Friday, January 30, 2009

A Tribute to a living legend

I used to feel enraged every time I meet an Indian who does not know or appreciate who A.R. Rahman actually is, as I strongly feel he is a symbol of pride for all the Indians. But now I feel sorry for those who do not know him or ignore him because they are blurred by the view that Indian music is 'all the same, because they only sing and dance'. How gifted are we to live in an era where we can listen to such music by A.R. Rahman which completely uplifts us from all the miseries of the world. I do not want to undermine M S Viswanathan or Ilayaraja for that matter, and what they contributed to Tamil cinema. But here we are talking about the man who revolutionized Indian music totally.
My music with Rahman
To be frank, I wasn't a fan of A.R. Rahman (that is because I hardly listen to music before that) until 2004. I remember sitting in my hometown's old, cranky-seated theatre, where I saw 'Aayudha Ezhuthu' with my cousin. We were supposed to be in our Maths tuition, but we weren't. :) I pretty much guess that was the moment when Rahman made me realize what music is all about. I came in for the show just on time, it started accurately when I sat. And then I can tell you this- I hardly settled on my seat. I didn't open a bottle of water which I wanted to do, nor eat any of the snacks. Just I was there, my eyes on the screen, and I never took it off from it- reminder, only the title credits were running at that time. If any of you would recall the BGM for that title credits, you'd know what I am talking about. There were all kind of sounds- the sound of cars passing by you on a highway, and slowly, a haunting beat builds up, and then there was an instrumental alap, which, probably for the first time in my life, rendered me completely clueless as to how the composer was actually doing those sounds. Just clueless!

When the song 'Sandakozhi' started, I remeber being so amazed that I could clearly hear that Rahman used the sound of a water drop (!) while the song's tempo was slowing down. That goes without saying that AE has been one of the fascinating albums I have listened to in recent times. Then started my journey with ARR. Yes, with him. It is not about listening to a music that was composed by him- but, the music he creates IS A.R. Rahman. It is a fluid expression of the self, a man that doesn't worry himself with the so-called 'commercial viability' of songs, and just simply does what his soul and heart urges him to do. That is why, Rahman leaves his heart and soul intact with the music that he creates. And that is why what stays with you is not just music, but Rahman himself.

My iPod is filled at least 60 per cent by an entire database (almost all) of ARR's compositions to date. And there is one thing I always do when it is a weekend. Considering that I had to wake up early every weekday, every Saturday morning, I'd wake up, wander around a while, fill my empty stomach with some refreshing coffee, pick-up my iPod, tune to my 'ARR Melody' playlist, and then go back to bed, with the earphone well and truly sticking to my ears till I wake up. Around a year ago, I had real trouble finding sleep in the night that I was listening to my iPod and fell asleep later, listening to Rahman songs. I slept 8 hours continuously with ARR's music filling my ears. Not once was it too loud that it disrupts my sleep. It just provides that peaceful slumber that you'd want. And it makes me have good, imaginative dreams too :).
Now I'm a total music buff, and my command of Hindi is approaching 70 per cent in total. Both are because ARR. I was born a Telugu, and only spoke Tamil sparsely till I started listening to ARR's songs since the beggining and I have taken a knack to be able to speak clean Tamil thanks to that. ARR's huge shift to composing in Bollywood in recent years made me listen to his music there as well, and indirectly prompted me watching more Bollywood and now being able to fully understand Hindi, and only lagging that little bit in terms of vocalizing.

The reason I'm telling this is because along with ARR's journey these past few years, I have grown along with his music as well. And I have seamlessly noticed the difference. I used to listen to so many composers who have been active in the industry for years, and when I listen to them composing sometimes, one song in that particular film will make me go 'I know where that comes from'. Quite simply, they simply repeat the tune that they had in a previous film of theirs. No matter how good, the songs lingers for few hearings and then fades away. It only stays in your iPod as long as the season for the film exists, and it goes away after that. Not ARR.
Be it during sad times, happy times, or just lumbering moments, ARR's songs have made my day all the time. If inspiration I'm looking for, I'd listen to 'Unnai Kellai Nee Yaru' from 'Desam', if I'm in a happy mood, I'd tune to what has slowly become my signature song, 'Endrendrum Punnagai' from 'Alaipayuthey', and if love is the mood, we all know ARR has given countless numbers of brilliant songs.

Just nostalgia or more?

Sometimes I meet people who completely criticize 'modern' music, and saying that current music industry is less than good, and good songs only used to exist during the evergreen, 70s or 80s eras (depending on that person's age). But I respect them because it's their nostalgia, songs that remind them of their youth and sweet times. I'd be tempted to say ARR is my nostalgia, but he certainly isn't just that.

The questions is- what kind of songs will you hum? Love songs? Yes, definitely. Hip songs? Yes. Techno songs? Yes. Devotional songs? Maybe. If the devotional songs are songs of your religion, your faith, your belief. But for you to hum a devotional song of a religion which is not yours is really something. I and my friends are Hindus, but we couldn't resist singing 'Khwaja Mere Khwaja' from 'Jodha Akbar' after we heard that song. Even at the time of writing, I'm totally addicted to another Muslim devotional number, 'Azriyan' from ARR's latest brilliant album for 'Delhi 6'. Not only that, it also has to be noticed that ARR, despite being a Muslim, has composed many Hindu devotional numbers, such as 'Mann Mohana' from 'Jodha Akbar' itself, which is delightful to hear, and also we must not overlook the fact that ARR has also composed a couple of non-film devotional Hindu songs. That said, AR Rahman is a living legend that has proven that music transcends religion, belief, faith, or even ideology.

In today's gloom world where people suffer from poverty, war, religious conflicts, and so on, which makes many people in the world lose their hope, here we have a man named AR Rahman who gives me the belief that there is still hope left. And plenty of it. If music becomes a religion today, I believe 80 per cent of the Indian community the world over will be united. It doesn't matter who you are, what religion you are, what country you are from, what language you speak, what caste you are, what social class you belong to, music touches you and me in a similar way, and AR Rahman is a pioneer is building those threads among us. I have made many friends solely due to our appreciation of ARR.

It goes without saying, the moment ARR won the best original score in the Golden Globes, messages were sent all over among ARR fans across the world- and without doubt, there were millions of them. I have exchanging messages of the award news in an instance after the awards were announced, even though I was at my workplace at the given time. I don't think even such big stars such as Tom Cruise would have created such an instant excitement once they have won any award in their lives, even an Oscar. Their near relatives or friends might have been instantly excited by such news, but their fans won't be too excited until they hear official news, and would definitely not exchange messages at such speed. AR Rahman was just that- a pride for the entire country.

And so it was rightly said by Rahman himself during the award ceremony- 'above all, for the billion people in India.'

And for that I salute AR Rahman and I selfishly wish he continues composing for a long time to come, because his songs puts a smile across my face even when the events of my life leaves me with little reason to smile.

'Ye Rahman He Mere Yaar, Bas Ihsq Mohabatt Pyaar' (This is Rahman, and he's only love, nothing more, nothing less)

From the heart

Dil Se Re (Dil se)

The sun had come out;
The temperature has dropped;
A whirlwind kicked up;
All like a cry shot straight from my heart;
From the heart.

After all, a heart is only a heart;
It's a sweet hardship;
Life itself;
Is from the heart.

Two leaves fell from its trees;
From the tree branches;
The seasons passed;
And those two leaves;
In their desire to sprout;
passed over the desert;
Those leaves were our hearts;
If you have a heart you shall feel pain;
If you feel pain it is because you have a heart;
and those seasons will keep on changing;
through my heart.

There are restrictions within relationships;
Chains of Thorns;
Doors and walls made of stone;
But even then;
The leaves make the root;
Their buds blossom;
Their romance succeeds;
All through heart; with heart.

The heart's miseries are fleeting;
Like bubbles of water;
They are extinguished and then they form again;
All from the heart.

The Warriors of Wastage

Indians have a very stern characteristic going about them. They are in short, warriors who like to fight for a cause, small or big it may be, in most times. But at the end of the day, you can't help but to think they are the warriors of wastage.

The moment I read in news that a certain 22-year-old car thief suspect passed away while in police custody few weeks ago, I knew right away that something is wrong in his death, and it can't possibly be classified as 'sudden death'. The police's official statement was absolutely a case of terrible public relations. Their statement read that the man had asked for a glass of water during interrogation and just a while after drinking thw water, he collapsed and stopped breathing. Just like that.

The cops certainly made up the most ridiculous excuse ever exists for accidentally killing a suspect (not a convict). To put the facts straight, it is, of course, a case of law being breached, and human rights being breached. The cops should be probed, investigated, and the truth should be revealed.

But the manner in which the many Indians conducted themselves in the aftermath of the man's death is a sight of despair. Despair not because we are are race to pitied for because one of our men could be killed during police interrogation, but despair because we are absolutely clueless when it comes to deciding what cause it is that we are worth standing for. Admittedly, now HINDRAF is once again using its political motivations and the death of this man has been used as a vehicle and unbelievably, there are plenty out there who would think they are really fighting for something when they carry out banners indicating the Kuhan was a great man and doesn't deserve to die the way he did.

Filing a human rights case and really pushing the matter forward on a legal context is something I would definitely condone on them doing, it should be done. But to stand up and rally behind a suspected car thief by saying he is a great man and once again using race as a vehicle to create further diversity is utter madness. It shows that apparently six of his 'mourners' have also been arrested for being in the wrong side of law. It doesn't paint a good picture among other Malaysians when these people seem to have conveniently forgotten the virtue of a man being on the wrong side of law and instead supporting everything that he was.

These political motivations should stop, and apparently, HINDRAF's supposed cause at the first place is a mis-placed notion. To try and get compensation money for what our ancestors have experienced is ridiculous, its like cashing in on their misery. And I would condone nothing else but to stop whining and actually proving our worth in this society. It's about time we make our own luck rather than keep on complaining that we have been marginalized. We can either choose to keep on complaining for the rest of eternity, even if we do get the money, there won't be much difference in terms of how we suceeed on a complete social context, or we could really start putting in some effort and make our own luck. Its about time we do just that- make our own luck.

Indians have the tendency to look around and blame their neigbours or people near them for their failure, whether its real or not, if for once they would just accept that they will have to personally improve a great deal to succeed, they will make their own luck anyday. Discrimination exists everywhere in the world, its not like its only happening here and against us. Some people outside of Malaysia have suffered worse of discrimination yet they have come through to prevail by willpower alone. Every weakness in an advantage in disguise, its about time Malaysian Indians understand these facts.

So I hope they stop halting their own progress for standing up and wasting energy to stand up for extremely marginal causes such as these in life. If all the energy and effort taken in building HINDRAF and a following and ideology around it, and the effort of making a propaganda of the death of the suspected car thief have actually been saved and directed by each involved Indians towards imporving their own life and success measures with hardwork, the Malaysian Indian society might as well taken a huge leap forward in term of their social class status in an entirety. When they wanted to, they can be a Tony Fernandes or Anandha Krishnan or even a Vijay Mittal for that matter, but it seems even they don't have the belief that they themselves alone have what it takes to go the ultimate distance.

And we have to keep hoping that they will one day realize its only by personal success that they can find the will and power to change things.

Slumdog Millionaire- A review

Finally, the biggie and the most talked about film in the world for the past month or so is finally open for general viewing. The big question is- is it as good as it has been described?

I need not to repeat the synopsis of Slumdog Millionaire here. It is a well-known story, the story of a slum boy who participates in a 'Kaun Banega Crorepati' show hosted by prominent Bollywood star Anil Kapoor with only one intention, not to win the money, but to find his long-lost lover Latika.
Slumdog has sparked off one too many debates to further prove that the West only laps up an Indian-based film when the film talks about issues such as poverty (examples being Mira Nair's Salaam Bombay and Deepa Mehta's Water). Water was a good film but it was hardly an excellent one and it mystified me as to how the film managed to get so close to winning an Oscar recently, the West seem to have taken a liking to it since it showed how widows were treated back in a conservative society in India in the early 1900s. You can't help but to think Slumdog was so well-received because it shows India's disgusting underbelly of crime, prostitution, poverty and all about the slums. But the truth is Slumdog both works and doesn't work- in two ways.

Slumdog works because of the way in which the screenplay was basically written and some wonderful cinematography. Simon Beaufoy's screenplay is tact, wonderful, and manages to bring all the required emotions of the story which makes you feel sympathy for the lead characters in many ways. Camerawork is brilliant and surprisingly, the Mumbai underbelly was captured elegantly and exquisitely to say the least. The vast colours and fields and brilliant, so much so that even the scene where three children set up a tent in the middle of a garbage dumping site looks so eloquent and sizzling. Gorgeous.

But the film certainly has its shortcomings. It's a delight to watch overall, but something is mystifyingly biased about huge negative shades of all the characters in the film, including the character of Anil Kapoor- a character that you could so easily hate for being deceptive. Irfan Khan was extremely under-used in this film to add to such facts, he only appears in few scenes and apparently a huge chuck of his scenes were chopped off. That is certainly a pity.

Contrary to what many think, Dev Patel is a complete mis-cast in his role. His strong British accent makes it completely unrealistic and ridiculous for a person who knows the Mumbai slums, and he seems to have placed a similarly tad face expression about him in the whole film. The child actors saved the characters a great deal because they carried out the portrayal so convincingly and realistically. Its a pity that Danny Boyle, who actually used very natural Mumbai people or his characters for his child characters, went for glamor with the non-Indian Dev Patel and the model Freida Pinto as his main characters. It's hard to overlook why Jamal Malik's skin color is so fair compared to his brother's even though he too, like his brother, has struggled through the slums. The convenient English that he rapidly speaks when the character recahes adult stage is an insult to intelligence. Freida Pinto looks too beautiful for a slum-dwelling girl that she was shown to be since she was young. A more naturally tanned Indian actress would have fitted the role. Madhur Mittal in convincing though in his brief role. Anil Kapoor is convincing but his character portrayal is too cynical and dissapointing.

Danny Boyle obviously thought he knew how to capture a Bollywood-ish number with 'Jai Ho' but he definitely doesn't. That has to be one of the worst choreographed songs in a long time (but the credits rolling cut-back and shots of two small children dancing are vintage and saves the view). And obviously, the entire song is made up of mostly three steps, and hardly any of them are difficult for even me to do.

Slumdog Millionaire, in that respect, is a brilliant film to watch, but it is still a Hollywood film and not an Indian film like some would like to have it. It's still an American way of seeing things in India, resulting in a lot of inaccuracies. But kudos for Danny Boyle, because at the end of the day, the film installs hope and redemption into you. But one thing India can be proud of, is that AR Rahman is now on the brink of winning an Oscar.

D: It is written :)

Rating: 8/10

Verdict: Indians can see the shortcomings, but it is basically a Hollywood product and its a very good one at that.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Abhiyum Naanum (Abhi and me)- A review

Luckily, I have finally managed to watch this film even before it is out of the 'new films' list. One of the very last films to come out in 2008, and a heavily-anticipated one at that. In a simple verdict, all I could say is that Abhiyum Naanum is a film that doesnt take itself too seriously, is very poignant, and makes more than a worthy viewing. Repeat viewing value is also something that it certainly has, but it falls just a little short from greatness in my opinion.


While taking his regular morning walk one day, Raghuram (Prakash Raj), an estate owner in the hills of Ooty, comes across a young man (Prithviraj) who is struggling to deal with his young daughter's antics. They strike a conversation, where Raghu reveals about his own daughter Abhi, and his relationship with his daughter over the years. The film begins from the point when Abhi was still a baby and culminates in her finally getting married.

There isn't too much more to be revealed in the synopsis, because as I said, the film is a poignant and simple tale. Just like his previously lauded effort 'Mozhi', which used a deaf and dumb girl as its main character, director Radha Mohan continues to tell off-beat stories in a heart-warming, simple way through 'Abhiyum...'. Prakash Raj is simply magnificent in his role as Raghuram while Trisha (who is slowly winning my respect and interest) oozes elegance all over the role even though her character could and should have been elaborated further. Its a huge relief to see 'Thalaivasal' Vijay in a positive, simpleton character after a long time, as it is the case with Aishwarya, who moves away from the loud, negative roles she has been doing of late in dumbed-down commercial films. But the real scene stealer has to be Kumaresan in the role of the beggar. He has appeared in Radha Mohan's directorial debut 'Aazgiya Theeye' some four years ago, and he oozes such class into a character that uniquely becomes an important highlight for the whole film.

On the bright side, the film doesn't have any negative characters at all, and Radha Mohan needs to be lauded on many aspects of writing. The idea of tackling a father-daughter relationship is in itself unique and deserves a pat, and his usage of the character Ravi (Kumaresan) in the film is an example of wonderful writing. The way he utilizes a cameo by Prithviraj is also commendable. On the directorial front, Radha Mohan induces light humor into many meaningful scenes, such as the scene when Prakash Raj's character goes ballistic thinking that his wife has poured hot water into his daughter's hands, and also not to forget the character of Varadarajan, a passer-by who meets Raguram on the road regularly in the film. Even the concept of bringing in the 'Sardarji' as Trisha's love interest and the poetic scene where 'Thalaivasal' Vijay describes about the pride of 'Sardarji's all are testimonials to Radha Mohan's talents in making this film. And the message that he conveys through the film is also a warm, meaningful one.

However, despite all these, Radha Mohan could have dispelled some elements of the film, such as songs, length, and also comedy. Songs are completely uncalled for in a film like this, of course, you could have one or two songs maximum to convey emotions through poetry but not more than that. Of all of them, only the song 'Ore Oru Oorile' worked pretty well barring some cliches. Other songs could have done without. The film's length is not actually an issue, but Radha Mohan spends too much time concentrating on Raghuram's way of seeing things, which invites some unecessary scenes, but little on Abhi's way of seeing things. The comedy made by the two young boys on Raghuram as the film draws to a close too are a little too much of slapstick and ridicules a dignifying portrayal of the character by Prakash Raj. While showing Raghuram as a seemingly human character, Radha Mohan's portrayal of Abhi is as a woman who is nearly flawless, who is always right while Raghuram worries too much. However, Radha Mohan fails to establish enough about Abhi's character or ideology that you feel abysmal that Abhi justifies having a registered marriage is more practical than Raghu's long-bated wish to do his daughter's wedding with grandeur. These scenes gives one a sense of being a little short in fulfillment at the end, but nevertheless the poetic and meaningful message conveyed by Radha Mohan covers up those loopholes.

All in all, a film worth watching which could have been so much better and poetic to watch, but nevertheless still a good film.

Rating: 7.5/10

Verdict: There are plenty still to take away from this flick. Worth a watch.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Journey of a Dream

I slept one particular night many years ago, and had a dream.

Just like everybody else, who dream in their sleeps. Some of them say these dreams are a vanity if they were to be carried into our lives. But I became the very few select people who hold aloft their dreams in their eyes while they witness the dawn of the morning and also the dusk of the evening. I, like those few, became a dangerous person who would try at all costs to touch their dreams, who would make risk their best partner to boot with, a person who would not prefer to live under the blanket of security and normalcy like others.

At the core of each and every dream, lies a desire and a potential to be unique as you, as a person. But some people have the same type of dreams, even if they wary only by the slightest of margins, and even some people who hold that dream are sometimes criminally too similar to each other. So what makes you and me different?Then it has to be realized, that the telling story is not about you or the dream. You as a person will still be a nobody unless you understand your dreams and the purpose of it. So the story that defines everything is not about you or your decision to chase that dream. Neither is the story about the dream, becauses what was once a dream may just linger as something less exciting once you reach there. Its not about the urge and promises that the dream plants in your eyes either.

So, it was understood by me long ago, that the telling story is not about the man, or the man who became a legend, or the lady who became a princess, nor is it about the dream, whatever nature or size the dream may be and may have been. So the story is all about the journey.The journey because it connects the man to his dream.Because, life, in its very essence, is a journey. And that telling story that defines the man and the dream, is always going to be the story of the journey.And I, like Robert Frost wrote around nine decades ago, have decided to take the road 'less' taken, and i have chosen that road to lead me to my dream.Today, I am standing at a new dawn, only halfway through the journey, and have loved my loneliness in this silent road on which very few people have ever travelled in. But I look at the sun today, and the green leaves, and beautiful sign of nature, and I know, I'm not alone. The whole universe is with me, preparing themselves to conspire to make me touch my dream even in the most unlikeliest of situations.And like the boy shrperd by the name of Santiago, I have passed my first tests of temptation, because true love never diverts you from your destination.

And for that, I shall continue this bewildering journey, and leave my footsteps to be followed by the next dreamer who would choose this path.

Ram Anand

January 20 2009

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Delhi 6---Music Review

Caution: Maestro at work!

It took me some time for me to get my hands on the songs of 'ADA- A Way of Life', so now I'm being overwhelmed into getting my hands on two different AR Rahman albums in three days (!). That is just enough to make those three days so exciting in your life. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and AR Rahman last combined for the 2005 cult success 'Rang De Basanti' and the results were phenomenal. However, it has to be noticed that the songs for RDB were not that much of a success until the film hit the theaters and became such a huge success. Rahman's music grew as time passed by with the audiences, and some of the songs went on to rake the Indian National Award. So I wouldn't be surprised if the songs of 'Delhi 6' were very much off-beat and takes time to grow. But now I am surprised! Because 'Delhi 6' album delivers plenty and many more and is a real treat for the ears, heart, and soul.

Song: Aarti (Tumre Bhavan)
Singers: Rekha Bharadwaj, Kishori Gowariker

This is basically an 'Aarti', a Bhajan-like number with the minimal use of instruments, easily the kind os songs that you'd hear while attending 'bhajans' and so on. Its criminal to expect too much from this song, it is a simple, devotional number and its as good as it gets.

Song rating: 3.5/5

Song: Bhoor Bayan
Singers: Shreya Ghosal, Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan

This song, too, like the previous one, is a chating, devotional song, and has an extremely classical touch to it. There's nothing much to say about it in that sense, it is as good as it gets given the fact of its genre. But it is extremely interesting to listen to Shreya Ghosal who proves her prowess in singing classical songs which stretches her voice further than normal. She is certainly one of the best voices in India. Gifted.

Song rating: 3.5/5

Song: Noor
Singer: Amitabh Bachchan

This, by theory, is not a song. But Prasoon Joshi's poetry is highly apparent in this short, 50-sec piece which describes the city of Delhi beautifully. And you can always bank on Amitabh Bachchan to be a very good narrator to tell the story of a film. And he does that with panache.

Song rating: 4/5

Song: Arziyan (Maula Mere Maula)
Singers: Javed Ali, Kailash Kher

Phenomenal! Thats the first thing that crossed my mind after hearing to this piece. I can't stop humming it, and thats where ARR's magic lies hidden. Its one thing when you hum a melody love song and even a fast-beat song, but it takes real magic to make you hum a Muslim bhajan. This, in many ways, reminds me of the brilliant 'Khwaja Mere Khwaja' from 'Jodha Akbar', but I have to give it for this song because I think this is just that little notch better and its constantly intoxicating and makes you hum to its rhythm. Javed Ali is simply brilliant in this song, and his voice falls so sweetly in your ears, and Kailash Kher is someone you can always count to give any song a 'raw' and 'earthy' feel. Not once does the heavy use of 'Sufi' music make you lose interest in this song. Delightful.

Song rating: 5/5

Song: Delhi 6
Singers: Blaaze, Benny Dayal, Tanvi Shah

Give it for 'Delhi 6'! Wonderful lyrics from co-writer Prasoon Joshi. This is a fast-beat rap song that sings about Delhi as a city and its spirit. The lyrics are simply brilliant and resonates upon you, and you will never be dissapointed when Blaaze is there rapping and ARR providing the techno beats. Tanvi Shah' opening 'Ye Delhi He Mere Yaar, Bas Ishq Mohabbat Pyaar' sets the mood wonderfully for this song. ARR seems to have taken an affection to taking a French slang into his songs, and after 'Taxi Taxi' in Tamil, this song follows suit. 'Yeh Sheher Nahi, Mehfil He'. Yo!

Song rating: 5/5

Song: Dil Mera (Dil Gira Gafatan)
Singers: Ash King, Chinmayee

I have never heard of Ash King before, but what a singer he is that he proves here! His voice is soft yet intoxicating, the way Sonu Nigam's voice could affect you. This song is pretty much similar in terms of mood with 'Tu Bin Bataye' from 'RDB', but again, this song is unique in its own way, and is certainly brilliant. The song is very slow, but just listening to it, makes you grow closer towards the song. ARR uses wonderful interludes in between of vocals. As said, Ash King is brilliant and Chinmayee is at her regular best. 'Dil Mera Gaatahe'. :)

Song rating: 5/5

Song: Ghenda Phool
Singer: Rekha Bharadwaj

Wow! I didn't even predict that I would fall deeply in love with this song. The song starts pretty normal to be honest, and given the fact that it is a song that has a classical resonation to it, I didn't expect much from it. But, well, thats ARR  for you. One second of magic and your whole opinion of the song drastically changes. Rekha Bharadwaj does a splendid job in this song. Masterful!

Song rating: 5/5

Song: Hey Kaalabandar
Singers: Karthik, Naresh Iyer

The magic continues. 'Choose life ki path le'. Very much similar to the famous 'Paatshala' from 'RDB', this song to describes the youth of today with some brilliant lyrics by Prasoon. Don't miss Karthik and Naresh Iyer's singing middle of the song, a breathless, continous singing that will make you applaud them, and also some brilliant English lyrics in between. 

Song rating: 5/5

Song: Rehna Tu
Singer: AR Rahman, Benny Dayal, Tanvi Shah

Maestro Territory. Simply that. In almost every album that he composes, if AR Rahman decides to croon for only one song in his album, that song mostly will be the most romantic, wonderful, soothing number in the album (Meherbaan from ADA, New York Nagaram from Jillunu Oru Kadhal). This follows the suit. A wonderful love number, that will seamless brush you heart and soul. :)

Song rating: 5/5

Song: Masakali
Singers: Mohit Chauhan

I have left the best for the last! :) Masakali is just everything about Rahman- an offbeat fusion that completely works, and is absolutely fascinating to listen to. The song has different platforms of rhythm throughout, for a while its like a slow-paced romantic song, but in the middle the tunes will make you completely tap your feet without even you knowing. Mind-blowing! Bring that Masakali! (Masakali refers to a dove that features prominently in the film)

Song: 7/5...more than perfection

All in all, this is the maestro flexing muscles at his best and throwing some brilliant numbers around in this album. I won't say that it is a perfect album, nor will I say it is ARR's best. But I can say it is better than ARR's big albums of late- better than Yuvvraaj, Jaane Tu..., Guru, and even slightly better than the highly appreciated ADA- A Way of Life. All in all, this is pure ARR stuff.


VERDICT: Listen to it if you don't want to miss some wonderful music and programming experimentation that gives you an unique hearing experience.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

ADA- A way of life ---Music Review

How gifted am i to live in this era?

That is the only question that crossed my mind after listening to ADA- A Way of Life's album. I used to feel angry whenever I meet an Indian who asks 'A.R. Rahman who?'.

But now I'm all over that, my conclusion is simple- I'm gifted because I'm a Rahmaniac and I am able to listen to his music. I have no need to convince anyone anymore that Rahman is a good composer (the best in my opinion), it's their bad if they couldn't listen to his music because they are blurred by their stereotype towards Indian Music and Indian Cinema in general. He has won his Golden Globe, and that means the who and whos of the music world know the mettle of this inarguable legend who revolutionized Indian cinema music.

To be honest, I do not know how to feel about ADA- A Way of Life. ADA is a very good album all round album by AR Rahman. The album has a nostalgic feel about it, given the fact that it was composed back in 2001, so it pretty much feels like 2001. But my issue is I have not listened a quality album by AR Rahman in Tamil for a long time (not that Sakarakatti is not a good album, but its not top-notch Rahman stuff, or let me put it this way, the script did not give Rahman the full expressive musical scope). So when I listened to ADA, the general consensus that beams through my mind is that this AR Rahman album should have been in Tamil instead., quite simply because the film's music reminds me of typical Rahman stuff at the turn of the new millenium, which he mostly did in Tamil (Alaipayuthey, Parthale Paravasam, etc.)

So, to the details:

Ishq Ada (Male version) reminds me very much of Jodha Akbar's 'Khwaja Mere Khwaja' for some reason. It is a masterstroke by Rahman in terms of musical programming and doing fusion between two genres, as clearly the style of singing borrows heavily from 'sufi' music, while the instruments used is basically a guitar. So basically what you get is a very refreshing song about love that slowly intoxicates into you with its repetitive singing yet by the constant use of the guitar. Rashid Ali, who this year sung two brilliant songs in 'Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na' under ARR, sings this song with panache as well.

Song rating: 4.5/5

Hawa Sun Hawa is the kind of song that you just have to stick with through listening back-to-back and it will probably make you fall into a deep, imaginative, unassuming, peaceful sleep (the most heavenly sleep on the earth when the music you are listening to is by ARR, trust me). I won't comment anymore on how good Sonu Nigam's or Alka Yagnik's voices are, because we all know they are excellent singers and ARR knows how to extract them to their to full potential. Slumber. Keep this in your 'lullaby' playlist. :)

Song rating: 4.5/5

Gum Sum certainly is your typical Bollywood light-dance love number. Once again, Sonu Nigam and Alka Yagnik come together for this song, and ARR didn't have much to do to make this song work. It doesn't stand out much but nevertheless makes you tap your feet. ARR only needed to give the song a very good basic tapping tune, and the interludes in the middle are also a stroke of a genius, coupled with Sonu and Alka's singing this song really stands out from among the crowd of typical Bollywood-ish numbers.

Song rating: 4/5

Gulfisha makes me feel like I've heard this song somewhere before. The basic tap and tune of this song is something very familiar to me, but I just can't figure out from which song it comes from. That apart, once again there is Sonu Nigam and Alka crooning and I won't write anymore about them being good singers. But that said, this song just makes me feel it is a little pedestrian. It would make up from a good hearing on a normal day, but when its ARR, you just want to expect so much more, because he does give you so much more often. This belongs to the seldom category.

Song rating: 3.5/5

Meherbaan makes me go away from this body of mine, enter a different world totally. This is what AR Rahman is all about. You can't resist closing your eyes and you feel like everything goes in slow motion in front of you, every move or action you make while you are listening to this piece, guaranteed, will be slow, caring, and will be done with an unconscious smile. AR Rahman is just that one phenomenal singer as much as he is a composer. He does full justice to this brilliant song and keeps his voice pitch neither too high nor too low, and this song delivers so much spirit, power, love and also, above all, pain (if you have suffered a heartbreak before). But, I'll tell you this, it also breaks my heart that the song is only like 4 minutes long. Couldn't it be longer please?

Song rating: This song is so priceless that it shouldn't get a rating. So I'll give it a 8/5...this is more than perfection.

Hai Dard is basically another pedestrian, situational song. Udit Narayanan croons adequately, but there isn't too much in this. Average league.

Song rating: 2.5/5

Ishq Ada Hai (Female version) is similar to the male version in term of basic tunes, but is slightly different due to polarized singing styles, this time by Parul Mishra, whose voice is fresh, and has a mix of carnatic touch to her voice, and she is able to hum in interludes, and added feature compared to the male version. How about a mix between carnatic voice and sufi rhythm? That is what this song is). Masterful.

Song rating: 5/5

Milo Wahan Wahan is another heavy melody to carry along but only little snag being the male singer Jayachandran, not that he doesn't sing good, he is an excellent singer, but something about him in this song looks a little out-of-the-place. With Alka's brilliant singing and ARR's music being nothing short of its best, what you have is a song that is just- heavy, there, I said it again. It is just that, heavy at your heart. True Rahmania spirit.

Song rating: 5/5

Meherbaan (Instrumental) is a continued version of the mind-blowing Meherbaan number. All of ARR's albums usually have one instrumental for the most melodious song of the album, and this is no different. Extraordinary.

Song rating: 6/5...this too, is more than perfection.

Tu Mera Hai is another delightful romantic number, and here we have Chitra and Naresh Iyer among the voices. Chitra is phenomenal and like wine, it seems, her voice gets even more sweeter despite the growing age. Sukhwinder Singh's brief crooning is also more than worth it. Again, typical top-notch Rahmania stuff.

Rating: 5/5

Overall album rating: 9/10

Verdict: Just get the album and listen to it. Its AR Rahman at his (near, almost) best. :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

For a billion people in India...not for myself...the journey of a legend

The year was 1991. Acclaimed Indian director Mani Ratnam has just finished directing 'Thalapathy' with Superstar Rajinikanth and Mamooty. The film, inspired by the story Karna in the Hindu holy book Mahabharatha, was a huge success. All over the place 'Rakkama Kaya Thattu' and 'Yamunai Aatrile' are the songs that are being widely heard in India. The verdict in the town is anonymous- Mani Ratnam and composer Illaiyaraja's combination is wonderful. Whats next?- that was the question.

But ironically, next never came. A certain A.R. Rahman, or to be more precise, full name Alla Rakha Rahman was a keyboardist working with Illaiyaraja at that time, and he was also a composer for ad jingles. He was 25 years old. Mani Ratnam announced that his next film will have music from this ad jingle composer. Everybody were perplexed at that decision. Many predicted that Ratnam is bringing in a premature end to a blossoming director-composer combination between him and Raaja and that he will regret it. Thalapathy's music was stupendous, how better can this new bloke AR Rahman possibly give?

He certainly did give enough to silence all the doubters. They had to pick up their jaws from the ground after hearing to the music of Mani Ratnam's next, 'Roja'. All hailed Mani Ratnam for introducing such a talent. And also now everybody understood perfectly just why Mani Ratnam decided to part ways with Raaja when their combination looks like getting better. Mani, after years of achieving success in the Tamil film industry, was eager to find some recognition on a nationwide basis- which basically he wanted music that not only transcended local-styled melody, but music which has more technology, in tune with the changing times, and also a music that can be dubbed and would still retain the same zeal. And that is what exactly AR Rahman not only gave Mani Ratnam, but also gave Indian cinema. Mani Ratnam has introduced India's greatest asset on the musical front. 'Kaadhal Rojave', the stunning melody sung by the singing legend SP Balasubramaniam, was dubbed into Hindi and met into similar success as it did down south. Not only that song, but 'Pudhu Vezhi Mazhai' also had sounds reminiscent of the new wave of technological sounds that have been coming from the West. India has found its own maestro. But the biggest achievement of all in this debut soundtrack of Rahman is that he introduced a new voice- Ghazal singer Hariharan. Hariharan today has elevated himself to his own lagendary status, well known for his light, melodious voice that have intoxicated millions of souls in India. Rahman also became the first ever composer in Indian history to win a Filmfare award for his very first film. That says it all.

From there, was no turning back. AR Rahman conquered the Indian music arena and subsequently eclipsed his very own ex-employer, Illaiyaraja. His combination with his mentor Mani Ratnam especially was breath-taking. In 1993, Rahman and Ratnam came together for Mani's 'Thiruda Thiruda'. The film was especially noticeable for Rahman's use of technology and new sounds minced with regular Indian film music, resulting in an unique, revolutionary score. The song 'Chandralekha' was so popular and also helped set the mood for cameraman PC Sriram to try new shooting techniques during picturization, resulting in one of the most popular Indian music videos to date. In 1995, Mani and Rahman made the album for 'Bombay'. The song 'Uyire' sung by Hariharan remains one of the most popular single tracks in Indian film history, and at the same time, 'Bombay''s theme music, which appears at the beginning of the film, was repeatedly syndicated and was even used as a track in the 2005 Nicolas Cage starrer 'Lord of War', a decade after it was composed. Shortly after that, inspired by a slew of other musical extavagant hits, Rahman marked his Bollywood debut in the film 'Rangeela' in 1997, which is also immensely popular. Rahman also proved his versatility in delivering quality music even in different situations when his score for Mani's periodic film Iruvar in the same year won him rave reviews for creating adorabel music even though the film required Rahman to compose in tune with evergreen 1960s Indian songs.

A year later, Rahman completely became a true household name with his score for Mani's Bollywood debut 'Dil Se'. The song 'Chaiyya Chaiyya' became so popular that it baceme the most syndicated Indian music video in history, as the song was shot atop a moving train. It has been repeatedly voted as the most famous Indian music video in history, which also helped superstar Shah Rukh Khan gain more popularity, in addition with the fact that the song was used by acclaimed Hollywood director Spike Lee as the opening track of his 2006 film, 'Inside Man'. Since then, Rahman has repeatedly won acclaims both internationally and also in India. He did a Broadway musical called 'Bombay Dreams' under the production of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber in 2001, and at the same year, he garnered considerable acclaim for his score in 'Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India', a film that came within touching distance of becoming the first Indian film to win an Oscar. The 2006 film 'Water', a Canadian-Indian entry that also missed the Oscar by a whisper, also has music by Rahman. Rahman also had composed for the 'Lord of the Rings musical' in Toronto, Canada. In 2005, Rahman won huge global acclaim again for composing in the Chinese film 'The Warriors of Heaven and Earth', with his theme tracks for the film becoming very popular.

Rahman has, to date, won three Indian National Awards, and multiple state Filmfare awards. He has also been honored with a 'Padma Shri' (India's fourth highest civilian honor, equivalent to a 'Datuk' in Malaysia), and is an United Nations goodwill ambassador. In 2007, he composed and sung for his album 'Pray for Me Brother', in which he wrote and sung about poverty, and the album was offcially affiliated as UN's banish poverty by 2015 campaign. In 2006 meanwhile, Rahman wrote and sung a song in dedication to the 'Taj Mahal' monument, and the song became a vital factor in Taj Mahal's inclusion as the seventh and final entry in the current Wonders of the World list. Rahman also composed for a jingle for the mobile service company 'Airtel', and his composition is now officially Airtel (which is India's most popular mobile service) ringtone.

Apart from all that, in 1997, Rahman composed and sung 'Maa Tujshe Salam', a patriotic song in tune with India's 50th year of independence celebrations. Believe it or not, the song has become so popular that it even replaced India's original 'Jana Gana Mana' national anthem in various public functions as a new anthem. In 2007, during Indian's 60th year anniversary, he re-composed the 'Jana Gana Mana' national anthem, again to huge reception. Rahman has millions of fans across the globe today, and there is a famous saying that goes like this- 'If Music is Religion, then AR Rahman is God'.

Rahman also composed in 2008 for the film 'Elizabeth: The Golden Age' and won rave reviews, followed by Danny Boyle's 'Slumdog Millionare', which finally, won him a Golden Globe award for best original score, the first ever Indian to do so.

Now Rahman is starring at strongly upon an Oscar nomination, but in his acceptance speech he thanked and dedicated the award to the 'billion people watching from India'.

So, are there any reasons not to like AR Rahman? I can't find one reason to dislike or even be neutral of him.

A man that the whole Indian Community SHOULD be immensely proud of.

Alla Rakha Rahman
Born January 6 1966

A Living Legend.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Has Benitez bid adios to the title?

Back in 1996, Newcastle United were leading Manchester United by 12 points at the top of the table. It was certainly a massive lead, a lead that many deemed would be impossible for United to peg back at. But that season turned out as one of the greatest testimonies ever to United manager, the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson's tenure in charge of United, as he oveturned that massive deficit to guide United to the pinacle of the Premiership in the 95/96 season. Kevin Keegan was Newcastle's manager back then.
It was during Christmas that the Magpies were having such a healthy lead at the top of the table. They looked like champions element, and knowing that their confidence is sky-high, SAF only needed to provide the slightest of provocations that overturned the deficit in United's favour. He said that the remaining of teams that Newcastle will face in the league post-Christmas will be 'up for it'. Well, to sum it up in an easier way, SAF was indicating that Newcastle were a fluke for being at the top of the table with such a lead, and that the previous teams that Newcastle have played have severely underestimated them, and thats the cause of their current position. SAF indicated that post-Christmas, the remaining teams will not take Newcastle lightly anymore, and on that context, the Magpies will face more challenging fixtures in the second half of the season and their resolve will be tested more.

Predictably, it drew a rage from King Kev. He replied with his now-famous 'I'd love it' rant, where a clearly raged and disturbed Keegan kept stressing that he would 'loveee it' if his team beats United in their forthcoming fixture. And there went Newcastle's title hopes out of the window. United magnificently overcame that deficit to finish four points above Magpies in the table, and certainly SAF's mind games played a big part, as Newcastle did really struggle against a majority of their second-half of the season opponents. (They did lose to United as well, so Keegan lost his love).

That was a huge testament to SAF's apparent ability to turn the cause of a season by playing mind-games with his opponents, of course there are plenty of that left, but all those years of ruling the roost in mind-games looked like they would come to an end when Mr. Special One arrived in the Premiership. That was Jose Mourinho. In his three-and-a-half seasons in England, Mourinho earned the reputation of being the king of mind-games, nobody escaped from being his victims. Arsenal, Liverpool, United all suffered, and Benitez, Wenger, and Ferguson were all cut into peripheral figures by Mourinho's provocative comments that often end up in the Portuguese's favour more than anything else. People thought SAF has lost his edge and that his time is up. But in the 06/07 season, United retained the Premiership crown after not being able to win it for four seasons, and Mour's provocative mind games during this season spectacularly backfired against him, with Ferguson winning them back in the league by simply ignoring the 'Special One'. Ferguson still knew what it takes to play mind-games, it seemed back then. And just a couple of days ago, another mind-game exploded and will certainly go down in history books as a famous one- this time between Ferguson and his Liverpool counterpart, Rafael Benitez.

Over the time, Ferguson kept taunting Liverpool since the beginning of the season by dismissing their title bid, claiming time and again that its only going to be United and Chelsea who will be fighting for the title this season. Christmas came, and after consecutively drubbing Newcastle away from home and beating Bolton comprehensively at home, Liverpool were sitting pretty at the top of the league. Still, Ferguson refused to admit that they are title contenders. Come May, its will be United and Chelsea fighting it out, he said. Rafa finally lost his cool. On the eve of 'Pool's match against Stoke City at Brittania Stadium, Benitez launched a caulculative, calm yet astonishing minced tirade towards United, the FA, and also Ferguson. He was complaining about Ferguson being favored by the FA, United staff being aggressive in their approach towards the referee, and so on. He also added another- that United were being 'afraid' of Liverpool because of Liverpool's stronghold at the title. Just hours after that, Ferguson, before hearing about Benitez's tirade, repeated the chorus yet again, that Liverpool are not champions-elect. It was exactly at the same time where Liverpool terribly huffed and puffed and even choked to get a 0-0 draw with relegation-elect Stoke City. They didn't, for once, look like a team that United would be afraid of for even the slightest of reasons. The next day, United met their main rivals Chelsea at Old Trafford.
Instead of looking baffled at Benitez's tirade, Ferguson was looking inspired, probably hinting that this has been a long-running, calculated mind-game played by Ferguson on Liverpool and 'Pool have conveniently bought it. It was apparent in his previous press conferences as well, when he said that Chelsea have more 'maturity and experience'. Thats a biggest hint yet that Feguson considers Liverpool lacking enough guile, experience and grit to win the title. And it showed at Stoke. They had the vulnerability to crumble. It was epitomized further at Old Trafford, when an inspired United thrashed a sorry Chelsea 3-0, resoundingly taking revenge of the 3-0 defeat they suffered by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge three years ago.

Now Benitez must be wishing 'only if', and he will definitely re-calculate the timing of his tirade, or even the necessity to launch that tirade. Apparently, Benitez was disturbed by Ferguson's continous dismissal of 'Pool title hopes.

In conclusion, Ferguson is not untouchable, but he is still the best of the lot there. The season is not over yet, but Ferguson has certainly given his own team pole position by winning yet another mind game. Yet another mind game won as he now enters 23 years as United's manager.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Oye Lucky! Lucky! Oye

An effort that deserves praise.

This film is an addition to the growing testament that Bollywood is certainly progressing in terms of providing diverse, unique products in a consistent basis. Probably the most criminal flaw that the film's producers and director have committed is the way the film has been marketed. The makers have resorted to marketing this film as a 'comedy' film, banking on a direct credibility of director Dibakar Banerjee, whose maiden directorial effort was the hugely successful 2006 cult comedy film 'Khosla Ka Ghosla'. It is only logical that the audiences would expect yet another comedy caper along lines of Khosla, but this is anything but.

The film is an unique satire, but certainly its not entirely a comedy movie- and in most situations the film actually respects you intelligence as an audience, which is very unlike most Indian comedies, which tend to be very slapstick-based and often leaves logic out of the door. And certainly, the film has a meaningful message attached to it.


Lucky (Abhay Deol) is a crafted thief who steals posh cars, music systems, televisions, chairs, and well, even pomeranian breed dogs. The film basically chronicles how the talented Lucky tries to live life on the wrong side of the law on his own terms, causing him to get betrayed constantly, but still he tries to get things going his way. The film is a satire as to how the media exploits even the slightest of exciting stories and transform the thief Lucky into a celebrated celebrity known for his crimes.

Abhay Deol is fantastic in his role as Lucky to say the least. He is certainly an actor to watch out for, as he constantly chooses to do off-beat films and tries our different roles. But it is also high time that Abhay earns some marketability status into launch him into par popularity at least with his cousins Sunny Deol, Sunny Deol or even Esha Deol for that matter because, as honest as I can get, Abhay Deol is far more talented than any of them put together. Neetu Chandra is sweet as Sonal, Lucky's love interest. She too, like Abhay, deserves more marketability than what she is having now. Paresh Rawal is convincing as usual in his three roles. 

Dibakar Banerjee's direction is gripping through the first half and for most parts of the second half but the film lags somewhere towards the end, but the ending is definitely a vintage one. The director's knack for 'Funjabi' music and a constant presence of old Bollywood songs in the film is also an USP for the film.

A film more than worth watching. You may end up knowing more about the Delhi lifestyles and certainly get engaged with the interesting characters.

Rating: 7.5/10

Verdict: A comedy that doesn't insult logic or intelligence is always more than worth watching.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


This will spoil my sleep.

2008 has been one jubilant year for me as far as Bollywood is concerned, the industry regularly dished out unique, off-beat movies, or simply put- path-breaking films. Be it Shyam Benegal's 'Welcome to Sajjanpur', Santosh Sivan's 'Tahaan', Ashustosh Gowariker's 'Jodha Akbar', Neeraj Pandey's 'A Wednesday', Abhishek Kapoor's 'Rock On!', or Nishikant Kamat's 'Mumbai Meri Jaan', Bollywood has oozed with quality all over, films that could stand on par with much of Hollywood products. 

Add to this longing list one more film- Dasdivaniya. 'Dasdivaniya' literally means 'Goodbye' in Russian. Directed by Sashanth Shah and produced by the film's lead actor Vinay Pathak, the film also marks the debut of wonderful soul singer Kailash Kher as a music director. To be perfectly frank, 'Dasvidaniya' is not an original concept. It is just a story of a dying man and how he spends his last days.

But you can't help but agree with the film's tagline- "The Best Goodbye Ever", yes, it most probably is. A great film is a film that grows on you as the hours pass by after the end credits roll by, so this is definitely a great one.


Amar Kaul (Vinay Pathak) is a 37-year-old single accounts manager at a company in Mumbai who learns that he is suffering from stomach cancer. He makes a list of things he wants to do for the remaining three months of his life, which includes buying a new car, making a foreign a trip, which he does to Russia to meet his long-lost best friend, confessing his long-hidden love to his childhood crush Neha, who is now happily married with kids, make peace with his estranged brother and bring his tiny family together, learning his childhood dream of mastering the art of playing guitar, finally peg back his bully-ish boss, make his mother happy, and above all to find love (which in the most unexpected circumstances comes in the form of a Russian call-girl called Tatiana). 

The film is predictable from the word go, you know what is going to happen- he is dying, so he will live his life to the fullest and realize the value of life by the end of the film, and he will say 'Dasvidaniya' as a goodbye sign. But that is where the film rakes its speciality, despite all the predictability, you will just watch it, and keep watching it and still be moved by the end even though you know he will die.

Vinay Pathak is simply phenomenal in his role as Amar Kaul. Ditto for him for producing and acting in such a quality film. Rajat Kapoor is delightful in his role as Rajiv, who is Amar's best friends. Neha Dhuphia doesn't come for long but nevertheless leaves an adequate impact, but who impresses me most is Russian new face Manoylo Svitlana in the role as the Russian call-girl Tatanya. Sarita Joshi is also wonderful as Amar's nagging but lovable mother. Ranvir Shorey in a cameo, Gaurav Gaura as the brother, Saurabh Shukla as the bullish boss, and Joy Fernandes as the veteran guitarist are all extremely adequate in their roles, I have to say there is absolutely no mis-cast in the whole film.

Shashanth Shah's direction is extremely commendable in this film. Knowing that he has a predictable story in hand, he leaves out a lot of logistics that would have turned out unnecessary scenes. For instance, the film never shows Amar struggling in his deathbed or any melodramatic scenes of Amar telling in detail the truth of his disease, and people sobbing. The film may not have melodramatic scenes, but even the subtle transition of scenes will urge tears from your eyes. One of the most masterly scenes is when Amar's mother discovers about his son's condition. Instead of shoring her sobbing or anything such, the director freezes the shot at her state of denial after listening to the fact and then pans to a scene where his mother brings him to a 'samy' who tells that he can heal any wounds by religious chants. It's a masterstroke to put such a scene just after a serious scene- you will want to laugh at the absurdity of his mother's actions but you will also find tears in your eyes because you know his mother is in denial that her son is dying and cant come to terms with it.

Despite made at such a low budget, the film oozes with delight all over and will definitely have an everlasting impact on you long after the credits roll.

Watch 'Dasvidaniya'- It will make your day for sure!

Rating: 9/10

Verdict: Miss it at your own risk!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Petty differences

It all comes down to petty differences. Yes, very petty ones. Thats what causing the war in Gaza. It all started in 1967, and 42 years down the road, the petty differences have escalated into a pretty big problem on which pure stupidity is at the core of everything.

I read an article in Malaysia's second largest English newspaper News Straits Times where the author conveniently says that Israel has to take the blame for whats happening. They are brutal for attacking Gaza, they are brutal for charging a blockade against Gaza, and above all, Hamas has the right to be originally angry at Israel for entering the Arab Nations territory and forming a Jewish State. He stated- 'won't you be angry if someone just invaded your home?'. Pretty convenient to just blame Israel and justify everything Hamas does.

Lets get the facts straight here. Looking deep into history, Jewsih people have existed in that part of Arab for long periods, and when there are so many Muslim countries, Hindu countries, and Christian countries, it comes as a little surprise that the Jews wanted a country for themselves. So Israel came to happen.

My question is- isn't religious intolerance a part of all this?

If only the Arab nations would just accept Israel and be friends with them, all this wouldn't have arised, right? This is my question- if somebody just simply entered your house, but later you learn that the person has no house at all and you yourself have excessive space left in your house which is hardly used, what harm is it there to be done by raising your hand to another human? Arab Nations can be angry, true, but they should have settled in once Israel earned their indipendence. But they didn't.

Now lets come to Hamas. Israel's blockade of Gaza is heavily understandable. Hamas is a country that has sworn to destroy Israel. Do you think if Israel had given Hamas all the export/import freedom, Hamas would sit quiet when they can access huge weapons to launch an assault on Israel? Your neighbor has taken a public oath to kill you at the very given opportunity, so will you give him the freedom to have a peek to your compound or even the freedom to access to weapons which he will use to destroy your house? Will you? What Israel did was little more than being self-defensive.

The ceasefire agreement ended just days before Israel's attacks started, and thinking of it on a political pane, I think even commoners would know deep inside that for a side that kept firing rockets into Israel even during ceasefire, it will be only be a matter of time before they attacks Israel in someway since the truce has ended. Israel responded with an animalistic instinct, attack first before being attacked.

Its also easy to chastise Israel for killing so many civilians, but the argument doesnt hold any water when we all know there is a political reason why Hamas and Israel do not allow journalists to cover whats happening in Gaza. Firstly, the Israeli authorities are constantly providing detailed descriptions of why and what is happening there, while Hamas does nothing more than giving very general statements. Hamas have simply threatened to kill anyone who takes a photo while they are attacking, and this basically means that both sides are desperate to make themselves look like victims rather than the agressors. Stuck in the middle are the civilians. Hamas is more intent on raging war with Israel rather than trying to protect people of their kind. Israel fired misslies to destroy an UN school, from which Hamas fighters allegedly took a hiding and even fired to Israeli troops from within.

Blame Israel for reacting like animals just because the shot was fired at them, but also blame Hamas for taking little or no consideration at all for their own civilians and instead placing their military operations in the middle of the civilian state. Why? So they could look like victims. Its like lining civilians as a cover for their own motives and allowing civilians to die, so that they could later turn around and say- 'Hey, look, Israel are so cruel.'. The result? More Hamas members will culminate from the people who are left alone or lost loved ones due to the attacks. Israel gathers more haters, Hamas gathers more members. Wonderful pyschology, but its also pathetic that the people never realize this and allow petty religious differences blur their judgement.

Israel is just plain stupid for doing this, they are spoiling for their reputation and resources. And Hamas knows, no matter how many of their members Israel kill, they could use this war as a discrimination propaganda to gather more members. And then they will justify firing rockets into Israel, and will continue to do so.

All this will end in a snap if Hamas would just behave like an organization who democratically administrate the state of Gaza rather than like militants. They have responsibility now, and the main thing they should exercise now is by dropping their mission statement of 'destroying' Israel and rather turn it as 'prospering' Gaza. When that happens, Israel will feel far secure of their safety, and as a result, they will start taking out the blockades on Gaza and both neighbors can live amicably at least for coming times.

At least until another petty religious difference starts another conflict.

Religion is a path to God, so why are we so busy fighting each other under the context of religion rather than fulfilling our main goal in our religions- which is, to reach God? If all of our religions hold for us a similar destinations, why do we kill each other to prove your path is stronger or my path is stronger? Everybody has their own paths, and why don't we just live it that way?

If religion is supposed to make us angels and a son of the God, why are we comitting devilish things under the very context of religion?

Above all, is religion a holy drink or a poison?

Think about it.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

What our systems cost us

People try so hard not to meander me into a category of ridiculousness when I state that I'm an anti-consumerist. That means I'm against the world's industrilization. Why, you can even say that I'm a communist. By creating our lingering, not-good-for-anything systems and globalizations, we have created a certain system and working pattern that is so larger than life that it overwhelmes us. "This is how it works over here," how many times have we heard this in our lives, but the question is- who said it works that way? Through this stream of consumerism driven world we have conveniently negated away the facts that three quarters of the world is suffering from poverty, that the 'humanity' that 'progressing' is just a small chunk of what exists.

So, coming to us, the 'progressing' kind, how many of us are restricted by lines and restrictions that our very own hands created but has now grown to be larger than what we are? The mechanical life that we are condemned to living in is for one, coupled by the fact that the globalized and corporatized world has made everything mobile and secure that the world has become so tight to run. One snap in a trasnportation system that people rely so heavily on and everyone gets affected- thousands actually. Its horrifying to think that the more we get used to the commodities and mobility with security, we will simply fall apart when things go wrong for us. Stress causes us to committ suicide, and a system that we created is now overwhelming us and rendering us as ineligible to proceed with life. As a friend of mine remarked recently, our lives are becoming very dependent on a certain Ctrl+S, which literally means the save button in our personal computers. We created a commodity of creating data and storing it with such ease, but we have become so reliable on it that at the end of the day, our lives depend on that data which was only created as a luxury. Everything which was luxury when we created then have slowly grown into a necessity, and this chain doesn't seem to stop.

And it is in the very same vein that landed us to a lawsuit currently taking place in United States. Roy L. Pearson has filed a $54 million lawsuit against a South Korean dry cleaner store for failing to fulfill their main advertising board which sounds like this- "Satisfaction Guaranteed". All they did wrong was to mix up Pearson's pants during the cleaning process and the rest was history. We have laws in this world to even cater to these kind of cases, such a small negligence could make the dry cleaning store lose (lose? I think even if they shut the store and sell it they won't be able to muster the amount of compensation in lawsuit) $54 million to a single man's pants. Pearson is indeed a smart man as much as he is appearing as a ridiculous man, he knew the kind loophole the intricate law that we have created has thus he is taking advantage o it with a view of earning $54 million. Probably he is just a man frustrated by the entire system that he decided to take all he can through the very system that has complicated everything in life. If even dry cleaning has to be done flawlessly and something as subjective as satisfaction (which depends on every individual) would be called into question and be objectively-dressed up to serve a conspiracy, I wonder what the system is coming to.

Karl Max isn't dead, some of us are being reminded of him.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Love beyond age

Love is blind.

Thats what they said, and so it was proven in Germany on the dawn of New Year.

A six-year-old German boy has fallen head over heels in love with seven-year-old Anna-Lena, and she recuperated his love. They were so in love that they decided to get married. But it is winter in Europe and everybody were clad in their sweaters with zero temperatures being the order of the day almost everywhere in the region, and there is no need to mention the fact that the conditions in England, Scotland and Wales are freezing the people in their houses. Its not wedding season either, but Mika and Anna-Lena weren't prepared to wait for a summer smooch and exchange of rings.

So they read in their syllabus and from what their knowledge beholds, that Africa is the Land of the Sun. They are not aware of the blood diamonds or the poverty or what the world thinks of that region, they wanted a wedding under the sun and they decided for it. So they packed a pair of sunglasses, wore swimming armbands, loads of summer clothes, and even a pink Lilo and walked one kilometer (!) to the nearest train station at their home. Well, a marriage, like anything else that this world requires, needs 'proof'. So they decided that they needed a witness. So along came Anna-Bell, Anna-Lena's 5-year-old sister. A kilometer's walk and they reached the train station, and boarded a train to Hanover. And at Hanover, the three of them decided to take a train to the Hanover airport. Well, just like security personnel would, the one at the Hanover train station was perplexed to see three toddlers standing and waiting for the train to the airport without the supervision of any elderly person. So he informed the local police and they came soon enough to 'arrest' the three 'culprits'.

"We wanted to marry so just we thought, 'lets go there' ",  that is what Anna-Lena had to say. Mika said they just wanted to have a 'stroll under the sun'. Hows that for a New Year story?

How many of us are brave enough to even go to Africa after all the perception that the world has of it? For them, it is just a land where the sun rises, and just like how they said, 'the world is your home'. How many of us would walk one kilometers with continuous smiles and no sigh at all when we are so accustomed in this mobile world? They walked, and all they had in their mind in that time is the purest, most unpolluted feeling in the world- Love. They did not know what sex yet or anything much about it. All they wanted to be is married and be together.

There's a bloody war (oops, sorry, a massacre actually) in Gaza.
India is recovering from random terrorist shooting rampage in Mumbai.
An Iraqi journalist is in the jail for throwing a 'shoe' at Bush.
There is civil war in Africa.

But amidst all that, this.

My question is- which story is ridiculous or illogical?

I'd choose Mika and Anna's love story over the rest anyday, anytime. Because that is what Africa actually is and it was created as, a land where the sun rises and stays there. And thats how God has created the world, that the whole world is our home and we should be able to explore the world without any fear what-so-ever. And before we human beings with our incredible greed and desire for a 'system' complicated everything, even up to relationships, that is what we all should look at-pure love. 

Do you believe in love? I do. Maybe their story will make you believe after even if you don't.
Just think of it.

Who said it was bloody New Year?

Life is Beautiful.


We need M-a-l-a-y-s-i-a-n cinema

Malaysia is the country's name. It embodies not a particular race, but many to boot with. It really enrages me that the some individuals within the Ministry are already whispering of ideas to double-up ticket prices for Hollywood movies in order to sustain the local entertainment business. While most of audiences are blaming Malaysian cinema for not providing quality cinema, certain select audiences are asking Malaysians to 'watch first' instead of ignoring Malaysian cinema altogether. The film-makers in Malaysia are disgruntled that their efforts are not returning enough box-office returns such as the the recent CGI-driven film 'Antoo Fighter' (Whatever that name stands for). So, it is a complete mess where everyone wants to express their opinions but what we don't seem to be getting to is a conclusion.
If the Ministry goes ahead with its ridiculous plans, it will only cause more rebellious attitudes. The result? More downloads of DVD-quality movies in the Internet, and a complete ignorance of theatre visits. They (the audiences) might as well reduce the frequency of coming to theatres and still go for English movies rather than local ones. At least when you have hundreds of people thronging into theatres just to wash off their stresses to watch some kind of cinema, there is always a possibility that, even not pre-planned, they could sit and watch a Malaysian film by a possibility. Increasing prices will only affect cinema outlets and their business. Its amazing to note how the Malaysian administration never seems to be able to understand what the grassroots, layman civilians think and are accustomed to. They never manage to get to the core and curb the problem, so often they have been so successful in exarcebating things and earning some dumbed-down reputation for themselves. Are the people in the Ministry not Malaysians at all? .
Now coming to the individuals, ignoring Malaysian cinema and just watching Malaysian cinema are both not options. Ignoring will only increase a common sterotype and just sticking by Malaysian cinema no matter what will only frustrate people. A change is needed for Malaysian cinema, and every Malaysian needs to realize what the problems are and take responsibility. Hollywood are for English-language films on the core, Bollywood for Hindi-language films, Kollywood for Tamil, the Hong Kong film industry for Chinese-language films, Thai industry for Thai-language films and so on. We all know that.
The fact is Malays in Malaysia watch mostly local films and Hollywood films, Indians basically watch films from India, and Chinese watch films from Hong Kong. Diversity and complexity is what we have within our society. So do Singapore. Yes, they do have a progressing film industry. But you have to ask- what kind of a progress? Singapore, realizing their multinational potential as a hub, made decent movies but raked more by playing host for Hong Kong films' productions and is also emerging now as a foster home for Hollwyood. A conversation with an American layman who is in Singapore yielded out these thoughts, that in Singapore, 'so many people come in and out so often that I'm not sure whether they really feel Singaporean in themselves'. I mean, what is Singaporean anyway? Owning a upper-class corporate car, living in a condo, going to work to earn $20k dollars per month with incentives, having a foreign maid in the house, and planning holiday trips in foreign countries everytime holiday arrives?

But when the same man is asked about Malaysia, this was his response- 'the people there are more attached, they feel the belonging, they are Malaysian'. There you go. Not all of us may have the luxury of overseas trips for holidays, but what we do have is a sense of belonging, no matter how much we criticize each other for being a lazy race, or a greedy race or a race too proud of itself, (you know what are those), we just love going back in each other's way. Most of us have family reunions and stand up for a 'Malaysian' cause everytime an issue comes up. I don't think even Singaporeans would disagree much with me here. Singapore has become so diverse with a blurred indentity that you don't look across to find another Singaporean and try to help him. But we Malaysians, we know it. We know who we are when we see each other. The 'Malaysian-ness' just shines through. That's what I am saying- we have something called IDENTITY. Thats what our cinema industry needs. Just like India (known for their songs in films) or Hong Kong (for their martial arts) or Hollywood (for their fantasy and smooches, in short for their Kiss Kiss Bang Bangs) or Europe (for the realistic, diasporic, drama-driven cinema) or Thai (for their Ong Baks and horror flicks), lets find our indentity as well, because we do have one. Its just a matter of finding it. For that, we need to start making what I would call as 'Malaysian' movies.

What is Malaysian movies? Movies that has Malay spoken throughout with cheap comedy? Or movies that has Indians aping their from-India format of film-making? What represents Malaysian cinema? Does Antoo Fighter represent the Malaysian identity? Does Cicak Man? Does Ethirkaalam? Does Senario? Does Gol and Gincu? Does Chemman Chaalai? Does I'm Not Single? Does KL Drift? Tell me, which one? Probably Sepet.

Some people said that our weakness is actually that we have so many diverse 'rojak' languages and not a consistent language like other industries' movies. Do Europe? From Spanish to German to Hungarian, their films are all theatre-driven with a common identifiable working system. That could very well be our calling card, our uniqueness to stand alone as a film industry- that 'rojak' ness. Malaysian cinema should not be separated to 'Malay' movies and 'Tamil' movies. Why dont we go broad and take the whole concept as one and whole? Throw some lahs inside, throw some lus, throw some machas, throw some mangkuks, throw some ayuns, but above all, have that sense not to make cheap comedy or over-the-top action, but start by making films that capture the essence of 'Malaysian' culture with realistic narratives structures. Yes, more film like Sepet please, even it may have not been a perfect effort, it went a long way in establishing the kind of cinema we should look at making. Why do we need CGI-driven films or ridiculous Indian action movies that only repeat over what India is already doing in a more cheaper, louder way? Why don't we start by making simple yet beautiful films? Why, can't we entertain and engage audiences without being wannabes through CGIs and constantly trying to ape what other industries have done? Don't we have interesting stories that e have to resort to far-from-reality storylines to entertain local audiences? Is this such a boring country, where nothing much happens that we stall creatively? Nah, just open your eyes.

I would like to end this with paying an ode to James Lee, the independent film-maker who boldly made a girl-girl kissing scene in his latest film 'Histeria'. Can any Malaysian girls vehemently deny that the girl-girl crush never happens in schools and colleges? Lets stop hiding and doing things behind the doors and come out and tell those stories. They are happening.

And thanks Censor Board for not chopping down the film because it has such a scene! Finally, they have come to their senses.

Don't wait for inspiration. It's already all around you. The problem is, you can't see it.