I seem to return to blogging whenever life feels out of control. It usually manifests such that I stay up all night avoiding something I’ll have to do anyway, and in order to distract myself, I blog. Not a bad side-effect, especially if it means I put things I’m feeling into writing.
So anyway. I’ve been watching and reading a bunch of stuff.
I watched the much-hyped Lucia last week. For those not in the know, Lucia is a Kannada film. What makes it unique is that it is crowdfunded.
A year or two ago, I saw this rather intriguing trailer for this movie. They’d put out this trailer and asked people to give money on the basis of it. I had some issues with the payment gateway and forgot all about it for a while. By the time there were regular updates trickling in about the movie, the window for crowdfunding closed and the movie was soon to be released. I regretted forgetting all about it, but oh well, can’t do everything.
The movie opened in theaters just the weekend I was getting back to New York, so I didn’t have time to watch it then. It released online for non-Indian audiences last week. The site was slow to load; there must have been tons of traffic. And $10 later, I began watching it.
The storyline is taut. The acting is topnotch. It feels real and grounded. You end up relating to the characters. The music’s fun. There’s of course a twist ending that you’re waiting for, starting from the opening credits. And it’s good. But that’s not all that you appreciate the movie for.
It progresses slow in some paces, but that only suits to establish characters, make you empathize, build it all up so that you relate better to the climax and twist. Overall, it’s nicely made, well-directed, slick, and the sort of movie that puts a smile on your face.
And crowdfunding for movies seems great. As long as, of course, the movies that rely on crowdfunding are Indie and really can’t raaise funds from producers because it seems risky. I totally don’t appreciate the idea of big names using Kickstarter for their projects, just because they are too lazy to go out there and raise money the traditional way. Because it’s easier for them, and if they invade this sphere as well, where’s everybody else to go?
Oh, do watch Lucia. It’s a nice watch.
I’m part of a quarterly book club, and this time, our book of choice was Quiet – The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. It felt interesting to me. Of course, the problem with this genre is the anecdotal evidence that masquerades as supporting data for any hypothesis. The issue here is, Susan Cain is a worse offender than Malcolm Gladwell.
Still, the way of thinking about things has offered me a fresh perspective on myself. I’ve somehow always considered myself an extrovert. I’ve always been the most talkative kid in class, I always speak my mind, and I genuinely like meeting and getting to know people. And I’ve always been big on sharing my feelings. So how could I be an introvert?
Over the past few years, I find it easier and easier to be by myself. I guess I always did, I just never accepted it because if you were quiet and did your own thing, my extended family considered you downright weird, and my whole thing has been about getting away from that since then. I like living in a big city mainly because it affords me the anonymity and removes the need to have to rely on people continuously. I hate littering my day with ten-fifteen things on the fly the way my mother does, and I’m happiest just left to my own damn devices, decide my own damn schedule and not be answerable to too many people.
And it’d be great if the world left it that way and stopped trying to ‘fix’ me.
How watching Norah Jones videos and Netflix documentaries gave me a movie idea
I’m a huge huge fan of Norah Jones. I have zilch experience singing and now all I want is to be able to sing like her some day, just because I loved how she held us spellbound on that tiny stage in Tarrytown last year.
So no surprise I’ve been watching her interviews on YouTube a lot. Her soft Southern(?) lilt is endearing. She’s incredibly down to earth for someone who’s sold the most records in the previous decade. Her occasional comebacks (“You’re writing lots of breakup songs..” | “I’m not the only one”) feel very ‘bless ‘er heart’. I’m this close to crawling small musical venues around Cobble Hill hoping I chance on her performing in disguise (‘I’m not a good practicer, I learn best when I perform regularly’)
Now I’m no fan of Pandit Ravi Shankar. I haven’t really listened to his music, but the whole rockstar musician misogynist philanderer narrative has never sat well with me, be it with John Lennon or Ravi Shankar. I can write a whole essay on how the Simi Garewal interview with Ravi Shankar and Sukanya from fifteen years ago made me want to throw up. But his daughters, they give such fun interviews, say such fun things. Like the video where they are both accepting his Lifetime Achievement Grammy soon after his death.
In one of those rare interviews Norah Jones actually was mentioning her father, she was talking about her ‘inner jazz nerd’. That led me to watch a documentary on Jazz. It’s multipart, and I’m still midway into part 2, but the culture, the history, the way it is shaped around America’s race relations, how it is pretty much American history itself, delighted me. It’s this warm fuzzy feeling that comes with knowing that the little ditty you hum while doing the dishes is part of something much larger than itself.
This is a sliver of culture people are born into, people die with. My rootless self would probably claim that influence to be Rahman and Raja saar, but jazz spans generations. The same jazz standards are sung everywhere, by everyone, be it at Birdland or BlueNote, by Ella or Norah.
I might be jaded about the culture around Carnatic music, but jazz…. that was exciting. And I suppose tons of people would find the culture around Carnatic music exciting.
So. How about this movie about a philandering musician? He sows wild oats all over the world, and the mothers of his children are from musical traditions too.
Can make this musician of unknown lineage, unknown origin enough to make him blend everywhere. Maybe get Sacha Baron Cohen to play the part, I don’t know.
Surely there’ll be the HDDCS-type Hindustani musician, under whose tutelage our Musician learns. And his first wife is his teacher’s daughter.
Then there can be a Mohiniattam dancer?
And then a jazz singer from New Orleans?
A heavymetal guitarist in Norway?
A Khmer singer who meets her grisly end in the Killing Fields?
A Tuvan whose wants to follow in her family’s tradition of throat singers, but is not allowed to because she is a girl, but then finds success in the west?
This would totally make for a book in the style of Rushdie’s Ground Beneath Her Feet, and if it can be written without trivia and references and nods for the sake of trivia and references and nods, it’d be wonderful.
Would be great to start off the book at the singer’s deathbed, with all his children coming in from all over the world to see him (or not), and go backwards from there.
Plus, it’d be interesting to explore what a father or the lack thereof means in all these different cultures, how a single mother is perceived, how these things change over the course of time.
Would be an interesting book. Someone do write it!
Like I’ll probably never tire of saying, I moved to New York City in 2012.
Among other things, I discovered that a lot of concerts happen in the area. I don’t anymore have to worry about getting back late. And it works great even if I’m by myself, thanks to the excellent public transport this city has. So I ended up watching a lot of concerts. Let’s see how that went.
- Norah Jones: Last April at Tarrytown Music Hall. I had no idea this place existed. My friend had an extra ticket and while I had only listened to two Norah Jones songs properly until then, I decided to just go. Turned out to be a test concert for her tour for Little Broken Hearts a month later. Two hours later, Norah had a new fan. Her voice has an ethereal quality to it. Her manner makes you feel she’s just a regular girl you’d meet at a slumber party and do your nails with and who you’ll grin at when she has her arms full of Grammys and you won’t for a moment think she’s being snarky when she says “And I didn’t thank my grandmother either” when the media asks her why she didn’t thank Pt. Ravi Shankar in her Grammy acceptance speech. I also have grown to like her country band The Little Willies. Her music doesn’t take itself too seriously, be it when she’s covering Dolly Parton’s Jolene or singing melodious yet creepy songs about what she’ll do Miriam who’s done her wrong. I love how effortless she makes it all seem.
Here’s The Little Willies singing about Lou Reed cow tippin’.
- The Manhattan Transfer: It was Last.fm’s recommendations which introduced me to this jazz vocalese band. I wrote about the concert here. It was a very enjoyable evening. It was raining like crazy as I hunted for a Kinko’s to print my tickets out near Grand Central, and I made a mad dash in my soaked ballerina flats to catch the last train that would get me to Tarrytown in time for the concert. It was still cold and rainy and dark as I trudged up the slope to get to the music hall. It was downright magical to hear jazz vocalese being performed live. When we all stood up in an ovation after Birdland, it didn’t matter that I was the youngest and brownest in the crowd, or that the two women next to me had large bobbing Adam’s apples and that had made me unsure about beginning a conversation with them or that the old couple next to me called me ‘coloured’…. all that mattered was we thought the band did a wonderful job and we had had a great evening.
- The Raghu Dixit Project: All the Bangaloreans in the tri-state area came together at Joe’s Pub that evening. Everyone had that typical RV/PESIT look about them. Their performance was just like I remembered them at NITK in 2007, though only Raghu Dixit and Gaurav Vaz remained of the then-lineup. Their token eye-candy was the flautist this time, as opposed to the guitarist while at NITK. Everyone who’d come, Bangalorean or not, enjoyed the concert a lot. There even was a caucasian woman who danced on tables and jumped up on stage as the band finished. She was introduced to the crowd as the band’s ‘stalker’. They played old songs, new ones, movie songs, folk songs… they’ve always been good at showmanship and kept the audience on their feet pretty much the entire duration. Pretty good, I’d say.
- The Doors (of the 21st Century): aka Krieger-Manzarek. They’ve got a lead singer who does a pretty awesome Jim Morrison. Ray Manzarek looks just as erudite and classy as he looked in the band’s heyday. Robby Krieger looks like just another little old man with funny pants and a great shock of white hair, but two minutes with a guitar and he’s a powerhouse. Ray’s brother Rick Manzarek came in with the lead guitar for a few songs, I don’t particularly remember which ones. (This is why you’ve got to blog just as soon as you finish a concert). I was initially trying to record the songs, or to sing along or to try and remember the songs, but with the long interludes and solos and improvizations, I just gave up and sat back and closed my eyes. It was the closest I’ve got to a religious experience. The band are very loud, very ’70s, very cheery, very prone to cussing. They remembered Jim, they got up and pranced around, they screamed, they played their hearts out. From Riders on the storm to Indian Summer to Light My Fire, the music transcended every pore of my being, and when they finally got around to LA Woman, it didn’t matter anymore that they were playing ‘my song’, all I knew was I didn’t want them to stop playing. I’m someone who makes fun of Morrison poetry, but in that music hall with the music so loud, and a powerful-voiced young man spouting them, the lyrics all came together and made sense.
The crowd was interesting as well. Lots of ex-hippies. The sorts who are balding badly but still have a ponytail. The sort who still try to drink like they did in the original Doors concerts, but now end up going to the restroom every half hour. One such man next to me was reminiscing about driving down Sunset Blvd passing by a billboard advertising the latest Doors album, LA Woman, with Light My Fire playing on the radio when the announcer interrupted to announce Morrison had been found dead in Paris. His much-younger wife piped in with ‘I wasn’t born then’, and we laughed.
- Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler: I had the highest expectations for this one. If listening to Krieger-Manzarek had been a dream-come-true, Bob Dylan would be downright legendary. Didn’t pan out that way. First, we’d gotten the crappiest seats at Barclay Center. Secondly, it was at Barclay Center, which is a ballpark. The problem with a ballpark is, it’s too large. I was too far above the stage and watched the whole thing with my camera zoomed in to 25x. The acoustics were okay. But then Mark Knopfler was the least interactive performer I had watched until then. Most of the songs he played weren’t any of the popular ones from Dire Straits. I’d have liked to appreciate the Celtic-sounding numbers he played, but not one song got an introduction or even had its name mentioned. The band was introduced at the very end. There was hardly any greeting the audience or acknowledging us.
I thought Dylan would be better because he famously performs at his grandkids’ school impromptu. How wrong I was. He acknowledged the audience even less than Knopfler did. He sang all his songs in a gruff monotone with very little hitting the higher or even the mid-ranged notes. I had great difficulty identifying which song it was that he was singing. The lighting was terrible.
If all that weren’t enough, the audience enthusiasm was pretty low. Any burst of enthusiasm would remain rather localized because the place was so large and people were so sparsely scattered. One group starts going ‘woooooo’ and realizes they sound out-of-place and just as others start picking up on it, they stop. And everyone stops. I just didn’t feel the enthusiasm the way I had in the other ones. It was a pretty huge let-down I’ll say.
- The Queen Extravaganza: This is Queen’s official tribute band. Their act is produced by Roger Taylor and the show is designed by the same guy who used to do it for Queen as well as for Led Zeppelin and RHCP and Floyd. I was warned they were loud, but I had no idea how much until they started playing. They had two wonderful vocalists, Mark Martel hitting the higher notes, and Jennifer Espinoza doing the powerful lower notes. Neither did any falsettos, I was disappointed to note. Their enthusiasm is boundless and their energy is infectious. They had these screens in their backdrop where they played footage from Queen concerts and music videos. I especially loved their rendition of Don’t stop me now, where they flashed the lyrics along with little pictographs.
The audience were astounded by their Bohemian Rhapsody where they played the original music video and the band did all the parts live except for the Balland and Opera bits for which they played Queen’s recording. They played all the well-known songs including Radio Ga ga, Killer Queen, Tie Your Mother Down. Mark Martel sang a very very soulful Somebody To Love. They ended it with We are the champions and We Will Rock You.
This was truly a dream-come-true for me. I’ve loved Queen for many years now, love their music, love their showmanship. This was the closest it can ever get to the real thing, and I had the time of my life listening to these songs. If I ‘just let go’ and surrendered while listening to The Doors, I was alive and ready every second for Queen. It made me smile for weeks after and nothing could faze me.
My enthusiasm for the band was however beaten by a banker who said he’d been to Queen’s concerts and pronounced The Queen Extravaganza ‘nearly as good as the real thing’, and a sixteen year old Brazilian boy who loved astronomy as much as he loved Brian May and spoke perkily about learning to stargaze from Brian May’s blogposts and tweets. And a couple of girls from Yonkers who said to me, ‘Ooh, Freddie was Indian too, did you know?’.
- Upcoming…. I’m dying to attend Dengue Fever’s concert in April, and wondering about Steven Wilson too. I’m a tad pissed about missing Roger Waters and Jethro Tull and hope at the very least, Jethro Tull perform again in 2013. I’d love to attend one of The Little Willies. I’ve heard there are a lot of concerts of Bollywood singers, but I’m somehow not too enthusiastic, but maybe that’ll change. I’m hoping AC/DC choose to perform, given I’ve missed them at Indio a while back. Rickie Lee Jones and Fleetwood Mac look promising. Maybe I’ll check out some jazz at BB King Blues & Grill or the Beatles tribute bands there. Maybe I’ll finally try Birdland. Or maybe I’ll say yeah I’ve attended more concerts in a year than I have all my life before and not go for any more. Let’s see how it goes. Watch this space
I came across this song called New Year’s Eve from this band called Dengue Fever. It sounded like the background music a movie set in Hong Kong in the kitschy ’60s and ’70s with a theme around young people directed by Wong Kar-Wai would have. I don’t really follow Tarantino’s movies, but most people I know seemed to say “sounds like the soundtrack of a Tarantino movie set in eastern Asia”.
I didn’t really pay it all that much attention. I downloaded the album the song was on called Sleepwalking Through The Mekong and rather liked those songs, but I didn’t do much else about that. Dengue Fever seemed rather indie, and back then didn’t seem to have a working website. Further, I immersed myself into whatever Last.fm recommended to me. Which seemed to be a lot of Celtic. Then I went through a phase where gregorian chants were the only things that gave me that epic feeling of importance while coding.
A few weeks ago, I started listening to Dengue Fever again. Then I found their website (that worked, it wasn’t working before), and their Facebook page which they seem to update regularly. From Youtube’s auto-generated playlists of the most popular songs of the band, I discovered they have more than just a couple of albums to their name. Their earlier albums are in Khmer – the language spoken in Cambodia. I like this song called Tip My Canoe from Sleepwalking Through the Mekong. But their more recent songs are in English as well. Check out this song called Mr. Bubbles, which roughly is my favourite of theirs.
I looked up the band, and realized they aren’t just some Cambodian band. They are a bunch of folks based in southern California. Zac Holtzman (a decidedly non-Cambodian name) was in Cambodia when his friend fell ill with dengue fever, and they hitched a ride on a truck to get him to the hospital, and the folks in the truck were playing old Khmer rock songs that decidedly sounded psychedelic, probably more so under the influence of a fever. He picked up a few of those tapes and found that his brother in California was coincidentally listening to the same music. And, a band was born. No, wait, they went to Long Beach near LA, to this area called Little Phnom Penh, where they found a fresh-from-Cambodia singer called Chhom Nimol (whose family seems to be full of famous singers in Thailand now). And then the band was born.
So there I was, totally amazed at the sort of sound these people had, so utterly psychedelic, so evocative of a Far-Eastern movie that tries to incorporate the best of the West into it, probably made with a very young Jackie Chan. I can’t wait for their new albums. I can’t wait for them to perform in the tri-state area, and wishing I’d gone to one of their performances when I still lived in Orange County.
By now, Last.fm is recommending me similar songs. And just like that, I come across this song called Jam 5 Kai Thiet, by a singer called Ros Sereysothea.
If you listened to that, you’ll find it sounds the same as New Year’s Eve by Dengue Fever which I linked to in the first line of this post. I was shocked, pissed, and feeling a little let down. So these guys were just covering old Cambodian songs? Is that the only reason why their music sounds so authentic?
I listened to that entire album Jam 5 Kai Thiet was from. It’s called Cambodian Rocks. It has a lot of nice gems. Like any random sample of songs from any era, there are godawful ones, and godawesome ones. With this album, the number of godawesome ones totally trumps any of the sucky songs.
I find it hard to match song to title, given I don’t know any Khmer that I can at the very least distinguish one word from another, but I find the songs all growing on me. I rather like this one called Yuvajon Kouge Jet or Broken-Hearted Man. The one I’ve found the catchiest is this one called Maok Pi Naok or Where from?. There’s this old-timey, innocent, carefree air about the singers’ voices in that particular song. This one called Twist makes me want to dance.
I did try listening to newer Khmer songs and songs from other genres in that same era, but they sounded rather ordinary, not commanding of attention like this album. Chhom Nimol’s siblings’ songs in Khmer/Thai (well, they are all famous in Thailand, so not sure if they sing in Khmer) don’t quite match to Dengue Fever’s sound.
The bulk of the songs in that album seemed to have been sung by these singers called Ros Sereysothea and Sinn Sisamouth. And also Pan Ron. When I looked them up on Wikipedia, it broke my heart to learn that they were killed in labour camps during Pol Pot’s regime in Cambodia.
Not just them. Most of the singers on that album seemed to have met their end during the Khmer Rouge period, as they were artists and performers and were well-educated, two things that automatically qualified them as enemies of the Khmer Rouge. It didn’t help Sinn Sisamouth’s case that he started singing protest songs against the Khmer Rouge.
For perspective, imagine for a second an alternate universe where Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber were killed by the government they lived under.
I’ve only read about the horrible regime of Pol Pot. I don’t have the stomach to watch The Killing Fields. But imagine going from singing such cheery, carefree songs, incorporating the latest trends from the West, having a great entertainment scene, to the government killing 21% of the country. Cambodia even today doesn’t seem to have a vibrant movie industry. The arts are good as dead because an entire generation of artists and performers were executed, and another generation scarred and impoverished that revival seems hard. And today, Cambodia is essentially under a dictatorship, so free speech, which is integral to arts, is dealt with with an iron fist. Movie theaters, which were plentiful before the Khmer Rouge are derelict now, going by the Wiki page (I also came across an article talking about Cambodia’s entry for the Best Foreign Film category at the Oscars this year). I wonder how long it would take for a nation to recover from that sort of a blow. And I don’t mean just the entertainment industry.
I’m not under any illusion that pre-PolPot Cambodia was paradise. Or that the people who live there now live in utter hell. But why did change have to be so damaging?
Either way, it’s really great there’s a band like Dengue Fever that actually sells records and performs at various places. It’s not just about preserving the psychedelica of that era. It’s not even about the legacy the singers from back then left behind, though it’s wonderful to know that psychedelica is taken to a whole new level when it’s sung in a nasal voice and recorded through a broken mic. It’s more than that.
It’s about how someone like me with no hint of Khmer becomes aware that someone like Sinn Sisamouth existed, and why he died. About someone like me becoming sensitive to the level to which a country has fallen and is trying to pick itself up. And if someone as lazy and disinterested as me can get this sensitized with just a few clicks of a mouse, I’m pretty sure a lot of others can too. It might not mean much, but the next time there’s a news article about Cambodia, it might get more comments than usual on the NY Times website… which might translate into more coverage, and maybe when Cambodia has its Khmer Spring, we tweet enough about it to make it trend, enough for our governments to probably have a more populist official position on it.
I don’t believe in the power of online activism. I doubt sincerely that liking stuff on Facebook will bring down governments. But it sure does make it easier for us to be aware of things around us, and make more informed decisions when we have to.
Also, the music is catchy as hell.
I’ve had a most wonderful weekend.
A couple of months back, I’d been to a Norah Jones concert at this little town in Westchester county called Tarrytown. It was a great discovery by a friend of a friend’s, especially since Norah would be touring the world a month after to promote her new album, Little Broken Hearts, for tickets that were twice what I paid for that small ‘Norah and Friends’ concert in Tarrytown. It wasn’t even advertized… that secret.
Since then, I’d been following the show listings of Tarrytown Music Hall quite religiously and they had a lot of musicians performing, a lot of whom I’d vaguely listened to, but wasn’t really inclined to go to a full concert of, like Michael Bolton and Dionne Warwick. And then I saw them advertise for The Manhattan Transfer – a jazz vocalese band. I booked tickets more than a month in advance.
The concert was on Friday night. Somehow I managed to get fully drenched in the only 20-minute spell of thundershowers in a long time – it had been boiling hot the whole week through. After a ride up north, I found my seat, with a good view of the stage. As the hall filled up, I realized I was easily the youngest person in the place. Everyone else seemed to be thrice my age or thereabouts. I got talking with the old couple to my right, and they were quite surprised to see a young brown girl at a concert like this. They were very nice, unintentionally racist and loved jazz music.
It turned out to be the band’s 40th year, and they were playing a lot of their old hits. They started with Route 66, followed by Java Jive, followed by On a little street in Singapore and Brasil. Everyone seemed disappointed that Cheryl Bentyne was not performing, as she was undergoing surgery. In place of her was Margaret Dorn, who did a decent job, but somehow didn’t complement the band well enough. Janis Siegel, who is the other female singer in the band (they consist of two male and two female singers), does a beautiful scat and hits the high notes wonderfully, but the steady, solid, unadorned voice of Cheryl would have kept the sound more grounded and bound together, I felt. The band went into solos then, and also songs from other composers and songbooks.
By now, the elderly gentlmean in front of me was shaking his head wildly, obstructing my view. So I switched to the empty seat in the front row, next to two colourfully dressed women. If it hadn’t been for the bobbing Adam’s apples and raspy voices, I would never have realized they were transvestites… even their square jawlines weren’t so prominent. There was a fifteen-minute interval and I was nervously looking into my phone because I was afraid of saying something to the ladies and offending them. One of them then asked me what I thought of the concert so far. They turned out to be immensely passionate about music and about this band.
The band then got back and continued with numbers from the songbooks. They went back to their classics, and reached a crescendo with Birdland, at which the ladies next to me burst into tears of joy because ‘it was so beautiful’. It really was. A wonderful, practiced sync between all four of them, that comes with singing together for so long. That one song took all the positives from their entire performance that evening and put it in one four-minute burst. It indeed was a marvel to hear. Alan Paul then finished off with a very emotion-laden Gloria, a fitting end to the concert.
I came back tired, cold and wet, and with a big smile on my face for having experienced something that beautiful. Nothing could top that.
Or so I thought. Reddit.com, worldwide purveyors of procrastination, were having their annual Global Reddit Meetup Day on Saturday. Turned out, the New York City meetup was happening rather close to where I lived. What the hell, I thought and went there. The environment was surprisingly like what Reddit feels like to me online – where you can be yourself and find your crowd no matter what. Everyone felt welcome. There was food and drink which people had brought, and people talking and playing frisbee.
Within minutes, a couple of computer science sophomores and I were in a deep conversation about the Twitter API and web development and Asian Parent memes, when we were interrupted by a friendly southerner who introduced us to a Mongolian who grew up in Siberia. The conversation shifted to languages, their origins, and things like that while we asked the Siberian about what it’s like there, whether it was a ‘punishment posting’ (extreme weather, yes it’s a punishment posting, especially the northern parts of Siberia).
Just then, we were all called for a group picture, which took several clicks to get right, with one organizer running frantically across the area, trying to get all of us in the shot, in panorama mode. There was one guy screaming out typical Reddit stuff like ‘That takes care of my senator ambitions’, ‘That escalated quickly’, and other such things. It was awesome that everyone got the inside jokes!
We got back to hanging around and chitchatting. Now there were people playing soccer in addition to frisbee, and then a bunch started playing Calvinball. The bunch of us who were talking about insane conspiracy theories, careers in computer science/IT, drones, Iran and other things slowly got distracted by a guy who was showing a bunch of people some plants and trying to dig something out. He looked out of place, with his rather-complicated looking tools and park-ranger clothes. Turned out to be a horticulturist, and we got back to talking.
There was one fella who had a job extracting eyes from corpses, for an eye bank. The conversation quickly degenerated into a barrage of eye puns. Eye-banking, Eye-T, ‘Did you know about the blind man who picked up the hammer and saw?’ ‘No I didn’t, and neither did Helen Keller’… and so many others which I don’t remember now. We were surprised at how quickly real life mirrored Reddit.
We see this guy standing awkwardly beneath a tree, by his bike, and texting on his Blackberry. I wanted to engage him in conversation, when one of the people I was talking to whispers “Omigod, that’s the Reddit CEO”. I don’t remember Yishan Wong’s face, so I pull out my mobile to imageSearch his face, by when one of the group had already walked up to him to ask, “Are you Yishan?’. “Yes, yes I am”, he said. And then told us not to make much of a fuss.
So we casually stood around, asking him about what keeps him busy. He said though he’s a techie, the 20 people who run the website don’t much need any guidance with technical issues, though scaling is a challenge. His job, he said, is to keep a good relationship going with the folks who own the website, so that in times of crisis, like the r/jailbait issue, they trust the Reddit team to get it right instead of walking in and shutting the website down.
He was telling us about how the whole plus for Reddit is the community aspect, which is fostered by self posts and by meetups like this one. He told us about how they hired someone who would have been an awesome Community Relations Manager, but right after the day he was hired, he was diagnosed with leukemia. Just then, we were interrupted by a reporter from New York magazine, who stood by listening to our conversation, and chiming in with supporting questions.
Someone asked him about the next technical questions he was addressing, and he mentioned subreddit discovery. It seems a very interesting problem, because given an interest, there are atleast 30 different subreddits, so which one would you recommend to a given user? Also, how would you know about these subreddits, given that most of the time, the names of the subreddits don’t directly reflect what it’s about? I suggested showing the users wordclouds around each subreddit, extracted from the content of the posts on it. He said their biggest advantage is their large user base and availability of mods for everything, which they can use to manually tag subreddits.
I then asked for a photograph with him, which he kindly obliged. One of the group asked if he gets asked this often, and he said he doesn’t, mostly because he’s a very private person. Then he had to talk to the reporter as he needed to run elsewhere in a bit, so we shook hands and got back to talking to each other.
Stuck around for a while more, talking to the photographer from New York magazine, who was somehow unobtrusively capturing pictures of all of us in our natural environment, and watching people play Calvinball.
Four hours after I’d first walked in, I walked back home, terribly dehydrated and hungry. And cheery as hell. It’s not everyday (in New York atleast) that you meet so many nice cheerful people, one among who is the damn CEO of Reddit Dot Com and talk to him about word/tag clouds!
I was watching some Youtube clip of Ocean’s Eleven, and the next one on the playlist was A Little Less Conversation with clips from the movie. And the next related one was the Elvis vs JXL version of A Little Less Conversation.
And sadly, the next one wasn’t the MTV India version of the same thing.
Yes, there was one.
I think this came out in 2001 or 2002. MTV used to make their own videos of popular international hits. I don’t distinctly remember any others apart from this one, though. It had a shadow of Jailhouse Rock in it… the setting was a prison with the cells arranged like it was in the original video. Cyrus Broacha was the jailor, and there were several inmates. All with their own dance styles.
One I remember was Kareena (lookalike, obviously) in her red You are my Sonia costume [Oh What The Hell, all I can find is a low-quality Youtube video of the song, and NO shots whatsoever on Google Image Search for Kareena in that costume. Was it really from some other era or what?]. Another was a pair of Chandramukhis doing a mujra just like Madhuri in Devdas, only, twice as fast. I think there was a Hrithik too, doing his famous step from Ek Pal Ka Jeena.
I think this video was more vivid and colourful than the original. Maybe it was the rather in-your-face popcul references that did it… the original showed dance styles, not personalities or caricatures.
Thing is, I’m not able to find a video of that. I haven’t tried really hard, though. If you’re able to locate it somewhere, please, pretty please share it with me. And it’s really worth the hunt… it’s a damn fine video, one of the best to come out of MTV. It’s pretty cool and slick for a parody.
So what are you waiting for? Go memory-lane tripping! And get back to me.
You are warned. Long Post Ahead.
I’m pretty sure every urban South Indian has one of these. Quite obviously… Rahman would score music for all those feel-good flicks that would be megahits. And even if they were not, the music would be a superhit for sure… which meant you’d hear of them. And hear them over and over again. Either on the radio or in the interval at the movies, or in weddings, or in someone’s car, or on TV…. basically there was no escape. And no one wanted one either… the music was different, and good. So you end up having a lot of memories tangled with quite a few of these songs. Some of these songs manage to stick with you through the ages and enter the hallowed portals of what you consider ‘alltime great’ songs. Here are mine:
- Mettu Podu from Duet: A very nice fusion-ish song. I suspect the lead character was made a saxophonist just so that ARR could use nice sax melodies for the songs in the movie. It’s a nice idea to have a wedding musician who plays the sax (in the movie)… it just sounds like the nadaswaram with a more fusion-ish feel. The same movie had some really soulful songs like En Kaadhalae and Anjali, all rendered awesomely by SPB. But Mettu Podu is the feel-good song in the album, and no matter how many times I listen to it, it only seems to get better.
- Margazhi Poove from May Madham: Sonali Kulkarni’s debut. Movie’s about a young girl yearning to be free from her overbearing father and a stuttering fiance. And this song is where she talks about all the things she’d love to do, while on a morning walk. This song had the suprabhatam as its opening…. gives the song a really good feel. The whole zest for life and freshness Sonali Kulkarni is supposed to have in the movie is reflected in this one song.
- Signore Signore from Kannathil Muthamittaal: People might like Vellai Pookal for its social message about peace and all, or adore Jayachandran’s soulful rendition of the title track. I however can’t get this song out of my head. The baila tunes and Sinhalese words demand to run through my head atleast once a day. It’s stock baila, just like Surangani, and possibly many other songs in the genre, but the cheerful mood of the song stands out against the serious mood of the rest of the movie. It’s the current song stuck in my head.
- Pettai Rap from Kaadhalan: This song needs no introduction, does it? I like the lyrics too… deep philosophical ponderings about life and death… appropriate for a song to be sung at a funeral procession. And I have fond memories of this song from school when our seniors choreographed it awesomely for the annual day, transvestite and all.
- Allay Allay from One Two Ka Four: Sad movie, sad SRK, boring Juhi Chawla, irritating kids, silly villain. And this cute song comes along. I’ve never watched the video ever. Just as well, I guess… I’ve had it upto here being disappointed by insipid videos for great songs.
- Paarkaathey Paarkaathey from Gentleman: Yet another let’s-live-life-and-have-fun song sung by a funloving girl. And this singer was called Minmini – with such a cool singer with such a cool name, which teenaged girl wouldn’t love this one? Turns out my bathroom-singing-neighbor-akka definitely did. I hadn’t met this much-older girl ever… she stayed in the next street, her house was behind mine, and I could hear her sing in the bathroom. I used to hate this girl because she sang classical songs in the bathroom very well, prompting mom to begin comparisons… and then one day she begins to sing this song… and thus became my first pop idol. I don’t think I’ve seen her, ever. But her 8 am voice singing Mangta Hai and Maragathavalli manasasmarami with the same zest continues to be an inspiration, more than a decade since I heard it last.
- Nila Kagirathu from Indira: Suhasini Mani Ratnam’s directorial debut. It had some extremely Suhasini-ish lines in the screenplay. And no, that is not a compliment. The tagline was very Suhasini too: Idhu peNNin kadhaialla, idhu maNNin kadhai – This isn’t the story of a girl, it is the story of the land. I didn’t much understand the movie, but the music was godawesome. Back then, Arvind Swamy was still goodlooking, if a bit chubby, and his intro song was good enough to keep humming every now and then. And then there was one patriotic one picturized on Anu Haasan and a bunch of schoolchildren. But Nila Kagirathu was the one that made the most impact. The more famous version was a little girl singing it.. on her own, and not because a band of aunts and grannies tempted her with promises of chocolates, unlike me. I dreaded being in the room when the song/video played – some or the other adult would invariably compare the girl singing with me and say ‘You should also sing like her’. My biggest doubt back then was how could this little girl, all of six years old, manage a tanpura without letting the whole thing fall down with a spectacular crash that left its bottom broken and top mutilated.
- Strawberry Kannae from Minsara Kanavu: Known to some as Strawberry Aankhen from Sapnay, but I listened more to the Tamil version. It sort of reminds me of Bohemian Rhapsody… is this what is opera? I liked the video, too. Kajol never looked more beautiful and more confident when she was listing out to Prabhudeva why she’d rather be a nun than be married and baked in an oven. And never more pissed off than when he makes a comment about her nose. I preferred this one over Kajol’s intro track where she’s trekking and having some girlie fun… the song wasn’t so awesome, or Vennilavae…. though that’s a fine track.
- Aye Ajnabi from Dil Se: Flawless. The title track comes close, but I don’t like the ending chorus…. I totally hate the ending chorus that Rahman adds to his songs when he can’t think of a decent way to wind it up. That apart, apparently Mani Ratnam made Priety Zinta a Malayalee solely because Rahman was hearing some awesome Mapilla tunes in his head… and there you go, you got Jiya Jale.
- Veerapandi Kottayile from Thiruda Thiruda: Folksy song with a Rahman feel. The background instruments, and Chitra’s strong vocals make this song awesomer than the others on the soundtrack – Thee Thee and Chandalekha.
- Ishq Bina from Taal: Anuradha Sriram did an awesome job here. Actually, the whole arrangement is so awesome, and all the instruments and vocalists seem so perfect – be it the solos by Anuradha Sriram (who sings impromptu in her interviews for the silliest of reasons even when no one asks her to, so much that you feel like asking her to just shut up for godsake… and you don’t for once feel like asking her to shut up in this song) and Sonu Nigam, or the chorus by Rehman and some others. And they didn’t mutilate the video, thank god.
- Dheeme Dheeme from 1947-Earth: One of the best romantic songs I’ve heard. Made better by the soundclip of a bird singing in the background. Of course, it was all integrated into the song and all that – there’s a musical instrument synchronized to play when the bird stops to breathe. Though… I like birdsong in a track better in Blackbird by The Beatles… the bird just sings in the end, it’s not synchronized and all.
- Des Mere from The Legend of Bhagat Singh: It really sounds patriotic, the tune atleast. I don’t know how he does it. I like this track much better than Maa Tujhe Salaam, maybe because I hear Maa Tujhe Salaam so much and so often I’m tired of it. Or maybe because Des Mere is a much better track. Just listening to it gives me goosebumps. I also liked Jogiya Jogiya from the same soundtrack – it was much better than the Jogiya Jogiya in the Deol version of Bhagat Singh.
- Dol Dol from Aayutha Ezhuthu/Yuva: You can’t do anything with this song except listen to it. Which makes it a perfect song for a montage. It might initially sound jarring on the nerves, but if you watch the video, it seems to fit it very well, like nothing else could have. Which is a lot more than I can say for Fanaa in the same movie – awesome song, awesome beats, and it’s ruined by the video which is too slow and can’t seem to keep up with the pace of the song and the passion it conveys. Plus, in the Hindi version, you had Kareena and Vivek Oberoi, who don’t look like teenyboppers and that ruins the whole song for you. Though if you want to go by video alone, Hey Goodbye Nanba is the best of the lot… man, does that even look like Marina beach?
- Yaaro Yaarodi from Alaipayuthey: So artfully out of tune – it’s actually quite in-tune, but sounds like it’s being sung out of tune. So much that people actually think it is meant to be sung out of tune, and mangled beyond recognition. By the time this soundtrack came out, Rahman was pretty famous even outside South India… I was pleasantly surprised when, on a train to Delhi, I found this five-year-old Bihari kid singing this song.
Uh…. don’t I seem to have missed out something? I can see purists and Rahman devotees going “How Could You?!’. No, I haven’t forgotten or overlooked it. I was merely saving the best for the last.
- Chinna Chinna Aasai from Roja: When this came out, it was the only audio tape I possessed, and I listened to it till it wore out. And I used to wait all week for Chitrahaar and a couple of other shows, waiting through all the tacky songs of those days, just to watch the video of this song. Somehow watching Madhoo talk about all her little-little wishes made my day a bit better. And the colourful video with no overweight hero-heroine attempting to tease each other silly or make out in secret was so refreshing… maybe it was all the natural beauty. And the cute things they showed Madhoo doing was so new to us – playing in water, holding a baby goat… and then the video has this shot of a little boat floating in the stream, with a little light in it. I don’t know what it was, but I totally loved that particular shot, and wouldn’t take my eyes off the screen till I saw it. Even now when I watch the video, I wait just to watch that particular shot.
So what is it that sets Rehman apart? He experiments and innovates. Which you don’t see very often. He takes bits and pieces from everywhere and puts them together and packages them in a way that most people find very appealing – all of them have a yuppie ’90s feel alongside which they also sound new and futurish – which appeals to the looking-to-get-globalized generation of the ’90s who wanted to break free from the mould of tacky Indian film music while not really wanting to listen only to Indian Classical or sticking with only Michael Jackson and GnR. His compositions favored singers with younger, lighter voices over the heavy-voiced singers Bollywood had seen till then, and as a result, the youth identified more with these songs.
And Rehman was also at the right place at the right time. Other composers might have innovated, or introduced new sounds in the past, but they weren’t equipped with a Moog Synthesizer (his father owned the first one in India) back then. Cable television was breaking ground, thus making any and every sort of film music accessible to everyone who owned a TV set. And the music video was beginning to take shape. Which meant, Rehman’s songs were also nicely picturized, and more appealing. People also had more money to spend on music and movies.
And this was also the era when the Western world began to see India as a hot market and so all of a sudden, you had India all over the globe – beauty queens, films winning international awards, or atleast getting worldwide attention – mostly thanks to the diaspora abroad, and… our composers getting to make music with Andrew Lloyd Weber. I don’t mean to trivialize the achievements of ARR, but it was more a question of being at the right place at the right time than most other things. Talent did matter, of course, coz otherwise you’d also have Harris Jeyraj or Yuvan Shankar Raja or Jatin-Lalit attaining the same level of fame.
This was an era when we were gaining self-confidence as a nation, and who better than Rahman to serenade us through it, and provide us our clairon calls, our march songs, our war-cries, our wake-up calls, our joyous shouts when we win and our inspiring power ballads to not give up when we lose by a whisker?
He was our official provider of melodies for all occurrences from waking up (Margazhi Poove) to going to bed (Rukmani Rukmani), all occasions from weddings (Mangalyam Thanthunanena) to anti-wedding requests (Kariye na) to funerals (Pettai Rap, or if you prefer mellower, Luka Chupi), realizations of love (Kandukondain Kandukondain) or cries of desperation (Evano Oruvan), secrets to success (song of the same name from Boys) or when you’ve lost everything (Vidu Kathaiyo), dancing in the rain (Thenmerku paruvakattu) or dancing in expectation of rain (Ghanan Ghanan), frustration with the system (Break the rules) or praying for good luck (O Paalanhaare) gender war (Boys-a yaenga vekkadhey) or cheerful rebellion (Paarkathey Paarkathey), flirty serenades (Signore Signore) or serious declarations of love (Nahin Saamne)… he’s such an integral part of our lives and everyone loves him for that.
If you don’t believe me on the last one, google for “I hate AR Rahman’ or variations of that, and all you’ll get is stuff like “I hate him because he doesn’t compose music for all movies’ or “I hate him because his music is so lovely it makes me cry’.
After a long time, I watched the video of the remixed, hip-hop song Madai Thiranthu by Yogi B and Natchathira. When I watched it for the first time, the beginning didn’t make sense to me. One guy says, “Inna, Raja-saar?“. I later found out the ‘Raja-saar’ in question was Ilayaraja, who’d composed the original.
I wanted to listen to the original yesterday. Good ol’ Guruji dot come slash music came in handy. I searched for Ilayaraja, and man! I’d never realized before this that so many of the songs I grew up listening to were from him!
For starters, the soundtrack of Hey Ram. Each song is so rich by itself. I particularly liked the fusion of Vaishnav Jana To with Vaaranam Aayiram with South Indian wedding beats.
Another movie set in the same time-frame – Sirai Chaalai, dubbed in Hindi as Kalapani.
And then Agni Natchathiram. I didn’t pay attention to the storyline or anything, but I totally loved the tapori Raja Rajadhirajan indha raja which had in it typical ’80s disco beats. It totally suited its purpose – it was the intro track of a totally rebellious youngster (played by Karthik, who ceased to be a youngster a decade-and-a-half back), which instantaneously won a lot of hearts.
On the same lines there is Ilamai idho idho from Sakalakala Vallavan. Intro track of a richkid Kamal Haasan who’s actually a poor do-gooder in disguise to teach the baddies a lesson. He wears a blonde wig, and says “Hyappy nyu yeear yevverybody”… this was ten-fifteen years before his ‘I’m in the undezhhbeolly uf the aizhhczhaft’. Whatae lyrics… “College teenage penngaL ellorum enn-meedhu kaNgaL“… whou… ages since any song acknowledged the existence of women ogling at men, and even longer since a man flaunted that in his intro song. Rather liked this song after it was used to great effect in a Pepsi commercial starring Madhavan and a bunch of ‘college-teenage penngaL’… and a fat guy in a vest and lungi and a squeaky voice… and a Pepsi bottle.
Rather surprising is Raja-saar’s success in dik-chik dik-chik disco tracks, considering his best-known work is for Bharathiraja films. Which mostly if not always have a village theme.
One of those really nostalgic songs is Adi Aathadi from Kadalora KavithaigaL. Sathyaraj playing a village idiot… whoa! Insane movie, but very well-directed. And the music… no words left.
The soundtrack for the Parthiban-Nandita Das (yes, of 1947-Earth and Rockford fame) starrer Azhagi was another. It is a rather recent movie, with the first half set in a village. In an age where you only heard jing-chak urban songs and village meant gaana (think Pettai Rap and Nakka Mukka), it was really refreshing to have some different music, which was a throwback to an earlier era personified by Bharathiraja introducing the movie with “Enn iniya Tamizh-makkaLe…“.
He also did neutral-ish tracks well – sample Nizhalgal. Madai Thiranthu was about a wannabe making it big in the music industry.
And Anjali – staple Children’s Day fare in the days of Doordarshan. One of the very few movies for kids back then, it enjoyed cult status with folks of my age-group. And hence the soundtrack was popular too. The videos were of kids bossing over the adults… having code claps… screaming ‘yaaay!’ all the damn time… ubercool gang… what more does a kid aspire for?
And my favourite at the moment – the soundtrack of Nayagan. In particular, the ‘item number’ – Nila adhu vaanathu mele. Insane lyrics that make no sense to me. But catchy. And the tune is no less.
When I was playing these tracks, my sister looked askance at me and gave me an expression which suggested my tastes had steadily deteriorated. She doesn’t know the nostalgia these tracks inspire, being born when Rehman had begun to reign and gotten interested in music when Himesh did. She doesn’t know these are the best there was back then, when synthesizers were a non-existent entity. To her ears, Ilayaraja sounds tacky – neither the mellow respectable tone of old songs nor the snazzy attractiveness of the new. And his voice… too forceful for someone that looks like him. And vocal sound-effects like ‘ta-jing, ta-jing’ have become slotted into uncool. The disco-ish beats of the faster songs sounds confused to her, who is used to It’s the time to Disco and Where’s the party tonight. The videos of these songs aren’t very inspiring to her, considering they were shot in an era where a nightclub was supposed to have bright colourful bulbs, and tackily dressed dancers.
She wonders how come Rakkamma Kaiya Thattu got voted as one of the top 10 songs of the millennium in a BBC-conducted online poll. Why not Rehman’s Vande Mataram?
Rehman is God in his own way, no doubt… I’m very impressed by the artfully-out-of-tune songs he composes – Kabhi Neem Neem and Yaaro Yaarodi, and I worship a lot of his other soundtracks, but of late I’ve begun to feel his songs lack the boldness and confidence Ilayaraja’s had. His songs do not bring out the beauty in lyrics or in the voice of the singer as much as Ilayaraja’s does.
A decade earlier, I would have said Rehman’s is for the urban elite, while Ilayaraja appeals to a wider section of the crowd… but now in the natural scheme of things, you have everyone in India not just TN humming Rehman’s tunes, and folks don’t much remember Ilayaraja’s usage of orchestras creatively in his music.. either ways, he didn’t get much reach outside of his home state… and maybe in Karnataka, thanks to soundtracks like Geetha(think Jothe Jotheyali). And Gultland, thanks to dubbed Tamil movies.
But finally, I’ll Raja-saar’s music has an earthy appeal to it. They are easy to sing, unlike other recent songs which rely less on the voice and more on effects. Even if you sing it wrong, it doesn’t sound so far-gone. It’s almost like he gets into the mind of the wannabe crooner and writes songs. Like he sings in the item number from Nayagan, ‘Adi Aathadi, naan paattaLi, unn koottaaLi‘ – ‘Lady, I’m a commoner, your comrade’.
PS: If you have no clue as to who Raja-saar is, he originally composed the music that was used in the soundtrack of Cheeni Kum.
PPS: This isn’t a very well-researched post. Please feel free to correct and provide addenda.
PPPS: What’s with my overwhelming Tam-ness these days? I’ve even begun to say ‘Yaazhpanam’ instead of Jaffna! My mum is beginning to wonder what is happening to me that I’m going ‘astray’ into deep interior Tamil Nadu from Bangalore, preferring Ilayaraja over Rehman, saying Ponniyin Selvan is an excellent book, reading Naachiyar Thirumozhi… maybe it’s just a phase. And… I’m still a true-blue Bangalorean at heart. I prefer MTR/Maiya’s over Adyar Ananda Bhavan any given day. And I is still the speakings of Benglur longvages. I’m sure you can be considerate enough to ignore the slight Tamil accent in my otherwise okay-ish Kannada. Oh, and I can read Kannada faster than I can read Tamil.
So I have a fair amount of good stuff on my comp thanks to NITK’s LAN. But if you have 10 GB of music, you surely cannot listen to everything regularly. I wanted to see what I’d been missing out on, and so was playing the least/never-played music.
Turned out, some of the files were badly-recorded or corrupted or whatever, that they sounded like pure cacophony. I didn’t really give it much of a thought; I was absorbed in doing something else. Except for one track that really drove me nuts so much that I started making mistakes in my code, grew irritable and snapped at others. I paused whatever I was doing and shift-deleted it.
Why does this non-event merit a post?
Because the song in question was Indian Ocean’s Inner Peace.
Rash of that happening since Friday. I’ll probably do a more elaborate post as soon as I can. This is a placeholder… if I mark this a ‘draft’, it’ll never get done. Watch this space. And if you’re reading this from a feed aggregator, mark it ‘unread’.
I thought this will be the history of random lyrics you’ll find scribbled on desks at NITK… but I’ve lost track of what I wanted to write. So I’m just having you know that if you find seemingly random lyrics scribbled on a desk at NITK, you know who it’s by. And you can compliment the neat handwriting on the comments section.
I also thought I’d do an analysis of the catchiness of certain songs, but sadly now they are well out of my head and now I don’t know what the fuss was all about that I really badly wanted to write this post.
For the time capsule – the songs stuck in my head were Ragasiyamaai from the Madhavan-Jyotika starrer Dumm Dumm Dumm, Signore Signore from the Madhavan-Simran-Keerthana starrer Kannathil Muthamittaal, the title track from the Madhavan-unknownWoman starrer Jay Jay, Kadhal Sadugudu from the Madhavan-Shalini starrer Alaipayuthey, apart from the classical track Alaipayuthey renderd by Sudha Raghunathan… Oh pray, tell me why these! I don’t particularly find these lyrics meaningful or the songs melodious. And anyway if those were the criteria, there are many others which are decidedly much better!
I don’t anymore desecrate public property, mainly because I don’t anymore study in a Government college with wooden benches that are just right for scribbling on with a ball/gel pen. So… well.. I’m just scribbling the first random lyric that comes to my mind right here. And in keeping with the pleasant weather outside, it’s Parikrama’s Open Skies. It’s mainly instru, except for these lyrics in the beginning… it’s something like an ode to a nice day.
Wind blows through my hair
Right in the morning sun
And the breeze just passin’ by,
Oh, free as a bird
Moonlight in my eyes
And stars to fill my dreams
That’s the way I wanna be
Clear blue skies
Oh, and for some reason I like this random quote I came across “It feels like Deja Vu all over again”. I like the self-reference here… just like “If Murphy’s Law can go wrong, it will”.
Just came back from my second Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia Concert.
Distaste for the way this concert was being organized was ringing in the back of my head through out. I feel SPICMACAY ones would give it a run for its money anyday. Here are a few things.
- The stage: Almost always, SPICMACAY stage is set simply (Aesthetically pleasing, to put it in Dr. Kiran Seth’s words). The eye in the background. Slightly raised stage with plain white covering. The flower decorated lamp, burning in the side. (This one had red covering, and too many mismatched flowers in the background).
- Emcee: The construction of the script is crisp. Traces the music background of each artist, awards won, and the like. The same is done for the people who accompany. All the instruments are treated equal to the the “main” one. The rhythm can be felt. (This one had a very badly written one, with an elaborate flowery redundant description of how great the artist is. Introduction to the accompanying artist being, The person sitting to the right/left is XYZ rather that The person playing the Tabla/Pakhawaj is).
- The audience: “Flash Photography is strictly prohibited”, All the spurts of bright lights can be really distracting. I also like the unsaid rule of not clapping during the concert. I observe that people clap during the crescendo of the artists performance and hence miss hearing most part of it.
- Others: You do not have a video of the so-called life history of the artist being promoted just before concert, which leaves you wondering, whether that was at all about the artist, or how bad a little kid feels when the mother dies.
SPICMACAY concerts have other really interesting things coming attached with them. The ease with which you can interact/ approach the artist, whether in the NITK Guest house or occasional walks to the beach, and come to know how down to earth each one really is. The chance to ask questions that you always wanted to and never got the chance. Workshops by the artists, and of course the chance to miss mess food for yummy guest house food.
SPICMACAY concerts really do surrender the dias to the artist and the artform.
On the brighter side, here, the maestro played as beautifully as ever. And I also got to listen to an old music-classmate of mine playing alongside, with yet another demonstration of the great old art of putting taal with the folded leg!!!
Now Listening to: Some darn good fusion version of Raghuvamsha Sudha by an unknown artiste.
The day started off not very good, and YouKnowWhoYouAre (I suppose you prefer you_know_who_you_are), if it’s any consolation, I feel really horrible about how I started off my day, and possibly, your day.
Anyway…. getting to Inci Day 0….
I slept through Slam Dunk!‘s inaugural basketball match, and woke up just in time to have dinner and head to Bandish. Earlier on, when I’d not yet bothered to check the Inci schedule, Maloo told me about Bandish. We’d assumed it was a performance by The Bandish Projekt, (they’d released a song/album called Bhor a long, long time ago, which should have been called Bore according to me) who IMO sound like absolut losers. But heck, it turned out to the Eastern Musicals
Shiny, Kosu and I took turns getting photographed under the bulbs hung by the way which were covered with really ni-i-ice lampshades, trying to look like we had some bright ideas. People nightouted last night making the lampshades… and the result it turns out is FANTABULOUS.
[pic to be put up soon]
Eastern Musicals @ Inci this time surpassed everything I’d seen before. The average quality of the performances was very, very high this time. Not a single performance could be called boring, or sub-standard. Every band was able to keep our attention, and most managed to impress
NITK’s performance was, as usual, brilliant, with talented performances by all, and a great choice of songs, which were both crowd-pullers as well as which showcased our best. We came third.
The second prize was bagged by BMS. Quite a departure from their previous years’ performances, this one was. The singers all seemed to be trained in Classical Vocals, and it showed in both their excellent performances and choice of songs. Guys, your brilliant performance would have been better appreciated by the crowd if only you’d chosen better songs, songs which people knew.
And…. one of the bands did a bloody massacre of Pal by Strings and Sagarika (They did it WITHOUT THE VIOLINS!! How could they!), and another one butchered Dum Mast Qalander, after which I messaged a friend saying “Yeah… the next band will also come, they’ll play my favorite Indipop number in such a way as to completely ruin the evening for me..”. And as it often happen, I was proven wrong. No, make that WRONG.
This band takes stage, starts off playing Paisa by Agosh. That’s enough for me and Tuna, we’re already impressed. They didn’t have to do that svelte transition from Dhoom Pichuk to Sayonee, or sing Luka Chuppi. But that original number which was a fusion of Hindustani, Carnatic, and Western… phew! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a large standing ovation EVER in Eastern Musicals (or Western, for that matter) before!
Message for the team from BIT: Never before have everyone unanimously felt that someone deserved the first prize. Here are some of the nice things people were heard saying about you guys:
“What a lead singer da! He holds the whole show together!”
“Man! That lead singer guy is totally in control!”
“Whoa! What a goodlooking backup vocalist” – they meant the guy in the green kurta.
“If I’d not known Dhoom Pichuk was different from Sayonee, I would have thought they were the same song”.
“Paisa! Don’t think any other band has had such guts in the past”.
“They made my day”
And a request from The NITK Numbskulls, and our friends: Could you please, please, give us an audiofile of your original composition?
And I’ll say it again… You guys were godawesome.
I came back and among my feeds [from LazyGeek, who is THE biggest fan of Sujatha I know, and has the privilege of Sujatha himself commenting on his blog. LazyGeek has closed down both his blogs for the next one week as a mark of mourning], found one that informed me of the sad demise of S. Rangarajan, the guy who supervised the design and production of Electronic Voting Machines in India, and who is more popularly known as Sujatha, the author of over 100 novels, 250 short stories, ten books on science, ten stage plays, and a slim volume of poems. He is better-known for his scripting of movies like Iruvar, Boys, Kannathil Muthamittaal, Sivaji, Aayutha Ezhutthu.
All I knew of him were his movies, my inability to read Tamil coming in the way of my appreciating his writing otherwise. His dialogues were so realistic, so full of life, the sort that struck a chord in you and stayed with you for days, or maybe even years. One dialogue that comes to mind from Aayutha Ezhuththu: Esha Deol tells Surya, “Enna ni, enna oththrum-illaada theatre-ko, Pondicherry-ko kootindu poegaama edho oru graamathuku aleichindu porai….”
Tamil cinema has suffered a great loss. And like Vishwas put it, Director Shankar has a dog’s chance of ever having another hit to his name.
Personally, I feel a loss, for he was not just a talented and prolific writer, but an engineer as well, and hence, to me, a role model, an idol, an ideal to live upto. If I ever end up learning to read Tamil, Mr. Sujatha, it will mainly be to appreciate your stories and other works of fiction.
From what little I know of him, he seemed to have led a full life, and accomplished a good bit in both his chosen careers. May your soul rest in peace, and may your legacy and huge body of work continue to inspire people like me.
And on that note, Mr. Rangarajan, I bid you adieu.
The sky is blue. Cats eat rats. And I am a big fan of ’90s Indian non-filmi non-remixed music.
I’ve been wanting to do a post on Indipop/Indi-rock for quite a while now, and somehow the universe reminded me of this now by filling my random playlist with some of my favorite songs from the ’90s.
So… well, here goes… here are the songs that were a breath of fresh air back then when Anu Malik and Jatin-Lalit held sway. And whose videos were such a soothing sight for eyes sore with the same old Saroj Khan choreography.
- Asha Bhonsle’s Raat Shabnami/Jaanam Samjha Karo: Whatay lyrics. Whatay tune. Whatay Asha’s voice. And last but definitely not the least, Milind Soman. True, Mr. Soman had attained fame with that appearance in Alisha Chinai’s Made In India, but I thought he looked nothing short of idiotic in that one. I didn’t know it was the same person with Aditi Govitrikar in this video at first. Oh, and Leslie Lewis of Colonial Cousins fame composed this song. He even has an appearance in the video playing the flute. Years later, he composed the music for A Band Of Boys (who seem to have sunk without a trace), one of who was Asha Bhonsle’s nephew (or maybe grandson) Chaitanya aka Chintu. This was quite apparent to me when I heard the song (the common composer, I mean)… Meri Neend had a few chords and melodies sound so similar to Jaanam Samjha Karo.
- Anaida’s Piya Bina. I don’t remember why, though. And where on earth is Anaida now?
- Heer – I can only assume this was based on the legend of Heer-Ranjha. It was from Mitti – Songs of the Soil composed by Sandeep Chowta, and was sung by Sukhwindara Singh. Nice song. Eerie video in black-and-white.
- Suneeta Rao: Every school annual day had to have atleast one performance of Kesariya hai roop.
- Parikrama: Their But It Rained was some darned bloody different video. But that definitely isn’t their best song. Their instrumental, Open Skies, is one of the most feel-good songs I’ve heard. It’s surprising they don’t innovate these days and restrict themselves to performing in college fests. And I’ve heard it’s the same playlist each performance.
- Dere Dere by Shubha Mudgal: She is best known for that husky voice and Ab Ke Saawan. And maybe that socially-relevant album called Mann Ke Manjeere (whose music IMO was nothing to write home about). This song, however was just feel-good, no storyline, just showed three girls having fun. And then there was also Seekho Na with Vidya Balan in the video. That was when her presence started getting on my nerves. And it hasn’t yet stopped.
- Tumse hi pyaar by Aasma: Coke [V] Popstars II. There was Chandu Ke Chaacha, with the funky dance steps, but this one was way more appreciated.
- Remo Fernandes and his Flute Song: Is there a video for this one? Actually, most of that album (O Meri Munni) was absolutely brilliant. Including the Goan ones – Maria Pita Che, and Maya ya, if I remember right. And… I’ve been trying to get that famous song of Remo’s called Hello Mr. Rajiv Gandhi (The story behind this goes that Remo and his band, The Syndicate wrote this song, and the local editor of The Hindu carried out his vendetta against him mainly by criticizing the song constantly. Remo took a chance, and sent the song to Rajiv Gandhi himself, who wrote back saying that he liked the song(!!)). Anyone who has the song/knows where to get it, kindly get in touch with me.
- Piya Basanti: The entire album was a superhit. And the videos with the very beautiful Nauheed Cyrusi (and a nondescript young man) stayed at the top of the charts for ages. It gave a whole new dimension to the concept of Music Video. Many imitations followed, of music video with a story, more notable of which were one called Sunset Point, which, I think, had lyrics by Gulzar, and had some storyline about a pair of twin girls falling for the same guy, and one makes way for the other – all in four minutes. Though it wasn’t any worse than Piya Basanti which had a bonny lassie and a bandit falling for each other, eloping and getting married, all in a two-part video, each of four minutes. I guess where the video scored was in having great music (Sandesh Shandilya) and great vocalists in the first place, and being shot in very beautiful locales (Arunachal Pradesh).
- Krishna nee begane baaro by Colonial Cousins: Fusion. And very good fusion. Our saviours from the endless stream of wannabe Western musicians. The video of this song isn’t anything all that great, but the song is a Phenomenon by itself; the flagship song you’d identify the Colonial Cousins with. The other popular songs aren’t bad – Kai Zhala, The Way We Do It, Sa Ni Dha pa… but my alltime favorite is Guiding Star from the album Aatma. I’d however say their best fusion numbers are Parula Nu and (this one which I’ve been humming continuously since a week now) Funky Freedom.
- Jaane Do by Agosh – The band name is short for the name of the bandmembers – Anand, Gopal and Shaleen. They wrote a hit song called Paisa, which struck me as out-to-make-money and very-wannabe. Then I heard their other songs, one of which is called Saiyyana, with lyrics that went like Meri ab manzilein toh hai / Aur kaarvaan bhi hai / Meri apni wafa hai, aur dil jawaan hai, ab chodo mujhe darana / kyunki ab main saiyyana ho chuka, ho chuka /. Their other song with a video was Jaane Do, which had Nauheed Cyrusi again (but this time with a better-looking dude called Shahrukh Mistry [who had a bit role in Rahul Bose's Everybody Says I'm Fine]). The reason it appealed to me and my friends was coz it enumerated everything that could possibly go wrong with our lives back then, in class 12 – Garmiyon ki chuttiyaan, Sardiyon ki chuttiyaan, holiday homework, jaane do /Woh haseen ho gayi, hum jawaan ho gaye, phir bhi na teamwork, jaane do and also Ladkiyon ka roothna, apne dil ka tootna, kismaton ka phootna, jaane do / Aur phir ministeron se leke thaanedar tak sabka humko lootna, jaane do. And most important of them all IIT exam mein fundae gol ho gaye, jaane do. But the same song also gave us hope – Zindagi haseen hai, mastiyon ka scene hai, gadbadi jo hogi toh hogi, jaane do. Oh, and I turned a bigger fan of these guys when I got to know they were the ones who composed the Radiocity jingles in the initial days (and I’m having you know compared to those ones, Bolo Whatte fun sounds like something the tomcat was yowling at four in the morning).
- Mantra by Euphoria: These people are normally known for their Maeri or Aana Meri Gully, but this song is way, way better than those. It’s a single, and wasn’t that great a hit, but what made it stand out among the rest was that the video was way better than the others. Maeri might have been a brilliant song, but the video with Rimi Sen was too cliched. Gully had Vidya Balan in it, AND Sandhya Mridul, and hence twice as irritating. Meri Saanson Mein is a really great song, but the video about the dying/dead girlfriend was irritating if nothing else. That way, Dhoom Pichuk was way better. Hum with Mehnaaz for [V] Jammin! might have been a good song and a well-made video, but Palash Sen took off his shirt, giving us three minutes of unmitigated torture. So… in comparison, Mantra really came out tops.
- Lucky Ali: He first writes a bluesy number. Then sings it in that raspy voice that suits only singing. Then shoots a video in a foreign country. With a woman. No, make that a Woman. The Woman is always suave, powerful, and alluring with that air of mystery about her. I didn’t like O Sanam and that veiled lady (rumored to be his wife) – all you see of her is her eyes and her fingernails, and she had a cruel-looking clubbed thumb (it’s supposed to suggest a very low level of evolution). Malaika brought alive Kitni Haseen Zindagi. One of my favorite shots in the video is where she’s watching him on TV, and suddenly the TV screen zooms out to show her watching him on TV. The video in the US (Dekha Hai Aise Bhi) was depressing. But the one in (presumably) South Africa, with that mysterious-looking African model, Tere Mere Saath, was just mindblowing. So it really killed me to see two young things prance around in one of his videos – then I heard apparently the recording co. didn’t want to risk anything by casting the greying Lucky Ali as hero in a video that would cost a nuke to shoot, and so preferred to have two young things dance around airports to Mr. Ali pursue a Brazilian model halfway across Rio De Janeiro.
- And some others here which I don’t like all that much, but which certainly bring back lots of memories – there was Dhagala Lagli Kala, the ultimate Rain Dance Song back then. There was also Kya Soorat Hai – somehow it fit Raju Sundaram (the guy in the video) like a glove, and the gag about the Feast bar (is it still around?), and there being three of everything… Another one that comes to mind is Rabbi Shergill’s Bulla Ki Jaana, the one with the typical music video-ish montage-ish music video, complete with English subtitles. And… remember Shaan’s Tanha Dil? And Loveology? Or Strings and their Duur? Or their very first Sir Ki Yehi Pahaar? Or Faisal Kapadia strumming his guitar for Anjaane? It felt odd, didn’t it… loking at license plates that said Karachi or Lahore, or at signboards saying ‘Islamabad – 60 KM’. And then Junoon singing Sayyonee. And then the very wannabe Fuzon. Silk Route with those idiotic videos that ruined their good music. And Alms for Shanti who really need to get back to music….
And now, a few years, later, there are none. Everyone seems to have quit the scene. And the ones on now are as wannabe as they can get, truly “aping the West”…. And one reason I’d say these musicians didn’t – and don’t – really take off was – and is – ‘coz of their complete lack of professionalism and determination. They don’t dare to innovate, they don’t come up with anything new. And worst of all, they don’t stick with it. So what if there’s no money in it, just upload your singles on your website (or if you’re too lazy to get your own domain, googlepages will gladly do). If you’re good, you’ll be famous, at the very least – and, independent music is designed to appeal to the college crowd, isn’t it, who don’t ever buy music? Sure, you might not make it like a Madonna or a Britney, but heck, it’s gonna be a cult thing, something übercool, to listen to your music, something the trendsetters will be the first to do, and something the wannabes will follow blindly. Kids will throng your concerts, remember you as the dudes who performed in the concerts they first got wildly drunk in, FinalYear junta will remember you to be the folks whose concert was the last one they all attended together, you’d give the freshers their first-ever rock concert experience…. and they’ll ask you for guitar tabs, for mp3s…. your music will flood their LANs, be exchanged multiple times over GTalk, your website will be linked by some hazaar student bloggers, your videos on YouTube will get a gazillion hits every day, your inbox flooded with fanmail ……. Yeah, it might not be Big as in Sunidhi Chauhan or Bryan Adams, but it sure beats strumming your guitar only on weekends, or occasionally at your workplace during your culturals, and feeling a twinge of regret and cursing the system whenever anyone says, “Heyy…. you play quite well…..”
PS: 2000-word post, I realize, but I really do love and miss independent Indian music, which didn’t blindly ape either Bollywood or the West, but combined the best of both….oh, I’d better stop now. Cheers.
It’s a universal phenomenon. Bathroom singing is. Spread worldwide. Transcends everyone. Why, Kishore Kumar was recognized as a good singer only after when SD Burman heard him sing in the shower.
Apparently, there’s a bathroom in Nrityagram called the Singing Bathroom. It has no door, just the privacy of a walled spiral path to it, and so the user sings to inform unsuspecting others of his/her presence.
Now there’s also a contest of that name.
Various reasons why people sing in the shower. One school of statistics says that the number of bathroom singers went up after the Liril ads. I remember a neighbor who might or might not have belonged to that category. Our houses were incredibly close, and I used to “listen” to Mayamruga, Dandapindagalu, and a whole host of Kannada serials. Every morning, this girl, just a few years older than me, used to sing in the shower. And much to my ire, she happened to be a good singer with a great repertoire ranging from Michael Jackson (that was when girls were swooning over him, and sound effects like “Aoowwwww” were übercool) to MS Subbulakshmi. My ire, because ma constantly cited her (good) example.
Back then, my ten-year-old mind failed to grasp the whole concept of singing in the shower… it seemed so… unnatural! This I mentioned in a scornful tone, to Mona at school. Now Mona’s that goodie-good girl who all the teachers like, and every student is supposed to emulate. “Hey, I also sing ya!”, she said, shocking the hell out of me. There she stood, tarnished in my mind, she who could never make a mistake. Why did she sing in the shower? “Sometimes I feel scared ya, that’s why”. Okay, double PR error there. Mona wasn’t invincible – she felt scared taking a bath, even! The story spread far and wide, and Mona stock fell steeply in the next few weeks. Aided by Mona submitting her homework diligently when the rest of us slacked off and had to stand outside the class.
I’ve come a long, long way since then. There was a summer camp I attended, where our leader was this cheerful twenty-year-old who sung Madonna and Christina Aguilera in the showers – I must say her Lady Marmalade was unbeatable… along with all us kids chorusing Mocha Chocolata yea yea. I grew slightly music-mad at age thirteen, and Radiocity came along, keeping me company throughout my day at age fourteen. Rohit Barker and Vera Malkani played awesome music in the mornings [Tell me you'll be back, but that will take some time, I'm wa-a-aitin'], and I sung along [I'm wa-a-aitin', yeaaah, yeaaah] while preparing for school. The karaoke livened up my mornings, woke me up properly, and left me in a more upbeat mood.
And at NITK… it’s a community phenomenon. Everyone sings. And it also serves the additional purpose of warning the others that you’re there, using the bathroom, coz the power-conscious activists’ll otherwise just snap off the lights.
And the small space ensures maximum reverberation…. sounds like a recording studio, according to some folk here, thanks to the tiles and echoing. And it sometimes becomes a community singing session… people in adjacent bathrooms, the ones doing their laundry, people whose rooms are close by….
Yeah, so it’s a feel-good thing, everyone does it, it’s enjoyable, it’s sometimes used in voice training, and people who have absolutely no musical talent in the real world somehow seem to come alive within the four walls of the bathroom.
Well, so I was in the middle of a rendition of Nazia Hasan, when Nazia Hasan’s voice suddenly started echoing from somewhere. No, no, it wasn’t her spirit come back to punish me or anything for rendering it a cappella, it was one of those ubiquitous iPods.
It took me a while, but I realized that people were using the iPods to select their bathroom singing playlist! You read right. Bathroom Singing is now a competitive sport!
So I sing Norwegian Wood, and I hear I’m With You echo across the place. And then began a Request Show! Of all things! And the most agonizing thing was, it consisted of Himesh, Kailash Kher and other nasalists (a la novelist, or saxophonist, or keyboardist) and assorted people all prefixed by DJ.
I assume these girls must come from places where singing in the shower is taken heck seriously, and in their showers, there probably will be jingchak speakers that look right out of Star Wars, with a specially chosen playlist, probably some sophisticated algo that chooses the next track which will be a function of the temperature of the room, the temperature of the water, the time of the day, the current rating of the song on Magnatune, iTunes and Napster, the age of the singer, the age of the bathroom singer, and other assorted criteria which may or may not include the raag of the song and the romantic history of the bathroom singer , and where lyrics flash across the walls of the room… I mean, some people find it hard to get the yeowwwws right when they sing MJ.
I really admire the determination of these people to get ahead of the rest of the pack in this realm… it takes determination to consent to bring your iPod to such a bog, especially one where your soap and shampoo compete for space on a precarious ledge, and your good days are ones where you don’t trip over your soap when it hits the floor.
But, oh, well, I guess maybe bathroom singing isn’t meant to be as impromptu as I thought it was…. maybe you need to practice, be the best ever bathroom singer there ever was.. Maybe some people have ambitions that reach that high. I mean, people practice to win rock-paper-scissors tourneys.
As for me, it’s just the place where I sing all those songs which I can’t sing in the room coz my roommate’s asleep, or at home coz Ma thinks Elvis is Evil.. and I don’t think there’s any place that’ll let me give a full rendition of Pettai Rap, or sing the Top Gun theme a cappella.
Sub: My Melacholy Blues
I’ll be back dead on time some day, one day with more of that jazz, saying “Let me entertain you!“. Not in only seven days, I hope, giving everyone the opportunity to say “Liar!“; hope this doesn’t misfire.
Thing is, I’ve been posting too frequently of late, and the number of unposted drafts have been steadily increasing, and I’m appalled by the bad quality of my writing about things as inane as parodies of Marlene Dietrich songs, parodies of the hit gaana of The Eagles, and reviewing idiotic movies. I seriously think I need to give myself, and others a break from my bad writing about topics brought on by sheer boredom, and lack of interesting enough things to write about. And I’ve found I have better things to bother about than Blogosphere.
Bah, my style is getting inaner and idioticer. I’d better shaddap and go to bed. Goodbye, for a while now.
Carrying on from here, I haven’t had a peaceful moment inside my head for ages. No time to plot and plan. There’s always been something else around the corner that has demanded my immediate attention. And inevitably, without plotting and planning, my chores – yes, that’s what they’ve become – take longer, robbing me of thinking time.
There hasn’t been a moment in quite some time where I objectively analyze my life, the universe around me, and everything else related. It’s always from the frying pan into the fire. A long series of complicated steps which have ensured that the LIFE part of my life has been on the backburner for long… sufficiently long enough for me to get unused to having a life.
Which implies I don’t quite know anymore what to do when I have a spare moment. These spare moments, usually few and far in between, get sucked into a black-hole, unused, underutilized. It seems so long since I’d hurry up and finish my work so that I could have some fun. First it was finishing up work so that I could work some more, but now work and non-work more or less overlap, sucking out the joy in both.
There’s a mad, mad screaming in my head, and I just can’t seem to quell it. I’ve kept going by telling myself my moment of glory is just ’round the corner, and after this one task, that’ll be it. But another voice in my head clutters up my work by saying I’ll be stuck doing the same thing for a long time more, sapping my initial enthusiasm. I no longer have a fire in me that wants to get things done with. A vicious cycle, there.
And there’s another voice that asks about the elusive glory I’m trying to chase, where is the manna promised so long ago? It asserts that I haven’t got my due. A sense of being sinned against, and not having sinned enough to merit it. And not wanting to, thanks to my set of principles. It only hurts more when I see lesser efforts and chicanery being rewarded more. And, to add fuel to fire, I don’t anymore feel the satisfaction I’m supposed to feel on a job I did well.
My priorities, thus, are muddled up. My sense of ethics and morals and principles are cluttered. I wouldn’t go so far enough to say I don’t know which way is up, but I’m nearly there.
I certainly have tried breaking free from this eternal cycle, but have failed miserably at that. Life has a way of making things fall into the same dull old routine, and the strange buzzing in my head doesn’t help. I first thought taking a break might put things in a new perspective, but no, things are too deeply ingrained for any major change to happen. New activities don’t help, either.
I wish organizing my thoughts was as easy as organizing my hard disk, where all I’ll have to do was defragment, delete unnecessary files, and put things in appropriate folders. Unfortunately, the human brain isn’t as easy to organize.
The Art Of Mind Control was something I laughed at a couple of years back. Why would someone want to control their thought process, I wondered. It was as beautiful as it is, going from one unchartered location to another. But the realization of an unclinging train of thought which stops to entertain everything, and absorb nothing makes me wonder otherwise.
There’s also a feeling that all this is merely temporary, that my current position will come to pass soon, and I’m going to have no relics of these moments, and it would be unwise to cling on to these moments, they don’t quite count, not worth clinging on to. I’m so inured to the kind of life I’m leading that I at first pretended not to care about the various slights and maintain an external calm, and now this poker face comes naturally to me, and I don’t quite seem to care what happens to others. It’s also a list of lessons learnt, which is, as the cliche goes, once bitten twice shy.
There’s also a whole list of things I used to be dying to do, but couldn’t, and now when I have enough time on my hands, I can’t recollect in the haze of what’s coming next, which I am sure of, if at all, in a very hazy way.
I think I’m so used to pressure that once my tail is not on fire, I go into deep hibernation.
Oh, hell, I think I’ve been too deep into Bridget Jones’ Diary and Devil Wears Prada, which, while being hilarious to a fault, has the same effect on my mind which all chicklit does – puts me into introspection mode a la American and British women all of who think only of looks and weight-loss and relationships and all the stuff sold by the first-world media. Oh, and I also talk and write in cliches and truisms all the time now, apart from snowclones.
Why the hell can’t we have decent role models apart from an ex-rocket scientist ex-president who thinks just education is the road to salvation for the nation, or a wannabe-IITian who started a mass-recruiter software co., or his wife to whom every possibly imaginable incident happens which she pens horribly into collections of short stories, or as columns in popular periodicals? Or a bunch of anorexic starlets, or overpaid sportsmen, or overhyped and underclothed sportswomen?
Something tells me this is just the calm before the storm that’s gonna drown me in so much work that I’m not gonna have time to even take a deep breath before going under.
PS: It’s 38 years of Woodstock as of today. If I ever come across a time-machine, I certainly know where I’d want to take it to. I prefer remembering Woodstock, a culture/counterculture I’ve never experienced or seen first-hand, to wishing everyone a Happy Independence Day, ‘coz you just look at Woodstock, and if you can still do something like that, and if it’d be a success, then you really truly are free.
PPS: Happy Independence Day. Revel in the joy of being able to say just about anything you want. And in doing whatever and whoever you want. We are one of the very few lucky ones across the globe to have that freedom.
There was a time when I thought Bollywood was absolute nonsense. No… I’ve always thought Bollywood was absolute nonsense. But there used to be this time when I liked all these independent films that were made in Hinglish, thought they were the Real Cinema, Artistic Expressions of the First Order, would obviously not be popular because the Indian audience wasn’t mature enough, and in any case I considered myself good enough to see the good in all these flicks.
I don’t quite know how this preference for not-so-popular films began with me, but I think it was due to the Times of India in its heydays, [when it was yet to turn into Trash of India], which targeted the younger generation and at the same time gave outrageous viewpoints on popular movies and music. Dev Benegal was venerated, and Manmohan Desai scorned. The Week as usual focussed on little-known actors and directors, more prominent of who were Nagesh Kukunoor and Dev Benegal (again). India Today had a last page full of little-known people doing little-known things which all sounded like they didn’t quite get the publicity they deserved. Sympathy with the underdog, I think, caused it.
Guess the first one to catch my attention was the Aamir Khan-Nandita Das starrer 1947-Earth. The music was by AR Rehman and (hence) too lovely for words. And it was something that turned my head when a well-known actor like Aamir of the Ghulam fame would do an art-house-ish film with the then-little-known Deepa Mehta. All those interviews with the director and lead actors, apart from the fact that it was based on an Indian English book [oh, that was another phase I went through] based on real experiences made it all the more alluring. Well, I hardly remember what I was thinking then, but I’d sure like to know! ‘Coz I read Bapsi Sidhwa’s Ice Candy Man a while ago, and found it obnoxious at the very least. And I caught the movie again, it failed to impress me, being but a cheap copy of the book. But the music… aah, I think it’ll take a long while more to get the strains of Hariharan singing Dheeme Dheeme out of my system.
And then was Nagesh Kukunoor, with his Hyderabad Blues. Poignant flick, I daresay. Again, reading media reports of it “being shot on home-video” by a “chemical engineer” had the adverse effect of making me sympathize with the movie. I shouldn’t blame myself too much for wanting to watch the movie; after all dialogues like “Man, he’s such a pondaatidaasan already!” and “Remember the time we were waiting for the pallu to fall?” didn’t happen in every movie, and any movie daring to have such a dialogue would have to be an Independent flick, which was, by definition Different and hence Good. But I must admit, it was quite okay, and I still liked it when I watched it a few months back.
Nagesh Kukunoor’s next offering, Rockford‘s premiere on television was eagerly awaited by me and most of my friends from school… it was about kids, right? Who have crushes and all? On a teacher at that? And it was by the Hyderabad Blues guy… it had to be good. And the music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy was nice, wasn’t it? Hummable… Well, anyway, it was on the last day before school opened for Class X, so it sort of held a senti value for some of us… some coming-of-age type of sentiment which I don’t quite get now. The dialogue delivery sucked with most of the actors, but Kailash Atmanathan as the hero’s sidekick carried off the whole flick for me. And also the various gags like the Suicide Frog, and the episode where Selva [Atmanathan] tries to give a love letter to one of the girls and just narrowly misses being caught by the Jesuit nun, just after which he’s reprimanded for his useless tries for which he says “Try, try until you succeed!”. Oh, and also the sequence where the lead actor [Rohan Dey] has his recurring vampire nightmare, wakes up scared and goes to the Warden[Brother Sebastian]‘s room, where… well….. after which Bro clutches his palms together and chants “Lead us not to temptation, lead us not to temptation”.
Then there was some flick called Snip! starring Sophiya Haque and Nikhil Chinappa, which got the same sort of reviews as the previous flicks I’ve mentioned. It was about some hairstylist who snips off the ear of a rich customer… never got to watch that, and I’m thankful.
Another barber-shop flick was Rahul Bose’s Everybody Says I’m Fine starring Rehaan Engineer and Koel Purie [daughter of India Today's editor Aroon Purie]. It’s some cryptic flick about this hairdresser-for-the-wealthy who can read the thoughts of people whose hair he is doing. It’s boring at best, and the only highlight is Rahul Bose’s over-the-top act [even that gets irritating after the first bit], and the opening track.
And then two films starring Deepti Naval, which hit the screens at around the same time. One was called Leela, and it focussed on Dimple Kapadia, while Naval had a bit role as the mother of the student of Dimple Kapadia who is subsequently seduced [the son, I mean] by her[Kapadia], in some foreign university. There was this one dialogue Dimple Kapadia had, where she’s addressing the first class, where she says “I know you all are used to call your professors by first name, but make an exception in my case; call me Professor.. just humour me, won’t you?”
The other one was by and far more likeable. One called Freaky Chakra. Here, Ranvir Shorey’s the writer who tries to have a working story for his novel. He first sketches three characters, one played by Deepti Naval who is a widowed ex-doctor who now spends her time decorating dead bodies [now don't ask why someone would want to have that done], an obsessive secret admirer of Deepti played by Sachin Khedekar, who makes obscene calls to her house, and swallows pills when she hung up on him, the third was Sunil Raoh who’s this happy-go-lucky college student. Now Ranvir Shorey fixes up Sunil Raoh in Deepti Naval’s house as a paying guest to base a plausible story. He keeps promising a Kahaani Mein Twist soon to the audience, and tries his level best to get the two to fall in love, succeeds, and subsequently fails in separating the two. The most poignant scene in the movie was the last scene where he’s succeeded in poisoning Naval’s mind against Raoh, she subsequently chucks him out of the house, and Ranvir turns up at her house with a bunch of flowers hoping to turn hero, but the script has a mind of its own… Sunil Raoh opens the door, tying up his pajamas, and a pigeon craps on Ranvir Shorey’s face. This was a Bangalorean flick, with most of the cast and crew being from the city, including Sunil Raoh. Notable among the cast would be RJ Sunaina Lall who played this perpetually turned-on girl in the elevator.
Another Bangie flick was Prakash Belawadi’s Stumble starring Suhasini Mani Ratnam, which was about the software boom and subsequent bust. Even ToI rated this bad.
Then there was this one called Mango Souffle, which was the movie adaptation of Mahesh Dattani’s play, On A Muggy Night In Mumbai. The only two things which stood out were Rinke Khanna in a leading role, and the theme being homosexuality [ToI needed no telling twice to go on at length about this].
Yet another movie which was in Hindi, or rather, Hinglish and shot in Bangalore was Bas Yun Hi starring Purab Kohli [of Channel [V] fame] and Nandita Das. Boring, at best, again.
And how could I forget American Desi? The main story was useless, but the gags masquerading as subplots were the best part, and the characters were all well-etched, my [and most people's] favourite character being Kunal Vijaykar as the very Indian Professor Gautam Rao who came late to class, cooked his own lunch, brought it in a tiffin carrier to college, ate with his fingers, and burped loudly after meals… and also taught with his fly unzipped, mispronounced the roll call ["Jesus Alvarez!" "My name is Eh-seuss" "but there's a J there!" "It's silent"/ "Onathan Smith" "I'm called Jonathan" "but what about the silent J??" "It's not silent"], referred to erasers as “rubbers”, and got punch-drunk on a single glass of champagne.
Carrying forward the Desis-abroad genre of movies, there was one called Masala, which was set in Canada, had a very weird sketch of characters, among who was the hero who kept getting recurring nightmares due to his parents dying in an air crash, and the Lord Krishna, and his brother Balram, who are pressed upon for help [reads more like hell, though] by the very demanding granny, Zohra Sehgal whose cruel, quickwitted repartees apart from the cut-throat demeanor add to the black comedy of the movie. There’s one scene where this hero’s on a flight after a very long time, the granny bullies the Gods into protecting him, and the flight turns out to be very tumultuous. Hero sarcastically quips, “Oh, no, this couldn’t be more comfortable if the gods were flying this” and the next shot is of Krishna asking Balaram a very tense “How do you fly this thing?” in the cockpit.
And then Monsoon Wedding… which I now realize was a bundle of nonsense put together with too many inane details intended to endear and strike a chord with the audience [Beta, change your underwear, no... naughty boy, didn't change it yesterday], and a series of press campaigns [Mira Nair: "My whole family has helped with this movie... we've used my family home, my family members, my family's underwear....."]
There was also a movie called Bhopal Express, which was Nethra Raghuraman’s [of Thakshak fame] debut. It was about the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. But I guess the movie is lost to the mists of time – not once have I seen or even heard of it being telecast on TV, quite unlike the other movies I’ve mentioned here. The only thing about the movie that is still remembered is Lucky Ali’s Tu Kaun Hai, off the OST of the film, with a music video that kicked ass in my opinon back then [can't seem to find it anywhere now], and a haunting melody.
As for music… I used to obsessive about Indi-rock. I listened to Silk Route, Indian Ocean, Parikrama, Colonial Cousins, Alms for Shanti, Sanjay Maroo, Euphoria, Pentagram, Anaida, Shael, Vasundhara Das, Malgudi Shubha, Usha Uthup, Strings, Sagarika, Shaan and a whole bunch of people who weren’t very well known. It was almost a crime with me to listen to any song that was hummed by more than ten people. But I’ve mellowed since then, and am open to more different forms of music. I still like most of the Indipop I used to listen to, and find it a stark contrast to the Indian music scene now, where it’s deeply lacking in quality as compared to a few years ago when there was a plethora of talent, of independent artistes who flooded music channels… There’s no bringing back those rollicking times, is there? It’ll be like trying to recreate Woodstock.
But… Independent Movies… I don’t still like most of those I used to like back then. But there are these movies which I’ve always wanted to watch, but have never got the chance to; they are too rare, and are not shown on TV ‘coz the latest edition of Munnabhai is too busy playing, and the industry focuses on the cowbelt more than the urbane audience. And such movies don’t get made anymore.
Given half a chance, I’d really love to watch English, August the movie, I’m very obsessive about the book, and think it’s a wonderful piece of philosophical fiction no matter what anyone says and no matter how horribly Chetan Bhagat or any other loser tries to replicate the cynicism and anchorlessness. Rahul Bose is said to have done a great job, just like Dev Benegal and everyone else related to the movie.
And I’d also like to watch SRK’s first big-screen role, in an Arundathi Roy movie called In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones. It’s set in the Delhi School of Architecture, and is the radical-’80s type where the idealism is a more matured and refined and evolved version of Marxism, Naxalism, Feminism, and all those -isms that were the flavour of the ’70s and ’80s.
Till a new DVD of English, August is out, I guess I’ll have to be content watching popular hit flicks on LAN, or the sort that are shown on TV. * Sigh! * Now to get back to reality, and reality TV.
Well, I thought I’d write a post called “The Incident Chronicles”, but it turned out to be too long, and too full of irrelevant prejudices and inside jokes. Well, then, I’d write about the best part of this fest: The semi-pro and pro-nites.
Semi-Pro Nite was on 16th February, a contest for the best semi-pro band. A couple of years ago, such a contest would have been chock-full of GnR, Aerosmith and popular hardRock/heavyMetal numbers, but this one was replete with originals.
I don’t mean to sound disrespectful, but the contestants were all musicians, not too many performers. The first two bands didn’t really catch my attention. The third one was NITK’s very own Phlegmingo, with Karthik Murali on the vocals ["What's up, NITK?!!" "Wateh! Man, you LIVE here!"], too excellent for words, Swarit on the keyboard, Tanay, the lead guitarist, and Pakjum on the bass guitar. I’d listened to a couple of their songs, and so was singing along for Deja Vu, which IMHO is a rollicking number.
I left soon after that, and returned for The Galeej Gurus, who were the semi-pro band showing the rest how to perform. Man, they are good musicians and even better performers. All of them have this guys-next-door sort of appeal [save Mathew Harris's accent..] around them,and it works in their favor. It was a short performance, less than an hour or so, but headbanging for that period of time resulted in what I call Post-concert stress, a condition where you feel just fine after an energetic concert, but wake up the next morning aching all over.
I would have taken loads of pics of Matthew and Nathan Harris [the lead singer and the bassist, they're twins, did anyone notice?], but I’d taken so many shots of Phlegmingo and the hostel that the battery had no charge left in it. Like Prince Philip says in Blackadder’s A Christmas Carol, “D-Daaamn”.
Pro Nite. Someone was talking about “The Raghav project” opening. I figured it was The Raghupathy Dixit Project, formerly known as Antaragini. And it was.
What an opening they gave… Raghu Dixit started off with “Hi, we’re the Raghu Dixit project, and we play only original music, so…”. The crowd behind me started booing the dudes on stage, but after a couple of tracks, were yelling “Raghu-bhai aayache!”
And the girls next to me went berserk over the guitarist. Yelled and cheered him so much that Raghu Dixit said, “For all those dying to know, that’s Anirban on the guitar there, and he’s slightly single!” Here’s a pic:
The drummer was completely obscured by the drums, and the best I could get was
The berserkness went even more berserk that Raghu Dixit called a few girls on stage, [needless to say, I was one of them... would I miss an opportunity to shake hands with the winners of Radiocity Live? Oh, and btw, I was one of the very few singing along] for the last song, for which an M.Tech from NITK played the tabla [Bhavani Shankar, plays really well, I've heard him when he played for SPICMACAY's Aradhana]. I finally got a shot of the flautist, here it is:
Couldn’t shoot the other guitarist, the one with the cool pony. He was right under the lights, and too far away, couldn’t get a good enough angle, and the lighting and the smokescreen colluded in making sure I never did get a good enough pic that wasn’t too dark.
After a short break was Indian Ocean. We were expecting some youngish IITians, but all we got was oldish IIT-KGP/Cornell dudes of whom one was increasingly temperamental. Asheem Chakravarty, the tabla player, said at the beginning that their music is very less of halla-shor, so people doing halla-shor could keep away.
As I’d predicted, they started off with Brahma Randha Parama Sukhadam. Within minutes, the crowd was humming “Naraa naraa…”. Next was Jhini, from the eponymous album. Apparently, it was written by Kabir. It’s a mellow number, and I guess it’s quite popular, most of the crowd was singing along, and not just the refrain.
The leadsinger Rahul Ram’s a PhD in Environmental Toxicology from Cornell University [I should have clicked pics of people after they heard that from me]. He’s also got an awesome voice, and his guitaring is dreamy and sounds lovely.
Next, they played Bhor. Asheem Chakravarty told us before they started that when people hear this song, their first reaction is to clap along, and that he would prefer it if the crowd did that toward the end of the song, not as soon as it began. And we kept our word.
Folks started clamouring at this time for the more popular numbers like Bandheh from Black Friday and their trademark Kandisa. [I, on the other hand was yelling for Desert Rain.] They began playing Bandheh, and I began shooting a video of it. It seemed to be coming along well, with the voices of Rahul Ram and Asheem Chakravarty AND the crowd, when Mashaal to my right asked me to stop shooting. I wondered why, and spoiled the shot badly, when I saw the Inci con also making gestures to me to stop shooting the video. After the shot was spoiled beyond redemption, Mashaal told me that Asheem Chakravarty’s shortsighted, and camera flashes disturb him, and so… Hell! I knew that! I wasn’t using a flash, and now the shot was spoiled, and what’s better, my camera was running out of charge. Darn, wish I hadn’t taken so many shots of Anirban.
We never could get a look at the drummer, he was hidden behind the drums. The (other) ladies went berserk when he came up to the front for some adjustments. Amit Kilam, he’s also the flawless flautist.
A couple of songs later was when I noticed Susmit Sen, the acoustic guitarist. He was right above where I stood [front row as usual], and had been pretty low-key throughout. He looked like he was there to deliver a lecture, with that neatly combed hair.
Somewhere towards the end, I noticed his guitar. I haven’t seen many like this, someone tell me, are they popular? It doesn’t have a body, only a frame.
They played a really long number, with lots of innovative drumming, and Asheem Chakravarty played Rahul Ram’s guitar in a very novel way. The length and relative monotony of the number ensured that people walked away. All the girls around me moved off, and, uh, well, I had to, too. People were yelling for Kandisa, and after the lengthy number, the band announced that they’d be playing their last song. Tuna and me sung along for that one, Kandisa [We've listened to it so many times that we can sing it in our sleep, even though it's in Aramaic, same language as The Passion of Christ].
Kandisa Alaha, Kandisa Ehsana
Kandisa La Ma Yosa
……… And we were done.
They hadn’t played my Desert Rain, but, um, that’s okay! The long wait was over – I’d been waiting for this concert all year. And they didn’t disappoint one bit. The icing on the cake was The Raghu Dixit project, an unexpected treat.
And I suppose the only place where I can enjoy a rock concert alone in the front row is the wonderful place that is NITK. When Parikrama had performed here two years ago, they said that it was “wonderful that there are girls enjoying this show in the front row, not many places where we’ve seen that happen”, and that “the men are cool people too, for letting the girls do that”.
Well, I might not consider the men cool people “for letting us do that”, but my respect for them has definitely increased on seeing that they ensure we don’t have a problem enjoying the concert. Hats off, I might want to say, but that’ll only sound ironic.
Can’t wait for Inci-08!
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