Movie review: CHENNAI ‘Doesn’t’ EXPRESS

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  •  It is a standard SRK film- Check.
  • Takes on his own aged DDLJ theme- Check.
  • North-South divide and comedy arising from language barrier -Check
  • Good guy and Good gal on the run from Big Bad guys -Check.

With so many stereotypes and cliches, it is no wonder Chennai Express is not a new train on the track.

SRK plays a 40-yr old bachelor , looking for a good time with his friends in Goa despite having his Grandpa’s asthi meant for Rameswaram, but lands up in some remote TN village still lorded over by local zamindar-cum-Don to whom  everyone reverentially bows..
Oh, really, this is some TN that I am yet to see in this day and age!

Deepika is a gutsy and lively Don’s daughter on the run, an unwilling bride who still needs protection from the 40 yr Old bachelor, who neither understands Tamil nor can defend himself against big bulky bouncers of her evil daddy.

From the first scene of SRK helping Deepika up on the train it was never in doubt how the movie would end, but it takes some tired, circuitous route to the destination.
Chennai Shuttle Passenger’, would have been a more appropriate title.

SRK tries to pass off his brand of downright buffoonery as comedy most of the time. Else he hams the rest of the way.
It is left to the young and mercurial Deepika Padukone to lift the goings on with a spirited performance…Tamil accent, eyes, expressions everything spot on.
Rest of the crew is quite deadpan.

How and when the lead pair falls in love is not brought out clearly by Director Shetty and it seems like more of a compulsion than real sentiments at play.

Songs and BGM are pleasantly fine with two songs noteworthy. Photography is arresting. These are about two plus points to mention. That’s it.

In the end , it was quite clear that this was a typical ‘mass entertainer’ that Bollywood mindlessly churns out, so less said the better.

Rating : 2.5/5

Yercaud…Chilling in Hills

Yercaud…Chilling in Hills

Salient features:
Distance to Yercaud= 353  km from Chennai on GST road.
Car:  Our maruti Ritz Vxi
Time taken: 7 hrs ( with 2 to 3 breaks for Breakfast, tea etc)
One night halt
We as a family of four decided to visit a cool hill station we had often heard about but never seen yet…Yercaud, near Salem, TN.
We were ready to leave on Friday, a Ramadan holiday, at morning 5.30 am.
After filling up full tank, the driver informed me the meter starting reading as 3021.
The early morning had light rains and light traffic along Adyar- GST road towards Ulundurpet, the road we had chosen. We made good time traveling at 100 kmph thereabouts.
 

We stopped for breakfast at a nice place near SRM University called ‘Sappada Vanga’ a veggie restaurant and had steaming Idli vada for breakfast with Coffee. The restaurant is nicely furnished and there is even a small glass aquarium there.

We made good time again the rest of the way with GST road being butter smooth all the way.
What surprised me was the rest of the way i.e, NH 68 is also excellent with hardly any traffic to clutter up your path.
 
I was earlier advised to take the shorter Kuppanur Ghat Road, but we heard on the way at a tea shop that the same was quite narrow and besides the recent rains had made the conditions worse.
So we took the regular one via Salem town, often asking for directions, for Yercaud Main road up the enchanting hills that guards the town like a behemoth.
There are 20 hair pin bends on the way up and green scenery as we drove up is feast to the tired eyes of a Citizen.
 

We had some sickness breaks and all, so were delayed a bit but we managed to reach up to Yercaud after 7 hrs of our departure from home. Though Shyamala was feeling sick when the trip started, she considerably brightened up after reaching Yercaud and enjoyed the rest.

The hill town was bursting at seams with holiday traffic and we had a tough time in locating the small resort we had booked in called Thendral resort.
It is tucked away beyond Montfort school in atop a lovely hillock that overlooks the entire valley. It has only 6 rooms and small Veg-Non veg restaurant in the basement. Purely B- class in my opinion .
Call Ph no No,04281- 226800.
 
But then the view is breathtaking and compensates for the small and medium grade facilities in the resort, nee Lodge.
 
I advise only bachelors who want to party or make merry to stay here and not for families. The problem is you have to make booking well in advance for good resorts like GRT, Sterling, Shevaroys etc…
 The weather at this time of the year (August) is amazingly cool and nights are chilly too. Light blankets were given and we did not need the ceiling fans throughout.
The lunch was at a medium class place called Shevaroys -Silver oak restaurant.  On this weekend, there was severe staff shortage and even food shortage in most restaurants generally everywhere in Yercaud. Of course the rooms everywhere were fully booked for 3 day long weekend!!
There is a Malar restaurant and an Annalakshmi near the lake for vegetarians and we had to settle for whatever they could serve up under the circumstances of overcrowding and food short supply.
The places to see included lovely panoramic view spots called Lady’s seat, Rose garden and Pagoda Point on day 1.
 
Boating had to wait for the next day as sunset arrived and we returned to the rooms.
In all, Chinmay and Sanmathi along with us made the most of the welcome break on this tour.
The next day we took the pedal boats 4-seater one, for 30 mins and it costs 110 bucks with a  refundable deposit of same amount, but in case you are late, no refunds! Mercifully they give you, life jackets, albeit stained old ones!
 
There is a water fall called Kiliyur falls and the road to it was clogged with holiday traffic. It takes some 260 steps to get down to the falls and climb up on the return.
I am unused to such long hauls and chose to  stay put at the top with wife accompanying.
As many elderly and children came up huffing and puffing, complaining that steps were  steep and it was quite hard for them, I realized the authorities have to put not only warning boards but also some first aid medical facility midway there.
My children enthusiastically went about visiting the falls and here are some pics
 
 
There is an advertised Tourist spot called Botanical garden maintained by Central Govt, but know what?..They work only 5 days a week, and closed on Saturdays and Sundays!!   Isn’t it ridiculous and ironical that they do such things in Holiday resorts?
We left shortly after 2.30 pm on Saturday and came down the hills pretty fast. There are still some drunk young road-ragers en route but we had an experienced Driver in Ramachandran who handled the conditions with ease.
 We stopped over for a break at Devi Towers in Salem.  We had hot Masala tea to help us get on with rest of the trip back.
  A small comedy board seen on the way... see the spelling!
 
 Nothing to do with Jayalalitha’s Amma canteens …But a small Mess!
We had light dinner at Sappda Vanga again and were home by 10 pm.
 The journey had consumed some 784 kms in all at the end…
A good brisk weekend getaway from Chennai!

Book Review: The Cuckoo’s calling…Loud and clear!

This murder mystery thriller is written by JK ‘Galbraith’..err!..’Robert’ Rowling..Sorry I mixed it up…JK Rowling herself!

(I read it primarily because it is a hot seller in the market now and not because she wrote Harry Potter books, of which I have not read even one.)

Anyone can understand that the burden of fame and expectations from the readers’ world is so phenomenal that JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame decided to hide her celeb self under a `mysterious’ pseudonym of Robert Galbraith, while embarking on a different genre of story—An adult Murder Mystery as opposed to Youngsters’ fantasies she is well known for..

Have a change of scene, as James Hadley Chase would say!

The story is a straight up detective novel, in the English crime tradition of Agatha Christie with a touch of J H Chase while elaborating on the shady characters, deceit, lust and greed that pervades the world of high glamour and big money.

We open the narrative following the death of supermodel Lula Landry (affectionately nicknamed Cuckoo), whose apparent suicide has the press in frenzy. Three months later, private detective Cormoran Strike is asked by her step brother to investigate if, in fact, Landry was pushed from her balcony, thus cold bloodedly murdered by someone and made it conveniently look like suicide.

The hero is an ex-war veteran, one–legged with prosthetic support, whose own personal life has been just wrecked by a breakup and is so broke that he sleeps in his small dinghy office.

He is blessed to have a smart, thinking-on-feet secretary Robin who provides able support despite being wild-eyed with admiration of his deductive /detective skills, so much so that she takes on her fiancé to support her employer.

The investigation takes some 400+ interesting pages (I read the e-book version), well paced and with some twists and turns to keep one turning pages.

But the 70’s familiar Hindi film theme of jaaydaad ( property) rears its head again and you are surprised , in this day and age!

But seasoned mystery novel readers (like me) won’t have to wait too long with bated breath to know the truth, they will ‘do it’ 3/4ths of the way through…But for the modus operandi of death, you will have to wait till the last pages…Good enough…in fact, very good!

This marks literally a new ‘chapter’ for the author Rowling…We couldn’t care what pseudonym she wrote under, as long as such good ones keep coming at regular intervals.

PS: It reminds you of a Chase novel of 50s:‘Lay her among the Lilies’ among others, very much!

Recommended: Oh, Yes!

Rating : 4/5

Inferno: when THE END is unproductive

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I am sorry to disappoint you. But please blame Dan Brown for the same.

I am talking of his new offering: Inferno, a novel based on Dante’s works, artifacts with mysteries;  throw in a Biomedical weapon, a deadly virus to set off the hero Langdon saddled with a short-term amnesia as he stumbles though the besieged Florence city ( Alas! This hero has not seen Ghajini, so he is not as smart as Aamir Khan!) aided by a bald lady  Doctor on a wild goose chase,  all the while ducking from Military Police..

Confusing enough? But wait.. The assured  thrills are there, and so are the clever  twists at the end of each Chapter through which the author takes us on a nail-biting and often puzzling chase covering Italy and Turkey with the couple ducking from bullets, à la Jason Bourne cum James Bond.

Without revealing more as spoilers, I will answer your questions…

Was it Good?:  ..haa….hmm..Yeah, but….sort of

What was not Good?:  When the end becomes impotent and unproductive, you come away unsatisfied.. Like what was this entire futile chase about?

Now to decipher the last two italicized words above (Sorry, Dan Brown, you are getting to me), you will have to read the book to ‘the end’.

There was a minor controversy on this book, recently regarding the description of the Philippine capital Manila as ‘Gates of hell’ and such unkind words…Yes, that is how these ‘Western Cultured’ authors still think of developing Asian Cities… Much like some still talk of India as the’ land of snake charmers’ in this day and age…

Alistair Maclean wrote The Satan Bug in 1961…I will rate it higher than this mishmash of History, literature, architecture and bio- terror any day.. Yes, despite that day and age…

This story looks like inspired from Mission Impossible-II

Come to think Bio-medical thrillers themselves, Robin Cook certainly does a much better job.

I feel Brown should stick to his territory of Museums and symbols. Next time around.

My fav Dan Brown book still is Angels and Demons closely followed by the Digital Fortress.

As to Inferno: Rating is 2.75/5 ( that is just for the thrills, not the plot!)

Book Review: Chanakya’s Chant

Book review:

Chanakya’s  chant

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Author: Ashwin  Sanghi

Many critics have raved about and against his Rozabal Line and Krishna Key..

 The Chanakaya’s Chant is the second one of his novels

This is a supposed to be a Historical and Political drama , one thread on the famous Chanakya , the wily, intelligent but crooked, smart but cunning, successful but cruel Brahmin guide and philosopher who has a personal vendetta agenda to settle with the present Magadha king.

He plots , confuses and creates a holy mess in warfare among neighboring kings and their states to get what he wants…He wants to install his protégé Chandragupta Maurya in place..

The second thread of story running parallels is that of  modern day politician/ king maker called Gangasagar who does the same with modern political parties, forges alliances with crooked mine owners, real estate businessmen, hijras, “honey traps”  and assassins to make and break alliances that he wants in power.

He also has his puppet PM candidate who he wants to establish in Delhi…

 How things turn out for the original  Chanakya and this modern chanakya , Gangasagar is the rest of the story.

It is Ok, its like a  new type of story line mixing History and present day politics  together . It is not very complimentary on Great Brahmin Chanakya as we know him; in fact author tries his best to make him detestable and as villainous as possible.

The writing style is not so great. It is mere hype that this author is hailed as ‘Indian Dan Brown’ (of Da Vinci code fame)

This book is supposed to be made into a Hindi movie by UTV.

Rating: 3/5

Crimes and No Punishments

Disclaimer:
 The opinions in this post are not based on popular sentiments, but they are my own and you are free to disagree

OK, this Nirbhaya gangrape case in Delhi was a shocker that woke up the nation from its slumber to demand some action..So far so good..
But we have become too emotional and shortsighted due to the violence of the crime, to see the roots of all the evil that has seeped into the Indian society.

At the risk of being branded a conservative prude, I still say, all this is because of the sociological and cultural revolution sweeping in from the west where ‘being cool or looking hot’ means more important than behaving safely, ethically, legally within certain limitations etc..

In one breath, you demand the Police should not be everywhere but in another, you cry that they are not around when you want them!!
Police have a lot of limitations too in this country… Already saddled with the label of being most corrupt  for all they do and don’t, they are also severely understaffed ( understaffed at least for the common man, while VIPs have many guards drawn from this depleted Police force!)..

I was saying, don’t we slam any attempt by Police in bringing public order and restrictions as an infringement of our privacy, and scorn at them as ‘corrupt Moral Police’, who love snooping around young couples, and party birds, ‘instead of doing their work’?..

If they restrict the happy hours, they are criticized… If they arrest drunken drivers on New Year’s eve , they are branded party-poopers..

If they chase away couples from dark shady spots for security on Valentines day, we are up in arms claiming that ‘this country has matured, while Police have not’ …
So, its like damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Besides, everyone is very eager to pay the price ( which is usually a bribe) and quickly get out of such nasty embarrassing situations…How many of us like being fined for obvious flouting of rules…None, right?

When we do not want to live within the defined limits of decency, legality  and discipline, let alone moral bounds, how can we expect others to?… Especially the probable criminals who could be your car drivers, bus conductors, street vendors and louts who have the least access to education and good upbringing and are usually a deprived, hungry, angry class?

Are we being good role models to them in our indecent display of unbridled liberated youths?

So, if you do not want ‘Moral’ police around you, then you cannot wish away IMMORAL criminals too from risky spots either, right?
What do you want the Police to do then?..No one is wearing labels on their forehead as rapists or thugs or whatever.
They are just like the rest of us who want to have forbidden fun without getting caught.

In any case, what’s so wrong in being ‘Moral’, it’s not a four letter word, Rape is..
I am not holding a candle for the Police here, but surely the onus of making the country a safe, legally correct and ethical place to inhabit rests on all of us too being upright and straightforward upfront?

Can we take such a pledge on the New Year’s eve please, instead of demanding public hanging and chemical castrations which are impractical knee jerk reactions and will never happen in our brand of democracy..

As the latest Talaash film’s taglines said, ‘the answer lies within..’

Lets take a look inside, it’s been a long time since we did.

Mini-Review: English -Vinglish: Vintage Sridevi returns

Diamonds are forever…

No, I am not referring to the classic James Bond flick, but paying tribute to our own versatile actress Sridevi.
The lady who went into hibernation after marriage and children decades ago, returns to show the same sparkle and magical class in a role that was made for her in the latest Hindi/ Tamil offering: ` English Vinglish’ directed by  Gauri Shinde who has at once established herself as a quality director of reckoning  in this `feel good’ film about an ordinary middle class housewife, often belittled and snickered at for her lack of English skills in this modern “ anglicized’ world by her self-centred family members who take digs at her frequently, uncaringly.

She hides her tears and swallows her hurt and it is here that Sridevi is so real as the middle class house-wife Shashi, who is a ‘laddoo- maker’ by choice, that everyone can empathise with her.
Even her proficiency and popularity as a good sweet maker is somehow held against her and derisively mocked at. She then gets a chance to go abroad to be with her sister in New York alone and she is naturally petrified at the thought of making it all by herself in an alien English land.
But the lady is courageous, determined to learn English in a coaching class in New York  to get back her self-pride and some ‘show the world ‘ that she is not just ‘born to make only laddoos’.

The movie has many endearing moments like a cameo by Amitabh who provide solace and comfort to her on the flight to a soft spoken, French student who inadvertently falls for her simplicity and grace, a Pakistani called funnily as Salman Khan and a home sick madarsi..

The movie is all about her fight not only with her inner demons of fear and insecurity but also the time which is running out as the wedding dates at her sister’s house, get near and she is pushed to make a complicated choice.

This is a real heart touching movie and must be seen to appreciate.
The characters and performances are so real that you can reach across and touch them.
And Sridevi stands tall. Freckles and all.

Now everyone will know ` what and who’ we have been missing on the Indian silver screen all these years..

Swami Ayyappa : The Golden God beckons…!

Sabarimala: A Soul’s Uphill Journey!

(Note: This is a very long blog unlike my other blogs as it is required and deserving. Please read fully when you have time! and see the pics at the bottom)

“You can’t plan it, it has to happen on its own…when He wants to see you, actually!” had said a relative sometime back while talking about Lord Of Sabarimala- Swami Ayyappan.

This, India’s Most visited Popular shrine where Hindus, Christians and Muslims pray without any discrimination, had eluded me from so many years.

And ‘It’ happened. Last weekend.With some office colleagues.

How was it, they ask me…

For such a simple question , I, known as a man of words in my circle, find no words to answer…

If I just say,’ It was a divine , wonderful, mind blowing experience’, I could even be describing a latest 3D Blockbuster movie thus in a review.

Yet, being a blogger, I will record the events of the trip only, leaving the ‘experience’ part to the readers ‘own understanding.

We a team of 17 staffers from my Office incl Director, AGMs, Project Managers and others took Irumudi on 17th Friday evening in Chennai’s Mahalingapuram Ayyappan Temple.

We had snacks in the nearby hall -Hot poori-masala and Upma and left by the pre-arranged AC minibus shortly.

We sang some Bhajans in the bus and took rest. At Morning 5.30, we reached Madurai- TTDC- Hotel Tamilnadu where we got down and occupied two rooms for freshening up in bathroom and change of dress.

We walked a couple of kilometres to reach the famous Madurai Meenakshi sundareshwar temple.

We bought special Rs.100/-. ticket and saw the Deeparadhana of the beautifully decorated Amma from front row and then waited in front of Sundraeshwarar temple for darshan of Lord Shiva.

After the two satisfying darshans here, we stayed for a sumptuous Idli-Dosa- Poori Breakfast in a local restaurant and left for Sabarimala by 9.30 am.

We took the Madurai-Theni-Cumbum-Kumily route by our bus; the green flat fields of TN soon turned into mild hills and then to start of Ghats in Kumily the border town in kerala.

We enjoyed watching Thiruvilaiyadal and Deivam- two Tamil devotional films on DVD in the bus during the long 10 hr journey.

We had Kerala style vegetarian lunch in a restaurant in Kumily (with boiled rice) and were frankly, a bit unsatisfied with the taste.

Then it started raining the rest of the way intermittently all the way to Pampa. Through the closed windows of AC van I was thinking of how’s and whys the climb in the open when we reached there.

It was at around evening 6 pm, we arrived at the banks of holy River Pampa. We got down and immediately felt rain on our cheeks. Some welcome from the Lord!

We took the irumudi packets on our head and started walking towards the bank of the river as the rain slowly increased its tempo, chanting Swamiye Ayyappa… ayyappao swamiye .

We kept our small handbag containing change of clothes and essentials that we needed to carry to the Temple above, for stray overnight.

As we started to the River pampa with gushing clean waters from Monsoon, rains suddenly opened up all the way and pelted the shores in full cry.

Wow, it was a sight to behold, but we had not come then to enjoy the scenery from a shelter. We ran to the river and took half a dip, full dip whatever we could in the falling rain, in the chilled waters of the river. We came back wet gasping and soaked and yet took our Irumudi on the heads carefully in a plastic cover so as to protect the contents from getting wet!

No such luck for rest of our bodies as we ran towards the beginning of the steps towards the first stop above, Kannimoola Ganapathi temple!

‘This requires some heroism’ I thought, not knowing what was in store for us.

Balancing the Irumudi carefully we went up; sometimes tying it to the head with a mundu helps, but only temporarily as the same starts sliding with our climbing motion.

After breaking a coconut in this temple, we started the first steep climb.

The rains were in no hurry to stop and we were now fully soaked . Beaten but not out, I climbed slowly with the rest of the team and mingled with the surge of other devotees similarly climbing,

The steps grew sharper and steeper and in another 15 wet minutes, I was gasping and legs were shaking with the effort. My colleagues said, ‘we have not even done 20% of the way yet!’

It was somewhere then that I started inquiring the Doli-wallahs for a ride in the chair on their shoulders.

There was no use haggling as they did not have anything to lose. In any case the rains falling heavily, I took the Doli for a part of the way up to Sabari peetam  for 1500/-. I still felt I could walk the rest of the flatter but longer distance of 1 to 1.5 km to the temple from there.

It is an amazing experience to be carried by 4 wet gasping but determined men who weave their way through the crowds on the wet slippery ramps to the destination above. These are real life Supermen, poor, illiterate and unsung!

In a matter of 15 minutes I was there on the large welcome area lobby of Sabari peetam, .It was still raining slowly, as I arrived and got down there. I paid off the Doli-wallahs and paid for their tea too.

There are some refreshments stalls selling everything from Biscuits, coffee tea and fruit juices there. Ironically this is where Sri Rama gave Mukti to Sabari and we had lemon soda and ate fresh Pineapple pieces in that memory!

 As we left this place now with me walking with the rest of the team, the rains came back with double speed and started pelting again

Chanting Swamiye ayyappa nama , this is when we realise how heavy it is to carry our body to the final destination of life ultimately. It is for this only that Swami Sathya Sai also hails us to let go of Deha bhavam and develop Atmic shakti.  As we continued nonchalantly in the heavy rains, to test our perseverance, the lights which lit up the path went off, plunging the whole mountain in eerie darkness.

 In pitch dark cold wet night, legs shaking with effort, only half way up, I stood amazed at the severe test we needed to pass now. Using torch lights towards the feet we gingerly stepped upwards chanting different versions of Swami Ayyappa.

Bhagawane , bhagavathye, swamiye, eeshwarane, eeshwaraiye like this we chanted diverting our minds in the wet dark night as we climbed slowly above,

It is just a matter of putting the mind over the matter and surrendering totally to Lord Ayyappan himself as the sole saviour for us at the moment.( Someone mentioned it is only sheer will power, and I would like to add,’ it is more of His will-power than our own’!)

What else will us- wet, tired devotes with irumudi on the heads require?

We cry to the Swami, “ Deha balam thaa, Pada balam thaa ( Give me strength to legs and body ). Some pray earnestly in Tamil Aetri vidappa, Thooki vidappa”(Lift us up, carry us up),

In all this nothing short of a real life adventure in which we have to come out winners! With earnest chanting on Swami Ayyappan, we reach the well-lit Sannidhanam (Generators at work there!, power cut in rest of the way) nestled amid the imposing blue hills shrouding in darkness.

It was about 8.45 pm when we reach the long lines moving to the 18 stepped entrance of the Temple. It had taken me around 2.5 hours to reach here from the Pampa river bed, some hundreds of feet below. Many of my colleagues got scattered by this time and I was with only my friend Mr Sundaram and Guru swami

Oh, WOW, this Lord is great, I feel and join the long Q and pass through the covered enclosure and lo!, I am in front of the holy golden 18 steps symbolising 18 different sadhanas we need to undertake to reach our final destination in life. (For more details, Read here)

It is a great relief and with my eyes watering I climb up the revered holy 18 steps of the temple in jostling crowds all with Irumudi on the heads.( You are not allowed to enter through steps without irumudi sack, you can enter the same through a side entrance without it too!).These golden cladded steps are steep too at some 70 deg inclination (?) and our knees scrape the next step above as we climb up.

We now visit the great Bhagawan himself passing through the walk up bridge and I see him for  a brief 10 seconds and felt thrilled and exhilarated at the Divine sight marking the successful culmination of our long trial.

All of us tired and wet, relax now in MN Nambiar guest house and in the same darkness and candles lighted we have Dosa and Rava kichdi to our belly’s content and sleep on the mats on the floor, sound asleep. Yes, sound of the snores!

We wake up at 2.45 am for the next day morning darshan before departure. Our Guru swami and other organisers were busy in separating the contents of all Irumudi like Ghee for abhishekam, pooja materials to take it inside.

I had the great privilege of performing arathi to 18 steps at 4 a.m. (as I am called kanni swami= First timer) and distribute vibhuti prasadam to my team.

One more marvellous miracle was only waiting to happen!.

Our relative, my wife’s nephew Mr Ganesh knew someone who maintains the VIP entrance here , the path that takes one very close to the Swami! And I had his number.  He was his utmost helpful self and allowed all 15 of us in batches of 5 through this special entrance. We arrived at the first grill before the “garbha gruham” and were thrilled , how fortunate we were at such proximity while the others waited at a distance.

At 5 a.m. we witnessed the unlocking Golden doors of the sparkling temple by the Main Tantri (Priest) and ‘This was the Moment of truth!’

The God’s sparkling yellow gilded idol as left in previous evening when doors were closed re-appeared in full glow to our amazed eyes for a full 2 minute period, the atmosphere is electrifying as everyone cries full throat” Swaaaamiyee ayyappaaa”.

There is some magnetic and charismatic power in this Divine boy’s moorthy cladded in Gold, that flows from here to outside, I am sure of it now, which pulls lakhs of devotees every year. We can feel it now but I won’t be able to describe the joy and thrill of this spellbinding encounter!

After this charged experience, I move on to other activities which include rolling a coconut around ‘Maligapurathamma’ temple next to Main temple ( a custom for Kanni swami like me again)

As the story goes, after Mahishi was killed, a beautiful lady appeared from the body of Mahishi. She requested Ayyappa to marry her and accept her as his soul mate. But due to his mission and the state as a Yogi, Ayyappa refused it. But due to the incessant beseech of the girl, the Lord gave her the word that he will definitely marry her at that time when there will be no Kanni Ayyappas in his abode at Sabarimala.

So I am one of the ‘Kannis’ who spoil her chances this year too, and Ayyappa remains a Brahmachari seated in Yogic Chin mudra atop these wonderful blue Neeli malai.

I had purchased the customary aravana payasam and appam as prasadam

All done, we leave the temple, praying at Holy steps for another chance and start the climb down or the descent from the hills to Pampa.

This time I had made up my mind to make up for the distance I had not climbed on the way up and choose to go walking down all the way. No Doli this time!

The morning today 7.15 am was dry with no rains but the path is slippery after last night’s huge deluge that has left the surface wet and sandy. The stones are sharp and hurt too, Unmindfully I walk down thinking of Ayyappa’s benign Golden idol.

Holding on to the handrails that separate the ways up and down, I very slowly and carefully step down , took many breaks in between to catch my breath and savour some more pineapple pieces and lemon soda to refresh and re-energise myself.

I bought a toy wooden stick arrow and plunged it in a wooden board at Sabari peetam this time, it’s like signing my attendance as kanni swami!( Saram kuthi, it is called)

If anything, coming down the steps and ramp is even harder than climbing up and many use Doli more for coming down only.. It was me doing just the opposite!

So it was karmic load that I compensated, I think and I reach the Pampa river banks by 9.15 am, a full 2 hours from the top.

We had some Parathas and tea in the restaurant ( I found  to my dismay that Idlis and vadas are hard and not good there, may be generally on Kerala route?) and left by our Bus at 10 am.

It was another 20 hours journey via Cumbum-Dindigul-Trichy-Chennai and our team saw some Tamil Movies on the DVD player but mostly I tried to sleep and rest.

I applied some Volini spray on my aching legs and thighs. Luckily, no injuries on my soles or heels. It is certainly his karunai( compassion) and I thank Swami Ayyappan from my heart for this first in a lifetime experience that I will always cherish.

I reached home at 4.30 am and my wife smilingly welcomed me with an Arathi at doorstep as this is customary.

||Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa||

Some Pics below:< click to enlarge>

Self at Chennai -Irumudi function
My Office colleagues- group pic
Self at Madurai Meenakshi Temple
Lovely scenes in Kerala enroute
Forests near Sabarimala
Pampa River bathing ghats

Pampa River in full flow in Rains
Self at  Pampa before climb… Rains!
Ascending the hill steps
accommodation-Guest house where we stayed
beautiful hillsides in sabarimala
Beautiful Misty mountains near Sannidhanam
Sannidhanam-VIP entrance behind
Temple roof in gold
Sannidhanam courtyard
Holy18 steps from close
Holy 18 steps-from distance

Sannidhanam-Q behind

  Descending the hills on return
Self back at pampa bridge
Sabarimala hills from Pampa road

Rajesh Khanna: My Aakhri Khat on his Safar

 (A Tribute using his Film titles)

 

No one knows the ‘Raaz ‘of his success. Carrying new ‘Baharon ke Sapne’ in his eyes he became a ‘Chaailla babu’ who quickly ascended the position of ‘Bombay Superstar’.

Even when he became a ‘Namak haraam’ to someone, he was still a ‘Shehzada’ of his times.

He was a ‘Bhola bhala’ who claimed that ‘Haathi Mere saathi’ but could not live like a ‘Joroo Ka Ghulam’

But when he declared `Mere jeevan saathi’ became `alag alag’, his life became ‘Fiffty-Fiffty’.

 He created a unique “Bandhan” with the film lovers of his generation and his home Ashirwad became the ‘Prem nagar’ for his stalking, crazed female admirers.

Being no `Ajnabee’ to success he became a ‘bawarchi’ who cooked up sumptuous super hits of ‘Anand’ year after year for us.

He toiled like a ‘Janata hawaldar’ relentlessly and entertained each single ‘Anurodh’ of admirers.

`Mehbooba’s came went in his life but no one could bind him in their ‘Aanchal’ in a permanent ‘Prem Bandhan’.

He got entangled in the ‘Chakravyuha’ of life when he tried some ‘Thodisi Bewafai’ with it. Everyone wondered, ‘Aakhir Kyon’?

He became a ‘Dushman’ to many and what he did later was dubbed as just ‘Bundalbaaz’.

They say his ‘Dard’ was ‘Kudrat’s gift for all his ‘Karm’.  He never acted as if was just a ‘Naukri’ but romanced the screen like an ‘Aaashiq hoon baharon kaa’.

In his ‘Avtaar’ as the Superstar, he had achieved his ‘Maqsad’ and but in the later years his Box office ‘Nishaan’ started wavering.

But no worry, Rajesh Khanna’s `Aradhana ‘does not simply end here..

He might have flown away like a ‘Kati patang’, without any ‘Bandish’ but his fans still harbour ‘Amar prem’ for him…He was the ‘Roti’ and butter of the bygone 70s , his songs and movies replayed innumerable times on DVDs in homes even today.

In ‘Apna Desh’, he will always be coveted under our ‘Palkon ki chaaon mein!’

‘Dil daulat Duniya’ might have changed him over the years, but we always will not attach any ‘Daag’ to you, ‘Aap Ki kasam’!

 Here is a ‘Red Rose’  for the ‘Masterji’ who has captured the ‘Dil E Nadaan’ of an entire generation!

Lastly Kishore da , there would be no Rajesh Khanna , ‘Agar tum na hote’

Yelagiri- A chillax destination!

This holiday was a long time coming..But everything fell into place when we purchased a new Maruti Ritz car recently.

We booked at Hotel landmark for 4000/= for a four bed- room non AC ( if AC is required, why go there..Thankfully it wasn’t!)  for Saturday evening for 24 hrs.

The Hotel guys were more than enthusiastic in response and gave us all the info required to make the stay pleasant (Visit http://www.hotellandmarkyelagiri.com/).

Day 1

We hired a driver from a Call driver agency in Chennai and we started off with all the josh  expected of a family itching to embark on the first road trip in our new car from the sweltering Chennai to the not too far away ‘cool hills’.

The driver was competent and took us through the Chennai- Bengaluru highway along Kanchipuram- Vellore- Ambur route.

Naturally I sat next to the experienced Driver Narayanan and tried to get some tips on driving properly on highways (Just re-learning these days, you know). My wife and children Chinnu and Sannu made small talk and relaxed in the comfortable rear seat.

I took the opportunity of driving for a long stretch of some 10 to 15 kms on the highway with driver giving me occasional tips. I must say I really enjoyed the experience and look forward to become a competent driver sooner than later.

The road to Tirupattur leads towards Ponneri junction, a pretty good stretch of road and then ascends the green-looking hills. It is better to buy snacks, ad beverages etc here itself as the driver warned that the same things cost the moon at the Hill town.

Besides there the Highway dept has put up a board sternly informing the tourists to ‘fill fuel here itself as there are no petrol bunks beyond this point’ (God knows if and when they will open one at Yelagiri, because the board looked sort of permanent!)

There are 14 hairpin bends up all the way, each named after old Tamil poets and we could see many vantage points en-route from where the natural scenery can be observed and enjoyed with some group photos. A sign board nearby read ‘Don’t Drunken Drive!’, a Tanglish warning to drivers…

<Click to enlarge pics>

We managed to take some pics on the way besides feel cool afternoon winds promising similar things in store.

The travel took about 5 hours for these 235 kms , with 22 kms of it on the hills. It included two tea breaks too. We had started at 1 pm and had reached by 6.15 pm.

Small hilly villages welcomed us when the road straightens out on top. And a cluster of small hotels and eateries all named after hills or Yelagiri show up.

There is only one SBI ATM there and on weekends it gets dried up quite soon, we were warned. Most major mobile networks do function here except the recent ones like Uninor , Idea , they say. Ours was Airtel and no problem was faced.

We took small hilly twisting road beyond Travelers bungalow to our Hotel landmark which sort of nestles independently on a lone hillock.

The building looks trendy and spacious looked quite airy and bright as we drove into the parking lot.

The formalities were quite swift with the Manager Murugesan in charge and soon we were led over a garden path with stone tiles down to a block of rooms.

My children were obviously pleased with the spacious and comfortable room at first sight.

It had two double cots, a bathroom with shower and EWC and a small dining with a Table and wall mounted LED TV. Two garden windows look out to the hills outside… Yeah it was pretty nice.

We freshened up quickly and drove 2 km to the Natures Park where a Musical fountain show was planned. By now it was really cool we did not even need car AC. Cool breeze wafted in and kissed our faces delighting us.

The Park has some 10 bucks entrance fee and through a twisting green path we walked on to an enclosure where they charged us again 15/- again for the fountain.

The gallery seats were already filled by 7.30 pm and a central pool of fountains started making colorful twisting patterns up and down as music played on. The songs are the recent Tamil, Hindi film hits and even a Kannada film hit …all fast and thumping…But then sadly the fountain has only 4 to 5 set-patterns and keeps repeating no matter what music is played. So much for Musical fountain!

We spent some relaxing time, sitting and chatting on the green grass in the early night 8.00 pm time.

The weather is just cool, much like Bangalore’s cool days but not too chilly like a real Hill station say Ooty or Kodai!

We returned to Hotel and there was feast of buffet items Veg/ Non veg spread out there, with a little space between the two

We had a good sumptuous Veg dinner to our liking and retired to bed.

We did put on the two ceiling fans one above each bed and that was sufficient for a comfortable sleep.

There was a gap in the compound wall through which a few stray dogs entered and caused some nuisance and hotel staff boy with a staff in hand tried to chase them out in vain.

Day 2

We awoke at 7.30 am thereabouts as we had decided to take things slow and easy here.

(Our Driver had slept in the car and had freshened up by 9 am).

After bath and breakfast at Dining hall which was now a buffet of Idlis, vadas, Pongal, Kitchdi and Dosas that delighted the taste buds, we left to visit the lone Murugan temple atop a hillock near the Hotel. It was pretty blusteringly windy and cool on the temple premises. After taking in the scenery though camera eyes we came down and started to the Lake for a Boat ride in our car. By then it was 10.30 am.

Unfortunately the ticket counter informed us that boating was cancelled from last few days as someone had committed suicide by jumping off the boat in the middle of the lake and died…Someone said there were four of them and one died (was he pushed?)..Any way a Police case, so no boat ride now!

We took Rs 5/ tickets to the surrounding lake park which has the usual children pay area of assorted swings and slides like Cubbon Park Bal Bhavan in Bangalore.

We did have a look at the calm serene lake waters… a small one by any standards and I wondered how anyone could think of death in such a pleasant place…Hmm, it takes all kinds to make this world. But, one word on the boats:

Suicide or Murder, the boats did not have any safety arrangements at first glance…Very old fashioned wooden row boats! When will we learn?

There are some funny Tanglish boards here too like ‘Drinkards Not allowed as per their Regulachions!’… Whatever!

We spent more time in the cloudy noon time in Narure Park opposite the Lake where last night we had seen the Musical fountains. I did manage to get some quality relaxing time now sitting below a tree by myself and listening Rudram mantras. It was still keeping very pleasantly cool all through the day.

Lunch at our Hotel was once more some veggie buffet and we gorged ourselves well. The food was nice.

We went back to room an hour of siesta, awoke at 3 pm and manage to check out by 3.30 pm.

The return journey down the hills is equally nice in the dusk and we hit the highway by 5 pm.

The journey back home with a couple of tea breaks consumed same time and we were home by 8.15 pm.

So Yelagiri hills as a medium-grade small hill resort scores big time in weather; though there are very few places to see, the emphasis is only to spend quality time with family and unwind.

More Pics on Flickr.com page>>

Kahaani..Gripping, Yes!…Perfect, NO!

  Kahaani is the story of  Vidya Balan, who is enjoying a new high after her `The Dirty Picture’  won some national level awards, reprising the role of a pregnant woman claiming to be Computer programmer from London who walks into a crowded Kolkata asking questions about her missing husband whom she lost contact suddenly in that very city.. Soon with a helpful clean faced (and hearted) cop in tow, she plunges into an onerous task of unearthing the id of her spouse which seems to have been erased from all possible records.

It is a good role and she dons the mantle of a lone crusading woman very well…In these days when heroine oriented Mainstream Hindi movies are rare, she may even bag some awards for this effort too..

But for me, the movie script was nowhere near perfect.

OK,. Yes, as recent thrillers go, it stands apart as a more sensible one, with suspense maintained well to almost near the climax… I, for one, smelt the end coming about half hour earlier than the Director would have liked, but the point is there are quite a few loose ends ( read unexplained and semi explained ones ) , and thus many viewers may not understand the full impact of the climax and what it means to the story till after the movie credits roll.

I expected to see Kolkata in a new light as claimed by most reviewers but it is still the same old ‘Calcutta’ that seems to be frozen in a time warp with decadent buildings and ancient facilities except for its Metro which is in fact a character in this film.

!! SPOILERS AHEAD!! ( Don’t read further if you want to watch the movie)

  1. As to spoilers…somehow the way Vidya handles herself as a ‘ pregnant’ woman is a not quite convincing. She walks about too quickly, awkwardly and seems tireless with all the the long treks in the so called `City of Joy’.
  2. There is no explanation on the schoolboy who carried a bottle of poisonous gas in the Metro train and caused the leak that kills hundreds shown as a mere accident, even though it will be described as a meticulous terrorist attack later. .I mean How? And basically who was the schoolboy?Where is the connection with the main villain in this case? It is never shown, even in the end..
  3. Why would a HR officer get bumped off by villains for accessing existing HR records of an Ex-employee?    If that was so critical for them to be kept hidden, did the villains wait for 2 years till someone like her accessed it, just to kill them then.. Strange logic!
  4. The reactions of the exposed ‘inside man’- for eg, Shridhar is strangely loud and out of character; he starts a physical bash-up in the main roads with the guys who stole an important closely guarded secret from him …But his yelling and shouting about the ‘secret’ attracts every bystander in the road and it’s a dead giveaway.
  5. Who sponsored the Metro attack finally?.. They just killed one evil agent and arrested another on their payrolls after all this hullaballoo…
  6. Did she manage to get away in the end?.. The case will be closed by the Police after such a bloody climax allowing her go scot free? No answers provided except for allusions to a vengeful Mata Durga …Oh, well!

What I really Liked: Kishoreda’s sung  RD Burman composed songs of Old 70’s  playing in the backdrop of  `Bengali Kolkata ‘, quite appropriately

Bottomline:

See it by all means..Recommended, rated 3.5/5

Moving here from Blogger…

Why am I here on WordPress now, doing the same things I used to do on blogspot all the while?

All the talk and goings-on in the courts regarding content regulations and measures to censor objectionable content in India has shaken blogger owned by Google into some action. But then it took action on its hapless free users in such affected countries..

They moved ALL Indian blogs ( geographical location from user’s  viewpoint only) from the main server Blogspot.com to Blogspot.in, the Indian server.. The funniest thing is you cannot even login to a Home page of blogger.in yet..Servers simply redirect the URLs of .Com  depending on the region to specific Regional servers like .in, .uk or .au..

Therein lies a present problem..

Servers being  ‘servers’, they do not really serve you the same way …

To be more precise, I found that my blogger templates on my existing blog did not load properly, all my useful editing tools missing from my log in and  post page and  my readers’ count got reset etc in no time after their ill advised and sudden move without a forewarning..

So I just imported my Blogger log into wordpress account to continue without hassles here.. The WordPress is more stable, User-friendly and has no regional domain filters ..yet!

So I am happy and hope you all will be too!

My new blog id is now : https://csnageshkumar.wordpress.com/ 

So Welcome all, my old posts are still there.. I still need to tweak a few things , but then that is my concern and has no consequences for you..

Please bookmark my new blog id and Happy Reading!!

Thanks for your support!

Thiruvannamalai-The Divine Circle


Thiruvannamalai is the abode of Lord Arunachala Shiva nestled in the hills midway between Bangalore and Chennai
It is also the place where Ramana Mahirishi has his ashram.

Read more about Thiruvannamalai here 

I left yesterday from our Chennai Office at 6.15 pm by bus with 40 colleagues to Thiruvannamalai. We left with the intention of doing a Girivalam or spiritual walk around the holy hill…

The road from Tindivanam -Gingee – T’malai is awful after this rain season with full of potholes’ and rough patches…The bumpy road made us reach only 11.15 pm ( 5 hrs for 190 odd kms).
We spent first hour in the bus chanting Rudram and Maha mrutyunjaya mantram.
The first patch through the town( starting from the temple- Rajagopuram side)-3 to 4 kms is on Bangalore highway, which is now completely damaged by rains, and I was barefooted then and felt acute foot pain by the sharp pebbles and wading through puddles of rain water stagnant on the road and then speeding trucks and overnight buses trying to run us off the road to the drains …! (Thank ‘Shiva’ it was a clear night though it had rained on previous days…)

Then I thought that it’s good to complete the walk and concentrate on bhakti rather than get distracted by the pain, and so wore chappals for the rest of the walk like many others with us (the rest of the Girivalam , 9 kms separated from the Highway traffic is in good smooth condition with tiled footpath too!)
The are are 12 lingams and being Karthiga masam, the temples were open poojas freshly done and being done. The jyothi/light atop the hill was visible clearly too…

The first temple for us was Agni lingam and the last one was Easanya Lingam.
Luckily there were like minded people for me, starting with our VP , Mr Krishna from AP, Managers- Ramesh , Bala and others who are traditional by nature and also some Sai devotees.
So we started singing Bhajans, me – Sai bhajans on Shiva (I sang some 12 to 14 myself) , others Murugan, Ayyappa and Amman bhajans/ songs in Tamil and even ‘Hare rama Hare Krishna’ chants and slokas and mantrams.

Our VP with a golden voice like SPB sang Shanakarabharanam and Annamayya songs -all devotional ones, and that is what made us forget the strain of walking. We completed the walk this spending time singing merrily all through. We had completed the 14 km stretch of Girivalam thus!
We broke once in between for sukku coffe and channa/ peanuts ( roadside kadai/ vendor) and in the end for a fresh bun and tea after the walk.
We left from Thiruivannamala temple parking at 3.45 am and reached home by 8.15 am. It was not possible to visit the temple as it was still closed.

Travel Tips:

You can reach The Tiruvannamalai from Bangalore and Chennai by road in the same duration
If you want to have darshan of Lord Arunachaleshwara , it is not possible till 5 am , when the doors open. So time your walk accordingly.


My Movie Reviews on IMDB

IMDB( Internet Movie database) is great database for film buffs,  mainly for Hollywood, Bollywood and other smaller ‘woods’ to some extent! (Dunno?… Kollywood= Tamil, Tollywood= Telugu, Sandalwood= Kannada etc)
When you want to recall an old movie, i.e.; when you are on a ‘retro trip’ or want a blast from the past; a visit to IMDB.com is a must. 

They have painstakingly recorded Film Industry’s products over the decades with credits to the extent available and even allow you (after free registration) to edit the credits, put a synopsis and post reviews with ratings as well. They do not take unnecessarily long to approve your post either.

Before I try to buy up an old Hindi movie I want to see or revisit, or even to try downloading huge MBs of files from free Internet sites, I always visit IMDB first and make sure to know the details of cast, director, Music credits and read a couple of reviews before embarking on catching the actual film… It pays to play safe, you see!  And then, you can filter out the riffraff from solid gold!

My own movie reviews ( Hindi and Kannada) (some 30 till now) on this Site are posted here:
http://www.imdb.com/user/ur22493182/comments and click ‘Index’ for list view!

Read and comment on my work for sure but more importantly, don’t forget, you too can contribute on the site for everyone’s benefit.

Mankatha and Muran: Crime pays and plays


Recently watched two Tamil movies: Mankatha and  Muran.
Two excellent specimen of modern day film making from Kollywood’s ever growing talented stables.
Both tensely plotted, finely filmed and sharply edited sleek products…

Mankatha:

Hailed as Ajith’s 50th role (Called Ultimate Star in Tamil film-world)’, it is  a little unusual one for a main line hero to choose such a character with negative shades aplenty.
But then, when SRK or Amitabh can do it in their own ways, so can he.
The movie is interestingly held together by the talented Director Venkat Prabhu ( of Chennai 600028 and Saroja  fame). The main theme ( without spoilers!) is about the infamous controversy surrounding betting in T20 / IPL cricket tournaments and how a crooked cop and a motley group of double crossers plan a smart ploy to gyp the crime don who is managing it, of Rs 500 crore of black money for themselves..
As greed and one-upmanship go on overdrive, some unexpected twists and turns take place and movie depicts how even meticulously plotted crime games go topsy-turvy…
A cop on their heels is Arjun , playing his part to the hilt.
Two heroines and a vamp add some glamour factor  but don’t have much to do..In fact the vamp( Lakshmi Rai) has a more ‘meaty’ role( Quite literally too! LOL) than Ajith and Arjun’s consorts, Trisha and Andrea
 The end comes as a double whammy in line with the societal morals nowadays! Good dekho, paisa vasool film this! They say the songs are chart-busters, but I for one could not remember them after the movie got over..( Still hum 1970s Kishoreda numbers after seeing latest movies..Talk of longevity of music!!)

2. Muran:

They are two strangers on a road trip meeting on Chennai- Bangalore highway..Life has tumultuous upheavals in store for them when they confess about their private lives to each other.
Cheran, a soft and cultured musician caught in bad marriage with a cheating and uncaring wife but has a female friend who looks to be a  good future life-partner. But his wife  just won’t give him divorce!..Another a rich spoiled brat with nuttier habits and lives life ‘just for thrills’ played by Prasanna, claims he has a bad tyrant of a father who if removed from the path, would do just fine for him. Cheran dismisses the very thought and walks off initially.
 But their paths would cross again after the fateful road trip and the psychotic young man Prasanna throws Cheran’s life into a tailspin demanding for a Quid pro quo of mutually killing their troubles and avoid Police suspicion.

The movie is full of spine-chilling twists and turns and ends in a befitting manner. This is a good example of modern day thrillers and is a laudable debut by Director Rajan Madhav.  Cheran and Prasanna compete for acting honors and just about everything is fine here.