Sunday, November 30, 2008

Terror strikes-yet again

Enough and perhaps more that what is necessary has already been said and seen on the 60 hour terror-hostage drama. To see Mumbai, the financial capital of our country being held to ransom was extremely saddening. The modus operandi of the terrorists is a rudewake up call to our lax security system.
A huge salute to our security forces for having done such a wonderful job in such a grave and delicate situation. The fact that the lives of hundreds of innocent people were at stake made their task all the more difficult. Now that the unfortunate drama has ended, it does raise a few compelling questions.
The ridiculous failure of our intelligence is of serious concern. While Mr. Ratan Tata, in an interview to CNN has said that there was some intelligence reports to suggest that the five star hotels could be terror targets, the Maharashtra Government has been adamant in saying there was none. The insensitive comments by the Maharahtra home minister RR Patil added salt to the wound and I am pretty sure he has positioned himself in the line of fire, what with elections due in October 2009. The lack of sensitivity is appalling, RR Patil's comments is just the beginning. More politicizing is certain to continue with each party trying to gain maximum political mileage. The BJP's ad campaign in Delhi, on Thursday is proof enough.
Politicians have begun the blame game and the Congress in a desperate attempt to salvage some pride, has sent Shivraj Patil to the slaughter house. If media reports are to be believed, Vilasrao Deshmukh is next in line, his visit to the Taj with his actor son Ritesh and film director Ram Gopal Verma also drawing a lot of flak. These political gimmicks are a must given that this is the election season. With Delhi all set to go, the Congress is desperate to stop the slide at least in the general elections which are due in May next year and is hoping a few 'tough' measures such as these would make things better.
To those reporters who were present at those places bringing us minute by minute updates, hats off. Sensational reporting is the order of the day. I would have personally liked the media to have been more responsible and restrained. A few incidents which put me off:
1. It was originally reported to be a 'gang war' due to a 'drug deal gone sour' and 'Nigerians were allegedly behind it all'.
2. The manner in which the reporter at the TV station wanted to extract all possible information about terrorists and the fire from a guy who was stuck inside the Taj was insensitive.(he was on phone with the news channel)
3. At one point, breaking news read 'First blasts after Obama's victory'. Can it get more ridiculous than this??
4. While I appreciate Narendra Modi's rather bold initiative to visit the Oberoi (though he could have waited for the situation to come under control), the fact that he called Hemant Karkare a hero was blown into a 'breaking news item' because of the fact that he had called him a 'villain' a few days ago. (At the same time it was immature and inopportune of Modi to have ridiculed the PM's speech to the Nation, though I would have to agree with him on this.)
5. Even as the operations were going on, there was a breaking news which read, 'Fresh gun shots heard in CST'. More caution and restraint should have been exercised. (Later, Rajdeep Sardesai apologized for providing wrong information.)
6.At one point of time, the media was giving live commentary on what was happening (especially at Nariman House when Operation Black Tornado had just started) akin to a cricket match little realizing that this could be potential input to the terrorist. In this age of 'Blackberry and Internet', to use a term coined by the media, it was unintelligent and almost laughable when they defended their stupidity by saying power was cut off to Nariman House.
7.Panelists for a discussion on the issue (on CNN-IBN) included, Mrs Vinod Khanna, Rahul Dholakia, Mahesh Butt, and two relatively unknown people one each from the Congress and the BJP. Common now, please get serious!!!

In the larger context of the issue, it is time we pull up our socks. It is not enough if our politicians make the right noises, often they just pale out as time passes. Given the number of attacks in our country the past few years, it almost seems that terrorists can strike at will. With public sentiment hugely against political gimmicks, in the best interest of our country and our people, our politicians should drop the religious rhetoric, come to a consensus and evolve a concrete strategy to counter and prevent any more such attacks from happening in the future. This may just be wishful thinking, but lets hope for the best.

PS. If you click on the links which take you to 'youtube', note the extremely strong religious flavour in the annotations and other videos-deeply worrying indeed.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Vaaranam Aayiram- Surya wasted


"Cooum Dump" screamed a review. Well, one has to appreciate my belief in Gautham even after reading such a review when I decided to spend the night before my mid-term exam on a 17 mile 'expedition' to the theatre which cost me 14$ (=650 Rs).
Gautham has tried to incorporate so many themes in the film that I would like to pen them down before I forget.
1. father-son relationship
2. love story(ies)
3. smoking and cancer
4. love failure
5. drug addiction
6. terrorism
7. police-mafia nexus
8. life of an army man
9. inter-caste love marriage
10. mass heroism (a little)
I am pretty sure, I have missed out on at least a few things.
The film starts of on a very similar note, just like Thavamai Thavamirunthu wherein the son relives the happy and sad moments of his life spent with his parents. The entire movie is in the flashback mode and the single winner in this mammoth effort is Surya and Surya alone. The work he has put in for this movie is tremendous and it is a pity that none of the technicians and the script itself did not back him.
Direction-Story-Dialogue-.... : Well, Gautham is better off giving sequels, prequels and variants of Kakha Kakha. A loosely strung together set of events with more intent on showing Surya in different costumes is what he manages this time around. Dialogues are childish and the generous dose of English (at the most annoying of times) makes it look very artificial. The scene at Surya's American visa interview is a classic example. I am not sure if anyone can actually relate to the happenings in the film. They are not only far fetched but look like a futile exercise in the end.
Music: I am not a big Harris Jeyaraj fan, but this has to rank amongst his worst thus far. The background score is so pathetic that it makes you wince sometimes. The songs are hummable, but they have to suit the situation first. What Harris has managed casts serious doubts on his ability to produce anything different as far as songs and their tunes go. "Mundhinam Parthen" is a song set in the 80's!!! Can you believe it???
Cinematography: The visuals are plain and I am sure that was the intention. San Fransisco has been captured beautifully, but apart from that nothing spectacular.
Art Direction: Some sets look very artificial, some are really good though. There again, I am not sure Rajeevan had too much work in the movie except for being the heroines dad!!
Costume and Make-up: The second place has to go to the costume designer. Surya looks handsome and smart in all costumes. The costumes for the flash back set in the 80's are gaudy and over the top, but the exaggeration makes it enjoyable to watch.
With Surya doing most of the hard work, the make-up team would not have faced a very difficult task. The only challenge would have been the old age Surya and Simran. The make up for Surya in his old age was good most of the times, though the wig was a huge let down. Simran looks so old that making her look young would have been a far greater challenge, one in which the team fails miserably.
I had great expectations for the movie but unfortunately it turned out to be a damp squib. I am still keeping my expectations high for Varnam Ayiram, directed by Ram Bala for Lollu Sabha- this must be one of the easiest scripts for the team.
PS a)The fact that Sameera Reddy is from CS dept. of REC Trichy and manages to go to UC Berkely is another comedy altogether!!!
b) Why did Surya work out so hard?? I hope its for his upcoming movie.
c) What was all the hype for??
d) If the theatre I went is anything to go by, Satyam Cinemas has to rank as amongst the best.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A PRINCEly farewell!!

Saurav Ganguly-this name could evoke a wide range of emotions. No one can probably script a better climax to his career than Ganguly has. Invariably, most players go out at a time when they are done and out or when they are not at the peak of their game. Call it what you want, VRS scheme or whatever, Ganguly could not have a chosen a more appropriate stage and place to hang up his boots. He is going out on a high, when people think that he needs to be there for a little longer. The VRS thing, a brain child of the rumour mongers, has shown the BCCI in very poor light, thanks to Ganguly.!!
His raise has been the typical rags-riches story, worthy of being made into a Bollywood potboiler. When he was picked for the England tour in 1996, his selection was attributed more to the “quota” thing for the east zone. With the technical shortcomings in his game, most pundits did not give him a slight chance even to play for India on a consistent basis, let alone captain it.
“On the off side there is God and then Ganguly”, coming from Sachin says it all. He is among the finest players of spin the game has seen, never afraid of using his feet against them. His opening partnerships with Sachin is something no cricket fan can afford forget. One of my favourite Ganguly knocks would certainly have to be his 183 against Sri Lanka at Taunton. It was a very special knock, the size of the ground notwithstanding. His century at Brisbane in the 2003 series is another of my favourites. It was a very critical knock not merely in the context of the match, but more importantly, it set the tone for the series. The rivalry he had with Steve Waugh, another doughty customer like himself will always find place in the history books of the Border-Gavaskar trophy.
He is a person of immense character, his come back into the side is proof enough of his mental make up. He has been more suave in his conduct and has often stymied his aggressive instinct to play responsible knocks in his second innings. His last test against Australia at Nagpur, was also very interesting-a very strokeful half century in the first innings and a golden duck in the second-so typical of the maverick he is. That Australia had just Jason Krejza as their lead spinner did not help them too much, as Ganguly effortlessly dismissed him with disdain. He is too good to be troubled by a rookie offspinner. Ironically, it was Krejza who consumed him in his final innings!! Also, that Ganguly led for the final winning moments of the match made it extremely special-a fitting farewell indeed.
He was arrogant and outspoken-the very un-Indian qualities which made him the most successful captain for India. His aggressive captaincy was hard to resist and realize not just on the field, but also off it. The shirt waving incident at Lord's, his counter attack on Steve Waugh are classic examples of Ganguly's aggressive nature. As a captain, his ability to spot talent was extraordinary. Harbhajan, Yuvraj, Zaheer, Pathan-all came off age under him. He had absolute belief in his boys and thats probably a reason why many youngsters did exceedingly well when he was at the helm. His single most important contribution to Indian cricket has to be the aggression he brought into the team.Ganguly is loved by so many for the same reason he is disliked by others. It is a cliche to say “Love him or hate him, you can't ignore him” but I think it suits Ganguly better than anybody else.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Anil Kumble-A tribute

I could never imagine an Indian team without Kumble, I still cannot. India have to do without their stock and strike bowler in tests from now on. I am sure most people wouldn't read too much into Mishra's almost sensational debut and for him to fit into Jumbo's shoes would not only take a long time, but also a large heart. Indians in general and Indian cricket in particular have never celebrated quiet heroes, Kumble and Laxman are classic examples. They have always been under the scanner and have invariably proved their critics wrong, time and again.
No cricket fan can forget that day in 2002, when he came back with a jaw injury to get the wicket of Brian Lara, clean bowled. His last test was no exception. He came onto bowl after having 11 stitches on his left index finger. His last wicket is testament to his commitment and work ethic. He took a brilliant catch, running backwards and in his joy (and fury) slammed the ball on the ground. He had shouted at Mishra for not putting in 100% only the previous delivery, so typical of Kumble.
Never have I seen Kumble sledging at batsmen, the ball did all the talking for him.
Towards the end of his career, many batsmen had analysed him really well and age also had taken its toll. The sliders were no longer as venomous as they used to be. (These deliveries got him most of his wickets and if I am right, he has the maximum number of leg before dismissals in Test cricket.) That could be a reason for his poor showing in the last one year. He has played 14 tests in the last year and has taken 53 wickets at 39 runs a piece, a remarkably high average.
I feel saddened by Kumble's exit, even more than Saurav's. Part of the reason is due to the fact that I would have liked Kumble to go out on a high. Saurav is also a great in his own right and the fighter he is, just like Kumble, he has been very lucky to go out on a high. (Hope he does well at Nagpur).
Kumble's biggest moment, apart from the 10 wicket haul at Delhi, would have to be his century against England at Oval. It was a typically dogged innings, with flashes of aggression through out. The shot which took him to his century was an inside edge, missed by the keeper, when Kumble gave the charge to Pieterson. Lady luck smiled on him and his wish to make a test century was at last fulfilled.
As a bowler, he is most remembered for his 10 wicket haul against Pakistan at the Kotla. Srinath trying desperately not to get a wicket and Akram being pouched at forward short leg by Laxman to give Kumble his 10 will forever be etched in our memories. His critics (cynics) though would always maintain that he owed at least a couple of those to Jayaprkash.
Kumble's retirement is a big challenge for the next captain and team management, for they will no longer have a bowler who could bowl over after over tirelessly. It is perhaps a bigger challenge than what Indian cricket faced after Kapil Dev's retirement for, by then Kumble had truly emerged as a match winner by then.(Ironically,Kapil Dev, another Indian great also had a very similar exit. He had 14 wickets from his last 7 test matches. )
The best parting gift his successor can give to Jumbo would be the Border-Gavaskar trophy itself and if possible with a win at Nagpur.
I just hope that his critics don't attribute his decison to call it quits to Mishra's rise. It is not only being grossly unfair, but also very premature.
My salute to the Jumbo!!!!

Saturday, October 18, 2008


There are enough distractions to take the spotlight away from cricket this time around-what with Ganguly's retirement, talks about the Fab-four and of course Sachin's land mark feat.
But, a grave issue confronting India is the form of Anil Kumble. He has looked very pedestrian in the last few series and showed no indications of returning to form in the first test. His average has risen dangerously close to 30.00 and by almost a point since the beginning of 2008.
Picking up new batsmen, debutantes, tail enders, used to come naturally to Kumble and unfortunately for India, Kumble and the viewer, this quality seems to have deserted him, hopefully for the time being.
Very uncharacteristically, he was bowling to much on the pads of the batsmen and the likes of Watson, Haddin and White (who used to be his "staple diet" in his prime) had an easy outing against him. He was not very economical as well and that is also a huge cause for concern since he is also a stock bowler for India.
His captaincy has drawn a lot of flak from experts. From what little I saw of the first test, it appeared as though he was being very defensive and unimaginative, much like Rahul Dravid. For a short time, when Dhoni was leading, on the fourth day, suddenly there was a buzz all over the stadium and always looked like something was going to happen. Ponting's dismissal in the second innings is a classic case in point. As soon as Kumble came back, field placing was very conservative (on a dead track) and there was never a moment again when it seemed the bowling was on top. He delayed his introduction into the attack too much (after he had to wait for not being on the field). He never troubled the Aussie batsmen one bit and looked to contain more than picking up wickets, which he did not.
With what may well be his swan song, I just hope Kumble comes back strongly at his favourite ground. He wouldn't want to go on a low (and I certainly don't) after serving the country so well.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Vidaathu Karuppu :(

Life in the US is already getting a little too fast for me. What with 3 assignments to submit every week, and the the worst part is that I have to do them all alone ! "Get up-take bath-have break fast-go to class-have lunch-do assignments-cook-eat-sleep", is what pretty much makes up my routine and it doesn't take an Einstein to figure out that it's a boring routine to have.
But, amidst the dull monotony an interesting thing happened this weekend. I was on a call with home and was taking a walk on a bright Sunday evening. I was just a few blocks away from my house.
I was happily chatting away on the phone and hence didn't realize that a car had pulled up right next me. A couple of guys walked out of the car and approached me. One from behind (B1) and the other from the side(B2). When B1 was a couple of feet away from me, he told me (in a 'soft' voice) not to run. Instinctively I just took off and B2 followed me. Thanks to Ruby Cup and the cricket playing culture at NITT, I quite 'easily' managed to outrun B2!!!
With my house only a few blocks away (luckily!!), I manged to enter the "safe" zone very quickly and even before I could enter my compound, I could see the guys speed off in their car ( a Volkswagen Jetta!!) shouting out at me.
They must have been furious with themselves for having missed out on a nice gold chain and a mobile phone. And what must have added insult to injury is the fact that I managed to outrun them!!
(I guess the title is explanatory)
[ Pivot animation source : ]

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A few we(A)eks in the US

It has been about twenty days since I landed in LA and my experiences thus far have been a mixed bag. One of the high points, ever since I stepped out of my home at Aminjikarai ,was perhaps meeting Rajini, though merely by chance, on my flight from Chennai to Hong Kong. I am still ruing over a missed opportunity to pose along side the Super Star. We 'spoke' about Kuselan at my insistence for about 30 seconds and I was forced to leave the place.
Apart from that, most of the excitement has actually stemmed from multiplying numbers on the price tags of items by 43 and correlating it with the rates back home-Madras nalla Madras!! :(. I got my first shock when I came to my University from the airport by a car pool (unknown people or friends sharing a car) and ended up paying 800 Rs- may be the 'good words' of the umpteen auto men I have haggled with in Chennai were taking effect. US can actually turn out to be a very funny place, at least for people from India. A kilo of very mediocre quality of rice may be about 40 Rs, while better quality rice could be priced as high as 160 Rs and this is just a sample.
Most Americans are least bothered about weight (look who's talking), that Mac Donald's and their ilk have a field day. Imagine a place where I could easily pass off as 'paiyyan justu konjam gundu' whereas back home, I would easily stand 'out' of a milling crowd. Standing next to, passing by gigantic figures is a very new and frightening experience for me as I am used to towering over people at home!!
A couple of things which I believe are more convenient in India than the US are probably cellular phone networks and transportation services. I still remember making fun of a close friend of mine, who said that BSNL had free incoming SMS facility!!! You may not believe me if I say incoming that even incoming messages are charged here (the good thing is that you won't have to read through the mokkai messages sent in advance for various occasions!). If incoming messages are going to be charged, calls are going to be no exception. This is something that is very hard to digest for me. (Missed call business won't work here!).
Regarding the public transportation, lesser said the better. It was during a trip (5 of us) to a near by temple that I realized this-can you tell me one place in India where the bus driver doesn't know the names of the stops or the routes?? It happened to me.
We got directions from google maps and got into a bus with the number as mentioned on the website. Unfortunately, we weren't very clear about the directions and as soon as we got in, we asked the driver for a particular stop. He didn't have any clue and worse still, he said that he didn't know their names and that his routine was to just take the straight road!!! We got down in the next stop and realized that the bus stop we were looking for was very next to the one in which we boarded the bus. So, we paid 5 $ (5x43=??) to come back to the place we started from!!!
Our return trip was even more eventful. Not to go out after dark is sort of a thumb rule in any down town location and LA is no exception being a very big city. We were probably waiting for about 30 minutes before the our bus came along. Most of us back in India would probably think that in the US every thing is very orderly and perfect etc. etc. and we were no exception and so we waited 'in' the stop. To our dismay, the bus didn't stop at the 'stop' and when it finally did, it had gone a good 200 feet away. Idea vaan, only people who want to disembark can. But, the 'Indianess' in us made us rush to the bus by instinct, only to see the driver operated door close on our faces. It was a rude shock for all of us. At least in India there is some lee way when the crowd gets unmanageable in the form of foot-board, getting in and out at every stop etc. There is simply no such thing here. We had the same set of events happening over and over again for about 5 times and in our desperation, we had walked a few bus stops away from where we started! The service is as such very sparse, one in 30 mins or so. I don't what kick they derive out of specifying the times of the arrival and departure of the buses to the second when they don't bother to stick to the schedule. With a population strength of only 40% of ours, and an infrastructure to boast off, I don't see any reason why it can't and shouldn't be better.
After an ordeal of sorts, we finally boarded the bus and reached our destination and it was about 9:30PM. They say LA is a city of nights, I really wonder why. I have been around for more than 2 weeks and to my best knowledge, it would be an extremely rare occurrence to find even few people on the streets after 8:00PM. Contrast it to our own Mumbai, Bangalore or Pondy Bazaar where, walking straight would need a lot of effort. Perhaps, the meaning of an active night life has a very different connotation here.
If you do come here expecting to witness car chases, stunt sequences etc., you might be as disappointed as a foreigner coming to India, expecting to see people singing, dancing and running around trees. Frankly speaking, I find LA is no better than a major city in India, though the country as whole is leagues ahead of us in terms of technology. The average Indian , getting off the flight and gaping at sky scrapers definitely a by gone era. I don't know how many would agree with me, but I feel that US is a completely different place if you do manage to have some money. If you don't, you are better off staying at home.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Kuselan-A review

Before I embark on a journey to the USA, I thought I should somehow watch Kuselan here in India. Not for any special reasons other than the fact that I am a Rajini fan and that tickets are way beyond what I can afford there in LA! I should say that I was a little disappointed at the way the subject was handled. It's a tale about friendship and from the way it has been packaged, it is very evident that the director, P Vasu has had a lot of trouble 'filling' it. The movie was completed in very quick time and the haphazard nature of the first half is indicative of it.
There is nothing in the first half to actually make the viewer sit up. But, you just can't doze off as you are sure to be woken up by the din created by Vadivelu and his skimpily clad wife! The 'laughability quotient' in Vadivelu's gimmicks have been on the decline and I hope Kuselan is his nadir-it can't and shouldn't get worse than this. I don't understand how this film managed a 'U' certificate with scenes in which he looks at his exercising wife out of the window, one in which he stares open mouthed at Nayanthara in her dressing room etc. There aren't too many positives to write home about in the first half.
The second half of the movie betters the first half quite easily due to the low standards set. Pasupathi excels throughout, though talk of this role as being his best is only laughable. Meena gives a neat performance, though her costumes could have been much better. Rajini has a role which demands emoting after a long time and shows glimpses of (what I believe) his untapped acting potential. The true Super star is brought to the fore in the 'movie inside movie' sequences. Ironically, with a whole battalion of comedians, the most comic one involves none of them-the conversation between Rajini and R. Sundarrajan is the best in the movie. The climax sequence is sure to bring tears to the eyes of the average viewer.
Graphics leave a lot to be desired-most are unwarranted and misplaced; dolphins diving in and out of a flowing river, in an otherwise realistic song picturization is an example.
'Cinema cinema' song is the best among the otherwise unnecessary song sequences.
On the whole, it is a movie which has a reasonably good story line in which commercial elements have been forcefully and clumsily added by the director. Cinematography by Arvind Krishna is very plain-nothing extraordinary akin to some of his previous movies like Kadhal Konden, 7G Rainbow Colony etc.
With the ingredients of a typical Rajini movie almost zilch, the saleability of the movie is a little doubtful. Lewd sequences and an unimpressive comedy track don't add much to the commercial value of the movie either. Nayanthara's glamour and most importantly, Rajini's image can only help bring smiles to the producers and distributors.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Isn't he smart?

With only a couple of days to go for the trust vote, the UPA managed to increase its tally by one more as the entire political fraternity is keeping its fingers crossed as to the eventual outcome.An interesting aside to the larger picture has emerged.
A couple of weeks ago, TR Baalu, in a television interview had said that he believed that Dayanidhi Maran would obey the whip issued by the DMK over the Nuclear Deal issue. All this while, it appeared as though there was something fishy going on and rumour mongers had a filed day speculating a split in the DMK.
Barely 48 hours before the all important day, Dayanidhi Maran has emerged stronger than ever. As usual, Sunday afternoon 2:30 means movie on Sun TV and this Sunday was no exception. As the credits rolled out and as I was waiting with bated breath for the "hero introduction", the screen went blank and when normalcy was regained, live pictures of a press conference addressed by Maran was being telecast. In a prepared statement read out to the press, he said that despite the shabby treatment meted out to him for the past 15 months, he has decided to obey the party high command and decided to vote with the UPA government in accordance to the whip issued by his party, the DMK.
The way in which his sentences were constructed spelt maturity and he did not lose a single opportunity to create sympathy in the minds of the people as he kept harping on "the shabby treatment", "that he is Murasoli Maran's son and hence an upbringing of political dignity", "that he is a follower of Arignar Anna's kadamai, ganniyam and kattupaadu"-would have made his grand father proud. This was followed by a brief question answer session. He answered questions ranging from "Azhagiri's role in the spilt" to "will you float your own party".
A likely sub theme of the press conference was about how he still couldn't fathom the real reason behind asking for his resignation, how committed he has been to the DMK throughout his life and how 'certain people' would not allow for a reconciliation to happen. He was not so subtle in conveying his views regarding his loyalty to the DMK. He said, in an apparent reference to Azhagiri, that he did not indulge in any kind of anti-party activities and did not plot to defeat a party candidate who happened to be a former speaker. The climax of his statement was his expression of thanks to leaders who had contacted him personally to seek his support. He thanked Sonia Gandhi, Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prnab Mukherjee, Laloo Prasad Yadav, Kamal Nath, Jairam Ramesh, Narayanasamy, Thangabaalu, Ahmed Patel, GK Vasan and when he had finished, a reporter asked if he was done or if he had left out anyone else. He replied by saying that if he had not mentioned the name of the leader he had in mind, it meant that the concerned leader had not contacted him-frankly, there couldn't have been a better climax and interestingly not a single DMK leader figured in that long list of names.
He appeared to be very sure of himself and seemed to know the names of the reporters by heart, which I believe is a huge positive attribute to any political leader. He was very composed during the press conference and patiently answered the questions , managing to intersperse them with a dash of humor as well.
To say that Sun TV also played a part in popularizing the party and spreading its ideology would be no exaggerating. The entire of schedule of the program meant that a lot of thought had gone into it. It started just after half past two, perhaps when most people are tuned in and ended just before it seemed to drag. The fact that it was telecast live on Sun TV would probably ensure that it reached a lot of living rooms immediately. Hard core supporters of the DMK and his political opponents alike, would agree upon the fact that Maran has played out his part beautifully, so much so that a neutral person would be forced to think that he has been wronged by his party. The press conference was yet another instance, and would have probably taken his detractors both within and outside his party by a huge surprise. The maturity with which he has tackled the entire issue has surprised me and I have a very strong hunch that he would have a more proactive role in the future-whether as a part of the same party or not, only time will tell.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A win-win situation

How often in history has Indian polity seen a Prime Minister who stands firm, not wilting under the pressure of his coalition partners? In an era where no single party enjoys brute force majority, like the days of Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi, decisions taken by the Government are bound to be influenced by the coalition partners and other parties supporting it. Perhaps, lesser mortals would have danced to the tunes of the coalition partners and then dismissed the gimmick off as a compulsion of 'coalition politics'. While Dr. Manmohan Singh's decison to go ahead with the Nuclear deal, in spite of widespread criticism, may be debatable, his resolve to stick to his stand is indeed positive and appreciable. With widespread accusations of the Government withholding some sensitive information regarding the deal, discussing the pros and cons of the deal here would only be a futile exercise.
His detractors, who have often ridiculed him for being a 'puppet PM' have been made to eat their words after this episode. The backing he has received from his party is truly commendable and this goes to show the respect (may not necessarily be popularity) he enjoys amongst the men who matter in his party. While most critics prognosticated a premature death for the Nuke deal or the Government, it has taken a lot of guts and mental toughness for the Government to go ahead to the IAEA, especially given the fact that the survival of the Government hinges largely on the support from the Left. Now, it seems that the elections would be held as per the schedule and to bring it to this, from a seemingly hopeless situation must have taken a lot of back office strategics. On the other hand, Prakash Karat, the new and young face of the Left front, would be proud of the fact that he has done all he could in his capacity, to forewarn and try prevent the Government from falling prey to America's designs. As soon as he realized that the Government was not too keen to budge, he rallied the entire Left front behind him and ensured they withdrew support immediately. This is a far cry from the 'empty threats only' image the Left enjoys, at least in some sections of the media. Ironically, he also does not enjoy a 'shrewd politician' image just like Dr. Singh. Interestingly, their predecessors, Harkishen Singh Surjeet and PV Narasimha Rao were known to be astute politicians who 'took' everybody possible along.
The coming weeks would be filled with intense political activity-hectic parleys among similar minded parties and possibly some 'horse trading' as well. The trust vote would be defining moment for both sides, especially with the victory margin certain to be in single digits and this single factor could propel 'trading' to astronomical amounts.
Pushing the 'darker' side of the arithmetic to the background, the victory, irrespective of the winner, would be remembered as the triumph of a man who stood by his principles.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


After having got my Visa, I am now at my Patti's place. There is a temple for Lord Balaji at a place called Chilkur, a half hour drive from Hyderabad. I was told that this temple was very famous among students going to the USA and many of them come here and do 108 Pradhakshanams after getting their Visas. (Actually, it seems that it is customary to do 11 before you appear for your Visa, and then come and do 108). I had to get up at 5:30 AM on a cold rainy day to get ready and ended up waiting for more than 45 minutes before my Patti's driver to come. It was about 7 when I reached the temple at Chilkur and I was a little amazed see the crowd that was already busy doing the Pradhakshanams.
It was as though the entire city had descended on this small town, you could find all sorts of people-young, old; slim, fat; dark, white; fit, unfit....and the Praharam was used for diverse purposes like running, jogging and sitting apart from doing the Pradhakshanams of course. Only then did I realize that the devotees who came to the temple were not confined to just the US goers and their kin. The rush at the temple for doing the Pradhakshanams was akin to our own Ranganathan Street during Deepavali times and I swear on GOD, this is not an exaggeration. The ground was a little slippery and hence I took care to land safely more so after I heard a thud when a girl slipped and fell quite miserably.(mind you I was clad in a dhothi!!) The Pradhakshanams were small no doubt, but the milling crowd made it impossible to move even remotely close to being free. It seemed as though I was surrounded by a barricade with a fat, slow moving woman in the front, a thin, brisk, young man looking for a 'gap' to get past me, a very vocal Bhaktha on my left, chanting Govindaaa Govindaaa GHOvindaa and a newly wed (not so sure!) couple to my right. It took me ages and some meticulous planning to break past this cavalcade, but my 'freedom' was short lived as I got myself into another of those formations!!
After a point of time, I couldn't continue to keep track of the number of Pradhakshanams, but just couldn't be done with it as I was under the watchful eyes of my Paatti. I saw a board in the temple which read-"Concentrate on GOD, not the numbers" and this gave my (count)enance a huge relief !! After doing a couple of rounds more, I just couldn't go on and as I moved to the place my Paatti was sitting, and as I neared the place, I could her in conversation with somebody on her cell phone. Just as I was about to tell her that only 10 more Pradhakshanams remained (when I had hardly done 30), I heard her tell my mother, who was on the line, that I could have completed only 50 by this time!!! I managed to convince her that I had finished 73 (the fact that its prime makes it a little more authentic, doesn't it??)!!!
This meant, I had to spend atleast another half an hour doing the Pradhakshanams but this time I made sure I did not get entangled in any 'Vyuhams', so to speak. I saw a guy sporting a bright red shirt and the reason it caught my attention, apart from the fact that it was bright, was the fact that it had something written on it. It read 'FCKU' and I started exploring the contents of what was written. Even if the missplet word was intended, it 'spelt Gulti' all over it as the 4 letter word hadn't been used even in 1 proper sense, let alone sentence and it brought back memories of the "Gultis at NITT" t-shirt!!
The crowd didn't thin even a bit and it was getting unmanageable now, atleast for me. Everyone around was chanting Govinda and it was only today that I knew that the chants could be variegated in meter and tune -a pleasant sweet sounding one(full of Bhakthi and josh), the one said with gritted teeth(this was when I bombarded into an old (not so) gentleman), the one that managed to come out in between laughter(a guy was sharing a joke with his son)!
Though I managed to miss the count for the number of Pradhakshanams I did, I did keep track of another count:-
Number of people who barged into me (knowingly or unknowingly) = 356
Number of people I dashed into unknowingly =479
Number of people who were caught unawares, when
I threw my weight around =173
After reading this blog, please don't dismiss me off as JUST ANOTHER atheist (pun not intended)!!
If you still mistake me for an atheist, 356, 479 and 173 add up to 1008 (now don't be so skeptical)-thats divine isn't it? OM NAMO NARAYANAYA!! ellam avan seyal.....
P.S I just came to know that the temple has an alias - 'VISA' BALAJI TEMPLE, CHILKUR !!!

Monday, June 16, 2008

What next?? (or should it be who)-contd.

Assuming the next assembly elections are conducted as scheduled, the ruling party, the DMK, irrespective of who leads it, has to contend with anti-incumbency. For reasons beyond my comprehension, the people of Tamil Nadu have not voted back a party in power for a second term again, in the last 20 years (this includes President's Rule two times). I still vividly remember Dr. Kalaignar addressing the press at Anna Arivalayam after a dismal showing in the 2001 assembly elections when he said he accepted the verdict of the people but could not understand why the tally plummeted to a mere 31 from a whopping 173 which the DMK had in the outgoing assembly. The AIADMK and Ms. Jayalalitha, who had been written off after the election debacle of 1996 staged a very strong comeback, increasing their tally from 4 in 1996 to 131 in 2001, and this after scores of cases had been filed against Ms. Jayalalitha for misusing Government machinery. As Dr. Kalaignar mentioned in that press briefing, perhaps the people of Tamil Nadu did have a very short memory. If these occurrences in the recent past are anything to go by, the AIADMK would give themselves a more than just a decent chance of coming back to power.
Post 1967, Tamil Nadu politics has been dominated by the DMK and the AIADMK to such a great extent that the national parties like the INC and BJP have been reduced to being even less than mere spectators. The INC's call to recreate Kamaraj rule continues to remain a mere dream with lack of unity in the local unit. The BJP has never had a significant presence in Tamil Nadu, and the leaders will fully well realize the necessity to side with one of the two of DMK and AIADMK. Though ideologically an alliance with the AIADMK may me more natural, a lot depends on how the verdict of the Lok Sabha turns out. So, with the national players almost out of the picture, the incumbents have to contend only with the regional parties.

(Why I have chosen to write this blog from the point of view of the DMK is because of two reasons
1. the title of the blog!!
2. i have found it a lot easier to write from the point of view of the ruling party!!)

I think it is unnecessary to talk about the small parties which have created little or no impact in elections thus far, either alone or as a part of an alliance, as I strongly believe it will remain the same in the next assembly elections also.
constituency, a The DMDK, led by actor turned politician Mr. Vijayakanth had a pretty good outing in the 2006 assembly elections garnering a vote share of about 8%, which is a remarkable performance on debut. In spite of having such a big vote share, the party ended up with just 1 seat as the votes were distributed across many regions. Mr. Vijayakanth's victory from the Vridhachalam constituency, a PMK stronghold speaks volumes about his popularity and it will be interesting to see how much of his personal charisma helps his party increase its tally this time. It might be a little too premature to comment either way on Mr. Sarathkumar's impact on the elections, but I am sure he would be extremely happy if he manages to win a few seats.
The PMK's relations have soured a little bit with the DMK in recent times and a major political rearrangement may be in the offing especially as the Lok Sabha elections close in. The PMK have traditionally done well in certain regions over a period of time and have a very solid and a safe vote bank.
The MDMK is a much weakened party these days with Mr. Vaiko having to contend with not only political setbacks, but also internal squabbles. I don't see the party severing ties with the AIADMK atleast in the near future. The recognition by the Election Commission of India that the faction led by Mr. Vaiko to be the original MDMK must have come as huge relief for him and his partymen. Given all the political compulsions, walking out of the DMK alliance over seat sharing could well be the biggest political plunder committed by Mr. Vaiko as it practically dented his image as a person with integrity and principles-a rarity these days in public life.
Atleast for now, only the AIADMK has the strength in its ranks to seriously challenge the DMK in an assembly election and vice-versa. The principal opponent of the DMK will be the AIADMK irrespective of how the other parties align themselves. As I said earlier, going by just the pattern, the AIADMK look set to have a good outing in the assembly elections. How much of an impact the Lok Sabha elections would have on the assembly elections remains to be seen. But, if the assembly elections witness a triangular fight, with the third party being the DMDK, we may have a hung assembly again. Both the DMK and the AIADMK would know very well that Mr. Vijayakanth's party is no weakling in the political arena, especially after an impressive showing in the previous assembly elections. The DMDK would look to campaign on the 'give us a chance and see for yourselves' platform and if it does have takers, we could have Mr. Vijayakanth taking an all new avatar-that of a kingmaker!!
As far as the future of the DMK goes, even though it has been controlled by one family and may continue to be in the future, the cadre based party that the DMK is, enables it to have prominent leaders with enviable election records in Mr. Anbazhagan, Mr. Arcot Veerasamy, Mr. Durai Murugan, Mr. Aladi Aruna, Mr. Kosi Mani, Mr. Ponmudi among others, in its ranks. While the absence of even a prominent, let alone strong second rung leadership in the AIADMK, which solely relies on the personal magnetism of Ms. Jayalalitha, might make things a little easier for the DMK's future leadership, the political acumen and personal appeal of Ms. Jayalalitha is something they will have to grapple with. A fully stabilized and strong DMDK only spells more trouble for the DMK.

(As I took a stroll in the road, a vernacular magazine had come up with an interesting headline-"Ayya moves closer to Amma and Puratchi Kalaignar moves closer to Kalaignar"- sensational journalism at its best for you!!)

Friday, June 13, 2008

What next?? (or should it be who)

Tamil Nadu's political scenario is at a very interesting juncture even though there are no assembly elections scheduled (immediately) and neither is a major rearrangement in the alliances imminent. More than the present, it is the future which intrigues me, more specifically the immediate future. It would provide a perfect setting for a political thriller and may be we can even expect to see a Iruvar-2 from Maniratnam. Only that, unlike in Iruvar, the sequel's story would be far more complex and the screenplay naturally more racy. Its not merely the fact that it is in the 'future' that makes it interesting, but the nature of Tamil Nadu politics that adds more flavor to the possibilities.
With the political retirement of Dr. Kalaignar not very far off, irrespective of whether it comes naturally or otherwise, the political future of the DMK and along with it that of Tamil Nadu is about to enter a very decisive phase. 'Who after Dr. Kalaignar' would perhaps be the most difficult question to answer at least for the moment and the answer I believe is not straight forward. I can still manage to think of a few possibilities each one more interesting than the other, but what finally happens could not only turn out be different but also, much much more interesting.
According to me, Mr. M.K Stalin starts off as firm favourite to lead the DMK, but his road to the 'coveted' chair could be extremely difficult and challenging. If due to some reason, he is not anointed as the next leader by Dr. Kalaignar, the going could get very tough, though he would still remain as my favourite to lead. Even if he is named as the heir by the man himself, things might only be marginally easier and much of the ease would be perhaps restricted to the psychological level. Mr. M.K Stalin might not enjoy wide spread acceptance immediately but I think he can pull it off. Perasiriyar, Mr. K Anbazhagan has also given Mr. Stalin the green signal. A few years ago, while addressing a public meeting, he said he had no doubts whatsoever about the fact that 'Thalapathi' would lead the DMK in a fair and just manner. He added that he did not have the same confidence on Dr. Kalaignar when he took over the reigns of the party from Mr. Annadurai way back in 1969. This statement coming from the 'clean face' of the party is a big shot in the arm for Mr. Stalin.
Knowing Dr. Kalaignar's deep sense of respect and affection for Perasiriyar, the possibility of Mr. Anbazhagan being named the next Chief Minister cannot be completely overlooked. This would happen only if Dr. Kalaignar decides to step down from the Chief Minister's post a year ahead of the assembly elections and pull off a Jyothi Basu act himself. I would not give even a smidgen of a chance, but it is a possibility nevertheless.
Even if we accept the fact that it would be Mr. Stalin after Dr. Kalaignar, the twists and turns that the sub-plot could have in store for us is mind boggling. The rise of Mr. Stalin has not been accepted with equanimity and grace by all in the party, specifically not by his brother Mr. M.K Azhagiri. While Mr. M.K Azhagiri is a force to reckon with in regions near Madurai, his influence and power is not very perceptible outside. This notwithstanding, Dr. Kalaignar would do nothing to enter the bad books of his elder son which was amply demonstrated even recently when the Maran brothers were not allowed to meet the Chief Minister to wish him on his birthday. Grapevine has it that this incident was a result of specific orders to Dr. Kalagnar from Mr. Azhagiri which 'fore bade' him to even meet the Maran brothers let alone exchange pleasantries.
Dr. Kalaignar is amongst the best brains on the political circuit in India at the moment and it wouldn't need an amateur to shed light on the political future of his family and the DMK, both of which are intertwined inseparably. I wouldn't imagine Mr. Azhagiri to take any drastic step even in the eventuality that Mr. Stalin comes to be the leader of the DMK with a definitive chance of being the Chief Minister some time in the future even if not immediately. But, Mr. Stalin's perceived closeness with the Maran family might affect the party adversely as it would certainly rub Mr. Azhagiri and his supporters on the wrong side. The wrath of Mr. Azhagiri would be the last thing Mr. Stalin would want to contend with especially immediately after taking over the reigns from his father. He would certainly acknowledge the fact that his brother is no push over and maintaining cordial relations with him would hold the party in good stead. Given that, the Maran brothers also wield considerable influence over the party and if vernacular magazines are to be believed, they have control over 45 MLA's in the current assembly.
The ascent to the throne may turn out to be easy for Mr. Stalin, but the road ahead is certainly not a bed of roses. If he is able to hold together and manage the party as well as his father did, given his adversaries, he would be a very happy man when his hey days are over.
The above story merely restricts itself to internal rivalries and problems, but on the political arena no opponents can be rubbished off. But, that's for another time.
As I complete this piece of 'scrawling' to flip through the day's newspaper, a headline reads "DMK to review ties with PMK" and with this, the very first sentence of this blog goes right out of the window, such is the ever changing nature of politics that makes it so interesting!!!

I have just joined the bandwagon!!

For reasons not stretching beyond good old sentiments, I would start off with a cliche- For a long time I have been wanting to write a blog and its only now that I have actually managed to create one.
This would just be a space for me to pen down my thoughts on topics which might interest me, though, I am tempted to see it merely as an opportunity to improve my writing skills, which got some stick at the hands of the GRE evaluators. (and may be I am just making you the guinea pig!!)
I would want to make it as interesting as possible, lets see how it shapes up. My blog would perhaps help me kill some time (and may be bore a (very) few readers!!) in what could be a solitary life in a distant land leaving behind the warmth and comforts of my home, in a couple of months from now. (Hope the visa officer is blessed with a pleasant disposition, at least when I go to him!!)

P.S About the web address, it was a word I found as a synonym for 'scribbling'(my original choice) on Word Web!!! I am adding this just to prevent 'bits' filling in as comments if at all they do!!!