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.