Sunday, February 28, 2010

It is Comedy Time – Thanks to G Sudhakaran

When Kerala’s cooperation minister G Sudhakaran opens his mouth, it is like watching a non-stop comedy movie. Here are few of his gems.

G Sudhakaran’s take on the controversy involving AMMA, Thilakan, Mammotty and Mohanlal.

G Sudhakaran’s take on “Love” and “Marriage” – Don’t miss this one.

G Sudhakaran’s views on journalists.

G Sudhakaran’s view on Priests

Till God gives this man some sense we all can have a fun time listening to G Sudhakaran’s senseless talk.

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An Attempt to Understand Raagas in Carnatic Music-II

(This blog post is written by Vidhyashankar, MBA student at W.P. CareySchool of Business in Arizona State University. With no formal training in carnatic music, he writes about how he learned about the different ragas in particular and carnatic music in general.)

As I was discussing with my friend the first part of this blog, she gave me a quote from one of her readings,” A raga is like a plain canvas given to the artists, which they can paint their own way with their creativity and their understanding of the raga.” How true!!! If it is given to an artist he/she looks it like an art if given to a scientist he/she uses it as a science. Anyway that’s a completely different discussion.

While we have seen ragas which are charming (Reetigowla), brings enthusiasm (Kuthuhulam), an artist not only sees one side of the coin. There are ragas which just by listening can put you into deep sorrow or deep emotions. Chakravakam is one such raga, which is played to evoke pity or karuna. Isn’t it incredible? Have we ever heard such a ragam before? Why not? Our “Thalaivar” (Rajini) when chased out of the house in the movie Muthu, the song played “Vidukathaiya” is Chakravakam.

Didn’t you feel like crying with him? Another song with the same raagam is from movie Karnan when Karna (Shivaji Ganesan) is stuck by arrow and about to die Lord Krishna sings the song “Ullathil Nalla Ullam” which is again Chakravakam. In the movie Veyil, a folk version of Chakravakam is sung to induce pity for Murugesan (Pasupathy).

Yet another raga which induces melancholy is Sivaranjani. There are lots of songs in Indian cinema that is based on Sivaranjani (quite expected because every movie has some character that has to cry). “Therey Merey Beech Mein” in “Ek Duje Ke Liye” is a beautiful Sivaranjani number. Naan paadum mouna raga Idhaya” in “Idhaya Koil” is Sivaranjani.

Coming out of the sorrow mood, it is time to get some devotion. The great Thyagaraja said, “Sangeetha Gnyanamu, Bhakthi vina, Sanmargamu kalade”? Can the knowledge of music, find the right path without devotion? He wrote so many wonderful songs, that it is impossible for me to even praise them adequately. He is a father of Carnatic Music. Kapi is a one such raga that can induce devotion and empathy. Carnatic songs? “Kurai Ondrum Illai” (People can sink into devotion listening great M.S. Subbalakshmi sing that song). “Enna Thavam Seithanai” is yet another beautiful song. The beauty of the song is that the composer is so deep in devotion on Krishna that he starts questioning Yashoda on, “what penance did you do to have the Great Krishna in your womb”.

Honestly, I don’t know much movie songs in Kapi but people told me “Idhu Kuzhandhai Paadum Thaalaattu” from movie “Oru Thalai Raagam” movie is Kapi ragam.

It has always been fascinating for me think, how just by varying fundamental swaras (Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Nee) there has been discovered a wide range of music that can represent any form of emotion and take us to different levels.

To be continued....

Image Courtesy

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

An Attempt to Understand Raagas in Carnatic Music

(This blog post is written by Vidhyashankar, MBA student at W.P. Carey School of Business in Arizona State University. With no formal training in carnatic music, he writes about how he learned about the different ragas in particular and carnatic music in general.)

Raagas form the essence of Carnatic music and refers to melodic modes used in Indian classical music. It was around the age of 7 when my grandma taught this song “Bho Shambo Shiva Shambo Swayambho”. I had no clue about that ragam (Revathi Ragam) but if you hear this song,

it will be like shiva’s rudhra thandav. Later I observed that several Shiva songs are based out of that raga. If you want to make a film connection to it, then take your “Padayappa” DVD. Fast forward it to the place where Ramya Krishnan dances in anger in front of Lord Natraja in the rain, where every pillar looks like Rajinikanth and Soundarya. The music behind is Revathi raga. (Once again the Thandav aspect).

The most famous raga off late in Tamil cinema is Reetigowla. Probably the raga has so much charm that several romantic numbers are based on it. “Azhagana Rakshashiye- Mudhalavan”, “Theenda Theendai – Thuluvatho Elamai”, “Sudum Nilavu- Thambi",“Kangal Irandal – Subramanianapuram”.

Of my personal experiences, one of the most incredible experiences was raga Kathanakuthuhalam. I was in my eleventh standard and this was when I heard the song “Raghuvamsa Sudha” that was sung in Kathanakuthuhalam. I told my sister, whenever I hear this song, I get so much energized and pumped up (I never understood the meaning of the song). Only a few weeks back I read in Google that this raga is sung in the kings court to energize and motivate people before they go to war. Movie songs – “Namathu Nagaram Thaan” in movie “Calcutta”. I have heard from people that “Kandukonden Kandukoden song” has touches of this raga.

Personally my favorite raagam has been Desh. I know favoritism is limiting but its from what I know. Desh rag songs "Thumbam Nergayil". I am not sure about any movie song in this raga but we all know "Bhaje Sargam" that use to come frequently in Doordarshan

However, several of us have no introduction to Carnatic Music or Raagas. I used to always think carnatic music was not the brightest of things (Apologies to all the Experts of Carnatic Music). However, I later realized that there has been tremendous science behind ragas. Just like any other sciences in our Indian system, it is been given in a subtle way to people who are dedicated and have the openness to accept it.

I have not had a formal training in music and neither had taken a book to read about ragas. It is just through observing the patterns and at various intervals of time I had contacts with ragas which helped me learn a drop from the ocean. I am sure formal training with dedication and involvement would help us learn the width and the depth of this science “Carnatic Music”.

To be continued....

An Attempt to Understand Raagas in Carnatic Music-Part II

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mullaperiyar Dam Issue – Let us Resolve it Forever

The Mullaperiyar Dam issue is dragging on between the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala for a long time now. Tamil Nadu wants to raise the water level in this century old dam while Kerala is all for a new dam. Tamil Nadu believes the dam that was constructed of lime and mortar in late 1880’s has enough strength to withstand a higher water level. But Kerala believes that this dam which was expected to last for 50 years at the time of construction and does not have enough strength to hold more water.

Here is a documentary about Mullaperiyar Dam issue made by C-DIT, a Kerala government organization. I agree this video gives the Kerala version of the story but could never find a video that gives the Tamil Nadu’s version of the issue. But this gives us a picture of the real issues involved in this controversy.

Now Supreme Court has come up with a five member committee consisting of former chief justice of India, A S Anand, and one representative each from Kerala and Tamil Nadu and two technical experts nominated by the Centre who are not connected with the dispute. I think this is a great move by the Supreme Court to solve the issue.

Sadly, the ruling DMK has come out with a statement that they are not going to accept the panel appointed by Supreme Court. If that happens, the proposed committee will lose its meaning. I believe both Kerala and Tamil Nadu government should forget all political differences and support this committee appointed by the Supreme Court. Tamil Nadu and Kerala government should make a pledge in public that whatever be the verdict of this expert committee, both states will accept it.

GOVERNMENTS OF KERALA AND TAMIL NADU – LET US TAKE POLITICS OUT OF THE EQUATION AND SOLVE THE MULLAPERIYAR ISSUE ONCE AND FOR ALL.

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Five Tips To Use Credit Cards Wisely

It is almost eight years since I started using credit cards. I rarely paid interest on my credit cards even though I have used them extensively. I even used that to buy my car but the highest interest rate I ever paid was 1.99%. Yes, if you are smart enough and learn the secret of the trade you can take advantage of the credit cards. Here are a few tips.
1 – All Credit Card Offers Are Traps
This is the first lesson anyone using a credit card should learn. Before you signup for a particular card or while using a card one should keep this in mind. The company that offers you a credit card is not doing that out of love for you but to extract money from you. If you understand that, you have won half the battle in successfully using credit cards.
Take for example a very prevalent practice by credit card companies – offering you the zero percent or low balance transfer offers. At first look that offer sounds great and very promising. But it is full of traps and if you are naïve you just walk into the trap set by the credit card companies. The credit card companies are trying to exploit a clause in the terms and conditions that states that once you have balances with different APRs in your account, the one with the lowest APR will be paid off first. That is the reason why most of these credit card companies are ready to increase your credit line immediately after you do a balance transfer. When one spends the extra credit line or balance in the account the credit card companies can charge those with higher percentage APR (This rule is no longer valid in US but this rule is valid in other parts of the world).
2 – Trap the Credit Card Companies in their Own Trap
Credit card companies used a bait to trap your money. Why don’t you cleverly use the same trap to your advantage? For that to happen one should understand why a Credit Card Company in the first place tries to entrap you with this offer. Once you know that you can take necessary precaution and use that to your advantage.
In the above example, if you know the reason why credit card companies offer you low percentage balance transfer APR, you could easily use that knowledge against them. Make the balance in the credit card you are going to do a balance transfer zero before you do a balance transfer. After the balance transfer, never use that card for any purchases or anything till that balance transfer is paid off fully. This is exactly what I did when I bought the car. The bank was offering me 6.99% APR for buying a car and I had an offer from a credit card company for 1.99%. I used it and saved a lot of money.
3 – Never sign up for credit cards with annual fees
Never ever sign up for cards that have annual fees. Credit cards are not worth paying annual fees. The cards that have annual fees will come up with attractive advertisements that are hard to resist. When one is in such a situation remember rule number 1 - All Credit Card Offers Have Traps.
The most common card with sign up fees that people usually sign up for – the credit cards offered by the airline companies with an annual fees and an offer of a free ticket once you have accumulated points. I had a friend who had this kind of a card from one of the airlines. He was paying $80 per year as annual fees for this card. It took him four years to accumulate enough points to get a free ticket. By that time he had paid $320 as annual fees and the free ticket he got was worth around $240!
4 – Choose the Reward Credit Card Carefully
There are hell lots of cards that offer rewards to use them. Choose the right card and you can save a lot. Do you drive a lot everyday to work? Then you should have a card that offers cash back or some reward on the gas. I use one card that offers 5% cash back on gasoline and one card that offers 3% cash back on groceries and eating out. At the end of the year that adds up to a good amount.
5 – Not Free Money
Another important thing to understand before using the card. This plastic card in our wallet is not free money. The earlier you realize the better it will be. I have seen lot of people who realize this once they sink so deep in credit card debts. This is a debt that can pull you in very fast from where recovery is really painful.
Credit cards are here for helping us out if used properly and wisely. Like anything else if you try to play with credit cards forgetting the rules of the game you are inviting trouble for yourself that may take years and years to resolve.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Serene Beauty of God’s Own Country Kerala - Astounding Videos

This blog post is for my friends/readers who never had a chance to visit my home state in India – God’s Own Country Kerala. This video produced by Department of Tourism to promote ecotourism in Kerala does great justice in capturing the beauty of Kerala.

In the first part of the video one can see the splendor of Thekaday, Thenmala and Eravikulam.

In the second part of this beautiful video, we are taken to inside of Nelliyampathy, Kallar, Peruvannamuzhy, Kakkayam, Pythalmala and Konni.

In the third part of the video, see the freshness of places like Nilambur, Athirappalli-Vazhachal, Peechi, Silent Valley, Thirunelli and Kadalundi.

In the fourth part of the video, enjoy the beauty of Thattekadu, Aralam and Parambikulam.

Next time you plan a vacation why can’t that be to Kerala to enjoy the tranquil beauty of this God’s Own Country. To know the latest news about Kerala Tourism start following Kerala Tourism in Twitter or visit Kerala Tourism website.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Undecipherable Healthcare System in USA

A doctor in India recommends someone to undergo bypass surgery. What does that patient do? Collect the details of the hospitals around that area that does bypass surgery and compare the experience of the doctors who perform the bypass surgery and the amount each hospital charges for this procedure. There may be some hospital that may charge a huge amount that may not be affordable for the patient but there may be another hospital in the same city that my charge less for the same. Based on the financial status of the patient he/she will select one hospital to perform the surgery. Once the patient is done with the surgery, he pays the amount that was agreed upon at the start and leaves the hospital. That is the end of the story. Something very similar to selecting a hotel for food. If you have less money and time, you go and eat in a fast food restaurant while if you have lots of both you dine in a five star hotel. In both cases you eat and pay for it then and there itself. No one is going to send a bill to you few days later for the food you ate.

Things won’t work that way in US. Based on your insurance you have to select the doctor. Otherwise you may end up paying more. During the visit you pay just the co-pay. Once your visit to the doctor is over and within few days you start getting so many letters like this one below. The benefits summary below is the one I got after I took my daughter for her normal three month’s shot.

Have a look at this benefits summary. The doctor’s office after your visit charges a huge amount to the insurance company so that they can get maximum amount from the insurance company. The insurance company pays an amount to the doctor/clinic based on the experience and market rate. In order to get the maximum possible amount the doctor/clinic overcharges the insurance company. Now some doctors/clinic charges the remaining amount to the patient by sending him/her the bill. The patient has no idea that a bill of such an amount will come to his house a few weeks after the procedure. There is no way in US to know how much a patient may end up paying for a particular procedure beforehand like in India.

Now the doctors/clinic make money by billing mammoth amount and insurance companies makes loads of profit by raising the insurance premium every year. But who is the loser in all this transaction – the common man who pays the insurance premium and goes to the hospital as a patient. Hopefully the health care reform bill will pass one day and things change. Hoping for the best…

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

R.I.P Gireesh Puthenchery

Gireesh Puthenchery who enlightened the music lovers of Kerala with some great songs is no more. He has penned down so many hit songs that no Malayali will ever forget him.


Gireesh Puthenchery rose to fame with the release of the movie “Johnny Walker” directed by Jayaraj. All the songs in the movie became a huge hit and he never has to look back.


Gireesh Puthenchery made a mark as a lyricist after he penned the song “Suryakireedom” for the movie Devasuram




Hits after hits followed. Here are some of them…

Thenmavin Kombathu



Krishnagudiyil Oru Pranayakalathu



Vadakkunathan for which he wrote the screenplay in addition to the songs



Nandanam



Ee Puzhayum Kadannu



Chandralekha



Aram Thamburan



May his Soul Rest in Peace

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Shreya Ghoshal - The Next Nightingale of India?


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She is only 25. She has already won four national awards for best female playback singer. She has sung in nine different languages and has won acclaim in all those languages. She is none other than Shreya Ghoshal!
I don’t listen to music that much but her songs caught my imagination of late. The versatility with which she sings in languages she does not know is amazing. Her diction is perfect in any song she sings even when that song is not in the language she speaks. If it was any other singer one could easily understand that the singer is singing in a language he/she does not know.
Here is a compilation of Shreya Ghoshal’s songs from eight different languages.
The first one – the latest hit in Malayalam – the song “Anuraga Vilochithanayi” from the movie “Neelathamara”. Hearing this song no one can say that Shreya Ghoshal does not know Malayalam as her diction is so perfect.
Here is the song Jiv Dangla from Marathi film Jogwa that won Shreya Ghoshal the National Award for best playback singer for the year 2009.

Another song that won Shreya Ghoshal National Award for the year 2009 – Pherari Mon from movie Antaheen.

The first movie in which Shreya Ghoshal  sung – Devadas and she got National Award for the best female playback singer for the same movie. Here is a song from that movie.
Shreya Ghoshal  won the Tamil Nadu  government best female playback singer in the year 2007 for the song Munbe  Va from the movie Silinu Oru Kathal.
Shreya Ghoshal won the Andra Pradesh  government best female playback singer in the year 2005 for the song Pillagaali Allari from the movie Athadu
 
In Kannada Shreya Ghoshal  won the Filmfare Award for the song  Ninna Nodalenthu from the movie Mussanjemaatu.
Here is a Punjabi song sung by Shreya Ghoshal
If Shreya Ghoshal can sing like this for few more years then she will definitely be the next Nightingale of India.

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Thirty Six Hours with an Indian Playback Singer

I always used to believe – the famous playback singers in movie industry never drink or smoke as it affects their sound. This belief was gone a couple of years back when a very famous playback singer from South India came to Phoenix for a stage show. This artist was here for only thirty six hours but the amount of alcohol he drank in those two days was unimaginable.

On the way to the hotel from the airport he was enquiring about the place he will be having dinner. He told he wanted to booze and wanted to go only to a bar. Six of us took him to a bar and for the next three hours it was all about drinking and songs. The amount of alcohol he drank that day was at least 2 to 3 times more than all six of us drank that day. After each round of drinking he sang songs, the pitch of which increased after each round of singing. We were amazed by the gifted singing talents and equally shocked by his drinking habits.

Next day evening as soon as the music concert was over he wanted us to take him to a bar for more drinks. The sponsor of the event had an Indian Restaurant that doesn’t serve alcohol and he refused to go there till his veins are filled with alcohol. He drank almost the same quantity he drank the previous night and then came to this restaurant to have dinner.

In those 2 days, the quantity of alcohol he drank might be equivalent to all six of us who accompanied him drank together for the last two years. Seeing the way he drank during those two days we could easily make out – if he continues to do this for another few more years we will soon see a news that this playback singer has died of liver/ lung/ heart disease similar to what has happened to Malayalam film stalwarts like Padmarajan or Rajan P Dev or Murali or Lohithadas or Narendra Prasad or Cochin Haneefa.


N.B. I have enabled comment moderation in my blog as I am getting tonnes of junk comments.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Untimely Death of Malayalam Movie Legends – Lessons to be Learnt


Just glance through the list of the some legends of Malayalam movie and the age at which they died – Bharathan (51), Padmarajan (45), Narendra Prasad (57), NF Varghese (53), Lohithadas (54), Rajan P Dev (56), Murali (55) and now Cochin Haneefa (59). What do all these deaths have in common? They all died at a young age leaving a big vacuum in the world of cinema.

We all mourn the death of these great people. But do we ever given a thought why they died at a very young age?

Let us take Bharathan for example. In the late eighties I have seen an interview with him in Doordarshan. In the 15 minute interview he had finished smoking two cigarettes. Just think of this – a person who smokes even while giving a TV interview, how many cigarettes he may be smoking a day?

Most of the artists had to drink to invoke the artistic mind (at least that is what they claim) and those mentioned above are not an exception. Another bad habit all these people have – lack of exercise. We eat all kinds of food but never do any exercise when we are healthy. I can surely say beyond doubt that excessive alcoholism and/or chain smoking and/or lack of exercise has taken the life of all the above greats of Malayalam movie that could have been easily avoided.

Now if we think that this is just confined to film personalities we are wrong. It is becoming the latest trend now. Just look around – we may know of someone who is in their forties or fifties dying of heart attack. Reason – lot of us are following the same life style of eating a lot without any exercise, excessive drinking and smoking.

We are adamant and never change our habits till it is late. Padmarajan for example during the last few days of his life quit smoking. But it was too late. I recently tried to advise someone about the eating habits. One of my friend’s father who is in his fifties eats a lot and never does any exercise. I told him it is time to eat less and do more exercise. What he told me is that he is perfectly fine now and will see when he gets sick. This is the mentality of most of us and this attitude needs to be change.

To me smoking even a cigarette a day over a period of time is bad and you will be forced to pay the price of it later. Social drinking is fine but drinking daily and that too drinking low quality stuff is equivalent to inviting an early death. Now about our food habits – our food habits are designed for people who do lot of physical work. Now with more white collar jobs we hardly do any physical work but eat the same kind of food our ancestors used to eat after doing tons of physical work. It is time to stop eating excessively to keep ourselves healthy.

Now have we learned any lessons from the untimely death of these film stars? I don’t think so. I recently read an interview with the famous Malayalam actor Salim Kumar when he proudly claimed “I smoke at least 20 beedis a day”. Why don’t these people learn from experience?

It is time to change the way we live. Other wise we are bound to hear more and more news of these untimely deaths.

QUIT SMOKING, DRINK JUDICIOUSLY, EAT WISELY AND EXERCISE PROPERLY TO LIVE A HEALTHY LIFE!

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