The Talkative Man speaks
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Monday, March 31, 2008
  Changes to the blog
Much water(?) has flown down the Cooum since the last post. This blog is undergoing some significant changes besides a separate domain and will be up in a few weeks. Stay connected :)
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Wednesday, November 28, 2007
  Sun sun sun mere nanhe sun
Sun sun sun mere nanhe(munne) sun started featuring as a filler between programmes on Doordarshan around February 1991. The period saw the release of another nationalistic song, 'Aao mil kar rahe Hind ke vaasiyon', probably sung by Jagjit Singh. While the mid-80s featured re-runs of 'The World of Survival' to fill breaks, the latter part of the decade were better off with more local stuff like the Lok Seva Sanchar Parishad's 40 Years of Freedom ensemble with sportspersons, Mile sur mera tumhara and Vani Jayaram's Bharatiyam song.

Click to listen:

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Sunday, October 07, 2007
  Davis Cup semi final 1987
Much of the attention in the last week of September 1987 was centered on the Reliance Cup which was due to kick off in the subcontinent on October 8. By this time, Boost had released its 'Face-My-Pace' contest with a bevy of prizes for the one answering 6 multiple-choice questions and correctly predicting the winner of the tournament. The September 30th opening ceremony had PM Rajiv Gandhi being introduced to the teams before the events began. The day was rounded off with an exhibition day-night game between the co-hosts in which India pulled off an upset win.
The cricket fever had by then completed eclipsed all other events and the high flying Indian tennis team was expected to get its wings clipped in Australia. For this was after all the same Australian team that had, barely 9 months ago anchored by Pat Cash's heroics, comprehensively outgunned Stefan Edberg in both singles and doubles to wrest the Davis Cup from the Swedes. Cash went on to triumph at Wimbledon, while Wally Masur knocked out Becker at the Australian Open. Boris' impeccable 19-0 record at Wimbledon was then breached by Aussie Peter Doohan who had till then been a relative unknown("Doohan makes Becker bite the dust", the Hindu headline blared on June 26 1987) . In that backdrop, India's visit to Sydney was merely viewed as an unavoidable junket trip.

The first bombshell was dropped on the eve of the tie by Chennai Doordarshan news announcing Cash's withdrawal due to injury. The possibility of an upset promptly revived a lot of interest in the tie, what with the Argentina upset still fresh in memory. Thus it was with an air of expectation that viewers woke up for the 6:30 AM live telecast that Gandhi Jayanthi Friday.

The fact that the tie was played on grass did not brighten India's chances much, given that the Aussie team had the right players on that surface. Still India started on the right foot with 34th ranked Ramesh expectedly beating John Fitzgerald 6-1 6-2 3-6 8-6. The December of 1986 DD had telecast the highlights of the Seiko Open final where Krishnan had beaten Anders Gomez for the second of his ATP titles that year. The Indian was then at the peak of his prowess and the victory came on expected lines.

But when the 30th ranked Masur raced away with the first set 6-1 against the ageing 261st ranked Amritraj, the Aussies seemed to be back in the contest. What followed next was a nerve-wracking 3 sets as the Indian captain played one of the finest no-nonsense tennis of his career to win(6-3 12-10 6-4). The scoreline stood at an incredible 2-0 for India after Day 1.

A strong and raucous Aussie crowd turned up for the holiday Saturday as Cash made himself available to raise their flagging fortunes. Anand Amritraj and Vasudevan represented India while the home side had Peter Doohan partnering the Wimbledon champ. The dull and listless Anand Amritraj could do little in the company of Vasu, a claycourter struggling to find his feet having been thrust out of nowhere into the heat of battle. Cash and Doohan swiftly pounded the Indians in straight sets, the latter showing why he was too good for Becker at Wimbledon by closing out the match with 3 scorching aces.

Then began the do-or-die Sunday, October 4 1987. India's hopes of a Vijay(rejuvenated by skipping the doubles) recreating his magic against Jaite quickly vanished as an inspired Fitzgerald brought to the fore the Aussie grit of yore, playing faultlessly to outplay the Indian 7-5 6-3 6-3 before a crowd that was by then beginning to scent an improbable come-from-behind victory.

Onto the decider. Masur continued to ride on that momentum of six successive sets for the Aussies, running up a 4-1 lead. Krishnan stuck to his habit of infuriating us by losing his serve, only to break in return!! A hard fought 8-6 in the first set was the result but Masur hit back to lead 4-1 again in the second.

And as usual, Doordarshan let us down at this stage, leaving us midway in the lurch. The 2nd half of the match was denied to us but the frustration was quickly forgotten when an hour later, DD interrupted the morning serials to announce that the No.1 tennis player among the world's vegetarians had taken the next two sets with a 6-4 scoreline. History had been made, the favorites had been dethroned and unfancied India had made it to the Davis Cup finals for the first time since 1974. A wag went to town declaring how Tamil Nadu had sent the defending champions packing!

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007
  Sai Paranjpe's Chashme Baddoor (1981)
It was in the summer of 2001 that I ran into Sai Paranjpe's Chashme Baddoor while channel surfing at a friend's place in Madras. We flipped to 'The Vendor of Sweets' on Sony after watching the unforgettable Chamko washing powder demo and a sudden recollection of that scene made me get the DVD after all these years!

Rakesh Bedi automatically brought to mind the hilarious Ghaploo Aur Banta series that ran in Apr-May 1987 on DD's morning transmission immediately after its launch. Coming to think of it, I do wonder it was Ravi Vaswani who played second fiddle as Banta to Bedi as Ghaploo in the serial as well. In fact, one of the episodes featured Bedi getting drenched by water flung from an apartment terrace, which is a very obvious spoof of a scene that took place in the movie.

Farooque Shaikh as the Delhi School of Economics grad holds our attention from the outset while Bedi and Vaswani provide the twists. Javed Jaffrey plays a very natural paanwallah not averse to doling out advice in addition to reproof. While the movie has comic moments aplenty, the sight of the duo taking to their heels when Deepti Naval rings the doorbell takes the cake and is sure to stir up memories from our own past :) Yesudas has a couple of good numbers.

Kapdon ke liye behthareen saabun, azmaiyye bar bar, lagathaar. Chamko!
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Tuesday, June 26, 2007
  Pranaamam : Director Bharathan (10/22/86)
When it comes to entertainment, very seasons would stand a match for the latter half of 1986. We will restrict this to cricket and cinema alone, conveniently waiving aside the Maradona-dominated World Cup in Mexico that made a complete mess of our sleep routines. By the time the Cup started, Kamal's Vikram had Madras alight.

Wimbledon and India's historic tour of England added to the strain on our eyeballs in the coming weeks. Mind you, we're not bringing into the picture, Jane Eyre or Ek Do Teen Char on DD, which were approaching their climactic stages in June.

The non-stop party continued for movie-goers, with Kadalora Kavithaigal and Samsaram Adhu Minsaram grabbing their share of the limelight in July. It was barely a month before Mouna Ragam and Oomai Vizhigal hit the screens for Independence Day. And even as our radios blared Raja's haunting hits, Australia arrived for a tour, duly welcomed by Mella Thirandhadhu Kadhavu, released a week before the Tied Test at Chennai. Hardly had the excitement over the Chepauk result died down, when PT Usha sizzled at Seoul wresting four golds! Surely that must have been a dream season for the pensioner Thathas who now had a plethora of news to talk about.

But meanwhile, quietly across the border, Pranaamam(directed by Bharathan) saw the light of day just before Diwali. The movie featured Mammooty, Suhasini, Nedumudi Venu, Asokan and a youthful Vineeth.

That the famed director made no other foray into Tamil apart from Devar Magan and Avarampoo(remake) is surprising. Anyway back to the movie, Suha is a journalist whose younger brother tripped on drugs and took his own life. For her news article on the prevalence of the habit, she clicks pictures of college youth having a dope party - temporarily, ignore the fact that a bunch of youngsters choose a public park in broad daylight of all places for their binge. The piece causes a sensation once it goes into print.

Left: Standard start for a mallu movie - doting dad and daughters :)

Heh, here we go again :-)) Oh Kerala!

Left: Suha is kidnapped by the chaps and held hostage when a suspended student was admitted in hospital after poisoning himself. Middle: Unable to find his daily dose, one of the lads slashes his wrist. Ultimately Suha bonds with her captors.

Mammooty plays the cop who heads Suha's search party. He knows the students of the college very well especially the notorious ones. The part where he enlightens the captors about the three methods used by cops to extract a confession is cleverly done. Suha resolves the issue and takes the lads and Mammooty home for Onam. The story ends with an unexpected twist - slight shade of Punnagai Mannan there!

Ousepachan has tuned three memorable songs which can be listened here. Overall I expected to see some good eye-candy but the movie seems to have been shot within the city with very few natural sights of God's own country. But all in all, the pace is steady, is not loud and is worth a second watch(if you can excuse the obvious annoyance in hearing words like criddicism, pope-ularity). Why it was given an A rating is completely baffling. Felt really nice to watch Mammooty as his natural self, the murderous pronunciation in Thalapathi and Kilipechu Ketkava having left a jarring effect on the ears.
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Thursday, May 17, 2007
  Anything but Big Fun : bubblegum
Three men in a tub
And who do you think they be?
The butcher, the baker,
The candlestick maker,
Turn them out knaves, all three

Thus goes the nursery rhyme, which concludes with the emphatic message that rascals should not be suffered gladly. The message led me into a train of unrelated thoughts - what segments of our people or institutions would easily pass for the knaves in that rhyme?

Talking about people, politicians, policemen and bank employees(but for a select few) would easily top the list. What about institutions? Doordarshan, the nasty dinosaur might win the contest hands down. But then a separate post is surely necessary to list out DD's shenanigans of the past. An unlikely segment in the growing-up days that popped out of the blue were the contestwallahs - the kind that insert posers/puzzles with an entry form in their products.

One of the very first contests that came to mind was an offer by NP Bubblegum circa 1984. Now this was before the days of Big Fun, which came with a bang in 1985 and promptly swept the market. NP was more of a toffee manufacturer I think who expanded into bubblegum. Around the 1982-83 phase, the standard offering for kids was the ubiquitous 10 paise Nutrine toffee, in the green wrapper. Higher up in the pecking order was the 20 paise bubblegum, with the 35 paise Cadbury's Eclairs occupying the top position, being the rare buy.

NP's 20 paise bubblegum came wrapped in a white wrapper with black spots. To be precise, it was a pink flat piece of stone, which required substantial mastication to produce the first bubble! Kids would launch into a furious grinding operation immediately after purchase, to set the stage for bubble-blowing. More often than not, the exercise left the effect of a Mike Tyson uppercut on your jaws. And if you were to run around or play while simultaneously trying to tame the ceramic-hard NP, it would knock the wind out of your sails in no time.

It was in the summer of '84 that one of the Amar Chitra Katha/Tinkle back-covers advertised the prize of a free comic for sending 30 gum wrappers of NP. The contest became the rage among the colony kids and for good reasons as well.

In those days when TV was a rarity, summer hols became a sore point with the parents of our locality, most of whose houses had both parents working. Even as the Annual Exams approached, restless kids pestered their parents for trips to relatives' homes. Doting grandparents added fuel to the flame. Some kids had relatives doing the nanny-work at home, while the older ones stayed at home and engaged themselves with whatever little game they could invent. It was at this point that a couple of children's libraries arrived in the locality. The monthly subscription was Rs.5 and for a paltry sum(like 25 paise) you could borrow as many comics as you liked and return them the next day. Some of the rich(but with no appetite for reading) kids got their parents to shell out the fiver and more. The strategy of the smarter ones(whose parents disliked seeing a bunch of comics spreadeagled all over the bed in the evening) was to befriend the spoilt brats, get access to the maal, devour every comic and then consolidate their relationship with the subscriber by narrating the stories at the end of day. My siblings and their friends in the locality became champion moochers who enjoyed a fresh haul of Archie, Disney, Indrajal, Amar Chitra Katha and Tinkle. Creaming the comics off "angel investors" was their speciality. Every afternoon, a little bunch would gather in our porch, deeply engrossed in reading or atleast padam-paarthufying. Illiterates like me hung around in vain hoping for a story telling session to start :(

Back to the contest: the promise of a free comic thrilled us no end. It was after all something you can repeatedly savour, without bothering to return it to the owner at the end of the day. With no time constraints, you could re-live the pages for the nth time at night as well. We launched into a massive wrapper-collection operation keeping the deadline in mind. The importance of purchasing NP bubblegum was conveyed in clear terms to magnanimous uncles/aunts. The collectors diligently accumulated the 5 and 10 paise coins, blowing it on an NP whenever they got a chance. For once, the 10 paise Nutrines were ignored. Everytime we bought an NP, stealthy looks were cast along the floor in the hope of finding a free wrapper carelessly discarded by some buyer!

In due course, we squirrelled together the 30 wrappers. Eager hands placed them in an envelope and dispatched it to the company, anxious to beat the deadline.

But alas! Weeks turned into months but nothing happened. A few months later, the postman brought a parcel. Finally, the reward for our pains had arrived. We ripped the wrapper and welcomed the Phantom comic inside with shrieks of delight!

Just one problem: the cover said Part Two. An enthusiast blazed promptly through the comic: it was a punchfest, there were scenes of men flying to the Phantom's punches, followed by a close-up of the imprint of his ring on the villains' jaw - a "Jungle proverb" dedicated to the 'Ghost who walks' added for special effect. The last page informed us that the story would be concluded in Part Three! So in effect, we had no idea why Phantom was on that spectacular punching-spree and no way of knowing if all those punches were really worth it in the end.

So that was the bottomline: a bunch of small kids had bust their humps to accumulate 30 wrappers and in return, the NP honchos had sent them Part Two of a Three part comic. That's something even the sadists on Doordarshan's payroll would have been hardpressed to emulate!

What it also meant was elsewhere in India, some kid must have got the Part 1 and another would have got merely the climax to that adventure!

But the burnt children didn't dread fire though. Big Fun arrived in 1985. It joined the contest bandwagon releasing a picture of a Disney character in every stick. The deal was to collect a certain number of characters who had a star emblazoned at the bottom. This was completely probabilistic and only the regular chewers had any chance of matching up to the requirements. By then, TVs were worming their way into most middle class homes, cricket fever was on with India due to host the 1987 World Cup. Big Fun cashed in on the interest and started releasing the pic of a cricketer, his star value translated into runs and wickets. Now the deal was to collect 120 runs and 10 wickets, to be exchanged for a mini-book with cricketer photos. Seeing my frenzied efforts at raking up the runs, Amma finally took me to a stationary store owned by her friend and got me a free copy of the prize. It was too pathetic a deal for all the trouble as by then we had a decent collection of sports literature at home. If I remember right, Big Fun rascals unabashedly bumped the price from 30 to 50 paise soon after! I guess I lost interests in chocolate/gum contests after that. Pretty soon, the glamour of bubblegum wore off.

Now though, I just cannot stand anyone around me giving his jaws a workout with gum. In fact, I've had absolutely no problems with smokers, I've actually cultivated the notion that smokers are generous guys since they often have to set money to the torch. Most of the smokers I have come in contact with have been extremely friendly and broad-minded, as opposed to some extremely stingy, self-centered and egocentric teetotallers. But grinding gum and other maattu-business is a definite no-no.

Research seems to have proven that chewing gum helps people concentrate and improves memory. I am dismayed by the findings. However for now, I will stick to my prejudice against gum-chewers.

Vivian Richards and Michael Jordan are excluded.
[Pic courtesy:]

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007
  Railway journeys - II
A train journey being a rarity during most of my school days, I got hooked to it once I started travelling. But this honeymoon phase did not last long. The taste of reality came in the form of the blackened and bulletproof chappatis, half-cooked vegetable curries and watery dhal that the Rs.25 Indian Railways meal provided. Meanwhile the seasoned travellers would treat themselves to a gourmet's spread come lunch or dinner: newspapers spread out, the casseroles would come out with homemade fresh chappatis, rice and varieties of curries. They would enjoy their meals in paper plates and toss them away.

To add insult to injury, even as I discovered that my stale Bisleri bottles purchased at jacked-up rates of Rs.15 or so had warmed up in the heat, resulting in water that was barely drinkable in the hot afternoons, some of the Know-alls would come out with their little water-filters and coffee-flasks bearing fresh liquids. The tale isn't over yet, we are all-too-familiar with the Railways' idly-vada breakfast whose offering of chutney would make Saravana Bhavan appear philanthropic in comparison. Not to mention the Rs.8 tea/coffee served in teeny-weeny plastic cups lasting barely a few sips. In short, for a one-day journey, you end up spending upwards of Rs.100 consuming the most atrocious food ever 'prepared'.

After a few journeys, I decided to react and in Satyagrahic fashion: A huge portion of the journey would be encountered on an empty stomach, after an okay-ish breakfast. Occasionally, I might break the fast if the train stopped at a good railway station where decent fruit juice was available. At the end of the journey, I would feel happy to have kept the marauding Railway staff and the even deadlier food at bay.(Although I am no snob, an accidental entry into the pantry compartment gave me a stark idea of the environment in which food is prepared on board!) In any case, food or no food, any passenger would feel completely drained, mentally and physically, at the end of a long journey. Driving my sanyasic instincts to a higher plane, I would reserve train journeys for reading something really hyper-advanced and hardcore techie: multithreading, sockets and the like. I soon dropped the pleasurable stuff like Narayan or biographies or film melodies since they really should be savored on a comfortable couch with some delicacies at hand - definitely not in a train on an empty stomach closely surrounded by 50 people who are forever cursing the heat, haggling with the hawkers, fuming at the delays or throwing fruit peels/groundnut shells* on the floor. My decision, based on extreme sadism and selfishness, gave me immense fulfilment - I was reaching my destination smug and satisfied having learnt stuff that typically tormented students and those in the IT world, whereas my tired co-passengers were lumbering out completely drained in mind and body. Like my school deskmate who would start writing sree rama jayam in panic whenever the material taught in class frightened him out of his wits, it was an alternate form of Transcendental Meditation that was oblivious to the hostility of the surrounding environment!

The other big hassle was the packing. It was bad enough when you are packing alone, the worst is to pack with your family doing a random inspection. Just when you have tucked in the fresh pack of toothpaste/soap thoughtfully purchased the previous evening, along comes a family member and runs an unsolicited audit - did you forget the toothpaste? have you taken soap? Ticket**, ticket! WHAT ABOUT THE TICKET??? - the voice would rise to a crescendo, especially if you leave the initial questions unanswered. I would shake a finger and mutter between my teeth, "'re interrupting my train of thought and might make me forget something; just leave me in peace for 15 min and I will be done, run your checklist later." They would look at me as if I were hell-bent on committing suicide! In due course, I learnt the art of packing within an hour for a long journey - when you arrive on vacation, just keep the 'constants' among your travelling kit locked in the bag and you don't have to deal with them when you pack for the return trip. Of course there will be those inexperienced travellers who believe in driving every non-travelling family member to an extreme and advanced state of frenzy - the hankies are still wet...did anyone see my purse??...Fetch me the water bottles!!!...Oh my God, run outside and call me an auto, quick! - when they finally leave, the family are on the threshold of collapsing in suspense/relief and fatigue. One of life's small pleasures is to pack in advance, reach the station early with family members, buy them coffee/Milo and then engage in leisurely chat even as you ask them to pick some magazines for you. Few things will beat that :)

To offset the harrowing experience of a journey made in summer, Appa once booked me in A/C. It turned out to be an equally tedious one - there were just a few pan-chewing and pot-bellied Marwadi businessmen in the entire bogey! The a/c ran all day and I huddled under a blanket in solitary confinement. But for the caterers, not a soul entered the bogey the whole day. You couldn't even open the window to get some fresh air. I promptly reverted back to sleeper class from then on.

Things took a happy turn after a while. Annapoorana chappati packs arrived. Soon along with Ruchi pickles and 777 puliyodharai paste, they became an essential part of every journey. I would elaborately prepare my food packets, wrap them in aluminium foil and later, say an emphatic and triumphant no to the Railway caterer who took orders on the train. Oft-times, one of my packets would be consumed by a grateful fellow bachelor in the compartment. Second-class travel truly became my cup of tea from then on.

* Railway travel has its own unwritten protocol when it comes to dealing with the poor beggar kids who pass right through the bogey sweeping trash and pausing to ask for alms: you are expected to keep a few coins with yourself and take turns with your co-passengers in giving alms, which are essentially a means of sending the needy away from your seats. It is not appropriate to have one passenger give out alms all the time!

**First it used to be hall ticket, then railway ticket and later flight ticket. Thanks to VCDs, cinema tickets were spared.
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An archivist with varying interests

Previous Posts

Davis Cup semifinal 1987
Sai Paranjpe's Chashme Baddoor
Director Bharathan's Pranaamam
Anything but Big Fun : bubblegum
Railway Journeys - II
A Hyperactive spirit
Ek Duje Ke Liye
Looking back on Amritraj vs Jaite
Freak Encounters - I
An unlikely friendship short-lived
Railway journeys - I
Michael Jordan the greatest:The Flu Game
History at Capetown?
Images from Malgudi Days(DVD)
Found after a 17 year search!
Champions Trophy deja vu
Deepavali song
Heard in passing
Phil Tufnell fielding school
Indian cricket since its embryonic days
Journalism's Joan of Arc
Stills from Idhaya Thamarai/Aur Ek Prem Kahani
The World of Amar Chitra Katha
..and I saw Carl Lewis last weekend!
Two memorable Calypso hits
The sensational triumph in the '83 World Cup
Doordarshan and Frustration!!!
Date with a chennai girl!
Mayhem in the morning
Dream Teams: India XI vs World XI
How Dad's work
Pelting his way into the record books!
Relentless march of time
Close encounters of the Desi Kind
Thandaa paani!
Keep going
Indian Male yuppie: Boy->Man->Gentleman
Hamlet revisited
Rediff is just another TOI
Malgudi Days on DVD
TN Cricket - I : Early heroes
Bala, Bharatan and Guha
Warne does the trick once again
Remembering PV
A rare pic: Aandavans of Alwarpet
Random jottings on friendship
A gutsy analyst
Rarest among Jewels
Adhu Oru Kanaa Kaalam(2005)
The Terrorist(1997)
Holiday plans
Those small pleasures
Stalwart Narrator


Blogs I read