It’s been a long while. And since Tehelka is in the air,
Click on the image for a larger, more readable version.
On the safe side, When I say “Tyrant Lizard”, I refer to this
Here are the previous episodes.
What do you call an unfortunate soul who spends 2 days a half in Chicago and visits a grand total of 4 places, namely O’Hare airport, Cousin’s home, Office and Client Location?
A workaholic dullard? No
A lifeless loser? No
Krish Ashok? Yes.
And what’s worse, when he gets precisely 3 chances to eat out, he does so at
But I did have fun watching yet another Tambram vegetarian family order food from a non-desi menu. There are 7 kinds of desi vegetarians in the US.
Because the fries are cooked in lard, the kitchen uses the same ladles for veggie and non-veggie food, the soup is cooked with leftover bones and yeah, this
“Shall we go for Pnjaabi Buffet?” (For the uninitiated, Pnjaabi Buffet is the only form of desi cuisine popular in the US)
The Slightly Aventurous Takenorisker
Knows that most restaurants do have something entirely vegetarian on the menu.
“Ill have the 7-layer burrito please”
“Falafel sandwich please”
“6-inch veggie delite on Honey-oat please, with American cheese, and Honey-mustard dressing. Extra jalapenos. Thank you”
The Paranoid Tension Party
The kind that totally irritates waiters.
When ordering - “Is this meat? Is this non-vegetarian? No meat please. Wonly vegetarian.“
When the dish arrives – “No meat right? Vegetarian? Sure? Lock kar diya jai?”
After a few morsels – “Waiter! What is this? Is this meat? No? Sure? It tastes like meat. How do I know? I just know. Sure? Ok.”
ps: A particularly nasty subtype of Paranoid Tension Party has the ugly habit of forcing non-vegetarians to order veggie food when eating out with them. And there is also The Thoondivuttufier whose aim in life is to disclose the presence of animal cells in every dish to paranoid tension parties. “Dei. Did you know that this sauce contains meat? Did you know that milk here is also non-veg? Cos cows are made to eat beef. Did you know Mexican beans contain ham?“
“I will have the vegetable fa-jee-ta with jala-peen-os and taar-till-aas”
“Dei? Ennada? Veg-aa?” (Hey? What dude? Veg today?)
“Innikki Tuesday da”
“Oh. Ok. Hanumaan matteraa?”
Is bold enough to order seemingly non-veg items and instruct the kitchen to de-nonvegize it.
“Can I have the Thai chicken pizza without chicken?”
“Can I have the Double-Quarter-Pounder with cheese, without the patties?”
“Can I have steak and mashed potato, without the steak?”
Is the most adventurous of the lot. Generally tends to create new menu items on the fly.
“Can I have the Baja Chalupa, without the beef, and add beans and onions instead?”
“Can I have the Pasta Neapolitana without ham, and could you add grilled onions, bell peppers and chilli flakes?”
Orders Pepperoni pizza, and removes pepperoni pieces by himself. Eats fries because it does not taste meaty. Enjoys the occasional soup if the meat pieces are not too visible. General philosophy is – Eat anything as long one does not know that it’s non-vegetarian.
So that was it. But amidst all the work pressure, I must mention that I did have some fun teaching my cousin’s kids Madras Tamizh. After all, what’s cuter than a 4 year old girl addressing her dad “Nainaaa. Epdi keera?” (Dear respectful father. How art thou? )
All Eyes Byes. Or was it
All Ice Pies. Or perhaps
Al Eis Peis (a.k.a Shaikh al-Haid al-Seekh)
Anyway. While some people were counting upto 20 and other people were hiding in various ineffective places, I chose Chicago. Which is where I find myself for the next 2 days. On work. Which then brings me to the title of the post, an obvious circular reference to 3 things
1. The legendary cult pop song by Hassan Jahangir, who is Pakistani
2. The city of Chicago, which is really windy
3. It’s huge Pakistani population, which leads us back to point nr 1.
Which is ok, because I like people from Pakistan (especially their kebabs and Urdu hard rock) although the cab drivers tend to keep asking me how much salary I earn every month.
The first thing I saw as soon as I settled down was a desi local newsletter (I forget the name, something like “Indian Neighbourhood” or something to that effect) and I did what any sane person would do as soon as he has an American desi newsletter in hand. Check out the matrimonials for humour/laughter/general mirth purposes.
But instead of chuckling/smirking/grinning, I found myself doing a McKinsey/Forrester level research comparison of The Hindu matrimonials and Chicago Desi newsletter matrimonials. I was curious to find out what the differences were. And here is my executive summary. The full report will of course cost $1500 + taxes.
That’s it. But I have an idea for desi software types who have settled/run-away/ditched original-visa-giving-company and wish to save money on matrimonials in the US. When you want to say “I like fair, convent educated, homely girls”, say I L1ke FCEH. That way, you could subtly notify the other party of your visa type in addition to saving precious per-word costs. You could also say “H1gh salary” if it fits you.
Ok. The second part of this post will have to wait till I’m done with necessary evils such as work for the next 2 days. Restaurant suggestions (especially the middle-eastern variety) are solicited.
My official work is in the 2.0 world, which essentially means that all I do is recommend large fonts, shadows, strange spellings due to vowel removal, gradients and AJAXified slow loading pages to anyone and everyone who cares to listen. And oh, adding 2.0 at the end of all obsolete buzzwords makes them fresh like Ooty carrots, or so the jilpa goes.
A long time ago, when the dinosaurs roamed the earth and played with the Flintstones, I thought up a few alternative Soap Serial concepts. So it’s time to add the 2.0 suffix and join the bandwagon.
Kyunki SaaS bhi kabhi bahu thi
A dramatic picturization of the daring rise of Software as a Service, where hip youngsters Sales 4s and Amma Zon attempt to conquer the web, with the rallying cry “No Office. Wonly APIs“. The serial captures the futuristic vision of a completely servicified world. Cows have “Pay with Paypal” buttons genetically engineered onto them. Vending Machines provide mashup opportunities where people can mix Fanta with Goli Soda and a dash of Injimittai (Ginger sweet). E-Priests offer E-Archana services that can be consumed directly off the web. Devotees login, get a full-screen webcam view of the deity, listen to a soundtrack featuring Wom Ganapathaye Namaha remixed with the occasional Eppidi Irukkel Maami. The priest can also hit a button and remotely activate a USB powered faux deepaaraadhanai that will provide a 30 second flame for devotees to otthikofy (an elegant Tanglish word for cupping ones palms over a camphor powered flame and placing on face/forehead). If one is too busy, one’s Google calender can auto-invoke the archana APIs whenever special occasions and birthdays are due. (which are available on Orkut, of course)
But this bold march forward is not easy. Jealousies abound. Hostile takeovers are threatened. Denial of Service attacks are imminent. The foray of SaaS into the hallowed Tirupathi Tirumala temple is the tipping point. Will the bold plan of allowing devotees to login and choose from 400,000 deity-webcast options work? A $59.95 Kalyanotsavam or a $29.95 Brahmotsavam? Will allowing the user to navigate through a real 3D FPS game-type Vaikuntam Q-Complex simulation match the real thing? Will devotees be impressed with a 7.1 Surround soundtrack featuring Govinda Govinda remixed with Jargandi Jargandi ?
Watch (every day 2 pm, every evening on Youtube and every week TV rip on desi torrent) to find out.
Vlog (a.k.a V-Log, a.k.a We-Log, a.k.a Hum Log)
Imagine a world where webcams are everywhere. Where everybody’s life is streamed live, 24×7. Imagine an innocent village belle catching her Mora Payyan (Mangethar, Would-be) doing hanky-panky with somebody else on youtube. Imagine her locking herself up in the standard suicide room (One fan, One stool, One rope) and contemplating the worst. Imagine screaming relatives and friends banging on the door and urging her to reconsider. Imagine the would-be hearing about this from a relative who blogs live from his mobile phone while everybody tries to get the door open. Imagine him sending a Twitter message to live-blogging relative, urging him to squeeze a laptop through the window to the disconsolate girl.
Now imagine a dramatic scene where the boy does a live Skype video chat with the girl, promising to clean up his Orkut profile and his Youtube favourite videos.
Will she change her mind?
Watch (Every day 4 pm, every evening on Youtube and Joost, and every week TV rip on desi torrent)
Junoon (Tamil Dub) Redux
Decades ago, Doordarshan revolutionized one of the oldest languages in the world by introducing a new dialect – Junoon Tamil. Legend has it that Yoda (“Much Anger in you, I see”) was the dubbing consultant for this effort. But gone are the days when “Enge Pore Nee” (Where going, you are?) was the rage in town.
So relive the passion, the rage (because Keshav Kalsi had a smaller number of scraps on this Orkut profile than the main protagonist), the vengeance (starting a hate blog) and the drama (Debate on Slashdot) of Junoon, with an interesting twist. This version is entirely silent, with subtitles in Yoda-Junoon-like-Chatspeak. For e.g
LOL okay…er..a public indecent proposal, seem lyk, dat may. Luv Keshav Kalsi, dat 2 say, i ment! His wite soot, so kyoot is.
u hv, 2 blogroll, not aded me, I sens.
And so on.
Watch (Every day 6 pm, every evening on Youtube and Metacafe, and every week TV rip on desi torrent)
When there is a new hope, the empire is just expected to strike back, right? When identities are in question, somebody needs to assert their supremacy, right? When fellowships get formed, they simply must pay a visit to the two towers, right?
So, this just had to be followed by this.
Rekha, a.k.a NRI Maami introduces us to,
Riches to Rags Lover
Only daughter of mega-karodpathi. Spoilt and pampered by her father. Humbled by a poor hero who works as a driver/ servant/cook/isthriwala. Walks over father’s/brother’s/mother’s metaphorical dead body to marry hero.
Amreeeca to India
Foreign return, obnoxious, arrogant heroine. Once again humbled by patriotic, ‘well cultured’, poor hero who works as a driver/servant/cook/isthriwala
Slogs for the family. Possibly the only sane member of a family. Works and fends for widowed elder sister, studying younger siblings and one or more ill/unwell/cancer/heart patient parents or siblings and sometimes drunkard father. No time for love, yet falls in love types.
The tearful and trodden victim of bad mens’ ways. A few rare attempts at women fighting back (Zakhmi Aurat, etc) failed miserably and therefore the usual plotline involves being rescued by a good man who brings her out of the ‘keechad’ and marries her.
Good Bahu Bad Bahu
The good to-be-daughter-in-law turned bad daughter-in-law. Will insist on moving out or getting rid of in-laws. Will scorn at in-laws and bitch at husband.
‘Also there’ herione
Her role is to be there when needed. Dance around trees for a few songs, cry by the bedside of a sick person, comfort the hero when he cries. Rarely has much dialogue besides ‘I love you’. Attire includes several diaphanous synthetic sarees with a close affinity for Di-hydrogen oxide.
And Maami gives us (slightly Tamil specific, but hey, amidst all our diversity, filmy formulae remain the one common uniting glue),
strong>Smart ass as Sumaithangi (Burden bearings)
Eternal loser. She loves denying lovers to remains single and committed to family, acts tough but is soulful beneath her starched saris . K Balachandar loved to make a hash of them after he whipped the storylines from Ghatak movies to maudlin levels in Tamil. Don’t see them anymore. Sometimes like Nadia they can die in charming ways, with majenta eye make up intact, No spewing ketchup like Sivaji or Kamalgasan for the lovely lahdies please.
Usually a village belle who is extraordinarily innocent and ignorant. Easy to spot her: She wears wicked dhavanis that flutter in wind showing deep navels, can’t figure out when she’s knocked up and gets pregnant, bats eyelashes as fake as plastic fans and just can’t figure out anything about the bees and birds. Makes you wonder why the hero would want to bed her. He says he’s charmed by her innocence. E.g.: Sridevi (Those 16 years) but perfected by Radha Saluja with MGR saying “Yenna paalu vennum”.
Machan, don’t go by her uniform (She will shriek, “Dipartmentkku avamaanam (Whatay puppy shame for the department)” better than red-eyed Rambo Vijayakanth) or the IAS officer- clean as milk, tough and unyielding until she sees hero who reduces her to a quivering mass with his righteousness. She looks sexy in a dangerous way only when she sends flying kicks in police uniforms two sizes small. Podgy heroines like Lakshmi, Radhika play the officer roles while slim hipped ones do the cop act. Evergreen line in Iru Kodugal:”I am talking about our life not the file”. Wo my gawd why did Sowcar have to age?
Rich Canine of feminine gender
She is rich, spoilt with a gaggle of ugly friends in hand-me-down costumes from her earlier films. Sometimes she will visit the village where our hero is doing an honest man’s work. But all it takes is a kiss to tame her. (Thambikku enda ooru or a toss in the hay as in Sakalakalavallavan).A bit of S&M about her , likes to whip the hero and soak him in brine. My eternal favourite: a limp haired Ambiga hissing at Rajni after whipping and smearing his wounds in salt:”Edu yeppadi irukku?” And our man drawls, “A-jilllunu”.
Her claim to her marital status is whipping out a huge nylon rope thali from her prodigious chest to make a point about her chastity. Is totally loved by mom in law unless she makes an appearance in Visu movies. Favourite act on all mornings:a wet Kerala thundu , kodiya, wound around her head, post thulasi maadam circumambulation heads with milk to our man, who tugs her and she simpers:”Ennaga edhu, chi vidunga” followed by a tussle beneath a Madras check bedsheet. Her It moment comes when she acts if she is starting a scooter in reverse on an iron bed delivering a baby under cataclysmic circumstances.
Massive yellow wash, biggest kunguma pottu, glittering faux crown and the longest nylon hair pieces, dressed in bharatanatyam costumes. Can either smile beatifically at mortal folly and nod her head, but is supremely confident when she stomps a dance with a trishoolam , rolling eyes before plunging it into a baddie and lets heaving bosom tell you the extent of her wrath. The mangaatha bet on this one. All heroines who want to cleanse their past movie sins play the part.
She travels by bus, holds a desk job, and is so kind and understanding.But has a skewed idea of friendship and love. Will blithely get sexually cosy with our corny hero with a complex and call him a bro while making out with another guy.Or is a college girl in pavadai dhavani. Totally guileless.
All Tamil heroines are innocent virgins, married, unmarried, mothers or not.
The “mother like” sister in law – who dutifully cooks, sews and tells innocent lies.
The “evil” sister in law – who wants all property.
The “matchmaker” sister in law – whose only interest in life is to ensure that her husband’s siblings all find marital bliss.
The “golden cowgirl” (thangamana mattuponnu / Kyunki Bahu bhi kabhi sauce thi) who is skilled to the point of heaven and can make anything in the kitchen – is often pregnant by the 35th minute of film – and is adopted by hero as his “ideal woman”.
Then there is the “outhouse” sister in law - who likes to go to the inikko nalaikko “club” and spends the family’s meager combined income on “cards”.
Last but not the least “my koondal reaches my knees” sister in law. Her only achievement in life is yard long pinnal. Her only fear is that excessive visits to the kitchen will ruin her lovely hair
Another Navaraathri winds to an end. Dolls. Sundal. Vadai. Payasam. Puffed rice. Tires over lemons and baby banana plants tied to vehicles (which will be nibbled on by goats and cows at traffic signals in the coming weeks)
It was Vijayadasami today and the senior Paattu class students in the apartment complex nearby learnt Brochevaa in Khamas as a new song today. The junior ones learnt Varaveena in Mohanam.
It was also Ayudha Pooja.
But some flashback first. A long while ago, I asked a relative of mine why we do this whole “pariseshanam” thingie. For the uninitiated, that’s a ceremonial spreading of a few drops of water around one’s banana leaf/plate that male Tambrams do before proceeding to tuck into Paruppu usili, kosumalli and pineapple rasam.
He (the relative) explained to me that the significance was twofold. On the one hand, it is a symbolic thanksgiving gesture to Annapurna. On the other hand, the water forms a shield against the invasion of rice loving ants. I asked him why it was only a male thing, and he said that in those days women ate on their husbands’ plate/leaf and one pariseshanam per meal per plate was enough. After all, husband and wife were one, he explained.
I didn’t quite pursue the male-centricity argument further (because I was 12 and generally disliked anything with two X chromosomes), but my takeaway from that was that there was some practical underpinning to most rituals (The ant shield, in this case). But practicalities have a tendency to change with the times. So coming back to our topic, Ayudha pooja is one such example. The notion of taking care of ones tools and implements by cleaning them, polishing them and generally giving them a day of rest is a very practical and sensible one.
But we’ve moved on from the age of agricultural implements, from when these rituals originated to e-seva and e-archana conducted online on temple portals, paid for through Paypal.
So I notice (well, at least in my family) that this whole practical dimension seems to have completely disappeared. So the Chandanam and Kungumam are bought out, some baby banana plants are tied to vehicles, some ding-ding goes on and we are done.
How can one bring back a sense of practicality and contemporariness to rituals and ceremonies? Symbols without a contextual background tend to get distorted, diluted or lost. So what’s Neo-Navaraathri?
1. Contemporary Imagery : In addition to deities, we could upgrade all those rather dated Chettiar/Koravan/wedding scene dolls to something more contemporary. Seriously Chennai Kolus must showcase at least one IT company office. 10 zombies, sipping Nescafe, sitting in front of 5 computers (on a shift system of course)
2. Healthy food :Low-fat, organic sundal served with double-decaf soy-milk non-whip Kumbakonam degree coffee? Sacchari-pongal?
3. Contemporary machine maintenance :Ayudha Pooja – If tool/machine maintenance is the whole practical essence of this, why not actually do something like that? How about
4. Communication :We could Skypecast Kolus to our family and relatives living abroad.
5. Environment friendly Kolus -No plastic covers or zip-lock bags for sundal. Buy local/organic ingredients. Carpooling between ladies to manage all house visits.
I often get accused of attempting to besmirch the purity of ancient rituals. Of bringing too much science and modernity into something timeless. But I will point this out. Village scenes are considered to be OK/kosher at most kolus. The village usually has a well, with a pulley. At some point of time in the past, that pulley represented “modernity” and “science”.
I originally titled this “Bollywood/Kollywood archetypes”, but I am not a big fan of reducing all of Indian cinema to two words seeking name recognition with the American Film industry.
I then tried “Desi archetypes” and realized that I am increasingly not a fan of that word at all. It seems to have all sorts of clarified buttery connotations.
So I stuck to “Namma Ooru”, which is Tamizh for “Our Place/Country/City/Kukgraamam etc”
I am not a qualified psychologist (Come to think of it. I am not a “qualified” anything, if qualifications were important, i.e. After all, I studied to be an electronic engineer, worked to be a software engineer, and yearn to be a jalsa and jilpa engineer). But this post is partially inspired from a chapter I read in Sudhir Kakar’s “Indian Identity”, where he goes on to describe the various Hero archetypes he sees in Indian cinema.
This post takes off from there and seeks to go where others have not gone before. Actually, no where in particular. Let’s get started.
note: Some of the archetypes are not popular or common anymore.
Love lost. Long beard. Alcohol. Usually drinks directly from the bottle. Sad Urdu poetry. Depressing, yet hauntingly evocative songs. Often takes refuge in mujra houses, enjoying those pleasures but cloaks himself in a pall of guilt for doing so.
Eve teaser/molester par extraordinaire. Irritates/annoys heroine to no end before making her succumb to his charms. Inspires incredibly bad acting on the heroine’s part, especially during songs where the heroine needs to show both complete disinterest and yet dance around trees. Generally no facial hair. Chocolate boy looks.
Dark. Brooding. Anti-hero. Born in the slums. Self-made man. Dispassionate. Can sit in a bar with complete disinterest in 400,000 scantily clad dancing babes who are trying everything to score him. Makes the heroine play one mean game of hard-to-get. Has frequent bouts of flashback trauma, involving father/mother/sister ruin/death/rape. Smokes.
Zero talent at humour, but tries very hard to act funny, like Govinda, and fails miserably. Plays the fool, but looks foolish instead. Acts crazily, but ends up acting badly. Zayed Khan, Ritesh Deshmukh types. Somebody needs to tell them “Last time I checked, there was just one Govinda, and it ain’t you”
Unrelated to Bappi da. Acts in movies with names such as “Paapi Raat” and “Vish Kanya” and has the immensely challenging job of enacting scenes of eroticism while still being compliant with the censor board, which is sort of like swimming with a full Raymonds suit on, if you get my drift.
a.k.a Gabtun. Normal laws of physics are suspended for the duration of his movies. Newton’s third law, in particular, takes on a new form – “Every action has an exponentially unbelievable reaction”. Moustache twirls can impart crunching blows to baddies and electricity can flow from a positive terminal to a negative terminal. (Or is it the other way around? Damn you, Benjamin Franklin!!).
Always studies in colleges where teachers have strange tolerance limits on classroom displays of flirtation and general bravado. Usually in B.Com 17th year (Well. Looks like it at least). A sub-species of the Krishna lover, this archetype exhibits one key difference. Groupism. His group usually taunts/teases Her group.
The Bold God
Very little action (because of sheer bulk). All talk. Usually spouts rhyming dialogues with profound import, such as “Tikka tikka tikka tikka, paneer tikka”. When given a choice between saving heroine and thangacchi (younger sister), he will go with the thangacchi. Heroines, in his movies, are generally disposable items.
The Macchi aah Velli
Sneaks in subtle and not-so-subtle political messages into his movies. Consummate do-gooder image and will generally not smoke or drink on screen. General career path = 50 movies -> MLA -> Chief Minister.
The Country Brute
Rustic. Bucolic. Quaint. And some more very rural-type adjectives. Unschooled in the sophisticated urban arts of rudeness, callousness, cooling glasses and wearing jeans and therefore completely unsuitable for America-return heroine. Makes a couple of unsuccessul, clumsy attempts at shedding rural image, but decides that his roots are important. Finally the heroine dumps jeans and cooling glass and wears a saree and serves him karuvaadu kuzhambu and they all sing and dance happily ever after.
note: If the reverse situation applies, where American-return hero meets village belle, we generally do not see any overt displays of urban arrogance on the part of the hero. He just magically transforms himself into a dhoti-wearing simpleton to woo the damsel. Only America-return heroines can be arrogant.
Update: Rekha reminds us of a couple of more archetypes
Vardi. Uniform. Guts. Glory. Crusader against corruption and those sorts of things. Animal magnetism. Has been known to cause the occasional heroine (and her sidekicks) to don police garb (khaki shirt + tight khaki shorts) and adam-tease him while singing and dancing on grassy knolls. Usually the son of a honest (and therefore, dead) policeman.
The Self Sacrificer
Usually a tea-vendor, labourer or porter. Uneducated, but lives only to get younger sibling a chance in life. Few scenes of brotherly love flashback. But younger bro goes abroad and forgets all about the elder’s struggles. Dramatic “You have forgotten what he has done for you” scenes involving some third party reminding younger bro about his callousness.
Ok. Anything more? This list just includes male archetypes.
So the apple fell on him and all of us learnt about gravity, rates of change and other cool things. Right?
But what if a penguin had fallen on him?
And what if?
A large, bloated window with lots of loose and sharp edges would have hurt Newton very badly.
I saw a genteel, pleasant, happy-happy, nanna-munna, feel-good film over the weekend. And I just had to share it with all of my readers. It’s a cutesy movie called “Kattradhu Tamizh” (I learnt Tamil).
The movie has an uplifting, positive image for all those wishing to do a post-graduate degree in Tamizh.
Warning: Spoilers below
It is about two 7 year olds.
One boy and one girl. Ain’t you already feeling good at this point? Don’t lie.
And their cheerful ride through this joy-filled adventure called life.
Of course, amidst all this cheer, happiness and fun, a few tragedies are bound to occur. Nothing major, you will be relieved to learn.
Just a pet dog who gets run over by a train. And the trivial matter of both the kids getting an introductory course, titled Train-Over-Dog 101, with high resolution visuals (Canine innards) for a proper learning experience.
And the boy’s mother and grandparents being run over by a speeding truck. And the boy getting an getting an introductory course, titled Truck-Over-Family 101, with high resolution visuals (a few barrels of O+) for a proper learning experience.
And a guided tour into a mortuary.
And some casual and not-so-serious references to smoking large quantities of Marijuana.
And oh, the hero indulges in some Putting ( POttu) and friendly Pushing (Thallufication) of some 22 people. He also drives the point home (rather literally) to a psychoanalyst that he could be serial. We all love serials, don’t we?
And he also hears the sounds of large gongs going off in his head frequently, and his hands usually itch for some POttuthallufication action.
And the hero jokingly warns us to stop ignoring the rich-poor divide. He does make a not-so-loud call to general anarchy.
And the both the hero and heroine die happily ever after when they undergo a hands-on, practical session in Train-Over-Couple 101 at the end of the movie.
Yay. And we all walked out with a feeling of warm, nice fuzz. Apart from those completely ignorable scenes of harmless, feel-good violence, this was a wholesome, family entertainer.
Final Verdict: 7 out of 5. Please take your entire extended family to watch and learn the power of positive thinking from this movie. Ok. I was kidding. But this movie is a breath of fresh air in the industry. It’s not perfect and it’s not award winning material. But it’s a bold attempt at trying out something different, just to get away from the formulaic group dances, gaana songs and hero worship we see in practically every movie nowadays. The camera work is stunning at times and the urban landscapes are very uniquely portrayed. So go watch this movie. And oh, it’s not a feel-good movie.
In America, they celebrate Thanksgiving, a celebration of being thankful for what one has and the bounty of the year.
In Tamil Nadu, we celebrate Sundalgiving, a 9 day mega orgy of protein intake, as ATP points out. Sundalgiving is also known as Navarathri, during which the nine forms of Shakthi, the female divinity, are worshipped.
The first three days are dedicated to Durga, who is responsible for cleansing us of impurities, comic sans font, vices, Tamil soap serials, bad ringtones and defects.
The second three days are dedicated to Lakshmi, who is responsible for showering us with the immense amounts of wealth needed to pay off our credit card bills.
The third three days are dedicated to Saraswathi, the Goddess with the Fender Veenacaster. She is the one who gives us the wisdom to go easy on the Sundal, watch out for Trans-fats and use Wikipedia for doing homework.
But personally, I have always been more interested in the dolls. Every year, they are taken out of their Hindu newspaper wrapping and placed on an odd number of steps (3, 5, 7, 9, 11 etc), while the women visit each others houses and exchange betel leaves, one rupee coins, small gifts and various kinds of Sundal.
For the Tamil challenged, a Sundal is a dish made out of boiled grams/pulses/lentils (a different one every day) mildly seasoned with mustard seeds, ginger, chillies and coconut.
Let’s get back to the dolls though. Over the years, I have been noticing a marked deterioration in the quality of the dolls. Here is Shiva, circa 1980, purchased at Bangalore. 10 rupees.
And here is Gopikrishna (Dopeykrishna, more like it), circa 2007, purchased at Kuralagam, Chennai. 100 rupees.
While the Shivas, Krishnas, and various Lakshmis make up most of the divinity, and Chettiars and Chettichis selling groceries, Koravan/Koratthis (yeah. still) and assorted Apsaras make up the rest. There is usually a floor arrangement of various animals, village scenes, temples and other plastic toys. One can find the occasional Buddha, Gandhi and Vivekananda doll as well.
Clearly the Chettiar dolls are slightly more contemporary additions compared to the deities. Perhaps two to three hundred years ago? So I was wondering if one could add more modern business icons in the place of the grocer. I thought Steve Ballmer might fit rather nicely. Large, bald, round and peddling questionable quality software. My younger brother suggests statues of Richard Dawkins, Charles Darwin and Bertrand Russell. My other suggestion. A warrior wielding a pen, with a bald head and large spectacles. Cho bin Tughlaq.
Another common fixture is the Dasaavathaaram, the 10 avatars of Vishnu. Off late, I find that a lot of households get the order of the avatars wrong. So, much to the surprise of my relatives who expect me to be this ignorant lout, I usually correct their arrangements.
Matsya – The avatar that seeks out anything fishy in our world – corporate malfeasance, corruption and dirty politics and eliminates them.
Koorma - The slow and steady tortoise who gives us a moment of peace and serenity in our high-speed, high-tension urban lives.
Varaaha -The boar who reminds us to stop reading inane DC superhero comics and pick up Asterix instead.
Narasimha -The lion who reminds us that he is almost going extinct in Gir.
Vaamana – The dwarf who teaches us that size does not matter and that grandeur and hubris are not good ideas.
Parasuraama – The understated overachiever who goes about his duties without expecting to be on the front page of Time magazine.
Raama – Who reminds us that bridges are not just made of bricks, mortar and stone and constructed by monkeys and squirrels, but are metaphorical constructs that take us from ordinariness to glory.
Krishna - Who laughs at all those hypocritical Hindutva-toting moral police types and teaches us that it is OK to chill out with the babes once with a while.
Buddha (ok this is debatable. But my grandmother prefers Buddha to Balaraama) – Who implores us to question everything
and finally, Kalki - the white horse of the apocalypse who gently reminds us that if we do not take care of the environment, he will most certainly come to destroy us in the future.