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Friday, May 4, 2018

How dare she!



Returning home, weary from work
suffering the sluggish traffic,
sprawling though potholes filled with pools of fresh rain
lost in thoughts.
Wanting to reach home
to plan for Friday and the weekend
...the usual stuff.

Unexpectedly, I catch this 8-9-month-old,
squeezed between her parents on the scooter
smiling and waving at me!
I looked up startled, waking from my trance,
wondering at what just happened…
I dismissed it…
just a fleeting moment in the humdrum of life!
Few minutes later, they cross me again
…and in those few moments, she smiles and waves at me, again!
I smile and wave back at her.

Shaking off the momentary distraction,
I got back to wondering how much farther my destination was.
But that vision comes up again…
the tiny being smilingly waving at me!
How dare she disturb me like this,
from my inane existence of Monday to Sunday
In this constant quest for ‘space’
when we all distance ourselves from one another,
how dare she disturb my space, break this reverie, and breach my world with her smile?
How dare she still revel in that innocent glee
unaffected by this world deluged with shrewd manipulation
How dare she smiles at me
and touches my heart in places I have closed to the world.
How dare she finds and targets those soft spots behind the hard shell?
How dare her parents gave birth to this little thing whose very fragility tugs at my heart strings

The image does not just cause transitory ripples.
But remains embedded as a memory, tapping at my heart again and again
asking me to raise my head from the hubbub of life, wake up, and live!
How dare she!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Madi

Madi…మడి ...मडि

People from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and some pockets of Karnataka will perhaps understand what this word means...
Madi...this Brahmanical way of life originated from the concept of ‘purity’…a concept which, like all other traditions, lost its meaning in later years with its rigid and blind adherence.
Essentially madi meant keeping a distance from and not touching anything considered impure or unclean.
How it was practiced:
My grandmother would rinse her 9-yards saree the night before and hang it in the kitchen. The rod that she hanged it to dry would be placed way above anyone’s reach…close to the ceiling. To dry out one’s garment at that height was tricky indeed and was done with the help of a long stick pushing the garment hither-thither till it slid smoothly without folds over the rod. This practice also meant that the cloth couldn’t be touched by anyone else and become impure.
The next morning, after a bath, she would come, wrapped in a wet saree, heading straight to the kitchen, discard the old saree and wear the clean saree off the kitchen rod. This was normally worn as ‘adda-kacha’ meaning a garment that runs between your legs, dividing your legs trouser-like, giving you the liberty of free movement.
This was madi, a state considered pure. After attaining this pure state, you are not supposed to touch anything till the cooking and eating was done. No touching of beds, bed sheets, previous day’s discarded clothes, curtains, sofas, another human being… Considered safe was a chair with its cushions and covers set aside.
Once the cooking was done and the food eaten, you could change to another saree and then free to touch anything.
Breaking of Madi by accidently touching one of those not-to be-touched things or people meant a bath again and, as there was no back up madi saree, continue cooking in those wet clothes, sometimes shivering in the cold winter mornings, and with water dripping all over the kitchen floor.
Madi is even considered broken if you attend to nature’s call and you'd need a bath to purify yourself again.
Come pooja or festival and the rigorousness increased…more madi, more arduousness in following it, more fervour…
The flowers, coconut and all other things meant for pooja were to be strictly kept separate from cooking and dining areas. If any of the pooja stuff was kept on the dining table by mistake, it was considered impure and had to be washed before using it for pooja. The oil for pooja lamp was kept separately in the pooja room and was not to be touched or used in kitchen for cooking purpose.
Large canisters of oil or pickle could be touched only after madi and not any time we wished to use some.  Small quantities were kept in jars for everyday use.
Some madi rules during eating…
Serve food with left hand but every time you  touch any cooked food, wash your hand. This meant you had a puddle of water on the floor at your left by the time you finished your meal. All meals happened sitting on the floor, of course. Serving uncooked food like oil/ghee/salt/pickle/curd did not mandate washing your hand. Later, and especially after the meals started happening at the dining table, this ritual translated to tilting your glass of water ever so slightly…just enough to wet your fingertips! Who’d want those puddles of water on your table?!
My grandmother though, never ever in her life time ate at the table. The tables only get wiped, they never get washed like the floor, no?
In the night again, the madi saree was ready for getting rinsed and dried again. This saree was not washed along with clothes of the entire household.
This practice was carried through her lifetime.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Rangasthalam

Can something in this world be described as being ‘too’ perfect?
Sukumar, the director of Rangasthalam, has achieved the state of near-perfection with this movie. So perfect in fact, that it’s eerie!
While watching a film through a critic’s eye, one tries to see beyond what is apparent on screen. Waiting to watch for discrepancy in the screenplay, maybe a backdrop that should not have been in a period film, a garment that looks a tad too modern, a diction that betrays a background that’s not in line with the ethnicity portrayed in the movie…
Rangasthalam is a tad too perfect. The hero’s beard, for example, is the perfect length and trimmed oh-so-well, with not a hair out of place. The hero's is hard of hearing. Because there is never a flawless human being, no?
Again, there is no irrelevant moment in the movie. Before you start wondering, the deafness too has a role to play.
The one place I caught him out, was when he calls the ‘doctor’ with a soft ‘r’ ending and not ‘daaktar’ as normally the villagers might do….
But let me set aside the mind that looks to nit-pick…
The movie is charming. It has a great script supported by some great acting.
Everyone has done his/her best in the allotted roles. Ram Charan is supported by a strong author-backed role. Samantha may not have an equal screen presence in terms of the length of the role but how well she lights up the screen when she appears on it! And how natural she looks in her simple non-matching cottons!
And no, she isn't just a dumb belle. She was the first among the villagers, in fact, who questions the President's clique about the debt repayment, mentioning that she was '6th-pass' and therefore knows that she had actually repaid the loan and owes nothing more.
The simple dance moves are a delight to watch…reminding you of how you hop, skip and jump around when you feel happy and there’s no one to watch you.
Naresh and Rohini as Ram Charan’s parents, Aadi as the brother and Jagapathi Babu and Prakash Raj are so right for their roles! Jagapathi babu, especially, portrayed as a man of a few words, makes for such menacing presence!
The story is about how the villagers of Rangasthalam live like frogs in a well, thinking that this is how their lives are meant to be…living in poverty and debt, believing that the President of the village is their God and savior.
But Aadi, Ram Charan’s brother, who is educated and Dubai-returned, makes the villagers realise the need for changing their leader.
What ensues is, politics at its worst…wicked deeds executed silently.
The movie keeps you riveted through all its twists and turns. Didn’t feel it was 180 minutes long.
Do see the movie on big screen. You will come back feeling it is worth it.
People, who aren’t Ram Charan fans will also succumb to this simple, yet, engaging movie.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Dear Sri




Amma brahma devudo
Kompa munchinavuro
Entha goppa sogasuro
Yeda dhachinavuro

Pula rekkalu
Konni thene chukkalu
Rangaristhivo
Ila bomma chesthivo

Asalu bhoolokam
Ilanti siri chusi untadha
Kanaka ee chithram
Swarganiki chendhi untadha

--Ram Gopal Varma's tribute to Sridevi's beauty in this song from the movie Govinda Govinda
His love and admiration for her could not be expressed better. All meaning, passion and feelings will be lost in translation to a non-Indian language, but here is an attempt.

Oh God!
I am devastated
by this charm
where have you been hiding it?

Some petals
a few drops of honey
mixed together
to transform into this doll

Has the earth
ever beheld such richness?
therefore this miracle
must surely belong to the heaven

Yes. Indeed such ethereal beings do not belong to earth. She has returned to her right home.

Sunday morning I opened my sleepy eyes to view this whats-app forward. Shocked, I quickly searched the internet hoping it was just a hoax. But it was not to be!
And the posting of these messages was not with a feeling of grief, as they would be followed by the usual cheerful  'Good Morning' messages. All eager in their attempts to sensationalize, nothing more!

On phone, someone calls and says, "Do you know that your favorite Sri has..."
I froze when I heard that word, wondering, 'how can you say that about her?!'
I couldn't and haven't till date said that dreadful word.

Within a few hours, even before the news could sink in, an analysis about she, her beauty regime, her surgeries etc. stormed the internet.
I couldn't tolerate this nonsense.
Never more have I been thankful of absence of a TV connection at home. I protect myself from allowing the image of Sri from being tarnished and blindly delete any forward I receive about her.
For me, she is a goddess, someone inviolable, sacred, ethereal, a blemish-less gossamer fantasy!
From my childhood, I have worshiped many an actor but sooner or later they would be unseated by someone more good looking or talented. But not Sri..
Someone made a very insensitive remark in one of the newspapers about 'her mediocre movies in Bollywood, apart from one or two'.
But that's what Hindi cinema extracted from her! Have a look at her rich repertoire of movies down south. Her movies with Kamalhasan remain unsurpassed to date
Just look at her big, round eyes and the gamut of expressions they capture in this bewitching lullaby with Venkatesh, both at the peak of their beauty and talent. (another RGV ode to his muse)


Even before the dhak-dhak song was enacted in Hindi, Sri had already done it in a Telugu film with an actor who could match her step-for-step:


Coming to pairing, where else have you seen an actress paired with, both, father and son, ANR and Nagarjuna, in not just one film but many of them, fine tuning herself according to the pairing all the time?
Where else have you seen an actress playing the grandchild (of NTR)  and romantically paired with the same actor in several movies?
Films have proved time and again that beauty and tragedy go hand-in-hand.
So, with Sri.
We are blessed to have captured her on screen for eternity with all her pristine beauty, charm and  performances in tact.
I am glad she is free of all the strife that she had to undergo in her temporary abode here.
We have proved ourselves unworthy of her in her existence on earth and beyond!
God will now take care of this special child!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Hello: a charming love story

Has Akhil proved the Akkineni lineage with this movie?
Saw Hello with not much expectations and was pleasantly surprised.
The movie opens with a fight and chase scene. The filming in the yet-to-be-inaugurated Hyderabad Metro is something a proud Hyderabadi will very well relate to. Akhil tries to nab the thief who is running away with his phone. From here, you are taken back to Akhil's childhood and into the reason that phone was important enough to warrant this chase.
Akhil, an orphan, befriends Kalyani Priyadarshan (a debut) and their bond strengthens as they hang out playing childhood games together.
This goes on till Kalyani's father gets transferred out of the city. Very filmy as the heroine throws the phone number scribbled on a 100 rupee note and throws it out of the window which in turn gets stolen by the thief...the same thief who steals his phone years later!
In pursuit of the thief, the hero dashes into Ramya Krishnan's car. Ramya and Jagapathi Babu adopt him later.
Though separated, Akhil and Kalyani pine for each other through their growing years.
Years later, and through a wrong call, Akhil hears a tune in the background, A tune that he had composed in his childhood for Kalyani. How he, after the phone gets stolen, tries to trace the caller and finds his childhood love back forms the rest of the story.
The movie is clichéd to the core. There is nothing that you have not seen before. But then why does it work?
Remember the movies of the 80s?  'Love Story', 'Qayamat se Qayamat Tak...'? This belongs to the same genre...a very cute love story, without being silly.
The director, Vikram (of Manam fame), has taken care to not portray the villain as too  wicked. With shades of comic, he (Ajay) is just vile enough  to allow Akhil show off his skills in action.
Both the hero and heroine at 23 and 22 respectively look convincing for this love story. So, if you are ready for a mushy-mushy film and want to come home feeling good about it, this is the movie for you.
Ramya Krishna and Jagapathi Babu's acting makes you long for seeing them back in main roles.
My rating a 3.5/5

Friday, December 22, 2017

MCA entertains well

Perhaps this will be my last movie review for the year. I don't foresee any other movie worth reviewing in the near future
These days, not watching any trailers, I go to a movie with absolutely no idea what it is about. The drawing power, this time around, is Nani. Don't we all wait eagerly for his movie releases?
It is believed that there are only a fixed number of stories in the universe retold in various forms. With this movie, the director has mixed in a spoonful of every 'rasa' and attempted to give us all Navarasas in one as all story ideas seem to be exhausted.
Lest that give you an impression of a bad movie, let me tell you, it isn't. The movie is pure entertainment and Nani's 'natural' acting ensures you empathize with all emotions along with him. Sai Pallavi, the female version of 'natural' Nani, has proved her brilliance once again in her second movie in Telugu.
The story may not be new but the way the relationships are treated is new and refreshing to watch. Have you ever before in our Indian movies watched a girl woo a boy? And when since the days of Rama and Sita have you seen a Lakshmana-like devotion to one's sister-in-law on screen?
The emotions are handled well and the first half of the movie runs at a brisk pace but the second half loses its tempo.
Priyadarshi is going the Brahmandam way. Seen in every second movie, it wont take long for him to be labelled blasé.
MCA  is Middle Class Abbayi. This concept seems forced into the movie dialogs without actually showcasing many examples from a middle class life. Another funny interpretation of MCA is Mandu, Cigarette Aarogyaniki hanikaram...according to Nani
Veterans like Aamani and Naresh shine even in the small roles they play. The not-so-veterans Rajeev Kankala and Bhoomika also do their fair bit. But, somehow, in the second half, Pallavi seems to be reduced to what every other heroine does in our films.
Vijay, who debuts as a villain, doesn't intimidate us with either his physical presence or his acting skills. Or is it that they didn't want too treacherous a villain in this middle class family drama?
Well, the story, in short, is about how the hero fiercely protects his sister-in-law, a Collector, from the local goons.
The plus side of the movie is the energetic performances by most of the actors. Second, the whole family can happily watch the movie together with not one instance of vulgarity or obscenity.
On the minus side, the songs are completely unnecessary and only break the rhythm of the narattion. Also,the movie needs a stronger plot to continue the tempo and entertainment of the first half
Nani's acting makes the movie worth watching
A 3/ 5 from me. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

My Hyderabad, My Metro

When the Metro was announced in Hyderabad ten years back, I wasn't much affected by the news.
Ten years back the traffic wasn't this bad. My office was closer and the roads still good enough to allow commute by one's own vehicle. Once the offices moved far to the newly built Hi-Tech City, we traveled by the MMTS (running on train tracks). It had its limitations in terms of timings and frequency, but we managed with a combination of traveling to and fro from the stations in shared autos.
Then came the convenience of Ola/Uber cabs and we thought it was a blessing till we hit surge prices, and surge indeed they did.
In this scenario, the Metro comes as a big blessing!
Don't know why the officials even doubted its viability. There are people in Hyderabad and there is a great need for a convenient public transport. For those saying that the tickets are heavily priced, I say look at what you get in return...pollution-free AC environment with half the travel time. And isn't time equal to money these days?
I traveled the first time by the Metro yesterday, exactly one week after its inauguration.
I have been into Metros in India and abroad. Yet, seeing the Metro stations, the ticketing, the train, the entire infrastructure... I was super thrilled and lapped up all these sights greedily like a child. Everything that looked beautiful, everything that worked right filled my heart with delight. 'Mana Hyderabad!' said the heart with glee. A great closing gift of 2017 to the people of Hyderabad.
Okay, now for the actual experience:
I started at home at 12 noon and walked down to Tarnaka station. As I approached the station, I saw that the escalator was not working! Already?! I thought with a sigh, as I clambered up all those steep escalator stairs!
The station at Tarnaka was beautiful! It has been waiting for the last three years since completion...so why not?! There were personnel every ten feet waiting to help people, including a person beside the ticket counter! I queued up to buy a ticket to Ameerpet. At Rs.40, I felt it was a very decent deal considering that the same would have cost me at least three times that by a shared cab. As you get in, you and your bag are scanned. You need to press the issued token against the marked area on your right to allow the gates to open. And keep the token safely with you till you get down at the destination.Two kind of tokens are issued, red and blue ones for the two different routes.
 The idea was to just get into the Metro, have lunch somewhere and return by the same. This ride, covering a 12 km distance, took me 30 minutes. I stuck to the window trying to guess the position of the stations vis-a-vis the surrounding areas. (Not all the stations are on google map yet)
I inferred, Prakash Nagar stop meant Shoppers Stop; Rasoolpura stop is Fortune Manohar/Old Airport; Begumpet  stop is  beside Country Club/Life Style building/opposite Vinn Hospital at the beginning of SP Road. More trips and I will be able to decipher the location of the other stations better  and where they lead to.
Getting down at Ameerpet, I was pleasantly surprised to see people standing in a queue waiting to get in. I walked out of the station, down the stairs into a rubble of cement. Construction work is yet to be completed at the station and its  surrounding areas.
It was 1 pm and I chose to visit a restaurant in Kondapur.
Generally, I avoid going to a restaurant 26 kms from my home as, in shared cabs, by the time I reach through different pick ups and convoluted ways, I'd be famished. Even after having traveled half the distance by Metro, the 15 kms to the restaurant at Kondapur took me another hour by road. So, I reached the destination 2 hours from the time I started at Tarnaka.
Lunch and a couple of shared autos (30/-) later, I found myself at Miyapur station. Miyapur station, 10 kms away, is closer to Kondapur than Ameerpet is. So next time, in order to get to Kondapur, I need to travel directly to Miyapur to save, both, time and money.
Miyapur station is something we Hyderbadis truly deserve. Long, open stretches of greenery with families gathered around the aesthetically designed benches of  attractive hues all around was a heart warming sight---starved as we are for open spaces! Keeping in line with the pollution-free surroundings, were cycles available for rent.

At Miyapur station
The fare from Miyapur to Tarnaka was 55/-. Miyapur being the first station, I got to sit beside the window and watch the stations and the roads below.
My Metro, My Pride
There were halts every minute or so till we reached Ameerpet, an intersection and a signal to change platforms. This time there was no queue, resulting in a jostle with people trying to get in and get out at the same time. I got into the train headed to Nagole on the platform below. Like in the morning train, the crowd this time was okay too but only till another train full of passengers added to this lot! Then it got really crowded
The journey from Miyapur to Ameerpet took me 30 minutes. Once you alight, you drop the token into a provided slot to allow the gates to open and let you out.
Remember, A/B exits open to the road and enable you to go with the traffic and C/D exists to go against the traffic.

Exit & Customer Service Counter at Tarnaka

On things that can be improved:
1) We need to have queuing system, especially at busy intersections like Ameerpet
2) Lift to be strictly used by the senior citizens or physically challenged people. Right now it is used by all
3) Near the station exits, water is getting sold at Rs.2/-  per cup! Really?! Shouldn't this basic need be provided free of cost? What about the plastic waste being generated? 

Outside Ameerpet station

4) The frequency of the trains at 16 minutes from Nagole and 8 minutes from Miyapur needs to go up
5) Only three bogies are attached now. Double that number needed. Traveling standing all the time is not a pleasant experience.
6) Shorten run time. Now, it takes more than an hour to travel from Miyapur to Tarnaka.

Every time a government provides great infrastructure, it means that it respects the citizens and their needs. I would ask the government to continue to maintain these high standards of infrastructure and educate/help the people live up to these standards.
L&T has done Hyderabad proud in architecting this impressive world-class infrastructure, making it a prominent land mark in the city.
In turn, the people need to ensure that they safeguard this beautiful property as its custodians.


The Route Map

I look forward for the early completion of the other routes. Will greatly ease the Hyderabadis' commute.