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Category Archives: Entertainment

Closing Ceremony for the Golu games

Yes, today marks the culmination of 9 days of glorious (golu-rious) celebration in the Hindu calendar, aptly named Navaratri, meaning Nine Nights. While we have typically let other not-so-important priorities get in the way in past years and largely let this festival pass us by, we weren’t as successful this time. For reasons that were mostly made up and contrived, we decided to celebrate Golu this year after a reasonably long gap. 

Ironically, today is the 10th day of a Nine-day festival, called Vijayadasami (Vijaya – victorious, Dasami – 10th day) and that’s when the curtains come down on those Golu celebrations for the year. And for the record, its officially a festival for women, of women, and by women!

As I was putting the wraps on those dolls, I couldn’t help but wonder whether all of the effort that had gone into the Golu was truly worthwhile. I honestly think the event has lost its sheen, the celebrations have become passe. This time around, it was hardly a social event, which kinda defeats the whole purpose. There were folks trickling in every other day, but no real gathering as such. The Sundal, which is one of the few benefits that the guys get out of this event, has now just become boring! No, don’t get me wrong, its not like its gone down in taste or anything but expectations have gone up and the poor Sundal hasn’t kept up – even if it comes in a variety of shapes and sizes every day, it just doesn’t seem to cut it anymore for what has now become a greedy, International palate.

And to top it all off, the festival now has zero entertainment value for the vast majority of us. But despite all this, there is so much labor that goes into organizing the whole thing that it feels like you are hosting a Superbowl party every day for those nine days. Just 2 problems though: 1. There is no Superbowl and 2. No Chips and Salsa, or beer either. Sorry, this is still very much a religious, rich-in-traditions kinda gig, so we can’t have none of that.

But it wasn’t always like this. Looking back, I can recall times when the festival was actually a lot of fun. Clearly, it had to do with expectations back then when we were kids – pretty girls decked up in the finest traditional clothes, singing their hearts out for a bowl of Sundal and some freebies that got doled out provided the entertainment. Setting up the Golu itself used to be exciting, and you tried to get creative every year by weaving in the latest fad into your Valley of Dolls – sometimes it was a cricket stadium in town, or a fancy park, or the new Metro in town – basically, something folks could relate to. Yeah, that sure was a lot of fun! Simple expectations, Simple needs I guess?

In any case, I think the event needs some sprucing up, some spice added to the variety, and I am not talking about just the Sundal. Maybe they should consider having a theme for every night and have folks lend color to the theme.

A game night maybe? How cool would that be? Yeah, we have these dolls on these shelves etc, and you can take a good look at em, but really, lets get down to a nice round of Pictionary…or Taboo, if that suits your fancy? The food could use a face-lift too. Don’t get me wrong, Sundal is great and healthy and all that, but come on…in a world where are all frying our way to cholesterol hell, how can you not have some of those deep-fried bad boys? And throw some good dessert options for good measure. And they really should do something about the entertainment – maybe a Salsa night? Other variants? The ladies up north seem to have figured this out a long time ago – and thus was born the Garba.

So yeah, the southern cousins needs to act, and act quickly. The occasion is too good to pass up, and unless something is done, it’ll just wither away. And while they are at it, I hope they find some fun ways for the guys to get involved too, beyond just unpacking and packing dolls.

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Magic at Mohali!

Wow! What a fantastic Test match! It has been a really long time since India came back from the dead to win a game like they did today. The last time we had a comeback as impressive as this was back in 2001, also against the Aussies and spearheaded by the same here, VVS. Coincidence? I think not! The man has found it in him to dig deep, motivate himself and take us home, time and again. It was only recently in Colombo where Sri Lanka had us on the mat, and it took another special edition from Laxman to redeem things.

Yesterday, was a few notches higher on the difficulty scale though. When the scoreboard reads 124 for 8 and you have a fiery Australian attack to contend with, the target of 216 is more than just imposing; it is almost in the realm of impossibility – if you leave one crucial factor, the Laxman factor. The name is so appropriate – the man is so lax, he is deception personified. He caresses, he nudges, he glides, he glances…all with the grace and elegance of a Russian figure skater and yet with the precision and purpose of a surgeon wielding the knife, any innings of his is a delight to watch. And I won’t even begin to talk about the back spasms – the man pulled off what he did when his back was so bad that he needed to bat with a runner all through. Facing an Aussie onslaught for a few hours is bad enough – and when you have to take stance 79 times in the course of that four hours, bending back and forth, that is just a lot of punishment. It takes a great fighter to just endure that battle, so one can imagine what it would take to come out on top at the end.

Those of us that have had the good fortune to meet Laxman in real life, we know he’s a class act. He’s been consistently under-rated and under-appreciated, and ferried in and out of the team more times than anyone else I can recall despite arguable being one of India’s biggest match-winners – to his credit, he has taken it all in stride and never let it get him down. Having watched him practice at the St Johns facility in Marredpally, it is no surprise that success follows him. A terrific work-ethic and really strong motivation to perform at the highest levels, the effort and commitment that he puts into the game is nothing short of remarkable. No wonder he’s able to pull one out of the hat almost on demand – and we do seem to demand that kinda performance quite often when it comes to Laxman, don’t we?

In all that celebration, lets not forget Ishant either – and again, how appropriately named. I-Shan’t! Another one that was ruled out of the first innings because of injury, he played the knock of a lifetime in shouldering the load with Laxman. One statistic that will probably get forgotten is that he faced more balls than any other batsman in the Indian innings. For someone coming in at No 10, that’s an accomplishment in itself – and when you consider the circumstances in which he accomplished that, it speaks volumes of his poise, his confidence and his resolve. And lets not forget the inspired spell in the second innings to destroy the Aussie top order and set up the win to begin with. It would have been poetic justice had Ishant stayed till the end to finish it off, but he got us close enough and that makes him a match winner in my book. Way to go, Ishant!

This is the first time, by the way, in India’s history that we’ve won a test with just one wicket to. Don’t know about you, but that tells me that comebacks aren’t our biggest strength. In fact, we usually seem to be at the receiving end of those comebacks – especially against an Australian side that is known to never give up. So it sure was nice to see us give it back to them for a change. There is a lot of talk about how special this test match was, how it was one of the best ever played and how its going to revive Test cricket’s popularity – I wouldn’t quite go that far, but it certainly was a very special finish to a very special game, and one that made several peoples’ day yesterday. Go India and Go Laxman, success couldn’t come to a more deserving individual!

Endhiran, the movie!

So, after all the gruelling efforts to get tickets and the huge anticipation over the past several months, it was finally showtime! And here we were, assembled as a group, with 3 infants in tow, ready for the Superstar to enthrall us with yet another scintillating performance. After returning from the US a few years ago, this was the first time I was going to a Thalaivar movie this early after release – and it was very reassuring to see that nothing had changed. The sea of devoted fans, the excitement, the aura that only Rajni can lay claim to – everything was intact. This is possibly the one instance where you are excited to see and be in the midst of a mad rush of people – you actually enjoy the jostling and the haggling to get in and take your seat. What follows is more a commentary of our experience rather than a review, and I am going to make a conscious attempt to not be a spoiler here, for obvious reasons.

The movie had all the right things associated with it – Lord Rajnikanth himself, Director Shankar, Aishwarya Rai, Rahman’s music, Prabhu Deva, Raju Sundaram and Lawrence handling choreo, Danny Denzongpa playing the baddie (or so I thought before the movie). So how could it not be a blockbuster, right? It started off in style – the trademark sequence for Superstar’s credits kicking things off, except the fonts had been fashionably enhanced keeping with the Sci-fi, robotic theme. Yes, clearly we were off to a great start. But alas, as I was soon to find out, that was going to be one of the few high points in the movie for me. The first disappointment was Superstar’s entry – something that every loyal fan waits with bated breath for. Typically, its a bunch of idiot baddies that never seem to learn their lesson – they are robbing some old soul, misbehaving with a helpless lady or abusing some innocent kid – just what they do best, something of no good can possibly come. And just when you think its all over for the poor, defenseless victim, arrives His Highness in his inimitable style. The camera first focuses just on the feet and gradually brings into view the magnificence that is the Superstar. A couple of punch lines later, he quickly and effortlessly goes about meting out justice and restoring order – acrobatic stunts, flying bodies flung around with little or preferably no effort and the baddies are quickly sent packing. Rajni simply smiles and breaks out into a fast-beat number, with absolutely ridiculous dance steps that only he can pull off and come away looking simply awesome. If your body was not swinging into action and almost joining the fight with Thalaivar (not that he ever needs any help), or if your feet weren’t tapping to the music that followed and the rest of gradually breaking out into the dance moves, then you have simply failed the Fan test! This time around though, there was none of that – it was simply Rajni, a scientist, sitting inside a lab and tapping some keys on his keyboard and testing out his robotic creation. How lame was that? Sadly, it was a sign of things to come – it didn’t get much better from there on for me.

The movie had none of the things you expect from a Rajni movie – for starters, absolutely no Rajni-like fight sequences in the movie. The sequence in the train where the robotic Rajni fights was a poor replacement and you can never get it out of your head that it is actually a robot that’s doing the fighting. So its almost natural that you expect the robot to not be able to lose – of course, the same can be said of Rajni in the middle of a fight as well, but the human element does make a difference. At least in my head, it does. The comic thread – its yet another big reason why I am excited to go to watch his movies, the man is incredibly funny! His sense of humor is constantly understated but is most certainly there and shows up at all the right moments. Absolutely none of that either this time, and the only reactions that the two clowns that were specifically included in the cast as comedians, Santhanam and Karunas, evoked were disgust and irritation. They were laughable, and no, I am not taking about their comic abilities. I am really talking about their lame attempts to be funny. Rahman’s music was very ordinary and the songs hardly impressive – of course, the lyrics didn’t help much either. Describing Aish’s eyes as Bermuda Triangles because you could get lost in them? Seriously? Come on! Aishwarya Rai was beautiful as ever however, and it totally helps that the lady is just grace personified. Clearly, she had no role to play in the movie other than look gorgeous and flaunt her elegance and she did that to good effect. And boy, she looks good! Totally justifying the Miss World title yet again! Interesting trivia btw, that this was a Tamil movie where both the lead stars were from Karnataka and so watching it in Bangalore somehow seemed very apt. As for the story, there was really no plot. Danny was the bad guy because, well, lets face it, every Rajni movie needs a bad guy but it was tragic that he was hardly utilized. And the under-utilization seemed the norm really – Kalabhavan Mani, Devadarshini, Santhanam and of course, Superstar himself. The one exception was Rajni as the bad guy (am I allowed to refer to a robot as a guy? Sorry, spoiler alert I guess) which brought back wonderful memories of Alex Pandian in Moondru Mugam. That role was essayed to perfection and Rajni totally does justice – because its Rajni, you are rooting for the bad side and you almost want him to come out on top. The first half was passable and I was hoping for some serious redemption in the second, and that negative role was the only saving grace. The already weak plot seemed to weaken further, and Shankar in his typical style, just doesn’t seem to know how to finish movies – the punishment just kept dragging on and despite Rajni, it took some effort to sit through the whole thing in the end. At the end of it all, I felt cheated and let-down. Thalaivar has undeniable talent and that wasn’t put to nearly as much use as it could have been, and I hold Director Shankar squarely responsible. This was hardly a Rajni movie! There was a lot of raves about the special effects and how awesome they were and I am sure it took a lot of effort to put this thing together, but to the frustrated eye, the whole thing looked pretty ordinary. One thing however deserves special mention. The man hardly looked his age and was decked in outfits that would be deemed ridiculous for someone even 20 years younger, but he totally pulled it off and carried himself incredibly well against a heroine that was 25 years younger, like only he can! Yeah, I am sure the make-up artistes did a fabulous job etc but I am not talking just about the looks – the body language, the comfort and the confidence, the charisma, just the entire package that’s Thalaivar and that was awesome to watch. Watch out people, he’s not done just yet!

Of course, I think we have all now learned that with movies, the satisfaction really comes down to expectations. And with all the hype surrounding this movie prior to its release, maybe the expectations were on the high side – after all, a Rajnikanth movie is not any other, you know. This was the first time however that I saw a fairly broad spectrum of ratings for the movie, especially from folks whose opinions and judgment I consider reasonable. Some of them absolutely loved it and called it a must-watch. I am not going to question that call or wonder why it was different, except concluding that they were looking for things different from what I was (i.e. they did not come to watch a Thalaivar padam) and they were happy to find what they did, and that their expectations were possibly much lower than my own. Personally, this is one I wouldn’t have minded skipping if I go strictly on the merit of the movie and forget the Superstar factor. In any case, its all over and done with now and I can only wish that it had turned out differently.