Posts Tagged ‘Rajnikanth’

What Rajni missed when he went out to smoke

12 December 2012

Photo Caption

On his 60th birthday, school children in Bangalore hold up notebooks of the City’s most famous cinematic export: Shivaji Rao Gaekwad also known as Rajnikanth.

The books were supplied by the Rajniji Seva Samithi (RSS).


The website First Post has published excerpts from a new biography of Rajnikanth by the film scholar Naman Ramachandran, with this passage of his relationship with Kamal Haasan.

“In the beginning, in 1975, just how big a star Kamal Haasan was, today’s generation does not know,’ says Rajinikanth. ‘He was an even bigger star in 1975 than he is now. Old or young, a new artiste had never shaken all of India like he did. I had just entered the cinema industry then.

Apoorva Raagangal, Moondru Mudichu, Avargal, these were all my guru K. Balachander’s films—I became a hero with these three films. After that the films that came, big films like 16 Vayathinile, Ilamai Oonjal Aadukirathu, Aadu Puli Attam, Aval Appadithan—these were all hit films.

“For those films, if Kamal had said, ‘Don’t cast Rajini,’ nobody would have taken me. I got Ilamai Oonjal Aadukirathu solely on Kamal’s recommendation.

“So I acted in all these films and then, after I became a big actor, one day Kamal called me and said, ‘Rajini, only if you act alone will you get your own space. If you say no, the cinema world will use us, and you won’t be able to grow.’

“I listened to all that he said. After that I worked on my own.

“Then, after I became a big man, Kamal called me again one day and said, ‘Rajini, you have to be cautious in Tamil cinema. I have seen from a young age—MGR and Sivaji, though they had no rivalry between them, the cinema industry separated them. And because the industry separated them, their fans also separated. That shouldn’t happen with us. The producers and directors I work with, you should work with them too.’

“I don’t know how to thank him.”

Rajinikanth adds, ‘In other industries, people like Mammootty, Mohan Lal, Venkatesh, Chiranjeevi, Amitabh Bachchan and even Dilip Kumar look at me and are amazed how I managed to make a name for myself as an actor in an industry where Kamal Haasan exists. The reason is simple. I grew as an actor just by watching Kamal Haasan acting. I had the good fortune of being able to observe Kamal Haasan from close quarters.

During the shooting of Avargal I was sitting outside when K. Balachander noticed this and got angry. He sent word for me to return to the set and asked me, ‘Did you go outside to smoke? Kamal is acting; observe him. Only then will your acting get even better.’

“From that time, when Kamal acted I wouldn’t go anywhere; I would just sit there and watch. This is the honest truth.”

Buy the book here: Infi Beam

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: A stylish lesson in humility from namma Rajni

11 similarities between Rajni and the iPod

A hit, yes, but why does Rajni have such a hold?

The most testing day in the life of Rajnikanth

Don’t tell us you didn’t know this one about Rajni

How Rajnikanth caught the lion

A real viral is when even Hitler & Mr Bean sneeze

3 December 2011



Hi mama… yes, it is a catchy song mama. 1, 2, 3, 4

The lyrics are stupid-du, stupid-du

But the tune is good-du, good-du

Now it’s stuck in my head-du, head-du

And now I’m having a kolaveri, kolaveri, kolaveri, Headache-u dey.

Since the last two weeks Kolaveri di, the song from the upcoming Tamil movie titled 3 (moonu which in Tamil means three) has been all the rage. Kolaveri di (Kolaveri–uncontrollable rage or murderous rage and di–colloquial reference to a girl), is all the ‘kolaveri’ in India and among Indians abroad.

The media says that the song has traversed the language barrier mostly due to its ‘tamglish’ lyrics. But we all know that for music, language is no barrier. It just needs to please the ears. And this song, Kolaveri di, sure pleases the ears, but it also mocks our intellect. But then what can one expect, the song was penned in under 20 minutes as confessed by its lyricist and singer Dhanush himself.

This song will remind many of their college days when such songs were constantly made up and sung.

In college I, too, after a couple of pegs of whisky and high intensity discussion on human relationships, would become McDowell’s Muthanna, the bard, and along with my friends would indulge in our own kolaveri compositions, although ours were a little more risqué, entertaining and creative.

But we all can agree that anyone with even the slightest inclination towards rhyming has had his or her 20 minutes of banal lyrical outpouring like Dhanush.

The only difference is, he got paid for his ‘Tamglish’ 20-minute banal-spontaneity and it was recorded in a professional studio, which now has over 10 million YouTube hits. We, on the other hand, had a stool for drums and got paid in peg measures and our audiences were a few friends, some amused waiters and a security guard.

The only hits we got were from angry landlords and the occasional police patrol cops. All the same, these songs were fun. They were our stress busters and made life livable, and laughable.

That is why in India, where there is a constant sense of insecurity and heartache, music and songs are at our very core as they make — just for a moment — life tolerable. And so we wake up to music (suprabhatha), greet people musically, watch musicals and go to bed with retro lullabies.

No wonder we are a sing-song kind of people. We even speak in a sing-song manner, from the Hindi greeting, “kaisey hoooooo…” to the Kannada greeting, “hey-gidiee-raaaaa” to the Tamil greeting “nallaa erking laaaaa…,” we shake our heads, move our fingers, modulate our voices and come up with one hell of a musical greeting.

We are attached to music, so much so that even today it is almost unthinkable to have an Indian movie without songs. In fact music can decide the fate of a movie. But over the years the power of lyrical romance has taken a slight backseat.

From the mid-1990s, music was composed to match the atrocious lyrics instead of it being a homogenous creative process. And so romantic poets took a back seat and fly-by-night 20 minute-lyricists were born. And they gave us chicken fry and mobile numbers!

We are talking about the times of  Govinda and Bappi Lahiri when they gave us, “You are my chicken fry, you are my fish fry…” in the movie Rock Dancer. Then there was, “What is your mobile number, what is your smile number…?” in Haseena Maan Jayegi.

Even in Kannada films, the songs used to be so romantic, so poetic, while also being pleasing to the ear. Now we have lyrics like “Nim appa loosaa, nim amma loosa, naanoo loosa….” (is your father nuts, is your mother nuts, am I nuts?).

Now Vidya Balan’s song “Oo la la…” may be a hit. No surprise, it is a Bappi Lahiri composition, but back then Bappi got us hooked on to a ridiculous song titled, “Guttur guttur…” Yes, the chorus of the song was a bird sound! Guttur….guttur… a weird species only Bappi Lahiri could have discovered—or invented.

These songs may have terrible lyrical value, but they are catchy. They easily get stuck in one’s head and take a long time to leave. Such songs are called “awesomely bad songs”; songs that are lyrically terrible, but have a very high recall value, as you can’t stop humming them.

It was during this time that Hollywood made its entry into Bollywood in the form of the sexy Samantha Fox, once again thanks to Bappi Lahiri. Since then, we have had singers like Snoop Dogg, who wore a turban and sang “Singh is King, “Chiggy-Wiggy” by Kylie Minogue and more recen-tly, Akon singing “Chhammak Chhallo” in Ra.One.

Indeed artists like Akon can sing, but couldn’t Shaan or Himesh Reshammiya have done a better job with Chhammak Chhallo? May be, but they could not have generated the amount of publicity or hype that Akon did.

Today’s market is not talent driven but like all markets, it is driven by return on investment. And people like Akon generate publicity that indirectly helps in the movies’ box office collection. It also increased distributor confidence.

That is why Kolaveri di, though not a great musical work, is highly marketable. And so the first spark of marketing blitz was lit for the movie 3 with the news headlines “Dhanush’s new song leaked on the net!” (We have to wonder how, and who, “leaked” it).

This is called generating a buzz. The buzz turned to curiosity and people rushed to see what was so special about this song that it had to be leaked. To add to this, members of the whole team doing the movie are little-shots of the big-shots from the Tamil film industry.

The music director, 19-year-old Anirudh is the nephew of Rajinikanth. The director of the movie is Aishwarya, the daughter of Rajinikanth. The lead actor of the movie Dhanush, is the son-in-law of Rajinikanth. The lead actress of the movie is Shruthi Hassan, the daughter of Tamil star Kamal Hassan.

Need we say more?

And immediately after the “leak” there was an official release and an official video with these famous star children looking humble and intensely working at making a banal song. It is a perfectly executed publicity stunt.

The song is catchy; but what made it such a mega hit is the curiosity factor. After all, there have been better songs with much better tunes and lyrics composed by another Tamilian, A.R. Rehman. But his songs did not generate 10 million hits and end up becoming front-page news in national dailies!

In today’s digital world, curiosity is king. In today’s networked world there is a very thin line between voyeurism and curiosity and we very often go back and forth. And that is why Dhanush’s ‘Soup song’ was first a ‘leaked song,’ which inevitably then became a ‘hit song.’ But just because a song has millions of ‘hits,’ does not necessarily mean it’s the best or that good.

Soon Kolaveri di will be the new, cool Tamil word to use, like ‘macha’ was, a few years back. But for now I’ve had enough of Kolaveri di. People around me are constantly singing it and it makes me scream, “stop!” but then they don’t. So I’ve started singing my own irritating Kolaveri di back at them.

It goes like this mama….

If you don’t stop-u, stop-u,

I’ll give you a tight-eh slap-u, slap-u!

It’ll make your eyes pop-u, pop-u,

It may even make you poop-u, poop-u.

So please don’t test my kolaveri, kolaveri dey!

Well, this didn’t even take me 30 seconds to compose. Maybe I too can get a few hits, well, physical ones may be, from Dhanush fans.

* Speaking of slap-u…, if you liked the Soup song, you will love the Sharad Pawar slap song.

(Vikram Muthanna is the managing editor of the evening newspaper, Star of Mysore, where this piece originally appeared)

Also read: When Kolaveri Di meet Sharad Pawar ji

What happens when Kolaveri Di meets Sharad ji

25 November 2011

It’s been a strange, surreal week, bookended by a third-rate Tamil song with nursery school lyrics going viral because the non-singer, non-actor who features in it is married to, well, Rajnikanth‘s daughter—and an agriculture minister who has been playing cricket with the country’s farmers and consumers for so long that no one would have minded him being slapped by a more educated, better placed sardar than an autodriver called Harvinder Singh.

Mercifully, someone has found a way out of the astounding piety and political correctness that has greeted Dhanush‘s “Kolaveri Di” and Sharad Pawar‘s ignominy to make sense of the two landmark events of the 47th week of the year of the lord 2011.

Link via Hari Shenoy

A stylish lesson in humility from namma Rajni

29 September 2010

There will be many tales told about Rajnikanth in the next few days as Endhrian aka The Robot checks in to a screen near you. Many of them (told by the man himself) will be true, of course, but they will mostly have been manufactured by the buzz machine that modern movies live (and die) by.

Nice to hear, easy to forget.

But the truest stories about Rajnikanth are truly about his humility and humanity despite achieving such stratospheric heights of stardom. About not forgetting his past. About where he comes from. About not losing touch with old friends. About being able to do things he did when he wasn’t earning in crores.

Selvan Shiv Kumar, the Bangalore photographer who passed away recently, detailed one such story about Raj Bahadur (left), who drove the BTS bus on which Rajni was conductor, in his last blog post.



Raj Bahadur lives a one-room pad in Chamarajpet where the superstar visits him in disguise to meet him and stays with him during his Bangalore sojourns.

Rajnikanth, says Bahadur, is still the same old friend he was during their tenure as driver and conductor in the BTS (Bangalore Transport Service) now BMTC; if anything, their friendship has only deepened even as Rajni kept growing from actor to superstar.

Bahadur says Rajni’s simplicity is evident: ‘When he comes to see me, we drink the same old rum with egg-laced delicacies from my sister who lives one floor below mine. When it is bed time, he sleeps on the floor without any complaints.”

Bahadur says Rajni comes unnoticed to his home in various disguises—from beggar to plumber—and leaves after staying with him for a day or two depending on his mood, often sharing his experiences from the netherworld he inhabits.

Once, Rajni was on a shoot in Rajasthan. The role demanded that he dress up as a beggar. In between shots, Rajni decided to visit a mountain-top temple close by since he is a strong believer. On his way to the temple, a lady dropped a Rs 10 note into his palms thinking he was a beggar.

After paying obeisance inside the temple, Rajni was on his way out and getting back into his SUV when the lady who had given him ten 10 rupees noticed him again. She ran towards him and apologised and asked for her note back with his autograph.

Rajni refused: “I am sorry. This note is mine now and I am going to keep it for life.”

This, Bahadur says, Rajni still cherishes as one of his best moments in life as an actor and still carries the Rs 10 in his purse as a remainder that all humans are equal.

For a man who started his job as a bus conductor with a monthly salary of Rs 30 more than 25 years ago, to the star who now gets paid Rs 30 crore per film and yet remain unmoved by all the money is a great feeling. And more so since he is a great friend till death parts us, adds Bahadur with tears in his eyes, which he was unable to stop.

Also read: When a tiger has sex with a tornado

11 similarities between Rajni and the iPod

A hit, yes, but why does Rajni have such a hold?

The most testing day in the life of Rajnikanth

Don’t tell us you didn’t know this one about Rajni

How Rajnikanth caught the lion

When a tiger has sex with a tornado: Rajnikanth

29 September 2010

The release of Endhiran aka The Robot this Friday is creating sufficient noise in the media as almost every movie seems to do these days. But since it is Rajnikanth, and since the movie also involves the action director of The Matrix, the creature designer of Jurassic Park, and the music composer of Slumdog Millionaire, Shankar‘s movie it is also getting a bit of foreign press.

Grady Hendrix attempts to crack the Rajni phenomenon in the online magazine, Slate:

“If a tiger had sex with a tornado and then their tiger-nado baby got married to an earthquake, their offspring would be Rajinikanth. Or, as his films are contractually obligated to credit him, “SUPERSTAR Rajinikanth!”…

“Onscreen, when Rajinikanth points his finger, it’s accompanied by the sound of a whip cracking. When he becomes enraged, the director cuts to a shot of a gorilla pounding his chest or inserts a tiger roaring on the soundtrack. Echo is added to enhance his “punch dialogues,” rhyming lines uttered at moments of high drama….

“The Superstar doesn’t just mop his brow with a towel; he flourishes it like a bullfighter. Putting his sunglasses on is an operation as complex as a Vegas floorshow. His action scenes are so mannered that they’re like watching a new form of macho Kabuki.”

Read the full article: The biggest star you haven’t heard of

Also read: 11 similarities between Rajni and the iPod

A hit, yes, but why does Rajni have such a hold?

The most testing day in the life of Rajnikanth

Don’t tell us you didn’t know this one about Rajni

How Rajnikanth caught the lion

shōmei sho: hai, rajninippon no sūpāsutā de aru

19 February 2010

Rajnikant‘s superstardom in karaokeland, Japan, which is what the lettering in the headline above means, has long been an object of mystery and mirth. Finally, there is proof of his hold in Nippon, where at a song and dance show on television, a Japanese singer mimicks the Tamil superstar. The original number was sung by S.P. Balasubramanyam to the lyrics of Vairamuthu and the music of A.R. Rehman.

Link via Alfred Satish Jones in Washington, DC

Also view: If Chiba san isn’t a son of the soil, who is?

Vishnuvardhan, the Decent Star, is no more. RIP.

30 December 2009

churumuri records with deep regret the passing away of the Mysore-born Kannada superstar H.N. Sampath Kumar, known to the world as Vishnuvardhan, following a heart attack in his home-town on Wednesday morning.

He was 59 years old, and is survived by his wife Bharati and their adopted daughters, Keerthi and Chandana.

Like Rahul Dravid who has always had to play under the shadow of Sachin Tendulkar, Vishnuvardhan’s career coincided with that of the gigantic Dr Raj Kumar, although the two starred together only once.

But, to Vishnuvardhan’s credit, he carved his own niche and won popular and critical appeal with a range of stellar performances in Vamshavrusksha, Nagara Haavu, Muthina Haara, Bandhana, Suprabhatha, Nagara Hole, Nishkarsha and Aaptamitra.

Unlike most Kannada stars, lef-hander Vishnuvardhan bravely tested his star value  in other languages, including Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi, acting alongside Sivaji Ganesan, Rajnikanth and Mammootty. And like his good friend Gundappa Vishwanath, he brought grace, style and an essential decency to the acting (and living) crease.

In an industry filled with all kinds of self-appointed stars, to Vishnuvardhan goes the worthy and weighty title, “Decent Star”.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Passion for Cinema: Dr Vishnuvardhan passes away

Air Conditioned Vehicle: No hand signal, please

30 November 2009

On the miracle that is the Indian road, M.K. VIDYARANYA captures a stainless steel shop on the wheels of a moped made by the old firm of T.V. Sundaram Iyengar in Salem.

Also read: Don’t tell us you didn’t know this one on Rajnikant

Kaminey is dead, but long live Vishal Bharadwaj

29 August 2009

CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY writes from Bangalore: Sparks of cinematic brilliance crackle in isolated bursts all through Vishal Bharadwaj’s  densely textured film Kaminey. Unfortunately, a rather dysfunctional script makes it stutter and stammer, much like its protagonist Guddu, and is ultimately unable to convey anything coherent to a bewildered audience.

The entire string of good and bad people in the film are after a guitar case, which carries a Rs 10 crore haul of cocaine. This includes two estranged brothers, Charlie and Guddu, superbly enacted by Shahid Kapoor.

Emotionally devastated by their father’s suicide as kids, the brothers embrace different paths. While the unscrupulous Charlie pulls his stunts in the race course, Guddu, who works for an NGO, fantasizes a corporate life, even as he constantly rummages his hovel in search of a condom to make love to his  randy girlfriend Sweety Bhope, played to perfection by Priyanka Chopra.

Guddu’s ambitions come to a grinding halt, when he realizes that a pregnant Sweety is the sister of a fanatical thug, who loathes the non-Maratha interlopers who have come into Bombay and appropriated what rightfully belongs to locals like him. That Guddu originally hails from Uttar Pradesh doesn’t help him either. Bhope’s sole aim is to get this upstart out of his sister’s life.

Charlie’s villainous propensities lead him to a hotel room where he subjects a double-crossing jockey to third degree methods to retrieve the lakh that he has lost in a bet.

A chain of events in the hotel room lead to Charlie escaping with the cocaine stash in the guitar box. From somewhere here,  Bhardwaj loses his grip, and like a severed plastic-kite buffeted by unruly winds, the film goes awry, until the gun-fire smothered climax decisively tears it asunder .

Like the famed Langdaa Tyaagi in Omkaara, Bhardwaj crafts his characters masterfully, endowing commonplace quirks and attributes that make them stand out in the unimpressive pantheon of Bollywood caricatures. But the rich characterization alone fails to hold sway and save the disastrous film.

Reinforcing Bharadwaj’s creative sensibilities is the film’s musical score. Exceptional and completely unusual, it pounds into you, drawing you into the vortex of a searing, pulsating rhythm. Gulzar’s colloquial lyrics add to the magic.

However, Bhardwaj cannot  be brushed away as a “faltering filmmaker” or “as the most overrated director of the nineties”. His stylistic embellishments and ability to inject novelty and anticipation into the most  humdrum of scenes is a talent that is rare: almost reminiscent in grandeur of the legendary Gabbar scene in Sholay. There is evidence of this in certain sequences in Kaminey.

Bhardwaj, like Anurag Kashyap, belongs to that radical new crop of filmmakers who specialize in what I would call the ‘shock & awe’  genre.  The audience is instinctively repulsed by the many stark facets of this brand of intelligent, layered film-making , but eventually relates to it. The trappings of commercial cinema actually making them more palatable than the contrived arty-types.

Probably, there is an element of self-obsession in these films, but which piece of creative work isn’t? Distinctiveness is the hallmark of all great works.  But Kaminey by no means is a great work. Moreover, the non-linear, kaleidoscopic narrative, at times swathed in dull, fading monochrome, makes Kaminey a difficult film to watch.

Kaminey falls flat on its face but Vishal Bharadwaj needn’t worry: his credentials are intact.

Also read: Thank god, one critic thinks Kaminey is crap

Kamal Hassan: Conceited, egotistical, narcissistic. The greatest?

A hit, yes, but why does Rajnikanth have such a hold?

Bonus read: 9+1 ways of identifying a US-returned techie

Periyanna has some advice for the Chinna Thambi

26 August 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: They met again, sans sidekicks and other official paraphernalia at Ulsoor Lake.

They were not exactly incognito, but nobody recognized them. The elder man, instead of Chennai Super Kings yellow, wore a red and yellow mundu in honour of his partner. The younger one had dressed in his usual spotless white safari suit but had a pair of dark goggles on him.

The elder person was seated on the wheel chair which the youngster manoeuvred with alacrity.

After going round the Thiruvalluvar statue, they parked the wheel chair next to a reclining bench facing the lake.

As they sat, a vendor came hailing ‘Maanga, Thenga, Batani Shundal!’ instead of the usually heard ‘Chukkli, kodubale’ in other parts of Bangalore. They bought two packets for which the host paid.

Periyanna! How is the shundal?’ asked chinna thambi.

Thambi! It is just like what I get on Marina beach. Pramadam!”

After chewing the shundal to his satisfaction, Periyanna continued, “These goggles suit you very well. I didn’t know your size, but it fits you very well. You look like our Rajni.”

“I thought you had donated your goggles to me! Thanks Anna. By the way we sent Rajni to you, remember!”

They munched in silence for a while.

Then Periyanna opened up.

Thambi! The main reason why I dashed to Banglur is, I want to go ahead and complete the Hogenakal project. Please make sure your Karave, Jaya Karnatakam and others don’t create any disturbance at the site.”

This was a bombshell for Chinna Thambi.

Periyanna! Hogenakal is a part of Karnataka and I have already said I will never compromise with regard to our ‘Nela-Jala-Bhashe’ on any account. Sorry, Periyanna. You can ask for anything else.”

Thambi, Yedi. Hoge is smoke or Poge. Kal is stone. You will not break your promise if Hogenakkal comes to Tamil Nadu. By the way how is our Kolandai?”

Kolandai yaaru, Periyaana? I didn’t get you.”

Namba kolandai Rakavendra!”

“Oh, my son Raghavendra! He is fine. Thanks for enquiring about him.”

Thambi Yedi… It looks you are not interested in his future.”

Chinna Thambi froze like a statue.

“Why do you say that, Periyanna? I have just made him an MP from Shimoga.”

“I don’t know where Shimoga is and what poor Rakavendra is doing there. If you want him to come up in life, get him to Banglur and keep him with you. Make him mayor of Banglur or minister for urban development or something like that. Let him start a campaign like ‘Singara Chennai’ or what you say in Kannadam, ‘Sundara Banglur’? I put Stalin thro’ all this and now see where he is. He is my deputy. Do it quickly otherwise it will be too late and he will be lost in Delhi heat or Shimoga mosquitoes. Thambi… you have to be fast in these things. Otherwise in Karnatakam some ‘appa, ‘ayya or Gowda will grab the throne from you and our Raku will miss his chance.”

Romba thanks, Periyanna, for your timely advice! I will ask him to resign his MP seat and stand for some by-election for MLA.”

Thambi Yedi! You have to learn these things from Madam or your own Deve Gowda. Ask the Ulsoor MLA to resign.  I will ensure Thiruvalluvar helps Rakavendra get elected from Ulsoor!”

“Thanks a lot, Periyanna. I will never forget your advice.”

“You are my Chinna Thambi. We are one family. Hope you don’t have succession headaches that I have. So do it quickly, OK?  I should be leaving now. By the way, I will change the name of Hogenakkal to ‘Pogenakkal’. Nobody will object to this. Na varen. Parkalaam.”

Parkalaam, Periyanna,” said, a happy Chinna Thambi.

Yes, it’s true, Isai Puyal is the Mozart of Madras

23 February 2009

A consistent criticism A.R. Rahman has had to face, including from fans and friends who mean well, is that he is more of a sound engineer than a music composer.

In other words, he is good at dicing and slicing various sounds and tracks, and piecing them together at god forsaken hours in the privacy of his Madras studio, unlike the old maestros, like Ilayaraja, who did it all in one go. Which is why it was difficult to reproduce the same sounds in live concerts and orchestras.

A live concert in Dubai in the early 2000s proved otherwise, as this Rajnikanth number sung with magisterial command by S.P. Balasubrahmanyam shows.

Also read: How an Oscar winner ushered in a newspaper in Madras

An Apple a day keeps Steve Jobs away from us

22 August 2008

On the day the iPhone that costs $199 (approximately Rs 8,000) in the United States makes its legal debut in Indian stores at an iPopping Rs 30,000, former Citibanker JaithirthJerryRao offers four bits of (free) advice to Steve Jobs, the Apple founder whose worldview changed after a visit to the ghats of Benares looking for nirvana:

1) The Indian consumer is very price-conscious. She does not like to make huge upfront investments based on uncertain promises of future service quality.

2) Any attempt to link lower price with lower quality, real or perceived, is likely to bomb.

3) The definition of quality is almost always functional. “Does it meet my real needs?” is the question she asks, not whether it gratifies her ego.

4) Do not underestimate her ability to find uses for the product that are totally at variance with the original intent of producers.

Read the full article: The I(ndia) phone

What if Microsoft, not Apple, had made the iPod

Also read: 11 similarities between the iPhone and Rajnikanth

Also watch: David Letterman: The iPhone Nano

The eyephone and the blue tooth

Conceited, egotistical, narcissistic. The greatest?

18 June 2008

CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY writes: Brush it aside as a narcissist’s mindless natter on celluloid or a fading star’s exaggerated attempt to reaffirm his talent. Dismiss it as an egotist’s eulogy of himself or as another crass exercise in self-indulgence.

Bury the film, like sundry other critics have, in reams of cynicism if you may, but Dasavatharam, the maestro’s latest work, is a grand spectacle and Kamal Haasan is a goddamn genius.

And nobody can take that away from him.

The attraction is certainly not the script, which jiggles about as uncontrollably as Mallika Sherwat, who happens to be the villian’s moll in the film.

The film revolves around a US-based scientist Govind Ramaswamy, the primary protagonist among the ten. The upright scientist’s one-point obsession is to safeguard and retrieve a deadly virus vial from the many recesses it finds itself in.

From the safe vault of a lab in the US, the ‘vile vial’ traverses the globe to the southern Indian temple town of Chidambaram, frantically pursued by the scientist and an evil ex-CIA man Christian Fletcher—played by Kamal with a ferocity, that gets you in the gut and quite bloodily at that.

Even as the killer and hero blaze a trail across rural Tamil Nadu, punctuating the landscape with their Tom & Jerry escapades, the plot off-tracks into side lanes throwing up a bewildering array of characters, most of them enacted almost effortlessly by the doyen.

The heavy and layered prosthetic make-up, a tad overdone on occasions, does not subdue Kamal’s intensity in any manner.

The cantankerous Iyengar paatti (grandma) with a penchant to lock herself in cupboards; the activist Vincent Poovaraghan who spouts fiery Malbari-Tamil; President George Bush; the Telugu-loving, safari suit-clad RAW officer Balram Naidu; the gauche seven-foot-tall Kalifulla Khan, the revenge-seeking Japanese kung fu expert Shingen Narahasi; the cancer-suffering Punjabi pop singer Avtaar Singh…

With convincing and bold flourishes, Kamal builds the texture and nuance of each of these characters. The accent, inflection and intonation cutting across these characters are delivered with his trademark ease and felicity.

My personal favourite of the 10 avatars is the character of the 12th century Vaishnavite devotee Rangaraja Nambi. The film opens with Nambi who displays a pulsating brahaminical zeal, defiantly reciting the Vishnu Sahasranamam, even as the Chola king tortures him for not surrendering to the greatness of Shiva.

Nambi is tied to the stone deity of Narayana and ruthlessly consigned to the depths of the ocean. Asin Thottumkal, who plays Nambi’s devastated wife and later the role of the scientist’s accomplice in another birth, does a superlative job as a Brahamin belle. She is pretty but could have been less shrill in a few scenes.

Mallika Sherawat’s pole dance is most unsavory: I say this not because of a suddenly acquired refined sensibility, but for the simple reason that my seven-year-old son sitting next to me was gawking at her much more than I. The quick glances that I kept throwing his way did not seem to faze him one bit. My fatherly instincts revolted instantly.

Himesh Reshammiya‘s music plays somewhere but fails to resonate. Jaya Prada as Avtaar Singh’s wife is still beautiful. The other bit that deserves mention is Dasavatharam‘s special effects. The tsunami tearing into civilization and the havoc that it brings about is masterfully orchestrated.

Kamal also uses the movie to drive home some of his beliefs: When the delusional paatti clutches the dead body of activist Vincent mistaking him to be her son, the Brahmins trailing her are repulsed and attempt to convince her but she does not listen. Kamal who has written the story, screenplay and dialogues, for a brief, very brief moment makes a lofty caste statement through this scene.

In the end, disillusioned to see the heaps of corpses caused by tsunami-scientist Govind, raises the question of whether there is God at all. This could well be Kamal himself. A self-confessed rationalist and atheist.

His spiritual and social ideologies apart; Kamal will continue to dwarf his peers through his towering histrionics in Indian cinema. Dasavatharam is an act of arrogance, a creation of conceit, a maverick’s attempt to tell the world that he is the greatest.

And Kamal gets away with it.

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The most testing day in the life of Rajnikanth

5 April 2008

He may have split a bullet with a blade to kill two people at the same time. He may have escaped from the clutches of a pack of tigers on a moped. He may have floored a gang of toughies with swirl of his hair. But 4 April 2008 has to be the most testing day in the life of Rajnikanth alias Sivaji Rao Gaekwad.

His close friends Vishnuvardhan and Ambarish managed to stay away from the dharna organised by the Kannada film industry in Bangalore. But for Bangalore-born star of Maharashtrian origin, it was not as easy to escape the ultimatum set by the Tamil film industry and subject himself to a public test of loyalty in Madras.

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CHURUMURI POLL: Do stars represent a State?

4 April 2008

A standout feature of any dispute involving Tamil Nadu and Karnataka is the pavlovian speed with which the film world enters the picture. Protest marches with stars at the helm, expressions of support in the media, rabble-rousing speeches, black-badge demonstrations, dharnas, etc, are all quickly whipped up as the distinction between the reel world and real world are erased. In some cases, as the Bangalore-born Rajnikanth (in picture, right) found out today in Madras, the participation of stars from across the border is used as an instant and public test of their identity and loyalties.

But do the denizens of the world of make-believe—actors, directors, producers, “item girls”, stunt men, composers, technicians—represent a State any more or any less than any other professional? Aside from their not inconsiderable hold on the masses which helps raise the temperature, does their participation help or hamper the resolution of emotive matters of land, language and water? In Tamil Nadu, where cinema and power-politics intersect easily (M.G. Ramachandran, M. Karunanidhi) stars beyond their sell-by date (like Vijaykanth and Sharath Kumar) with one foot in the political cesspool, have a vested interest in entering the fray. But should Karnataka blindly follow suit?

Or is it all just eye-candy for star-struck fans? An escape from their maddening lives?


Photograph: Rajnikanth with Sharath Kumar (left) at the day-long fast to condemn the attack on theatres screening Tamil films in Karnataka over the Hogenakkal issue. Courtesy: Chennai Online