June 25, 2008

Dasavatharam - A Review (Read - Venting out of Frustrations!!!)

I am not a movie critic and I do not write reviews of movies regularly. And there may be flood of reviews about the newly released 'Dasavatharam' in the blogworld and I can assure you that all of them may be better than what I am going to write here by any standards. But I just wanted to write, to vent out my frustration of having wasted three hours of my life (not that I would have done anything productive in those three hours!) and lost $16.25 for a story that looked like a cheap imitation of Crash and Babel mixed with some thrilling elements from that despicable Tamil movie called 'E'(am talking about the bio-warfare concept)!

Ok, the movie was not THAT bad, but neverthless expectations took a huge hit during those three hours. It was a typical 'Kamal' movie - made by Kamal for Kamal. The movie was just full of Kamal - sometimes you need to show other characters too, right? Well, one Kamal goes off screen, the next one pops up within five frames! I guess you can't help it when you have 10 'avatars' to be highlighted in the movie.

Asin's role in the movie was to play an 'acharamana' Tam-Brahm girl, who keeps running along with Kamal to escape the baddies and she has played the role to perfection. I am being sarcastic. Mallika I thought had a better role and she was good for the 20 odd minutes she was in the movie. Apart from that, the only good thing about the movie was comic relief by the Naidu character - he was hilarious. Kamal has tried to pull off a Crazy Mohan style comedy which did provide some relief from watching so many Kamals but ruefully though did not reach the standards set for a Kamal movie by the evergreen MMKR! In my opinion, his potrayal of Naidu and the uneducated Dalit was the best among all the 10 characters.

Coming to the makeups - a very good attempt, but unfortunately some of them were really really really bad to look at. Fletcher, the ex-CIA's bulging forehead made it look like his ass was on his face. No kidding! I loved the Japanese character though. The martial arts fight sequence at the end looked very real and 'martial arts'y. If Kamal had done the entire fight himself, then hats off to him.

Though the graphics during the initial part of the movie (the drowning of the Ananthasheshan idol) was a put off, the graphics at the end of the movie depicting the Tsunami was really good by Tamil movie industry standards. A last minute romance between Kamal and Asin at the end of the movie looked like it had been placed there to satisfy a need for romance in the movie. And comeon, romance in the aftermath of a Tsunami attack?!?!?! When hundreds of people had just been killed and whole villages made a wreck?! And it definitely lacked chemistry and Kamal is well known for his chemisty with his heroines.

Well, it would do good for you to expect a movie in likes of MMKR or Panchatantiram. What do you expect when you have KS Ravikumar as the director. I am a HUGE fan of Kamal. I love Kamal's acting. His versatality in acting, potraying different characters is unmatched. And he should stick to that and only that! : He shouldn't venture out to screenplay or dialogues. Didn't Mumbai Express teach him anything?!

Dasavatharam was a great effort by Kamal, but I rue spending 15 bucks for a movie that I have already almost forgotten!

December 29, 2007

Saramati - Melancholy in Ecstasy!

What is it that makes a particular ragam emote a specific rasa and another raga a totally different rasa? Of course it is the swarasthanas that make up the scale. But swarasthanas make up only the scale and a 'Ragam' in the Indian system of classical music is more than just a scale. A ragam in Indian classical music is a melodic scale, defined not only by the notes it is made up of, but also by other characteristics such as the gamahams (microtones between notes) and most importantly - the swara sanchara that is the defining aspect of the ragam. It even differentiates ragams that have similar if not the same notes. A perfect example would be Thodi and Sindhu Bhairavi. Ever wondered how the ancient Indian texts define a system of 22 notes making up an octave, though practically we know of 12 notes? The answer lies in gamahams - the microtones that is the life of our Indian system of music. More of this in a later post maybe!

Saramati: I heard this ragam the first time at a concert of Sanjay Subramaniam, if I remember correctly and I thought he was singing Natabhairavi, but I was not too sure. Sangeethame Amara Sallapame from the Malayalam movie - Sargam is brilliant piece of work in Natabhairavi, but I think there's a touch of Saramati here and there.

Initially I thought Sanjay Subramaniam was jumping notes which artists usually do. But the 'S N2 D1 M1' and the 'R2 G2 M1 G2 S' routine was coming up too many times!!! And I had heard Natabhairavi at an earlier concert of OST. And the phrases vaguely reminded of a film song, which I later found out to be 'Padariyen...' from 'Sindhu Bhairavi'. A quick googling later I came upon an exquisitely sculpted ragam with an essence that was intoxicating.

For those who are not in the know, Saramati is a janya of Natabhairavi:

Arohanam - S R2 G2 M1 P D1 N2 S
Avarohanam - S N2 D1 M1 G2 S

It has exactly the same notes in the Arohanam as its parent, but with the P and the R2 omitted in the avarohanam. It is this omission that makes the passion in the ragam more prominent along with the D1 and N2. The two phrases which I mentioned earlier are the ones that gives Saramati the touch of pathos yet at the same time makes it brim with ecstasy. Though it contains all the notes from its parent, it is so different from it.

The most popular krithi in Saramathi would have to be Mokshamu Galada, composed by Thyagaraja, set in Adi. Please do listen to a beautiful rendition of the krithi by Lalgudi here.

Ilayaraja also has used this ragam in all its beauty in the song 'Padariyen Padipariyen...' showcasing all the possible nuances of the ragam. He has even shown his cheekiness by adding a touch of Thodi in the second charanam in the line - 'Sonnadhu thappa thappa...'. While I don't mind a sensible 'corruption' of the ragam to add beauty to the song, since this is not strictly classical music to follow 'tradition', what I don't digest is the fact that while Ilayaraja could get away with this, much hue and cry was raised over ARR's 'Ennavale' and others.

What prompted me to write this post, made me fall in love with ragam again is this amazing rendition of the krithi above by the Madras String Quartet. A simple orchestration done beautifully complementing the emotion of the song, blows me away every time I listen to it. Saramati at its best:

It's a pity that there are not many krithis or other compositions in Saramati. I am yet to see a main piece in Saramati - an RTP perhaps. Is that 'cos Saramati is not one of those 'main piece' ragams?! That is yet another debatable topic - which ragams are best suited for the main piece. Maybe another post! :) But till then, happy listening to Saramati.

December 24, 2007

Remains of A Distant Time, A Distant Land

I am in one of those lows, not of depression of anxiety, but one of nostalgia. Sounds weird? Strangely nostalgia always gives me a low instead of a high. Memories from the past, all happy of course, but memories that reminds of the good old days when life was more easier to deal with, friends all around to give you support and such. Good times those.

Another strange thing is that Ilayaraja songs always makes me a little sad in the midst of all the high I get from listening to his orchestration or bass works. One such song - 'Kadhalin Deepam Onru' sparked off the nostalgia - days of my psenti sem when my sidie and I would sit and listen to all the Ilayaraja classics, trying to figure out the bass lines and admiring Ilayaraja's genius. Good times those.

Vellai Pura - An absolute genius of a song in terms of musical arrangement, a brilliant bass line, and the most amazing lyrics I have ever heard. This song has so many memories: of SKY, rag, fifth year psenti sem, DD, drunken calls and lots.

I am listening to 'Anjali Anjali' from the movie Anjali. This is another classic from Ilayaraja, that always makes me feel that I am soaring up in the sky to be pulled down again and again. Another such song is 'Raja Raja Chozhan'. The orchestral arrangements in Ilayaraja's songs always makes me feel a little low! I wonder whether there's anything wrong with me.

This was another random post. Just felt like writing.

PS: Yesudas' voice is something to die for. Period.

PPS: I have promised myself to write a longer post - a retrospective, reminiscent one and I intend to keep that promise. All in good time though.

Good times those.

December 16, 2007

A Random Ramble

During my orientation days at Wipro Technologies in the fall of 2005, the bunch of newcomers which included yours truly was asked to put on paper, artistically of course, using contraptions to aid the venture, sketches which had a message we wanted to share with the world. Of course, the stipulation forced us all to come up with a rationale behind the horrendous figures we drew! Not all the drawings were horrendous, but mine most certainly was. For some strange reason, I had come up with a mask with two faces, supposed to show the two personalities that we become as part of leading both of our professional and social/family lives or whatever. And I rambled on about my 'artistic' creation for a couple of minutes before finishing it with a thought that we tend to get busy with our work/professional life so much, thinking about careers and stuff that we forget to take a moment and enjoy the life that we lead, life that goes on around us and that which we are a part of! You would think that I would have got a standing ovation for putting forth to the world, a philosophy that has the right ingredients of being a reality check on your life. But if you thought that, you thought wrong 'cos unfortunately all I got was a one minute silence, appreciating and reflecting upon my thought/philosophy. These orientations are a bore, I tell you! Bleah...

I have rambled on I see, but hey... that is exactly the intent of this post. Dear reader, please don't curse me! :(

It's been five months since I set foot on the American soil to purse my dreams of adding a masters degree as a suffix to my name. A semester is about to get over and it's been a rather uneventful one. Yeah, yeah, yeah...I am not complaining, but it's just that even when your life is an uneventful or a busy-less one, you tend to fall into a rut of laziness. At least I tend to! And in such times, music has been always a saviour, in more ways than one. Ever since I got my 'Neo' after standing in the cold for 6 hours the night before Black Friday sales, I have been on a 'music' hunt on youtube. Youtube is a great place to search for good music, and I always make it a point to put up good videos in my Orkut collection. But I had always felt the lack of an iPod/mp3 player in my life, but all in good time.

There was a startling thing I noticed about the American society - be it the education system or at the work place, the only things I can comment on right now due to my restricted involvement, thanks to my student-alien status. You get recognition for the work that you do, no matter what race/religion/country you are from. You are rewarded for the work you do. At the same time, you get the stick if you shirk. These guys don't give prominence to 'Equal Opportunity to All' for nothing. I call that observation startling 'cos that is what it is to me, coming from a society where importance is given to your religion, your language, your caste and riots break out in a fight for who wants to be called the most backward!!! India has a lot of potential to become a world power, potential in the form of cultural diversities and traditions, potential that ironically though is our major deterrent to development. India in a way is full of racists.

Like I said, the first semester has not been so hectic. As I look forward to the coming holidays, I can't help being amazed at how fast time has flown by. It seems like yesterday when I got my admit letter from NCSU. The trip home for Christmas, a special trip to Chennai to meet close friends after a long time, the trip to Wayanad on New Year's with the Magas. The first half of 2007 was not a pleasant one apart from the fact I got here. But to call the second half of this year, the most amazing time of my life, would be an understatement. I shall try to do justice to my reminiscences in a separate post, which I hope to post before the year is up. A post that is long due.

Signing off...

PS: I have tried my best to get this post to be a true ramble - true to the title, readers may infact rate the sanity (or insanity) of this post in terms of its 'ramblingy' (Is that even a word?! What the hell do I out in here?!) nature. In other words - post a fucking comment, dumb ass! :|

PPS: The Verve - Bitter Sweet Symphony - A must listen!

To my new found motivation for blogging, maybe even a potential muse... :)

Over and Out.

September 23, 2007

Shakti - The definition of fusion music

I have been wanting to write about the band who I grew up listening to for quite sometime now. Infact, I have been wanting to write more about music and stuff like that, but I have just been darned lazy!

Shakti, a band who were as daring with their experimental music as they were just amazing with it. To say that their music was sheer genius would be an understatement. My father had a small music collection which is varied - ranging from Michael Jackson to Nazia Hassan to KJ Yesudas to L Subramaniam(LSu) and L Shankar's Shakti. He had a SONY casette player which he was proud of and would blare out KJY's thodi and other semi-classicals or LSu's Live in Moscow or Shakti's Natural Elements when he would go on a cleaning spree of the house (he was in this 'spree' almost every other day!

I started learning the violin in the summer of 1990 or rather was forced to go for classes as my parents thought it a good hobby for me and Lsu and LShankar's music being the only violin music that we had at home I was drawn to their style of playing early on. Infact during my high school days I would get the player over to my study table and listen to them while I studied. I adored both their music but I always thought LSu's music was more soulful while L Shankar's was peppy and energetic.

Shakti was formed sometime in the early 1970s as a collaboration between L Shankar and John Mclaughlin, who was already popular then as the founder/lead guitarist of a band called Mahavishnu Orchestra, which itself was an experimental band making a new genre of Jazz-Rock fusion music. It was during this time that Mclaughlin met L Shankar at Wesleyan university, the former who was studying the Veena there privately and the latter who was doing his Phd on ethnomusicology. The early lineup of the band included Ustad Zakir Hussain on the Tabla, Ramnad Raghavan on the Mrudangam and TH Vinayakram on the Ghatam and Mrudangam. Ramnad left the band soon, and the rest of the band came out with two albums as a quartet - Natural Elements and A Handful of Beauty.

My favourite album was the a recording of their live concert at South Hampton College, New York, along with Ramnad Raghavan. You can feel the energy in their playing while you listen to 'Lotus feet' or What 'Need Have I...' especially the latter of the two - a brilliant piece in chala nattai if I remember correct, with some peppy improvisations on both the guitar and the violin. The other two were studio recordings and L Shankar has shown in these recordings that he knows how to handle a violin. The man plays with such an amazing dexterity and with a speed that never ceases to amaze me!

And Mclaughlin is no less awesome, his fingers race through the fretboard. He had guitar specially made for playing music that could match the Indian type music - a guitar with fretboard chisseled out to give more foreedom to bend the strings and a set of sympathetic strings stretched diagonally across the sound hole, that he used to give the 'indian' effect to his music. And with two brilliant percussonists, the band defined what fusion music was all about. Shankar's and Mclaughlin's understanding of the other's music that showed in their compositions and their style of playing during the concerts produced a sound that defined the true east-west crossover, the sound of jazz-indian classical, acoustic fusion. Infact, it was more than just east-west fusion of music, it was also a hindustani- carnatic classical fusion with Zakir's tabla complementing Vikku's ghatam!!!

Unfortunately, the band disbanded in the mid, late 70s. There was a reincarnation in the form of Remember Shakti with a differing lineup with Zakir and Mclaughling being constant in the band. Though I have heard their later music, I am and will remain a fan of the early Shankar-Mclaughlin sound.

An article on the band's music, interviews with Mclaughlin and Zakir Hussain.

August 10, 2007

Pera Ketta Odane Chumma Athirudille?

Aah! I have a knack for posting about things that are old news!!! lol...but my last post got me thinking of all things about the best thalaivar movie ever (don't ask me how the hell that happened, I have a wierd thought process if that would suffice for an explanation!)...Sivaji! Now, some people say 'Baasha' was his best or others say something else. But to me, this was the most stylish he could ever get.

I was a die-hard fan of Rajni when I was a kid. I used to pester my dad to get me video cassettes of Mannan, Guru Sishyan, Mr. Bharat, Muthu - the list goes on - and play in our VCP. I used to gape at posters of his movie when I used to walk to school, push back that hair like the way he does, take my dad's sunglasses and try to put them on with a flick he does with that inimitable style of his. And watching Sivaji, brought back all those memories and I was on a high after the first show.

Rajni was and remains the best entertainer the Tamil Industry has ever seen, none has such a fan following as him. Hope he comes out with something more 'athiradi' the next time. :)


August 8, 2007

Uni(versi)ty in Diversity?

It's been a looong time since I wrote anything here, almost a year infact. I don't expect that being a software enigneer working from 8 am to 9pm, five days a week would suffice to be an excuse for my extreme laziness. Well...bleah! I am too lazy to give an excuse too...so bleah!

But I have felt a sudden inspiration to blog again, but this post might end up being another one of those pointless rants or whatever. So what's been happening in the universe (Phoebe ishtyle) for the last one year? As I sit and think, the one thing that comes all screaming back to me (again Phoebe ishtyle, sorry..I am a big fan!) is the reservation brouhaha that caused a stir for quite sometime. Much has been said and written about this over the last one year and I am not going to write anything that has not been already written, but still this is always and I fear will remain for a long time - a burning issue.

The concept of reservation has been in vouge in our country since the pre-independence days. (It's true! I read up on it sometime back) Sixty years have come to pass and the practice has not been made redundant yet! While the Indian democracy prohibits any discrimination based on caste, creed or religion, the fact that people are clamouring for reservation still is ridicoulous. Narayan Murthy rightly said "We are the only nation in the world where people fight to be called backward rather than forward."

The major pitfall of our democracy is the diversity of the people that make up this democracy, a democracy that is home to a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious society. A politician in such case is forced to view the different ethnic communities primarily as just voting banks. Going on another line of thought, the whole of purpose of reservation when it came into practice was to give a chance to the backward castes - the scheduled caste/tribe - to come forward and be part of a growing and developing nation. Does the responsibility of the government stop with just getting them into a premier educational institution? Should it not also be the responsibility of the institution in such a case to make sure such an under-represented group become competitive? Is it too much to ask to put the institutes themselves under scrutiny? To question them about their role in the upgradation of such backward castes? Or is there a basic flaw with the concept as such? The country's premier institutes like the IITs or the IIMs are accessible predomonantly to the urban and well-educated families, those that have had a good basic primary and secondary education. That should have the place to start with respect to the backward classes. Make good primary education available to them first! And make sure the next generation would be educated and better off that the previous. Such a progressive practice would have yielded better results over time, and the whole reservation concept could have been done away with! But I am sure, somebody must have thought of it, and since that somebody must not have a key player in the Indian political scene, would not have even had a chance to speak out! Whatever!

Just before I left the country to do my masters at the USA, I had an interesting conversation with my Project Manager at Wipro over lunch. The whole team had come for lunch and as usual we were complaining about the bitchy Hosur road traffic and how Bangalore had changed in the past 2-3 years since most of us had first come to the place. To put it simply, the city lacks planning. Again, either that or the crores of rupee that is budgeted to be used for the city goes into the politician's pockets. Or the oppositon party somehow does not allow the ruling party to go ahead with their schemes for fear that people would remember that such development was done by the ruling party and not the others. This inevitable politicization of fundamental needs of the country and the nation's inherent diversity are some of the major drawbacks of our nation and as we cross our 60 years of independence, we need to address these issues if we have to come anywhere close to being a developed nation!

Belated Happy Independance Day everyone!