Astro Vaanavil Superstar 2012


I am sorry for missing out on a post last week – I was out of the country (where the internet was crawling even for simple emails) and out of commission due to health reasons (more of it when I have the time)

(The guy should have been the winner in last week’s Vaanavil Superstar 2012 but unfortunately was bumped to 3rd place. Perhaps it was meant to be so since he was the previous year winner and it may not look good if he wins again this year. But then again, if it is a competition, that does not matter – past winnings should not have any bearing in this year’s competition. Image source: http://sneghithi.blogspot.com. To watch the full competition, please click to here)

You guys saw Astro’s Vaanavil Superstar 2012 over the weekend?

It is not that often I watch local singing competition (not after we had too many American Idols clones running loose on air) but the finals is something else – you will be surprised to see just how many talented Malaysians are there. Equally interesting was the local dance competitions.

Alinda Alphonse, the Vaanavil Talent Quest 2002 winner was voted as the “champion of the champions” whilst the Vaanavil Super Star 2011 winner, K. Logeswaran was voted in 3rd place with Ganesan (2010 winner, I think) taking the 2nd placing. This year’s singing competition was a bit different from previous years with Astro rounding up the past winners from the various singing & talent competitions to compete with each other. It was an interesting concept and was entertaining right up to the finals and then things got screwed up (at least in my opinion)

Perhaps it was intentional or perhaps it was just a coincidental but it was clear that the method of judging and format was somehow “relaxed” to allow Alinda on a smoother path towards the final rounds. Don’t get me wrong – the lone female contestant was really, really good but she was no where as good as the more entertaining, better voiced Logeswaran who got pushed to 3rd placing (in fact, he was better than the 2nd placed Ganesan too). You may differ in your opinion but consider these facts:-

1. Logeswaran’s pick of the song Mona Lisa Mona Lisa was questioned by the judges as a “trivial” song for the finals and this caused him to lose some crucial points. But then what defines a song as a trivial song for the finals especially when it is a song composed by the famed AR Rahman? I may understand if James Vasanthan is looking from his view as a music director and trying to fit the song to the situation at hand but to hear the same from the singer Suchitra was mind boggling. She is a good example of a good singer who should not be stepping in as singing competition judge.

AR Rahman’s Mona Lisa Mona song is not an easy song to sing – the lyrics is not simple to memorize (if you don’t believe me, try listening to it) and whoever singing it need to pace himself against a faster background rhythm (a task well executed by the late Malaysian Vasudevan in the original take). Logeswaran, despite in a goofy costume (which grabbed our attentions immediately) executed well with this song and the lyrics was clear and right at the spot but ended up with getting fired from the judges (James Vasanthan & Suchitra) on the choice of song picked. Duh!

2. James Vasanthan keeps harping on Alinda’s beauty when making his comments, not only in the finals but even during the preliminary rounds – what that got to do with her singing abilities? Some entertainment and impression values, perhaps but it means nothing if you have a bad voice and amateurish singing talents despite looking good. On the other hand, how many really good singers out there who are not so good looking – haven’t James Vasanthan have heard of Susan Boyle? James, it is a singing competition and is not a beauty pageant and it should not influence the judging itself.

3. James Vasanthan commented that Ganesan’s pronunciations in Tamil were very bad but then surprise, surprise Ganesan garnered more points from the judges than Alinda (the highest during the whole show). What that means – you can win even though you have low points? It does not make any sense. Shouldn’t the points from the previous rounds have some bearing on the total points that determines the champion? After all, you are judging past winners and it is the finals – it is easy to do well at some rounds and bad in others – as a singing superstar, the one who does well in all rounds should be awarded the winner.

4. What was the purpose of the round where the contestants have a duet with KJ Yesudas? The duet with the great Yesudas should have been fair to both singers at the final round. Ganesan’s session with Yesudas was like 50-50 (which was good because we could see Yesudas in action and Ganesan was able to match Yesudas at most parts which itself is admirable) but when it comes to Alinda, it was more like 90-10 with the great Yesudas’ voice coming in occasionally (and that too in Bahasa). That meant the judges get to hear more of Alinda than Ganesan and possibly tipping more in Adlinda’s favor. Come on, out of the many thousands duet songs by Yesudas, the organizers only managed to get this song for Alinda? They could have just asked her to sing solo.

I could be wrong but I think that Astro could have done better with the singing competition for talented Malaysians to show their singing skills. We are not a power house in global Tamil music industry but we have great talents, no doubt about that. And I am surprised that Astro with all that years of organising talent competitions experience and funding is still struggling to get things done just perfect.

I am sure Astro will do their post-mortem and will do much better the next time but perhaps they could start with opting for more Malaysian “sourced” judges (no lack of them there) instead of “star” judges from India who may have seen way too many singing competition (which is good for experience but is not good when they start comparing with talents from previous competitions) and who may not recognize that there are people outside India who can sing rather well in Tamil. It will be good also if some of the audience are picked to be special judges as well (perhaps via some prior online competition with being a judge at the finals as one of the prizes).

Astro should also review on the format and points granted to the contestants with points from the previous rounds adding up to the total points – this way the contestants who screw up in the first round but have enough points to move to the next round still have a fighting chance in the next round. Who knows, perhaps they may blow away the judges in the next round? After all, it is the finals and no matter who you are, you do get nervous in the first rounds and tend to make silly mistakes but once you have warmed up, you will or forced to bring the best in you.

These are just some of the changes that Astro should look into for the up-coming singing competitions – we have the talents but let’s not eliminate them based on flawed format and poor organisation. Kudos to Astro for organising the Astro Vaanavil Superstar but let’s work on fixing the shortcomings for the next one. P.s. I still think Logeswaran should have been the winner.

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Creepy Moonlight


This was creepy when I opened the window for a cool breeze and the full moon light up the clouds up ahead.

I don’t know what happened but I found myself staring at the moon and the way the clouds was moving slowly across the sky. I felt humbled and peaceful – and I could have easily looked at the moon for hours.

Higher resolution and another shot in my photo blog here

Bazaar Time


I first learned about bazaars when I watched the Travel series on the Discovery Channel and I first experienced a real bazaar when I was in Bangkok couple of years ago. Basically it was a modernised flea market and much updated for foreign tourists. Not exactly a traditional kind of bazaar that one was looking for.

(Tightly packed shops on the left and right but the items on sales not necessarily old and ancient)

But we heard that there is a traditional bazaar in the Iran and it is just a metro-travel away, we decided to check it out on one of the weekends. The nearest metro station was almost a kilometre walk away from our house. So one fine cold morning, we got dressed in thick clothes, packed water and camera and started to walk to towards the nearest metro station.

The thing about the general rule about photographing in Iran is that you can take photo if it is expressly allowed so. I have lost count of the times when we were asked not to take photographs (very politely and with a smile) by the authorities. So photography becomes the exception rather than the general rule (a far cry compared to Malaysia where we loved to be photographed).

So, since we do not want to run into any problems, we usually opt out from photographing anything and everything that we see (missing a lot of unique photo opportunities) and we only do it if it is safe to do so or we have gotten the necessary permission. So, photographing the inside of the metro station was out of the question but we were highly impressed with the metro system in Iran here.

(Metro ticket – fast and efficient)

At first, the layout of the station is simple and easy even for foreigners like us. We went to the ticket counter, mentioned the station that we wanted to go (to get the station name, we just googled the metro’s website and the names are laid out clearly in English), mention whether we wanted a one way or two way ticket, paid the cash, get the ticket, swipe it over the electronic gate and walk on to the platform.

Iranian metro trains are super efficient – there are plenty of cabins and trains arrives and departs on time. Most of the time, the cabins are full but when we went on that particular date, we found enough space to stand at one corner (or perhaps we were foreigners and the locals were kind enough to squeeze some space for us). After almost 6 stations, we arrived at the station that we wanted to go.

As we walk out from the metro station which is located underground, we can feel the strong cold breeze flushing in from the outside. We walked out and make a couple of turns, we arrived at the bazaar.

(The entrance to the bazaar – nothing strange from the outside. Note the crowd at the entrance)

There is one main entrance at the bazaar and there a big different it makes when one moves from the outside to the inside. On the outside, it is covered by a rather modern building but in the inside, one is transformed to an old looking bazaar. The walkway moves from the outside and moves along a huge tunnel. On the left and the right of the walkway, there is nothing but shops. The bazaar as whole is huge and somehow divided into different area of produce – carpets on one side, lamps on another side, electrical goods and souvenirs and so on.

But the problem here in the bazaar which becomes self evident is that it is not so friendly to foreign tourists – no sign boards in English, photographers is looked rather suspiciously and there was no indication whatsoever as to where the bathrooms is!. My friend actually had to go one of the carpet shops to use the bathrooms (we had to walk along some deserted lanes to reach this shop – we were expecting to be jumped by a gang of bandits, waiting for the unexpected foreigners at the corner of the alley but luckily it ended as nothing but our wildest imagination) .

(The tunnel and the crowd and somewhere in between “speedy” Gonzales! Noticed the many strange look as I was taking this shot)

Compared to “bazaar” in Bangkok, there are more people here in the Bazaar here and everyone seems to be on the move to somewhere. If we stop to snap some photos or to look at the produce sold in the shops, we find ourselves being pushed around by this large human traffic. If that is not enough, we also have to confront the goods handlers who busy with sending the goods from the outside and to the shops. We almost got run over by these goods handlers on a number of times and thankfully we were quick enough to move out from the way in time. With an uneven walkway (seems to be made from big rough tiles), the act of avoiding “speedy” Gonzales on goods carts makes it even more tricky.

(We loved the interior decorations on the wall and ceiling. The clock reminded of the clock that we used to see in the old train stations)

One of the things that we noticed immediately when we are in the inside of the bazaar is the architecture – something on the wall and ceiling spelt ancient architecture and history. And we managed to find some quiet spot where there was less people to allow us to snap some photos on a more leisurely pace.

We must have walked about in the bazaar for almost an hour (we managed to buy some things in the process) before realising that we were both hungry and tired. We walked out, only to be greeted by small children begging and people trying to sell small items – we decided to have our lunch at one of the nearest “sandwich” (what else?) shop. The good thing was the “chief” waiter spoke some English which made it easier to confirm and order our lunch (the menu was all in local language).

By the time we came back home tired, it was almost time for dinner time.

15Malaysia


The idea of 1Malaysia may sound outdated but the ideas from 15Malaysia are simply brilliant!

One of my favourite:-

15Malaysia is a short film project. It consists of 15 short films made by 15 Malaysian filmmakers. These films not only deal with socio-political issues in Malaysia, they also feature some of the best-known faces in the country, including actors, musicians and top political leaders. You may think of them as funky little films made by 15 Malaysian voices for the people of Malaysia.

(Source: here)

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