Peepli [LIVE]

Peepli Live is Anusha Rizvi’s way of showing us what we have become.

Aamir Khan has, over the years, developed an imitable reputation of being a name associated with quality films. Thus, expectations were high for the August release of Peepli Live, which was written and directed by debutant Anusha Rizvi, and starred a spew of small-time and theater actors- led by Omkar Das Manikpuri.

Make no mistake; Peepli Live definitely is not your typical commercial fare, or even a typical Bollywood fare. The film doesn’t have songs, nor does it follow a hero-heroine formula. The film explores the glaring issue of farmer suicides in India, where the government’s initiative of providing lucrative compensation packages to the families of farmers who throw themselves onto a dagger were exploited by the poverty-stricken farmers.

First of all, the story:

Natha Das Manikpuri and Budhia Das Manikpuri are good-for-nothing sibling farmers in a small dry village in the Peepli region of Mukhya Pradesh. The film begins with the bank announcing that their unproductive land will be up to auction as they have failed to repay loan debts. Driven out of the house my Natha’s fiery, disgruntled wife Dhaniya and having to constantly listen to the rants of their bedridden, foul-mouthed mother who keeps calling Dhaniya a ‘witch’ and a ‘slut’, the brothers start to entertain the hearsay that the government will provide Rs. 1 lakh of compensation if a farmer commits suicide.

Budhia, being the manipulative one, tacitly plays to the gallery by offering his life, only for the younger, often blurred Natha, to offer his own in retaliation. The brothers agree that Natha should give up his life, the reason being Natha is married and has three children, which means that the family would directly benefit from his suicide.

Rakesh, a local reporter from a small-time newspaper called Jan Morcha, happens to be in Peepli when he hears the brothers talking about the suicide scheme and runs a story of Natha’s suicide declaration. He unwittingly sets off the media circus, with major news channels making a beeline with their media trucks to the previously forgotten land of Peepli, and Natha becoming the topic of the day.

What follows is a comedic and often disturbing sequence of events that tells you the story of the real India beneath the cloaks of development, and the true failure of a democratic system that only feeds the rich.

To begin with, you won’t find better performances anywhere else than you would in Peepli. Aided by the fact that most of the characters were played by less popular actors, most of theater backgrounds, the actors pretty much live and breathe their characters throughout and do not look like actors at all.

Omkar Das Manikpuri delivers a somewhat staggering performance in the lead role, more so because he hardly speaks a word and looks his dumfounded, useless self for much of the movie and yet he creates great impact and conveys the kind of ridicule you would feel to get so much media attention over a matter so trivial.

Raghubir Yadav as Budhia and Malaika Shenoy as the TV reporter Nandita Malik back the film with great performances respectively. Not that others did any less of a job.

Peepli leaves you with a somewhat unfulfilling feel, and delivers a damning verdict of today’s India and the severe lack of intelligence that gets hold of the people when they chase for personal glories.

The film is best described through the final scenes when hoards of journalists abandon a Chief Minister’s press conference and run to a nearby barn, that too in a pitch dark situation- one man asks another man ‘where are you running?’ and they couldn’t answer.

Everyone were running around the barn without a proper direction, chaotic and without purpose, with the only aim being to get a story and boost their professional credentials. That’s what the film is all about. It is a social commentary about individuals who run around aimlessly in pursuit of what they think secures their survival in an unforgiving world.

The best part of the film is the tiny character of Hori Mahato, who amidst all the fanfare of Natha’s death, is seen digging his land fervently day till night so that he can sell the sand in order to save his land from being auctioned. The character doesn’t speak, and when it is found dead in the own pit he has been digging all the while, it paints a picture of how the important ones get ignored.

Take the scene of the chief minister announcing that he would provide Natha with a Rs.1 lakh compensation so that Natha would not commit suicide (after great political contemplation), only to retract after he gets bashed for anarchy. How often have we come across politicians who make ‘smart’ and ‘savory’ statements that obviously had very low intelligence in them?

There is also a scene where a reporter manipulates a couple of women and asks them to dance fervently as if they have been possessed by the lord, and reports about the Goddess delivering prediction through them that Natha will die. Worse still, that bit of news is flashed as breaking news. You find that dumb, but that is what happens. Even news gets dragged out like prolonged serial drama in Indian news.

Why, the police event escorts Natha whenever he attempts to answer nature’s call, fearing that he may commit suicide at any such time.

Anusha Rizvi handles the film like a veteran and proves herself to be a master storyteller when it comes to sattires, and its all the more amazing that in the ages of Farah Khan, we see the rise of a female film-maker who doesn’t get carried away with commercial elements, but rather proves to be a quality story-teller. It’s all the more amazing that Anusha did it in Bollywood- which is an industry where good, well-bred satire seems to be a bygone genre.

Peepli is an important social film, and has more impact on the issue than a documentary could have. But if you are looking for messages, then you are looking at the wrong place. You will end of with your mouth open in wonder and uncertainty if you had hoped the film would end in a way that Taare Zameen Par or 3 Idiots ended, no matter how much of quality films those two were.

Peepli doesn’t even generate empathy or sympathy with the lead character. You don’t cry for Natha, and the scene is cut short and doesn’t allow you to cry for Hori and Rakesh either. The film is not about crying or feeling pity for characters. It is a mere observation of a system’s failure to deliver, and also an observation of the individuals in relation to the system’s failure.

Peepli is categorized as a satire, and whilst you may laugh at certain scenes, it will never make you roll on your floor and laugh. There is a difference by slapstick acts of comedians getting them kicked for their stupidity, and the mass stupidity of many people that we witness in our everyday lives.

Just read the news and watch the TV. Or read our country’s Harian Metro. What makes news? It’s the kind of stupidity and feet-of-clay attitude that affects us all, that stirs laughter, but beneath that, stirs a pint of anger and dissatisfaction.

What have we become? – We ask that question with a sigh so many times.

Peepli Live is Anusha Rizvi’s way of showing us what we have become.

Anusha Rizvi is only 32 and she was a former journalist. And she had done through a film something many news channels have failed to do with their ‘news’ pieces. She told the truth, she told things as they are- Kudos to her.

Rating: 8/10

Let me shake your physical fitness.

I have something to say to the Malaysian government- you better darn approve good scripts and stop the content restriction you guys have, or not, you better just stop approving Tamil films (Indian films generally) to be shot in Malaysia- at least, please listen to the script before agreeing for the sake of ‘Tourism Malaysia’.

In the last few years, of movies that were extensively shot in Malaysia, only Ajith’s Billa and Kamal’s Dasavatharam did any good business. The others (like the recent Thilalang-whatever-di, the bird-kissing superhero Kuruvi, Puthukottai Saravanan) have all failed miserably.

Bad omen? Well, nothing is just an omen when it shows a clear pattern.

These films fail because they were shot miserably, and they showed Malaysia in all the wrong way.

Why do Tamil filmmakers love to make botched attempts of saying ‘lah’ in the middle of their dialogues just because their characters are supposed to be Malaysians? Do something when you know how to do it. Don’t insert a lah just because you think it is ‘cool’. It’s embarrassing. Being a Malaysian takes years and years of practice, so if you want proper lahs, find a proper, hardcore bangsa Malaysia and ask him or her how to use lah. Don’t let these filmmakers be too smart for their own pants.

And in every such film, the police have to be there. And my, the way they would portray our policemen. Well, I still wonder why India never sues their own filmmakers because they show policemen like a bunch of comedic pieces.

Digest this scene: The hero is rounded up by cops- He is talking at a phone booth and the Malaysian cops have rounded him left and right. He raises his hands to give up, and all of a sudden, he runs and escapes. That was supposed to be a trick- raising his hands and then sprinting off. And the cops (mainly consisting of sub-par local Indian talents) will give a meek run and the scene would end.

Now, I won’t get annoyed with this lack of respect that they show while portraying Malaysia, in fact, if you want to shoot a chase scene, you need to make a mockery of the police no matter from which country- but I will get annoyed when you let these movies tarnish your Tourism Malaysia bandwagon while you refuse to accept and diversify your own movies.

Why try to earn through overseas movies? Why not our own movies?

If only our leaders are not so fickle as to impose a content restriction on our movies, our industry could thrive too. What is the point of driving the Malaysian film industry forward when you say you need at least ’70 per cent Malay content’?

It’s like buying a Ferrari, sticking a brick into each of its exhausts, and desperately yelling at the driver to rev up because the thing won’t move. Real smart. Well, as one potential driver, I might as well flash a middle finger and walk off. Jerks.

There are many here who have the brimming potential to make films that can match international standards if provided with proper resources, yet they would not acknowledge us while we are here.

When we go away from the country, they talk of brain drain, talk of people not helping the country, and talk of other nations reaping the benefits of Malaysia’s seeds.

Well, every seed belongs to the whole world. If the lands that gave birth to the seed never bothered to take proper care and nourish it, it has no rights to run and make announcements to the world that the seed is theirs after another land gives the seed an opportunity to turn into a tree.

Few years down the road, if I were across the sea, I’d slap any politicians who come claiming I’m their right. Again, I’ll flash, with a smirk of my face this time.

I’ll see how their 70 per cent content mannerisms work then.

Coming back to the topic of movies- the next time I see a group of posh Tamil actors in and around KL shooting wearing fancy dresses, I’ll run all the way to them, just to shoot them and walk off.

Dresses are designed for occasions; not to be worn in every single scene you have in a movie. Especially when the movie gets shot in Malaysia, this happens a lot. That other day I saw Tamanna donning a dress for every scene that she shot in Malaysian shores. Get real. Just because the team comes here and can walk into a Dorothy Perkins store under the name of clothing budget doesn’t mean you shoot every scene with every cloth you can lay your hands off. Save it for your parties and occasions. We watch movies to get entertainment, not a bloody fashion show. So bugger off.

I know much of the blame falls on the shoulders of the director, who has no presence of mind what so ever that he allows his heroines (might even demand) to wear such dresses which are totally out of character. So I might shoot the director myself, and go ahead and shoot the movie myself. It kills me till now to know that I can do better job than most of them yet still I only get to watch and comment while they commit mass murder and mental torture by serving us such annoying entertainment.

And stop shooting every bloody scene if front of KLCC! That’s not the only place in Malaysia you know. Worse still, we, the rightful civilians, get our accesses to scenic views blocked just because we are the people whilst the alien film-makers get to go and see everything for the love of their life. If anything, respect needs to be given to its rightful owners first. Visitors and visitors, and owners are owners. We own this country. But we hardly get that sense of ownership. I demand my sense of ownership.

On a lighter note, I hope those filmmakers will also start getting their grammar and vocabulary right.

India-vil naan oru most successful policeman.

Really? Without even getting the grammar right? And that’s your punch dialogue?

Who can forget T Rajendar’s English?

Just m asking only for your aauuuuurgument sake, suppose if I break and shake the physical or the mental fitness of the witness…whaaaat your stand ??

See, even my Microsoft Word shows so many red and green lines once I typed that piece out.

Shake the physical fitness? That’s vulgar.

With that, I rest my arguments.

Oh yeah, there’s a bonus part. Vijayakanth’s new movie ‘Viruthagiri’ is out. You wouldn’t want to miss the Captain’s movie right?

He directed it himself folks!

Here’s a punch dialogue from the movie:

Ennai porumaiya ireke vecha pudikum

(If you make me patient, I like),

En porumaiye sodicha

(If you test my patience)

After a bloody long pause..


(I don’t like) Jeng Jeng Jeng.

The Door Beyond (Short Story)

A short by Ram Anand. 2009.

It started just like any other day for Shawn, but it did not take him very long to actually realize that the coming days in his life will never, ever be quite the same again. “Look there, cha,” one of his friends pointed out with great urgency and excitement. Shawn knew right away what his friend was pointing towards. A pretty, admirable young lady. That is when Shawn realized that his life is, forever, about to change. The old Shawn could have had the pleasure of sharing his friend’s enthusiasm about the girl, well, he still can share that pleasure, but he knew, three months from now, all of that will change. The old Shawn could afford to tease the girl, and even flirt with her, but the Shawn that will emerge three months from now- can’t do the same. Because three months from now, Shawn is getting married. A new chapter in his life, Shawn thought.

Few of his friends are thinking that he is rushing the prospect of this marriage, moreover, that isn’t actually a love marriage. Shawn hasn’t found the kind of love some people have described to him. If love is grabbing any pretty girl that reacts to your advances or shares a bed space with you, then Shawn has found plenty of love. If love is about complete uncertainty, the willingness to totally commit, and loving suffering itself, Shawn hasn’t found any of that. But he can find that love with his new wife. But, will that love appear once he steps into his marriage vow? He still has 90 days left to make that love appear between him and his would-be, but how will he make it happen? After much hesitancy, he rang her a call. Both of them stuttered in the line, as the shyness crept into both of them. No matter how many girls Shawn has made advances with in the past, advancing on a woman he is going to marry who is actually a woman he never really had a relationship with in the past is always going to be hard work.

He finally muttered some courage. Lying back on his bed like a lazy lover, he asked over the line- “Can you come over here?”- As if she is his girlfriend and he misses her so much. “Why?” came back the question. The only thing Priya Samuel- which is her name, could think of is total unfairness. She was infuriated by that question, and it took her some time to actually realize that the young man on the line opposite this doesn’t know anything about the justification she is thinking about. She knew why he was asking her to come over- so that he could flirt and spend some genuine romantic time with her before finally tying the knot. “Why? Well, simply, cannot izit?” he asked the metaphorical question. The lazy, hesitative conversation continued until Priya decided that it is high time she tells him why she can’t come over. “I don’t want to sound rude, but I am going to stay with you and at the city you are working in once we are married. I have 90 days left to marry you, but you must also think, I only have 90 days left to be my parents’ daughter. I’d rather spend these 90 days with my parents, and then you can have a lifetime trying to know me or trying to flirt with me,” she said. “Then if I come over there?” he asked. “Well, that sounds fine,” she said. He is ready to go and enter a phase in his life- being with a genuine life partner. And little does he know that after this trip- nothing in his life would ever be the same again.

He was initially contemplating on taking a bus, but later decided that driving his car there would be a better idea, that he would have the opportunity on not depending on others to bring him out of the house. His parents think it is utterly ridiculous for him to head to the bride’s house before the marriage and suggested it be done the other way around- by the bride coming to his place, or even, both coming to his parents’ residence. None of this actually mattered much to him- where or how, all he wants is to spend some quality time with his would-be. But she has a justified reason, so he is ready to make that discriminative ‘sacrifice’ by going to her place. He is driving his place to one of the highest lands in Malaysia- Cameron Highlands- and suddenly everything slowed down incredibly. He is a man with a great sense of direction- he always discovers his destination even with only a map on his hands, but suddenly he felt an urge he never ever felt before- an urge to get lost, to lose track, to simply be immersed in the present and not to worry about his destination because it will come when it has to come. He never felt such an urge inside him before. He had spent almost his entire life in metropolitan cities, where life is always about fast. There is always something to run after, something sought after, something that makes life quick yet predictable. But this is different, sure, he went on vacations before, on holidays before, but nothing was anything near this feeling. This is when a phrase written by Henry Miller- a phrase he never understood- made perfect sense- It is better to visit an unknown church that no one else has ever heard of that to go to Rome and feel obliged to visit the Sistine Chapel with 200,000 visitors bellowing every year. Shawn stopped driving and enjoyed the cold breeze. He went out of his car, took a cigarette and started puffing it over, enjoying the quiet, empty scenery in front of him. For the naked eye, it is scenery that is empty, but not quite the same who understand that it such vast emptiness- such a void, that allows us the space to reflect upon ourselves.

It took him a whole day to finally arrive at Priya’s house. “Where have you been?” she asked with a chagrin, clearly she has been worrying or has been worried by the calls of Shawn’s parents. The only thing he can do to reply to her is with a smile. What can he say? “I can’t even reach your phone. Have you got lost?” she asked. Yes, exactly the question that would save him. He nodded his head. His in-laws didn’t probe further- how could they probe into a person who just got lost, and is looking silent and dull, probably extremely tired from being lost? If he were to tell the real answer- which even he don’t understand, they would think he is insane, it would be better to say he had lost- only the fraction of difference in truth is that he has got lost on purpose. He is not dull because of being lost in this journey; he was rather dull because he feels he has been lost in his entire life- always following what was laid down in front for him- as if his life has been scripted. Nothing out of the ordinary has actually happened in his life, he has been extremely insignificant, but what can he do to change that? Probably nothing.

“Hi,” Priya said as she came to his room a few hours later, once the tense of him being lost has finally cooled down. “Hi,” he replied slowly. He can’t help but to stare continuously at her, after all, she is the one he is going to spend the rest of his life with. They starred at each other silently. “So, what is it?” she asked. “What?” he asked back. “Well, you must have a reason why you wanted to spend time with me before marriage, isn’t it?” she asked. “Will you ask reasons for everything?” he asked something that crossed his mind immediately. “Oh, that’s why you are here then? To know about my traits isn’t that so? What kind of questions I will bug you with after marriage, what makes me angry, on what matters I’m easily fooled, like that?” she asked. Shawn sighed as he was unable to answer her question. He sighed and looked disillusioned. He smiled at her instead, and gestured that he simply doesn’t know a certain why. She smiled back at him and left the room, leaving him alone for the moment. There is a huge void of awkwardness between them, given the fact that Priya doesn’t actually trust Shawn to any good level having known about his flirting nature in the past. She is just happy to marry him, or she is content to marry him would be a better way to describe it. Because she had convinced herself and has been convinced by others that this is good as things could get for her- her parents have always said that he would like to choose her groom, and in that case, she said, she would like a man who comes from a city, a man who is relatively young, matured and earns good money, above all a socially viable man. Given the fact that Shawn is good looking, earning good money, drives a good car, and all, he is certainly as good as she could ask for- except for his grey past, but nobody’s perfect, are they?

Shawn and Priya went out on an unofficial date the very next morning. She showed him around the place (which doesn’t have much to rave or travel about except for beautiful, silent sceneries). Priya tried to guide Shawn to a town nearby, where there is some people going around. Having grown up there, she had grown tired of the silent void of scenery around her house. But Shawn is different. Having grown up with people all around him, busy cities, fancy cars, flirting, always something to live up to, he suddenly has fallen in love with this silent void. He is able to see his whole life panned out in front of him every time he stares into those high hills. It was as if time has stopped, all those pressure has been relieved, and he can just sit and review his life all these years. It’s a fearful thing to do as much as Shawn feels the urge to do it. What if he regrets who he is and what he is doing? Isn’t this too late to change? So, he did not give in to those desires and decided he would follow Priya’s guidance to the town nearby. Both of them are estranged with their worries- her worry as to when she will finally get to actively involved in a corporate world, and his uncertainty over his own life. They stopped near a shop and started walking around, slowly stroking about a conversation with each other, until a defining moment came.

Finally, the conversation between Priya and him became less tense than it was before. They finally managed to break the barrier of hidden desires and uncertainty between them. And it all came down to Shawn’s flirting nature to break that barrier. A woman crossed nearby, one of the very few gorgeous looking women in that town and Shawn threw a strong, enchanting look towards her. Priya smiled at what he did. “I can’t keep doing this,” she snapped. “What?” he asked back. “I have to ask you something,” she said. “Go ahead,” he urged. “Will you keep doing this even after marriage? You know, that kind of looks, flirting, trying to seduce other girls, will you?” she asked a straightforward question, but not as hot as the one she is about to ask next. “And then, did you really get lost yesterday and you just found somebody that made you delayed on the way?” He starred at her with utter amazement. She gestured that she wants him to answer this question. “I can understand you know. Maybe you were too paranoid as to how life would be caged after marriage so you wanted your last taste of the cherry maybe,” she continued. “No, no at all,” he said slowly. “I did get lost,” he continued. “Need I stop? I mean, after marriage?” he asked. “What, sleeping with other woman? I guess it makes perfect sense if I say you can’t,” she said. “What do you think I am? Why would I do something like that? I was talking about, you know, socializing, like that,” he replied. “How much difference is there between those two? It’s all about your intentions. If I’m just one of the many girls you met in your life whereas I married you and the others didn’t, then that’s a problem. I need you to admit if that’s the case,” she said. “No, not at all, look, I know what a marriage is all about. If I was thinking of it that way, I wouldn’t have come here 90 days before the marriage. I want us to know and understand each other,” he explained. She nodded. He turned away for a glance again as another woman entered a small Chinese sundry shop near the place where Shawn and Priya have been sitting. “You have been with any?” Priya continued to ask very frank questions. “What do you mean?” he asked back. “I mean, Chinese girls,” she said. “Not actually, but I have a few friends. Wait, how many girlfriends you think I had in my life?” he asked this time, desperate to clear the air of uncertainty. “I don’t know, you tell me,” she said. “Okay, honestly, three, and I slept with two of them, that’s all there was, you are exaggerating me. I’m social but I’m not a playboy,” he stressed. Priya, true to herself, was relieved to hear that. She has heard all kind of stories about him but now she has heard it from the person himself. Shawn, elsewhere, is disturbed. He wants to ask her back, about how many guys she has slept with or had a relationship with in the past? But how will he ask such a question? The pretty, mature-looking Chinese came out of the shop she entered just now and saw Shawn starring at her, not with his usual enchanting manner, but in a much more subtle way. She smiled at him from a distance and suddenly Shawn felt as if he had accomplished something important. “How about you?” he asked, muttering the courage. She starred at him for a while. “What do you think?” she asked. “Do you always answer a question with a question?” he asked. Both of them laughed. “Now you know my behavioral traits,” she said. The topic faded away without the answer, and Shawn was left thinking about the Chinese girl he just saw.

For the next few days, Shawn repeatedly headed to that town and each day, found an excuse to enter the Chinese sundry shop, and ironically, he was seeing the same Chinese girl everyday from then on. She always came to that shop, and there were no prizes for guessing that she is the shop owner’s daughter. She comes briefly in the morning every day and leaves soon, and Shawn never fails to see her in that little time she spends there. He was left curious at to why he is finding it so necessary to meet that girl everyday and yet till now, he has not spoken a single word with her. Five days passed by, and he has begun think of that Chinese girl more than his own fiancée.

He finally decided to talk to her one day, and he went close to her, and that is as far as he got. To his own disbelief, he was unable to strike a conversation, as he hesitated time and again and virtually froze every time there was an opportunity. His absorbing non-verbal relationship with this young woman intrigued him like nothing other, and it was not long before he realized what has been happening all along. He has haplessly fallen in love with her. He had girlfriends in his life, girlfriends whom he liked but didn’t love. He hoped to find that love which has haunted most of his friends when he is with his fiancée, it certainly did, but not with his fiancée, with some other girl. He starred into those open hills again and realized he is facing a huge crisis in his life. On one hand, he amicably agreed to marry a woman he did not love but somehow thought he can fall in love with that woman when he wants to. Little did he realize that, at most times, love chooses the person rather than the other way around? On the other hand, love has struck him with a Chinese woman he had never spoke with, somebody whose name he just found out, but she in return has no idea who he is. He has to decide now, whether to ignore his new found love and keep committed to his future marriage, or try his luck with this woman. He knows the latter option will put him in brewing trouble, so would it be worth the risk? Probably that is what the void of space in these hills was trying to reflect to him. All his life, he has always followed what has been laid down to him, as if his life has been scripted. But this is an opportunity to do something unpredictable with his life. Nothing that is valuable in life comes without risks. He has been playing it safe all his life, and probably it’s about time he approaches life differently than there is. But he is not prepared to risk his marriage possibility with a beautiful woman like Priya because of something he is not sure of. Anna (the Chinese girl’s name) could have a boyfriend, could even be married by a matter of fact. How could he risk a secured relationship with Priya for all that? And so it happened that in the coming days, Shawn begun making advances on the woman he is in love with, unbeknownst to Priya and her family. Finally he started talking with Anna, and slowly made advances on her.

It took him another week to know about her life and the details surrounding it.  Good news is that she is single, and the bad news is that she is 30 years old, which makes her five years his senior. Further bad news, she is Chinese (his parents are going to stand as an obstacle, and from what he knew about her family, her parents too will stand as an obstacle). Anna is a woman of composure. She was born to a mediocre sundry shop owner, and had to work hard to earn her education. She has harvested a huge dream of becoming a scientist in the US, and had slowly saved money which puts her now within weeks of a flight to the States. She is completely devoted to achieving her goal, which is not very far away. That apparently makes her a much more assured and driven personality compared to may other women Shawn met in his life, somebody who knows exactly what they want. Each and every second he spent with her, Shawn was completely transformed and was living the moment, and even though deep inside he knew that he was inviting trouble, he preferred not to think about how this chapter of his life will end, keeping it mum from Priya. At times, it makes him feel extremely guilt-ridden to have been hiding it from Priya, but he is not completely assured about her relationship with Anna either. He is consumed with terror every time he thinks of how much trouble he has to face if he wants to marry Anna- his parents, her parents, and also Priya’s family. Is he ready to take on such an obstacle? Even if he wants to, he needs to know whether Anna loves him as much he loves her.

“I love you,” he said, finally breaking the iceberg. She starred at him strongly. She tried to say something a couple of times but hesitated. She was speechless. “But, Shawn, you are…,” she said. “Engaged, I know, but I love you,” he said. “But you have a fiancée,” she said. “Does that make me not qualified to love you?” he asked. “Do you have any idea of what you are saying?” she asked. “Do you like me?” he walked close to her and asked. “Would liking you be enough?” she asked. “Yes, surely,” a faint, unassuming smile appeared on his face. She sighed. “What do you expect me to tell you? Do you have any idea how many problems we will face?” she asked. “Yes, I know, if you just stand by me, we can overcome all of them,” he said back, convincing her all the way. She finally agreed after much resentment. From there begun a stunning journey that completely changed Shawn’s perception of life. He was exceptionally proud of himself that he was finally listening to his heart’s desire rather than following the path laid down in front of him mechanically like he did in the past. But, the trouble of keeping Priya in the dark regarding this issue is beginning to take a toll on him, especially now, that he has convinced Anna and it’s time he openly tells everybody involved that he wants to marry Anna and not Priya. So he informed the most important person he had to inform about this issue- Priya. A huge silence beckoned when he finally told the matter to Priya. Priya was dull and silent. “Is this in any way at all my fault? I asked you clearly that day, didn’t I? Why did you have to do like this, you fooled me around, as if I’m nothing?” she asked furiously. Her anger is justified and her words are completely justified. This is when Shawn realized how big a fool he has been in his life, or more precisely, how big a coward he has been. He has certainly ignored Priya based on the fear that he may lose her for something that he is not guaranteed of- which is his relationship with Anna. Now he understood the need to take some risks in order to earn something that he desires. There was no room for apologies for his own cowardice, so he decided to stay quiet. But Priya understood the complexity of the situation, and she too, stayed quiet and did not press the issue on further. On a wide enough spectrum, there are three individuals- Shawn, Anna, and Priya, all, in their own way, have huge question marks hanging over themselves, whether they are on the right path to earn the life they desire. As these three individuals each are trying to sort out conflictions within their self, the society around them have begun its rebel to a story which is out of ordinary, and out of routine.

Shawn’s parents came down immediately to the town as if their lives depended on it, once he strongly rejected their calls for him to go back to his home. Priya’s parents begun blaming Shawn’s parents that they have ‘hidden’ the fact that he is a womanizer. And before they even knew it, Shawn and Anna were embroiled in a battle to make their relationship happen (add Anna’s father into the mix). Anna’s trouble is simple, she never knew there was a battle in hand, Shawn had already warned her, but for it to come this soon, she was completely unprepared. As for Shawn, he stepped with a notion that he is finally swimming against the tide, something that he has not done in many, many years in his life and finally is cherishing the prospect that, he is fighting for something he desires rather than making compromises the way he had done before. And for Priya, who is witnessing this whole spectacle as a mere spectator from sidelines, did find a brand new insight to her own life. Is the falling apart of this supposed marriage a letdown, or is it a blessing in disguise, she asked herself. She has been no different from Shawn, being a person who has always followed what was laid out in front of her. She knew on the core, she and Shawn have been living the same lifestyle- a predictable, scripted lifestyle. Shawn and Anna’s relationship is not a result of Shawn being a womanizer, even if he does have that reputation from the past, and Priya knows that more than anything else.  Such an unpredictable tale was thrown in the mix probably to give everyone a wake up call. But what should she do now? Vow that she would not be married for another five years?

Days passed by as Shawn and Anna withstood every single waves that came in an effort to destroy their relationship. Shawn was proud and fulfilled at his new found strength to swim against the tide, while Anna, depending on his bravery, has quietly come through that phase as well. But the story is different for Priya. What Priya saw in this episode is not only a battle for an odd relationship, but also a battle to preserve the heart’s instinct. She grew up to be taught that the brain is a better ruler than the heart, and she certainly feels a fool for believing that. Living by what the mind says always means following a set of logic that the society has provided for her, and that living did not give her the courage that she now sees in Shawn.

Finally, the couple triumphed against all the odds. All the social, religious and age differences were put behind and they managed to make their relationship work at all ends. Shawn felt proud of himself for managing to do it. That would have been a great end for that story, but don’t all of us tend to forget the more important part of life more times than not? The espisode of Shawn battling for his relationship with Anna was certainly overlooked, placed into a simple paragraph, because the larger picture is always different.

All three of them- Shawn, Priya and Anna, sat on a bench on an airport, starring at the empty horizon. They looked at each other. A faint smile appeared in each of their faces. It’s not the best ending, but as they say, every ending is a beginning. This is merely just a beginning. “Thank you,” Anna landed Shawn a warm kiss on his cheek. He felt even more fulfilled. “No, thank you for showing me there’s more to life than I thought,” he said. “I have to thank you guys then for this,” Priya said. Shawn realized for the first time, what it is like to fall completely in love and fight for that love, and now, he realized that love never should be an issue that is forced upon. He is allowing Anna to pursue her dreams- a dream she has come so close yet so far to achieve, thanks to this relationship. Anna taking that plane to US is not an end for their love story- merely a beginning. Anna loves her dream, and she has worked for years and deserves to get there. Anna is Shawn’s dream, she made him see life a different way, and like any other man, he understood that he needs to make a journey in order to achieve his dreams, and what he had done in the past month is merely a process of setting himself in the right track towards the dream. The journey has just begun for him. Anna understood that at the brink of achieving any dream, a conflict between love and dream often come across, but neither are elements that should be sacrificed. Shawn is not ‘sacrificing’ his love for Anna, he is just allowing her to fulfill her first love so that the next time around, she would love him as much as he loves her. For Priya, she finally understood the value of love. For once, she decided, she would follow her heart, and has taken matters of marriage into her own hands. Priya realized that she too had a dream that is rotting inside her, and will now set a quest to fulfill it, no matter how ridiculous it sounds- that’s why they are called dreams. As for love, waiting for love is an experience of its own. Shawn and Priya were both walking down a lane set up for them with all predictability, until one’s heart decided to love unconditionally and they were opened up to world of transforming love and dreams. They saw more about life. They saw the larger picture, the other side that few people realize or acknowledge about, they saw the door beyond.

Rants of a pure football lover- Edition 1- Big Sam, Old ‘Arry, Rafa the joker, and Jose the Special One

Its time someone gives credit where its due. Since I started this site, I have staunchly refused to rant on about the football world here. But now I can’t take all the petty ignorance, and also the so-called smart-ass attitudes some bloggers and so-called football writers (like Phil McNutty) have in their writings.

To begin with, I can’t help but to notice how people react everytime Harry Redknapp says something to the newspapers. It seems like anything he says is bound to be politically incorrect, as if he is living in a dreamland. And I’m also perplexed by the lack of mention from the Tottenham fans whenever they talk about their team being able to win the Premier League or anything such. It seems Harry somehow disappears from the calculation, and Spurs have a team so good that Bale and co can win without having a manager at the dugout.

Spurs were languishing at second from bottom in the table when Harry took over at Spurs, and he has very little to prove anymore. Spurs, for so many years, were pretenders, but now they are contenders. They have given the top four a run for their money, have claimed the Champions League spot, and have completely skinned the likes of Inter Milan and Werder Bremen in Europe’s premier competition.

They have beaten the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool back-to-back even when they had their backs to the wall (like yesterday, when they lost Van Der Vaart and Kaboul to injuries and then had to see Defoe miss a penalty in a morale-sapping manner). They believe now that they can beat anyone, they play beautiful football, and the little bit of tinkering from Harry has also proved to be good of late (like last week at Emirates when Defoe came in at half-time).

Harry also made great signings during his time there, the signings of VdV and also William Gallas in the summer transfer window were both touch of geniuses. Wilson Palacios was a revelation last season, and once upon a time Gareth Bale was a jinxed player because Tottenham could never win when he is on the field. He did not improve all by himself, surely? Surely his manager had a big role in helping him find his feet?

Give due credit for the man, he had brought Spurs to the heights they aspired to be at but never managed to achieve for so many years. In fact, he is probably the only English manager who encourages his team to play tiki-taka type of football.

Next, Sam Allardyce. Oh, it is so easy to hate Big Sam isn’t it? I couldn’t understand the level in which many jumped the gun the moment Blackburn were trashed by United at the weekend. Let’s get one fact clear here. Blackburn were recently sold to the Indian poultry giants Venkys for 45 million pounds. That’s almost a half-price discount of Cristiano Ronaldo. You can now imagine what resources exactly Big Sam had in his hands all this while.

Blackburn is comprised mainly of average players (in exception of Morten Gamst-Pedersen) so for them to sit in mid-table safety is more than satisfactory. For most part of last season, Rovers played with Christopher Samba, a centre-back, as their main striker. Yet they were grinding out results. No credit to Big Sam for that? Just because they got trashed by a rejuvenated United team doesn’t mean they are bad. Just last week they had the beating of Aston Villa at Ewood Park, and the grass seemed all green. Talk about short memories. That said, Blackburn are still in mid-table, and losing to the current league leaders is not a disaster.

What people have against Big Sam is his penchant for kick and rush football. Why don’t you hate Jose Mourinho then? It’s not like his team plays the most pleasing types of football on earth does he? Just because he is good at managing a certain style of football doesn’t mean he needs to be hated. He is doing what he can do with the players he has. You can’t play tiki taka with the likes of Jason Roberts and El Hadji Diouf can you? Stop living in denial by attacking the big man.

And now to Rafa Benitez. People love to hate him. They say Mourinho is God, and Rafa is a joker. Short memories again. When Jose Mourinho first took over at Inter Milan, Roma were the only team who provided a feeble challenge, as Milan’s age caught up with them and Juventus were just fresh off the Serie B blocks. Inter nearly threw away the title with a series of shocking performances, and struggled against plenty of teams, but grinded out a result against most of them. He was eliminated early in the Champions League in his first season, and it was largely considered a sub-standard season. It was only last season that Mourinho worked his magic.

But then again, Mourinho had the luxury of spending. He spent on Ricardo Quaresma, Sulley Muntari, Mancini, Goran Pandev, Wesley Sneijder, Lucio, Thiago Motta, and Diego Milito. Of all, the four latter names were a success, though the same can’t be said about the preceding three. But the fact is he was given new ammunitions in every transfer window. All Benitez got was Phillipe Coutinho, and that too after Mario Balotelli was sold off to Manchester City. It’s not easy following up an all-conquering season, and to judge him at a time when he had only Goran Pandev as his available striker in the win over Parma yesterday is bordering on the ridiculous.

And what’s with all the praises for Mourinho? He is only continuing Manuel Pellegrini’s good work on the team. The shape and the method of play is just the same as Manuel’s, and in fact Real had an incredible season last time out. He was given money to spend on fresh, young talents such as Angel Di Maria, Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, and Ricardo Carvalho, and he even had the guts to show pathetic sportsmanship in the win over Ajax. What is he, king of the world? Winning everything is one thing, but first and foremost one needs to learn to respect the game.

Arsene Wenger may have not won anything for long, but that is not excuse enough for Jose to divert from the real purpose of the comments. Is there a rule that only treble winners can comment on some rubbish, arrogant, cocky behavior shown by another treble winner? All of them are in the same footballing world, so don’t take credit away from them. I want to Jose manage Arsenal, with no funds at all, and I’ll see how he does.

So, short memory-infused idiots, wake up!

Kamal Kavidhai lyrics translation in English

Kamal Kavidhai (Kamal Hassan’s poem) from the film Manmadhan Ambu.

Deciphering this poem was no easy task, the translation appeared thanks to efforts from from KL, Sungai Petani, and Rantau (if I’m not mistaken). Kamal would have been so proud to have seen such effort to decipher his poetry.

Thanks Rathi and Thiviya. And thanks Kamal for the poem and the courage to write a poem regarding an issue so taboo, and above all thanks to me, cause this is the FIRST translation on net!

A man’s warning to another man about a woman:

If she looks straight into your eyes,

She has no dignity, so beware;

Did she hold hands with you in an instant?

She is a (bitch); beware,

If she talks aplenty while undressing,

She has plenty of experience (on bed); beware,

If she talks aplenty after intercourse,

She might fall in love with you; so beware

If she speaks of literature and poems,

She is one who will have no respect for money; so beware

Does she say she loves being with you and wants to remain with you?

That’s definite trouble; beware.

A woman’s desire on all this perceptions:

Just like how you wait for the seeds to grow after you plough,

Treat lust just as such, Reap it only when the time is Ripe;

If being together is the only purpose of all,

Lust can wait to be secondary;

Do not think too much about what women think about you,

Take life as it comes your path,

Men and women are like the dice,

It goes either way; There is no superiority,

In an act as bygone as lust,

Assure that love doesn’t get mixed into it;

A woman’s prayer to song to Varalakshmi (Kamal recites):

I want a husband, With white perfect teeth,

Who will whisper slowly into ears after intercourse,

And gently bite my neck,

I want a husband,

Who smells like a baby, sans any smell in his mouth,

I want a husband, who after intercourse,

Stays back and helps me wash off the acts of lust,

And not be disgusted by it;

I want a husband;

Who will help me while I’m cooking;

I want a husband,

Who will provide me with a shoulder to lie on;

At times when I want release my anger,

He should have a chest as strong as rock to take my hits;

But beyond that chest, I want a soft, compassionate heart,

I want him to have a head with big brains;

I want him to have loads of savings in his bank account;

And plenty of money to live life with;

I want loyalty, I want devotion;

At times when I demand for my own freedom,

I want him to have the presence of mind to grant me my freedom;

So that I’ll get a husband as such,

I prayed for nine days; (Navarathri),

And I went searching for the one believing that my Varalakshmi will grant my wishes;

(To the beach)

As I placed my feminine steps on the beach and walked,

I saw men with big fat bellies walking the beach;

I saw saints,

Who gave up all their posessions, and submitted themselves to the will of God;

(naked, sans property of clothes)

Who were sleeping on bed with naked women;

I saw my elder sister’s husband;

Even though he fits most of my criterias;

At moments when my sister is not around;

He desires for a (keep, extra marital fling);

I stopped caring about religion and race,

And I searched everywhere;

But I realized men with husband material are a rarity in the marriage market;

I ask my Varalakshmi again;

From you I asked a wish to be granted;

I shall ask you Varalakshmi;

How did you find your husband?

How far did your wishes come true as far as your husband is concerned?

How is your man, whom I can only see lying down all the time?

(Referring to Lord Vishnu)

All the stories that are told about your husband,

All the tales;

Did they happen for real?

Does any woman, you (Varalakshmi) included, ever get the husband who fits all the criteria?

If it really came true for you, you are truly lucky;

If as such; do give similar luck in finding,

Sri Varalakshmi Namostutey.

Welkam to the 1 Malaysia kultur

When I was a student, I was told that Public Relations (PR) is a subtle act of infusing people to subscribe to ideas that can benefit a certain organization. I know, it sounds so intelligent, doesn’t it? It sounds complicated, as if the most complex, far-thinking individuals on planet earth can pull off a great PR act.

Just look at all those smartly dressed PR ladies in those PR firms- or the exceptionally suited men in them. They present themselves so sophisticatedly that an organization is just supposed to roll over and say ‘makes us famous’ and they will do the rest. PR is such an intrinsic field- or so we were told. Why, even I was considered not sophisticated enough in spite of all my novel-writings not is good enough for one of Malaysia’s leading PR institutions. I was good enough to be called for an interview, but not further.

When I went out from there, all I told to myself was- look at them, they are in a different league altogether. Maybe my short stint with Microsoft’s PR wing has proved to be insufficient to have me make the cut.

But now I’m out of it. This country’s PR borderlines on stupidity at times, and hardly half of the time you see someone pulling a PR act that is so good that it takes a smart bloke to look at the larger picture and say ‘yeh, that’s a smart piece of act’.

Why, I don’t even have to illustrate examples for that matter, look at our biggest, largest, grandest PR stunt- 1 Malaysia. A drive through Brickfields ahead of the Indian premier Manmohan Singh’s visit later tomorrow will show you large banners erected with a 1 Malaysia slogan attached to it. Below there, there is a small byline, that the visit is promptly sponsored by a certain ‘1 Malaysia mamak’.

1 Malaysia mamak? What the fu..? I was peacefully crunching a couple of chickens in Kajang that day as I randomly flickered to my right and saw a certain ‘Pengurup Wang Berlesen 1 Malaysia’. The chicken didn’t taste good after that.

By the way, for those who are wondering, 1 Malaysia Mamak refers to a famous Brickfields food outlet who graciously changed their name to ‘1 Malaysia Mamak’ after Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s visit to the restaurant.

Najib visited the 150 years celebration of the Telugu heritage in Malaysia a couple of weeks ago, and all the volunteers were wearing 1 Malaysia badges. Yes, the same ones those parliament blokes come up with day in day out.

Even the forthcoming Deathly Hallows characters such as Harry Potter and Lord Voldermort can’t have this much of power- it seems every place Najib graces his feet, 1 Malaysia resounds everywhere. Spark, here, there, everywhere, Satu Malaysia is all you will hear.

And I sit there, amazed, astonished, at what PR has become. Did my parents’ tax money actually go into hiring this PR Company to come up with this PR campaign?

The country has become so fragile nowadays that we need to see 1 Malaysia everywhere, just to remind people that this is ‘one country’. It’s a mantra we need to practice, we are all the same; we are all one. Sometimes I look at a 1 Malaysia banner and I see desperation.

What are these people trying to do? Because as far as I can see it, this whole 1 Malaysia concept is actually being used as a suck-up method rather than actually serving as a tagline to underscore a harmonious community.

First of all, we have managed to co-exist for half-a-century and to come up eons later with 1 Malaysia is certainly an eyebrow-raising act. If that’s not enough- it all came up after the March 8 election tsunami.

More diverse, specific communities are coming up and using the 1 Malaysia tagline to draw attention from the country’s top brass leaders. How is this tagline inclusive if more separate diasporas come out and demand what specifically suits their needs? Are we actually narrowing down borders and widening them?

The 1 Malaysia campaign, frankly, is an oxymoron- another sophisticated word so commonly used in the sophisticated PR realm. An oxymoron is not a compliment for any PR campaign. It’s more like ‘fail’ signage etched onto it.

Anyone who embraces the campaign and harps onto it, as simple as it gets, will be embraced warmly. Those who do not subscribe to these ideas, they will be watching from the outskirts.

But even then, those who are embraced only get that 15 minutes of date with the spotlight. It’s a smash and grab job, grab all you can get, take it and leave. What we are entitled to get without as much as having to sweet-talk anyone, we now have to play suck-up in order to attain them.

Whenever I am down depressed or suffering from stress, my friend uses this one famous line if I try to deflect by saying ‘I am ok’- ‘You don’t have to tell that you are okay if you really are okay. I will know it myself if you are okay. I wouldn’t even be asking, and you wouldn’t be explaining’.

Well, I rest my case there. I think that’s what all of us are hoping for. That one day when every stage show does not have to be carefully choreographed so that the Indian-Malay-Chinese composition tallies equally with each other, when we don’t have to see people yelling ‘1 Malaysia’ anymore. The day we stop talking about multi-racial, co-existence, and incorporation, we know we are past that stage.

Once upon a time, I thought we are way past that stage. Looks like all we are doing now is hitting a brick wall, and instead of pounding to break the wall- we want to climb our way up above the wall (read the 100-storey tower, mega-buildings, new highways) before we start moving again. When will we start addressing the quintessential problem of this country- which is that- almost every aspect of life is so politicized?

The answer is I don’t know. Till then, I will be a bemused spectator, and also at times, an active participant to make the wheel turn the other way around.

And yeah, now we have Rosmah Mansor’s karaoke video.

These are times when I am an amused spectator.

But end of the day- all I ask is- like in Rosmah’s video- when will tomorrow come?

A Ram Anand rant.

Jhootha Hi Sahi- Call me dill and sing

AR Rahman is back. The kind of variety that his albums have provided this year has been very diverse to say the least. This is Rahman’s fourth album of the year, after Vinnaithandi Varuvaaya, Raavan, and the recent Endhiran. Probably Jhootha Hi Sahin’s album release was somewhat blighted by Endhiran’s release and the tremendous hype surrounding India’s most expensive film in recent times. So I took my music reviewer cap for this one and wore it for a short bit to asses this new album from ARR.

First of all, this is ARR’s second film with young director Abbas Tyrewala, with whom he combined to great effect for the 2008 romantic comedy Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na under Aamir Khan’s production. This time, Abbas has teamed up with John Abraham, and will also debut his own wife Pakhi Tyrewala in the film’s lead role. So you know what to expect. The trailer already hit the theatres last week and was commonly featured prior to Endhiran’s shows. It’s yet another breezy romantic comedy written by Abbas, and this would be the first simple, light, romantic album that ARR would produce this year after diversely heavy films such as Raavan and Endhiran. VTV falls in the romantic category as well, but the film pretty much is a little heavier than Jhootha Hi Sahin is. And the director himself has written the lyrics for this one.

The album begins with a song called Cry Cry. It pretty much hears more like ‘Kai Kai’, but that’s where it catches you. Cry Cry is Abbas and ARR doing the Kabhi Kabhi Aditi thing all over again. It has a similar type of music, and a song that has a similar theme- why do we have to be sad. All the more in familiar territory is Rashid Ali, who sung Kabhi Kabhi Aditi as well, and he sings this with consummate ease. He doesn’t seem to find any trouble and fits into the song seamlessly. Shreya Ghosal enters towards the end to provide that extra bit of support, and I’d say, whenever she sings, there is an extra bit of ‘spark’ as well. The song is laced with a couple of dialogues as it seems to be more situational, but overall the beats, the mood, and the singing are just simple, and connects well with the listener (unless you are deaf for music). It pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the album.

Then there comes Maiya Yasodha. How long has it been since we have such a song from ARR? It seems like it has been quite some time. Maiya Yasodha is one of those fun, festival-like song with heavy desi flavor, but with a special ARR twist to it to make it sound quite a standout from the rest of the album. His choice of singers is impeccable  here, given that such songs require a good selection of singers to make them tick. Sitars and other Indian instruments are heavily used, showing once again ARR’s love for our native Indian beats in his songs. And do I have to talk about Chinmayi? What a singer she has become under ARR. There was the funky crooning of Kilimanjaro in Endhiran that caught all our attention, and once again she joins hands with Javed Ali, and sings almost flawlessly in a song that has a variety of pace in it. Maiya Yasodha is fresh and delights.

Hello Hello is presumably the film’s theme song. Since the film’s given plot centers around a random a phone call, this song talks mainly about such a phone call, and how it can change one’s life. ARR simply hands the baton to Karthik here, and the able singer that Karthik is, he takes care of the rest. Karthik gives the song the right amount of breezy feel, and it keep in tune with the tempo of the album, light, simple, straight to the point, with some melodious touches in the middle. This one will grow on you the more you listen to it.

Do Nishaniyaan. No elaboration. No words. There are times when ARR leaves you speechless. You can’t write, just listen and allow yourself to be taken away by his music. People are already raving about how this is one of the best songs ever, and easily the best combination between ARR and Sonu Nigam. I’m not sure whether I will adhere to such superlatives, but this definitely is one heck of a passionate, melodious song, that absolutely gives you the loving it feel. Sonu Nigam fits this song brilliantly and steals all the glory with his fantastic crooning. Welcome to the Rahmania effect.

After such a melody, then you are given Pam Pa Ra. This two songs are enough to demonstrate ARR’s diversity. Even Sonu Nigam steals the show there, here my favorite female Shreya Ghosal takes over and proves that she doesn’t only fit melody, but she is equally able to sing fast-paced song. This number mainly comprises of jazz beats, and Shreya shines from the word go, and she seems to have stupendously enjoyed singing this to the tilt. The pace doesn’t deter for a bit. One word- brilliant and fresh.

I’ve been waiting is one of those rare ballroom dance songs that you will see in Bollywood. And Vijay Yesudas is one off-beat choice for a song that is so essentially American in its tune, but ARR adds a strong Indian flavor to it, and Vijay shows his capacities of singing different songs with this number.

Then there is a slow version of Do Nishaniyaan. This is a sad version of the above romantic number, though the tempo is pretty much the same, the lyrics protrude a different mood altogether.

What a way to end the album with Call Me Dill. Rashid Ali croons a sure-fire breezy, cool, leg-tapping hit. The lyrics by Abbas is absolutely top-notch, why this song easily the most romantic, connecting number that has come out for a long time. The heavy use of guitars and simple instruments adds to the light-hearted feel this gives you.

Pick of the album : Do Nishaniyaan, Call Me Dill, Param Pa Ra, Maiya Yasodha

Album rating: 8/10

Call me Dill, Call me Baby, Call me jo naam Tu me vahi. 😀

Endhiran: A robotic ride

Endhiran. The mother of all movies, at least we can say so because of the budget. Made at close to US$45 million, Endhiran is a spectacle from the grand director of Kollywood, Shankar, combining with the most celebrated actor of them all- Rajinikanth, and also the living legend of a music composer AR Rahman.

But I’m not here just to write down a review for Endhiran- The Robot. Why was Endhiran made at such a budget? One has to note that Endhiran needs a worldwide audience participation if the team were to see profit after such a humungous budget. A regular 200-day run in the theatres in India itself won’t prove to be enough to see profit- most, maybe only to break even, given its production, marketing, and distribution budget, which, least to say- is astronomical.

Endhiran is a loud shout to the rest of the world that Tamil cinema has the ambition to be on par with other globalized industries. What Endhiran wants is that moviegoers of other races all over the world should come in and watch because it can be as good as any movie. Praises were splattered by the likes of Vairamuthu and what nots that the movie is Hollywood in quality. So, I took with me a Chinese friend to watch Endhiran.

I have the right to give my review of the film, because I contributed, as a Tamil cinema lover, for Endhiran to have that extra viewer that they were looking for. I watched the movie from my friend’s perspective- if this were the very first film I have watched in Tamil, what would my impression of the whole industry be, so on and so on. So here begins.

Firstly- to say Endhiran is Hollywood is far-fetched yet irrelevant in terms of argument. It’s the best India has ever produced in terms of technical brilliance, but that’s not what Hollywood is all about- and to begin with- I never liked the perception that Hollywood is a benchmark. There is no need for comparison, so all those who go on the Hollywood rant can just calm down and view Endhiran just as a well-made Tamil movie.

This is Rajini’s show all the way. It’s refreshing to have seen him come out and act his heart out- probably realizing he has been given the chance to be part of an important film in the history of the industry, he grabbed it with both hands. So, young directors should note this. Rajini can, and is willing, to act. He is not obsessed with punch dialogues (I don’t think he has any here) or opening songs, or grand entries. It’s refreshing to see his entry be so simple and straight-to-the-point in this film.

Shankar, elsewhere, unleashes his imagination- the robot turns into a python, a giant, a drill, can roller-skate on railway tracks, can fly at consummate ease, can talk to mosquitoes. But at the core of this is detailed description of everything. As if Shankar had studied robotics- terms such as reverse mapping, explanations such as the magnetic field that helps the Robot fly up, what it uses to charge itself, how to deliver a baby by negating the hip- he has the details right, he has done his research.

Now that is a point we should highlight- because 90 per cent of Tamil directors assume that their audiences are so intellectually starved that their so-called theories is all based on assumptions in contrast of proper research.

But having said all these, we are not there yet. Endhiran is not a masterpiece. We are not at a global standard, yet. I’m just delivering my verdict for those who believe Endhiran could be the first Indian film that is world-class. I rather believe while Endhiran is not world-class, we already had world-class movies. Examples would be underrated gems such as Iruvar and Hey Ram.

Why, many may ask? While Shankar has got his foundations right- he is still inclined to the Indian commercial stereotypes and this is a major handicap for the movie, and my friend found the very same reason why the movie fell quite short from being perfect.

Femme fatale?

It is not secret that in Tamil films female characters are almost never given the proper scope or importance. It is true that Endhiran is one of those films where the female character is at the centre stage of the story and is given proper screen space- but it is all fake.

The love story between Vasi and Sana has no connection at all. Chitti falls in love with Sana at the weave of a kiss. There is hardly any development of feelings. Ash at all times only needed to look pretty in the film. It’s almost as if Vasi and Chitti were in love just because of her beauty. There is no depth of characterization- so often the case in Shankar’s films.

Sana looks grossly out of place in her home environment- she is supposed to be staying in a shelter home with many others, but she wears flashy dresses even while she is sleeping. Not in one scene did she look natural, cute, or anything that indicates a trait of a character. The only thing she does is to look pretty.

Even the dialogues provided to her are more often said for the sake of it. The dialogues have no emotional underscore in them, do not strike, move or affect you- especially the scene where she is supposed to console Vasi after he dismantled Chitti- the scene is forced, and is converted into a comedy scene rather than a genuine scene that could have portrayed how much they love each other.

These elements are important if our film-makers look to make a step into perfection. Constant shallow views of female portrayals are a hindrance and not a cultural trait- although it tends to be mistaken for the latter. The story could be much more emotional with someone way less ‘pretty’ than Ash, but with someone who can fit the character, act it out, and make you fall in love with the character.

Ash is stunningly pretty is Endhiran, but that’s where it ends. You don’t fall in love with Sana, but with Ash. And that’s wrong to feel so in a film.

The sad part is Ash is a proven actress as well, and she had demonstrated her capacities to act, but she is nothing more than a doll that Shankar uses to centre his story around.

Fighting the fights

When will we let go of flying cars and Tata Sumo explosions? My friend found the fight scenes dragged beyond necessity, and so did I. Why the need of that train fight scene when we already know the robot can fight well? Why drag the fight scene after Chitti turns bad to ridiculous extent with too many explosions when it doesn’t move the story anywhere?

The crescendo appears near the climax when the robot turns into a giant, looking at Vasi, Sana and the host of police officers. One step forward, and it could kill everyone. Yet somehow, Vasi asks Sana to get into the van, and they drive off, and the robots are chasing them from behind.

This scene looked so out-of-place in a film that doesn’t insult intelligence, and what commercial aspect that actually triggered Shankar to commit this screenplay blunder? An extra fight scene- of course.

It is really uncalled for and these too need to go.


Same old, same old. Songs break the speed and momentum of a movie sometimes, when will our film-makers understand this fact? Arima Arima and Kilimanjaro both have no place in a intensely-plotted second half, yet Shankar squeezes them. Just after announcing that the story will move fast ahead, Irumbile Oru Idhayam provides another speed-break.

The only reprieve is that the songs are good, Ash looked particularly good, Rajini looked fresh, and the production values were great for the songs. But still, it’s not wrong to compromise them sometimes.


There are very intelligent scenes in the movie where Shankar had infused dialogues that describe the Robot’s capabilities very early in the film. But the entire first half seems more like a Robot exhibition- carving out scenes just to boast to us what a Robot can do and cannot do. It is a technical era and most audiences know the capacities of a Robot, and it’s also reinforced early in this movie.

But the following scenes seem to show the Robot’s capacities beyond requirement, just infusing funny scenes here and there. But till the interval, the story just jerks a little forward, but never actually gets going.

It’s a disappointment, because the movie starts straight-to-the-point and that pace could have been maintained.

Though Robot is a good movie, the movie could and should have been trimmed by more than 30 minutes. The 3-hour running time is a drag since the story at many places stays static.

AR Rahman’s background score and music is wonderful- he provides a buffet with a variety of music, but the Puthiya Manidha background score is fabulous, and adds an extra atmosphere for the film.

All in all, for those who were asking if this is Hollywood standard- I would say not there yet due to the Indian elements that had held back this film from being a perfect entertainer.

But it does look like Japanese movie to me. And that’s not bad considering the Japanese industry is fairly a step ahead and more global. Endhiran is a step in the right direction, but as a fan with concerns and with ideas, I have outlined here the difference between ‘going there’ and ‘being there’.

Let’s be there someday.

Bossing the comedy

Comedy has, over the years, become the bread and butter of Tamil cinema. Probably there is no other industry in the world that give as much importance to comedy as Tamil cinema has done- by hook or by crook, the film-makers would do anything to ensure that tickle some funny bones.

It has become almost too obvious that even comedians have shown a willingness to stoop low just to make sure they can make people laugh- which, in the producers’ dictionary, translates literally as paisa vasool.

How often have we been treated to the image of someone like Vadivelu making a complete fool of himself, degrading and rubbishing his character, acting like a clown just so that the audience will feel entertained? To be honest, I belong to the select group of people who had become gradually tired of the repeatedly stereotypic way comedy has been treated in this industry. And I make myself clear that my frustrations do not speak for all of the audiences, but a select number (though I’m sure that amount is still a considerable one).

It’s more a scenario of a standup comedian using the same line every single time to entertain his audience. After some time, the line wears out. Even the likes of Russell Peters talks about ‘retiring a joke’. I have to say, the old-styled comedy of Tamil cinema is standing at a similar crossroad.

A director would just pick a comedian up and throw in 30 minutes per movie in which the comedian can do all that he wants with his own ‘team’ to tickle the funny bones. The comedy has little or nothing to do with the progress or flow of the story, and comes in more like in the form of an advertisement break for those who are watching. And more often than not, the comedian takes bashings and insults so that someone can crinkle with laughter.

Want an example of what kind of comedy I’m referring? Well, it’s the one we are so accustomed to in the Tamil-language medium. Take last year’s Villu for example.

Vadivelu arrives at a foreign airport in Munich and the airport officers brand it as a ‘monkey gone loose’. Why such disintegration of Vadivelu’s character? If I was him and was reading a script, I’d rather be offended that the script directly mocks my looks more than anything. I just have to appear there with a funny face, and they would brand me a monkey, and people would laugh. Simple.

What is it there for Vadivelu to ‘act’?

This supposed ‘format’ is exhausting for those who are hoping that this industry can move forward for the better, and there are plenty of instances where good movies are being held back or disrupted by the film-makers rigid attempts to attempt the ‘must’ comedy with the ‘must’ comedian.

But there is a wind of change in the horizon. The flock of young comedians is slowly turning the tables around. A friend of mine once told me she never actually enjoyed watching Santhanam as a comedian but rather preferred him as an ‘actor’- as portrayed in Arai 305il Kadavul.

Probably that’s where the line should be drawn. We should all remember that those who are in front of the camera acting out their roles are all actors by profession, and there’s no argument as well in the fact that all the comedians are very capable actors in fact. But the lest the blame should fall on our film-makers for repeatedly exploiting the comedian market and extracting all from comedians and giving back very little to them in terms of recognition.

We have our laughs, producers have their money, comedians (more often than not aspiring actors who have been in and around the industry for years) have their spotlight. But there is something more than that. They are caliber actors, some of them even miles better than the crops ‘heroes’ that we have in our industry.

The recently released Boss Engira Baskaran is a great example of how to actually utilize comedians in the best way possible. Make the comedians act in the movie. Make them part of it. And do not degrade their characters. In BEB, Arya’s character was at times portrayed as even more useless than that of Santhanam’s. Such direct involvement for comedians benefits both the quality of the movie and also their purpose of presence in the flick.

Another commendable example in this respect is director Simbu Devan, who has long shown a strong appreciation to quality comedy, in the way he had attempted something as refreshingly funny as Irumbu Kottai…

There isn’t much of a change in the industry, but the is a positive wind now, and it is imperative that film-makers ride on this new wave as soon as possible rather than just throwing the same sink at us again and again.

Humor, mind you, comes with a touch of intelligence as well. Only then does it have an everlasting impact. The slapstick comedy that we have been treated to in this industry for years have hardly been intelligent; they had a very simple formula to which the film-makers adhered to. In BEB and Irumbu Kottai for instance, the comedic parts are written meticulously. And when you treat comedy with that respect, even the smallest aspects can bring about laughter.

Take for example Simbu Devan’s simple yet intelligent move to name the evil village as Usapuram in Irumbu Kottai. A smart reference to USA in the purest sense, and with that one panning of a shot, laughter is already evoked without trying too hard, and without degrading any characters.

Scenes in BEB too showed a class in terms of writing and dialogue delivery. Hardly any spoken dialogues were vulgar or demeaning any character in the film. In fact, the comedian is given the right to throw insults at the ‘hero’ for his shortcomings.

My kudos to Arya and his production team for boldly going against the regular convention of hero-comedian dynamics through BEB, and with Irumbu Kottai releasing not that long ago, we can be assured a new brand of humor is growing in Kollywood. But whether the audience of Tamil cinema would accept it or would revert to the old, clown-like comedy is remain to be seen.

Awakening the lizards

How many of us remember the first time we actually gained conscience? I do not know whether I actually had a downtrodden childhood, but I do know that I wasn’t recorded or photographed.

The first thing I remember about myself is that 20-year-old picture folded in small pieces- a flabby, chubby little baby splashing water in a red bucket. Apparently I was bathing. I loved bathing in such a way, squeezed into that particular red bucket, with warm water. Now I know where my knack for heaters came about. All the more peculiar was my spiky hair, I can’t remember having anything but a lazy set of hair, which would fall back sloppily back on my forehead no matter how much I try to make it stand still. That’s why I gave up on gels, bylcreems and what nots. Heck, I did not even bother to comb my hair this morning when I came to work. My pair of hands always seem to do the trick, a couple of brushes, and walla, there you go. All set.

I was imaginative when I was young itself, another thing I knew. I did not have siblings. When I had active conscience, we were living in small shop house just by the side of the road. Nothing spectacular. Shop in front, and further back of the settlement was a spacious room which was our living room. My life was filled with Lego toys, constructing, dismantling, constructing again, and then losing all of them again and crying for new ones. There’s a sense of satisfaction when I manage to build the toy like I wanted to. But I never actually did it. I am bad at mechanical constructing, and I guess I was born with that defect. My mom built those things for me. I’d be spending ages fondling them, and she would sit down, take her time, and come up with it. Obviously, she would teach me how to do it, but the last thing I would be doing is concentrate. Why concentrate? There she is, my mother, to build it for me.

It sticks till today, the constructing or mechanism bug. I never know how things work mechanically. I guess my sense of creativity is too liquefied that mechanical matters never stick in my head. I can’t fix a pipe to save my life. And people will be busy telling me ‘you are a man, do it’.


Well, that’s where my blurriness started too. I hate it when they ask me to do things I have no idea of. I climb, I touch it, but I know I’m never going to do it right. Sometimes I manage to fix things, but that just happens, I always have no idea how I do it. These are things I’m bad at. Everyone has something they are bad at, but unfortunately my shortcomings were never viewed objectively. It was unbecoming of a man, that’s what I was told.

Well, back to that topic in hand, imagination. Yes, that. I had nobody to play with. I stepped outside of the shoplot, to an open space we have right outside the shop (a space between the main road and the shop entrance), and played by myself. There always was an imaginative friend. But I can’t recall who that imaginative friend was.

I used to study the way I was told to, but looking back, it is a stated fact now, I was never good at studies in the first place. Yes, there were an abundance of As in my report cards, and my mom would have a satisfied smile every time that happens, but eventually, they did not matter to me. I did not want to study. Till today, it remains; I do not want to study. I want to learn. I wanted to learn. I asked questions for which I knew I wouldn’t get a definitive answer.

The most striking image I remember from my childhood was that of a lizard roaming around without a tale. Peculiar, abstract, I know. But that’s how my mind worked. Probably how every child’s mind worked; Always looking at the world with the spectacle of wonder. Glasses that adults will never desire to wear once they take it off.

I would sit and gaze at such images for an awfully long time, no matter how short and small I was back then that my neck would hurt from having to gaze upwards to the ceiling for fifteen continous minutes with my mouth wide open. Or there will be moments when our necks would hurt from gazing below and wondering at something.

There are wonders both above and below us- to our right and left. But as we grow older, we develop a stiff neck. We refuse to look anywhere but just in front, one way, in front. Whats above us and below us doesn’t matter anymore. There is only us, and where we are heading to.

And then the biggest crime happens- in the quest for a destination, the journey is lost.

I’ve got my destination, but I’m taking my time to enjoy the journey.

As we turn into adults, just like the lizard, we cut off the tails in order to survive, we cut off the trails of our past memories, these little things that stick in your head. We are surviving, just like how the lizard does.

But I don’t cut my tails. That is what making me write this today. I’ve retained that wondrous way of looking at the world- Looking at it through a microscope or a binocular, with wonder and agape. That little boy who splashed water in the red bucket I am not anymore, but the soul which exuded that excitement is still alive.

I don’t have videos or photos who frame my childhood. Whatever came from it is embedded here, deep within. Why need photos then?

I don’t feel deprived anymore when I have to tell people I don’t have pictures from my childhood. For I carry so much of it within myself rather than trapping them in an old dusted photo album.

Afterall, lizards are lizards and humans are humans. Aren’t they?