Category Archives: Reviews

Book, concert, movie and play reviews

Unique presentation

Rarely have I come across Carnatic performers whoexplain the music that they are singing. R.K.Padmanabha’s concert yesterday at Jayarama Seva Mandali, Jayanagar was one such instance where the veteran engaged the audience even as he gave a short brief regarding the song or raga that was to follow. He touched upon the significance of lyrics in Tyagaraja’s magnum opus “Entharo mahanubhavulu” in Shri Ragam or bhava (feelings) evoked by ragas such as Kaanada or Kambodhi. While Kaanada creates a sombre mood, Kambodhi generates a feeling of veera (courage) rasa. He had a good rapport with the audience and engaged them throughout the performance.

Beginning with the varnam in Hamsadhvani Jalajakshi sung in all three speeds, he moved on to a sprightly Vasantha piece by Purandaradasar Kodubega divya mathi. The evergreen Tyagaraja favourite Oru joopu raa in raga Kannada Gowla (sung in a slower tempo than the norm with emphasis on sahitya) followed by Entharo mahanubhavulu set the pace for the concert. An unusual alapana in Kaanada in a taanam format that portrayed the raga beautifully for Purandaradasa kriti “Dhaasanthe” was followed by Vadiraja’s composition in Hamsadhvani. Vadirajaswamy is RKPadmanabha’s revered deity. The main item of the concert was Subramanya Namaste. The sancharas in Raga Kambodhi were vivid, dynamic and sung with a lot of feeling.
The accompanists were CNChandrashekhar (violin), C.Cheluvaraju (mridangam).

Stellar acting

Vaaranam Aayiram album cover
Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday I watched a Tamil movie after a long time – Vaaranam Aayiram (2008 release). The cast has Surya in a double role of father and son, Simran, Divya Spandana and Meghna Reddy and has been directed by Gautham Menon.

The storyline is simple. It’s about the strong bond that exists between a father and his son. The father has been an inpiration for his son throughout his life. When the son scrapes through college, singing and dancing his way, fighting with bullies, his father has been silently supportive. Later when the son gets into a decline after losing his first love, the father gently guides him back to sanity holding his hand, literally and figuratively.

Surya has done a stellar job. He’s a chip of the old block. I always considered his father Sivakumar to be one of the finest actors to grace the Tamil screen. This movie is mercifully devoid of tear-jerking scenes. The emotions come across subtly and creates a deeper impact. The scenes where the mother chastises the father for smoking in the hospital, or when the girlfriend is flumoxxed at the hero’s declaration of love on first sight are realistic.

Now the part where I had a hard time coping. The whole movie could have been a lot tighter. It was way too long (2 hrs 44 mins) and there were some absurd scenarios. I almost laughed out loud when the father tells the son to go to America just to get the girl! In an age where one goes abroad for better education or career prospects and not to win the girl and return to India this seemed corny. I’d also like to meet the consular officer at the embassy who grants visas for this reason alone!

Also in my opinion, there are too many Tamil movies out there that focus on love blossoming on campus, and couples hooking up in the name of love and pretty much nothing else. While I do believe “love is a many splendoured thing” and a grand emotion (I still read romance novels and write the occasional story) its a far cry from reality. To many, movies are a form of escapism from reality, but where does one draw the line?

One scene at the beginning of the movie just didn’t add up. When the son is given the news of his father’s death while he’s on a secret military mission (enroute on the plane), I’m not sure if this happens in real time. If the military were to convey deaths and births to soldiers on a mission, would it not detract from their course of duty? But here I go again, I’m thinking logically.

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Tyagaraja aradhana festivals in Bangalore

Goshti Gaanam

As a followup to the Tyagaraja aradhana festival at Tiruvaiyaru in Thanjavur several sabhas in Bangalore organized similar festivals. Last Sunday the Devagiri devasthanam (Venkateswara temple) in Banashankari held a Tyagaraja aradhana festival where I had participated. Unfortunately similar aradhana festivals were being organized all over Bangalore (BTM, Whitefield, etc) at the same time making it difficult for Carnatic musicians to participate.
When I showed up at the temple accompanying my guru Smt. Seethalakshmi Venkateshan there was already a good crowd. Some of Bangalore’s well known musicians had also turned up.  The "goshti gaanam" spearheaded by Smt.Neela Ramgopal began with well known geetams such as Shree gana naatha, paduma naabha before rendition of the pancharatna kritis of Tyagaraja. The pancharatna kritis Jagadhananda karaka (Nattai), Dudukukala(Gowli), Saadhinchane (Aarabhi), Kanaka ruchi (Varali) and Entharo mahanubhavulu (Sri ragam) were sung with great gusto to an appreciative audience. I had attended a similar aradhana festival a week earlier at the Tyagaraja temple in Vasanthpuram, organized by the family of Anoor Ramakrishna. The festival organizers in both these venues had also organized a lunch for all those present.
My article on Tyagaraja and the Tiruvaiyaru festival was published as a middle in Deccan Herald. Click here to read the article. (URL below)
http://www.deccanherald.com/Content/Jan222009/editpage20090122113926.asp

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James Bond’s QoS – unusual

Daniel Craig's looking at me, and I don't thin...
Image by soylentgreen23 via Flickr

Yesterday I had been to the latest Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. The story continues where, the previous Bond movie, Casino Royale ended. Bond goes after his dead lover’s assasin, trying to seek closure. He discovers the existence of a sinister group that has somehow escaped the radar of every secret service agency. There is a secondary conflict, as Bond’s boss, M, attempts to protect Bond from her bosses even while she wonders about his objectivity and trustworthiness.

This movie is unlike the earlier Bond movies for several reasons. We see a more human Bond – one far less likely to bed every woman he meets – there’s a brief scene that hints of sex. In another scene where the heroine walks away from Bond after merely a brief lip-lock, it’s certainly a first, and a far cry from earlier Bonds who appeared to have only one thing on their minds! The new Bond is willing to appear vulnerable at least to his friends. Despite a couple of longish chases, including the opening sequence,the new Bond is less about Q’s (who’s wholly absent) sophisticated gadgets and more hands-on in the action scenes using his wits and at most a handgun.

Of course the locales are stunning as usual (Italy, Haiti, Bolivia) and the action scenes as thrilling as they come. There’s also a twist at the end, where Bond ties up all loose ends and effectively lays down his ghosts to rest. I almost felt sorry for him there!

Daniel Craig is suave and macho as James Bond. There’s a certain panache in his movements that reminds me of a young Sean Connery, who still remains a hard act to follow. Whether he will eventually be able to fit into Connery’s shoes, only time will tell.

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