Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Thousand Splendid Suns

The next book by Khaled Hosseini - describes the life of Mariam and Laila - two women whose age difference is by more than a decade who end up being married to a guy who is decades older than both of them.

This book reflects the male-chauvinistic Afghan society and the domestic violence and callousness which are a part of the daily life of women there.

Mariam is a 'harami' and is uneducated and is brought up in a hut outside a city with no knowledge of the outside world. Her world comes crashing down one day and she is married off to Rasheed, a man who is thrice her age! She resigns to fate and starts life as his bride, but when suffers six miscarriages in a row, Rasheed starts ill-treating her and she becomes an unwanted addition to Rasheed.

Laila is a daughter of a progressive parents in Kabul who is in love with Tariq, a one-legged childhood friend. She is quite beautiful and is her dad's darling. Her dad wants her to complete college education and take up a job in Kabul. Days before her house is destroyed by a rocket in the battle ridden Kabul, Tariq and Laila give in to a momentary urge and end up in the bed. Tariq moves out to Pakistan immediately afterwards and Laila's home and world come crashing down the moment when a stray rockets lands on her house and kills her parents and her hopes.

Laila is saved from the rubble by Rasheed. Rasheed sets up a person who lies to Laila that Tariq is dead in Pakistan and when Rasheed declares he wants to marry Laila who is less than one-fourth his age, Laila to safegaurd her still unborn baby of Tariq, decides to marry Rasheed, causing Mariam to hate her.

Mariam and Laila start off life together in animosity - with Rasheed calling Mariam as a volga while Laila was a benz. But later when Mariam finds out why Laila agreed to be married to Rasheed and also her attachment to Tariq-Laila's daughter Aziza, she softens and befriends Laila.

Meanwhile, Rasheed has turned against Laila also and regularly beats both the women. The remainder of the book is about how Mariam and Laila escape Rasheed and how Mariam makes the ultimate sacrifice to enable Laila get back to Tariz, who is still alive in Pakistan.

A fast moving story, which captures the battle torn Afghanistan much better than the author's first book.

In one word, Excellent.

For more info.

The Kite Runner

I'd heard about this book by Khaled Hosseini - albeit for the reason that it was a very disturbing story about Afghanistan and I somehow wasn't interested in reading it. It was on a recent trip that I saw a Borders bookshop. I've had an affliction since childhood that I can't pass a bookstore without walking into it and having a look at the books, reading blurbs and etc etc. Since a recent financial upgrade in life, I was tempted to buy a book and I settled upon this and the other book by the author - A 1000 Splendid Suns.


Amir and Haasan are friends in the deeply feudalistic society of Afghansitan. Amir is a boy who craves for attention from his father. He is disappointed that he is not what his father expects him to be - an aggressive, proactive leader of men. While disappointed that he is not upto his father's liking, Amir finds it irritating to find their servant's son Haasan being liked by his father. Haasan has had a bad familial background where his mother had eloped with a group of gypsies as soon Haasan was born. Amir is a budding story writer, which is despised by his 'baba'. In this while, his only solace is Rahim Khan, his 'baba's business partner who encourages him to continue writing.

Amir and Haasan share a passion - kites. Amir is a good kite fighter, while Haasan is a Kite Runner nonpareil. In one of the annual kite flying competitions, Amir, determined to prove his worth to his father, cuts the last of the flying kites and emerges winner and when Haasan tries to run the kite for Amir, gets sexually assaulted by Aseef (a Nazi sympathizer and who is a bully). Amir gets to see this, but out of fear for his own safety, doesn't do anything to prevent it. Haasan doesn't talk about his plight to Amir or any of his family members, but goes into a shell. Amir is guilt-ridden and plots a scheme to drive Hassan and his father out of the house, in which he succeeds.

Afghanistan is torn apart by successive political meltdowns and Amir and his dad leave behind all their material possessions back in Kabul and take flight to San Francisco - where Amir becomes a successful writer, his 'baba' dies and he marries Soraya, an Afghan girl with previous 'history'. While life goes on for the couple (they are diagnosed with unexplainable infertility), Amir gets a call from Rahim Khan from Pakistan asking him to come over as there was a task for him.

Amir goes to Pakistan learns what happened to Haassan and his son, and lo behold, learns a truth which shatters his image of 'baba', Hassan and himself. He goes back to the Taliban controlled Afghanistan to rescue Hassan's son and adopts him as his own.

The last line in the book, where Amir says to Sohrab (Hassan's son), "For you, a thousand times over" - the same line which Hassan tells to Amir before he goes to run the kite on the fateful day, is sure to strike an emotional chord in you.

The first part of the book is excellent - Amir's childhood and his adventures with Hassan - beautifully described. The second half feels cinematic and a bit over-dramatic. The author's projection of Amir and his moral dilemma is so realistic, that you've got to read to believe it.

Don't miss an opportunity to get to this book.

For more info.

Love and Longings in Bombay

My first experience of Vikram Chandra, thanks to Mumbai Media Baron.

This book is a collection of short stories narrated by a energetic old civil servant in a bar at the waterfront. There are 5 stories.

1. Dharma
A laid back thriller story about a deception played by a young mind, coming back to haunt him in his old age.

2. Shakthi
A tale with a twist about a socially ambitious person, with the malabar society of Mumbai as the backdrop.

3. Kama
A cop investigates a murder which has links to a sex racket with a intelligent twist at the end.

4. Artha
A story about a not-so-straight pair of friends working in the computer programming industry with the underworld of Mumbai as a principal player.

5. Shanthi
A story about a woman's search for her husband (who is missing in action) and ultimately life and how she finds life, albeit in a different person.

This book was a surprisingly good. The only Indian author I have completely read has been R.K. Narayan and generally, I hold them in contempt as I feel when it comes to Short stories, Indian writers have to be called artless, compared to authors around the world. The stories had a common thread - they start off pretty divergently and in the end, you find yourself travelling in just one direction without all ends tying up, without allowing loopholes in the plot. Awesome effort, I should say.

Surely, a must read.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bheemaa - is netraya uppumaa

Caught up with Bheema yesterday. The theatre board had a "There will be blood" sign outside the one playing Bheema - it proved to be true on 2 counts:
1. First to last, every character you see, dies
2. Vadivel lingo - Blood? Same Blood!!!


Vikram steals the show. He has proved enough and doesn't need to prove his ease at portraying strongman roles. But sadly, Vikram looks too old in song sequences (make-up man, are you listening?). But his broad shoulders and bulging biceps makes his powerful punches a tad believable.

Prakash Raj - as soon as I saw him in a don role, I thought he would reprise his "chellam!!" role from Ghilli once more. I, for one, was irritated with PR's repeat of those lines in movie after movie. But he has shed that baggage and has performed well. To be honest, if Dhalapathy was ever remade, PR SHOULD fill in the role of Mammooty.

Trisha - is like a pickle. Comes and gyrates in songs and goes away and only substantial scene is the one where she gets killed.

Others: Raguhvaran = wasted.
Thalaivaasal Vijay = a second lease of life?
Aashish Vidyarthi = Eeks - enough of his aeeeei and daaaaais.

Direction and screenplay and stunts:

Lingusaamy - you have proved that Run was a flash in the pan. You messed up in Ji and again here. Lingusaamy thinks he is making cute romantic scenes (like Mani Ratnam), but ends up irritating us. In this age, he asks us to believe that a college going girl falls in love with a thug, for apparently no other reason than that he fell and rolled on her one night.... I don't expect logic in tamizh movies, especially when a person like Dharani says his only motive is to entertain. People like Lingusaamy call his movie technically slick and all that crap and he gives us such a half baked product... And action scenes - every scene you see vikram suspended by ropes (atleast they could have made some effort to hide the rope tugs on vikrams shirt) and in one scene when vikram jumps off from a building and cycles his way down, you are reminded of Ramanand Sagar's Ramayan and its Hanuman! Please don't cheat tamizh audience saying this is slick. And supposedly, you said Billa was made to run.

Though Vishnuvaradhan screwed up bigtime by having the same story, he atleast compensated for it in other aspects. Good stunt sequences and scenes where the rope tugs were almost hard to find.

Music and BGM:

Only 2 songs were good - Mudhal Mazhai and Ragasiya - but they screwed them up with bad/redundant picturisation. Vikram really looks funny when he tries to be the cute romantic, especially in the ragasiya song. Sirupaarvayale looks like a spoof version of Athiradee kaaran.

BGM - the Oru Mugamo bit and the related BGM is good, though the beat is similar to the Jana Gana Mana bit and the related BGM in Aayitha Ezhuthu. The other BGMs are simply laughable, especially one which comes for actions scenes of vikram, the BGM, by the sound of it, was more like an epic movie BGM....


The crowd here was countable - 20 people in a theatre which could seat 150 people and this was the second show in the South Florida region, which houses the max Tamizh people in the florida state.

The first mistake AMR did was to make movies with his son(s) as hero and director. The second was making this movie over this protracted a period.

Verdict: If you are really bored, can watch this once - I saw this movie as there was no football yesterday.

Stars: 1.5/5

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

2 irritants I can't tolerate....

1. Hushed tones

If you should not talk - Don't talk - the hushed words put me off completely. If its urgent, write it down and show me.

2. Touch - and - talk

For all those of you who have the habit of nudging people to get their attention, well, I don't like it. When addressed by name, I respond, unless I'm asleep or busy with something else. So, if I don't respond, it doesn't mean you can come and tap me to get my attention - I zimply don't like it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Stages of Life.......

A few set of dialogs that essentially capture the life of Tam brahm guys from Madras - this has strictly no biographical references.

I name the 2 guys - G1 and G2 - are standard tam brahm guys - the orientation of lines on the forehead - vertical or horizontal not withstanding - but still, lets assume one to be horizontal and the other to be vertical.

July, 1984

G1: Goo- gooo - !#%#&*!&(*#* (all representing the hard to spell baby talk syllables)
G2: Goo- gooo - !#%#&*!&(*#* (all representing the hard to spell baby talk syllables)

July, 1990

G1: Unnoda rough note lendhu rendu page kizhuchu thaaa da....
G2: Poda - amma apram veivaa.

July 1995

G1: Dei, Sachin hunderd paathiya? Chance eh ille da.... semaya adichan andha six-u
G2: Illa da... aatthula Amma SUN TV la pepsi ungal choice paathunde irundhutta da..... cha..... Donald ah sixer adichaana tendulkar?

March 1999

G1: Dei Srimathi miss tuition homework pannitiya?
G2: Illa da... Ma'm thitta pora nu therinju pochu.... Nee manjeet singh pottu mudichitiya?
G1: Done da... EPH la model question paper vandhachu.. adhile 2nd paper, class la srimathi kuduthadhu apdiye irukku da.
G2: MBD model papers vandha udane podanum da......

March 2001

G1: Unnoda center edhu daa?
G2: SBOA - Anna Nagar da...
G1: Govi class poriya inniku?
G2: Sure da.... carboxyl group reactions puriyave illa....
G1: Comp. Sci project submit pannitiya?
G2: Adhey en da ketkare? Star Xerox la spiral binding ku badhila, vera edho pannitaan... naan rukmani kitte permission kettu irukkein... unnoda brandy viva epdi pochu?
G1: Viva super da.... no prachanai..... Farewell ku enna panna porey?
G2: Ange vandhu sapitutu, straight ah TRS class dhaan da....

June 2001
G1: dei ennada acchu rank-u?
G2: Gaali da....
G1: naanum daan - DOTE theruma?
G2: edho da.... 279 daan ennoda score... god willing, 5000 rank kulle vandha, Venkateswara poidalaam da.
G1: ennakum bayama thaan irukku - unnai vida slight ah better - 281.01....

October 2001
G2: Machi, bus 41 dhaan da best....
G1: aamam da.... ABC*, XYZ** andha bus daan da.... cha..... miss pannitom da..... andha neduchenziyan kitte pesi route maathikalaam.....
G2: freeya vidu da.... orey bus stop la... ange paathukalam...

{ABC*, XYZ** - are two super "figures" in their class.....}

July 2002

G1: All clear ah?
G2: *****, Network analysis 14+36 da.....
G1: Pass aaniye - so free da...
G2: dei anda Kosu nambala Lab la kutthitaaan da.... seriyaana *************** da avan....
G1: aama da...

(***** - Signifies a popular 5 letter swear word in Madras tamizh)
(*************** - represents a popular tamizh word for vague parentage)

December 2002

G2: Dei, ennada pesitiya "aval"oda...
G1: humph...
G1: Oothukichu mama... no sollitaaa...
G2: Ada paavi - biscuit ah? free da... iva illena, vera yaarum azhaga illiya? freeya vidu da.... Adhu seri.... Nagrath and Kothari Xerox vechu irukiya?
G1: Ile da.... Nagoorkani thaan use panren..
G2: Free - Bakshi la padichukalam..... naliku night out podalaam.

March 2003

G1: Dei GRE or CAT?
G2: Rendume try pannalaam da.... edho onnu kidacha escaaaaaaaape!!
G1: super po! CAT ku TIME la seralaam da... Adyar la innum vacancy irukku.....
G2: Dei ennoda cousin in Minnesota says Barons mattum podhadhu for verbal.... he is asking to buy normal lewis also....
G1: oh....

January 2004

G1: evlo wordlist da?
G2: 14 da....
G1: BTW, TIME reading comprehension workbook done ah?
G2: Done - ippo daan ennoda oru friend kittendhu IMS mock paper kidachadhu.. mudichitu tharen unnaku.
G1: Dei biscuit potruaadhey da... apram unnaku BIG Book ku naan biscuit poduven....

July 2004

G1: Dei evlo da?
G2: 1400 da... 780+620... essay para tough da...
G1: Naanga kalakittom illa? 1470 - 800 + 670..... essay super...
G2: Ada paavi....

December 2004
G1: Epdi pochu da?
G2: 3 section-um tough daan da.... logical para sodhapals
G1: free -- MS in US daan da.... namba.... unnoda transcripts ellam anupichutiya?
G2: yeah da - DHL la enga appa voda friend oruthat irukaar da... avar 40 % price la anuparen nu solli irukaar.. neeyum ange va.. cheap ah mudiyum.

March 2005

G1: Dei Minnesota admit da....
G2: ennakum dhaan....
G1: Super - angeyum orey college pola dhaan irukku.

May 2005

Google Talk Status of G1: "G1, B.E"
Google Talk Status of G2: "aatha naan pass ayitten"

{I know G Talk didnt exist then, but this is blogger's license..... :P}

June 2005

G2: dei Visa kidachachu da.... sema easy
G1: Dei auditor statement paathala?
G2: Illada.... andha officer ennai cricket pathi ketutu, vittutaan
G1: Luck da unnaku... ennaku naliku varaikkum sema tension da....

August 2005

{G1 and G2 are roomies} their conv over phone.

G1: dei, students center GA ku apply panniya?
G2: panniten da... But Dr. Kumar ennai vandhu paaka soli irukar
G1: Dei kalakitte po..... BTW, inniku ennaku badhila cook pannidriya?
G2: Dei kashtam da... class irkku
G1: Seri po - nethi sambar irukku - adhai rasam aakidalam... plus chips irukku... sadham mattum vecha podhum da...

December 2005

In Orkut scrapbook

G2: dei ennada, committed nu potrukke?
G1: Aama da - naan veetuku vandhu solren details.....

March 2006

G1: dei ennai anda Statue of Liberty cover aara madri oru photo edu da..
G2; Inda rouse ku ellam kuraichale illa.... ellam avalukku email anuppa daane? *****, unnoda vandhen paaru... ennai sollanum....

(***** - refer above)

Fall 2007

G1: Congrats da
G2: Unnakum dhaan....
G1: epdiyo naambalum MS mudichittom!!
G2: dei ippo daan da Motorola lendhu phone pannaan... offer letter anuparen nu solli irukaan
G1: Kalakku po - enge? Schaumberg? apdina, ennakum chicago lendhu konjam kittaka irukkum - weekends la hang out pannalaam...
G2: Ila da - Schaumberg illa - Milpitas da....

Summer 2008
G1: H1 receipt vandadaaa?
G2: vandaachu.... unnaku?
G1: ennakum daan.

November 2008

G1: Dei, India la dhaane stamping?
G2: Illa da... we can go to canada.. oor suthina madriyum irukkum...
G1: super idea da... sema sharp...

March 2009

G1: Dei, engagement next month da... india tickets vangittom naanum avalum...
G2: Kalakku - naan ippo daan tamilmatrimony la profile pics potrukken.....

And life continues..........

If you are from PSBB - SVCE combo and went to Srimathi for 10th and IIT-JEE classes with TRS-Santhanam-Govi, you'll be able to relate more to the dialogs here...