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Bengalis (by birth) like me do not like to admit that they have a sweet tooth. They land up at a Bengali get together(read : loud exchange of  opinioned ideas on everything and anything) and when offered, push their open palms in the air, like that on an invisible bench press and noisily decline “mishti khaabo naa …sugar achhe“(no sweets for me, I have blood sugar)”. And then after the party, on the way back, ask the wife “do we still have any of that key lime pie you made? “.

And then some days, during the coffee machine chit chat when I am asked . “you are Bengali right … you must love rosogolla?” And the sarcastic genes inside me scream “thanks for the stereotype, again!”. But on the outside, I say ” I love sandesh as much “, totally forgetting the part where I am supposed to go …”actually I do not like sweets at al. I have blood sugar .Instead; I love to use jalapeno seeds as mouth freshener“. But that never happens!!

What I am attempting to draw from the above, is how you could be immensely fulfilled with two completely disparate experiences from the same source. Another example  – when on a perfect day  your wife is giving you the silent treatment, and making spicy onion masala uttapam ,both at the same time!!  As for the female readers, I do not have an example … since men usually are not good with multi tasking!!

So when I watched Kaminey, (something which I have wanted to do since its release last year) it was that whole different kind of happiness feeling. “This is a complete movie” I told myself . Just like ..The Blue Umbrella.  And yet completely, unlike. The source – the creative genius of  Vishal Bharadwaj !! The man who has been proven guilty of being in my list of favorite directors, composers and all of that jazz since his Maachis days!! He started of as a composer and of late made some really good movies.

Now about these two movies. Why did I pick just these two?  Purely because of the experience as a viewer, watching two of his creations which have no one common point that they meet at, be it theme, design or any of those elements that work towards graduating a good story into an awesome movie and yet inspire me to write a post about them. Whether anyone is reading or not!! Wait, I did not mean that. I do care about who is reading. I digress. Let’s get back shall we, to my duo- analysis, or whatever this may be called.

The Blue Umbrella touches you,  for the simple story (courtesy: the esteemed Ruskin Bond). Pankaj Kapoor (side note: I am his fan since his Karamchand days) as usual is brilliant in the role of an aged shopkeeper who desires to own something which does not belong to him. The Blue Umbrella – the prized possession of a little girl. The movie was shot in Himachal Pradesh and just like me, as you watch the film, you will want to be part of that rustic ambience. There is innocence, love, deceit and finally utter kindness that make this a masterpiece. To me that is the sign of a great conversation – one that happens between the characters and the audience. Thank you Vishal !!

About Kaminey, let me start with the music. It will blow you away!! That is, if you are open to the idea of being blown away by music, I mean. Since the time the music released (last year), whenever we are in our small blue car, I have made myself, Onga and his mom listen to Dhan Te Nan as the overture to any journey, be it as insignificant as a quick run for diapers. And I digress again.

And I am back. Kaminey’s story is one which cannot be called unpredictable. But sometimes  cliché, when served nicely tastes good, kinda like how karela (bitter melon) would taste like honey, if Priyanka Chopra were to serve it to me. Talking of her, she did pretty good in her “not so glamorous” role in Kaminey. As for Shahid – job well done, times two (he plays twins in the movie)!! All the actors who acted as crooks, including the Bengali trio did very well, proof being I was rooting for them when they set the house(s) on fire. You see, it is not every day, that you see Bengali men who have an established career as kingpin(s) in Mumbai!! Good story with beautiful songs (which fit in perfectly even in this Satya style story) makes Kaminey one of my all time favorites. Thank you Vishal !!

In essence, this is my personal message to all movie makers – “I have some news for you. If one of your hits was a thriller, guess what, your next one need not be one, unless you are Shyamalan , and even he made some bad mistakes for e.g. The Happening.  So, ..please explore, and make us feel…. what good movie making (no matter what the story) is all about. Kinda like what I heard in the men’s room of Lighthouse cinema (Calcutta) so many years ago – “ khel khatam, paisa hajam” (the show is over, it was worth every penny)!!” The End!!

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One of the incentives of being married to a girl from South India is easy access to kick ass South Indian food! ” After having gained hundreds of pounds, since I transitioned from “self” cooking to “herself” cooking, it is but natural of me to delight in my wife’s culinary skills . Now, if she was not a great cook. I would have started this post slightly different. I would probably say, “One of the perks of being married to a girl from South India is easy access to some of the greatest movies”. Now that is a fact, which by the way sits perfectly well with me as well. I am not sure if she can say similar thing(s) about being married to a Bengali. But for that she needs to start her own blog.

My love affair with South Indian movies (mainly: Tamil) began almost the same time, that I started ogling my “baby momma” from the last bench of our engineering class. Back then, I was always humming Tamil songs, watching Tamil movies and gawking (from behind myopic glasses) at a certain Telugu girl…and let me tell you, I was committed to all three responsibilities to the best of my ability. I listened to the songs, for they made me happy, even the sad ones did. Once I had listened to a song I needed to go watch the movie. Unless of course it was movie like Padayappa, in which case, the music would suffice!! And being new to South India, I wanted to feel safe in the company of someone who could speak Tamil and was a treat to sit next to, in the theatre!! For the first time in my life, there was purpose to everything I did!! I journeyed with the stars during those several hours in at Devi theatre and Satyam complex.

Disclaimer : Before I go any further I would like to remind the reader that anything that I say beyond this point on, is from within my limited knowledge about Tamil cinema. I am just another Bengali who used to live in the Kodabakkam area during my undergrad and was exposed (rather densely) to the Tamil film world, both on and off-screen. I am no movie expert and my views are purely based on how I have felt towards each of these creations of art. So what follows is not a review, but an attempt to collate how I felt as a member of the audience.

The most significant characteristic about Tamil movies (from recent years) that I find so absorbing is the style of narration. A film maker picks a simple story and makes it into a 90 minute package of pure entertainment. These are great movies made from everyday life events. They are rich in emotion and easy to relate to.

One of the Tamil directors that I am a huge fan of, is Cheran. I have watched all his movies, the early ones without even knowing who he is. It was not until recently when I found out that Porkaalam is one of his movies. It had one of my favorite songs – “Thanjavur man eduthu . Beautiful words woven with the popular “gaana” style of music by Deva. I digress. It was the brilliance of his movie, Autograph, that got me sitting up and paying more attention to his work. I was moved by the sensitive elements of life in his stories, masterfully played out by artists (including Cheran) who did full justice to every character they portrayed. Maya Kannadi felt too close to me,  since our neighbours in the building we used to live in were two girls who worked as assistants to a make up artist.  

Pokkisham is the latest Cheran movie that I watched. I had not read any reviews. I never do. I think it ruins the “wow” factor that cinema deserves. It is a love story, one which is spun out of pain and emotions that will make you want to reach out into the lives of the characters and redo the story all over again.Parts of the movie were filmed in Calcutta and the scenes portrayed, brought back to me, glimpses from my childhood memories of the city. What was most admirable was how Cheran was successful in preserving the 70’s look of Calcutta. Cheran is just perfect in his role and as always so is Padmapriya and together, they acquaint us with how one’s love and life can sometimes part ways for good. And when that happens, it hurts bad and truly nothing can ever make that pain go away. We get through life with that pain, every moment of it, knowing that things could have been different. Sure, there are other movies which touch similar topics, but nothing I have watched stirred me the way this movie did. And I think art like this is not to be compared.

What Pokkisham brought to me, was an aide memoire about the definition of true love!! What a lot of us hear about, some experience and some will never know. Over the years, I have become, what I would like to believe – Cheran’s biggest “non Tamilian” fan. Someday if I do meet him, I wish to stand up in honor, shake his hand and tell him – “thank you for sharing all that beauty!!

I leave you with the  last scenes (sorry no subtitles), when Nadheera sheds silent tears for a love she deserved for a lifetime!! A lifetime, too late!!

 photo courtesy :here
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The strong smell of kerosene from the harrykane (lantern in Bengali) and that of the “village” filled up the small hut. Someone passed Britannia Marie® biscuits and an aluminium jug of water from a tube well (I knew the smell of iron in the water).And then there was a scream and someone , a lady or a man with the voice of a lady …..”Oi to paaliye gelo” (there, he fled!!).What followed soon after was the sound of a million feet.I should have been pretty scared, except that I was too young and too darned sleepy…..I later learnt that the protagonist had managed to escape …. and everyone was safe ….!!

A few hours before the above happened….

Like most companies from Calcutta did (in those days), this one company also picked, Diamond Harbour to be the picnic spot.Just like most “young and restless junior engineers” (from those days and those companies) did , most of the “young and restless junior engineers” from this esteemed organization got…well a little … I take it back … “a lot” toasted on a punch of Bagpiper’s® varied creations and taari (I do not know …. so they tell me…is pure bliss made from fermented palm juice).What added the twist (literally to their…… their digestive system) was a landslide of uncontrollable amounts of khichuri and maach bhaja (insane ratings of cholestrol enticing fresh water fish,deep fried in mustard oil from a tin can).What could have saved the day, was if these “young and restless junior engineers” didnot decide on a closure of “zarda paan ek so bees maarke” (pure bliss …I do not know …. so they tell me….flavored tobacco filled betel leaf with other condiments, ..about which I have no idea)!!Now all of this would have probably gone “offeeshealy” unnoticed, if not for the the driver of the company picnic bus. It was a matter of pure coincidence that he had been a key player in the above mentioned activities. As part of the post party festivities, was his confusion, about the comfort zone of center of gravity, that bus would have preferred and not dived into the swamp with all passengers on board.Lucky was the baby, who was pulled out of the khichuri haandi (pot) and I am sure several years later he is still explaining to people why he is better known as Khee Churi Babu………!!

Several years after this happened…….actually just yesterday …… !!!

That sleepy boy (who is still sleepy, just not a boy anymore) received an invitation to another picnic.Ladies and gentleman, without further delay, I wish to share with you the four reasons why I (at this point it is safe to assume that you have clearly identified who this boy is …. if not click here) shall be unable to attend this very desired event. I have managed to tamper with an excerpt of the original invite and for your convenience, have clearly indicated my areas of concern..!!

  1. Verities of sports for all ages : Now I understand that it is not easy to work without the spell check ON. But then do we really need sports for all ages, especially after, the potential participant has consumed all items under “adda” time during furious conversations about the reeseshan. These are the potential health hazards that I identified …..dehydration from too much muri (puffed rice),little too less chanachur (snacks made from anything and everything) and no water, high triglycerides from the chips, choking from the banana, tearful suffocation from the bun, intense burn from the hot tea(latent heat – temperature and allergic reactions to spices) and finally mouth ulcer and further suffocation from the pan and supari…….!!
  2. Crooked vegetarian dish : I shall be lying through my cavity stricken teeth, if I said I love veggies.But then other than my reasons on # 3 , another primary concern is to give in to the flattery of a dish which is clearly not simple !! I appreciate the honesty portrayed and am further convinced on my decision to decline…..!!
  3. Non Veg: Apparently, the goal is not only to have anyone who decides to go “green”, to starve on the convoluted cuisine (see #2) but the ones who decide otherwise, to leave the picnic area in a gurney (death due to over eating…hence the gurney …during the final moments)….there are too many food “verities” for them…… discriminitation of this nature is unacceptable….I had to stay away ….. !!
  4. The best medicine:This is extremely alarming and under no circumstances, can I be driven to party with a bunch of narcissistic quacks who can market their product with such blatancy.Their products seem to work on the platforms of Howrah Station when they dug out a “manure warehouse” from Kaku’s (my uncle) ears ……but that was then……. I am not that naive…not anymore. I know “the best medicine” really is …..Eno® …!!

Based on all evidences, I once again apologize to Ma (who does not quite comprehend the reason behind my indifference towards the Bengali community in Michigan). She does not realize, that it is all for causes of “sustenance”……. and also because I do not want to be waking up one day and explaining to people why I am called the “Crooked Survivor” … !!!

Image Courtesy : here

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The tags keep coming and I need to make sure I attend to their calls as and when time and lack of other ideas permit. And that surely means that if you are reading this blog, and you know I like your’s , there is every possibility that I shall tag you in the next few minutes ……if not someone else will….there is no escape …..heeeyaaahahhahaha…….ZillionBig tagged me, with a bunch of questions, all in groups of four and I will try to be as quick as possible in responding to each of them …..honestly ?? ….that is a possibility …we will see how it all works out. …so bear with me …if you will …..!!!

Four places I have lived (not in any particular order):

  • Chakmaghat: small village on the banks of the Khowai river in Tripura,India…..
  • Calcutta: need I say more ….
  • Chennai: loved the place sans the auto rikshaw drivers and the dust ….
  • Detroit: I know it sounds rough, but it really is not bad at all …….

Four T.V shows that I love(d) to watch (not in any particular order):

though several years ago, I never missed any episode of Sidharth Basu’s quiz show. I do not remember the name now. ….

Four places that I have been on vacation:

  • Rimbik (India): Just like Samaresh Majumdar mentions about this place and Sandakfu in his novel, Garbadharini…this is a glimpse of what paradise probably looks like…..
  • Autrain (Michigan) : Quaint and surrounded by the Great Lakes this is where you want to be if you like to sing to the sounds of silence…..
  • Wilmington(North Carolina): Blue, green and in between …..
  • Tirupati(India):Vacation with my wife’s family where the alludu (groom or something like that) got the royal treatment including an oil massage and the works…..

Four of my favorite food items:

Fortunately for me and my taste buds, I have too many favorites and cannot pick any four. I love to eat and I close my eyes when the food is good, while making obscene noises of content which may annoy others around me.But I do not really care, since at that very moment nothing is more important than to honor the goodness of that indulgence !!

Four websites that I visit daily:

Four places I would rather be (not in any particular order of preference):

  • Chicago: I love this city ……
  • Chennai : and I love this city as well …..
  • Charlotte (North Carolina) : and I ……..
  • Calcutta : and …..

the fact that all the places are cities whose names start with “c” is mere coincidence ….. or not ??

Four things I hope to do before I die….. (not in any particular order):

  • Start our own restaurant, serving food so good that guests “close their eyes and….
  • With a dear friend of mine,make our first movie …..me as herr direktor…
  • Hold hands and walk in the streets of Paris …not in a human chain… a little more romantic
  • Attend our son’s graduation commencement and then go to dinner with him and his very charming girlfriend or boyfriend ….(you never know…..)

Four novels I wish I was reading for the first time:

  • Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • Shesher Kobita by Rabindranath Tagore
  • A House for Mr.Biswas by V.S.Naipaul
  • An Equal Music by Vikram Seth

this list is not finite and I just named the first four that I could think of. I could go on and on and on and ….. you know what I am talking about !!

Four movies that I can watch over and over again:

and just like the books, this list is unlimited ….. including Singh is Kingg….or not !!!

Four people I believe will respond to this tag:

Now is the tricky part…..I do not want anyone to feel left out ….(yeah right…!!) ….but I think I will spare one or two business bloggers …and include someone who is too busy to blog …..

I know Rads is already slammed with other tags and so I am not including her.But if she or anyone else wants to pick up the tag, please feel free to do so !! Thanks ZB for the tag. I enjoyed trying to answer the questions…..!!

Image Courtesy:here

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Rs.45/- M.S.R.P (tax included) ……..the eager teenager counted every bit of his savings, over and over again as he dreamt to match that price tag….The Aiwa® Walkman that he owned, had tacky wires spewing magic to the speakers, that lay face down peeking into the obese neck of the matkas(water mud pot) strategically placed in the storage area above his head.It was only a matter of time before he sped through the crowd and then halted to murmur …Dangerous cassette please!!

He knew all his songs..every word.And he used that to impress the girls, when he lip synced while attempting the moon walk in his rubber band stalled socks and white keds.. .those were the days of the Magnasound® tapes which he guarded with his life…making sure that he dabs the magnetic reader with some after-shave lotion (his Dad’s) after every couple of days …..cannot afford to miss any beat ….”King of Pop deserves the royal treatment”…..

That boy is now the father of a child……discs have replaced the tapes and THX® has taken over from the pots….the narrow streets built out to speeding highways ….the boy does not stop running, to break into a dance move …not anymore …he did not care about all the lawsuits ….his love is untainted …he still knows all his songs ……..and he knows ..he would have never wanted his hundredth post to be a homage to you …..adieu !!

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This comes to you directly from the state,down south …..one genius from there with a killer sense of humor created this parody of the original , (which for some reason seems to be the only track that the band is known for in some parts of the world) ….

I want to mention that this has no political or racial implication and is meant purely for fun …..

Hotel Keralafonia…….

On the road to Trivandrum
Coconut oil in my hair
Warm smell of avial
Rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distanceI saw a pink tube-light

My tummy rumbled, I felt weak and thin
I had to stop for a bite
There he stood in the doorway
Flicked his mundu in style
And I was thinking to myself
I don’t like the look of his smile

Then he lit up a petromax
Muttering ‘No power today’
More Mallus down the corridor

I thought I heard them say
Welcome to the Hotel Kerala-fonia
Such a lousy place,Such a lousy place
Such a sad disgrace,
Plenty of bugs at the Hotel Kerala-fonia
Any time of year Any time of year
It’s infested here

His finger’s stuck up his nostril
He’s got a big, thick mustache
He makes an ugly noise
And he just laughsB
uxom girls clad in pavada
Eating banana chips
Some roll their eyes, and
Some roll their hips

I said to the manager
My room’s full of mice
He said,
Don’t worry, saar, I sending you
meen karri, brandy and ice

And still those voices were crying from far away
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them pray

Save us from the Hotel Kerala-fonia
What a lousy place,
What a lousy place
Such a sad disgrace

Trying to live at the Hotel Kerala-fonia
It is no surprise
It is no surprise
That it swarms with flies

The blind man was pouring
Stale sambar on rice
And he said
We are all just actors here
In Silk Smitha-disguise

And in the dining chamber
We gathered for the feast
We stab it with our steely knives
But we just can’t cut that beef

Last thing I remember
I was writhing on the floor
That cockroach in my appam-stew was the culprit, I am sure !!!

Relax, said the watchman
This enema will make you well
And his friends laughed as they held me down
God’s Own Country ? Oh, Hell!


I have no clue as to who the singer (and author) is …..this flew in to me through emails …but I could not stop myself from sharing it on the blog …..if any reader knows who it is, please feel free to send me the information … I would like to credit him/her for this “master piece”……

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They wait in lines for hours …with their Shuffles®, their Walkmans®,their moms, sisters and friends ……and sometimes with nothing or no one else except with a lot of positive energy. Smiling and sometimes crying … hoping to get to the next round … and the next and the next.No one complains about the heat in the waiting area,the missed tests in school, the lost pay on a day away from work or the long train ride from the unknown town.Some do not do well.They beg ….”one more chance Ma’m”….they cry on national television – “next year I will be back”. Some thrill the judges so much that they stand on their feet to applaud.But end of the day they are all winners….and I will explain why !!

Meet Ajesh….winner of the Airtel Super Singer 2008® – a music talent show aired on Vijay TV® – a Tamil channel from the Star TV® group .Congratulations!! But this post is not about him …..it is about something bigger of which both he and I are a part.His role was to perform and mine was to sit in and enjoy his performance !! In spite of this vast difference in the nature of our participation,I am sure we both will agree on one basic precept – this must be one of best talent shows that India has ever witnessed.This post is about my perspective – someone whose mother tongue is not Tamil….and I am floored !!

If I had to do a comparative analysis of this show with some of the more popular ones (read: Meri Awaaz Suno® ,Zee Sa Re Ga Ma® and Indian Idol®) it would mean,me being brutally honest and in turn mean about what I believe is lacking in most of them.I would have to lie, to tell you that I agree with all the regulations and how the winners are selected. So I decided to try and summarize why I am so impressed with this one and not worry about the others so much … though I would love to get started ……!!

Judges:The judges on this show are singers.They are no music directors, not composers, ….they sing as a profession, every judge from the first day of screening till the grand finale.These are extremely talented artists who know every note, every bend and twist …and that makes all the difference. Unni Krishnan, Srinivas and Sujata have been the judges for the last few months with guest judges like Mano, Chitra, Karthik and Harini on the show. They have watched and listened to these talented individuals grow from unsure contestants to confident performers. They have encouraged them to improve on strengths and advised them on how to override weaknesses.For those of you who do not know who these three singers are – they are three artists who have lent their voices to ARR, several times and have some solid classical Carnatic musical background. The gamut of musical knowledge that they bring to the show should send a lot of others (read:judges on the other shows) into some serious self analysis (about judging skills).

Range:Contestants (whether they liked it or not) have been tried in every area – from classical, to rock n roll, to pop, to “gaana” style!! They have been asked to sing in groups and in duet combinations and have been tested as solo artists over several phases of the show. The music accompaniment has not been highly sophisticated (deliberate move to test talent) and any variations or experimentations from the contestants have been encouraged. Guest judges like Mahalaxmi Iyer have seen them do western numbers while Chinmaayi Sripada created magic with them on middle eastern tunes.During these episodes, contestants have had to go through some rigorous scrutiny and that is what helped build the final “four”. I have not witnessed so much variety in any other show which claims to honor good talent…..at least not in the Indian television world ..

Targets: According to me – This is a talent show which happens to boast of a huge audience, unlike an audience show which happens to entertain talent as one of the elements of publicity, (other than the zillion endorsements) that they tend to offer as the main theme.There is no propaganda other than the obvious mention of the key sponsor and the timed commercial breaks.The only promotions within the show are those that bring out another area of creativity which the contestants can improvise on – like singing romantic songs from the 70’s in costumes as becoming of that age.The effect is tremendous and you keep wanting more and more, rooting for your favorite contestant to win…even for someone like me who barely understands Tamil ……

Unlike what this post seems like, I am not a spokesperson for the mobile phone company.I am just someone who loves music and was floored by this show….in a world where everything is all about “enhancements” here is something which screams of honesty and true talent …. keep up the good work guys !!

Photo Courtesy:here

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