Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A City in Slumber

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   I have recently developed this routine of roaming around the city after the stroke of midnight or just before it. We would take our scooters and coast through places, where at day time would be hellish traffic infested roads. The joy you will get from doing that is quite unbelievable. I’ve marked down a ride at Ranganathan street as a “thing I should do before I die”. You can hardly walk there at day time. But then there would be too many cops at night.

  On contrary to many people's belief, Chennai does have a nightlife, a nightlife of a different kind. Chennai’s night is made up of those tea vendors, ice cream vendors, cops and more cops.

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This was first time we did the whole “roam at night” thing. We were filling petrol at kodambakkam. That was where we met our first characters of the night, “Danger guys”. Four guys with a funk and two Yamaha bikes. They were seemingly hiding the booze to save it from the policemen and were having an argument over something which seemed important from far away. I eavesdropped into their conversation. One of the “danger guys” was saying “Machaan ara(half) packet chips vechikinu enna da panna mudiyum” and the other guy said “porum machaan, nalla sarakku dhane? Smell varakkoodadhu”. “The Ara packet chips” What a title would that make? I couldn’t help but laugh. They then drove off with the usual *boom vroom vroom zoom* shtick.

   We then headed towards the Kodambakkam bridge. Few policemen were standing few meters before the bridge. They asked us for the papers of the vehicle, frisked us and then let us off.  A few kilometers later we were frisked again near Semmozhi poonga. Dude! It’s written in our face! We are agmark Pazhams. You can make panjamirtham out of us. Let me give you an example of a good policeman. The other day, we were coming back from the R.T.O beach in Thiruvamyur this and a Cop stopped us, saw our face and said “Go”. Now that is good judgment, isn’t it?

  We went off to Greams road, had some tea, then to marina, viewed the beach from the road, drove back home via West Mambalam and stopped near Pothys to have something. There was a guy selling ice cream. I absolutely wondered how many people other than ourselves would have bought it at that time. He must have had high hopes or must be in a desperate situation to sell stuff at such a time. This was how my first night ride panned out. There are a lot of subtle things about these nights with lots of stories.

   I was talking to one of my friends that I wanted to write something about “Night life” in Chennai. Immediately he asked “Hey! Are you going to write about pubs, booze and stuff like that?” That was the highlight. The very mention of the word nightlife and voila! Such things ring up people's minds. It is absolutely normal.

  The Other day we stopped at Ashok Pillar to have some tea and groundnuts. The person who sold the tea seemed 60-70 years old. It was 1am, mind you. The groundnut vendor looked old too. He puts up shop at 11th avenue Ashok Nagar at evenings and moves over to Ashok pillar at late nights. He doesn’t leave for home until he sells off all that he had that day. Imagine the plight of these two people. When people their age are in deep slumber they are wake to ensure that their family sleeps well.

   R.T.O beach at Thiruvamyur is quite unique. People stay there till 12 during weekdays and even much late than that during Saturdays, unlike other prominent beaches like Marina and Elliot’s. You can sit there and watch the waves hit the shore, let the feeling sink in and have warm talks with friends. Policemen are lodged there to guard that area. There is this picture in our mind that cops take bribes and often are unscrupulous, that is not totally true. The policemen patrolling that place surely must be in their 20’s, fresh from the vigorous training they have undergone at camps. Most of the cops at night are the young guys. They stay up all night! All these vendors and cops work their soul out and are hardly well paid.

  At the national conference organized by ICAI which was held recently, lunch was provided from "Hotel Saravana Bhavan". A person of North-East origin was taking the plates the students ate off of, dumped the leftover and washed the plates. He was assigned of this dirty job, poor soul. So much food was wasted. Why do people take food in their plate if they wouldn't be able to eat it? They were chasing away poor kids who were trying to sneak in during lunch.

  Someone at the end of the day has to do the dirty job and yet we fail to recognize whatever contribution they make.  I found these things very disturbing! This is the ugly part of the night life that most people fail to recognize. If you can, take that scooter/bike of yours, call up some friends and roam your city. See the people who work behind the scenes. A little “Tea nalla irukku na” compliment would give them that much more pleasure. All they need is a pat on the back. Try it.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Films and Reality

0 blesses 'n' curses

     Most of the times we compliment films saying “It is damn realistic”. We compliment a film maker with the tag “realistic”. We compliment actors saying he gave a “realistic” performance. People often fail to distinguish between “real” and “realistic” and get worked up. The former is “what it is” and the latter is “trying to be real”.

      Recently I read a review of the film “Mayakkam Enna” which discussed how Selvaraghavan twists the world of reality and ideality. I was thinking about this, waiting for the train. One thing I felt is that people fail to understand that films are never real, they are just warped reality and it is not a mistake to be so.

    People get worked up and judge films if they are not depicted as what they are in the world we live in. In that review, the reviewer was pointing out a thing that “kumudam prints sleazy photos on cover photos and not wildlife photographs”. This is a classic example of what I am talking about. Films are just reality which is warped according to the whim and fancies of the film maker.

   The Film maker creates a world which has its own laws. It is just like a parallel universe, not everything that exist in reality should exist in his self created warped reality. He pretty much takes up the mantle of God. What we need to judge is whether all the characters follow the laws of the created world. But what we end up doing is questioning his judgment of laws he has built into to the movie like “Come on! There is no shit like Hogwarts or magic” or “What crap is this! A radioactive spider bit him and he gets super power instead of dying”. If you see things that way, you can never rightfully judge a film. It then boils down to the bias of the critic towards the film maker.

   Another point that I want to drive home is that reality is utterly boring. Come on! Think about it! Why would you want to live your day twice? That being set aside if people still want real films, “Nadunisi Naigal” is a good example for that. The film did not have any BG of any sort. That is pretty real, isn’t it? No one plays a music when you meet your love interest or plays the eerie violin when you are sad. Did you know, how the lack of BG made that film move at a snail pace apart from the freaky story of child abuse?

    Now hold that thought! Let us move on to the other vista of film making which many despise and think low of, the commercial movie. Why some people hate masala films? . A hero jumping over miles to hang by a train is what comes to my mind when I think of the laws of the world completely breaking down. That is a case where the film maker has failed to mold a character within the laws of his world. He never created a law that the protagonist was gifted with the special power of flight nor was he travelling via a cable towards the train.

   But then brushing things like that apart many people do enjoy masala films. They come to movie theatres to escape from reality and put themselves in the shoes of the protagonist and imagine doing stuff which they wouldn’t be able to do in real life. Those people just want films to be real, only to an extent that would allow themselves to connect to it. Looking down upon those kind of films and branding people who like them as non-intellectual is something I can never agree.

  Take MMKR or Vasool Raja for example, quadruplets really? really? MBBS? A fucking thug? Most of situations in that film hardly can ever happen and yet they are cult classics which everyone likes. It is not the realness which makes a film good but how well the film maker has created his world.

  People have turned more cynical, anything that is unlikely or rare is considered to be “Olu da machaan” or “Bakwas”. Do you know what the are odds of a sperm cell fertilizing the egg? What is the possibility of life in this universe? Yet we still reproduce. Yet there are life forms. But we always are cynical when the protagonist or the antagonist pulls off something unlikely.

  Be it a masala film or be it a non-masala film, everything has only that much reality built into them and only with varying degrees of it. The more you try to make the film real the more difficult it gets for you, to make it interesting. In my opinion there is no need for a film maker to depict reality as it is, it is just his version of reality and they are bad films only when the laws of its world contradict and break down.


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