B for Bharat Matrimony

From a free profile to a paid profile managed by my aunt – Bharat Matrimony is a term/product/brand that most unmarried guys and girls would be familiar with in India. The brainchild of Murugavel Janakiraman – BM is one of the most successful brands in India and is the original matrimony portal that spawned other success stories like Jeevansathi and Shaadi.com.

Now coming to my comic relationship with BM. The profiles that get matched on my free profile, magically disappear when I search for them on my paid profile. Now this is a mystery that needs to be solved. Is BM pushing unsuspecting customers to become a paid-profile member by delivering randomly mixed photographs and dummy profiles. How is it that a number of these ‘interested profiles’ lack a photo and have random descriptions. I have had several friends stating how the algorithm that powers the portal does strange stuff. In all due probability it is a set of people playing around with names and dummy profiles to just ensure that there’s one more bakra/bakri signing up for a paid profile.

Poor parents creating profiles for their children in the hope that an American maapilai or London maatuponnu materialises from BM. The umpteen email reminders that keep coming in to the inbox despite unsubscribing, profiles that have chosen to reject you, again appearing in matches list; the comedy of errors never seems to end.

As I sit wondering what next after a long meeting at the bank for some corrections and complications in an existing loan account, I ruminate on the absolute hopelessness of everything. The novel – the magnum opus, the masterpiece, will never get written, the dull monotony of daily existence and ticking of boxes to meet the standards set by society and family will never change. This pointless ranting and writing on a free blog continues unabated. Other than having generous oodles of fat adding layers on to my already drunken boxer physique, the hair on the head is having a surprising outpouring of silver streaks, the stooping scarecrow like posture stoops further as I turn into a veritable hunchback from some old B-grade horror flick. No way is this A to Z challenge going to finish on time.

Till we meet again – yaedadhu ponnu irundha paathu sollunga ba!!

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A for Ashwatthama – A to Z Challenge

shikhandi-arjun-ashwathama_dialogue

Image Courtesy – Mrinal Rai

‘The Mahabharata’ for me ranks higher than ‘The Ramayana’ for the examination of the psyche of a multitude characters and how hubris destroys two clans despite the Lord Incarnate himself being on the side of a clan of warriors.

This year the ‘A to Z Challenge’ again decides to wake me up from my self-imposed exile from ‘Teerthadanam’. The past couple of years have seen me go from bad to worse, as the actual circle of people whom I counted to be my friends kept decreasing. With back-stabbing, rumour-mongering, and character assassination the order of the day; somewhere I have lost the ability to trust anyone. OK as always, I meander hopelessly. No further distractions, let’s start with Ashwatthama.

Ashwatthama, the son of the great warrior and guru Dronacharya and his wife Kripa. Growing up in extreme poverty his life changes once Drona becomes the guru of the Panadava and the Kaurava princes and Ashwatthama trains along with the princes.

Ashwatthama was born with a gem in his forehead and he is considered as an incarnation of Lord Shiva and is a Chiranjeevi — an immortal. Despite all the great warriors, it is believed that no one can defeat Ashwatthama. This is in fact proved by Krishna’s cunning act of making Drona believe that his son is dead when they kill the elephant Ashwatthama and conveying the half-truth to Drona that leads to his death of a broken heart as he decides not to retaliate in war and is killed.

Ashwatthama’s rage and fury is not contained and he slaughters as many soldiers from the Pandava camp as possible. His act of directing the Brahmashirsha astra at the pregnant Utthara’s womb invites Krishna’s rage. Krishna curses him that he will roam the forests and mountains for 3,000 years with blood an pus oozing out of his injuries and no mortal coming to his care.

Up in the northern plains it is believed that the immortal still travels seeking some form of redemption or the other. Once in a while, news-reports in dubious local newspapers list the spotting of a strange man with a bleeding forehead. We will never know the truth, but just think, a man who had no business of fighting a war between two warring clans, inevitably gets pulled as his father is the commander in one of the armies and he fights a hopeless war, despite everyone knowing that the Lord – Krishna would deliver victory for the Pandavas.

I sometimes wonder, how this life has played out so far… perhaps, I too shall end up like a nomad, a pointless bhikshu, wandering, seeking a purpose for this existence…Only time will tell..

What Defines a Literary Classic? Thoughts on One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is considered as a seminal masterpiece and is unanimously accepted as the author’s greatest accomplishment. I will be honest, I have not read the book in all these years, despite being a student of Literature and spending generous amounts of money on all kinds of books, year-on-year, once I started earning regularly.

First, how the book found me. So brother Karthikeyan Santhanam landed in India to renew his visa. We decided to meet and Ampa Skywalk was equidistant and an ideal spot. The Annual Landmark Sale was to begin, I continue to hold the Landmark card and was shopping looking for spectacular books in the 70% off and 50% off sections. KS walked in and he held the book in hand asking ‘Have you read it?’ I nodded my head in the negative and next thing I know I have the book in hand as a New Year Gift. Thank you Karthi :).

Now back to the book! This is essentially a tale of a man, his wife, the man’s levels of insanity, the woman’s courage and faith, war, famine, gypsies, love, hatred, death, infidelity, incest, revolutions, science, progress, and evolution that’s spread across seven generations.

See this picture to understand the primary characters in the book.

The book is not exactly an easy-read, way too many characters, different names, lots of things happening, idle ramblings, purported metaphysical thoughts and love, lust, sex and anger in ample measure.

The magical realism aspect seems to be forced. The book was published in 1967 and perhaps would have been a testimony of the strange times then. Reading the book now, it seems to be a laborious task.

How does a book become a masterpiece? Sales-numbers? Quality of Prose/Poetry? Characters and Settings? Marketing? Or a heady mix of all the above? If you are suffering from insomnia, read this book, either you will get a headache and continue to make sense of the chaos unfolding or you will fall asleep.

Velaikkaran(2017) – The Worker – A Test of Patience

The glowing reviews by a lot of my friends, senior reviewers, and general hype created around the movie made me think this was going to be a cracker of a film. In the case of ‘Aruvi’ there were polarizing views but here everyone was praising the movie.

Year-ends are usually a day to catch up with friends and watch a movie. So legendary Instagrammer and travel junkie Deepanarayanan – chaps it is a guy not a girl named Deepa Narayanan – before you get any ideas 🙂 sent a booking SMS.

Reached the theatre after an adventurous bike-ride as my charioteer – Krishnan – BP to me being Arjuna (mudiyalai yaenaake kandraviya iruuku ) as I held my phone to follow Google Maps pillion-riding through a relatively free road to reach Abirami Mega Mall.

Dr. Sai the Dr. Strange of our group a neuro-surgeon with a mind-blowing humour sense -and Prince Deepu were humming to a ‘galeej’ number tuned by Annirudh that was a cacophonic assault to the auditory nerves.

So Vyasarpadi and its surroundings is the gangland-badland of Chennai city controlled by Kashi (Prakash Raj) – Arivu (Shivakarthikeyan) sets up a community radio highlighting the happenings in the community and aims to help people come out of a life of crime.

As a web of incidents unfold he ends up joining Saffron a food consumables leader as a sales executive. The interview sequence is well done. Aadhi/Adhiban Madhav played by Fahadh Faasil does a good job, though I really think he deserved a better deal.

The movie seeks to highlight the high level of corruption and malpractices in the packaged foods industry. Essentially we see how over a course of three months a lady gets cancer by eating junk foods. A lot of twists and turns abound as we see see how the hero turns saviour and victor.

I yawned about eight times during the movie – dialogue, dialogue dull dialogue and characters that made me laugh (I am turning cynical perhaps). Marketing and Sales lessons from MBA class get an outlet on the big screen. Throw in red flags, throw in some Communist / pseudo-Communist hogwash, get people to flash their mobile flashlights and hero and heroine hug each other. Plus Nayanthara playing Mrinalinee is reduced to second fiddle here. Too many characters seem to have got a raw deal here in this movie. Wikipedia says there’s a 195 minutes Director’s Cut. God save us!

 

What Will Give You Happiness?

 

This question was posed by a friend to me a couple of days ago. Without batting an eyelid I said – “If Amma, gets seven hours of uninterrupted sleep every night, that will suffice.” He replied, – “But Mahesh, that is not in your hands right?”

I replied – “But that’s my biggest worry and concern at the moment.” He replied – “Mahesh, we are all in our wormhole of problems, wherein the health issues that our loved ones face impact our own focus. Even my Amma has a severe problem of the swelling of her feet and nerves, I can’t do anything about it other than advising her to follow the course of medicine prescribed by the doctor.”

His reply set me thinking, what would then really give me happiness:

1 – Getting the home loan paid in totality. (A long road ahead of about 14 years beckons)
2 – A song that amplifies my thoughts –

3 – One more: –

What will I be remembered for? What will you be remembered for? What is it that will give you happiness? How does the health of our loved ones impact our own choices and lives?

I type out this post as I see my mother lying with her eyes deeply shut trying to zone out the pain that afflicts her head and ears. We visited the ENT specialist, she says the eardrums have holes in both ears and there’s nothing more to be done. No moisture to go in, no cold to afflict and no buds. It’s been less than a fortnight at a new organization, but the patterns return, again an unplanned leave, again a vortex of hospitals, doctors, medicines and cutting a sorry-figure before those whom I report to – an endless stream of thoughts that boil down to the query – “What will give you happiness?”

I can at this point counter with a thought – Why is it important to derive happiness, why can’t just one remain – and why is sadness and pain such a big deterrent? Pain drives one in strange ways, it teaches you to believe that things can’t turn any bitter.

But it is this pain that when it afflicts a loved one that causes added misery. If only I could take all her pain and struggles and absorb them within my own realm. If only I could, if only….

I resign myself to the master: –

Theeran Adhigaram Ondru – Theeran Chapter One – A Riveting Cop-Tale

A gritty cop-tale without the trappings of commercial excesses is a rarity and the movies that come to my mind include:

Ardh Satya

Droh Kaal remade in Tamizh as Kurudhi Punal with Kamal and Arjun

Crime File in Malayalam based on the real case of the murder of a nun in a monastery

Kaakha Kaakha and Vettaiyadu Vilaiyadu by Gautham Menon did a fair job but still had the song and dance routine in them. I am not going to speak about the Singham series as Hari and Suriya tested hearing capabilities with all the loud shouting though they were full paisa vasool hits.

Wednesday and Special 26 are other movies that come to my mind.

Last year, a debutante won the hearts and minds of viewers with Dhruvangal-16 that brought the good, old-school police-procedural to Tamil cinema.

As always, I deviate from the core topic, Karthi’s ‘Theeran Adhigaram Ondru’ made me sit up with its excellent trailer that spoke about a true-crime inspiration.

The actual case detail is listed here:

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/operation-bawariaon-silver-screen-now/article20493784.ece

The movie has to cater to the needs of bringing in all categories of audiences and thus includes a cutesy romantic track between Karthi and Rakul. Then the movie hits the right gears. The story is about daring dacoities and murders perpetuated in farmhouses away from main cities across Tamil Nadu, especially in Thiruvallur District. As Karthi tries to uncover the case, some startling facts emerge that takes the investigative team across India.

Kudos to the director for doing his research and presenting a quick animated sequence about the Bawaria community.

Ten minutes before the interval starts the movie in its true sense and it is one thrilling ride till the end credits roll as Karthi, Bose Venkat and the remaining officers in the investigative team track down Oma and his gang of dacoits.

There is a sequence where the cops chase a dacoit on a bus. The dacoit jumps from one bus to another and is caught as he holds onto a rope and the cops hold him as the buses run on high speeds across the desert. There is a final shootout as well in a remote village that has been really well done.

Ghibran’s background score seems to be a bit too loud as in quite a few sequences the dialogue was not audible. It could be the theatre’s poor sound effects, so perhaps I could be wrong.

Do watch this movie, action-sequences itself are worth the price of admission and Abhimanyu Singh as the leader of the dacoits – Oma is menacing. Special congrats to the stunt coordinators as well.

Go watch it 🙂

Mukti Bhavan – In Search of Salvation

Mukti Bhavan and Masaan – now make companion pieces of sorts – Varanasi and the River Ganga playing a major role in both movies.

Mukti Bhavan titled Hotel Salvation for international releases is a powerful, poignant and bitter-sweet tale of the patriarch of a middle-class family and his relationship with his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter in his quest for salvation.

In Varanasi/Benares/Kashi – remains a hotel called Mukti Bhavan where those who seek their final journey find an abode. Our lead character Daya played by Lalit Behl is a 77-year old man who has lived a life, well-spent, he sees a dream that foretells his death and he decides to leave for Varanasi to spend his last days. His son Rajiv played brilliantly by Adil Hussain seems to work in some kind of bank or investment firm and is seen chasing sales targets. Rajiv’s wife Lata played by Gitanjali Kulkarni and daughter Sunitha played by the elegant Palomi Ghosh also add to the perfect portrayal of the slightly upper middle-class family structure. They own a car as well as a Bajaj scooter.

Rajiv manages to secure a fortnight’s leave and accompanies Daya to Varanasi and they check-in to Mukti Bhavan. The caretaker Mishra ji is  played by Anil K. Rastogi who has some brilliant lines – “Death is a process.” “The souls here reside within the body. Once the body dies what purpose does the soul serve here.”

At one juncture, Daya falls sick and everyone feels he will die. An elderly lady at Mukti Bhavan played by Navinidra Behl adds grace and charm to the tale, she quips – ‘I have been waiting all my life here to die.” Daya apologises to his son for scuttling his son’s talents and dreams of being a poet. Some real good father-son scenes and I am sure a lot of us guys will relate to these scenes. Daya survives, Latha and Sunitha also make a surprise visit. The 15 day period comes to an end and the caretaker says – ‘Register in a new name and continue to wait for salvation.’

Daya finds a friend and companion in Vimala, then Vimala dies and Daya narrates a moving obituary that he has written for her. Daya advises Rajiv to return to his regular life.

Do watch this movie to figure out what happens to Daya.

At times, amidst all the drivel and leave your ‘mind at home’ cinema that all the woods bombard us with – small little gems like these arrive and make us fall in love with cinema and real characters. By the time the movie ended, I was quite emotional, been some time since I cried after watching a movie; Mukti Bhavan makes me think a lot. My obsession with death, salvation and redemption continue. There are no answers, neither are there any new questions. Celebrate death, embrace it, that which needs to happen will happen.

Full marks to director – Subhashish Bhutiani for an assured, confident and meaningful debut.