Tuesday, August 04, 2020

A Walk Down Rahman Lane by Unni

If you are here for the first time, please read this post.


My first memory of A R Rahman (of course, at that time I had no clue) was Kadhalan. I still remember getting the cassette and listening to this one song over and over again - Pettai Rap

I discovered the album quite late, probably in my 7th standard, by which time the movie was maybe 3 years old. It was a hand-me-down tape from my sister and I remember rewinding back after the song and trying to write down all the lyrics. Of course, I still remember most of the song lyrics even now (I had to show off). 

But once I was done with that song, the rest of the music captivated me. It was like nothing I had heard before; granted I was 11 years old but how this music could be so unique and yet sound complete as an album baffled me.

Every time I hear this song, I remember that trusted old Sony cassette player that was passed on from my grandfather to my father and then to my sister and me. It had a CD playing option as well, quite rare in those days.  That player introduced me to the world of Rahman and of course, Prabhu Deva.


About Unni

Unni and I (Blogeswari), were the Kadhalan Prabhudeva and Vadivelu (Yes, respectively) at office where we sang Pettai Rap and other vetti Tamizh songs together when not working.
Unni, when not singing or belting Venu Biriyani, or watching TR videos... produces wonderful podcasts for a streaming platform.
You can ask him for recommendations on good podcasts, music and biriyani , here 

Monday, August 03, 2020

A Walk Down Rahman Lane

Isaippuyal A.R.Rahman completes 28 yeARRs in the film industry on the 15th of August 2020.

To celebrate the Legend's Work Anniversary in the film industry, presenting 'A Walk Down Rahman Lane', a series on the blog where avid music lovers share that one personal memory associated with a particular track of ARR's.

I'm inviting music lovers to write about one strong personal memory associated with one A.R.Rahman song. I know what you’re thinking... “...but we have so many!”

I understand. Just that this series is likely to have quite a few friends writing about it (hopefully) and hence that "one song".

Image courtesy - A.R.Rahman's instagram 

I've written my favourite memories of Rahman's songs herehere and here
  • Did you sing an ARR song at a college culturals where He was one of the judges(Ahem)? 
  • Did you spend an entire day/ week/ month listening to one ARR song?
  • Did you dedicate an ARR song on Pepsi Ungal Choice as a surprise for your favourite person?
  • Was there an ARR favourite song of someone in your family who is no longer around? And you remember them every time you hear it?
I invite you, dear readers, to tell me your favourite memory of a Rahman song, in a paragraph* or two along with a song - Hindi, Tamil, English, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam...It’s your choice!

Do mail your memories to blogeswari(at)gmail(dot)com. I'd prefer it if you could write a separate post than sharing your memory in the comments section. 
You could reach out to me on instagram or on twitter. Join me on this beautiful walk down Rahman lane.

*Minimum 150 words please :)
Also, Comments are moderated.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

That '70s show - Ungalil Oruthi

I love '70s, particularly when it comes to Tamizh films.
This is the decade of epic films by Sivakumar, Lakshmi, Jai Ganesh, Sujatha, Muthuraman, Jai Sangar, Thengai Srinivasan, K.R.Vijaya, AVM Rajan, Suruli Rajan, Ennatha Kannayya etc.
Also this is a decade, where one could see a glimpse of Madras of the '70s - the occasional car that would drive past Mount Road or the occasional human who'd be walking along in one familiar Madras road.

As a true fan of '70s films, I've decided to watch some epic padams and write about them. Today's film is 'Ungalil Oruthi'

Kya Re... Setting a?

Sujatha whose parents died off long ago, lives with her uncle, aunt, cousin.
They don't want her to get married, reject all proposals. But.. but…take money from ‘Ennatha Kannaiya’ and try one setup with Sujatha at their house only.

She beats ‘Ennatha’ who runs away. Sujatha moves out.

3 Idiots

Randomly, 3 men - Suruli Rajan, Thangavelu, R.S. Manohar make unwelcome advances at Sujatha and she invites them home, calls the police to teach them a lesson.
But after cop comes… she decides to lets them go.
But these men being villains hold a grudge against her.

When Sujatha became Sowcar

In the meantime, for some 1 hour, Sujatha cries.. and cries about.. what…I don’t know. Her neighbour Mr. hideous wig and Kannadi, Sivakumar falls in love with her and goes around calling himself her purusan. Sujatha is thrown out of her job thanks to him, but she falls in love with him. Wow, surprise!

Remember the 3 villains? They’re back and now they hatch a plot and convince Sivakumar that Sujatha is a sex worker.

Here's a pic of the louly Sivakumar from the film, for all of you.

I'm a Baaaaadddd Cousin

She is arrested and is thrown into a Remand home. She meets a lot of other "bad" women singing a song… She also meets her cousin! Vogaad, her cousin is a cigarette smoking-drinking bad girl who was also a sex worker. Sujatha escapes the home and hides in Jai Ganesh’s house. 


Forgot to say, this Jai Ganesh made his appearance in the first scene I don’t know why. Cops are on the lookout for Sujatha. She vows to ‘serthuvechify’ her cousin and Jai Ganesh. She vows to prove to the world is not ‘Vibaccchaaareeeee’. She hatches a plot with Mr.hideous wig, her lover Sivakumar. Yeah she is back with Sivakumar although he got her arrested calling her a ‘Vibachareeee’.

Pure Tamizh Ponnu

After long, tiring scenes, the three villains are exposed at her wedding where she calls the entire town. Ofcourse one old man had to call her ‘Vibachareeee’ and she puts one long dialogue that she is not one and she is ‘Pure’.

Oh that "bad" cousin doesn't smoke-drink and is a "good cousin" now & is in lou with Jai Ganesh.

There is also Manorama for kaamedy.

Final Verdict

Excellent, must-watch film for Tamizh pen-ness, empty Madras roads and Sivakumar's wig.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Lockdown 2013

It was Deepavali 2012. A few months earlier I had quit my job after working for 17 years because I had wanted to take a break to... just sit at home for sometime and not worry about clients, concepts or currency. I was trying to put together a dish in the kitchen, for the festival.

Amidst all the not-so-hectic celebrations at home, the husband whispered "Er... wanted to tell you something..". I thought it was going to be about his parents' annual trip to Bombay (yes, the conversation always had to happen on Diwali day, every single year). He added, "... Things are not going good at work... nothing final yet.. Just thought I'd tell you". 

"What.. What. Wha..?" I didn't quite get what he said because my mind was mentally prepared for..."I'm planning to book their tickets for...". He sat me down to explain that things were not looking good at his organisation and well.. he may not have a job in the next few months repeating the "nothing final yet" a few times. At that point, honestly, I just thought "Poga Poga Seriaayidum..(We'll turn out okay)" in Stand up Comedian Alex's words, and was just not prepared for a traumatic year ahead of us.
It was only when he came home one day, in the next year, to say that it was his last month at work and he'd paid for the next 3 months, did it strike me that life was not going to be the same.

So - I didn't have a job and so did he. For the next few months, we just sat at home and did nothing but browse job sites all day. Sometimes if we were lucky, a consultant or two would call, once a month. His former colleagues and associates disappeared in no time not even wanting to take a call including a gentleman who lived in the same apartment complex as ours.

A few months later, thanks to a kind gentleman on twitter who had put out a tweet on a possible job opportunity, I landed myself a consulting assignment. Working from home made it less stressful... but only for a bit. With a huge EMI, our savings were saying tata bye bye to us , fast.

For the next many many months, we would be in two different rooms and meet or talk to, once or twice a day. For everyone's sake, let me add that I acknowledge the privilege of having two different rooms in the house before folks pounce and point out this fact.(happy?)
I would work from mine and he'd read / watch some series on TV (No Netflix then!) from his. I had stopped running / working out and would sulk all day long. We had stopped stepping out for movies, occasional restaurant visits or even that monthly parlour visit. We had to cook up different excuses for not visiting our parents in two different cities. "Busy with Work (Lol!)" was what parents heard from us every time they'd ask us about our next trip.

But one thing was clear. Except for, may be one or two persons known to us, we were not going to tell anyone about our tough times. Not family definitely, at least to avoid the "Did you get a job?" or for that matter "Do you need money?", every time they'd call. Ofcourse it was only obvious to expect them to be concerned, yet, we were exhausted.
As for others - I was definitely not in a frame of mind to fix appointments with friends / people I have known for decades, to call and discuss possible job opportunities. I detested (still do!) the idea of fixing up appointment with friends to call. Like what are you? Some dentist? Sure, not all of us can take calls 24*7. One would simply expect people to disconnect incase they're unable to take a call, text back with a time that they'd return calls. Anyway, when people were not a call away, too bad. Simply not worth adding to my pain.
Not blaming anyone, I guess everyone's so busy or wanting to pack their day with whatever they're doing , including liking instagram posts or watching whatever-the-downloadable-series-that-was-hot-then, that it was rare to find that one person who you could CALL AND SPEAK TO, to help you find a job, then. Things were going downhill. For those wondering why I didn't seek professional help, honestly, I found it extremely boring to meet a therapist when I had reached out to one 15 odd years ago. The drudgery of going to a therapist was more painful than the pain itself. Yeah, there I said it.

Back to Lockdown 2013 - It was traumatic to say the least, sitting at home, all day, for the next 9 months. Stepping out for anything would mean spending money. We had to be frugal. My Consulting assignments didn't fetch great money but kept me busy on calls and on online, all day.

Finally one of us found a job. One had to take a huge pay cut because one was desperate. It was the most boring job of my career in a television channel but I had to go through the stress. I'd cry every single day riding to work because I had to sit thru' insipid ideas and bum nakkis. But as a couple, we started enjoying the daily routine. At work, I'd look forward to a text at 5 pm from the husband to choose between Red and Green Pasta. For the next one hour, I'd dream of coming back home by 6 for a steaming bowl of pasta that he'd have prepared before heading for a walk. There was medical emergencies in the family and he could devote time being the care-giver, for a few months. We were both waiting for that good news of the job market bouncing back. I was working in a Business News Channel and the only question I'd ask the Editor of the channel repeatedly was when he expected the job market to be active again.

Things started looking good in the second half of 2014. Though the husband and I lived in two different cities, we managed fairly well because we finally had full-time jobs! We had a repeat of the same situation of just one of us with a job, again, in 2016, 2017** but we were better prepared this time. It didn't hit us suddenly because the two years had taught us to be prepared all the frikkin' time for a layoff, stress, anxiety and so on. Everything was in control except for my health. Things had taken a beating with all the stress in 2013 and 2014 and it took a good 3 years and several doctor visits to get back to normalcy. And I'd smirk every single time someone from a family or friends' circle ask me about my weight gain wondering where all this concern went 3 years ago.

Oflate, (in 2020) as we're going through the most stressful time of our lives - I have been reading about folks going thru' a lot of stress sitting at home, reading about rising Covid 19 cases. Ofcourse one needs to seek professional help whenever one needs.
The point of my post is that if you're reading this - Please be there for your friends and family. A lot of people out there don't have jobs. They have been laid off. Please reach out to them and give them a call. No, don't expect them to tell you. Please ask how they're doing at work and how the situation is. Don't be a Thumbsup idiot*. Don't whatsapp them giving them a time to call and expect them to share their anxiety between 3-3.25 pm on Tuesday because it's Ragukaalam or that's the time you'll be free when not liking instagram posts. Do let them know they can call you whenever they want to, specifically to address issues. for eg discuss possible job opportunities. Actively search for job opportunities for your friends and share it with them. Yes, all of us are going through a hard time, but some are suffering more than you and I are. And above all, please let not their political leanings decide your support. Some months ago, there was a huge campaign against a set of people by a social media gang, and folks were urged to unfollow, mute and shame people. I was wondering - what if one of them was your friend and someone who you could've helped professionally as an advisor, mentor?And you as an idiot, chose to unfollow, mute, disconnect from them because of some social media thugs. Will the same thugs or a Modi or Shah help your friend get back to normalcy?
NO! Don't be an idiot.

I repeat - Please be there for your friends and family.

*Persons who reply with a Thumbsup on 1-1 message. What are you? Some Salman Khan-Akshay Kumar-Ranveer Singh type Ambassador for Thumbsup?

**I realised I had mentioned the year as 2016 when I wrote it initially. Corrected to 2017, just incase those reading again noticed this.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Raja Paarvai

'80s oLiyum Oliyum (OO) was very special. This was the era when the only one thing we had to worry was about whether we were allowed to switch on TV at the right time on Fridays. We had a slogam session on Fridays at home, in Madras where slogams would be recited by the entire family and at the end of it there was Kalpooram - Arathi.  If we were lucky, the slogam recital would begin at 7.00 and end just in time for oLiyum Oliyum. If we were not, oLiyum Oliyum was missed. The starting time was not in our hands because it depended on the convenience of many makkals.  
The '70s OO playlist featured epic songs viz. Vasantha Kaala NadigaLile with a scary Rajini, Kannan Oru Kaikuzhandai with Sivakumar being Sivakumar, Kaadhal Vandiruchi with a Sridevi as we knew her minus the Bollywood Dhoom Dhaam.

The '80s OO playlist was ruled by Azhagiye KanneOru Thanga Radathil, Kanmaniye Kaadhal Enbadhu etc. There was this one song that was on super high rotate and the one I would eagerly wait for. And the OO version always started with this Chorus "..Panivizhum pozhidinil..." (which unfortunately is missing from the ones available on streaming platforms) and move into the 'Dum Dum Dum.. Dinchak Dinchak' beats and the chorus  'Woh Woh Woh Woh..." would begin. Thalaivan SPB would come on screen to sing "Andhi Mazhai...". Ahaa! The inexplicable feeling of listening to the song!

Andhi Mazhai is my go-to Ilaiyaraaja song for everything, anything. In college when one had to prepare for Antakshari  with songs beginning from 'A', this topped the list. 
A few years later, when I had to create a question bank for a TV Game show as a director, one of the entry level questions was to name the Carnatic Vocalist in this song. Decades later, as a professional music curator, this song was a permanent fixture in all playlists possible - Ilaiyaraaja's, '80s, Songs shot in Madras, SPB's, All time Classics etc. Recently as part of Lockdown Vettiness, I'd put one Karaoke almost everyday and send it to immediate family and close friends (no escape, paavam). Andhi Mazhai was the first to be recorded there as well. I'm also vetti-ly curating a few playlists as part of the 'Lockdownil....' series. The latest is 'Lockdowinil Vasantha' with songs based on Vasantha. Do check it out before I mention the obvious.

Yesterday, popular media personality and producer, Subhashree Thanikachalam, as part of her rare songs series presented the Instrumental Piece from Raja Paarvai. I remember watching the film in '81-'82 with cousins, one late evening. I haven't seen this film being telecast on satellite channels nor on OTT platforms. Thought I must watch the film, after 39 years.

In the '70s and '80s, we knew him as Kamalahaasan or Kamal the handsome, talented, award-winning hero. Not as Kamal Saar or Kamal Haasan. In Raja Paarvai he also credits himself as Haasan.K. Raja Paarvai was an '81 release and this talented hero was already starring in his 100th film, as the blind violinist Raghu. He wore the very 'retro' type shirt-pant and taught us accented Englees. He didn't put over acting like Sivaji nor there were action scenes like Rajini padams. This was pure Kamal Gold padam.

And the heroine Nancy was the Oh-so-beautiful Madhavi with lovely eyes. She was one of those naturally beautiful actors who has die-hard fan boyz Thaathas even now.

Some of the scenes were set in a rich Besant Nagar - Adayar makkal's house of the '80s with wallpaper through and through that we had seen only in films including Thillu Mullu.

Some '80s elements like 'Thadangaluku Varundugirom' with the pazhaya Ro.  Green PTC & empty roads....

The strict (and quite relatable) Nancy's Appa played by Dhanushkodi taught me the first posh English word "Ridiculous". One knew all the trivia connected to Raja Paarvai viz. Kamal's father was played by Chandrahaasan, the film was Kamal's100th, the Thaatha was someone called L.V.Prasad who we were told was a big producer / director / actor, the kid was Kamal's nephew (was he?) and the singer in 'Andhi Mazhai' was SPB himself and the alapanai voice in Andhi Mazhai was Ilaiyaraaja's Guru,T.V.Gopalakrishnan.

Loved watching Raja Paarvai  yesterday, after 39 years. The film still looks so so good. The ad-film lover and former ad-film professional in me was over joyed when Wiki Akka mentioned Barun Mukherjee / Barun da as the cinematographer of this film. I thought it was Balu Mahendra until then.

If you're vetti (and I know you are), I'd urge you to watch this Classic and moozhgify in a bit of nostalgia with me. Even in the '80s, was quite disappointed to know that it was a commercial failure for Kamal & his brothers. And ya, we were also to blame for it for we as a family saw it on 'Thiruttu' VCR.

PS - Since now every film has this 'What after 20 years/ 40 years?' articles, here's my contribution for 39 years after Raja Paarvai.
If Raghu (Kamal) and Nancy (Madhavi) had a daughter then, she would be one of those Rich Ezhais  in her late 30s living in her own independent house in R.A.Puram, Terracotta tiles on the walls, Aathangudi tiles on the floor, hosting Christmas and Diwali parties in her p0sh house.
Oh yes, she'd definitely have close to 60-70k followers on instagramam, all thanks to her one-new-saree-Or-Dress-a-day and match match jewelry all bought from over-priced Instagramam stores.
Raghu continues to be a regular in Super Singer, Subhashree Thanikachalam's shows, Indiaglitz, Behindwoods video interviews as the one who played Violin for epic songs. Nancy runs one JFW type magazine and is a regular at film parties, writing about Vignesh Shivn's latest whatsapp status, for Sify.