Saturday, April 29, 2006

Walking the line

Johnny Cash began singing sometime during the 1950s, may be early 40s. I don't know. He was pre-Dylan, though. After quitting the Air Force after a brief stint, Cash, in his twenties and newly married, began selling home appliances.
In the movie Walk the Line, which was recently released in Chennai, Joaquin Phoenix plays Cash.
Joaquin is a good actor. His performance in The Gladiator was meticulously conceived and executed. Even in trash like Ladder 41 (was that the name of the movie? Lauda 41, my friend called it then) he shines, and almost manages to rescue what is otherwise a rather pedestrian and predictable film.
But by playing the legendary Cash, Joaquin, I think landed the role - perhaps the first - of his lifetime. The movie is not too great, utterly failing in one thing that it really should have spared no effort to unravel. The creative genius behind such songs as 'I walk the Line' and 'Folsom Prison Blues' is hardly explored.
Another movie made a couple of years back, Ray too failed in this aspect.
Both Ray and Walk the Line follow a similar plot trajectory - the first big break and the racy, intoxicating life and career of the artists, the love of their lives, one childhood memory that haunts them, their addiction to drugs, a descent into near obscurity, and ultimately their redemption and second coming.
John loses his older brother in an accident at a carpentry shop. His sorrow and guilt at not being there to help his brother when he most needs him is doubled when his dad, weak with drink, blames John and then God. In a early pivotal scene, Cash Sr blames God for taking away "the wrong son".
John and his complicated relationship with his dad is a recurring theme throughout the movie, and in a proportion that can match any Russian novel. Years later, John is struggling with his drug addiction when Dad points out that John has nothing in his life. His wife and children have fled. His life is empty just like his big wooden house. Cruel blow it does seem, but it is also the starting point of John's redemption.
The title Walk the Line itself has a famous story behind it. Please be patient and read on.

Early in his musical career, Johnny, 23, then opening for The King (the Elvis Presley), 20, meets June Carter. In the movie, this is presented in a dramatic fashion. Reese Witherspoon plays the effervescent and bouyant June, bringing with her in the early scenes a radiant charm and, then later on, superbly subtle acting.
Joaquin is hardly Jude Law - meaning, he is hardly romantic. At least in my eyes. I suppose millions of his female fans would disagree, but to me it was Ms. Witherspoon who saved the romantic scenes of the movie.
One of the first songs the two sing together has something to do with arms and lips and about using them. :)
Johnny, by now, is into drugs as much he is into June. And on a morning when Johnny's band and June are to perform together, he gets stoned and drunk. After bombarding the entire band with whiskey bottles, she screams "You guys can't walk the line"
Thus, remarkably enough, is the born one of the most famous songs on fidelity. I reproduce the lyrics here and I think you should read them and if possible listen to the song too before continuing.

I Walk the Line
I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you're mine, I walk the line

I find it very, very easy to be true
I find myself alone when each day is through
Yes, I'll admit that I'm a fool for you
Because you're mine, I walk the line

As sure as night is dark and day is light
I keep you on my mind both day and night
And happiness I've known proves that it's right
Because you're mine, I walk the line

You've got a way to keep me on your side
You give me cause for love that I can't hide
For you I know I'd even try to turn the tide
Because you're mine, I walk the line

I keep a close watch on this heart of mine
I keep my eyes wide open all the time
I keep the ends out for the tie that binds
Because you're mine, I walk the line

I am too tired now. It's like the hour that God eases the Lucifer out of me and pushes me to bed. I promise to continue on Walk the Line sometime soon. Good night folks, and happy reading.

If you have Real player or its equivalent, visit
Happy listening too.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Falling in love....with Big City Chennai

The two suitcases, that my grandmom had helped me pack, were old and worthy of the uneasiness with which I carried them. I landed at Room 206 at E-Block, Heber Hall, Madras Christian College, with these and a shopping bag full of odd things. I had a past to forget and a future in journalism to look forward to.
My hallmates were a combination of the rustic and the sophisticated, with me sandwiched somewhere in between. I had visited Chennai a couple of times before, but this time it was for good. MCC is a sanctuary for odd people and I fancied that I was odd and found out during the first week that I would indeed survive.
I saw a bit of Chennai that year. At first I was wide-eyed, gaping at the big building and the wide roads. The eataries, the coffee shops, the girls, the multiplexes - those first few weeks were passed in feverish delirium.
My room at my college was my own sanctuary, where I endlessly read, having nothing else to do. I was quite shy of my classmates and in the first few weeks, my only real friend was a guy who constantly talked of death and depression. We later named him Dr. Death. He just loved depression, and loved to be depressed. I told him so. For once, he laughed uproariously.
These were the days before the mryiad flyovers that have sprung up across the city to accommodate its booming traffic. During those days, the IT revolution was just a promise, a bubble which everyone said was to burst soon. And, well, it did.
For me coming from a small town down south in Tamil Nadu, Chennai was both intimidating and exciting. Satyam Theatre even then - before Sree, Studio 5 and Six Degrees were built - was a multiplex of my dreams. I was in love with Tambaram station - on a busy weekday the crowd that gathered there was probably more than the entire population of my hometown. The efficiency of the suburban trains was a marvel.
The dirty slums, haphazardly built houses, the electric posts, the railway bridges, which were constantly being repaired - the sights that I caught as I took the train to Saidapet or Nungambakkam were strangely fascinating.
My college itself was endlessly fascinating as well. Guys and girls sat on the gutters of the college all day chatting. Some of them were smootching, as I watched with a mixture of shock and obvious envy. The roads within the college, which were thickly surrounded by trees, were pleasant to walk on. On most days, my friends and I would sit for the morning classes - at the most an hour or two - and then hit the canteen or our rooms. Charminar was the brand that MCC smoked. At Rs 3 a packet, it came cheap and towards the end of the month, everyone would give up their more expensive cigarettes to smoke this marvel. If you smoked more than three a day, you are bound to get some special respect from your friends for your amazing lung power. But the girls would shun you, if they already weren't doing that. I took me six months just to learn the language of the college. A girl was hot, a movie was cool, a man was a dude, a slightly goodlooking woman was a babe, a bad looking one was a female. The jargon I had to learn was tough.
I never had thought that the word 'cool' could be used in so many ways. Back home, nobody used it. Not even in the books that I had read. True, some movie characters did say cool, but I never had thought about the sheer versitality of the word. Only the F word, I think, comes close. There was a lot of ins and outs to learn as well. Porn was in, PJs were in, good clothes were out, cutting your hair was out, facial hair was in... this list too was endless. Well, I am surprised that I survived.
I spent hours at used book stores. Some of these were on the pavement. One of the best ones was in Mylapore. A guy with a larger than usual shop, somewhere near Luz, took me to his home to show me his private collection. Hemingway and Kafka were household names at his place. I visited his place twice, but I never had enough money to buy out his collection. Today though, the book fair has made the my affair with book shops less interesting.
Chennai architecture, I think, despite the columns Mr. Muthaih writes for The Hindu, is grossly underestimated. Just have a look at the buildings along Beach Road. They are poorly maintained, no doubt, but that is a part of the charm.
Marina in the mornings is a mayhem of activity. I dislike crowds, but at the beach, I can stand for hours observing the morning exercises and rituals of the people. Particularly, the old. It is so good to see an old man walk. May be it's because this is an indication of his untiring enthusiasm for life.
One of my favourite haunts back then was the Theosophical Society. Apart from the marvelous campus, the building is home to a great library of spiritual books. I quickly discovered that Saravana Bhavan was famous for Idlis just like Ranganathan Street for shopping or Burma Bazaar for cds or Richie street for all things electronic.
The Max Mueller Bhavan on Khader Nawaz Khan Road was also a big hit with me. So much so, I signed up for a German course. Well, I was also hoping that I would meet someone interesting there. Though I never did, one of my German teachers was, indeed, in MCC parlance and otherwise, a babe. And she taught well too. But I don't remember any German now, except Guten Tag. May be I was a bit too distracted.
Chennai, I am afraid, is deeply conservative. The lack of night life, by which I don't just refer to the discos and bars, is appalling. The older crowd always seems to faintly chastising the younger, more on-the-move crowd.
There are more negative points. You can never find your way around the city, if you are new to it. Five people would give you 10 different directions. Sometimes, they are rude too. Traffic is a bitch, particularly on Mount Road, 100-feet Road and Pondy Bazaar. The city also hosts a nightmarish number of signals, none of which anybody can be trusted to follow. But despite all this, and the humid summer that is just arriving, I am a willing victim to the charms of the city, quite seduced by its sounds and smells.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Suggest a story, but not here

A couple of days ago, I said that I am writing for Chennai metblog. We have a new facility at Metblog. You can now suggest a story for the metblog team to write about. It should be relating as far as possible to the city of Chennai. Please feel free to ask our team to write about anything you want us to feature. Click here to make the suggestions. Do take the trouble of reading the instructions first.
For the blog on what is Metblogging that I put up recently, click here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Dumbing down

I was watching IBN yesterday afternoon. I must have watched for at least two hours, and three fourths of that was movie and entertainment related news. Why is such stuff forced down our throats, while all that we ask is that the channels, into which hundreds of crores are being pumped into, report the day's news. Honestly, with credibility and without missing any of the major events. The geninue investigative report or the occassional sting operation is quite welcome. But mostly we tune in just to get the day's news. But all we get is bullshit.
Admittedly, IBN does cover hard news in a slightly hysterical fashion in the evening. But through the day, the channel doesnt even do news.
Why can't news channels leave entertainment to the movie channels? Are advertisers dictating this? Or are the viewers not interested in news anymore? Or is it self-imposed by the channel itself?
I think whatever compulsions IBN is facing, it must stop flooding the channel with irrelevant programming and cover the news. People do like to know what is going around them. Mallika Sherawat's curves - well, ya, we are interested in that, but such trivia should not push out the geninue news content.
Even when a major story breaks like Sonia's resignation as MP, the channels just flood viewers with that one news. There is no attempt to recap the day's events quickly and cover the breaking story more aggressively. Which is what they should be doing, dont you think?
When Prannoy Roy began showing World This Week on DD or then tied up with Star, there used to be news on NDTV. But I believe NDTV has also rotted. Thankfully, in CASed Chennai, I am not getting NDTV at home.
I really hope both channels are making a lot of money, because if they aren't there is no point in indulging in this nonsense.
If this isn't dumping down, I don't know what is. I am disgusted, needless to say.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Graveyard Shift

Reprobate, owner of a particularly messy blog, has towards the end of March written on a term that is quite familiar for journalists - The Graveyard Shift. I am on one this week, after quite a while. I moved jobs recently and have been put on this dreadful shift for the first time. Yesterday, a couple of fellas on the sports desk decided to stay back. So the loneliness didnt quite get to me. Today, they disappeared and I am sitting here, listening to Dylan's tribute to Woody Guthrie, and it is quite depressing - the working in the night business not the song.
My office consists of just three floors and most of it is taken up by this huge Rs 40-crore printing machine, which churns out three lakh issues in about three hours or so. The rest of it is office space and the editorial is this large hall, full of cubicles. Inhuman, I say. It's a bit like being in a factory; your only friend is your computer. The fella in the next cubicle often exchanges only ten words with you the entire day.
I used to enjoy working in the night. It's anti-social, against the grain, and is everything I value in life. I can sit alone, and work on anything I want, read the whole night, watch three movies, do anything I want. But after doing this for about three years in a row, I am sick and tired of it. I wanna a day job. Nine to Fiver- like in a bank. Doing something that is even more pointless than this.
I have rarely rambled on my blog. But here is how is sound when I ramble. Tune off, if you dont like it.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Everyman in love

Everyman(Shain) has posted his blog about Ziyi Zhang, or more about what he claims are her elfish good looks and how he has been smitten by her. Now that he says it, she does look a bit like an elf. But Liv Tyler was the better elf anyday. My blog that Everyman saw is here. Check out that pic and our posts.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


I joined the Metroblogging team in Chennai recently. We are a group of 20 or so bloggers who write about Chennai. Metroblogging is slowing catching up across the world, with a site being devoted for each city. Most cities in the US already have a Metroblog. My first post is here. Learn more about metroblogging by visiting their home page. You can even mail them and find out if there is metroblogging in your city.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

First break

My blog on Tamil Nadu elections a long time back was featured in the DNA, I found out today. Go to this link, if you don't believe me. Scroll down and click on Poll masala.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Cellular - A review

Director: David R Ellis

A Hollywood script involving every nightmare set in the world of mobile phones was waiting to happen. But as Hollywood does with every movie that it makes, it leaves that idea, which promises a lot in the initial sequences of the film, underdeveloped. But this is a B-movie (so all faults are forgiven), with one A-list actor: Kim Basinger. Without the Oscar-winning actress of L.A. Confidential, Cellular would never have gotten past the scripting stages. She does here what Colin Farrell did for Phone Booth, which was also written by Larry Cohen.
Not that Cellular is bad, but B-movies are an extinct breed. They don’t make them like that anymore. In a Hollywood dominated by the movie brats - Spielberg, Lucas, Tarantino and now, Peter Jackson - only the blockbusters like last year’s King Kong and War of the Worlds get studio attention.
But Cellular is a movie that is a reminder of a forgotten process of going out there with camera in hand, shoot some footage, efficiently edit that and put out a feature film worth watching. Movies, increasingly so, are today shot in front of a blue screen with actors not responding to their colleagues but to the illusion of a special effect, later worked into a scene on a computer.
, however, is a frill-free film shot on a small budget that derives its thrills from a tightly written script and the occasional one-liner. Twenty years from now on, the movie will be as good or bad as it is now. Can you honestly say that for King Kong?
Chris Evans, who makes an energetic and enthusiastic debut, as Ryan plays his role with careless abandon. Not for him are the difficulties of attempting to act. He is good looking and can run, hop, drive and beat up the baddies as good as any other actor alive or dead. Plus, he comes a good deal cheaper than Tom Cruise.
While spending a warm, bright day at the beach, Ryan is summoned over his high-tech gizmo of a cell phone by Jessica, a biology schoolteacher played by Basinger, who has been kidnapped. At first indifferent, Ryan soon realises that only he is between the bad guys and certain death for Jessica and her all-American family. If his phone signal dies, so will Jessica.
So the movie is filled with every glitch that can possibly occur in a cell phone. Ryan runs out of battery, his signal is constantly on the verge of failing, he drives into a tunnel only to realise that the phone and Jessice might die on him…well, every cliché you can think of is there in the movie. The script is so full of holes that after a while, you learn to take it easy, enjoy the cheap thrills and plot twists. At least that is what is recommended. Willful suspension of disbelief does have its uses.
Much of the acting, particularly in the scenes supposed to be charged with emotion, is left to Basinger, who botches it up, just by, well, shivering too much. If the next Oscar were to be given to the actress who most rapidly shakes every body part there is, then Basinger would win it hands down. Just watching her shiver her lips and limbs, made me regret that the actress who in her heyday was cast in Batman had to do this to earn a living just because she was a “little” older.
But characteristic of sex symbols, Basinger appearing in almost inch-thick make-up and painted lips, constantly seems to forget that she is not the seductress here anymore. She is supposed to be in trauma, but her silken pleas to her rescuer over the phone are more sexual in their tone than desperate.
William H. Macy plays the one good cop in the movie, which is infested with bad cops, and true to style, plays it with clinical perfection. Queen Latifah appears and then disappears just as fast. The movie is not half as good as Phone Booth, but is at least watchable, and if you like decent B-movies and Basinger, you ought to go and have some fun.


Over this weekend, 50 technology enthusiasts from across the country met at a WiFi hotspot inside Anna University in Chennai to “smash their brains together” on ideas surrounding Web 2.0 and the Next Generation Internet. BarCampChennai is inspired by a similar event in Silicon Valley, California, which rocked the world of emerging technology. The founders of that conference, frustrated with the stuffy atmosphere of most such gatherings, came up with a new idea that they called an unconference. An unconference is where all attendees are participants instead of mere spectators. Each one arriving at BarCampChennai presents a paper, organises the event or blogs or podcasts it. The discussions are loosely structured and informally set up, with BarCampers slotting the time of their presentations and practically organising the event themselves.Chennai, one of the leading technology hubs in the India, became a natural choice, as there is a strong community of IT enthusiasts here. This is only the second such event in Asia after BarCampDelhi, which was held was held on March 4.
Kiruba and Amit Ranjan have been blogging on the issue. Go to their blogs to read more. The official website of BarCampChennai is here.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


Dark clouds hung over the school building. The classroom was quieter than usual, typical of the more humid days at KPS Annexe. I was in fourth class, the room right behind the headmistress's office. It was the second best classroom in school. The first standard students had the best one, with a fan and all.
Three periods were over when I opened Eldon's geometry box. At the last minute, he made a motion to stop me, but the box was already in my hands. Inside were eight cigarattes, but I didn't have a chance to count them then. Eldon snatched it from my hands and snapped the box shut. Jerry stared at me for a moment.
I nudged Bhagat, "What's up? What's inside?" I knew perfectly well what was inside. He knew I knew, but wouldn't say a word. Jerry pulled me out of the classroom.
"Do you want to come with us?"
"Yes", I said, truthfully.
The others gathered around us. There were four in all. Khader was their leader and now mine too.
Khader was the best looking boy in class, if you ask me. If you ask Rosalin madam she would say it was me. But Khader was dark and I was fair. He had the brighter eyes, the cuter smile. It is a pity he was never able to floor a girl with that. Ok, except may be Anita.
Anita was the most fair girl in class and if we had not been too young to fall in love, we would have all been in love with her. Khader and Anita lived on the same street, practically neighbours.
Bhagat was my best buddy. I could not believe he had gotten into this without me. I glared at him and he cowed a bit.
It was actually Jerry's idea, for all us to smoke after the evening's usual cricket match. Khader had just appropriated it and taken charge of the whole affair, just like he did with everything else. I knew why they had left me out. I was a real danger, something of a pet to the teachers. Though they knew that I would never tell on them, they weren't gonna take any chances. Besides, I was of no use to them in this little escapade. Jerry had bought the cigarettes, Eldon had hid them and Bhagat was there.... well, it beats me why the hell he was there when I wasn't. I glared it him even more now.
Nothing very bad happened in school without Khader having a role in it. Nothing very good happened without me in it. Just last week, Khader had been caught stealing a brand new cricket ball from the headmistress's room. I don't know why he stole it, though. We never played cricket with cricket balls.

Here is a short story, my first. Will be written in parts, to keep u on tenter hooks and to increase hits. My great idea. As they say, to be continued.