Saivam : Delicious as home food Vijay’s new movie ‘Saivam’ (Tamil for Vegetarian) came as a answer to my question which I used to have whenever I came across his recent movies: Where is the director who made Madarasapattinam?

Sans big stars, a simple story and screenplay, and by assembling a group of almost fresh faces, Vijay has come out with a refreshingly beautiful film. The story is about a family getting together for a village festival after a long time. The ever dependable and versatile actor Nasser is the head of the family and is looking forward to see his family come together after three long years. He is also lover of non-vegetarian food, something that we are informed in a very interesting way in the opening sequence of the movie. Sara plays Tamizh, his grand-daughter who lives with him in the village along with her parents. Her father, we are told, is an MBA but chooses to stay back in the village and take care of agriculture. This is one example of the few interesting subtexts in the storyline. In one of the powerful dialogues of the movie her father says to his city living brother (who earlier chided him to move to city for better prospects than agriculture) – “Padikira kuzhandhainga enga irundhalum padikum anne” (Smart kids will learn wherever they study). It is just one small dialogue and the movie moves on. The screenplay doesn’t sag because of this. While the title ‘Saivam’ (Tamil for vegetarian) and the dedication (the movie is dedicated to those who promote vegetarianism) makes it amply clear what the movie’s message is, the message itself comes through the dialogues like the ones mentioned above. (Other reviews of the movie makes the same observation, and I agree)

The family gathers, and we are slowly introduced to the various members of their families and more importantly – their problems. At one point, the family realizes that they have forgotten to keep a promise made to their God – sacrificing a rooster. The rooster, named Pappa (Tamil for baby), is now three years old and is Tamizh’s favourite. It is decided to sacrifice Pappa on the last day of the festival and every member of the family is looking forward to all their problems getting solved. And then the rooster goes missing. The search for the rooster begins. Is Pappa found? Is it sacrificed? And do the problems gets solved? The rest of the movie deals with these questions.

The scenes depicting the search for the rooster should in all total nearly 30 to 40 minutes. Who would have thought that one can make a two hour movie pivot around the search for a rooster! The success of this movie is making this part interesting and engaging. While the rest of the movie and the end is predictable, one never loses interest and enjoys the search.

As with other Vijay’s movies, this too is a treat for the eyes and ears. The Chettinad architecture and landscape provides an excellent background for the visuals. Sung by Singer Unnikrishnan’s daughter Uthara, the Azhage Azhage song is an highlight of the movie.

All the characters, right from Nasser to Sara to the wife of the house servant, have acted really well. The performance of Sara’s cousin (I did not note his name) who comes from Dubai and finds it really difficult to get adjusted to the village life requires special mention.

Vijay’s penchant for getting inspired from other sources comes through in at least a couple of sequences. The scenes depicting the complaint in police station on the missing rooster and bringing in a charlatan to find the rooster (though this one turns out to be a significant move as far as screenplay is concerned) reminds one of similar scenes in Azhagarsaamiyin Kuthirai (replace rooster with a horse!). Nevertheless, this is one of Vijay’s beautiful efforts thus far.

I read in an interview that Vijay said that this movie is close to his heart. The end credits begins with a card that says ‘Naanum ippadi oru sambavathaala thaan saivathuku maarinennu amma sonnanga’ (My mother told me that I changed to vegetarianism because of one such incident) shows how close is this movie to him.


Shallow contempt? No…only deep disappointment!!

In this week’s Mint’s Lounge, Aakar Patel takes head-on Ramachandra Guha on his article on the Prime Minister (Telegraph, December 31 2011) and through him the middle-class’s contempt for the Prime Minister and terms it ‘shallow’. (To be sure, Mr. Guha does not use the word contempt, he only cites disappointment)  Now, I should admit, I was clearly amused when I read Patel’s column and thought if he lived in a different India; and, when I fished out Guha’s article I wondered if he even read the article that he tries to counter point-by-point!!

Patel concludes his column writing: “Perhaps it is obvious that Singh is a disappointment if not a failure and I’m missing something.” Of course, you do Mr. Patel!

For starters, let me clear, I agree with you (and so do Mr. Guha, if you would read his piece carefully) that UPA-1 had not been a disappointment (at least as much not as UPA-2, Mr. Guha may add) at all. RTI, NREGA, and RTE  were indeed long-reaching legislations, whatever qualms one may have on the fine print. And, yes add the Nuclear deal too. So let us be clear much of the disappointment is with respect to the Prime Minister’s second innings. In fact, the electorate that you blame for having dealt a ‘poor’ ”hand” rewarded the incumbent government by returning 65 more of their members to the Parliament and even freed them of the influence of the Left. It was very clear that BJP, the main opposition party, was nowhere in the reckoning for another election any time soon, which meant the Prime Minister was especially on a stronger wicket in his second innings. That he had just stood his ground and won on the Nuclear Deal against much of the reported opposition within his party, and that his party went to polls projecting him as the Prime Minister only added to his strength. And his personal image for probity and integrity in public life was still very much admired. So, his performance in the second innings should be viewed in this light.

However, what followed the high of May 2009 was a gradual downfall which turned into a cascade in 2011. So why did I (a middle class Indian) get disappointed with Dr. Singh and why I agree more with Mr.Guha than you?

Yes, as you write, Dr. Manmohan Singh did ask Mr. Raja to step down, but when??!!! In the face of overwhelming circumstantial evidence, Dr. Singh remained quiet and indecisive! Only when he was left with no choice by the Supreme Court, did he yield.

“I don’t think Singh needs a reporter to tell him that he should be seen on television meeting villagers, as Guha thinks he should. The fact is that he chooses not to. The question is why.” you write. But it is not a question of why! As Prime Minister of the country, he is answerable to the nation, either through the press or the floor of the House, and Dr. Singh has failed to engage either the Press or the Parliament proactively on issues of national importance. At the height of the pressure on his government to act against corruption, he did not offer a convincing reply. His mode of engagement was more damage control in nature and that too in the form of a discussion with select editors under controlled environment.

You list his ‘delivery of taken for granted high growth’ as one his achievement, but may I request you not to show shallow regard for Mr. Narasimha Rao who was as equal a driving force, if not more, as Dr. Singh in setting us on the path of high growth and the successive governments which did not change course. And Dr. Singh has himself agreed recently that he does not have a magic wand to control inflation, at least on one occasion. And when was the last time the industry leaders wrote letters to the government of the day (on whose pleasure their businesses depend day by day) on their deep concerns on the state of economy and governance?

Of course, you do not enjoy the privileges of Mr.Guha in knowing much about the advisers of Dr. Singh. And I should admit, I know even less! (In fact, I had to strain to recall the name of the two advisers). But can’t you see that the political judgment of the government is nowhere! Starting from the Telengana fiasco in 2009 to the way the government handled the IAC movement in 2011 reaching the nadir of its political judgment at the stroke of the new year when the Rajya Sabha was adjourned under chaotic circumstances. And yes, let me add so as to remind you, in between 2009 and 2011, the government vetoed the objection of the Leader of Opposition on the appointment of CVC and tried to bulldoze its way only to be stopped by the Supreme Court (Wonder what was the political compulsion on this issue?).

Now, to a relatively minor but important issue. You write in answer to Mr. Guha’s critique, that Dr. Singh was defeated once in a Lok Sabha election and in turn imply that there is no reason to expect any different result this time. But by that logic, Indira Gandhi should not contested elections, nor should have Kamaraj!

You add that even after winning a Lok Sabha seat, Dr. Singh may continue to draw power from Smt. Sonia Gandhi. This may indeed be true, but at least he would have some show of public approval to strengthen his case. But you miss the big point of Mr.Guha – Smt. Gandhi needs Dr. Singh as much as he needs her power. And in this equation the biggest and may be the only weapon that Dr. Singh had was his integrity.  And that is the weapon he has chosen to disband at the hour he needed it the most! Makes one wonder if he is suffering from a Karna-like curse or whether he has willingly chosen to disarm himself!!

Having said all this, I would not have cared as much if it was an ordinary politician. I would have expected as much. But my disappointment, and so I believe the disappointment of people like Mr. Guha, stems from this fact that I used to respect Dr. Singh much. In a time when almost every politician was corrupt, I respected and adored the rare politician who was known for his integrity in public office. I saw him as one of my own and one of my millions of fellow honest citizens, not the run of the mill politician. I was proud that he was our Prime Minster. And so, when he suddenly turned silent and indecisive on the face of the some of the massive scams in recent memory, it was a shocker.

And I disagree with your inference ‘martyrdom’ is not heroic. Let us not show disregard the sacrifices of those have given up power to uphold their own (and universal) principles and yet continue to serve the people. Let us not dismiss those honest public officials who against enormous odds stand by their principles. The fact is, Dr. Singh could have resigned. He could have served the nation by that very act alone –  by sending a message and by serving an inspiration to the future generations. He could not continued to serve the people even without the office. In fact, his leaving making a noise would have been such a big liability for the party that it may very well have heeded to him. But he chose not to do so.

With each passing day, as his silence and inaction (or late action) grows, the disappointment only grows larger. And makes one wonder, as do Mr.Guha, if Dr. Singh is just clinging to his office. You write rhetorically “To what end does he cling to office?”. But for me the question is not a rhetoric! It is very real. Let me assure you, if at all I get to meet Dr. Singh some day, this is the one question for which I would like to know the answer.


For four years during my engineering days, I travelled in Route 23C to commute to college.

The commute in the morning was usually spent on reading The Hindu or for the tests/exams. Had some wonderful friends sharing the commute too. Sabine Saravanan was the most regular and we both used to board at the Ayanavaram Bus Stand, the start point. Sitting next to him on exam days was useful in resolving any doubts or complex problems. Prakash used to join us most days at the Shanti Theatre bus stand as the bus entered Mount Road. Others like Keerthi and Sabesan joined us occasionally, as 23C was not their primary route.

The route touched several landmarks. The Institute of Mental Health, Kilpauk; Purasawakkam Tank (fast becoming the second T Nagar of Chennai); Egmore Station; Commissioner Office; LIC; Spencer Plaza; Raj Bhavan; Anna University; Gandhi Mandapam; IIT; Kalashektra; Elliots beach (five minutes from Besant Nagar Bus Stand, the terminus).

I have an idea. Narrating the history of the city through different bus routes. Should give it a shot sometime. Or a newspaper can run it as a column in one of its city supplements.

Thanks to Google Transit, now covering Chennai, for the map of the route, and thus this post 🙂

The most asked question :P

A most asked question, in one form or the other, especially nowadays. I have answered this question already twice today, and my day is only starting!. I have found it not so difficult to answer though. And for once, I could not be accused of inconsistency at least. I always give the same answer.

I always say “This is my last year” 😛




Wisdom from the past

This is one Tamil poem that most who have learnt Tamil in schools would have come across. Part of the Purananuru (Puram + Nanuru = external + 400), a collection of 400 songs belonging to the Sangam period of Tamil literature (600 BC to 300 AD) that provides wisdom on external aspects of human life. While the powerful thought of the opening lines that considers the entire world as one family has always stayed on top of mind recall, I was surprised to rediscover the depth of  the message in the entire poem today when I happened to read it again.  

யாதும் ஊரே ; யாவரும் கேளிர் ;
தீதும் நன்றும் பிறர்தர வாரா ;
நோதலும் தணிதலும் அவற்றோ ரன்ன ;
சாதலும் புதுவது அன்றே ; வாழ்தல்
இனிதுஎன மகிழ்ந்தன்றும் இலமே; முனிவின்,
இன்னா தென்றலும் இலமே; ‘மின்னொடு
வானம் தண்துளி தலைஇ, ஆனாது
கல்பொருது இரங்கும் மல்லற் பேர்யாற்று
நீர்வழிப் படூஉம் புணைபோல, ஆருயிர்
முறைவழிப் படூஉம்’ என்பது திறவோர்
காட்சியின் தெளிந்தனம் ஆகலின், மாட்சியின்
பெரியோரை வியத்தலும் இலமே;
சிறியோரை இகழ்தல் அதனினும் இலமே

– கணியன் பூங்குன்றனார், புறநானுறு

The English translation by G U Pope

 To us all towns are one, all men our kin.

Life’s good comes not from others’ gift, nor ill.
Man’s pains and pains’ relief are from within.
Death’s no new thing, nor do our blossoms thrill
When joyous life seems like a luscious draught.
When grieved, we patient suffer; for, we deem
This much-praised life of ours a fragile raft
Borne down the waters of some mountain stream
That o’er huge boulders roaring seeks the plain
Tho’ storms with lightning’s flash from darkened skies.
Descend, the raft goes on as fates ordain.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !
We marvel not at the greatness of the great;
Still less despise we men of low estate.
– Kaṇiyaṉ Pūṅkuṉṛaṉār; Part of ‘Purananuru’ – a collection of 400 songs belonging to the Sangam period (3rd century BC to 3rd century AD)
(Source of English translation:

ஜகத்தினை அழிக்காமலேயே!

“தனி ஒருவனுக்கு உணவில்லையெனில் ஜகத்தினை அழித்திடுவோம்!” பெரிய பெரிய உணவகங்களுக்கு  சென்று உண்ணும் பொது சில சமயம் முண்டாசுக் கவிஞனின் இந்த கூவல் நினைவுக்கு வருவதுண்டு. நான் ஒருவன் சாப்பிடும் காசுக்கு பலரின் பசியை போக்கலாமே என்று. ஆனால் என்னை மாற்றிக்கொள்ளும் பக்குவம் இன்னமும் வரவில்லை.

இன்று காலை வேலை செய்ய மனமில்லாமல் இணையத்தில் சஞ்சரித்துக்கொண்டிருந்த போது இந்த பதிவுகளை வாசிக்க நேரிட்டது. மிகவும் சாதாரணமான மனிதர்கள். ஆனால் தாங்கள் செய்யும் உணவுத் தொழிலை வியாபார நோக்குடனே அணுகாமல் பல எளியவரின் பசியையும் போக்குகிறார்கள். இவர்களின் கதைகள் வாழ்கையில் நம்பிக்கை கொள்ள வைக்கிறது.

ஈரோடு – ஒரு வேளை சாப்பாடு 1 ரூபாய்

மதுரை – மதிய உணவு 6 ரூபாய் ;

 சென்னை – சாப்பாடு 15 ரூபாய், கலவை சாதம் 6 ரூபாய்

ஜகத்தினை அழிக்கவில்லை. பசியை போக்குகிறார்கள் இவர்கள்!

 பி.கு.: தங்களின் CSR செயல்கள் பற்றி மார்தட்டிக் கொள்ளும் சில பெரிய பெரிய நிறுவனங்கள் இவர்களிடம் பாடம் கற்கலாம்!