Soft Spot for Old Songs


(One of many great songs from movies starring the legendary MGR. One that stands out is this lyric – “Milk is white, so is the toddy but the truth is only know once I had drink it. Women is the same and I am feeling drunken from her”)

(Kannadasan is brilliant as usual – only a poet like him can think of these words – “the cupid got cheated, thinking all girls are like flowers” which nails the situation in the movie)

No matter where you are right now, no matter how old you are, I am sure you always have your favorite songs that you don’t mind humming the whole day long.

Same goes for me. Despite “starting off” with the music of Illayaraja and later discovering the new age music of A R Rahman and then Yuvan Shankar Raja, Harris and all the new music directors, I always had soft spot for the music from the 1960s and 1970s in particular songs composed by MS Viswanathan – Ramamoorthy and penned by the great poet Kannadasan (I also liked songs composed by KV Mahadevan and AM Raja).

I like old songs for 3 reasons:-

1. It brings back memories from my childhood time. Songs from MGR and Sivaji movies composed by MS Viswanathan were still played as the mainstream songs when I am still an infant. The same songs played during weddings and family functions and it is something that triggers good memories whenever I hear the same songs.

2. The songs itself. Back those days and before the digital age, it is not easy to compose and record the songs and the songs must meet the high expectations of a very demanding directors, producers and audience.

No high tech gadgets to tune the music and composition and the only way to go would be to do things old school – proper orchestrate (instead of music software) and the singers getting the words and tunes just right. MS Viswanathan once told he once worked with a famous director who will drop by the recording studio just to make sure that the singers get the pronunciation of words just right.

3. The lyrics. In those days, every words has a beautiful meaning and it is something to look out for. Who can forget lyrics like “don’t sharpen your knife but sharpen your mind” or “From the neck of Lord Shiva, the snake asked the garuda if it is feeling good and the garuda who will fight & kill snakes replied that if everyone stays at their right place, all will end in an good ending”?

Very deep meaning indeed. Don’t get me wrong, it is not like the new songs has very bad lyrics – quite a number of the songs do have the same beautiful lyrics that one had heard back in the 1960s but sometimes some of it simply get lost within the music.

They say old is gold and the same goes to old songs. It is also ageless too. I just wish someone will compile again all the old songs and re-record them so that tunes that is lost by old technology and analog dust in the past is preserved in pristine condition and made available for the next generation of music lovers.

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Kamal’s Ponmaanai Theduthey


Kamal-Haasan-Movies-711113

(The many faces of the great man in multiple roles all these years and he still making headlines even now. Image source: http://www.bollywoodlife.com)

In terms of acting, after the great Sivaji Ganesan, we were lucky to have Kamal Haasan taking up the lead when it comes to powerful acting. And over the years, he has not let us down with powerful storyline and acting (still remember this?).

Kamal Haasan is also a good singer when he wants to be and he takes the lead (again) with being the first actor (an “A” star actor that is) to sing for another actor (Mogan – another well name from the 1980s). This was back in the 1980s – after his hit “Sakalakalaa Vallavan” and for this, maestro Illayaraja gave Kamal one of the best compositions as well (rest assured it is in my collection). The fast & easy going tune has been in my mind for the past 2 weeks and it does not seem to be getting any boring even if I am humming the tune whilst I am doing up this post.

Enjoy…

Original Tune (I could not find the original movie song scene)

And there is a remix version too (it sounds good too)

P.s. there is no clear sign of the next generation of actors who can produce, write, act and sing (an all rounder) as well as Kamal Haasan but let me tell you this upfront, Vijay is not one of those in the lead. He is a good actor but not in the same class as Kamal Haasan.

Project “Then, Now & Forever”


Western classical music is perspective – look at the number of people involved in a symphony! Our traditional music is lonely – Ilaiyaraja

Ilayaraja-Wallpaper

(My collection cover image – the image of Maestro Ilaiyaraja. Image source: http://www.tamilkey.com)

As long I could remember, I have been listening to Ilaiyaraja music since I was still young and started to have an appreciation of his style of music – all the way from the 1970s (you are aware that Annakili was not his first movie and that he had to impress the producer Panchu Arunachalam by singing a song that his mother sang and using the table as an music instrument?) to his latest flick in “Neethane En Ponvasantham” – thanks to my Dad who was big fan of Ilaiyaraja (Ilaiyaraja means the “younger” Raja – that is because the Tamil music industry already had another music director named Raja – the famed A.M. Raja).

Back in the 1980s-1990s, I still remember following my Dad to the music store to get Ilaiyaraja latest songs (still remember Alai Osai brand back then?) and the number of cassettes at home started to pile up. Sometimes when he comes back home late and tired, he would ask us to check his pocket and we would find a cassette size package neatly wrapped and immediately we know it would be an Ilaiyaraja cassette. Me and my brother would be key testers – we would play the cassette as my Dad goes off to take his shower (he usually buys it without hearing the content of the soundtrack). After dinner, he would then sit down and listen to the songs without any disturbance and we would be hearing it again for the 2nd round. Now my son is picking up his interest on Ilaiyaraja music as well (as a baby, he often need his Ilaiyaraja music to go to sleep) and he can sing some of the songs really well.

And over the years, Ilaiyaraja has made a good impression on me with his music (especially when I had my Walk-man on and I was doing my revisions) and I have my personal favorites. But out of the many, I went rather crazy on the soundtrack of “Keladi Kanmani” and in particular on SP Bala’s “Mannil Intha”. And I was rather stuck to the same track over and over again for days when I went down with chicken pox and had to be confined to the bedroom. Somehow I felt my recovery was improved by the good music from the great Maestro. At the turn of the new millennium, Ilaiyaraja somehow took a back seat as most of us (including me) started to listen to the emerging new style music coming from South of India – in the form of AR Rahman (but not my Dad – he could not understand AR Rahman to this day). Ilaiyaraja’s style of putting a “break” before the chorus was somewhat tolerable until AR Rahman showed that the music was even better without the break in the middle. The use of CDs instead of cassettes and quality of music recording favored AR Rahman style of composing and thus it becomes the obvious choice when we are at the music store. But in the end Ilaiyaraja had the last laugh when he hit back with a bang in 2012 with Neethane En Ponvasantham and some people could not believe that it is from the same man.

But even with other new music directors (Deva, AR Rahman, Vidyasagar, Vijay Anthony, Harris Jayaraj, Ilaiyaraja’s Yuvan Shankar Raja, etc) dominating the Tamil music scene in the new millennium, we still had space for Ilaiyaraja music (he was humbled enough to join forces with the great MSV to compose for two movies) . Somehow there are situations in a day when an old school tabla sounds better than a loud modern drum. It sounds peaceful too. And of course, some of the older hits are gems – no matter when and where you hear then, it is still a good music to listen especially if you are on a long journey somewhere (it still do even now).

When I started to work after finishing school and had some money to spare, I often head to music store at Lebuh Ampang (which was on the way from work place to the bus station) on the weekends and my target would be old Ilaiyaraja collections – preferably his great works from the 1970s and 1980s. But unfortunately the music store has a dirty trick up their sleeve – they put a couple of good songs at the front but leaving the balance filled up with not-so-good songs (the cassette jacket lists the songs but unless you have heard of it and well aware of the quality, the list would not make any much difference). The idea was to sell more cassettes. As one would say that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, I will pick one and ask the shop assistant to “test” the cassette. In other words, I wanted him to play the cassette before I buy it, just to be sure. So when one is “testing” the cassette, you will only hear the good ones and you will think the rest would as good as the first song. You will know that it is not the case after you have paid for the cassette and listen to the complete cassette at home. What to do, I was young and easily trusted people. Number of cassettes mounted at home (some years later, I threw away 2 boxes of cassettes). There was a blessing in disguise though – I managed to consolidate a proper list (from all these cassettes) and got them recorded on a high quality TDK cassette (at the same music store).

(SP Bala in the movie Keladi Kanmani singing off lyrics “found on his food wrapper” without pausing to breath during the chorus – a feat he said he did not do in the actual recording at the studio but managed to do when singing the same song in front of a large crowd during one of Ilaiyaraja ’s concert. The man is simply great!)

At the advent of songs being played on MP3s (and I have a MP3 player in the car and I no longer use CDs), it was time to relook into my collections of songs and in particular one from Ilaiyaraja. I had several collections of Ilaiyaraja – some with overlapping songs and taking up valuable storage space in my HDD (some converted from audio CD into mp3 format for ease of storage). And sometimes I get to listen on the radio some of his better hits but one which is not in my collection. So, I started project “Ilaiyaraja” with 2 objectives.

One: To consolidate all the various collections in my HDD and my old dusty CDs into one proper collection titled “Ilaiyaraja – Then, Now & Forever” (inspired by MSV’s TV show title) with the complete movie name, the song title and the year of movie (couple that with a proper track cover image). For this, I used the mp3 tag editor, mp3tag (freeware) which does the trick rather beautifully. It took some time to do the “research” to get some of the movie names for some of the songs in my collection (some was previously titled as 00001.mp3 which does not give any clue on the details). Obviously there were plenty of duplicates – those had to be taken care, so it was time to delete those and keep only the better sounded ones in the main collection.

Two: To add new and missed songs into the collection. Ilaiyaraja composed almost 4,500 songs and I am sure that I have not heard whole of them especially from those movies that we have not heard of (one was this – Magudam where I found one of the best 1990s song – Chinna Kanna Punnagai Manna). Whenever I head to the music stores to check if they have come up with a proper Ilaiyaraja ‘evergreen’ collection, I was quite disappointed. Most “re-use” the usual famous songs (like Mouna Ragam’s Nilave Vaa). I already had them in my collections years ago. Some of the music store had the next best thing – CDs packed with hundreds MP3 files. This made searching more comprehensive without the need burn a big hole in the pocket. But at the end of the day, it was the Internet that made things easier to do “research” (especially at the various forums) on Ilaiyaraja ’s best songs and the background story behind the said song and then watch the songs on Youtube or listen & download the songs at the various Tamil entertainment websites. This would be an on-going process as I discover more songs that should be in everyone’s collection but one that does not get the right air-time on the radio or TV.

As I am updating my main collection and take the opportunity to listen all of the songs in my old collections (some I have not heard in years) and selecting them to be in the main collection, I realized one thing – Ilaiyaraja’s best songs did not come from the 1970s or 1980s. His best songs actually came in the 1990s and it was not because the older composition itself was bad. It was not – the problem was more on the quality of studio recording. 1970s & 1980s was the age of the analogs – cassettes and vinyl records and it was the same at the recording studios where it was done using magnetic tapes.

The sound quality degenerates even lower as the recording is done and then copied for the masses. One good example was the song Janani Janani from the movie Thai Mookaambigai in 1982. If you listen to the original track, it was bad (you can hardly hear the tabla & venna in the background) and you would discard it after a few seconds listening to them. But the same song was sung by the Maestro at the start of his comeback concerts in 2012, the song simply “melted” me away. It was a beautiful and with the clear sound of venna in the middle (I even thought it was an electric venna), it worth listening to it over and over again. His 2012 concert was also the event that made me to stop and take note that even his 1970s compositions once replayed with the latest instruments sounded better.

But fast forward to the 1990s when most things are done digitally – the quality of recording and to the masses did not see the same level of degeneration. Sounds of the tablas were clearer, vennas were crispier, the playback singers’ voice was soother and you can even hear the “silent” violins in the back. And that has been the focus of my collection of Ilaiyaraja’s songs – well composed songs and one that has been recorded digitally to be my permanent choice for my car on long journeys. His compositions on Neethane En Ponvasantham in 2012 (all done with help from a full orchestra from Budapest) were simply technically brilliant but here’s what I think the Maestro should do as his next big thing. Ilaiyaraja, whilst he still have the energy and the drive (he is 70 years now), should go back to the studio, pick a load-ful of his older 1970s and 1980s songs (all short-listed by his fans, of course) and re-record them in digital with special care given on the individual instruments (as how it was done on Neethane En Ponvasantham and perhaps roping in his famed music director son Yuvan Shankar Raja as his technical consultant). Once done, he should release them as his best works spanning over almost 4 decades. After all, there is no shortage of Ilaiyaraja die-hard fans out there.

Happy holidays and take some time off to enjoy the music during the long break…

Oh Dear, Tamil TV Serials!


(This post was prompted by another “duel” for the remote control on the horizon and yes, it is going to be with the same old aunty)

Read these first:-

The-Big-Bang-Theory-029

(One of the funniest and most educational TV sitcom to date – thanks to “mommy had him tested” Sheldon, who is by the way standing on the far right there – and I love every episode of it but why can’t the same winning formula be repeated in other places – places like the huge, extensive world of Indian entertainment industry where there is no short of talented, funny actors and scriptwriters? Why?  Image source: http://tvbreakroom.com)

It was a lazy Sunday evening (it was rather a very late evening) several weeks ago when I woke up from my slumber afternoon nap (with a baby in tow, afternoon naps are a luxury these days – some of you will know what I mean) and walked down downstairs where some kind of award show was on ASTRO with my grandma and my mum watching it.

It was the Sun Kudumbam Awards (if you have not heard of this, I don’t blame you) and I did not really catch the gist of the award until much later (yes, I was still in a daze from my afternoon nap) and realized that it was part of the Sun TV to award those in the TV serials “industry” in various categories. All the glitters and pompousness of a mega star studded award show with very revealing clothed dance performances was on the spot but looking at the various categories contested, it made little sense on the minds of the audience. I mean there was very little to shout for – all are TV serials with similar or overlapping story-lines and with categories like the best mother-in-law, best father-in-law and best brother-in-law, the whole award show seemed to be nothing but a well dress circus show. But still nothing happens without a sustained demand from the audience and the same happens here. The serials are there because of the demand from audience (likely to be housewives who have this for entertainment after a good day work of cleaning the house and cooking) and that is perfectly fine.

But certainly large entertainment corporation like SunTV with all it’s financial resources, creativity and talents (and a good pool of ready audience – both in India and internationally) can come up with Tamil serials on subjects other than on family problems, misery, back-stabbing, in-fighting between the in-laws and scheming, right? Just take a good look at some of the serials – see how long they drag the scene that in reality would probably take micro-seconds to complete – in the serials, they drag it to a point where it occupies the entire episode.

I saw one such nonsense some days ago – someone asking a lady if she can follow him to a place. In reality, we would have expected direct questions and answers – yes or no and perhaps why, where and when. But not in this serial! The background music somehow got more tense as the person looks at the lady in distress and the lady (as if she have committed some serious crime) looks back rather panicky and this goes on for a couple a minutes before the lady opens her mouth and asks why (even that took a couple of minutes before we got some kind of answer). Thank God, they are not doing western theme in Tamil Serials otherwise the quick duel with the pistols between 2 mean cowboys outside the bar would have been painfully long (laced with plenty of crying from the family members, emotional speeches and appearance of missing relatives at the last moment) and to a point, real cowboys would have gone back to the bar, order some root-beers and get themselves drunk like hell.

Certainty they can come up with serials that have a complete fast paced story within one episode (crying from start to end does not count here) whilst at the same time, having another bigger but slow paced story that needs one to keep up with all the episodes to know its final outcome. What they can do? What kind of TV serials that we can hope to see in the near future and where one does not need to (desperately) create award categories like best mother-in-law, best father-in-law and best brother-in-law just to keep the competition between the various serials stiff?

If they are scratching their head for a good theme, maybe they can look at these genres:-

Police & Law Enforcement

A story of a police station in a small town with colourful characters as the policemen on duty and led by a young, intelligent but inexperienced inspector. The focus of this story would be on the cases that the police station gets from the public and how the “men in blue” work their way to solve the crimes (I am sure they can pull success stories from the many police stations in the country). Added into this story are known criminals and corrupted politicians who are not happy on how close the police are getting in uncovering their criminal. The “SIDE” story in this serial would be the policemen interaction with their family. I say “side” because the last thing we want is for the family story to take the limelight and the actual policing work to be shown in the intermittent (if this is so, then we are back to square one).

Law

A story of 3 young lawyers who graduated from the same law school and are in the same law firm, each trying to impress all in their way up in civil suits to be senior partners of the firm whilst at the same time, maintaining the dignity and justice of the legal system. A good study would be made during the show on Indian legal systems, the various precedent judgements from the past court cases and perhaps suggestions to close the various loopholes in the system. It would be very highly educational for the common man to understand his rights and the implications under the law.

Paranormal

Short paranormal stories – it could be based on true story or fictional and to string all the short stories would be investigative reporter who goes around looking for paranormal incidents. One rule of thumb though – each case must start and end within the same episode and not not after 600++ episodes later. Zee TV already showing something similar (the show simply named “Fear Files“) in Hindi and it is quite good. Have something similar in Tamil and you are good to go.

Situation Comedy

It is a fact that there are way too many talented comedians in the entertainment industry so getting the right people for a situation comedy would not be so hard to do. There used to be one but it was laced with countdown to the top 10 songs for the week. They can start with something similar to The Big Bang Theory – a story of 4 bachelors who are well educated and living together in a small apartment in the city with multiple personalities including one that talks and acts like Sheldon.

Corporate Drama

A story of 2 business rivals who is trying to outdo each in business, not be scheming, backstabbing or by use of violence but rather by sound business decisions and making the right strategic moves. What are the best practices in business? How one inspires high productivity among his employees? How one deals with shortage of funds and insane call of order at the very last minute.

Farmer Story

Nothing beats seeing something very green on television – but then again, a story about a farmer means waking up early morning, a whole day nothing but hard work and putting the faith on a good weather and getting a harvest at the end of the day.

Historical Story

What was life of our ancestors or of great men & women in the early 1900s or 1800s or even BC? Wouldn’t that make an interesting story for the next generations? No special effects, no modern technology – just pure history studies. What they did for leisure? How they did their shopping and cooked their meals? What were the ancient games that the kids played when they are not busy with school or work at the fields.

Sci-Fi Story

We cannot talk about a futuristic Earth with warp speed spaceships here – I don’t think some of the housewives are ready for that yet but we can talk about an alternate reality, something along the line of women is the more pre-dominant gender and men are confined to homes to do the house chores and to cook (the housewives will love this). Or why not pick something sci-fi from Enthiran – what if the mad scientist also created other robots in secret – perhaps in form of small children.

Children Story

You don’t have to go far. Take Enid Bylton’s The Famous Five as the base of the storyline and put cute, witty kids in the key roles and you have a killer show for all generations. It has been done before and I am sure that an Indian version of it would be a hit too.

Mystery / Conspiracy Theory

Are all those in the Government aliens in disguise? Or the Government has a dark secret division which is doing out-of-world missions on a regular basis but no one knows about it (in likes of Men In Black)? Or what if someone had found something from ancient times that could change the future of mankind and they had to fend off the bad guys from getting it and use it for the wrong reasons? Yes, an Indian version of the X-Files!

At the end of the day, whilst we are fine with the entertainment side of TV serials, on a longer run it must also educate and inspire the viewer to see things from a different and positive perspective. The current (tiring) family themed TV serials are fine for its short term entertainment values but where are the long term positive points when at most of the time; it is nothing but family feuds, conspiracies and sabotage? What about family bonding, maintaining good relationship and positive inspiration? When we going to see them coming up soon on our local channels? I hope very, very soon. Viewers are getting more sophisticated and in more demands than ever (they should be – they are not paying small money for the satellite channels) and if they are not, the entertainment industry must be willing to be more innovative and realistic when it comes to making the viewers to be one.

MIC’s Take On One School System


Oh dear, after all these years, they still clueless on why they took a hit in 2008?

(In the picture – MIC on the wrong side of the Tamil schools. No doubt Tamil schools have been the key factor when it comes to MIC and its claim that it is fighting for the community and yes, that they have helped out the schools in the past with financial assistances and others allocations but are they playing the crucial role in the next evolution of the education system in the country by looking at quality instead of quantity? Image source)

From theSun:-

Question: Why are Tamil schools so important to MIC? You yourself come from a national school and the majority of Indians are in national schools.

Answer: Tamil schools are part and parcel of Indian culture – they go to Tamil schools not only to learn Tamil, but also to learn culture and religion. If Tamil schools go away, then tradition and culture will also go.

Question: Why are young professionals shying away from MIC?

Answer: They don’t see MIC as a fun party – the president has plans to rejuvenate the party with younger representation – we have also Putra MIC for the youths. The young must be patient – MIC has only four parliamentary seats and seven state seats.

Question: Is the concept of catering to only one race not attractive?

Answer: Yes and no. But only in MIC one can write, speak and talk in Tamil – but even for non-Tamil speakers, they are not left out as some of the meetings are conducted in English and Bahasa.

Question: How has MIC been preparing for the next general election (GE), especially after the bitter defeat in 2008?

Answer: MIC has stressed that we must win back what we lost and retain those we won. We are doing everything that we can to get the numbers we had in 2004, we know it is difficult, it may not be possible. Compared with his predecessor (Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu), MIC president Datuk Seri G. Palanivel is not much in the news. You cannot compare the two leaders. It is not easy to take up the leadership at this time especially after the bad showing in the 2008 election. His style of working is different. We are reported in the Tamil papers. Yes, it is not enough, and we have also put MIC TV available on YouTube and are also communicating with urban Tamils.

I could have just ignored the interview but there was one thing he said that made me stop in my thoughts and wonder.

I am referring to Kamalanathan’s “reason” on why we still need Tamil schools in this country. Kamalanathan is saying that without Tamil schools in this country, the tradition and culture will also go. No doubt Kamalanathan is looking from his point of view as one of the MIC’s leaders but there must be reality check somewhere there. It is important  to understand the role of the school these days. Is it to encourage and propagate tradition and culture? Or is it another means to get good education with a different language as the main base (due to students’ background and mastery of language)?

I think we need to get the priorities right – education & discipline should be confined to schools and tradition & culture (and religion) confined to temples and cultural centers (like the Temple of Fine Arts). The moment you start to mix the both, you going to get in trouble and leave room for abuse and misdirection – certainly not with young innocent minds. It is downright unfair too – what about other races who does not share the same tradition and culture, are we going to built separate schools for them? Surely they want to preserve their traditions and culture as well.

And why we are continuing to break-up the schools into various sectors and race when it is crucial to have one school, one language for all? If the concern is losing the hold of the tradition & culture, then we should relook into how we can fuse tradition and culture in our temples (we seems have too many of them) or cultural centres (and perhaps with more tradition & cultural segments on public media like TV and newspapers). There are alternatives on how we can continue to maintain the tradition and culture without going through the schools. But please, let’s keep the race, tradition, culture and religion crap out of schools.

The reason for it is rather simple – it defeats the progress to greater unity as reasoned below:-

Historically, the British built separate vernacular schools to maintain racial divide and prejudice to lord over us. It is indeed expedient and shrewd and one of the things that should have been kicked out right after Malaysia gained independence from the British if our leaders truly want to see a united Malaysia turn up without jeopardising our national language, our official religion, our monarchy and our Rukun Negara.

Vernacular schools impede national unity at the primordial stage; there is no room for vernacular school in a multi-racial society.

(Source)

And if the concern is losing the hold of the Tamil language (still remember the controversy on the extra language SPM papers?), this is because not enough attempts made to provide alternative language classes at national schools – all we need is the classes & qualified teachers in national schools (MIC can play a strong role here) and not a whole school with different emphasis, language, structure and funding. At this juncture, I must recap what OutSyed the Box said on the need to have common language (hence different schools in the same country) – it makes more sense than what Kamalanathan is trying to say:-

The time has also come where we must seriously consider merging the school system into just one school system i.e. based on Bahasa Malaysia and English only. We need to abolish the Chinese and Tamil language school system. The Chinese and Tamil language heroes say that if Chinese and Tamil schools are abolished, their language and culture will also disappear. Wrong.

There are 1.5 billion Chinese in China who will make sure that the Chinese language, culture and the Chinese people will never disappear from the face of the earth. The same argument applies for the 1.0 billion Indians in India. This however is Malaysia. It is not and cannot be China or India.

When Chinese, Indians and anyone else migrate to Australia they learn to speak English in a jiffy. No one asks for Tamil or Mandarin to be made national languages in Australia. No one sings the Waltzing Matilda in Tamil or Mandarin in Australia.

The same logic applies to Malaysia. It is high time non Malays in Malaysia learn to speak Malay like a native Malay. Getting straight As for Bahasa Malaysia in the SPM does not mean anything if you still say ‘saya api kereta naik mari’ or ‘saya naik keleta api mali sini.”

It is not cute anymore. Actually it is quite embarrassing. Please, let’s speak the language the way it should be spoken.

Now, coming back to the need for Tamil school – it is not an issue of losing tradition and culture if the Tamil schools are closed down that we need to fear of (yes, there will be some impact but not to the point where the future generations would be clueless on tradition and culture). Just look at the Indians in US and UK who are doing well in maintaining their tradition and culture despite going to a non-Indian language based schools.

There is a greater concern when a politician from a race based political party insists on preserving the Tamil schools – we fear that attempts to breakdown this segregation and forcing everyone to go to the same school and speak the language will be derailed or sabotaged by race based policies and race based political party who hold them as the trump cards to be still relevant. And this is what is happening in our education system – it has been screwed up to a point we are still having different schools in the country.

Surely there will be specific issues that will face certain communities more than others from time to time but we need to consider which one is more critical. If it is on education and national unity, let’s fight for the good of the country and not just for each others communities. Do that and you will earn our confidence and our votes in the next general elections.

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.

3 Idiots vs Nanban


(Countdown – 338 days to “doomsday”)

It suppose to be a quick post but I ended up writing more especially after yesterday I watched again the well made 3 Idiots

nanban

(The guy on the far right – your right – seems better than the rest. Trust me, you will be safer watching the original 3 Idiots than the “new” idiots in Nanban – they are nowhere close to the beauty of story-telling and acting in 3 Idiots. Poster source: Indiaglitz)

Indiaglitz in their review of the movie said:-

First things first. Let’s not compare ‘3 Idiots’ with ‘Nanban’. Though the latter is a faithful remake of the Aamir Khan starrer, ‘Nanban’ has its own moments. It carries a nice theme presented in an interesting way. It drives home the point that one shouldn’t run behind success and rather pursue his/her own interests. If one develops right skill anything is possible.

I guess they are just trying to be nice here and nothing more. I agree – perhaps Nanban would have made more sense and entertaining if you have not watched 3 Idiots in the first place. This post however will make more sense for those who have. Indiaglitz asks us not compare ‘3 Idiots’ with ‘Nanban’ but how we could not do that? Nanban is almost 100% remake of 3 Idiots in many ways including many of the dialogues, settings and characters.

And if you are intending to watch the latest Tamil flick Nanban, please don’t waste your time and money. Despite the big names in the acting roles and film-making (Enthiran’s Shankar being the director here) and having copied almost 100% of 3 Idiots which was released in 2009, Nanban sucks big time. Don’t get me wrong – those acted in Nanban is highly talented in their own standing but coming together in Nanban, something did not just click right. It is missing the fire that we saw in 3 Idiots.

Comparing the two movies side by side, you will be better off watching the more original, the more entertaining and more believable 3 Idiots starring Aamir Khan. Take the main character – Aamir Khan is like thousand times better than Vijay in the same role (so does all others). You can see a glimpse of hidden intelligence when you see Rancho the first time in 3 Idiots but you see nothing (despite trying very, very hard) when you see Pari in Nanban.

Nothing seemed natural here – Vijay seemed to be trying very hard to be that innocent but brilliant student who changes the life of his 2 friends. All the actors in Nanban seemed to be trying hard to follow the same style of the actors in 3 Idiots but do not achieve the same fluid. You don’t feel the same agony even after Jeeva’s character jumps from the top floor of the university. And once that key characters in the movie is ruined, you can kiss the whole movie good-bye as well.

(Who is the better “virus”? Boman Irani was a class better than Sathyaraj in the same role. Image source: http://www.moviespad.com)

Even the well talented Sathyaraj seemed to have wasted his energy and time here as well (you want to see Sathyaraj in his elements? Watch Kannamoochi Yenada and you will see why I say that he has wasted his energy and time here). The award winning Boman Irani who acted in same role (as the much hated “virus”) in 3 Idiots have done his role just too well – In 3 Idiots, it was a clear fight between the 3 idiots and the virus but here in Nanban, Sathyaraj hardly come close and ends up playing a very minor role.

Perhaps the film makers with all that talent and resources at their disposal should have done something different that sets Nanban apart from 3 Idiots. Perhaps the film makers should have localized Nanban to more South Indian settings (yes, they tried but it was not enough – speaking in Tamil instead of Hindi does not really count) – perhaps even dropping “All is Well” to something more localized in Tamil.

The only saving grace in Nanban is Harris Jayaraj’s music – it is good to be heard on its own although you need to forget that it was made for Nanban (if you do that, 1 + 1 ends as something else and not 2). My favourite would be Irukkaannaa – nice touch of the various background instruments by Harris.

I have seen 3 Idiots several times before and I still love it but Nanban, despite a “brave” attempt to rekindle the magic that 3 Idiots did, failed miserably in almost every department. It’s sad because we were expecting something better and entertaining from the famed Shankar. If you want to watch any recent movie that is far better than Nanban, I suggest instead you watch Porali – starring M. Sasikumar.