train entered USA from the Canadian half, they would make one of my Indian co-passengers disembark at Sarnia-on-the-border, frisk him, detain him for over half an hour and would only let him board another train two hours later.

Now, India is the big story everywhere. Your brownness is your talisman. Your accent, it ain't matter no more.

Aah, the blessed anonymity of a great city. Walking NY's pavement in the icy cold of a December night, the wind lifting your hair and the chill spreading on your cheeks with the softness of a pigeon feather.
Riding the Manhattan train, emerging out of the earth's belly, into the labyrinthine concourse of glass and steel outside 49th Street.
Feeling so at-home in NYC's chaotic traffic, and laughing delightedly when your cabbie swerves madly to avoid a Land Rover, swears "Rattlesnake!" and turns instantly to apologise to you, "Sorry, Miss Lady. This city is full of cheapstake m************!"
Digging into a bowl of Puerto Rican rice and beans and a ketchup-drenched Corn Dog at the Rockefeller Center as the skating rink erupts in a dozen graceful pirouettes.

Sights. Smells. Sounds. Life.

You are your own Lonely Planet.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Is there any other delicacy in the world that even remotely compares with those little, perfectly shaped widgets? The lusciousness of the sweet ones (their bellies bursting with the exciting promise of jaggery and coconut scrapings and the intangible whiff of cardamom), the wafery spiceness of the savoury variant, the near-perfection of the white wrap...nothing even comes near.
I trudged to the friendly neighbourhood sweet shop this Ganesh Chathurthi to buy a pre-assembled Chathurthi special sweetbox. Inside a box large enough to house a laptop, lay an assortment of sweets and karams. Wrapped in plastic. Phoney. Synthetic. Like lighting a diya with a cigarette butt. Or actor Vadivelu delivering a Parasakthi. Whatever. Take your pick.
For all that money they make you pay, you would at least expect a decent kozhukattai--that invention of pure genius--but what you get instead are two sad looking dumplings, spotched on the outside with scabs of brown. Deep-fried disasters.
Now, I am not particularly the sweet-toothed type, but kozhukattais? They are a different story, altogether.
It all comes, I guess, with growing up in a neighbourhood where, come Chathurthi, one unabashedly made a solemn pact of fidelity with the kozhukattai. That I used to live at the footsteps of one of the most beautiful Ganesha places ever--the Rock Fort in Tiruchirappalli--is only a helpful footnote.
Wafting through the fumes of disappointment at not being able to dig my teeth into the kozhukattai's soft underbelly this year, was the sepulchral memory of Padma maami who, unarguably, made the best kozhukattais this half of the hemisphere.
Widowed at eighteen, her whole existence came to fruition only during that time of the year when Ganesha came visiting. Padma maami was a classicist. Her kozhukattais were her ode to immortality.
Only the finest Ponni rice flour would do. She would sieve, sieve again and then sieve some more till the flour flowed like fine silk. It used to be great fun for us kids, thrusting our faces into the wafting white clouds of flour and come away with a nose that would have made Calvin proud.
The jaggery had to be the exact shade of brown and the coconut had to be personally sourced from Subbunni's grove on the banks of the Cauvery.
She would knead the dough with a karmic intensity--with the same mother-love that she would have lavished on a never-to-be-born child--and spread it out in mirror-thinness. Splay of the milk-white dough glistening with oil against the dark of the plantain leaf.

The dough would then be pinched with mathematical precision at exact spots to make the folds and held against palm. In went the stuffing. I remember she used to throw a fit if the cardamom was not from Jagannathan grocery store ("only he gets Ceylon yelakkai, the rest taste like goat's pellets").
She would never, ever have done a kozhukattai the ultimate disrespect of deep-frying it. They would be stacked, ten to a plate, on her copper uruli and steamed till the juices blended in perfect symphony.

She died a lonely death, in some faraway hospital bed in a Christian missionary home. No one came visiting. Alzheimer's can be turn-off for even close kin.

Of deep fried kozhukattais there will be plenty. But, what of the soul food?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Me is mighty happy.....

....about my Wiki debut.

With Jana Gana Mana being the flavour of the season, it feels good to sing along. Thanks, whoever it is that put it there.

The Madanapalle trip was perhaps the best assignment I ever had....more so, because of the visit to Jiddu Krishnamurthi's house and meeting up with those who had shared time- space with him.
Am not the spiritually inclined type, but this was the closest approximation to an on-job pilgrimmage I ever had.

I stood before the phantomic Olcott house-- at the same spot, perhaps, from where the first-ever lilt of Jana...was heard--and shivered in the almost-summer heat. History lay before me, sunning itself like a familiar beast. At JK's ancestral house, impeccably maintained by his afficianados, I still remember the goosebumps.

The Wiki entry has only made the best of memories even better.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

One for the road

The Corolla's wheels splice through
like hammer in a maniac surgeon's hands.

He stares numbly at the orange-flavoured slush
at the Rasna sachets that are now withered metaphors.
He had been nowhere on the sedan's radar
its bumper seared his calves.

The passer-by's tch-tch hangs horrifically in the suddenly-still air.

He looks up at the car
only to find the chihuahua's interested eyes at the window.

At his feet
the fruity puddle has vanished.
A child's tuition, a mother's medical bill, a wife's once-yearly saree

He sighs, gets up, wrings his dhoti of the last few drops.

What angers more than the arrogance of the rich
the meekness of the poor.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Dappankoothu zindabad!

Look at what Wikipedia has done to our very own gilli-danda dance!!Don't miss the section on Outfits and...

Am sure whoever inserted this was thinking of a Ramarajan-gone-wrong. Dance along, ladies and gentlemen...only this time, dont feel apologetic about your pattapatti (???!!!) showing!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Demolition Men

What would you term an organisation that has only men as its members (and that too ONLY men whose marriages are in various stages of disarray, some of them going through messy divorces and some on the verge of getting there), that seriously advises men not to get married as almost every potential spouse is a manipulator?
That insists that family laws in India should be amended to keep pace with the US as it is easy to get a divorce out there in just six months?

This organisation, ladies and gentlemen, is called--well, you lost the guess--Save Indian Family.
I shall say no more than direct you to this blog, written by a young girl who, it appears, doesnt belong to the feminist conclave, but is horrifically disturbed by what SIF stands for.

I got to know of the existence of a rump of this organisation in Chennai a few months back, and had not paid too much attention for I thought it was just a gripe club. I couldn't have been more wrong. This is no ordinary support group for men who gather together to exchange notes about painless divorces. Rather, they seem to have a surefire strategy to boost membership-enlist more members, even if it means wrecking perfectly normal marriages. The law of averages, I guess.

Here is how it goes: a friend ( who till then had been quite happy with his marriage but had had a few heartburns in an earlier relationship) chanced upon this group and dropped in on one of the meetings just out of curioisity in "finding out how other men coped."
He was perhaps the only married man in the group who attended their meetings after discussing about the forum with his wife. There seemed to be no misunderstanding, at that moment.
The motley SIF, Chennai, comprises of men, who are gainfully employed otherwise but would rather stew in the stench of the past than simply get along with life.
For a few weeks, all was well with my friend. The indoctrination must have been ever so subtle for the man never showed up any trouble and even invited his wife to attend one of the weekly meetings.
Then, whoosh, the kaleidoscope changed. The trouble started manifesting in ways in which the couple could not have foreseen. From then on, every little domestic tiff became a potential minefield, every small argument blew up in their faces and they ended up averaging two fights a day.
To be fair to them, they did talk about talking and getting things sorted. Thing is, it never happened. All those women-hater tales about scheming, manipulative wives who were after their husband's pay packets, ready to slap a dowry harassment case at the slightest pretext and throw the man's aged parents into jail--had obviously found their mark.

This is not to say my friend is as impressionable as all this sounds. In his better avatar, he was a sensitive individual, well read and articulate and with a mind of his own. But then, you are what your peer group makes of you.

To cut a long story short: when the friend brought up the issue of his own troubled marriage amongst the group, one of the ever-so-helpful leaders promptly helped him find a lawyer and asked the friend to henceforth discuss (DISCUSS!!) all domestic quarrels with the lawyer first.
So, now, the lawyer has a tab on the couple's life.
And of the marriage? I'll save my breath.

SAVING INDIAN FAMILIES? Laughing out loud!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Playing Janus

One always knew this was happening but one never knew it would be so close home. The latest figures to emerge out of a UNESCO study are scary enough to be believable: two out of every three victims of domestic violence in India is an educated woman. In fact, UNESCO even says the figures may be on the lower side because such women would rather smile and cover up rather than stand up and be counted, just because they wouldnt want to lose face among peers.
It is so much easier, you see, to pretend the monster doesnt exist rather than look it in the eye.
Am reproducing here a report on a study done a few years back that created enough ripples to eventually result in the Domestic Violence Act (emphasis mine):

April 27, 2007
In India, Domestic Violence Rises with Education
By Swapna Majumdar (Women's News)

Debates about domestic violence in India is being stirred by a study that found a woman's risk of being beaten, kicked or hit rises with her level of education.
In New Delhi, India, a brilliant doctor tries to commit suicide after her husband slaps her for contradicting him in front of his friends.
In Manila, Philippines, a former beauty queen tells police she was coerced into "entertaining other men" after being locked in a room without food for days by her husband.
In Santiago, Chile, neighbors respond to distress calls from a woman battered by her husband for refusing to let him watch a particular TV program in front of the children.
In Cairo, Egypt, the wife of a highly placed bureaucrat finally speaks up after enduring years of physical and mental abuse for being unable to bear a child.
The incidents were documented in a series of studies carried out by the Washington-based International Center for Research on Women in collaboration with independent Indian researchers. The cross-cultural study looked at the problem of domestic abuse in India, Egypt, Chile and the Philippines and found that violence against women was prevalent across regions, communities and classes.
While the findings are not new, the study has incubated a new round of debate about the cultural underpinnings to domestic violence, especially in India, where the study found a woman's risk of being beaten, kicked or hit rose along with her level of education.
In the aftermath of the report, advocates are anxious that the data not be used to retard the push for women's education. That effort was given new urgency this week with the release of a report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, finding that girls in many countries continue to face "sharp discrimination in access to schooling." The report also finds that girls in India had just a little better than three-quarters the chance of boys to receive a primary-school education.
"Interpretation of this data needs to be done very sensitively," warned Preet Rustagi, a junior fellow at the New Delhi-based Center for Women's Development Studies. "Education is an empowering tool for women and should not be seen as impacting negatively. In fact, this correlation points to the imperative need for an attitudinal change among men and society in general." Rustagi has analyzed crime records relating to violence against women and also found a correlation between education and domestic violence.
Risk Rises with Education
According to the 2002 study, 45 percent of Indian women are slapped, kicked or beaten by their husbands. India also had the highest rate of violence during pregnancy. Of the women reporting violence, 50 percent were kicked, beaten or hit when pregnant. About 74.8 percent of the women who reported violence have attempted to commit suicide.
Kumud Sharma of the Centre for Women's Development Studies in New Delhi traced the correlation between education and domestic violence to patriarchal attitudes. "Educated women are aware of their rights," she said. "They are no longer willing to follow commands blindly. When they ask questions, it causes conflicts, which, in turn, leads to violence. In many Indian states, working women are asked to hand over their paycheck to the husband and have no control over their finances. So, if they stop doing so or start asserting their right, there is bound to be friction."
Domestic violence experts say the problem in India stems from a cultural bias against women who challenge their husband's right to control their behavior. Women who do this---even by asking for household money or stepping out of the house without their permission--are seen as punishable. This process leads men to believe their notion of masculinity and manhood is reflected to the degree to which they control their wives.
"The behavior of men stems from their understanding of masculinity," said Nandita Bhatla, researcher with the International Center for Research on Women, "and what their role should be vis-a-vis women, especially their wives."
Problem of Perception
Men have always been taught to perceive themselves as the superior sex, said Jyotsna Chatterjee, director of the Joint Women's Program, a women's resource organization based in New Delhi. It is this conditioning, she said, that makes them believe they have to control their wives, especially if they are considered disobedient.
Although men's preoccupation with controlling their wives declines with age--as does the incidence of sexual violence--researchers found that the highest rates of sexual violence were among highly educated men. Thirty-two percent of men with zero years of education and 42 percent men with one-to-five years of education reported sexual violence. Among men with six-to-10 years of education--as well as those with high-school education and higher--this figure increased to 57 percent.
A similar pattern was seen when the problem was analyzed according to income and socioeconomic standing. Those at the lowest rungs of the socio-economic ladder--migrant labor, cobblers, carpenters, and barbers--showed a sexual violence rate of 35 percent. The rate almost doubled to 61 percent among the highest income groups.
Researchers have not determined why men with higher incomes and educations are more likely to be violent towards women.
Indian theater personality and feminist Tripurari Sharma was shocked to learn that a well-educated and respected actor in her theater group was abusing his wife, also an established actress.
"He was the most helpful, cordial and endearing man," she said. "His wife would attend rehearsals with bruises at times that she would cover up. Later, I found out she was being beaten. If the actress herself had not told me, I would have never believed it. So, I think it is a myth to think that the high education and economic status will lessen the risk of violence against women."
Equally disturbing is the finding that two of every five women in an abusive relationship in India remain silent about their suffering because of shame and family honor. The studies have also shown, nearly one-third of the Indian women experiencing abuse had thought about running away, but most said they feared leaving their young children and had no place to go. Activists felt that for intervention strategies to succeed, attitudes about violence would have to change and the level of awareness, among both men and women, about the negative impact of violence had to be raised.


This is not something that you and I did not know before: domestic violence, like child sexual abuse, is a family's worst kept secret.

It simply does not help being Jesus Christ. Rather, if you are a woman reading this and are an abuse victim, please do me a favour by doing one or all of the following three things:

*Learn to pay back double--for every body blow, cigar burn, knife injury that you receive, deal back in double measure. If this makes you less of a wife to your husband and breaks up the marriage, then thou are blessed, for what are you still doing in it in the first place?''

*Cultivate strength, physically and emotionally. When a man hits you or threatens to do so, he does it so he can have the pleasure of seeing you cower and cringe. Instead, dare him and the machismo cracks.

*And never, EVER, show fear.

Monday, April 16, 2007

What colour is your blog?

Exactly what kind of a creature is a blog? Is it gendered, as in, do women blog differently than men?
If your blog is your unmediated space, do you have to watch every word you write and not simply let go? After all, if you do not like what I write, be my guest and never visit me again, thanks be to you.
Does your blog need to have a....take two deep ideology?

Received a rather longish comment from someone who claims to be a regular reader of journalists' blogs. Chap wants to know why we women journalists have to so compulsively write, when anyway we write a helluva lot of stuff the world does not want to read. And to, spice up the proceedings, he simply had to use those cute little four letter words. And ended up daring me to publish the comment, if I were 'man' enough (the exact word he used).
Sorry pal, the world has changed a lot since the time they dug you out of the dung heap. Your comment goes unpublished for I am blissfully un-man.

And then, friend Sanjeev is unhappy that I write too many PJs in my blog and not do enough original stuff. Which is on par for the course, for this blog shall remain adamantly eclectic and un-agenda-ed.
Just that my blog matches my mood which, at the moment, is too purple for comfort...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Looking for Solomon

Was reminded of the King Solomon fable--albeit the rather tenuous connection and the gender switch--when I read this news report and the comments that followed:

So, who does the baby belong to and where do the genetic footprints stop? Say pink, say blue, but all one can think of is what if the woman had simply told her ex-boy friend she would have the baby but would give a written undertaking that she would not demand any maitenance/child support from him, thus ridding him of any legal obligation for a child he does not want to share?
This is where the thin line between ethics and self-righeteousness blurs....

Monday, April 09, 2007

This PJ bites....!

As far as poor jokes go, this was the worstest, but it still managed to sting....especially, as it was sent in by a Sri Lankan journalist friend. Gawd, what have we done to ourselves!

There was a couple married for quite some time and they had a boy of 5-6years old. Their relationship was turning sour. It finally reached such a stage that they thought it was better for them to be divorced than carry on such a relationship.
So they consulted a lawyer. But the big question was who would have the kid. In the hearing in the court, it was decided that this choice should be left to the kid.
So, the judge asked the boy: "Son, would you like to stay with your mummy?" Kid said, "No, mummy beats me." Judge asked "Would you like to stay with your papa then?"
Kid said, "No, papa beats me."
Now the judge was in a dilemma and was not able to decide what to do. After pondering for some time, he smiled. He had just had the best ever idea about who the kid would stay with......No prizes for guessing, though.
The kid would stay with the Indian cricket team because they NEVER BEAT ANYBODY, NOT EVEN BANGLADESH!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Only in America?

Was actually enjoying my rather longish sabbatical from this blog, when a friend sent in this part-whimsical, part-roller coaster piece about life in the U S of A. All these, he claims, acutally didnt need his reassurance, though. In the land of George Bush, stupidity breeds like maggots.

Not that we Indians cant give Americans a run for their dollar when it comes to the silliness sweepstakes--remember that all-time Sardarji favourite, Rela-xing/Milkha Singh thing? Those of you who havent, blogroll me and ye shall be told...

Anyone out there who has come across anything closer home? Please let me know.

Meanwhile, here goes:

# 1 IDIOT OF 2006:

I am a medical student currently doing a rotation in toxicology at the poison control center. Today, this woman called in very upset because she caught her little daughter eating ants. I quickly reassured her that the ants are not harmful and there would be no need to bring her daughter into the hospital. She calmed down and at the end of the conversation happened to mention that she gave her daughter some ant poison to eat in order to kill the ants. I told her that she better bring her daughter into the emergency room right away. Here's your sign, lady. Wear it with pride.

# 2 IDIOT:

Early this year, some Boeing employees on the airfield decided to steal a life raft from one of the 747s. They were successful in getting it out of the plane and home. Shortly after they took it for a float on the river, they noticed a Coast Guard helicopter coming towards them. It turned out that the chopper was homing in on the emergency locator beacon that activated when the raft was inflated. They are no longer employed at Boeing. Here's your sign, guys. Don't get it wet; the paint might run.

# 3:

A man, wanting to rob a downtown Bank of America, walked into the branch and wrote this: "Put all your muny in this bag." While standing in line, waiting to give his note to the teller, he began to worry that someone had seen him write the note and might call the police before he reached the teller's window. So he left the Bank of America and crossed the street to the Wells Fargo Bank. After waiting a few minutes in line, he handed his note to the Wells Fargo teller. She read it and, surmising from his spelling errors that he wasn't the brightest light in the harbor, told him that she could not accept his stickup note because it was written on a Bank of America deposit slip and that he would either have to fill out a Wells Fargo deposit slip or go back to Bank of America. Looking somewhat defeated, the man said, "OK" and lef t. He was arrested a few minutes later, as he was waiting in line back at Bank of America. Don't bother with this guy's sign. He probably couldn't read it anyway.

# 4:

A motorist was unknowingly caught in an automated speed trap that measured his speed using radar and photographed his car. He later received in the mail a ticket for $40 and a photo of his car. Instead of payment, he sent the police department a photograph of $40. Several days later, he received a letter from the police that contained another picture, this time of handcuffs. He immediately mailed in his $40. Wise guy ..... but you still get a sign.

IDIOT # 5:

A guy walked into a little corner store with a shotgun and demanded all of the cash from the cash drawer. After the cashier put the cash in a bag, the robbe r saw a bottle of Scotch that he wanted behind the counter on the shelf. He told the cashier to put it in the bag as well, but the cashier refused and said, "Because I don't believe you are over 21." The robber said he was, but the clerk still refused to give it to him because she didn't believe him. At this point, the robber took his driver's license out of his wallet and gave it to the clerk. The clerk looked it over and agreed that the man was in fact over 21 and she put the Scotch in the bag. The robber then ran from the store with his loot. The cashier promptly called the police and gave the name and address of the robber that he got off the license. They arrested the robber two hours later. This guy definitely needs a sign.

ID # 6:

A pair of Michigan robbers entered a record shop nervously waving revolvers. The first one shouted, "Nobody move!" When his partner moved, the startled first bandit shot him. This guy doesn't even deserve a sign.

ID # 7:

Happens in Arkansas. Seems this guy wanted some beer pretty badly. He decided that he'd just throw a cinder block through a liquor store window, grab some booze, and run. So, he lifted the cinder block and heaved it over his head at the window. The cinder block bounced back knocking him unconscious. It seems the liquor store window was made of Plexi-Glass. The whole event was caught on videotape. Yep, Here's your sign ..... (Please note that all of the above people are allowed to vote)


I live in a semi-rural area. We recently had a new neighbor call the local township administrative office to request the removal of the Deer Crossing sign on our road. The reason: "Too many deer are being hit by cars out here! I don't think this is a good place for them to be crossing anymore." From Kingman, KS

My daughter went to a local Taco Bell and ordered a taco. She asked the person behind the counter for "minimal lettuce." He said he was sorry, but they only had iceberg. He was a Chef? Yep...From Kansas City!


I was at the airport, checking in at the gate when an airport employee asked, "Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge? To which I replied, "If it was without my knowledge, how would I know?" He smiled knowingly and nodded, "That's why we ask." Happened in Birmingham, AL.


The stoplight on the corner buzzes when it's safe to cross the street I was crossing with an intellectuall y challenged coworker of mine. She asked if I knew what the buzzer was for. I explained that it signals blind people when the light is red. Appalled, she responded, "What on earth are blind people doing driving?!?" She was a probation officer in Wichita, KS

We were at a good-bye luncheon for an old and dear coworker. She was leaving the company due to "downsizing." Our manager commented cheerfully, "This is fun. We should do this more often!" Not another word was spoken. We all just looked at each other with that deer-in-the-headlights stare. This was a bunch at Texas Instruments.

I work with an individual who plugged her power strip back into itself and for the sake of her own life, couldn't understand why her system would not turn on. A deputy with the Dallas County Sheriffs office no less .


When my husband and I arrived at an automobile dealership to pick up our car, we were told the keys had been locked in it. We went to the service department and found a mechanic working feverishly to unlock the drivers side door. As I watched from the passenger side, I instinctively tried the door handle and discovered that it was unlocked. "Hey," I announced to the technician, "its open!" His reply, "I know - I already got that side." This was at the CHEVY dealership in Canton, NJ

Friday, January 19, 2007

A slice of sunshine

Once in a very odd while, you feel like getting on to a rooftop and crowing gustily: "We still make movies the rest of the world can watch and feel proud of." And once in a very odd while, does a movie come that gnaws your heart so bad, you feel like rushing out of the cinema hall midway just because you can't take all that reality.
Veyyil should redeem that faith: neither the rat-infested aisles of Annai Abhirami nor the frequent drunken snithering of a lout seated halfway across mattered. The movie rises above cliches: neither is its realism stark nor is it stylised, it is realism as you and me live it.
One wonders what it is about Shankar that makes him such a good producer--first Kadhal and now this--but a kitschy director.
The day I went, there were hardly twenty people in the hall, and even that was a desultory crowd. Veyyil has had its run and will never be outwished.
There is a strong remembrance of Devar Magan all through--especially in the eerie presence of the irredeemable cycle of violence that sits across the protagonists' heads even at the most unsuspecting moment, and more so because, in Pasupathi, you have an actor who can out-Kamal Hassan anyone else--and (as friends point out) snatches of Cinema Paradiso, in the way Murugesan's (Pasupathi's character) first romance ends.
It is Pasupathi's movie all through and, according to director Vasanthabalan, Murugesan is his flesh-and-blood spitting image. And what subtleties the actor manages to weave into a performance that a lesser actor could have ended up hamming: the scene, for example, where he tells his father what drove him to run away from the house is an exercise in restraint and yet
chills you to the bones.
One tries in vain to look for a chink in the chain that tells you it is a movie you are watching, and one blessedly fails. Nor for a single moment does the director stray away from a relentless authenticism.
There are those opening moments that bring in a whiff of Azhagi, with all that bare-bottomed rustic humour. Then there is that heart warming sensitivity about life in the butcher's household, about the way life is shown amidst all that animal blood and gore.
The bonding among the boys is natural and never sentimentalised. Even the relationship between parents and offsprings is never overtly played upon. Thus, it seems the most natural thing to happen when little Murugesan, caught red handed by his father for flunking class and going to see a Em-Gee-Yaar movie and made to grovel naked under a hot sun as the whole village watches, scoots home with his mother's jewels and his father's savings, boards a lorry to come to Chennai but gets sidetracked halfway and ends up in a Tirukazhukundram talkies.
From then on starts the parabola of retrubutive justice for neither the family he left behind nor Murugesan ever manage to get their lives together again.
There are several fresh concepts worked into the movie from then till the end: the tender but ill-fated romance between Murugesan and Thangam, the shutting down of the theatre, a gaunt and hungry Pasupathi heading back to a family he had never contacted for nearly twenty years,
the unworked wrath of the father who refuses to take him back, the love of the brother and the coldness of the two sisters.
Dont miss this movie--it may be a long while yet before another one like it comes along.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Lest we forget.-II

The day after I came back, feeling all knotty, at the splendid facilities one of the city hospitals claimed it had lined up for attracting foreign clientele, this photograph(if the link does not connect direct to the photo, click on the page 3 on the sidebar) that the Deccan Chronicle had carried of 16-year-old Kalpesh hit me with all its bone chilling pathos. One can debate endlessly over the shock value the paper must have been aiming it, but then this is `unprettified'
reality. If it was meant to disgust, then such disgust is a most welcome response.


Friend Sanjeev Ramachandran has done a fark and come up with this line up on the Ash-Abhishek engagement. Just waiting to see what they will do to Shilpa Shetty...


This is for all ye blogger-bashers: Kiruba Shankar has come up with this
which just goes to prove that the `Indian blogosphere', as Kiruba so lovingly describes it,
is, in reality, the commune of the future. This is as good as one can get.