Thursday, January 10, 2008


My parents recently got a satellite dish installed so that they could see Sun TV here in Houston. Since the ultra-melodramatic, horribly enacted, mind-numbingly painful serials run 5 days a week, we switch to Sun TV only on the weekends.

I've never been a fan of the reality-dance TV shows here in the US and so I didn't expect to fall in love with the reality-dance shows on Sun TV. Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing to watch on TV during the weekends here (barring the news channels of course, which compete with each other to incorrectly predict who will be the Democratic Presidential Candidate) and so Sun TV it is - all day, Saturday and Sunday. And this involves sitting through two reality-dance shows. One called 'Mastana Mastana' judged by choreographer-cum-sub-par-actor Lawrence Raghavendra and the actress, Mumtaj, who won our hearts in 'Veerasami' by showing us the power of the human will by sitting in a bath tub of milk with our Karadi Kong (T. Rajendar).

The bath tub from Hell. Do not play this video if you are pregnant, are easily frightened or if you love life. Consider yourself warned.

The other one is called 'Super Dancer' and is judged by a really old guy who wears a white hat to cover his bald patch, and former actress but current item number dancer Malavika.

A valiant attempt at a joke that will most probably fail:

I believe that Malavika should advertise Super Dancer with the tag line ' C u at 9 '.

Reasons this joke could fail:

1. You have never heard of the film 'C u at 9'. If you haven't you are probably not from Chennai, or you are and you somehow failed to notice the brilliant title of this movie on the numerous posters that were stuck on the walls when the movie was released (I guess you might have been looking at something else).

2. Super Dancer is not telecast at 9PM.

3. You do not possess the sense of humour required to appreciate such clever wit. (If, however, you did laugh heartily at the joke, please give yourself a pat on the back. You have a fine taste for all things funny.)

I digress. The point of this post was to share the pain that I feel when I watch the above two shows, not to make you feel pained. The most annoying aspect of these two shows for me is not the horrible dancing. Oh no, that can be tolerated if you focus on the wall right behind the TV. The most annoying part of these shows is when the judges start talking. Mumtaj and Malavika are not native Tamil speakers and they are judging a show on Tamil television. Well, I guess that makes sense. The problem occurs when they try to use English to complement the Tamil that could wake up Thiruvalluvar from the grave.

"Confident vaenum ma (You need confident)" was one such line of wisdom uttered by Mumtaj. The clincher, though, was "Unga feel enna? (What was your feel?)”.

I finally realized that I had found the motivation to go to the gym as I lifted my lazy ass off the couch and walked towards the tread-mills, not waiting to hear the answer for that beautifully phrased question.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Taare Zameen Par Movie Review

(I know it's pretty late for a review, but whatever)

Starring: Darsheel Safary, Aamir Khan, Tisca Chopra, Vipin Sharma

Directed by: Aamir Khan

Most of Indian society believes that for a child to be successful in life, it is imperative that they do well academically. 8 year old Ishaan Nandakishore Awasti (played by Darsheel Safary) lives in such a society, where to be able to draw well is fine but to not be able to back that up with good grades is close to criminal. Taare Zameen Par focuses on how Ishaan, who suffers from Dyslexia, gets buried under pressures to study well. His parents refuse to accept that their kid might actually have a problem and instead blame Ishaan’s attitude towards anything academic.

The movie addresses an important issue and Aamir Khan as Ishaan’s art teacher, Ram Shankar Nikumbh, plays the savior as he tries to bring the little kid back from the depths of despair. One of the most affecting scenes in the movie is when Nikumbh asks Ishaan’s dad (played by Vipin Sharma) what he thinks is the reason his kid continuously fails to get good grades. The father angrily replies that his son has an attitude problem and that he just refuses to learn. When Nikumbh tries to explain that Ishaan might have a reading problem, the father puts down that theory exclaiming that reading English is not hard. Nikumbh picks up a toy box that has instructions written in Chinese and asks the father to read it. As the father starts to complain that he cannot read Chinese, Nikumbh starts shouting at him, blaming his attitude and unwillingness to read. Taare Zameen Par had plenty of such scenes, where it tries to put across to the viewer areas where parents and teachers go wrong when handling children.

One of the strong points of the movie was the impressive acting and Darsheel Safary is definitely a talent to look out for. He was splendid as Ishaan, playing the role of the 8 year old as an 8 year old. There is a tendency for Indian directors to make their child-actors act extra-cute, but Aamir Khan as the director, has done a great job in maintaining the innocence of Darsheel. In a scene, Ishaan’s father is packing for a work related trip and he makes his child believe that he is leaving home forever since he misbehaved. Darsheel shines in that scene as he tears up begging his father to stay and then frowns angrily as his mother (played by Tisca Chopra) tells him the truth. Darsheel’s name appears first in the credits, ahead of actor-director Aamir Khan, and I doubt anyone can deny him of that honor.

Aamir Khan plays a very sensitive teacher who tears up so easily that he needs a moment to calm himself after hearing Ishaan’s story from his parents. He does a very good job playing the role of Ishaan’s mentor and is more like a fun uncle than an art teacher to his students. Credit must definitely go to Creative Director, Amole Gupte, for 2007’s most touching story which is well complemented by very effective acting, and beautiful music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s which is set to Prasoon Joshi’s lyrics that more often than not tug at the heart-strings.

Taare Zameen Par is a successful effort; it shows that every child can be special, if given the opportunity.

Rating: 7.5/10