Saturday, 27 December 2008


Finally made it after 2.5 years of talking about it!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Query on Carnatic Music Classes in Chennai

Today I received an email enquiring about carnatic music in Chennai. I felt that the person who sent me this email had asked a question many people would want to know the answer to. I've posted his query (altering personal details to respect the writer's privacy), so that others too can benefit from our dialogue.

Email Received:

"Hi Shobha,

This is Navin. I am currently working in ABC Co., Chennai. I have had this passion to learn carnatic music for a long time and presently I am looking for a tutor who can help me out in this. Just googled carnatic music in chennai and came across ur blog. Really heartening to see that ur learning carnatic music. Any suggestions/thoughts on whom to approach for starting this dream of mine come true. I do not want to postpone this later as I have been doing that for quite some years. Nothing is too late for learning as the saying goes.

Thanks and Regards "

Response to Navin:

"Hi Navin,

Good to see any music enthusiast. I'm glad my blog has inspired you and may you keep aspiring.

You are in Chennai, and so, finding a teacher will not be a problem at all. Finding a suitable teacher, will. Teachers are generally concentrated in (what locals have told me are) the traditionally-Brahmin areas of Chennai such as Mylapore, Mandaveli, RA Puram, Adyar, Tiruvanmiyur and Besant Nagar. So, if you live/work in any of these areas, I can suggest teachers' names almost immediately. Better to take someone close to work/home so that it is less tedious for you to get to class before/after work.

If however you live/work in Anna Nagar or West Mambalam etc, I will have to extend my search and that will take some time. Also, did you grow up in Chennai? Elsewhere in India? Out of India? These points also matter in selecting a teacher, as culture and mindset come into play. Are you already initiated in Carnatic Music? Are you a beginner? That should aslo be factored into finding a teacher. It is never a simple task finding a suitable teacher, so have patience with yourself, the art and your teacher's methods of training.

While I commend you for taking immediate action, I must also remind you that if you're embarking on music as a career eventually, you have to be very conscious of the decision you're making . This is because learning carnatic music means complete "shraddha", which means ABC Co. may have to take a back seat. Of course, that advice is only if you're palnning to move into it full time. If you wish to straddle between ABC Co. and Carnatic music, your progress in both lines will be slower, but your income will provide you the financial security you (may) need to sustain your music classes.

Having read the above, here's what you have to let me know if you want a teacher:
  1. What location do you want your teacher to be in?
  2. What is your level of training at present? (Sarali/Jantai, Varnam, RTP?)
  3. What culture do you come from? (Western? Indian? Are you Tamilian?)
  4. What is the fee you expect to pay your teacher per hour's class?
  5. Are you seeking individual/group training? (Latter is cheaper, though not always the best option )

I wish you the best.


Thursday, 4 September 2008

Latest on the Silver Screen: "Veruthey Oru Bharya"



Jayaram plays an egotistical, chauvinistic and insecure husband to Gopika who is the ever-dutiful, over-worked, under-appreciated traditional wife, for 14 years. Their daughter, is on the brink of discovering teenage romance and adventure. She plays a bigger role in the second half of the movie. The story refreshingly revolves around the mid-aged couple and their marital challenges...well, actually, more of Gopika's daily agony of keeping her marriage going despite her husband's insatiable demands, ego and insensitivity. Gopika is at the end of her tether when Jayaram's behaviour demonstrates that he does not respect her and that she is not even a close second in her husband's list of priorities. She returns to the warmth of her birth home, with Innacent playing her loving father. Their teen daughter is caught in between the couple's battle with each other, as the story unfolds...

My View:

Fabulous Theme, Great Start

The movie held a lot of promise with the characters carefully chiseled out and the opening scenes providing clues as to what could lie ahead, i.e. fall-out between husband and wife, the child being torn between her parents and an objective view of the real issues behind the unhappiness of the couple being Jayaram's attitude. However, the movie only adequately follows through with the first two clues ; i.e. that Jayaram's insecurity-motivated behaviours and that Gopika's reasons for retaliation are told well, ...up until Gopika goes home. There is even a character introduced in political support of oppressed women and one scene shows Jayaram feeling intimidated by what the character represents.

Gopika and the Movie's Theme Take a Hike!

Thereafter, I felt that Gopika's role in the movie seemed to fade out, with Jayaram's role taking the lead. Instead of continuing along the tone of the movie's message and depicting the issues on both sides, the story-line took an unplanned deviation; What started out by presenting the woes of the oppressed, over-woked, traditional house wife became a focus on how Jayaram struggled on his own to manage home and child, while Gopika who was represented earlier as a conscientious mom and wife, instantaneously (and unconvincingly) was made to appear non-chalant by the separation. If there was an intention to balance a portrayal of the insecure husband's reaction to the separation, with that the dutiful wife's, it certainly wasn't clear; In contrast to a lengthy portrayal of Jayaram's decline in mental health as a result of the stresses of separation, there was almost no portrayal of these stresses on Gopika. It made Gopika seem like a weakly developed character, especially when she showed up during the last 1/2 hour of the movie, and was made to apprear regretful for having so irresponsibly left Jayram to manage the home on his own - driving him to insanity! As mentioned, this vein would have been fine if the entire movie did not present itself in the beginning, to seem like it was intending to portray the plights of a wife taken for granted.

Murder Times Two

To make matters worse, there was a warped interpretation by the doctor-turned-counsellor at the very end of the movie, who could have been the story's final saviour had his role been given a little more thought! He could have presented the fact that Gopika's move away was the culminating result of her husband's relentless egotistical approach towards her for 14 years. It would have brought everything back on track and saved the movie! Instead, the counsellor further broke the tone of the message; Though the counsellor said Jayaram's ego was partly to blame, he was quick to point out that Gopika should have understood that her hubby's insecurities were spawned by a search for motherly attention. He then dismissed Gopika's issues, leaving her to look like the wife who had not tried hard enough.

My Score: 5/10

In a nutshell, Jayaram and Gopika make an excellent on-screen pair and little-miss-new-actress (teen daughter) was also a treat to watch in the latter half of the movie. Innacent, though not his usual comedic self, played his role effortlessly as expected, and provided relief from the intense emotions of the scenes on Jayaram's insanity, and from the mind-boggling theme deviations. Overall, it's a 5 out of 10; I'd recommend it if you were a Gopika-Jayaram fan, had nothing better to do on a weekend and are the type who does not mind watching a "nearly there, but not" story.

Perhaps the title "Veruthey Oru Chalachitram" would have been more appropriate.

(Photo courtesy:

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

You know you're in 'Yourlarich' when...

I have been in Chennai for 2 years now, with experience living in this city as a PIO and foreigner. Chennai means so many things to so many people. So, many feel a strong sentimental attachment to the city while others abhor it; I know of a Nepalese man who thinks Chennai is heaven because there is no "war" here, unlike his home in Nepal. It is his refuge and he has completely settled in, even attempting to learn the Tamizh language! In contrast, I know of a middle-class traditional dancer from Pune who has had so many safety, lifestyle and health issues since she arrived in Chennai. Shaken up completely, she swears to go home once her work is done in Chennai.

Having so many mixed reviews, I decided to just talk about my district, rather than my city, so that my views are backed up with my own personal experience and are completely true to life. It is a conservative, curious district, with a relentless price boom that is NOT parallelled with improvements in products or serivces, leaving informed customers like me, quite distressed. Some argue this is the case in all districts of Chennai, not just mine. However, I dont live in all districts, just this one. So of this one I shall speak!

On the positive side, I can tell you that my district's charm is that it is home to so much religious and musical history, which my reason for being here. Nonetheless, I shall not name my little district in case my list gets me brickbats from fans and fanatics who are extremely sentimental about this place, and can't swallow anyone else's tongue-in-cheek take on it. So, let's call my district Yourlarich. So, "You know you're in Yourlarich when..."

  1. Eating medu idli for breakfast, curd idli for lunch and sambar idli for dinner constitute three very different menus for the locals but is pretty much the same dish for you.
  2. Flat rentals can go through a 100% hike in 24 hours!
  3. An Indian female laughs out loud in public, she's chided for attracting attention, but if an Indian male does, he's adoringly looked at, for being genuine. "Foreign" women (i.e. caucasian, oriental, etc) are excused if they laugh out loud, because they "don't know better", apparently! But if you even look remotely Indian, you've simply got no excuse!
  4. The art of stocking supermarket shelves is a new concept - i.e. if something moves fast (e.g. Coffeemate) it will not be fact, it'll be removed altogether because it's moving too fast compared to the locally made milk powder that tastes like flour, and isn't moving at all.
  5. Dressing well and carrying yourself confidently, gets you a significantly higher auto-rickshaw rate than if you wore a frumpy outfit, didn't wash your hair for a week, and looked like you've never had it worse! The logic behind this is that if you look and feel this great, it must be because you have an obscene amount of money to spare on the auto ride!
  6. You are more likely to get run over by a speeding vehicle if you cautiously looked right, left and right again before crossing, instead of darting across the road. This is because the fact that the pedestrian is being cautious, somehow translates to the approaching driver that he/she is absolved of the pedestrian's safety and can drive into any solid object obstructing his/her path with a clear conscience.
  7. The idea of variety in food is North Indian, South Indian and Indian-Chinese as opposed to what Malaysians are pampered with: Malaysian Malay, Indonesian Malay, North Indian, South Indian, Malaysian Chinese, Chinese-Chinese, Hong Kong Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Lebanese, Danish, Irish, French, American, Tex-Mex, Korean, Japanese ....and the list goes on and on and on! So if someone in Yourlarich asks you what you want for dinner after you've been there for 2 years, you won't have to worry if you have issues making decisions - you still have the same 3 options you had when you first arrived.
  8. As a female, wearing jeans and a kurti-top (mid-length blouse), gets people looking disaprovingly at you and asking, "So why aren't you wearing a dupatta (shawl) with that?"
  9. When the newspaper classifieds claim a double bed room flat is available at a reasonable price, it will be wise to call and enquire first, if the 2nd room is in the same building as the first and if the bathroom has walls that go all the way up. (Serious!)
  10. You note that a rice cooker in March that went for its regular price, is sold on "cheap sale" for Deepavali in October, priced 30% more!
  11. Jewellery is waaaaay cheaper in your home country than in Yourlarich, but almost every local woman who sees your crappy, cheap, 3-for-10-ringgit stuff wants it anyway!
  12. The idea of exercise is 2 rounds around the local park in a saree and sandals at a snail's pace, while chatting about the best poori curry recipe, followed by sitting for 1.5 hours on the park bench, discussing the neighbour's second daughter-in-law. And after this, wash down with one badam kheer at home!

The idea for list above is inspired by my cousin, whose blog presented a similar list on Melbourne. Last but not least, there's more to the list above, but I need hurry now and buy that rice cooker before the October sale.

Friday, 15 August 2008


Chennai Quartet? - Clockwise, these are Renjith, Aravind, Rahul and me in Citi Centre, Chennai.

2 photos of family: One with Uncle Devan's family from mom's side inTrishur (second photo), and the other with relatives in dad's family, orignally from Anakara.

At Sharavanabhavan with American Fullbright Scholar in Carnatic Music, Fugan D.

Heading out (I swear I tied it myself!) for my first group based university performance at the Tyagaraja Vidwath Samajam, Mylapore.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

The Malaysian Me


Peeling myself off studies at uni was a tough task. This was because cutting off from the Music Dept and Chennai also means cutting off from my constant touch with music. And since my time in Chennai (with music) is only 3 years, you can imagien how kiasu I am with ensuring I am constantly in touch with music while there!

Having said that, I must admit, home is definately where the heart is. After my exams in Chennai this semester, it took me a second to realise that if I wanted to recharge myself for the upcoming year of music education, I HAVE to sink into my old bed in KL, sip Air Cincau in front of the TV, eat one Char Kuay Teow 'hot-hot' and watch an Indonesian horror flick - all to reprogramme that over-stimulated brain of mine. Not to mention, on the list too, was (1)savouring mom's pampering, (2) aunts' cooking, (3) cousins' yaking, (4) friends' catching up. It is just so essential for mental and emotional balance!

So, just 12 hours after I landed in KL, my cousin Shamini and her hubby Manu, took me out to Chillis in BSC for dinner! Caesar's Salad won best dish all over again for the second time since 1989, which was my first taste of Caesar's Salad, somewhere in a hotel in KL city.

HOME!!! The Malay music blasting in one of the baju kurung stalls in Sentral LRT station, the unmistakable cantonese conversations in Sg. Wang's handphone vending stalls and that nice aunty with the colourful bangles and glittering nose stud at my regular Indian food joint. Such pleasant memories, sights and sounds of home.

Yes, I miss classes in Chennai. Yes, I miss my teacher's inspiring lessons. Yes, I miss the resonance in the air that makes Carnatic Music an experience which can only be obtained in Chennai. But God, is it good to be home! And just to make sure I completely enjoy myself, in my list of to-dos, I jot down one more important thing in KL - listen to Maharajapuram Santhanam's Pancharathna Krithis, without planning for an exam, viva or practical!

Ah, now, life's complete.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

A Blogger's Promise

"When you're a child, time is play
When you're a teen, time is study
When you're an adult, time is money,
And when you're old, time is up!"

I promised a 6-year old about 25 years ago that if it were ever in my power, I'd publish his spontaneous "poh-wems" (that is how he pronounced them!) one by one, from the time he was 4. Time's long past, and I am nowhere near to being anyone special in the publishing business (for a good reason albeit!). If I were in both, music AND writing, I'd be either insane or dead from exhausion, according to him.

Nonetheless, as I am a blogger now, I can still keep my promise to the chubby, bushy tailed, perceptive, creative kid I grew up with! Can't reveal the name or else I may beget the wrath of an embarrassed present-day yuppie!

So matey, it's published. Cheers!

Wednesday, 23 January 2008


One of the mini-assignments I had in my first sem theory subject on Historical Theory and Concepts of Fine Arts I.

1. A General Categorisation of Ashta Nayikas
2. Ashta Nayika Categorisation
3. An Illustration / Example of the Ashta Nayikas in Practice
4. Categorisation by Birth or Behaviour


According to the Natyasastra of Bharathamuni, heroes are categorized into 4 (Chathurvidha Nayaka) and heroines are categorized into 8, by character. These 8 heroines (Ashta Nayika), are all Shringara* Nayikas, in accordance with the time then. There are also other categorizations for heroines, such as by ‘birth’ and ‘behaviour’, besides ‘character’. In total, author Dr. S Bhagyalekshmi, in her book Approach to Bharathanatyam, says that Nayikas are of 360 categories.

In the Ashta Nayika (8 heroines) classification, the eight are Svadhinabhathrika, Vasakasajjika, Virahothkanditha, Khanditha, Vipralabdha, Proshitabhatrika, Kalahantarita and Abhisarika.

*Shringara rasa is one of the 9 aesthetic emotions (rasas) evoked in /perceived by, a spectator of an artistic performance.

1. A General Categorisation of Ashta Nayikas

The Ashta Nayikas in general are classified into:
Uttama – They are well balanced and are well behaved. They are of the best among the three.
Madhyama – They will reciprocate via actions that are commensurate with the treatment they’ve received from their heroes, to express their discontent.
Adhama – This is the lowest category among the three and will not behave well, even if their heroes are well mannered or kind. They will be jealous and angry towards their heroes.

2.Ashta Nayika Categorisation

2.1 Svadhinabhathrika
Of the eight, this category of heroine is the only one who has her hero with her. Under all other categories, the hero is separated from the heroine, either by circumstance or will. The Svadhinabhathrika is pampered by her lover and she is confident of his love for her. She is very influential and to acquire what her heart’s desires, she makes others serve her. Dominant and commanding, this heroine’s lover is a slave to her as he is captivated by her and fulfills her every wish. E.g. Sathyabhama.

2.2 Vasakasajjika
This category of heroine anticipates her hero’s arrival though she does not know his arrival time. In preparation for his arrival, she adorns herself with ornaments and make up. Even her room is decorated and she peers out of the threshold of her home, looking if he has arrived. She is ready to receive her lover happily and awaits him eagerly.

2.3 Virahothkanditha
Virahothkanditha suffers the pangs of separation as she is apart from her lover. Due to the non-arrival of her lover or hero, she is discontented, anxious and gets exhausted from this. She continuously laments to her servants and others around, as she does not know why he has not arrived. She openly demonstrates her distress, exhaustion and discontent. However, she does not doubt her hero and will think of the various reasons he may have been unduly delayed, such as being detained by duty or king. E.g. of Virahothkanditha is Dhamayanthi before she meets Nala.

2.4 Khanditha
The Khanditha’s hero comes to her in the morning with tell-tale marks of having spent time with another woman. She is enraged upon seeing him and has pride, jealousy as well as anger. As the word “Khanditha” denotes, this category of heroine is one who expresses her anger and distress. The grammatical explanation of the term itself is to be cut or shattered, i.e. in this case the heroine is cut off and is shattered by anger. She uses contempt, sarcasm and silence as weapons.

2.5 Vipralabdha
This category of heroine is in love with her hero is aware of his infidelity; She notices the tell-tale signs of infidelity and will confront her hero about them. Thus, she is disappointed in love, showing her anxiety and disappointment through sarcasm towards her lover. The Vipralabdha also weeps and faints. A sense of inferiority arises in her, out of feeling that other women are more deserving of her hero’s affection, than herself.

2.6 Proshitabhatrika
Proshitabhatrika is the heroine who is separated from her hero and is therefore sad. She therefore loses interest in herself, e.g., in dressing and grooming herself. The separation is due to circumstance, i.e. a mission, livelihood or education of the hero. Hence, the separation is justified. Unlike the Vasatasajika (2.2 above), the Proshitabhatrika knows the duration of separation.

2.7 Kalahantarita
The term itself expresses the character of the heroine in this category, i.e. ‘Kala’ is anger while ‘anta’ means end, and ‘aritha’ is to repent. In this category the Nayika is quarrelsome and is not reluctant to disgrace her hero in front of others. She later on, repents her misdeed and is filled with remorse. She can be one of two types: (1) one who turns her hero away because of his relationship with another woman and then repents, or (2) one who turns her hero away in anger because he has failed to adhere to her commands, and then repents.

2.8 Abhisarika
The Abhisarika spends much time adorning herself and makes special attempt to go after her hero. She is skillful and cunning. This category has six subdivisions, i.e.:
Jyotsnabhisarika who wears white and goes out in the moonlight to meet her hero.
Divabhisarika who pretends to be going to perform her daily chores but instead goes to meet him.
Thamoabhisarika who wears dark clothes (black, red or blue) to camouflage herself in the night and then sets out to meet her hero.
Kamaabhisarika who goes out to meet her hero with great passion.
Gharvababhisarika whose intention is to come to where he is, to meet him. However, to hide her pride, she pretends she has come on some other task or talks to someone else instead of her hero.
Premavakyabhisarika who talks nicely, with full of love.

3. An Illustration / Example of the Ashta Nayikas in Practice

In illustration of the eight categories, the attached internet article describes an artiste, Indira Kadambi, presenting the Ashta Nayikas in the theme ‘Ashta nayakiyarin ishta Murugan’, showcasing the “eight emotional states of a heroine in love”, for the Margazhi Mahotsav in Chennai. (Performance date is not stated).

The article mentions that she started with the proshitabhatrika nayika, “a heroine who is unable to bear even a temporary separation from her husband or lover, Lord Muruga”. Following through with the vasakasajjika, virahotkhandita, abhisarika, vipralabdha, khandita, kalahantarita nayikas in that order, she ends with the svadhinabhathrika nayika, welcoming her hero’s return with happiness & pride. As this nayika, she is confident of his love for her.

In the review the author mentions that the compositions and alapana rendered were selected or adapted to suit each character and the theme of the performance.

4. Categorisation by Birth or Behaviour

The Natyasastra mentions the categories of Nayikas by birth or behaviour (or “psychological aspect”, as termed by Dr. Bhagyelakshmi in her book, Approach to Bharathanatyam). Thus, the Ashta Nayikas (which is a classification by nature/ character), can be categorised by birth and behaviour.
By birth:
Divya – These heroines are of divine origin (E.g. Indrani)
Maanava – These heroines are of human origin (E.g. Kannagi)
Mishra – These heroines are a mix of both categories above, such as divine beings who had taken human form, such as Seetha or Andal.
Another birth-based classification is:
Divya - These heroines are of divine origin (E.g. Indrani)
Nrpatni – These are heroines of royal lineage, i.e. kings’ wives (E.g. Mandodhari)
Kulastri – These heroines are women of respectable families
Ganika – These are heroines who are courtesans

By behaviour:

Svakiya – She is of good character and spends her time serving her hero, who she loves. She is the ideal wife and is categorized into Mugdha, Madhya and Pragalbha. In the work titled Studies in Nayika-Nayaka Bedha by Rakeshagupta, the author states that the division of Svakiya into Mugdha, Madhya and Pragalbha is similar to the classification that divides the youth of the woman into 4 stages: Prathama, Dwitiya, Thrithiya and Chathurtha Yowanas, though the actual definitions of these are not given by the author.
Mugdha – This category is further divided into the Dyata Yowana who is aware of men and their character, as well as Adhyata Yowana who is not aware of men and their characters. Mugdha is generally young, shy and inexperienced in love. Thus she is not aware of how she is to react to love.
Madhya – The Madhya Nayika has reacted to her husband’s love. However, she is not fully understood love. This category is broken down into Dheera, Adheera and Dheeradheera. Each of these is broken down into Decha (older) and Kanicha (younger).
i. Dheera Madhya – She will marry more than once and will be jealous because her hero favours another. She indirectly expresses her ill-feelings and uses sarcasm. She does not however, raise her voice in anger and instead, maintains respect towards her husband though her mood will be one of indifference (e.g. not smiling).
ii. Adheera Madhya – She openly rebukes her hero and chides him in public.
iii. Dheeraadheera Madhya – She is likely to use sarcasm and will breakdown in expression of her discontent.
Praghalpa - She is very experienced and understands the character of her hero. Thus she can express herself very well. Praghalpa is broken down into the Dheera, Adheera and Dheeradheera categories as well.
Parakeeya – She is also known as Anyanari and can be one of two types; the Kanya or the Praudha. The Kanya is a young maiden and the Praudha is married and matured. The Parakeeya belongs to one person but has feelings for another. An e.g. would be Meera as she pined for Krishna’s love despite being married to another. She would fall into the Praudha category.
Samanya – Also known as Dravyanari, she is a courtesan and will attach herself to her hero/heroes for self betterment. She will charm her heroes with her beauty and cultural talents.
The classification into Uttama, Madhyama and Adhama by Bharathamuni, is said to be “similar in spirit to the classification into Svakiya, Parakeeya and Samanya”, according to author Rakeshagupta in his book, Studies in Nayika-Nayaka Bheda.


The Nayikas’ categorization by birth, character and behaviour are all as stated in the Natyasastra. The Ashta Nayikas can be respectively classified into Uttama, Madhyama and Adhama. In terms of behaviour, they can also be classified into Sviya, Parakeeya and Samanya. While the Praghalpa and Madhya Nayikas of the Svakiya category are broken down into Dheera, Adheera and Dheeradheera, the Mugdha Nayikas of the Svakiya category is separated into the Kanya and Praudha groups. The Ashta Nayikas, when categorized by birth, can be segregated into origins; divine, human or a combination of both.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Katha Parayumbol - Must Watch!


You: Why Should I Watch 'Katha Parayumbol'?

Me: If you're anything like me, you are curious about most things Keralite, but you don't always relate to Kerala's culture or understand the finer nuances of Malayalee conversation. (And you wont be even be surprised that you dont relate to these aspects.) Why? Because, like me, you:

  1. never grew up in Kerala...or India for that matter.

  2. What you know of the Malayalam language is what mom or grandma spoke, or what you saw in pirated Mallu videos of the 80s, in the country your family emigrated to.
So, a two hour political potrayal of socialist endeavours or "boy-meets-girl at college for the billionth time", will be completely lost on someone like me.

But the movie "Katha Parayumbol..." (translates loosely to "When Telling a Story...") engaged me for its complete duration...that's an experience I've not had with any Indian movie in a while!
Story-telling was at a new level, with entertainment and education rolled into one. Each cast member was picked with precission and the screenplay (by comedian Sreenivasan) was commendable in my view.

In a time when the Indian movie still gets snickered at for its focus on "LAU", "LAU SONGS" and as they say in Tamil, "KUTHU CHANDAI" ( "Impossible feats of fist fighting and kicking stunts that defy gravity), this movie has me thinking that it's time I take my "tounge-in-cheek", sarcy family and friends to this movie.

You:Where Should I Watch This?

Me: I'm priviledged to have watched "Katha Parayumbol..." on the big screen in Chennai and I am aware that my fellow members of the Keralite diaspora may not have this privilege if they're in Malaysia or Belgium or Fiji Islands or whatever. But to those of you planning to make a trip to Kerala, I recommend you don't miss this movie.

You: Ok, You've Won Me Over ...(Almost, so dont get too excited!) Tell me, who starred in it?

Me: Now the stars... Mamooty& Sreenivasan.

Every Mallu and his/her brother-in-law knows Mamooty.

I dont know how many of my Mallu family and friends will know the name Sreenivasan from the 80s/90s comedy flicks. But if you remember him as well as I do, I think you'll agree that he was one of those comedians you waited to watch on screen and whose talent in comedic-timing surpassed that of most of his peers of those decades.

Anyway, Sreenivasan wrote the screenplay of this movie and he's done a wonderful job! Loved this movie and recommend it to Mallus who aren't completely in sync with regular Mallu flicks.

You: Do I Have Access to This Movie? If I Don't, Why Whet My Apetite Telling Me About It?

Me: You may wonder how the rest of the Malayalee population, dispersed across continents, nationalities and generations, are going to get to view this gem of a Malayalam movie. For now, the only way is to either travel to satisfy your unique movie cravings, or to become an owner of a cinema and make it a point to screen Mallu movies. :-) How that would make money, I don't know....I ain't no business-person.

Any other legal ideas are welcome too. I always imagined that malayalee associations all over the world will one day convene to find a solution to this problem, especially in the day and age when every Malayalee parent is lamenting that their kids aren't as Mallu as themselves or aren't interested in Mallu culture. I'm surprised that these parents don't realise that they themselves picked up details of Kerala and its tradition through Malayalam cinema. Therefore, great films are the answer to their problems. Despite all the ingenuity that the Keralite boasts of across the seas, something as simple as propagation of culture through GOOD cinema has been left untapped.

I think Malayalam cinema, unlike many of it's sister-genres, can (for the most part) boast of being able to propagate culture without the patronising commerical additives that include [1] hip-hop dancers for a song set in Kanada raga (go figure!) or [2] a three-piece suit with tie-pin and cuff links, for a villian whose entire lifestyle is typical of a village head (and not of the mafia!)

Secretly, the next story I hope someone as talented as Sreenivasan tells us, relates to not only those IN Kerala but those OUT of it, aspiring to retain what is precious. He seems fertile with issues which are otherwise untouched by his own peers in Malayalam film-making, and I hope a movie like the one I've mentioned above, takes hime to greater heights.

Here's another secret wish...the reason I tell you, the potential-audience about this, is in the hope that some Mallu out there reading this, does something about accessibility of Malayalam movies to Keralites and their clueless descendents around the world!

So there!

Incidentally, I HAVE emailed Sreenivasan my comments. :-)

Source of photos -

Monday, 14 January 2008

True Story: Citizen Auto-Driver


On the way to uni this morning, I performed the usual rituals; getting into an auto-rickshaw, ensuring the driver understood where I was going. Trust me, I've been driven to places WAAAY of the mark a few times when I did not name at least 2 landmarks besides mentioning the name of my famous campus and uni!

Anyway, the point is, 2 mins away from my stop I prepared my fare in hand so that I don't start searching my bag for the right change when I get there. Today I took out a Rs.100 note to pay the driver my Rs.60 fare.

When I whisked the note out of my purse, it flew out of my hand into the merciless traffic of Kamaraj Salai. Anyone who's been on Kamaraj Salai will tell you it is no less than a death wish, to run after a stray note on that road, no matter what the denomination. But tell that to my auto driver, will you?! This amazingly brave driver (or brainless...whichever you'd perceive him to be), parked the vehicle safely along the roadside, got down, and darted through the heavy traffic, dodging the tank-like Ambassadors, reckless scooters, autos etc to chase the note. As though that was not amazing enough, he actually caught it while it whizzed between vehicles. He then proudly waved to me with it, 50 yards off where I sat, completely awestruck!

As he walked back towards me, I saw an arm extend from behind a pillar that separated him and the road he had to cross to get to me. It gestured him to approach. From the sleeve on the arm, I knew it would be a traffic policeman who must have seen the incident as we'd passed him so closely during this 'drama'. I assumed he just wished to "kepoh", as we say in Malaysia....or in English, to be a "busy body".

The driver disappeared beind the pillar. When he emerged next, he wore an angry expression, nodding his head in annoyance and was muttering under his breath. As soon as he saw me peering out of his auto, he apologised and explained that the policeman had literally taken the note out of his hand! No explanation or query. Just like that! The auto driver expressed his annoyance about his failed attempts at convincing the policeman that the money belonged to a customer in his auto, just across the road!

The auto driver suggested to me politely that perhaps I should cross the road and go ask the policeman for the money myself since the policeman doubted the driver's testimony. This of course was a last resort as it has commonly been the advice of my Chennite friends, to stay clear of troublesome (or more precisely in this case, bullying) coppers. As I got out of the vehicle, the policeman who was up until that time standing there watching the driver walk back to the auto, hurriedly got on his bike and sped off!

The auto driver's eyes turned bloodshot and he started swearing at the policeman! I was amazed that my driver felt a certain sense of duty towards getting his customer's rightful money, back. Among so many auto drivers I'd met who couldn't give a toss as to what happens to their customers, today's auto driver came to me as a big surprise. Though I lost my money to the cop, I felt I needed to reward my driver. So I gave him a tip over the fare, both of which I had to conjour up from my remaining stash after a desparate search for spare change in my school bag. I was again amazed that he was polite enough to refuse my first attempt to give him a tip.

And that, was the event of today which I thought was blog-worthy.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Subjects in Semester 1


Some friends (& strangers!!) had contacted me from Malaysia, enquiring about my are the subjects I took in my first semester at University of Madras, under MA Indian Music:
  1. Foundation in Performance I
  2. Compositions in 8 Ragas
  3. Alapana in 4 Ragas
  4. Devotional Compositions: Music of South India
  5. Historical and Theoretical Concepts of Fine Arts I
  6. Introduction to Sanskrit I
  7. Spanish - Compulsory to take one subject within the group of subjects called "soft skills", as per the new university ruling.

Rough Descriptions:

  1. Includes understanding of tala, nadai, use of nadai in tisram, kandam, misram (and naturally chatusram). Varnam will be sung in all these nadais, in 1st and 2nd kalam. Alangkaras in all talas, using 8 ragas. This will have to be rendered with and without gamakas. It is implied that sarali, jantai, dhatu varisais and relevant geethams and varnams are already covered when the student joins the course, as they will be the basis of introducing other new concepts. (Practical)
  2. Compositions in 2-kalai covering 8 important ragas will be covered. These compositions are different every semester, hence no preparation can be undertaken except sharpening one's knowledge of the ragas in which the compositions will be taught. Ragas include among others: Purvikalyani, Kamboji and Saveri. This subject is the basis for subjects in musical improvisation in following semesters. (Practical)
  3. This is a creative subject but it requires understanding and apt rendering of the 4 selected ragas. Ability to notate alapanas that masters of the art render, is also examined. (Practical)
  4. Devotional compositions in Telegu, Malayalam, Tamil and Kannada. Compositions include ragamalikas. Some compositions may also be in Manipravalam. (Practical)
  5. As the title suggests. Topics covered include music theory and literature pre- and post-trinity, largely covering history of tamil music. Thus topics such as 4000 Divya Prabandham, Thevaram, Tirupugal, Panniru Tirumurai etc will be covered along with ancient works such as Silapadikaram, Tolkapiyam, Bharatasenapatiyam, Cacaputavenpa, Talasamudiram etc. There are over 25 main topics so the list above is not exhaustive.
  6. This subject is a follow-on for students who, in India, have studied the basics of Sanskrit in school already. Note to the non-Indian student: To be able to complete this subject successfully, you may consider learning sanskrit on your own first, and come up to speed with the Indian school-leaver. Sanskrit is an excellent allied-subject to take alongside your music studies, to aid in the appreciation of sahitya in Carnatic music.
  7. This is one of the university's new (compulsory) subject introductions, alongside other options such as Managerial Skills and Computing Skills, to keep postgrads upto par with the requirements of the Indian/ international job market. Languages offered include French, German, Italian and Korean, besides Spanish.

Hope the description above is helpful. All the best!