Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Board's ways

What the...!! Is HE going to coach the Indian team? What background does he have as a coach? What do the board think they are doing?........The list of questions goes on....

To add to the sorry state of affairs to the already defamed cricket board of India..oops..the Board of 'Control' for Cricket in India, the new suggestion(almost confirmation) of Gary Kirsten as India's coach is nothing but a waiting disaster. To top it all, the Board prides itself that the selection was 'unanimous' by none other than the esteemed gentlemen who have served Indian cricket all these years, the likes of Shastri, Gavaskar and Venkatraghavan. What a pity! Men who have contributed immensely to the game lacking vision and succumbing to the board's pressure. How else could the theory of selecting a national coach who is little known in the field of coaching be explained? What is more baffling is their series of choices for coaches, Greg Chappell, Graham ("who") Ford and Gary Kirsten, the last one being the worst of the lot. But to be fair to Chappell, I feel his methods weren't acceptable to the players. He tried to bring about the Aussie-way, a compelling routine, which unfortunately found no favour with the Indians. It was clearly a case of misfit of his coaching methods in the Indian system.

But it does look like the Board doesn't have respect for our own Lalchand Rajput, Robin Singh and Venkatesh Prasad. They took over during tough times and have done a fair job. The Indian team has been doing appreciably well too without any coaches, Indian or foreign. Why then, all of a sudden this idiotic decision to bring about a foreign coach with absolutely no coaching experience?

Gary Kirsten…. What does the board achieve by signing up a coach to whom a player can't even look up to? What great credentials does Gary Kirsten have, to command respect from the Indian players? Kirsten as far as I have seen him play was one of the most boring players. There was no grace nor elegance associated with his game. Moreover, the fact that the he hadn't even applied for the post but got a call for it smacks of any sense of professionalism from the board. Adding to this are the remarks of surprise from Kirsten himself on his selection. There is no point in inviting a coach who doesn’t have the required motivation for the post.

I hope Harsha Bhogle, during the India-Aussie series down under shoots these questions to both his commentary box comrades. The outspoken host, one of my favourites, will earn my respect even more if he can manage to ask the two gentlemen regarding this decision of theirs.

The board has been a subject of constant criticism from ex-cricketers, the media and the public for quite sometime now. Despite the Greg Chappell fiasco, the decision of the board still wanting to get a foreign coach is incomprehensible. How many deserving Indian former cricketers have been overlooked for the post is a matter of concern. The 'Control' that the board is trying to exert is too obvious. A 3000 crore money making behemoth under the firm control of politicians is a well known story. Banning the chief of selectors to write columns, barring players playing in a 'rebel' league to play for India, countering the rebel league with its own, double standards in selection processes, exerting control over players' activities ... a sample of the board's recent activities. The going seems to be nowhere. Improving the cricket scenario looks like the last priority on the board's to do list. What I recommend are the following steps for the sake of Indian cricket
1. The government should step in and confiscate the assets of the board. A sizeable chunk of it should go to the PM's relief fund and the minimum that's required to run the board's activities must be allocated to it. All the money sitting snuggly with the board members can be put to much better use. The wealth amassed by the Board only because of the players and the sponsors. Without spending for the game's improvement, they are making no good use of the money other than filling up their already huge bellies.
2. Politicians should be debarred from holding any post within the board. The current set up should be completely dissolved and the members be elected afresh.
3. A managing committee comprising senior, respectable players should be formed who will manage the Indian cricket board.

Whoever is overseeing the working of the Board should be committed to the cause of improving cricket. With a billion people, the world's richest cricketing body and the unmatched passion for the game, its only LOGICAL that we will DEFINTELY find ONLY ELEVEN real quality players out of the billion odd who will be consistent world-beaters. I think this is a very valid argument. Somebody, please listen and act.

Monday, November 26, 2007

ATM music review

My first reaction on hearing that ARR is the composer for a Vijay movie was "Ohh No! So, only dappankuthus from ARR?". Thankfully, I was proved wrong. There is a distinct flavour associated with the music of ATM. Rahman seems to be in the mood for folkish tunes these days. His recent 'Kummi Adi' from 'Jillunu..' is an example. Over the years we haven't seen too many of these from ARR. Probably because the subject didn't provide him with that scope. The previous ones that comes to my mind are 'Maanoothu Mandayile' and 'Aathankarai Marame'. That was way long back. But coming to the music of ATM, ARR seems to have found the right blend of the modern and the rustic. With 'Sivaji', I was a touch disappointed simply because, it had a bit of overdose of the western. But over here, he pleases with catchy, fast paced and melodious numbers.

Note: This review comes after considerable hearing from me exclusively on head/ear phones. I would advise the same to enjoy the songs.

'Maduraiku' is set to the typical 'Danda Nakka Danakku Nakka' style of folk music. And when you have Rahman handling an ordinary rhythm, you are sure to expect something special in it. The tavil and the nadaswaram have been appreciably used. The 'Karpoora Kannigaye Varaai' chorus is the highlight of the song for me. Especially, the part of the chorus where 'Maharajane....' is sung - simply awesome, wonderful brigha. The male and female voices have done a fabulous job. Throughout the song, Rahman gives a different dimension with an instrumental background which ably supports the vocals.

'Kelamal...' is different from the very beginning. Well, this song can be tagged as the only authentic melody in the album. Set to a fast paced rhythm, the song touches the realms of a remix number because of its beats and the lyrics seem to vindicate that claim too
'Kettu rasitha padal ondrai meendum indru nyabagam thoonda....' ;)
I was actually surprised to see Sriram Parthasarathy used by Rahman in this song because the sangathis in this song aren't 'out of the world' and a singer of
his calibre is definitely capable of giving us more. A distinct melody from ARR.

When you hear 'Valayapatti' for the first time, it makes you wonder how on earth did ARR manage to make a song out of this 'aviyal'. It has many distinct interludes and tunes that are unrelated. A folkish number again, this one has many classical overtones. Rahman manages to get through with quite a number of ragams here Sindhubhairavi, Neelambari, Bhagyashree, Saraswati, Behaag giving glimpses of all of them. Overall, the song really impresses after you hear it twice or thrice and being a carnatic lover, I enjoyed the 'swara kattus' very much. The female playback is quite impressive. The song scores because of its packaging

'Ponmagal Vandhal' - remix of the old popular number infact pleased me more than the original. This may offend some of the purists but somehow I was not a big fan of the original but after this version, I am definitely humming it. The rap lyrics in the song is humourous. The lines where TMS's voice has been retained are really good especially with the technological expertise at the background. A creditable re-mix.

'Ellapugazhum' takes off like lightning from the begininng with some heavy electric guitar usage. ARR oflate has used the same tunes for the intro-songs in his movies. The song strikes a resemblance to the opening numbers of 'Anbe Aaruyire' and 'Sivaji'. The highlight of the song though is ARR's voice and the lead guitar chords. He has the knack of picking up the songs that suit his style of singing. The electric guitar used in the song is inspiring and so are the song's lyrics. A good opening number.

'Nee Merlyn..' is a song for the Gen-X. The song oozes with loads of attitute and is promptly backed by guitar chords and drums. Add to it some youthful lyrics and voices, you get a perfect recipe that the urban audience can identify themselves with.

Overall, I am happy with this album because Rahman has tried something different. Considering the fact that this is a Vijay movie, the music transcends all limits of ordinary music that we usually hear in his movies. Moreover, the way he has handled it knowing what people expect from a Vijay movie is quite impressive.

My rating: 4.2 / 5

Friday, September 28, 2007

To F.R.I.E.N.D.S - Part 1

Warning...This post is purely for FRIENDS buffs and all time addicts to the show.

In one of my previous posts, I had briefly mentioned about the series - FRIENDS. Here is my ode to that wonderful series.

FRIENDS - the most popular among sitcoms, aired for ten years(seasons) from 1994 to 2004 on CNBC in the States. I was initially averse to the idea of such a TV series as my supposed belief was that the "laughing audience" that accompanied the jokes were a hindrance to smooth viewing and that they were more of a make-believe mechanism to induce people into thinking that the joke was funny when actually it wasn't!!
Yet, it was during the December holidays of my third year in college that I watched the first ever episode of FRIENDS on Starworld late in the night. I remember that it was one from the last season, just to have a glimpse of how good/bad the show actually was. My hostel wing in my college was a constant hub for FRIENDS viewing. And that induced me to watch the show for the first time. With our hostel rooms being LAN-equipped, we had no better businees to do than to download movies and play LAN games. FRIENDS had always been there on the LAN. Within no time, I had all the ten seasons on my hard-disk once I got back to campus that January.

It's been nearly two years now. Woah! Never did I think that I would get so addicted to the show. Joey, Phoebe, Chandler, Monica, Ross, Rachel - the six of them, unique in their own ways, have left an impression that probably no other contemporary characters on TV have.
First and foremost, the jokes. Each one of them is unique and authentic conforming to the highest standards. The best part is that almost all of them would make you laugh. There are few ones that would cause your face to contort. The script and dialogue writers have delivered in all the episodes with their skilled witticism, manifestation of really good humour, unlike the crass,cheap and slapstick ones that we get to see usually from many other comic capers.

Second come the actors. What a choice! All of them fit into their roles with elan. An ensemble of some of the finest actors, the fact that their careers never 'took off' even after this series tells how difficult people found to place them in other roles having seen them in FRIENDS. People couldn't just see them differently. They just didn't fit in!

Another amazing aspect is the characterisation of the lead players. They are not only distinct but also non-overlapping and their very nature has been maintained throughout the ten seasons. Joey with his innocence and profound stupidity, Phoebe with her assertive unconventional ways, Chandler and his outright sarcastic self, domineering Monica with her "Live by the Rules" obsession , Ross with his myriad expressive emotions revolving around his relationship conundrums and Rachel with her whiny, girlish self - characteristics of the six protagonists in a nutshell, the setting and the story revolve around them throughout the ten seasons.

For a beginner, the ideal way to kick start would be with season one and to progress along the timeline. The season takes you through one heck of a laughing spree as you get used to the humour(the accent and tone - so important to understand the context of a joke) and the characterisations. Chandler easily scores over the rest with his satirical lines, mocking every other in the group. "Ohh! Sorry Ross! I was very drunk and was in someone else's sub-conscious", "Yes! Around 200 others whom I went to high school with"...(to be continued)

Friday, June 29, 2007

What sets A R Rahman apart?

The question though intriguing to some has some straight forward answers according to me. We all have been a witness to his music over the past decade and a half. Music that brings the feel from the depths of your heart coupled with technical brilliance.....

Visit my music blog Swara Rasa for the full post.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Presidential quagmire

The dust has to some extent settled after all the confusion that prevailed over the election to the highest office in the country. I don't remember any Presidential election subjected to such extreme levels of politicization as we have been witnessing over the past few weeks. Or probably even if they had been, they weren't visible to the people as this one, thanks to the widespread media coverage.

To begin with, the very idea of the incumbent President continuing for the second term was opposed from the start. This was the foundation of the political drama. As I understand, there is no Constitutional provision which bars a current President to sit for a second term. That wasn't an issue even here. The UPA-Left combine simply didn't want to give Dr.Kalam a second term because the previous NDA regime had dismissed claims for a second term to the then president Dr. K.R.Narayanan. This was clear from the fact that even though Dr.Kalam was the most popular President with requests from all quarters to give him a second term, the ruling combine didn't even consider his name in the initial list of candidates. Worse still, the Left parties never ever backed the candidature of Kalam even for the first time. The Congress decided to field some of its "loyalists" to the post which found no favour with the Left. Next came the highly productive move. Pratibha Patil, a staunch Congressee, was termed as the consensus candidate. This announcement brought along with it a barrage of opinions on her candidature. That she isn't a popular leader was mouthed by many while the ruling front heaped praises on her service to the nation. The confusion compounded with the Third Front playing a clever move to support Dr.Kalam. This finally tuned out to be farcical as he never had the numbers to back him with the ruling parties clearly not in his favour. With Kalam initially showing willingness and later backing out, we have managed to drag even his name into the imbroglio. The drama almost coming to an end now, it just remains a fomality for Ms. Pratibha patil to go though the motions before she occupies the chair.

All these turn of events bring out some concerns about the Indian republic set up. Cannot the Presidential election be totally apolitical? Shouldn't the people's opinion be sought on who their President shoud be? Or a more valid concern would be - Does India really need the post of a President as it exists now? This seems valid as the President merely remains a ceremonial head of the country without any powers vested on him. He is supposed to "act according to the advice of the council of ministers", which seems ridiculous in today's context. Their selfish interests shouldn't be served in the garb of the President's acceptance just because he doesn't have a choice.We need to address some issues here.

1. Let the President be elected strictly from a non-political background, a person who is well learned, a scholar who is acceptable to everybody.
2. Increase the powers of the President from a mere puppet in the hands of the Council of Ministers to a mroe pro-active role.
3. Constant monitoring of the legislature should be bought under his purview with even powers to sack MPs if they fail to perform.
4. Allow the people to choose the President by way of a referendum.

This is a tall ask in the Indian context.But given the insignificant nature of of the post, Dr.Kalam brought in some refreshing ways that the President can function and
relieved the post of its dormant nature. He succeeded in reaching out to the people solely because he was above politics and that was enough for the people to accept him and his views. He is by far the most popular President that India has ever had. He remains an inspiration to one and all. It would be interesting to see if Ms.Pratibha Patil can fill in his shoes. Already caught in a couple of controversial statements, there are some tough times awaiting her now that there is bound to be comparison with Dr.Kalam. On the face of it, it does look that she isn't more of the 'reaching out to the people' kind of leader. We will have to wait and watch.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Shivaji - Movie Review

You go into a theatre playing a Shankar's movie expecting a good storyline, wonderful acting from the cast, extravagant picturisations, telling action sequences and most importantly, moments of directorial brilliance which he comes up with very often that makes you sit up and take notice. Shivaji manages to capture all minus Shankar's genius, and that's where I feel it is a let down. Shivaji is Rajni all the way. Logic behind the story seems to be the last concern to the director.

Dealing with societal ills has been Shankar's themes in most of his movies. It's no different here. The handling of the story could have been much better. It did seem that Shankar ran out of ideas and so decided to cover them up using the superstar's machoisms and his demi-god image.

Shankar's earlier creations like Gentleman, Indian, Mudhalvan and also Anniyan were in more ways practicable, had many intelligent scenes showcasing reality and means to improve upon the existing situation. Sadly in Shivaji, that’s not to be seen. I am not looking for a very perfect screenplay to steer the movie. But some scenes were lacking fundamental logic.
- Mortaging his house and car for setting up the university that offers free education is a blunder. Where would Shivaji even get the money to run the institution later?
- Beating up auditors and their resulting disclosure of their clients' hidden black money details is ridiculous. If everything can achieved through force, then why not take on the villain directly by force?
- Swindling all the black money form big shots all over India in such a short time. Do police and CBI do any work at all?
- Generating employments for all graduate and post graduate students. Where does he generate employment from? Where will they work?
- Shivaji back as MGR. Settin up driving licenses, passports somewhere from hiding? Gimme a BREAK!!!
- The concept of the hero beating up thugs double in size than him and two dozen in number is nothing new in Indian cinema, but I am not dwelling too much on it here because it's already very cliched.

Shankar has done a commendable job in knitting so many characters together. You have from the Pattimandram fame - Solomon Pappiah and Raja playing their parts. Vivek manages to evoke laughter as does Rajni. The song picturisations take you to the dream world, with outstanding work done on the sets, the songs could have been better from Rahman though. Yet, 'Vaaji vaaji' and 'Sahana' stand out, song wise and also the picturisation.

Rajni giving his best shot at dancing, sporting braided hairstyles, wooing his lady love, dispensing innumerable henchmen - typical Rajni that you get to see. If you are a fan of his, then you cannot ask for more. He carries the film all through. Shriya looks beautiful and has a significant role, a rarity these days for the heroines, which she has done justice to. Rest of the cast have performed well too.

An example of Shankar's touch in the movie was the part where Rajni's laptop has an access control program designed by him which self destructs when someone enters a wrong password. Rajni being a software architect designs this by himself.If only the movie had more such thinking scenes.

My rating - Rajni - pass, Shankar - fail

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Chennai 28 - Review

Among the innumerable number of crass commercial movies that come all through the year, only one or two remain worthwhile to even talk about.Chennai 28 turned out to be a pleasing outing. The film boasts of no great star cast or a great director or the normal masala that tamil movies usually dish out. It clicked for its simplicity, clean approach to story telling, good humour, wonderful charcterisation, pleasing background score and most importantly - the day to day incidents in life, which the movie beautifully captures and makes you a part of. There's laughter in store throughout the length of the movie and at no place do you feel it dragging.

It's cricket that holds the central theme - what can be more exciting than gully cricket. The one which we played during our school days, on the road, the non-spacious grounds, customising rules as we liked. Produced by the doyen playback singer SPB, the film starts with an introduction to the characters by the maestro himself in his evergreen voice. The very beginning has you in splits. Director Venkat Prabhu deserves praise for the way he has handled the group of actors. Though many in number, a few of them make quite a mark in their roles. Notable one is the performance of Premji Amaran. With his satirical mocking of the dialogue "Enna Kodumai Saravanan" from Chandramukhi, the guy provokes laughter everytime he has something to say. Rest of the cast have done well too. The Director's genius is visible in the way he has chosen the cast which requires the typical 'Chennai-youth' looks. He couldn't have done a more satisfying job. The local Chennai dialect also has a good part to play in the Chennai-feel of the movie. By the way, I am not a CHENNAI guy. Having been friends with quite a few number of Chennai ites oflate has acquainted me with the baashai and the appreciation as a result.

Music is by Yuvan. Among the songs, "Jalsa", "Yaaro" are good. Yuvan has taken a leaf out of his father's book in this movie for background music. The scenes filled with humour are appropriately backed up by his score. Some notable scenes in the movie are, the nose-cut that Raghu's father gives Pazhani in his house about his cricket team - Sharks, the bet match on the beach with a group of school kids, the scene where Premji fails to catch the throw of Raghu for which he is scorned at by his friends, the other where he does catch one but off a NO Ball and few others. The climax of the movie was well thought of. Instead of the "last-ball-six-hitting" that the hero usually does, you again face - a dose of reality! Kudos to the climax!

A youthful movie, full of energy and humour, definitely catering to youngsters. Nice to see an enjoyable tamil movie after a long time.

My rating : 4.2/5
- Pure fun

Monday, May 21, 2007


It's been a while since I have written something here. Finally, 'busy' seems to have found it's place in my dictionary. I find time now sitting at my office desk as I desperately wait for my test cases to complete on the simulated environment that's been set up which is so very damn slow!! It's BORING!! Nevertheless, after exploring all possible modes of time-pass, chatting, scrapping, wiki-ing, googling, I have decided to write about something that strikes my mind now.

Mayawati...she proved how a well calculated formula of appeasing all sections(read caste) of the society could provide a decisive mandate in this caste driven polity of ours. The BJP with its Hindutva, the Congress with its big-talk of the 'future leader' making controversies all the way failed to make any sort of an impact. It shows one thing. Caste and nothing else always wins elections in India. Even if people talk high of relegating the system from the society which even the politicians speak of, they ultimately resort to the same to secure their votes.

Moral Policing... This term is gaining prominence and is flasing across all newspapers these days. MF Hussain, Gere-Shilpa..the list goes on. One thing which I find is that these issues seem to be of no concern to the middle class man i.e the office going, earning population and because of the leave-no-stone-unturned attitude of the media with the "Breaking news" mania and a a few key players calling themselves the "fundamentalists", the right wing would want to show that they are the custodian of India's heritage(to who's gain is the question). The point is nobody is being benefitted by these course of events. The current trend is to embrace Western culture which the yester generation is finding tough to accept. It's best if we let things settle themselves. Nothing can be pushed aside. It only lead to more fracas.

GRE wordlist is my latest interesting hobby. Learning up new and fancy English words is fun. I am loving it simply because of the challenge it poses. Knowing certain words helps you appreciate some really informative articles that you read on newspaper editorials and the like which employ quite a few of them. And of course to use them in your writings on the blog :)

Ahaa. F.R.I.E.N.D.S. The one and only English sitcom that I have watched, not while it was being aired on TV but much later when it was circulating in my college hostels. What a superb series!! Each and every character has so much depth and each of their characteristics has been maintained throughout the ten seasons. Hats off to Martha Kauffman and David Crane for creating the characters that will remain evergreen. The series is running for the fourth cycle on my laptop. The best passtime that you can get.

PachaiKili Muthucharam was very unlike a usual Tamil movie. It had a Hollywood touch to it. Slow moving, yet worthy. Gautam Menon definitely has proved that he belongs to the special class of film-makers. Some very good picturisation by Arvind Krishna and ofcourse, Harris jayraj, Gautam's trump card once again showed how good he is. A nice, poignant movie that would warn a few husbands to remain loyal to their spouses! :) . Neatly done!

Monday, April 30, 2007

A Reality Check

I couldn't help but smile seeing this cartoon(Courtesy: The Hindu 27th April). It aptly describes today's state of the poor and the petty politics that's being employed by our politicians in the name of uplifting them. Kudos to the cartoonist for bringing out the reality!

Take a bow...

‘Relentless’ – the word that I choose to describe the Aussie performance this World Cup. You may add many more. The team deserved to win, the logic simply being, only the best team deserves to and will win. And if anyone had thought that this team was past their finest moments, they should have stepped aside and accepted the fact at least by now. The reality is that this is the greatest team that has ever played on the cricket field (from whatever cricket that I have had the privilege to watch, enjoy and comment upon). Rubbishing aside our dreams and aspirations of ‘Let this Cup be won by anyone but Australia’ that all of us were hoping for, they showed that such miracles happen only when you least expect them to happen and definitely this was not the occasion. Yet, just before coming into the World Cup, they were battered by New Zealand and England and people (myself included) jumped the gun to say that their dominance was on the verge of declination. The hallmark of greatness is to prove yourself when people write you off. They did just that. They were there to beat, to show the world that they are the best. There was no retreat whatsoever.

The sheer weight of their performances translated into thumping victories against all opposition right from game one. Going through their list of victories, it was a manifestation of what we are accustomed to from them - ‘The Aussie Spirit’. Against no team did they look even a touch rattled, leave alone the prospect of losing. Commanding individual performances broke the backbone of their opponents and when the Aussies sniff a chance of victory they wouldn’t let go of it. On a big stage like the World Cup when it mattered the most, their batsmen, bowlers delivered. No better example than ‘The Pigeon’, Glen McGrath. A stand out quality which some of the modern contemporary greats and geniuses must take cue from. Irrespective of how great a player is, his record wouldn’t speak much if the achievements didn’t help his team win. For, cricket is a team game.

Agreed, their players may not be the best when it comes to their attitude on the field and sometimes off it too, sparking unnecessary controversies through some unwarranted comments. But, who doesn’t have flaws? I feel that this is no reason to not accept this team as one the greatest ever. Interestingly, if only this team could play Clive Lloyd’s West Indies or their own Bradman’s Invincibles, would we get to know if they are the best ever. Fortunately or unfortunately, that wouldn’t be a possibility. Each of those great teams has left a legacy that’s characteristic to the era in which they reveled. Not to compare each one of them might be the better way to go about.

If Steve Waugh built the team, setting the foundation for reaching immeasurable heights, his successor has made sure they have very much reached the summit. It remains to be seen how this current team copes once their senior players, many whom are past their 30’s retire from the game. But their effective cricketing system which has and still generates quality cricketers, wouldn’t come a cropper like other cricket organizations around the world. It would continue to churn out some of the most talented players. The fact is, in Australia, the game just receives the appropriate amount of attention it should without much hype and hoopla. Cricket is cricket there, just like any other sport. Adequate infrastructure and facilities focusing towards honing the young talent has scripted the success story of their cricket. Perhaps it’s a reflection (the inverse) of the state of affairs in the cricketing bodies in the sub-continent and a few other countries where it has become more of a ‘business of brands’ with too much of commercialization playing spoilsport. It would be in the best interests of the game if cricket is treated as merely a sport. Only then would players understand the value of playing for the team instead of treating it as a ‘profession’ and as a means of making money. This applies to the cricket fan too. We should stop over-reacting to the events related to cricket. Let the game be the ultimate winner.

Learn form the Aussies…

Play with Passion.
Play with Pride.
Play for the Love of the Game.

Congrats Australia!!!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

What a feeling...

Aha! Freedom to blog. Not that in anyway I was curbed before. But the so called 'guilty conscience' of mine which wouldnt allow me to blog while at office just because I have been entrusted with 'some' work finally took a back seat with my supervisor having taken a day of absence. Yet, don't ask me questions about my previous posts right here. Although I did post them from my office, I was thoroughly unoccupied then!! So I am back after a hiatus. But what to write on? Ahhhh!! The most disasterous of starts that can happen for a non-regular, amateurish blogger like me - No topic to write on!!.

Hmmm...oflate, there has been a sudden spring in my stride to attend carnatic concerts. I have never had the privilege of attending concerts of stalwarts solely because I hail from a place that attaches no significance to any art form, leave alone music. But I cant blame the poeple, for their knowledge in art is very limited. Despite that, a few talented people, who are motivated enough, do manage to learn up something and also organise some concerts. But yeah, coming back, The Rama Seva Mandali in Bangalore is performing a commendable job, a mighty service for carnatic connoisseurs and rasikas, in organising this classical music festival which has been running for over 20 days now. It happens every year. But this is my first experience to a festival akin the Chennai Decemeber season. Having so longed to have a feel of the flavour that a typical carnatic season offers and with an array of supremely talented artists queuing up, I was determined to make the most out of this opportunity. The going has been great so far. It started on a lovely weekend with Sanjay Subhramanian blazing away with the most unimaginable improvisations that I have ever heard. Sowmya, TNS Krishna were pretty good. You hear them in an Mp3 player, you hear them in a music system. But, Oh my god! The live auditorium with the booming speakers and the resonating sound is altogether a different proposition. The only thing that can stand between the rasika and the performers is AIR!! The ambience is great and add to that an intelligent, appreciative auidence mostly comprising the yester generation. Ranjani-Gayathri, the sisters stood a class apart with their choice of songs culminating with an RTP in Keeravani.
I was unfortunate to miss out on some really good ones during the weekend though when I headed home to celebrate 'Vishu' - something more special as all of us in my family met together for a festival after four long years.
A big line up of some great names awaits and it starts right from today and goes on till May non-stop. TVS, Priya sisters, Lalgudi GJR Krishnan, Shashank, Sudha, Ravi Kiran, TNS...What more can you get? A brilliant offering. My first experience with the 'Kutcheri season' is proving worthwhile indeed!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Sivaji - The Boss (Music review)

The biggest names in the Tamil tinsel world - AVM,Shankar,Rajini,Rahman have come together to produce one of the most talked about movies in recent times - Shivaji, and with the director being tight lipped about the movie throughout its production phase, speculations are at their peak as to how the movie would fare and whether the blockbuster combination would be able to deliver the goods.
The music album of the movie released recently. Shankar who had opted for Harris Jeyaraj( who didnt do badly at all) for his previous movie has gone back to his old pal Rahman for this venture and Rahman has shown once again what a world class composer he is. Though not among his best creations, Sivaji's music does have some typical Rahman touches, some flashes of brilliance (Rahman could done much more is what I feel, being an ardent fan myself).
Well, Sahara by Udit Narayan & Chinmayee is easily the pick with its melodious ingredient standing out. Udit struggles to pronounce his tamil when the song touches the higher notes, but manages to captivate with his voice.The intricate use of the mridangam - so typical of Rahman is classy! The slower version by Vijay Jesudas also deserves a mention. Vijay has done well in the song performing to his limitations.
Poovava by Hariharan & Madhushree is a foot tapping folkish number, again with good chords interspersed in the later stanzas of the song. This number to some extent reminds one of the 'Ottiyanam' song from 'Arul'. A nice departure for Hariharan from his typical melodious stuff as Madhushree again struggles with her Tamil(Why do music directors do this??).
The rap number Oru koodai should interest people mainly for its lyrics. Apart from that, there is the rap done by Blazze(?)and some useful electric guitar work, which sounds like run-of -the-mill.
The intro song, Balleilakka by SPB doesn't make a great impression though.(usually the intro song in Rajini's movie does). But the fast paced nature of the song with its clattery lyrics should do the trick.
The Rahman sung Athiradee is a touch different in terms of the usual Rahman sung numbers. The rhythm and the technical interludes paint a good picture, again the lyrics should interest Rajini fans(if they are able to decipher it).
The Boss - theme, has nothing much to comment on. Music wise, its a letdown ; lyrics should infuse some interest among Rajini aficionados.(no camparison with Guru's Jaage Hain - Rahman's best theme oflate)

To sum up, the album is a decent offering(not great by Rahman's standards) and as always with Rahman's numbers these days, would get better as you hear them repeatedly. Also, Shankar should weave his magic when it comes to picturising the songs, providing an audio-visual treat. Hoping to see the album 'COMPLETE' when the movie releases.
My rating : 3.5/5

Monday, April 2, 2007

Shimla - Manali, a few more

At Shimla - Manali

This was my first ever trip to the snowy lands. The glossy snow standing tall all around was breathtaking, the sight comparable probably only to Sachin's six off Andy caddick during the 2003 World Cup league match or the Kamboji that Sanjay Subrahmaniam sang a couple of days back :-) . Amazingly, for the amount of walking that we did, the tiredness was never felt, for the sheer magnificence and splendor of the snow simply drove away all the fatigue. Cheers to the Himalayas! Would love to be there again.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Yet another round of disappointment!

So, the Men in Blue are out of the WorldCup. As a die-hard fan of Indian cricket, am terribly disappointed not because we lost but the manner in which we lost - without any fight. The immediate fallback - we have started pointing fingers at people who were responsible for this massive "disaster", with calls already to axe some senior players, the coach,the captain with a few even suggesting that there should be a complete revamp of the cricketing system in India.

This Indian team definitely are capable of beating the best on their day, but that day seems to appear only once in a blue moon. It is consistency that this team lacks, especially the instinct to deliver the knock out punch, something which the Australians have shown time and again. In this context, Sunil Gavaskar's outbursts against Ponting's team just before the World Cup began make interesting reading. Apparently, Sunny wasnt happy with the "attitude" of the Australians on the field. But only if our team had displayed one-fourth of what the Aussies display on field, we could have advanced atleast to the second stage of the most coveted cricket tournament. Inspite of their "sledging", the Aussies display the sort of aggression that can intimidate any opposition and raise their game to great heights - evident form the string of consecutive 300 plus scores that they have made in their last few matches after the drubbing that they received from England and Newzealand. Alas! the much famed Indian line up couldnt even muster a paltry 200 againt a second string side like Bangladesh.

Cricket in India is so much hyped up for all the wrong reasons and the cricketers are seen as iconic heroes. Commercialisation has taken over the game in a big way.The media for their part play into the poeples' minds by blowing up each and every activity of the cricketers. And even before the world cup started, the team was expected to come back with nothing less than the CUP itself. Not to sideline the clever tactics used by the various brands using cricketers to promote their own interests. People at the end of it all come to embrace their cricketing heroes as demi-gods and expect them to win hands down.

I was aghast seeing the BCCI's response to the team's failure that "We dint have luck ". Do we really need luck to beat Bangladesh? Other arguments like "too much pressure" didnt seem valid either. Again, pressure to beat Bangladesh? The point is the team didnt quite have the mental strength when it ought to nor the drive to play. How could they when their kitties are already full?

So where does this head now?
Firstly, we should stop this business of expecting our team to win each and every match. Lets face it. Though our cricketers are talented, there is something extra that's required when you perform overseas to win matches and sadly only rarely have our men displayed it.Our heroes come a cropper in foreign lands. They seem more contented to do fancy advertisements and filling up their pockets than willing to play for their country. Though harsh to say, thats the grim reality!

Hope this World cup taught some valuble lessons to the administrators of the sport. Let performing players be on team and non performers be asked to prove themselves. Its high time the senior players make way for youngsters in one-dayers and confine themselves to test cricket. Players who give away runs due to sloppy fielding should be penalised.

All said, the fan of cricket that I am, I wouldnt expect anything less than a victory in India's next outing in the one dayers. All this talk of the world cup debacle would soon get lost in the minds of the fans and they would start to look out for the next tournament with the expectations of an Indian victory. Well, we cant blame them.After all, thats what every fan expects!

An Alumnus (effectively) speaks!

“Forty minutes of non-stop music, your favourite hits”, the FM station beamed. A typical morning, as I trudged away to my office with earphones fixated, my lone companion through the one hour routine journey.
“It’s new. It’s different”.

The last words touched upon me again. “It’s different”. Of course, it’s new and different as I walk towards a whole new way of life in stark contrast to the one I spent the last 1278 days. The thoughts took me back down the memory lane, the road that I had tread upon and marched along throughout the last three and a half years. My alma mater, BITS, Pilani, has been an astonishing place not alone in terms of its location, in the remote interiors of the Thar, radiating greenery all around, or the academia that it offered, but more so for the way it moulded talented youngsters through an array of co-curricular activities which I doubt if it exists in any other institution of its class. The work that the BITSians put through to make their own student cultural and academic activities a great success draws no parallel.
And I have been having one such passionate affair, an association with ‘Ragamalika’, Raag, as we call it and it still continues. Interest in fine arts has eluded me right from my childhood, though I can boast of some carnatic tutelage during my early school days. It never interested me the way it should have. The tables turned around once I joined this wonderful club in my very first semester in BITS. A plethora of events, solely organized by a group of enthusiastic, dedicated, generously talented people took me by surprise. From the traditional solo concerts in ET/2219 to huge dance concerts tuned to live orchestra in the audi, the whole-hearted effort of the students was spell bounding. The amount of practice that was put into each and every concert and the outcome of the events makes the club one of the most respected in BITS and the various faculty people who attend our concerts stand testimony to the fact. Sangamam, its organization, stands out as an exemplary student’s initiative to promote classical music and dance, again, a unique feature of Raag’s activities.

Ohh..ya! You must have browsed through all these activities of Raag in the foreword. So, what’s so special about this club, you may ask. Every person in a club/department in BITS claims his’ to be the best. Well, I am no different. Raag has been more than a mere club to me. For one thing, it changed me from a ‘what’s so great about carnatic music’ attitude to ‘there can be nothing better than this!’, a change which has made me realize the value of the art which for so long I had failed to even appreciate and that made me even more remorseful for wasting the chances to learn that I had during my initial years.
The people with whom I was lucky enough to interact, the knowledge and the talent that they exuded cannot be compared to any kind of academic encounters with the intellectuals that I have had. The club was much more than merely a group of individuals working together. Inside the club, you could experience the warmth and love
in abundance. A perfect set of companions to share the moments of the day, to hang out, to learn and to befriend with. We have had much fun and it would make a long list if I were to spell them out here.
There are a few things in life which one feels deeply grateful to and would want to hold close to the heart. Raag stands at the pinnacle of all those in my list. It’s been a revelation to me. T
And as I realize I miss those now and probably wont get a chance again, it makes me look back and cherish all the days I spent there in the little Raag room – probably the smallest room allotted for any club by the institute, to contain a group of the most large hearted people. But we didn’t mind. We could all fit in there no matter what!

It’s not even been more than two months since I passed out, tagged now as an
“Off campus guy”, but the difference is lucid. “I miss being there” would be connotation. But I do keep myself abreast of what is going on in campus through blogs, mails and phone calls whatever the mode of communication might be. I don’t want to miss out on all the enthu just because I am some 1500 miles away. It still rules the heart…

“All India Radio. 7.15 PM. Vocal recital by Priya sisters. Ragam – Shanmugapriya. Composer – Thyagaraja…..” the station aired. I smile to myself. Atleast I have got myself this…