Friday, July 6, 2018

The Opening Act!!


Goosebumps!!

That is what happens when ‘The Man’ Rajnikanth enters the screen with his scorching screen presence. Flower petals shower, horns blare and the theatre lights flare, taking you right next to him. Then the magic happens, as Rajni slowly but surely pulls you on a momentous journey with him in his movie. 

My first tryst with the ‘Mass Opening Scene’, as it is called, started with the movie ‘Arunachalam’ and continued with ‘Padayappa’. The first 10 minutes of the movie, starts with the heroine (the late Soundarya) being amazed by everyone in a village who speak only about one phenomenal person, Arunachalam. He is depicted as a demi-God who has descended upon this world to erase all our difficulties. The build-up reaches a climax when she (along with us) finds ‘Arunachalam'. And Lo Behold! Therein enters ‘thalaivar’ in all his glorious form and there in, starts the opening song, where he spreads the pearls of wisdom needed for life. 

The opening act along with the opening song had even a non-movie buff (at that time) cheering on for him. That set me and the others on this campaign for justice against all the evil thrown at him (being thrown out from his home, denied his father’s rightful property and finally his lady love questioning his integrity). The movie ‘Padayappa’ does one better as Rajni kisses a snake in the opening scene, which to this day has been a remarkable feat. If we add in the opening scene and songs of Annamalai, Basha, Muthu (to name a few), no other actor has or will generate the whistle and shouts as much as ‘thalaivar’

These strong images of ‘thalaivar’ are imprinted into every little kid from the 90s and form the backbone of ‘Rajni’ folklore. However, after the drubbing of movie ‘Baba’, Rajni has understood to underplay these opening scenes so as to give more credibility to the characters in his story. His movies’ Sivaji – the Boss’ and ‘Enthiran 2.0’ have raked in the moolah, but failed to generate the hysteria of the past. 

However, the last few movies have neither failed to generate the money nor furthered Rajni’s fame. My disappointment reached a crescendo with the movie ‘Kaala’, wherein Rajni is shown playing cricket in the first scene in a non-emphatic fashion. It is understood that his character would need to be realistic, but this level of ‘non-impactful’ opening scene is now available in the regular Facebook videos
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With Rajni’s imminent political entry, the last of his films is expected to be with Karthick Subburaj (his ardent fan). I hope it will, for one last time, will generate the goosebumps that is so much sought after, by thalaivar fans and ordinary people, who try to haul themselves from their normal boring life with a Rajni movie and scream ‘Thalaivaaaaaaa….’.

P.S: I am not a Rajni fan, but love all his masala movies immensely.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Niagara!!


“When the water from the sky touches the earth, it creates heaven”.

The name itself evokes a mystical association for most of us. Right from the time I heard about an unclassified wonder of this world in my geography books, I had always wanted to visit this magnificent place. It is one of two most visited places by Indians in USA, other being Statue of Liberty. No American trip is complete without it.

For the uninitiated, Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls that straddle the international border between the Canadian province Ontario and the American state of New York. They form the southern end of the Niagara Gorge.

My wife and I had great opportunity to visit this magical wonderland in 2013 right after we had gotten married. Our first tryst with this waterfall still lives with us and we longed to come back again.

Last year, we had the opportunity to visit this gorgeous place again, courtesy my father-in-law and our best friend and his family (Ravi, Akshaya and Aahna kutty). With the music of AR Rahman humming in our ears, Ravi geared us through the 8 hour journey in our 15-seater minivan. Though we were all exhausted by the time we landed (close to mid-night), we could not let go of the opportunity to see this waterfall in beauty of the night lights.
We head to the ‘Maid of the Mist’ (boat tour right up to the base of the horse-shoe falls) in the morning the next day and were greeted by a million gallons of pristine water falling down, which spraying us with its cool mist. We skipped the ‘Cave of Winds’ (which gets you right up close to Bridal Veil Falls) this time around. Collecting all our magnet souvenirs we head back, not without promising this amazingly water-falls another visit very soon, when our princess would have grown up to collect all the memories of this place.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Jekyll & Hyde


Of all the fictional novels that I had read in my childhood, this story had fascinated me the most. As you all know, the story relates to a doctor named Jekyll and his evil alter ego Hyde. The doctor invents a magic potion that lets him transform into an evil man Hyde, who goes about trampling and killing people. The story of Jekyll and Hyde is relevant now more than ever, as the horrific stories of rape of young defenseless girls emerge from different parts of India.

We humans have become the evil Hyde from Dr.Jekyll. No incident displays this fact more clearly that the horrible rape of 8 year old girl, Asifa in Jammu and Kashmir two months ago. The horror story had even my father choking. There is no running away from the fact that our generation is corrupted. The problem also trickles down from the fact that man to women ratio is the worst in recent times, which causes these societal imbalances.

The compass of morality has swung many times in different directions in the past. But our beautiful country and its people stand at the fulcrum of history. Is this how we would want to be known to our future generations? The world’s leading country for human rights and regulations, United States of America, rightly puts so many under the lethal injection to infuse the sense of law for its many citizens and immigrants.

Perhaps, we should follow their lead and plead to our court/judges to do the same. Alas, there are as many holes in the law as there are in the lawyer’s gown. However, I do hope that with increased social media awareness, laws around rape would be tightened and the guilty would be punished with nothing but death sentence and that too, after castrating them. This I believe, would send the right message to our current and future generations and help protect our women, for without them there is no life.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Moana


As I watched this movie for the 100th time at my daughter’s insistence, it still amazingly held my attention. As in the case of good movies, the screenplay of this movie captivates us and takes us along on this beautiful journey. Disney’s Moana is perhaps one of the very few engaging animation movies, that has layers of human emotions quietly concealed in this story of courage, luck, persistence and finally, achievement.

Moana, in short, is a straightforward story of a village chief’s daughter who has to find a demi-god and get him to restore the heart of a ‘Mother Island Goddess’, he had once stolen. Maui’s action of stealing the heart had aroused the ocean monsters and travelling around ocean had become dangerous, pigeon-holding the natives to this island.

The movie starts with a visual splendor of Motunui, an island somewhere in Hawaii, blessed with sunshine and flowers (which transports me to a different world, where I am not ploughing snow off my car in the middle of a freezing never-ending winter). Moana is pretty much guided by her grand-mother, who leads her to the hidden cache of boats and ships that the natives of the island once voyaged and reveals that she is the one, chosen by the ocean, for undertaking this perilous journey to find Maui and restore the heart. In spite of Moana’s father’s numerous warnings, Moana boards her grandmother’s chosen boat and sails to find Maui, much like our life’s journey (which pretty much also is taking us to an unknown destination).

Her encounter with the presumptuous, boasting Demi-god is hilarious and her journey with him and a nearly brainless chicken keeps us entertained through a major part of the movie. Through a series of encounters, both of them understand each other, their inner fears and finally Moana convinces Maui to sail with her to Te Fiti. This I believe teaches us to be patient and understand the people we like in our life.

Their first attempt ends in abject failure where Maui and Moana fight with each other and even after Moana convinces Maui that his strengths lay far beneath himself (more than his magical fish-hook). Maui leaves Moana, but she restarts her journey alone and soon is joined by Maui to restore the heart in spite of stiff opposition from a ‘Lava Demon’ (TeKa). This part is my favorite in the movie as it perhaps asks us to dig deep within our reserves, when luck does not flow in our way in life.

Moana is unable to find TeFiti, but understands than TeFiti has transformed into TeKa due to her lack of heart (indirectly telling us that mother earth will destruct us if we don’t stop polluting and choking her) and as Moana restores the heart back to TeKa/TeFiti, all is well. This journey truly encapsulates our entire life’s journey and I hope by the time the sequel comes out, our daughter would have all grown up into a Moana in her own right.

 

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Pay-Day Loans


The general perception of Indians about America is very different than reality. The ‘land of opportunities’ unfortunately, has its share of poor/struggling people. This is accentuated by the fact that most people are forced to live paycheck to paycheck. The recent recommendation of ‘Dirty Money’ show on Netflix (by a colleague of mine) brutally exposed to me the condition of nearly significant part of the American population.

Families that run out of money towards the end of the month can borrow $500 or more from these pay-day loan websites/shops. However, like the ugly concept of ‘kandhu vaddi’ (loans based on exorbitant daily rates) in Indian states, this has a horror part attached to it.

In the show, one of the borrowers borrowed $500 and expected to pay back $650. He then proceeds to pay his 4 installments of $150 expecting only a remaining balance of $50. However, he is in for a shock, as the $600 he had paid only keeps the loan amount active and has never decreased the principal amount. He ends up paying nearly $3000 for the $500 he had got in the first place. The show specifies that the ‘pay day loan’ companies often are registered to Indian tribes (Red Indians) which complicates matters as the State government does not any jurisdiction over Indian tribal land (something that bewildered me even more). The owner of one of pay-day loan company enjoys an extravagant life style and is prosecuted by the federal government for various financial crimes, pending a judgment from the supreme court.

The similarities of the brutal lending scheme in our country runs a parallel with the ‘Pay-Day’ loan scheme in no less measure. What astonished me is the fact, that educated lower-middle class people in America are caught in this debt-trap, which I would say has engulfed nearly all our farmers, forcing them to commit suicide.

All said and done, greed for money and power unfortunately plays a major role in our life throwing aside humanity and goodwill. I hope that our future generations can at least enjoy the happiness and peace that we have enjoyed through our stay on this beautiful planet.

 

Monday, April 2, 2018

Aquaponics!!

As I walked through the beautiful park/mini-forest in Merida, Mexico during my summer internship about 8 years ago, I felt a distinct connect to Mother Nature. The scent of the flowers, the hustling of the fish through the man made pond, added the perfect touch to an amazing afternoon walk (after a sumptuous lunch). It made me think of contributing something back to nature before we leave for our heavenly abode.
A year later, an article in a leading newspaper introduced me to new way of soil less farming called Aquaponics (fishing and farming). You can read a wiki on Aquaponics here - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquaponics.
The Israelis (due to lack of water in their region) have taken great interest in this type of farming. As water in becoming a scare resource in this world, I believe more people would try out this type of farming soon.
As I was wondering about the logistics of implementation of this type of farming in India, I came across another article of a sub-type of Aquaponics called Hydroponics or ‘vertical farming’ by an ex-IT engineer, who has been implementing it successfully in Goa, India - https://www.thebetterindia.com/79003/ajay-naik-goa-hydroponic-farm-software-engineer/.
Both types of farming relate to plants being grown in a PVC tube or a metal tray without exposure to ground or soil. A quick Google search of this type of farming will yield you thousands of links and study materials. Below are the advantages of Aquaponics or Hydroponics.
  1. Can be set up quickly inside the city. This would help us to avoid long arduous travels to villages/sub towns to look out for a farm land.
  2. Less labor intensive. As soon as the farm is set up in a room, it might require an hour’s work in the morning and evening. This might be a parallel or in-addition work to our regular day/office work.
  3. No pesticides or insecticides. As there is no concept of soil, no external agents of growth are required.
  4. Provides fresh vegetables for the family and can be utilized for commercial purposes, if supply exceeds home demand.
  5. More Oxygen. Provides you fresh bout of oxygen in the cramped city life and for our world in general.
The cost of setting up this farm is up for discussion. It can range anywhere from 5 lakh to 50 lakh INR (500,000 to 5 million), depending on the sophistication of the equipment and rent of the room. The return on investment (from all the articles that I have read) is roughly about 2 years.
I would definitely give it a shot (perhaps a little later in life) and would encourage anyone (even with little interest in Nature) to give it try as well. Good Luck!!
 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Oh Dear Smithy!!


The ball tampering allegations have shaken the cricketing world again. Test cricket had been skating on thin ice recently, with poor stadium attendance and viewership. It did not need this issue at this moment. But is there more to it than what meets the eye?

Roll back a few years, to when Smith was not a regular in the Australian side. He was a part-time leg spinner, let alone a captaincy material. He was unlike his predecessors, Steve Waugh, Ponting or even Michael Clarke, who all had been earmarked and groomed for the captaincy role. Smith, pretty much jumped out of nowhere, into the captaincy contention, after scoring bountiful of runs.

So what does it have to do with current allegation? Well, very much. Not only did he have to score runs, but also captain a pathetic Australian team, which most of time, has only Warner and him, to make some match of any test cricket game. Adding to it, is the Cricket Australia’s expectations of their cricket team to nearly win every match to get more or better sponsorship. The immense pressure of doing all the things has taken a toll on his beleaguered body and mind.

Smithy boy has done the right thing in putting up his hand. But in this cruel world, straight trees are cut first. He will be banned for a year and perhaps shunned from any captaincy role in future. It will be tough, but not impossible, for him to make a comeback into this cut-throat world of international cricket.

Perhaps he should have gone the Indian way of doing things, blame it on someone else (Bancroft) and gone ahead to create Don Bradman-ish type of records. Alas, his ‘leadership group’ words will haunt him for the rest of his life!!