Wednesday, June 30, 2010

For the People who Read

(Written a few days after the final book released)

Note: For those who have not yet read and are planning to read either the Harry Potter series or “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, my sincere advice would be to discontinue reading this article. Reduction in my readership, though it might be, this statutory warning comes from a sincere HP-fan who earnestly does not wish to deny other fellow fans the pleasure of cherishing the climax of the series.

Ultimately, The Boy Who Lived did live, and live did he? Pulling down the curtains on an epic masterpiece with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, J.K.Rowling does, indeed manage to leave us happy, sad, angry, miserable, confused, satisfied and not-at-all-satisfied…all at the same time. Never for once did I imagine experiencing this heart-wrenching feeling, given that Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, et al continue to live, at the end of the series. I am not a particularly good reader, but I think I can state, with sufficient backing available, that Harry Potter is one epic fantasy that would go down in history as a must-read belonging to the beginning of the 21st century. And now, as I write these words after having just completed reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, there is a seemingly empty feeling in my stomach, as in millions of others. Harry, Ron, Hermione and the others will continue to live peacefully in the Wizarding world (Godric’s Hollow, hopefully). Just that we Muggles will not get to glimpse what The Chosen One would be choosing to do. It does indeed seem frightening to think there will be no more adventures of Harry Potter, well, possibly an encyclopedia, as Rowling hinted, but there is no more Voldemort to conquer, no horcruxes to destroy, no Ginny’s to be won over, no Ron-Hermione’s to indulge in friendship or patch-up with, no Firebolt to fly on, ……..Such has been the effect of the boy wizard’s adventures that kids have grown up idolizing Harry Potter as their hero, more than any other living person. Indeed, why not? After having been a presumptuous vocal critic of Rowling and the Harry Potter books until early 2003, the movie and my best friend were what prompted me to take to reading the book, add to it some curiosity mixed with the chance to scorn more. How wrong I was! I don’t know if the skepticism I had while reading the book helped me like the book more, but somehow, at the end of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on The Chamber of Secrets.

Yes, there are those oh-that’s-fantasy-nonsense sayers about the book, but the way Rowling has so intricately woven fantasy with the deepest and truest of human emotions is what makes the book such a kill. That the Harry Potter books portray as much as or more than (often unimaginable) magic, such human feelings, emotions, virtues – of love, courage, honesty, integrity, betrayal, greed, arrogance and human fallibility, are what endear the book to any reader. No wonder then, that this book, intended to be for children, ended up being read by people of all age-groups, across continents, breaking all sorts of barriers – religious, cultural, linguistic, and what not!

Rowling depicts characters we see everyday, and those that we yearn to see in a lifetime. Another standout aspect of Rowling is the amazing attention she gives to the minutest of details, and she has proved, throughout the entire series, time and again, how essential it is to take in every single word, punctuation and expression that is so sublimely conveyed in the books – be it the casual mention of Hagrid dropping Harry when he was one year old in Sirius’ borrowed bike or Harry’s notion that Snape was able to read his mind or Ron preventing Harry and Hermione from uttering Lord Voldemort’s name when they were camping in the forest. But over and above all, it was the saga of love and friendship that struck me the most, interspersed with actions of sheer daring, bravery, comic timing, not to forget intellectual brilliance (Oh, I love you Hermione!). For me, the most touching love story in the series was the one between Snape and Lily Evans, well, the one-sided love, at least. And the journey through Snape’s memory in the end really moves you to tears. Of course, I never ever professed any love for Snape, but towards the end of book 6, it seemed sort of obvious to me that Snape was on the good side, my hypothesis being bolstered by his murder of Dumbledore. Well, the above statement might seem terrifically nutty in any general context, but having read 6 of her books with avid interest, you would essentially see logic in the above statement, in light of Rowling being the author in question. Of course, it goes unsaid that the Harry-Hermione-Ron camaraderie takes the cake as far as “friendship” is concerned. As for a mentor-protégé relationship, I think there was only one such instance that moved us – that of Albus Dumbledore and Harry. Though the Harry-Ginny relationship was riveting and invigorating at certain moments, for instance, both the impulsive kisses were pretty intense and made you “feel” (not the physical kiss [:P], something more like the love they had), the fact that Ginny had made out with quite a few guys before Harry (Michael Corner and Dean Thomas), and Harry too had had his share of teenage crush on Cho Chang, the essence of the relationship never stuck, unlike the Ron-Hermione one which, despite Ron’s outwardly intense, deliberate and dispassionate fling with Lavender Brown and Hermione’s supposedly so-called affair with Viktor Krum, always had an undercurrent and was persistent, albeit not outwardly, for quite some time; and ended up being really cute and more satisfying than the Harry-Ginny union. Anyways, what everyone had been looking forward to in the Finale (among other things, of course) was the Harry – Voldemort (No You-Know-Who for me ;) showdown, which, some people felt, turned out to be a rather damp squib. I, for one, felt that the final fight and Voldemort’s eventual destruction could not have been better portrayed, because it took place in Hogwarts, their home (as well as Dumbledore’s), and took place in full view of everyone that mattered in the wizarding world. The conversation between Harry and Voldemort was really enthralling, and, as Dumbledore has been saying all this while, Voldemort’s eventual destruction at Harry’s hands would be due to the former’s ignorance and lack of wisdom, as much as the latter’s qualities that made him a Gryffindor – sheer courage, selflessness and concern for his peoples. It would have been absurd to expect a battle of magical prowess and wizarding talent between one of the most supremely magically talented wizards of all time – Voldemort and a seventeen-year-old boy, The Chosen One, though he may be. In view of this, I feel Rowling did indeed pull it off, Harry’s bravery and sense of purpose seeing him through.
Among the various deaths in the book, Dobby’s was most moving in that we went through a heroic rescue act by him terminating in his faithful final words, “Harry ….. Potter.” But of all the characters who died, I think none, not even Sirius or Dumbledore, would be missed as much as Fred Weasley. For some reason, Rowling has always mentioned more of Fred than George; though it is evident both are equally witty and mischievous. But somehow, these two characters are unbeatable, and their wisecracks are an ultimate riot, what with their timing, intonation and moments of light-heartedness during periods of difficulty. Miss you Fred! As for duels and deaths on the Dark Side, nothing was more unexpected, astonishing and satisfying than the one between Bellatrix Lestrange and Molly Weasley. Wow, what a duel! Especially the way Molly entered the fight, swearing at Bellatrix and plunging straight into the fight was awesome! Way to go Molly! Talking about Wizarding duels, one of my friends asked me to rank the wizards in the order of their skill/intelligence/knowledge –

Dumbledore > Voldemort > Grindelwald > {Snape, James, Sirius, Kingsley} > Bellatrix’ is what I came up with. Yes, despite all revelations of Dumbledore’s ‘other’ side, Harry Potter though I may not be, I would still remain Dumbledore’s boy. Accepted that Voldemort ventured to do far more things than Dumbledore ever did, but Dumbledore’s knowledge and wisdom outmatches Voldemort’s skills. Somehow, I liked Gellert Grindelwald towards the end, especially the way he spoke to Voldemort when he was approached about the Elder Wand. In the end, this epic saga revolved around the life of one man, his intense faithful love despite knowing its failure, and how he endured a life of lies and hatred, not to mention persistent mortal danger. Severus Snape showed us how to be a man, and Dumbledore’s persistent reiteration of the importance of “love” can be attributed to two people – ‘Professor’ Snape’s love for Lily (Evans-->Potter) and Harry’s love for his friends & fellow beings. These two reasons stood out, above all, among all the eventual causes leading to Voldemort’s downfall. The tale of Harry Potter has an epic touch too. I was pleasantly reminded of the story of Lord Krishna, wherein King Kamsa, His maternal uncle, set out to kill Him ever since he heard the prophecy that his (Kamsa’s) destruction would be at Lord Krishna’s hands. Also, the adventures of Harry, Hermione and, to some extent, Ron, in the forest, reminded me of the Ramayana, and especially the part where Harry is enticed by the doe was so like the deer enticing Goddess Sita in the epic. (Do pardon me if any of these comparisons seemed absurd.)

As I walk back to the Library to return “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” today, I cannot help feeling sad, despite my attempts at being practical. But then, we have an epic saga in the form of 7 unmistakable jewels among us – fantasy, though it might be, the tale of Harry Potter that Joanne Rowling (Kathleen is not part of her actual name) created has unmistakably found a place in the heart of millions all over the world, for a plethora of reasons, not least for the inherent humaneness incorporated in unreal fantasy.
Harry Potter shall continue to live in the minds of its readers for quite some time to come.
Rowling, we bow down to thee.
Thank you, for Harry Potter.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Raavanan Tweets

I'm not a regular movie critic or anything, but since being opinionated is ingrained in me, there will inevitably be some movies I dissect completely - whether it's being for or against or it's being confused. However strong I may be in having an opinion or voicing it and however controversial the subject might be, I have always been concerned about how offensive/distasteful what I say might sound. Which is why I sometimes feel like an old mama when I shudder at some of the offensive language folks today use, simply to convey an opinion. And irrespective of how it appears, I try my best to have a balanced opinion on issues, with minimal prejudice being instrumental in the opinion-formation process.
Anyway, the point here is, I watched Raavanan yesterday and during the movie and after watching it, I tweeted some opinions, which are, presumably, strong. Yup, I did tweet some PG-13 stuff (but wouldn't be surprised if today's 13's are used to such stuff), but I really don't think they were offensive or distasteful. What surprised me most was when a very good friend told me to stop my Raavanan "rants" else he would stop following me, since my tweets were apparently "distasteful" and showed prejudice. He was obviously not kidding and I was quite intrigued. I am not too worried about a drop in my follower-count (Hey...followers come today go tomorrow yaa... :D), but since I respect this guy's opinions a lot, I wanted to really know if my tweets were that distasteful & biased to warrant such a strong quasi-telling-off from a good friend.

*Warning: May contain a few spoilers*
  • I know why Aish shows a hint of cleavage throughout. It's to distract us from her pathetic lip-sync & below-avg emoting.
  • What's particularly unnerving abt watchin a Maoist-sympathetic movie is watchin it when the nation's in a state of near-anarchy.
  •  What's sad is not the fact that Aish exposes, but that Mani seems to have made her "show" simply because of his inability to include his usually-mandatory item number.
  • And yes. She shouts. A lot. And "shows". Quite somewhat. And acts. Well, at least tries to. A little.
  • For me, the most exciting parts of Raavanan were all the scenes in which Ranjitha appeared. Skewed sense of excitement, I know, still. :P
  • Raavanan may not be a very good movie, but in the context of the Singams & the Suras, it definitely is good cinema.
  • Oh yes, I too choked in that final scene when Raagini says "Buck Buck Buck...". :D
  • Friend on Facebook after watching Raavan(an): "Aishwarya Rai has transformed from a beautiful woman to a sexy aunty". :P
  • While Prithviraj's character was not fully sketched, Priya Mani's choice makes me wonder if it was a practical joke on her.
  • Very curious how Raavan(an) would be rated by folks (incl me) if we ignore that it's a Mani movie or that it released around Suraa/Singam.
  • And to be fair to myself, I did NOT go to Raavanan trying to compare with the actual Ramayana. Mani thrust it on me. Really did.
  • Which explains why I didnt realize then but felt Karthik's initial tree-top antics were dumb, but realized later on the liken-to-Hanuman. :(
  • I think we need to establish two specific standards of measurement of a film's "success" - 1."Feel" during & after the movie and 2.What the director intends to convey/the way he wants his movie to be perceived and how it actually comes out.
  • Raavan, on 1, is fail. On 2, need to know what exactly Mani Ratnam has/had in mind.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Chicago Nagaram...Oru Kadalai Anubavam

[Old post...Written before I started blogging, just managed to get many of those out]

An important aspect of me that I, time and again, try to remind people who insist on calling me studious or “padips” is the fact that I am an erstwhile member of the VVK (Varuthapadaadha Valibar Kazhagam) and also served as Ko-Pa (Kozhgai Parappu) Cheyalaalar for a brief period, by virtue of the arrears that I “kept” in 4th sem AI & 5th sem DSP. (It is another issue that I managed to clear them in reval, backstabbing almost all of my comrades). However, by no means would I consider myself to have failed in either of them. My first proper experience of “failure” was, rather surprisingly, here, in the US of A. Having been a strong skeptic (for want of a better word) of girls, especially these last few years of my life, it was, as it is, difficult, getting good feminine comradeship here (also considering the admirable/noteworthy nature of my good girl friends back home [Note: No sarcasm or satire intended here]).
My prejudice against girls here living away from relatives/husband didn’t make things easier either. Hence, you might call it boredom/frustration or plain old joblessness (so characteristic of me) that made me attempt to roast some peanuts with this girl who studies at the same university as two of my close DAV friends. I had encountered this girl during my 11th standard at the IIT classes, and she was also one of the friends’ classmates during BE in Chennai. And as far as the “kadalai” attempt goes, in my opinion, I think you could say it was definitely a first, considering that it was intended “only” for that purpose – kadalai. Well, and to those disagreeing souls, I would just like to clarify that those instances that you would consider as “kadalai” were merely spontaneously innocent (re)actions that were NOT meant to be “kadalai”, just that they ended up appearing like that. Coming back to this particular (singular) attempt, circumstances also presented opportunities (by no means a justification/reason for ‘the attempt’), partly encouraging the kadalai, in that I had to call up this girl once to talk to one of my friends (don’t wish to comment/elaborate on what was/is going on between them).
I did not consider this girl particularly good-looking, but I think a possible premise could be my close friend’s constant accusation of my “supposed” liking for the fairer specimens of the fairer sex. As an integral part of the kadalai, I ended up calling the girl once after I had spoken to my friend. Well, the reason basically was that, the first time I had called the girl asking to talk to my friend, apparently, she had commented that my tone was rude and unfriendly (Naturally!). So it ended up that I called her summa this time and wondered [:P] if I really had been rude or unfriendly. And then the usual patter about her being padips for a few ten seconds. Then, I told her something that would possibly be one of the top contenders for “the worst pick-up line” (Well, I don’t think ‘pick-up’ line is apt in this case, since I was not even trying to route-uttufy her, but well, I guess, something like impress, well, forget it, some crap!), I told her – “Hey sorry, enakku kadalai pottu pazhakkam illai, so edhavadhu thappa sollitta kandukkadhe.” Whoa – coming to think of it now, that was some royal mess-up! But then, it was in accordance to my usual practice of “open-admittance”, which usually impressed people. But I think, usually what happened was, in “most” cases, people ended up being impressed by my frankness, but here, it was screwed because my intention was impressing, and not being frank, and I wanted to achieve the former by the latter, which is what led to the joke!
Apparently, the girl was bewildered, poor thing, unable to understand what I was trying to say, and quite rightly, I believe, unimpressed. I returned a wiser man after the misadventure, learning the modern management lesson – “Know the rules of the game well before beginning any new business venture.” Or, more simply, don’t venture into unknown territory without elders…

Saturday, June 19, 2010

PSBB Teachers 27 - Sunitha Mam

[Start of Series]

(Part 26 here)

Biology/Class Teacher - '99

Mrs.Sunitha Narsiah - Class IX was when we moved from TP Road to Main School. And we were all understandably slightly scared. And having Sunitha mam as our class teacher only increased it. She was not particularly popular among the students, and my proximity to her (I was Class Leader again) did no help to my reputation/likeability among friends (not that that was the only reason, there were one or two others as well :D). She was pretty authoritarian and unfriendly (though I felt she could be jolly when she wanted to be, but then again, that might be thanks to my supposed proximity to her). She was a pretty good Biology teacher too, though her being our class teacher overshadowed all that. Overall, an interesting experience with some definite positives for me, but would be interested to hear from some of the others as well, assuming it was majorly negative for most of them.

(Part 28 here)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Veetla Puli...Pulli illa, Puli

Basic matter: Iyengar ex-roomie+bro-like-buddy is engaged to ultra-mod-hip-Brahminism-aversion-having-Iyengar girl (not-entirely-necessary-bgm - the dude is from an extremely orthodox family though he has become quite over-liberal ever since he's been in the US, plus he's extremely good-looking, so flamboyant+semma_kadalai-types).

He'd described me as this semma pazham-type guy who'd not leave home without pattai (1/9th true), etc. to her & described her to me as semma_mod_Braahmna-baashai-hating "babe" (in his words) who hates all things associated with Brahminism & who isnt really bothered much about "culture". So much so that on more than one occasion, she had instructed him to speak with someone else after talking to me, before talking to her, since he apparently has a Brahmin-accent hangover after spending time with me. :D

Though I would normally have been interested in meeting a close friend's fiance (guy or girl ;-D) wasnt really planning on meeting her, simply based on his description of both of us to each other. And he also told she wouldnt "initiate"/be interested in a meet with me either, which kind of slightly pissed me off, since I had stuff for her, given by him and it would be height of oorga'ness if I gave the stuff to her to-be-in-laws.

Nevertheless, there was this curiosity abt how such a meet would go abt. esp since he said there were almost no commonalities except vegetarianism/"intellectuality" (in his opinion, we were both quite Intellectual folks though we didnt share opinions on most issues). Indha warning'kaagave was pretty convinced that either I'd make an ass of myself (going by past record with women, in general and esp with such types) or have a not-so-memory-worthy meeting. Which is why my interest was piqued when she herself called me a few days after I landed & suggested we meet up. So was he, and was as curious as me to know how the meet would go. I gave myself 30 minutes before either she got bored or we had some unpleasantness which would make us mutually try to leave.

Meet did happen, in Amethyst. And 'twas a good 2 hours. :D Plus viewings of Gautham Menon & Namitha. Interesting+fun session with her. She was quite surprised by me (me too, by her, though to lesser extent) and my ex-roomie was most amazed to hear of it. Mildly surprised myself, but I guess a dont-care-attitude + totally-being-myself + confidence of home ground wicket greatly helped.

Aah...the advantage of home ground, I tell you.