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