Monday, January 30, 2012

Celebrity Cricket League(CCL)– So Disgusting!!!

I happened to see a glimpse of the Celebrity Cricket League (CCL) the other day. This is one of the most disgusting things I have seen on TV. Here are 22 people, most of them who can hardly run playing cricket and hundreds of people cheering for them. After seeing the various greats like a Sachin Tendulakar or a Wasim Akram, for a true cricket lover like me it was sickening to see cricket being played like this to make some quick bucks. See one over bowled by Kerala Strikers captain and Malayalam actor Mohanlal. For each ball he bowling he is being cheered by a crowd of 70,000.
 When a Superstar makes a complete mockery of cricket, there are thousands to cheer him. If one can cheer for Mohanlal I feel we should be cheering for artist like Santhosh Pandit also. He is just doing the same thing in movies. Celebrity Cricket League is making a mockery of cricket and thousands are cheering for it. Why can’t people like Santhosh Pandit who is making mockery of mainstream cinema be also cheered? His movies and songs have better quality than the games played in CCL. See his latest song from his upcoming movie “Superstar Santhosh Pandit”
You decide!!!
Berly Thomas of Berlytharangal has expressed similar views. Read this here.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

"The Hindu” Responds to “Times of India” with Three Great Advertisements

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Updated on February 3rd, 10:10 AM IST:
Now Times of India has come with a new advertisement making indirect fun at "The Hindu" in today's newspaper. Here is that advertisement.
This is the age of sensationalizing news. Print as well as visual media are going all out to increase their viewership/readership. One newspaper that has tried to be away from all these foul play to some extent is “The Hindu”. I happened to see three advertisements of “The Hindu” ridiculing the Times of India. “The Hindu” has mocked the tabloid “Times of India” very well and hope this advertisements will serve as an eye opener for subscribers of Times of India to see reason and change their reading habits. Watch all three advertisement below.
“The Hindu” newspaper advertisement is in response to an earlier advertisement of “Times of India” in Tamil. Watch that advertisement below.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Four Rules for Selecting Your Engineering School and Branch

There are so many engineering seats that remain vacant especially in Southern States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. It has reached a stage that every Tom, Dick and Harry can get a seat in one of the engineering colleges that have mushroomed in all parts of these states. Now with so many colleges offering so many courses it is a tough task to select the most suitable engineering school for you. Here are four tips that may possibly help you select the best possible engineering school.
Rule # 1 – If you are looking for just “A JOB” after engineering, take any branch in a good engineering school that has a track record of campus placement over 95% of their students:
When one interacts with the 12th grade students preparing for their engineering entrance exam one question that comes up most – “which branch of engineering should one opt for?” The students asking this question have no preference for any branch and most of them are planning to do engineering just because of pressure from parents or because their friends are doing it. To such students if one asks them what he/she wants to do after engineering the most common reply will be that “I need to get a job that pays me very well”. They are happy with any engineering job as long as it pays them well. This is the same trend we see in campus placement also. Students specializing in Civil or Mechanical or Chemical or Biotechnology end up in software companies. To such students who don’t have preference for any particular job and still want to do engineering – choose a good and established engineering school with a good placement record and take any branch of engineering in that school.
Rule # 2 – If one has plan of doing higher studies after their bachelors try to take the traditional branches of engineering.
If one has plans to do higher studies after their engineering it is always better to go for traditional branches of engineering like Mechanical, Civil, Computer Science or Electrical and Electronics. There are lots of opportunities available in India and abroad do higher studies in the traditional branches of engineering. Suppose one student took Polymer Engineering branch for undergraduate degree, that student has already narrowed down his area of specialization. Now that student wants to do a Masters degree, he has to do in Polymer Engineering only. Now if the same student has taken Chemical Engineering for his under-graduation, then Polymer Engineering is one of the many option available along with many other areas of specializations like Biochemical Engineering or Environmental Engineering or Transportation Engineering to name few. 
Rule # 3 – It is better to wait another year than join an engineering school with no facilities or good faculties.
There are hundreds of engineering schools around that don’t have good facilities or teachers. Companies never even come to these schools for campus placements and students graduate out of these schools as half baked engineers with no jobs. It may even take them years to find a job. Rather than wasting your precious years after graduation it is always better to sacrifice one year after 12th grade to get into a good engineering school with good facilities and good placement records if you cannot make it first time. 
Rule # 4 – Best engineering schools are always the one where maximum research happens
If one wants to study in best engineering school, you should look beyond facilities and placement records. One should aim to get an admission in a school that does cutting edge research in your area of study. The number of papers published in peer reviewed journals, funded projects and the consulting works in schools should be one of the criteria in selecting the best engineering school. When a school has good facilities, faculties and good research program, it means more exposure for students studying there to the latest advances in their area of study. A student coming out of such a school will never has to look back as he may have all the necessary foundation for a successful career in his chosen engineering field. 
Please do share if there are any other rules that you used to select the engineering school.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Indians - being "more Indian in the US"

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This is an email Deepa and I got from our friend Jennifer Kumar, an American settled in Kochi for over a year now. She is married to an Indian and has a Masters degree in Social Work from Chennai, India. She is a cross cultural coach who loves to “work, make friends and live a life among others that were different than her”. She raises some interesting points that I have always observed especially after we moved back to India – how different the involvement of the working middle class is in India compared to the Indians settled in the US celebrating Indian festivals and how the NRI’s try to follow Indian traditions at every possible events while just the opposite is happening in India. I am publishing that email with Jennifer’s permission. 
Brijesh and Deepa....
A few reflections...
I interviewed you on my blog a while ago. I had a question about being more Indian or easier to be Indian in the US... something like that. I was told my impression was wrong.
Well... since being in Kerala I have observed something interesting. I don't know how it is where you are, but here are some observations from where I live in Kochi.
Daily wear
Now a days even in our age group I see more jeans and kurtas. I see salvaars. I rarely see saris in our age group.
In the US, when a fancy party happens or even a semi-fancy party, Desis try to dress to the nines by wearing sari or a fancy salvaar kamiz. Sometimes guys wear mundu or kurta pyjama.
I have seen for the same kind of parties in Kerala that the host may dress up- but the guys will come in fancy pants or kurta and pants (sometimes not even Indian wear) while women come in a fancy salvaar as compared to a sari. Saris relegated to the older set. But even in the 40 plus set, I see a dressing down taking place. 
A few specific examples of this include attending a baby’s first birthday party, a community Rotary Onam cultural program and a Kerala wedding. I will detail each below.
The first example is the dress code I noticed at a baby’s first birthday party in Kochi. I'd say the people in our community are kind of equivalent to the Desi crowd I hung out with in the USA.  Economically speaking they are upper middle class. They own cars and rent in an affluent neighborhoods and working in software jobs. I dressed in a sari as I thought this would be the dress code. Krishna went in kurta and pants. (Western pants). I was the only one in a sari minus the baby's mom and a few older women (even some older women were in salvaar). This is ironic considering I am the foreigner here! And as for the guys, only elders were in mundu, while many younger men came in pants and western top. Little girls had fancier dresses on than the mothers in many cases. Beside me and baby's mom, no other girls in our age group had saris.
This is a common thing I have seen at the five parties I have been in Kochi with one notable exception. The second example is the Onam party we went to hosted by the Rotary. Here women dressed in settu mundu. But interestingly, those who dressed in this did so for dancing thiruvathira. About half the women after dancing immediately went and changed into a salvaar. I was shocked! 
And, the last most poignant example is in attending Kerala Hindu weddings. I have attended three weddings in Kochi over the past one year. In these events, I noticed a range of dresses. Indian and western formals and casuals. I was surprised to see kids and teens coming in what I may consider ‘school clothes’ in American standards. They were wearing jeans and a fancy top, or cotton paavada davani, not silk or silk mix. The absence of Kerala sari, even for the bride was the most shocking change. Krishna told me that when he was growing up, one would be hard pressed to see women in anything but settu mundu or at least one piece Kerala sari. But now, we see fancy Kanchipuram pure silk weaves and Indian dresses from all over India (lenghas, saris wrapped in Gujarati style and so forth). On one hand it’s nice to have a variety of clothes acceptable in Kerala. The culture is opening up, but at what cost to tradition and culture?
Coming to India, I was thinking it would give me more chances to wear saris. However, as I see these situations, I feel that many women in my age group don’t even know how to wear saris. I miss the NRI crowd in the US now. In the US Indian crowd I hung out with (both pan-Indian and Malayalee and Tamil groups) people took more efforts to dress Indian and dress more formally - more girls our age wearing saris over salvaars for instance to parties. People also took more care to wear Kerala dresses for Onam parties, even to the extent of being obsessed about it and planning to have things sent to the USA from India via their connections. Or, in some cases, even driving from Rochester, New York to Toronto, Canada to buy or rent clothes from the India towns there.  
Another observation I have is that in Mallu clubs in the US people dance thiruvathira and in Xmas programs some dance margam kali. Here in Kerala no one will dance these dances. What I gather from this is that in Kerala people feel fear of criticism from others because they are not professionally trained. Doing it casually for fun like they do in the US is not done here. When our housing development was planning the Christmas party, I asked if we can dance margamkali and a few girls looked like they never heard of this dance, while a few others said 'they cannot dance this' and the rest said it's not possible to do it. When I mentioned that in the US Mallu groups do these dances they were shocked and said "Mallus outside India are more Mallu than we are in Kerala."
My NRI neighbors have said this to me on various occasions without me even bringing it up. Before Onam I told them I asked a few girls if they'd like to try thiruvathira for Onam and I was denied to try it with them. Again I guess for reasons I mentioned above, we talked about that and then the neighbors made a note of how many people they know in Kochi who are ordering Onam meals and not cooking at home. They commented "In the US we have to be more Mallu than here because here we can get others to do the work for us- caterers or cooks or maids." 
I would say this leaves me with a most interesting thought to ponder. When living in India, Indians are not giving much thought to their dressing habits or may not even know how to cook. But, living abroad, one HAS to know how to do this if they want to 'be Indian.' (so to speak)
Just some thoughts....
Thanks for reading.
Like to know your thoughts or responses to anything here. 
Jennifer dancing Thiruvathira in New York with the Malayalee group;
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Joy Of Reading!

I happened to see this presentation by Mr Harikumar, retired engineer from ISRO on “Joys of Reading”. Harikumar is a avid reader and happens to be the grandson of Mahakavi Ullor and I am publishing the slides here with his permission.

Enjoy!

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Is this What We Expect from a MP in India?

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Few months ago I had the chance to be present when the Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) MP Dr Shashi Tharoor was meeting people from his constituency in the lobby of Government Guest House in Thycaud. It started around 12:00 PM and ended by around 2:30 PM. There were over 100 people waiting for him. I was next to Dr Tharoor and could listen to most of the concerns and demands of the people who were meeting him. For me it was a nice learning curve to better understand the Indian political system from very close quarters. 
Of the 100 odd people who came to meet Dr Tharoor, I was surprised to find that less than 10% of the people came with genuine concerns – fund for repairing a broken road or fund for starting or upgrading a library or help in speeding up sanction of pension papers to name a few. To my surprise majority of them have come for favors an MP has no power to do/should not do ever. Majority of the people who came there wanted the help of Dr Tharoor in getting a transfer that in not possible in normal circumstances or some kind of recommendation for promotion in their job or to get their loans written off. I had also seen one gentle man who has an undergraduate degree asking help from Dr Tharoor to get him a job! 
I heard Dr Tharoor telling few of them that “MP doesn’t have any power to do such things” but still the people were insisting that he do something to help them. I still remember the interaction of one lady with Dr Tharoor. This will give you an idea of the kind of problems majority of people come with to meet their MP/MLA.I remember this conversation between that lady and Dr Tharoor because the same lady came back three times to Dr Tharoor and repeated all what she told. Here is the conversation the lady had with Dr Tharoor. 
Lady: My daughter is working in XXX and got transferred to Noida, Uttar Pradesh. She has a 3 year old daughter and her husband is working in Trivandrum. Please help us with this transfer.
 Shashi Tharoor (ST): She can contact her higher ups for the transfer, right? Lady: As per the rules she can get transfer back to South India only after being there for 3 years. Here is a petition that has all the details. If you can talk to the Secretary of that department during your next visit to Delhi she will surely get this transfer. 
ST: As an MP I don’t have the power to go and talk to the Secretary of a department for a transfer. It is not the correct way. 
Lady: Sir, please help. My daughter doesn’t have to work to look after the family. We as parents have saved enough for her to live. My daughter is planning to resign the job than go to Noida. Then it was me who told my daughter that we have all voted for you Sir [stressing that point] and that you have got good contacts in Delhi. I told her that Sir will surely help us. Sir we all voted for you in our family and surely we will vote for you next time you contest and make you win with more majority. 
ST: Give the petition to my office. I am not guaranteeing anything. Chances are very remote that I can help you with that. 
Lady: Even though my daughter can live without a job, it is still a government job and I don’t want my daughter to lose it as long as you are our MP and can help us easily with her transfer. When we have elected an MP who has worked in places like UN why should my daughter worry? You can just call the XXX Secretary and post my daughter back to Trivandrum. 
ST: I will do my best but one thing you remember – this is not the job of an MP and cannot promise anything. 
At this juncture I looked at the face of Dr Tharoor. His face told everything. He knows he cannot do anything to help this lady but cannot tell that using strong words as she happened to be a “voter” in his constituency. He went on to the next person.
We unfortunately have a system where we think duties of our elected representatives are recommending for a transfer or promotion bypassing the rules or attending marriages in their constituency.

I have lived in Phoenix, Arizona for close to 10 years. Being interested in politics, I have followed the two senators of the state – former Republican Presidential candidate John McCain (elected 5 times) and Jon Kyl (elected 3 times) very closely through television and radio. I don’t think no Arizona voter will go to these senators with a request for promotion or transfer. They may go to their Senator with a request to start a business that can give few people job in Arizona and request their help. These senators look after the overall interest of the state at Washington. Come election and the voters of Arizona will vote for them on the basis of their performance in Washington – gauged by the bills they piloted in the Senate and their voting record. I understand the system is slightly different in US and India but MP’s in India and senators in US are both supposed to be lawmakers and with that definition both should be doing the same job. 
Now back to India – however good a parliamentarian you are – unless you listen to the unjust demands of the voters of your constituency, a politician cannot survive the electoral politics of India. It is the public who should understand that MP’s and MLA’s are not elected to help you to bypass the rules but to drive the country forward drafting appropriate laws.
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Thursday, January 12, 2012

My First 45 days of MS Study in US

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We all remember our first – first bicycle or first day in school or first video game one has played or a first kiss. I remember vividly by first assignment, lab report and exam I gave in US after I joined for my Masters mainly because it all ended in a huge nightmare for me. 
Let me start with the assignment. Three weeks into first semester, the professor wanted us to prepare a 10 page report on a specific topic and submit it to him. He had given three books as reference to us to get more information. I could not find those books in the library (thanks to the ignorance of how to use the online catalogue of our library) and could not afford to buy a $100 book (that was the time I was still looking for an hourly job), I borrowed one of the text books from the professor itself. I referred just to that one text book wrote the assignment and submitted thinking that I did really well. The very next class the professor returned the graded assignment and to my surprise got zero – probably the first zero I got for an assignment in my entire life. Professor had not corrected my assignment beyond the first paragraph. The first paragraph of the assignment I wrote was exactly the same as the first paragraph from Chapter 1 of the book I borrowed from the same Professor. I did not put any reference to this book anywhere in the report. I never knew till then that for a class assignment you cannot copy directly from a text book that too from a text book suggested by the professor. That was how I did all the assignments for my bachelors. The professor has written “Copied”, name of the text book and page number from where I copied. This assignment carried 20% weight age and I just got zero for that – a horrendous start to my MS. 
This was just the start of more horrific things to come. After this assignment fiasco I had the first exam in another subject the very next week. The exam was on Wednesday and we (I and another Indian in the class) started preparing for the exam from Monday morning – an early start to exam preparation considering that exam is there only on Wednesday. Both of us went to library took few books related to the topic and started reading from the text book. We never bothered to learn from the class notes as we were used to read text books before the exams. I went to the exam thinking that I prepared really well and will good marks in this exam. The professor gave me the question paper for that 90 minute exam and it took me over 10 minutes to realize that I got the correct question paper. I had never seen such a question paper. The question paper had 4 pages and first two pages were a story with few drawings. It took me over 30 minutes to understand the pattern and by then all the questions looked alien to me. I was thinking all questions were “out of syallbus” or “twisted” (only to realize latter that all were so simple and application of what he taught in the class). 
I had just completed one of the worst exams I had ever written in my life. Exam got over by 2:00 PM and I though I will take some rest as night out and this question paper had made me very tired. I went home to get some sleep and my sleep was disturbed by a call from my Indian friend who took the course with me – he called me to let me know that Professor has finished correcting the paper and posted the marks. I logged in to see my marks and had got 37/100 and the class average was just over 60. My only consolation was that my friend also got the same mark as mine and both of us helped considerably in reducing the class average! 
If the zero in the assignment and or a below average mark in the exam was not enough more debacle was in waiting for me. The very next week after I completed my exam I was supposed to submit my first lab report to the third course I was taking that semester. In that lab report we are supposed to answer ten questions. I wrote answers to all those questions making sure that I did not copy even a single sentence from any text book. I could not afford to lose any more marks. I was supposed to submit the lab report by Wednesday morning but I had completed everything by Tuesday night and sent the softcopy of the lab report to the professor and the teaching assistant. 
I was on my way back to my home when I met another Indian student who was taking the same course with me. He asked me answers to few of the questions in the lab report. I told him that I don’t remember the answers correctly but will send you softcopy my lab report once I reach home. He agreed and I went home and sent him the same soft copy I sent to the professor. 
One week after I submitted my lab report, I got a mail from the professor to come and meet him. By that time I had 10 hours Research Assistantship and I thought he is calling me to give me full time Research Assistantship. I went to meet him and on seeing him I could figure out that he was very angry. He gave me back my lab report where it was marked “0” and the on side was written “COPIED” in bold and capital letters. I was shocked as I took extra effort to make sure that I did not copy anything this time. I was not sure what was happening. 
The professor was furious and told me “You and Mr X copied” and showed me the lab report of the Indian student to whom I had sent my lab report. Both the assignments look identical in all respects except the name. The spelling mistakes I made and the extra spaces between couple of paragraphs – everything was same. Now I realized what had happened. The student who had got the soft copy from me just changed the name and forwarded the lab report. The professor told me that he is going to report this to the ethics committee and I was in danger of losing the scholarship I got a couple of weeks back. I explained to the professor what exactly may have happened. The professor also talked to the other student and he accepted his wrong doing. As a punishment for sending him the softcopy I was awarded zero for that lab report but my name was not reported to the ethics committee. 
Getting two zeros and the lowest marks – this is not the way you want to start your Masters in the new country. But that is what had happened to me. I realized through theses incidence how different it was to study in India and US. That realization made me take necessary actions to conduct myself. I am sure every one who went to another country and another culture to do their education will have some incident to narrate during their initial days of stay, isn’t it?
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Thursday, January 05, 2012

‘Out of the Blue' – A Look Back into a Miracle in Indian Cricket

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It was around 10:00 PM that I started reading the book “Out of Blue” written by former Indian Opener Aakash Chopra about Rajasthan’s Road to the Ranji Trophy. My wife reminded me I have a lecture for my students at 8:00 AM, an indication that she normally gives so that I sleep early. Typically when I have to be in office by 8:00 AM I sleep latest by 1:00 AM. But as I started reading “Out of Blue” I forget about time and in one go finished reading it. I looked at the watch once I finish reading it and it was 5:50 AM in the morning. The book was such a gripping story of Indian cricket that I forgot that I had to sleep early that day. 
Rajasthan’s journey to lift the coveted Ranji Trophy in the year 2010-11 is nothing but a fairly tale. After being placed last (27th) a year before, it was a spectacular fete to win the championship next year. It is more like Bermuda lifting 2015 world cup after not even qualifying for 2011 World Cup. If such an unbelievable thing has to happen, there should be lots of hard work, dedication, planning and execution that go with it. This book is all about how Rajasthan could achieve that miracle of winning Ranji Trophy. 
It is said that in India “Cricket is a religion and Sachin is the main God”. All other cricketers who are playing for India have the status of demi-God. Cricket loving public rarely cares about other cricketers who sweat out for their states – who are not fortunate enough to represent India. This book by Aakash Chopra is for all those players who have represented their respective states and never got a chance to play for India. This book shows us a glimpse of how much passion for cricket and hard work that goes on to make a first class cricketer. 
This book is the story of Akash Chopra who was unceremoniously dumped from Delhi team, his home for more than a decade and how he found an abode in Rajasthan; this is the story of Hrishikesh Kanitkar, who after so much selfless service to Maharastra state team was dropped from the team; it is the story of Pankaj Singh – only other member in the team (others being Kanitkar and Aakash) to represent India, his initial struggles to make a mark as a cricketer; it is the story of Ashok Menaria, the former Indian Under-19 team captain – his initial rise and fall in cricket and his subsequent rise; it is the story of Deepak Chahar, whom Greg Chappell branded “good for nothing”, who went on to take 8/10 against Hyderabad on his debut; it is story of Robin Bist who like Chopra shifted loyalty from Delhi to Rajasthan and his initial struggles to set his foot right in Rajasthan; it is the story of Madhur Khatri, a Class IV cadre employee in the Railways who has to work close to 12 hours a day to look after his family and then find time to practice even after getting selected to play for Rajasthan; it is the story of Vineet Saxena, who was courageous to pad up hours after the burial of his two month old daughter; it is the story of Rashmi Ranjan Parida, former Orissa captain and the third professional player in Rajasthan team; this is the story of Vivek Yadav who “ran away” from his own house when his parents were against him playing cricket; this is the story of Sumit Mathur, who flunked 12th grade exam because he had time only for cricket and not for studies; this is the story of Vaibhav Deshpande – the pain taken by his family to make him a cricketer; this is the story of Gajendra Singh another Class IV employee of Railways who get rid of Ricky Pointing, Mathew Hayden, Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson in an exhibition match even before he started playing for Rajasthan; this is the story of Rohit Jhalani, the senior most player in the Rajasthan team and his struggles to retain his place. In short this book is the story of those players who made that impossible happen for Rajasthan for the first time in the Ranji Trophy history. 
The planning and  execution of the game plan on the day of the game, how domestic cricket is played in India, how Rajasthan Cricket Association looked after its players during their dream journey – this book tells us all that. 
I have to get up at 7:00 AM after an hour of sleep as my students will be waiting for me for the 8:00 AM lecture. But I don’t have any complains. I have read a well written book about Indian cricket. 
For all those budding cricketers who dream of playing for India – this is a must read book; for all those Indian cricket fans out there – this is a must read for you all.. 
On a side note: As I write this Rajasthan has just beat Hyderabad to qualify for the Ranji Trophy semifinals of this year and Aakash Chopra has hit a century. May be another exciting book on the way about Ranji season 2011-12?
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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Top Ten Malayalam Songs of 2011

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Here are the top ten Malayalam movies songs for the year 2011, picked by Ravi Menon, Malayali’s “Pattezhuthukaran”, author of so many books about Malayalam movie songs like “Enganne Nee Marakkum”, “Athisayaragam”, “Soja Rajakumari”, “Mozhikalil Sangethamayi”, “Mere Awaz Suno” to name few. This list was first published here.
1 - Chimmi Chimmi (Urumi)
2 - Mazhaneerthullikal (Beautiful)
3 - Premikumbol (Salt & Pepper)
4 - Ee Puzhayum (Indian Rupee)
5 - Kannodu Kannoram (Veeraputhran)
6 - Pattil ee Pattil (Pranayam)
7 - Nattuvazhiyorathe (Gaddama)
8 - Arikil Ninnalum (China Town)
9 - Kannoram Chinkaram (Rathi Nirvedam)
10 - Ragachandranariyathe (Living Together)
 Enjoy!!!
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