Monday, 28 April 2014

TV Reality, Reality TV!

My first memories of being on TV are those from early reality TV in Malaysia. These were the first attempts by Malaysia at creating reality TV content for the Tamil speaking audience; I was on Paadal Thiran Potti 2002.

Like any dejected reality artiste and aspiring singer, I cried hopelessly when I failed the quarter finals. Funny thing is I tried half-heartedly in 2003 and got selected again. In those days, no back story was done, so I had nothing to sell myself with, on the show. The experience was still new to me in 2003, but this time I expected little from a TV show which seemed more interested in ratings than talent. That was a strange concept to me then, but is something I realise only now, was an issue Indian talent programmes in Malaysia grappled with, having no reference point other than AI at the time, no format creation guide and no specialist reality show consultant. Today all that is availed upon an approved budget in TV, I guess.

I was voted out by the then esteemed public-voting method which again, today, is not a preferred selection method at quarter finals in reality singing competitions around the world, including Malaysia. Why? Because the public has gradually realised that it is not as equipped with a skill as fine as that of a specialist in a certain talent, to gauge the artistry of an aspiring actor, singer, model or chef! That and the then weaker economics of digital entertainment. Few people voted  in those days via sms among the Indian masses, which this show was meant to appeal to. But  public voting was used and if the contestant did not prompt tonnes of friends to vote them in, you were only going to garner what I term "genuine" votes, i.e. votes of those who genuinely listened and liked a performer. There was no FB and Twitter, remember?

In any case, once I was out in 2003, I thought I'd lost all chance of being an artiste. I was wrong. Against the odds, again, TV selected me for shows for Merdeka, for shows needing talent in classical Indian vocal music etc. I thought that with such limited opportunity in the Malaysian commercial music scene for vernacular artistes, I'd have to just continue my corporate career until my end. But no - I was 'found' by those wanting a good recording voice. Radio commercial - check. Recording artiste for album - check. Musical theatre - check. Interesting - and there I thought tv viewers voting singers in or out had written me off as a singer. Wrong!

The music education I took on my own ringgit starting 1998 in India, and the various performance opps I considered lessons in experience, paid off when in 2006, I got entry in Madras University for my Masters in Indian Music. The rest of my story up until 2009, when Bernama interviewed me, is here.

It's been a ride worth taking and as time passes, the journey gets even more interesting. Peaks and troughs. Ups and downs. And they're all here to stay.

I finally turned towards music and away from the life of a corporate employee. Or did I?

Today however, I shall say no more. More to come, my friends. I've a feeling I can let my story unravel itself  - in TV, in recording music, in writing, in survival, in prayer, in forgiveness, in humility and in gratitude. But revealing all at once dulls the taste for drama. So here's a piece, no more.

Just stay tuned. ;-)

Monday, 17 March 2014

“Shobha-approved” Top Ten Indian Wedding Vendors 2014

Besides the non-negotiable ingredient, i.e. a loving groom, a bride looks for the best wedding vendors to make her happy on her big day!

Engagement, Wedding & Reception location: Malaysia.
Vendors: Malaysia and India.
Feb, Mar 2014

It appears that every bride goes through a learning curve. I am not talking about the advent of married life hitting you like a ton of bricks. Well, that is inevitable. 

The part I talk of, is the wisdom slowly acquired upon engaging vendors for a wedding. Good ones, rotten ones, accommodative ones, affordable ones, arrogant ones, rude ones, diligent ones, memorable ones and ones you’d rather have not met.
I had three events; engagement, wedding and dinner reception. I cannot recommend all the vendors from all the events as not everyone deserves a Shobha-approved stamp!

So, here’s my list of best bridal vendors in order of superb-ness!

  1. Saree Blouse Designer and Tailor for engagement, wedding and reception - Navira Tailor, Brickfields, KL.  Led by a vibrant Mrs. Rajah, this tailor promised (and delivered!) quality work. She even professionally undid the horrendous work of a so-called celebrity tailor I engaged in Ernakulam, and re-constructed my blouse by using the orginal blouse piece material, with absolutely no visible flaws! Any tailor who can undo the disastrous handiwork I brought back from India (for my engagement, wedding and reception), deserves commendation in my book! Navira Tailor deserves the first “Shobha-approved” stamp! Contact me for her number.

  1. 2.      Venue Decorators at reception – Sareenpaal Creatives. They were not interested in a long sales talk that my bridal deco vendor experience had until then, reeked of. These guys just did their job and did it well. I asked for samples and they did not guide me to any physical studio, which would have wasted half my day. Instead, they sent me options based on my specific deco requests, via whatsapp, with photos! Choosing was thus made easy. They had a positive can-do attitude about my suggestions and did not pressure add-on stuff just to inflate my bill. They respected my love for minimalism and even suggested how I could keep cost low. Now that is a trait every bride and her groom cannot disregard in recommending vendors. Second “Shobha-approved” stamp goes to Sareenpaal Creatives

  1. 3.       Wedding Dinner Saree – Jayalakshmi Silks, Trishur. I know a Textile shop is not a service-based vendor. Or is it?! The service I received at Jayalakshmi in Trishur and Kochi(India) were a notch above the rest in India. The personable staff, impeccable service and choice of dreamy sarees gave me the kind of experience that every bride wishes for, during her bridal shopping. My saree was a hit with the groom, our families, my tailors, my photographer, my makeup artiste, my saree-draper and even my launderette! Everywhere this champagne studded lame gold, thread work saree went, it received gasps! Best part – it cost me far less than it would, to buy one exported out of India. That is, if at all by some miracle, it were available in local stores. Well done, Jayalakshmi.

  1. 4.       Make Up and Hair – I had three different ones, one for each of my events. I attended 6 trials – so I have experienced 6 vendors and dare say I have sampled enough to know what I am talking about. The only makeup and hair artiste I would recommend of them all would be Cut Above @ BV II (artiste/stylist Pink), who did both my makeup and hair for my engagement. The others I considered were typically affordably priced, as she is. But my grouse isn’t on price; Though all vendors’ skills and price were at par with each other’s, Pink at Cut Above beat the other vendors at attitude, service levels, reliability, professionalism and speed.

  1. 5.      Wedding video montage – Mr. Kannan (contact available upon request), came through for us where so many others claimed a week between the wedding and reception was too short to produce a video montage. Jaws dropped at the reception dinner because skeptics had earlier concluded that Mr. Kannan would not be ready given his low prices. They had to eat their words when at the reception dinner, the video montage played on repeat, on a projection screen! His pricing and attitude are bankable. His commitment thrilled my groom and our family members.

  1. 6.      Door Gift was perfect for my groom and me. My groom is an artiste and I am a writer of sorts. I proposed fridge magnets with a variety of wordings thanking my guests, alongside prints of my groom’s had drawn art. The company took the order and produced these within no time. No fuss, no hassle – at less than RM1.50 a piece for 300 dinner guests. And these are items your guests will find useful to pin up notes and lists on their frideges. It also has my personal messages to them so taht they know that their presence is appreciated. Best of all - no mess of handling messy cupcakes or melting chocolates.

  1. 7.      Wedding Cake - Suguna Creative Cakes is owned by an effervescent Mrs. Suguna who revels in the art of making special-occasion cakes. She made us a three tier pink and white butter cake, in theme with my dinner deco colours. I was tied up with so much to do, that I all I did was give her a verbal description of what I wanted. She intelligently  used just that and her own creativity to bake her masterpiece. She kept the cost affordable but gave us the best possible taste that caused guests to rave about her cake on the way home. She also went beyond her call of duty and recommended Magnetking to us. We now call her our  “resourceful aunty Suguna”! 

  1. 8.      Saree-draper - Now this is a service you don’t see advertised very often. But make no mistake, it is big business in Malaysia. Brides needing this service come from modern and traditional families. Typically, those in Malaysia  who have delved in traditional dance forms (whether of modern or traditional upbringing), learn saree-draping as it is woven into their dance lesson. The rest of us, despite being able to boast a strong base in traditional arts such as in singing or instrument-playing, are often detached from the art unless we happen to wear the garment every day! We Malaysian women often get away with moderate saree-draping skills by intermittently opting for other Indian attire such as Salwar Khameez or Lehengas. Saree-draping has been thus not a compulsory skill to acquire. Corp jobs require more pant suits and skirts than the flowing saree. But the occasional traditional occasion throws us a surprise every now and then. Hence the newfound career for many beauticians, in saree-draping. My artful draper did a good job for my wedding and engagement, and draped sarees for many others who managed to queue for their turn once the bride was done. He deserves mention. Here’s to every woman’s best friend at an Indian wedding; Mr. Joseph of Petaling Jaya (contact available upon request)! 

  1. 9.      Wedding card – Often forgotten about once the wedding planning is underway, the card is the first step to kick-starting the event! Shippraas at Brickfields was easy to deal with. We told them we wanted them to print the card as per our design, and they were willing to negotiate on price with us. No delay. No drama. No hidden costs. Tel: +603 22721290
  1. 10.    Catering - We used Little Caterers at all 3 events and had no complaints other than the fact the sales person was usually hard to reach. However, once we got him, he was easy to work with. The food got great reviews and they lived up to their reputation with both, the vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.

I’d love to name my other makeup/ hair artistes, my AV vendor etc, but really, the names above are the only ones I’d put my money on without a doubt. They are all “Shobha-approved”.

The rest, predominantly one of the makeup artistes, was hard to deal with.  There are also those who never made my vendor list as they were never shortlisted to begin with ;  a card vendor, several caterers, etc.

If I had a list of who NOT to hire, I’d have their names on it, starting with a Malaysian Indian hair / makeup artiste who seemingly made up many television and film stars at her shop in Brickfields. She had skilled hands but was not able to keep appointments, produced only a verbal pricelist, tried to wrangle more money than I had paid for services within her package and was polite only until her deposit was banked in.

I’d love to tell you who she is, but remember I talked about the vendors I would “rather have not met” in my first para? This is one of them. So, I'd rather forget her existance. Well, it depends – if you’re getting married and desperately need to know who she is, so that you don’t repeat my mistake, just ask me nicely….