Wednesday, 24 October, 2007

The grass is greener...

It was eleven AM. Time for a coffee break. As was his wont to do everyday, he stood in the corridor, waiting for the elevator to take him up to the cafe. He stood looking down from the fifth floor, out the glass wall of his air-conditioned concrete office building, far below at the now-familiar scene in the lawn.

She was rolling around on the fresh green grass, now arched out belly-up on her back, now face down and stretching luxuriously. The gentle sun that she so casually took for granted beamed down on her in all his benevolence while her every fiber basked in his warm comfort. The two little ones gamboled about nearby - running about here and there, taking turns chasing each other, tripping over themselves playfully. They searched for hidden treasures beneath the odd clump of grass, often startling a beetle or a dragon-fly into sudden flight - and promptly gave chase with glee. They ran around in circles screaming in mock-terror as the sprinkler's jets watered the green earth, seemingly following them wherever they went and splashing them occasionally. She watched over them with eyes half-closed in maternal contentment, as she just lay there and lazed in the warm sun and the cool breeze.

He stood five floors above, behind his glass wall, and looked down at this picture of peace and solitude. It was a perfect world, this world of theirs. They had the whole lawn to themselves - just the three carefree souls, in their own private green universe. Not another human being in sight. Do they even care that there may be prying eyes around? It's almost shameless, the way they were luxuriating - a small part of him felt.

And then she saw him. Or he thought she did, as he could never tell by her reaction - she just paused mid-stretch as her eyes swept past his general direction, then came back to him. For a moment, he felt like a guilty voyeur, but it was clear she couldn't be bothered that he was looking. She just continued to look at him for a moment with those same half-glazed eyes - the only indication she may have actually noticed him being a gentle wag of the tail, and a sort-of quizzical look in her intelligent mongrel eyes. Was it an invitation? - he wondered to himself. But then the puppies came tumbling over in childish excitement, clawing at her and sniffing noses, and she bent down to them, rolling them over and over in the grass as they yelped happily, and loped off after them around the lawn.

He lingered on, looking down at them in their perfect world. The 'ping' of the arriving elevator shook him out of his reverie, and he turned away with a wistful sigh of longing, the words on the signboard at the edge of the lawn gently mocking him...

"Please Do Not Walk on the Grass"

Tuesday, 25 September, 2007

Knock! Knock!

Knock! Knock!

Who's there?


Misbah who?

Mis bah five runs!! :-)


[V - thanks for this email fwd!]

Tuesday, 18 September, 2007

What The Fork???

Signboard outside a restaurant on the way to Tito's Lane in Baga, Goa (pic taken on my cell-fone, earlier in January this year).


Thursday, 6 September, 2007

The singer's Song

I came across this amazing bhaava geethe last weekend. Its words are simple, but I think it completely epitomizes the true spirit of a singer. Here it is -

Edhe Thumbi Haadidhenu

Edhe thumbi haadidhenu andhu naanu
Manavittu kaelidhiri alli neevu
Edhe thumbi haadidhenu andhu naanu

Indhu naa haadidharu andhinanthe kunithu
Kaeluviri saakenage adhuve bahumaana
Haaduhakkige baeke, birudu sanmaana

Ella kaelaliyendhu naa haaduvudhilla
Haaduvudhu anivaarya karmavenage
Kaeluvavariharendhu naa balle adharindha

Haaduvenu Maidumbi Yendinanthe
Yaaru Kivi Muchchidaru, Nanagilla Chinthe
Yaaru Kivi Muchchidaru, Nanagilla Chinthe

Edhe thumbi haadidhenu andhu naanu
Manavittu kaelidhiri alli neevu
Edhe thumbi haadidhenu andhu naanu

[Poet: Dr. G. S. Shivarudrappa]

Saturday, 25 August, 2007

The Young God of Music

That is the literal translation of the name Kumar Gandharva - a title given to this great singer when he was discovered as a child prodigy. I'll leave it to you to look him up on Wiki and elsewhere on the Net in detail for facts and stuff. But it can be said that he is one of the iconic singers in the history of Hindustani classical vocal music.

Some anecdotal info - At the tender age of 8-9 years, Kumar-ji could listen to the records of the old masters and mimic them to great accuracy (it is said he could listen to a 3 minute segment once, and sing it back exactly). As a singing boy wonder, he traveled and performed extensively. In one of his sessions, one of the audience was Prof B R Deodhar, who spotted the boy's talents, and took him under his tutelage. Kumar-ji later got married and moved to Madhya Pradesh. In his 20's, he was struck by a debilitating tuberculosis affliction, which rendered him unable to sing for the next five years or so. But during his recovery, while still being bed-ridden, he had his wife attend gatherings where local folk songs were sung, memorize the dhun's and sing it back to him at home. He built a number of ragas and compositions based on what she brought back. After he recovered, he took up singing again, but it is said that the disease left him with only one functioning lung! It is despite this constraint that he went on to become one of the greatest singers of all time. He passed away in 1992.

Kumar-ji's music is probably not for everyone. He can best be described as a maverick genius, who took classical gayaki to a different level. It is said that one must first master the existing rules, traditions and frameworks of an art form - and then question the very same. It is then that true creativity emerges. Kumar-ji is proof of this statement. His way of singing polarized the world of music into those who thought he was the greatest ever, to those who are dismissive of his approach - a debate that continues to rage even today. But none can question his very unique and inventive style - of innovative interpretations of ragas, of bringing out strong and often surprising emotional colors of the verses, or of electrifying super-fast taan's sung with brilliant accuracy. He was a strong proponent of exactness of the notes - saying that music is when the exact center points of the frequencies of the notes are sung; anything which is close or near-about these madhya-bindu's but not quite there, does not constitute real music! Another very clear difference in his style of singing as compared to others is his use of shorter phrases, and silences in between. His diminished lung power probably forced him to make do with shorter breaths, but that only led him to invent his own use of phrasing, with the silences in between that serve to keep the phrases separate from one another, giving you time to appreciate and savor each one in its individual brilliance, and actually give you time to think!

Below is a sample I found on YouTube. Check it out.

Here is the bandish he is singing, and it's meaning -

aisan kaisan barasat barakha

ghiri ghiri aai chhay dis chahuNwa

bahu din te chhip gayo soorajawa
oob re gayi barasan te manawa


How come it's raining like this
It's raining in all directions
The sun has been hidden for many days
My heart is fed up with all this rain

Dwell on the lyrics, line by line, as you listen to the master interpret it in Raag Kamod.

Credits - Wikipedia for Kumar-ji's photograph above, YouTube for the video as well as the bandish and its meaning, and Pt Vyasamurthy Katti for a lot of the anecdotal info he shared with a bunch of us in a session about Kumar-ji and his music held at Mowna-ji's place. Thanks everyone!

Sunday, 12 August, 2007

Full Meals under Rs. 50!

1. Starters

1 Pani Puri at the roadside stand outside 'Sri Vasavi Condiments' - Rs. 10/-

{Remember to ask for the 'sukha' at the end!}

2. Main Course

1 Plain dosa, (made from pure ghee that the cook squirts straight out of the pouch it was packed in) with coconut chutney on the side at the unnamed eatery - Rs. 15/-

3. Dessert

1 glass of Malai Milk, garnished with dry fruits and nuts, at the 'Mumbai Badam Milk and Lassi Centre' - Rs. 20/-

Total Expense = Rs. 45/-

That wonderful feeling of your taste buds exploding in ecstasy and your tummy sated in content - PRICELESS!

Location - Vasavi temple road, also known as 'Eat Street', or 'Food Street', VV Puram (Basavangudi), Bangalore. Get to Lalbagh West Gate, go down to VV Puram Circle, take the lane that leads back up from the corner of Vasavi Bakery. Parking is an issue, so make sure you take the first available spot anywhere nearby and walk.

The above is just a sample that this place offers - this is one of the best street food areas in Bangalore. Food is cheap, mostly fairly clean, usually very tasty, and you get to see it made right in front of you. It's packed on weekend nights - which can be part of the fun as well! The entire experience is best enjoyed on foot.

Saturday, 28 July, 2007

Taan-talizing Stuff!

It is humanly impossible to sing taans so fast, with such emotive imagination, and yet each note so exact, sung in a crystal clear voice! Unless, of course, you are Ustad Rashid Khan. I was at the Barkha Ritu festival of "rain and ragas" concerts, where I had the privilege of hearing this man sing, live.

An hour or more of Megh Malhar, followed by Des (including a tarana, one of his favourite type of compositions) convinced me that I have probably never heard a better singer and voice in contemporary Indian classical music. His voice culture leaves very little to be desired, and his improvisation is characterized by a high level of technical ability across a large range, as well as a strong emotive basis - and the latter is something which is rare even among the old Masters.

And his taans are simply electrifying! I remember - there was this kid in the row ahead of me, he must have been about 6 or so, and had come along with his parents. And he was typically being restless and fidgeting around in his seat and in the aisle (actually, this went for a large part of the rest of the crowd as well - but that's probably fodder for another post!). This went on for the first ten minutes or so, and it was quite irritating for the people around - meanwhile the Ustad had started his concert with a slow elaboration. And then Rashid-bhai launched into his first taan, and I saw this kid's attention literally arrested to the stage now! It was instantaneous. He'd been pottering around in the aisle, and at that moment, quietly sat back in his chair, and not a peep was heard from him for the better part of an hour, till the end of Megh Malhar! I don't think anything more need be said!

Here are some samples - Raag Basant, and Raag Marwa. Check these out.

Pt Vishwa Mohan Bhatt and S Shashank were playing a jugalbandi next. Unfortunately for them, they had planned to perform Megh Malhar and Des as well, as Vishwa-ji pointed out before they began, but Rashid Khan ended up choosing the same ragas! So they had to change tack to Pooriya Dhanasri (another majestic raag) for their main piece! Heck, it's the rainy season, what's the big deal in stealing the thunder a little?!

Saturday, 14 July, 2007


This just struck me a few minutes ago - just out of nowhere. Just why exactly is the Hindi word 'saala' a cuss-word? Saala means the brother of your wife. What could be derogatory about that?

A moment's further contemplation brought the answer of course - what if one turns this definition around? By calling someone saala, I actually imply that I am banging his sister! Now that puts a slightly different spin I guess! A little research on the net proves I'm right. Funny how, given this slightly racy and strong (?) interpretation, it's still such a commonly used term, often even by children!

A bit of joblessness made me explore some more such "harmless" terms - here's one. See point 3 in that page! "Endearing and rather harmless" indeed!

He he!

Tuesday, 3 July, 2007

Being Prepared

I don't mean to be paranoid. I'm just saying, what's the harm in being prepared? There are situations in life, from the mundane to the critical, which can be called 'unplanned emergencies'. To be able to manage them takes only a little bit of skill, but then again, only if one is properly trained for it. The funny thing is, it doesn't take much to learn these skills - in terms of investment of time or money. But how many of us make that investment?

Here's a simple test. Below is a list of situations where 'things can go wrong'.

  • Flat tyre on your car/bike
  • The fuse on your mains blows up
  • Someone has a fall and breaks a limb / has a cardiac arrest / has seizures / has been bitten by a dog
  • There's a small fire / gas leak
  • There's been a road accident
  • There's an intruder in your house in the middle of the night
How many of the above can you handle independently and effectively, before professional help arrives? Do you know the emergency numbers to call? Do you know what to do, and what NOT to?

I will say this again. It takes very little effort and training to be able to handle a large number of emergencies at a basic level in the preliminary stages. The key, therefore, is to get that training, in these basic "life skills", along with those fancy academic programs. These could be so much more relevant.

Wednesday, 27 June, 2007

The fluid of life...

I went down to a hospital near where I work to donate some blood today. And I was witness to something which essentially inspires this post.

As I was being prepped at the lab, there was this man who hesitantly walked up to the lab technician, only to be roundly scolded for disappearing an hour earlier when just about to donate blood. It was clear to anybody seeing this chap that he was anxious and apprehensive about the whole thing. He looked like he didn't have much of an education, and was dressed in a dhoti and shirt. Tall, and built like an ox, possibly from doing hard physical work. The story, which came out when I got talking to his brother (a much more urban cell-phone toting type), is that the man's son is in pediatric surgery, and requires blood from the blood bank. And the way such things normally work is that one can take out the requisite units of blood, while ensuring that the same number of units are replaced through donors that one should find (the type of blood need not be the same as the one being withdrawn. I was there because of such an arrangement myself). Since typically family members of the patient donate, this man was here (or, rather, it looked like he was brought there). The younger brother could not donate as he was a diabetic.

This man had such a fear of the whole process, I found it quite tough to believe at first. WTF??? I had donated before, and anyways couldn't figure out what the big deal was, but here was this big guy, pale as a sheet and literally trembling! He had come in earlier that afternoon, and got his screening done, after which apparently he claimed he wanted to go to the restroom - and basically disappeared! No wonder he got a shelling from the people at the lab when they brought him back.

He didn't say much. When he was asked if he would donate or not. When he was told it was his own son he would be doing it for. When he was assured over and over again that it would not hurt - not even as much as it did whenever he was injured in the past. "Will I feel dizzy?" was his only question - but it was clear that he was terrified. I could almost see the picture in his head - of pipes drilled into him, of him shrinking and shriveling as the lifeblood is drawn out of him, and pumped into his son, who would expand and fill out in health - maybe. Straight out of a Popeye cartoon, more like!

The problem, of course, was one of education and awareness (rather, the lack of). All I could do at the time was offer to act as a demonstration - "you can watch me while I give blood, and see for yourself that nothing happens!". But no, he just slunk away when no one was looking. I wonder if the fact that he was unable to arrange for blood to the bank means that his son might have to go without. I don't know, but I cannot rule out the possibility!

People like him are not the only ones who are unaware of, or have wrong notions about the blood donation process. Many of us educated types have not been a donor ever, or may harbour some of these very same misconceptions of how it all works. But in reality, blood donation is simple, safe and harmless. And here's my first-hand account of it -

  • 5:15 PM - It's been slightly more than three hours since my last meal (lunch). So I down an apple-flavored milk shake at the hospital canteen just before I get to the lab.
  • 5:30 PM - I arrive at the lab. The technician checks my weight, and runs me through a questionnaire asking me about my age, any known health problems, medication being taken etc. I can donate blood only if I clear this stage. In this case, I do.
  • The technician swabs the inside of my left elbow with alcohol, and draws out a few ml of blood for screening (it hurts as much as taking a shot from your doctor) - they check for the hemoglobin content. I can donate only if I clear this too, which I do. The screening takes about 10-15 minutes.
  • 5:45 PM - I go to a large room with some beds and the equipment. I am asked to lie down, face up, and my blood pressure reading is taken. I can donate only if this is in the normal range. I pass. Clearly, there are multiple checks to ensure that I am fit to give blood. I like that!
  • I am left lying down to stabilize and calm down. I am staring at the ceiling light, thinking of this and that, almost gently dozing. My breathing is regular, my blood pressure settles down. I am like this for almost 15 minutes. I still have the band of the blood pressure meter thingie wrapped around my upper arm, along with a tourniquet.
  • 6:10-ish PM - The technician then preps the equipment - breaking out a new bag for the blood, new pipe, new needle (or canulla, as it is called technically). The inside of my right elbow is swabbed and disinfected, and the needle is inserted into my vein. The only pain is when the point of the needle breaks the skin - when the rest of the needle follows through inside, it doesn't hurt! So, it LOOKS way more painful than it actually IS. I am given a soft sponge ball to squeeze gently using my right hand, to keep the blood pumping well and evenly. The needle is also taped to my arm to keep it steady.
  • For the next 12 minutes or so, I squeeze the ball firmly, but gently, in an even rhythm - I get through 38 squeezes (I actually counted them off!) in this time. And the blood flows out into the bag, which is kept oscillating to prevent coagulation. There is ABSOLUTELY no pain throughout this process. I'm just lying there with nothing else to do.
  • 6:22 PM - In 12 minutes, I hit 400 ml, and the beeper on the scale goes off. The technician comes over to snap off the tube and tie up the bag, and take the last few ml in the tube into a few test tubes - for more testing, I'm sure.
  • Then the needle is taken out (again, minimal hurt - it's the ripping off of the tape that stings a bit!), and a swab of cotton is kept in the crock of my elbow, and I rest for another ten minutes.
  • 6:35 PM - Off goes the cotton, on comes a band-aid. I then get up and walk over to the recovery room next door. I get through a small carton of fruit juice (apple again), and just chill. I feel a little light-headed, like I've had one glass of wine - just one. In another ten minutes, even that goes away. (Sigh!)
  • 6:45 PM - I then walk out, collect my donation certificate, and sit down to chat with a friend. I go through another apple milk shake - this stuff rocks! It's slightly more than an hour - milk shake to milk shake. I pop open another bottle of pulpy orange juice which my friend has thoughtfully brought along, and swig from time to time. The idea is to tank up on healthy fluids for a while.
  • 6:55 PM - Ten minutes of this, and I then amble over to my car, rev up, and head for home. On the way, another friend calls me to say folks are meeting over at his place, and since he doesn't live that far away from the hospital, I just make a turn on the way...
...and life is back to what it used to be. I just ensure I take it easy for the next hour. I will lay off any heavy lifting or exercise for the rest of tonight, and all of tomorrow, just to be sure. The only visible mark of this exercise would be a small bruise the size of a mosquito bite when I rip the band-aid off.

I know this is a fairly lengthy and laborious post, and gets into the smallest details, but that is exactly my intention here - to go through each little step, hopefully clearing any misconceptions or thoughts about "How painful will it be? Will it hurt a lot?", "How will I feel before, during and afterwards?", "Will it take forever?" etc.

There are tons of benefits in donating blood - getting your body to recharge your blood with fresh generation every year or so is good for you. Sort of like changing the engine oil of your car, except here your body generates the next batch of oil by itself! Plus, think of all that good karma :-) - for what if you are the one in need yourself? (On that note, check out the concept of autologous donation, something I did not know about, till this evening. If you have scheduled surgery, you could donate for yourself! Just siphon off some blood, freeze it, and use it for yourself when the time comes. Risk free)

And that, as they say, is IT! Blood donation is really as simple as that. So go ahead, give. You don't have to be a wuss if you can help it!

Monday, 25 June, 2007

Trying a new look...

I just changed the template for the blog (love these new bright colours). Also added that 'gapingvoid' widget by fooling around with some HTML (can you see it on the right?) - let's see how it goes!

Check out the site while you're at it - Hugh MacLeod has some amazingly edgy art going on.

Btw, I totally recommend this from his site - an amazing take on 'how to be creative'. It's an old post, but a beauty in its timelessness! Warning: fairly long. So set an hour aside and enjoy! I assure you some points will hit home - real hard.

Friday, 22 June, 2007

Chak This Out!

I read recently that Shah Rukh Khan will be endorsing a fairness cream for men - going from 'lux'uriating in a bath-tub to preening in front of a mirror, playing with his tube of cream? D-uh! What is the world coming to?

Perhaps - as a listener explained this morning on a radio show I was tuned in on, where said topic was, well, the topic of discussion - it has something to do with the fact that his next movie, "Chak De India", has him playing the coach of an all-girls hockey team, and all that competition is getting to him! Someone ought to warn him about the pitfalls of taking the first word of the movie title a little too literally.

Ah, guess all is "fair" in love, war, all that. He-he!

Saturday, 16 June, 2007

"Summaa Adhirudhu-lle!!"

Hoo-boy! Last evening (night, rather) was one of the most fun experiences ever! I went for the first-day show for the movie 'Sivaji' - starring our own thalaivar Super Star Rajnikanth! I have never been to a first-day-first-show before in my life, certainly not a thalaivar movie. And though this was technically not first-show, it was still certainly something! Rock concerts by internationally acclaimed bands be damned! This is the real thing!

Consider this. You get to the theater one hour before the show. You don't bring your car, coz you know that traffic would be a bitch and parking will be hell. And even though you're an hour early, you see FIVE HUNDRED PEOPLE standing in queue outside the theater. You think they are waiting for tickets, but no - THESE GUYS HAVE TICKETS! They're just waiting to get in!

There are metal barricades all across the entrance of the theater complex, and beefy security guys with a mean look and brandishing meaner lathis patrol the queue of eager fans. The line continues to grow. People are being let in, one at a time through a gap in the barricade - their tickets being checked, and their selves frisked. You spot a moment when all the guards happen to look away, and sneak into the queue right behind a bunch of girls who are just getting in through the gap, thus 'jumping' a few hundred poor souls in line (tip - jump the queue just after a bunch of girls - this way the guards apparently think twice before starting a ruckus), and lo, you're inside the complex. But wait - there is ANOTHER line leading up to the entrance of the movie hall, where you get frisked over and over in sequence six times, and are checked to see if you're carrying any cigarettes or alcohol, both of which are banned. You've not been frisked so many times at one go ever before! You pass through what seems like an endless passage before you reach your hall. Btw, all the screens in the complex are running the same movie.

You decide to take a leak just before the show starts, and hit the restroom only to find people in there - smoking! You finish your business and return to your seat, to find the guys in the row in front of you sipping surreptitiously from a bottle of cola, passing it stealthily from one to another - only, it's no cola, it's a clear golden liquid which seems to burn a lot going in, by the look on their faces! The faint stench of whiskey in the air only confirms your suspicions.

The movie is scheduled to start at 10 PM, but no one is in a hurry. You wait till the hall is filled one person at a time, and eventually the lights dim at 10.45 PM. The screen lights up, and the crowd goes wild! It's only a trailer for some arbit movie, but no one cares! :-)...the party is on, fellers!! With just the one trailer (and no ads), Sivaji kicks in. For the first five minutes, you can hear NOTHING from the screens! This is because the crowd refuses to hush up, going wild with frenzy right through the intro sequence - said intro sequence being a ubiquitous thalaivar hallmark! The camera captures only his feet, his back, his shoulders, as he walks and talks through his first few lines, and at the dramatic moment, he turns to face the camera - and smiles. And that's when all hell breaks loose in the movie hall - the guys in the row ahead, along with pretty much 80% of the crowd, are on their feet cheering...and someone is throwing fucking confetti!!! Well, it's just a bunch of paper that's been shredded to bits, but it's in the air, tons of it! It takes a full ten minutes for some semblance of calm to set in. By this time, you're fully into the spirit of things! (No - no puns about 'spirit' please. The guys in the row ahead were done with their firewater long ago)

You realize that this particular movie-watching experience is highly interactive. When a song is playing on the screen - you see this chap sitting two rows up get up and begin to dance along. It's actually a bit surreal to see his sinuous silhouette swinging hips in time with the heroine on the screen! When the 'comedy track' kicks in, you literally roll along the aisle in laughter. You slaver openly when the heroine goes through the titillating mechanics of the dances (the choreography of which, typically, has very little to do with the lyric or music, and more with blatant suggestive eroticism), clad in the barest essentials that just stop the censors from going 'snip'. You hiss and boo the villains, casting very vocal aspersions on the legitimacy of his birth and threatening to chop off his wee-wee when he gives your hero some lip.

And the punch lines. Ohh, the punch lines!!! You wait for it with bated know it's coming...and when it hits, you roar as one with the crowd, cheering your thalaivar, savoring the lyrical tang of the punch, quickly memorizing it and hoping you'll remember it - for later. Coz this is the first day, and you heard it first!

All through this, you are dimly aware of the fact that there is some sort of a story being told here, maybe. And then again, maybe not. You don't really care. All that matters, is the fact that you are there first. For the first day of your thalaivar's movie, after a break of two years. Jumping for joy, cheering at full cry, roaring as one with the crowd of admirers - till the pounding from the surround-sound speakers resonates with your own full-throated enjoyment. All that matters, is the vibe. "Summaa adhirudhu-lle?" :-)

Monday, 4 June, 2007

What did BMW do wrong?

I'm sure everyone has seen the details of how the "BMW case" is turning out - this news item, for instance.

I quote here the crux of the case, from the same article -

"Nanda is facing trail* for crushing to death six persons while driving his BMW car allegedly at high speed in Delhi on January 18, 1999."

(*spelling mistake! Bad, bad rediff!!)

That's it - that's the ONLY connection BMW has with the whole issue, and yet this is being labeled the "BMW case"!!! And the company's name is being dragged through mud! When Sallu bhai did something similar a few years ago, it was termed the 'Salman Khan case', or the 'pavement murders'. But here it's not the 'Nanda case', but the poor guys who made the damn car!!


Interestingly, I haven't heard a peep from the BMW guys in the media about their name being bandied about in this context. I am not entirely sure it's good publicity for them - unless mowing down the plebians is the latest pastime of the rich and famous, or alternately, these guys believe that any publicity is good publicity.

Saturday, 2 June, 2007


I watched this movie called Proof (2005 release) today with some friends. I can't believe IMDB rates this movie at 7 on 10 (though this is a user rating mechanism I believe)! This is a perfect example of a movie that promises at first, only to deceive, unfortunately.

The story is about this math genius (played with effortless brilliance by Anthony Hopkins) who, in the last five years, has been mentally disturbed, and is recently deceased. In his last years he is cared for by his daughter (Gwyneth Paltrow in another very good performance) who chooses to live with him at their home in Chicago. She has to now face the possibility that she might have inherited his streak of insanity. A research student (Jake Gyllenhaal) arrives to search through the papers written up by the professor during these last years. Also entering the scene is the elder daughter (Hope Davis) who arrives from New York to settle matters after her father's death.

The production quality of this movie is excellent - the cinematography is sensitive to the fact that this is a human drama, with a few key characters, and the camera often moves through some great portrait settings and view points. The storytelling technique is very crisp and tight, moving in and out of flashbacks. The technique in the script is also good - the build-ups and punchlines that characterize a story told interestingly.

However there are enough of the weak points, in many crucial scenes, that make the movie slip badly. Just when a scene achieves a dramatic buildup, comes a corny cheesy line from a Mills & Boon novella to spoil the moment entirely. And if this movie is about the math, well, where's the math? The audience ought to have been given SOMETHING to test their intelligence - who can forget the 'blonde entering the bar with her friends' sequence in 'A Beautiful Mind' that then fires off the sequence of thoughts in the mind of John Nash, eventually leading to game theory?

Another place the movie loses out on is the (mis)casting of Jake Gyllenhaal - the other three key players in this drama come up with stellar performances (despite the weak moments in the script), but Jake ends up trying a bit too hard and cannot pull off the 'cool geek' persona.

This movie held my attention for the first twenty minutes or so, with some very clever production and storytelling, but if the attempt is to create a gripping drama, then EVERY line of dialogue counts! A few loose moments here and there can make the audience's interest go poof!

Recommendation: Watchable - but keep your expectations in check.

Thursday, 24 May, 2007

Steve Jobs - Three Stories

Came across this awesome video today. I have read the text of this speech before, but it is great to hear and see the video itself. Enjoy.

Tuesday, 22 May, 2007

Saccharin Substitute

Music Review - Cheeni Kum

I still have mixed feelings about this album. Were it not for the fact that I have heard and thoroughly lost myself in delight in the 'original' tracks in Tamil years ago (heck, I was brought up on this stuff!), I wonder if my reaction to the Hindi versions would have been much more positive. It is taking me a huge effort to not make the inevitable comparisons - due to which, at first, I literally shied away at these re-made (I don't want to use the term 'remixed' because of the connotation I normally associate with it - one of mild distaste at a pathetic attempt at commercialization and de-intellectualization) tracks. But I've kept going back since. Check out the tracks here.

The reason, for me, is simple - Shreya Ghoshal. In my mind, she is undoubtedly the most talented voice among women in the Indian film industry today. Her voice quality is crystal clear, her diction is excellent, and her control on the smallest microtones is simply phenomenal - all of which technically adds up to a very emotive appeal even when she sings supposedly light songs, as in this soundtrack. Ilaiyaraaja (IR) has her among his favourites (her Tamil pronunciation is engiyo-level!), and she has sung in his films ("Onna Vida" in Virumaandi for instance) and in the odd concert covering some of his earlier compositions.

Baradwaj has done an excellent review of this soundtrack here, and there is little I'd like to add specifically on each track. He recommends "Baatein Hawa" as the pick of the lot (it has the best 'complete' feel about it, interludes et al), and I would agree. "Jaane Do Na" comes a close second - the basic melody itself is out-of-this-world. "Cheeni Kum" works because of the slightly peppier pace than the original (or at least the percussion tracks are laid out to give that impression), and also because of Shreya - check out the way she 'puts feel' in the word "problem"! That's the reason I love this girl's voice - she can go from light, to husky, to melancholic, to whatever, with utmost finesse! I'm a fan!

As for the tracks themselves - I get the feeling IR was simply tooling around with a synthesizer and a computer, and the score sheets of a few of his hundreds of hits, and put this soundtrack together. I doubt he rolled up his sleeves and did what he does best - write and score some amazing music! Clearly the melodies themselves are re-hashed, which, honestly I don't have a problem with. It's a great way for some of his very best tunes to find a larger non-Tamil non-South-Indian and younger audience. Plus, he's 'lift'-ing his own stuff, and I'm sure, with the full knowledge of the producers. But it's the rest of the stuff - the definitive intros, the involved interludes, the myriad little whispered instrumental conversations at the back or the end of the main melody, the sudden change of 'colour' through a cleverly used chord sequence, the mind-bending detours in rhythm and timing - that are such a trademark of his brilliance and which are marked by their absence (or are used with measured restraint), that slightly disappoint a die-hard old-time IR fan like me.

I think IR has gone for 'sound', maybe with the view that today's audience is wired up for stuff like that, and I believe the gamble might pay off with the same audience, but does not quite cut it for someone like me. An A R Rahman or a Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy are 'killers' in the use of 'sound', with some amazing sound engineering, sampling and careful 'layering', but I'm afraid IR does not measure up. The synth 'sounds' synthetic and artificial, the percussion sound quality is quite ordinary, there's just a lot of reverb and echo effects. I mean, even the bass sounds like it was played off a fairly cheap keyboard! Sacrilege! IR's previous attempts at using synth sounds have not been that successful through the nineties, but he backed that up with solid compositional genius (Case in point - the brilliant but unfortunately little-known "Meetaadha Oru Veenai" from Poonthottam). And since he's clearly under-played his song-writing (just the odd m9-th floating around, all that) in this soundtrack, the overall effect lacks a certain something.

As Baradwaj says "...this album is undeniably a lesser work from one of our bona fide musical geniuses". Raaja's music normally makes me totally lose myself in it, and I am absorbed in the tracks to the exclusion of anything around me at the time, but these tracks are merely a very pleasant diversion. Sweet, but like saccharin.

Post Script

For the record, here are the originals mapped to the songs in Cheeni Kum -

  • "Baatein Hawa" - "Kuzhaloodhum Kannanukku" from Mella Thirandhadhu Kadhavu
  • "Cheeni Kum" / "Sooni Sooni" - "Manram Vandha Thenralukku" from Mouna Raagam
  • "Jaane Do Naa" - "Vizhiyile mani Vizhiyile" from Nooravadhu Naal; also "Jotheyali jothe Jotheyali" from the Kannada movie Geetha (the latter is still regarded a Raaja classic and is played by FM stations in Bangalore even today)

Monday, 21 May, 2007

...a Few Dollars More!!

This happened a few days back. A very good friend of mine, a buddy from my high school days who currently works and lives in the US, is back in India for a short vacation. His last trip was three and a half years ago. We met up for dinner and stuff.

And he was talking about how things have become expensive in Bangalore. "A coffee for two for Rs. 115, that's almost four dollars!", and "our dinner bill is Rs.1800? That's about 45 dollars"...and so on. What I found surprising was not the fact that my friend found Bangalore expensive, but HOW he was going about explaining his point, i.e., by converting the rupee value back into dollars!

I still remember the days (not too many years ago) when I had friends from the US visiting me, my grandad's favourite pastime was to ask them how much things cost there, and figure out how many rupees that was by doing what we referred to as an 'into 42' (that's a multiplication of 42 - the conversion rate we worked with) - and marvel at how high things cost abroad. Just a few years down, the tables are turning, somewhat.

I'll concede that life in India, and in a place like Bangalore, is getting expensive to get through, to a point where comparisons can be made to the West. But here's the thing - where an American might think a bit to spend $60, we don't seem to think twice for shelling out close to Rs.3000 for something very similar. And we swipe our plastic just like anyone else. I guess one of the reasons we in India are unafraid to spend could be that a lot of the services we get are that much cheaper here than in the West (a haircut in the US is about $12, in India it is about Rs.50 at a really decent place), thereby leaving us with more cash to shell out. But that's just one reason, on one side of the argument. I'll leave it to the readers to do your own thing now. Go.

Tuesday, 8 May, 2007

The future is coming...

I was chatting this morning with a friend about this and that, and the conversation turned to how life nowadays is becoming increasingly futuristic, and at what a pace this was happening...We seem to have gotten into a state where we look at new technologies that we come across and say "yeah, that's cool", and go right ahead and start using it in a very blase manner- as against the days when stuff like this would be considered life-changing.

Imagine the time the first TV's came out (I really have to imagine, I wasn't around then!), and how that would have simply blown people away - and on the other hand, think of the way cell phones have been assimilated so easily into people's lifestyles! I guess it's all a function of the increased innovation that is happening all around us, and the fact that we get to see it happening all the time, so much so that it almost becomes common-place.

And without realizing that it's happening, the future would be right in the midst of us! Not so long ago, sci-fi authors like Isaac Asimov (someone whose work I greatly enjoy) wrote of robots (in his Robots series of stories and novels), artificial body parts to prolong life (in The Bicentennial Man), visiplates, the inhabiting of new planets and such...and even today we create new and improved robots, our explorations into material sciences and nanotechnology leads us to the development of advanced prosthetics, the video-phone is already reality today, and we just found ourselves the most Earth-like planet yet!

Cool, no?

Wednesday, 2 May, 2007

Change in the air!

There's not much to say, really. Check these out - got them through an email forward today.


Monday, 30 April, 2007

This Just-In

Check out Justin-TV. It's a project where this dude, Justin, wears a video camera on his hat and the feed is transmitted on the website - live. 24/7. And yes, before you ask, including when he goes to the bathroom or goes on a hot date. I chanced upon this site through Paul Graham's page, where the launch of this venture was announced.

From the interviews on the site, I gathered that Justin and a few others have formed a startup to make video streaming and live telecasting on the web faster and easier. Justin-TV, therefore, is a walking-talking proof of concept. Funnily enough, the brief interviews of the founders are streamed from YouTube! D-uh! But the streaming quality on the Justin-cam ain't that bad - even on my 128 kbps line - given that it is live.

The site has the usual blog and comments from users/viewers - the whole shebang. Do you remember the movie 'The Truman Show'? Jim Carrey plays an insurance salesman who realizes that his entire life is a reality-TV show. Justin-TV of course has no such premise - the man wears a video-cam on his hat all the time, and is aware of it. So it's sort of like the reality shows on TV - there seems to be an element of 'staging' in what one sees. In fact, viewers can make requests on what they'd like to see, and Justin would consider and occasionally oblige.

Broadcasting video content on the web is something that is taking off only now, and a lot of startups (and established companies for that matter) are doing a bunch of research and development around this. I thought this is a cool way for these guys to -

a) achieve publicity and market reach for themselves and their startup by pandering to the now-established craving for reality shows in the American TV programming space, as well as,

b) to actually prove their offering by living it 24/7. Proof of the pudding and all that.

Wednesday, 25 April, 2007

On education, learning and training...

Once again, I refer to a post on Atanu Dey's blog today, where he makes a reference to a series of three articles (Intelligence in the Class Room, What's Wrong with Vocational School and Aztecs vs. Greeks) by Charles Murray in the WSJ editorial pages. Excellent pieces of work that, as the author as well as Atanu point out, set the stage for more questions and research rather than trying to make a point. In an Indian context, it leads one to ask some questions and make some observations of our own, like -

  • In our educational system today, are we punishing students with an inherent lack of intellectual ability (what Murray might refer to as a low amount of 'g') through lower grades and failures, while rewarding those with structurally stronger abilities through higher grades? (It's sort-of the eternal 'talent' vs 'training' question that we often tend to ask in sports). Shouldn't the focus, therefore, be on what education is 'appropriate'?
  • In a society like ours, aren't we considering some types of jobs as 'elitist' and many others as 'common'? Shouldn't we head towards a scenario where the value of each job is truly understood and therefore respected? As a corollary - how many of those jobs we consider as 'common' are really so, today? What was basic carpentry for middle class homes a couple of decades ago is now a much more evolved discipline like 'interior designing'
  • If we have increasing specialization and maturity in disciplines and jobs, isn't it time we try to move into a stronger focus on vocational training straightaway, rather than go through the charade of getting a basic college degree? For instance - if I choose to get into interior designing as a career, why should I waste three years getting a bachelors in commerce or science? Especially when I am not really learning anything useful during that time? What's with the whole 'college degree' thing?
  • We seem to be increasingly teaching our children the sciences, the arts and management. What about values and ethics? Time was when Indian education through the gurukul system focused on an all-round development which included enabling the student to take wise and just decisions. Given our lifestyles today at home, the chatter and noise of modernity and the technically oriented curricula at schools and colleges, are our children getting that focus at all anymore?
Clearly, one of the forces that is going to propel our country into large-scale development and progress over the next few decades will be the power of our people. And education, as well as training (a word I use as different from the first, in that it's got a more hands-on and vocational aspect about it), will play a key role in this. Asking ourselves such questions and trying to answer them is vital!

Friday, 13 April, 2007

Not(e) Worthy?

I came across this extremely interesting article on the Washington Post (referenced by Atanu Dey in his blog today). Haven't been able to get it out of my mind so far. Go ahead. Read it. It takes 15 minutes or so as it is a long piece, but go ahead anyways.

How often are we unconscious of the superlative beauty of life that incidentally surrounds us? Does Art have to have a Frame, after all? We weren't like this when we were children. Back then, we beheld most things with a sense of wonder and awe. It's not like we were objectively questioning something or were actually curious, we were just 'in the flow' of it...happy to immerse ourselves in the ras of the moment, eyes wide, mouth agape. When I read the kids' reaction to the music in this article, I was plain jealous.

It doesn't take much to find beauty around us, if you think about it. And by beauty, I don't mean any particular art - just whatever works for you. Even in the seemingly robotic lifestyles we live in today.

If you are driving along to work, with the radio or a tape on, and your favorite song comes along, just give yourself up to it. You can listen with half an ear while you contemplate the travails of the day ahead. Or you can get right into it - as the words come back to you, the groove gets your pulse racing, and the song just washes over you. Lose yourself - for a few minutes. You will have a smile on your face, without you even realizing it.

Many of us work in modern offices, where once you enter, you are in an antiseptic environment of artificial lighting and cooling. You can't tell the time of day by looking at the sun, 'coz you don't get to see the sun. But all you need to do is step out at dusk, out the door or atop the terrace of your office building, and watch the sun go down. It's a different sunset every single day. The colors, going from gold to pink, the patterns of abstraction as the light plays on the clouds, the occasional shaft of sunlight piercing through a break, as the sun seems to make a last-ditch attempt at remaining king of the sky. Stare at it, examine it like you just finished painting it - for a few minutes.

If it starts to pour (in the middle of April!) on your drive back, and one moment you're cursing your luck and wrestling the wheel in the sludge of traffic, and the next - a brilliant flash of lightning lights up the sky in front of you, throwing you out of your fantasy of misery, stunning you with its momentary iridescence and clarity, where you can see every strand of the intricate branch-work of the lightning strike, the black sky going a majestic deep purple for a split-second - you don't see the traffic anymore, you hear only the pitter-patter drum beat of the raindrops on your windshield in the single quiet moment before the thunder rolls massively along...

...and you realize that all around you, there is a fantastic show being put on. All the time. Just for you. For free. Only if you'd care to look. If we are hurtling towards a state where one doesn't realize great beauty when one is smacked in the face with it, where the hell are we going?

And by the way, all those things I just described happened in my life, today. Just for me!

Wednesday, 11 April, 2007

It's Raining...

I was just driving back from work late this evening, and it started to drizzle a bit. So the radio jockey at the FM station I was listening to started yipppee-yay-ing and basically put on this sorta-theme-song. Which brings me to the PJ of the day -

Q - When it starts to drizzle, what is the one common thing you can expect Geri Halliwell and your mallu-PT-ma'am-from-school-days to say?

A - "It's raining, men"


Sunday, 8 April, 2007

Motoring to Mettraas...

Am just back from a road trip to Chennai (or Madras for the more archaic amongst us) from here in Bangalore. I've been itching to do an inter-city trip for the last couple of months now, just to test out my new pride and joy on four wheels on a flat-out highway. So I created an opportunity to do this by making a trip down to visit some friends there. And in many ways it's been a very interesting one!

In the past, I've usually done the run to Madras by train if I've traveled during the day (which is quite rare), and sometimes by bus overnight. And it's even been a few years since I've done that. So I'm really getting a look at the new-fangled NH4 only now, so to speak. And I do believe that the NHAI has done some phenomenal work, and I come away highly impressed! Consider this - from just after Electronic City on Hosur Road, it's a piece of cake to hit Sriperumbudur (20 km before Chennai) in a shade under four hours, with a mini break thrown in, no sweat. And it can usually be done much faster. Basically this time beats Shatabdi, which is probably the fastest train connection between the two cities as of now.

Traffic is a bit of a bitch till about Bommasandra on Hosur Rd while leaving Bangalore. After that, the run through to Krishnagiri is a real pleasure - the road switches between four and six lanes, with more or less smooth traffic, unless you have the misfortune of being stuck behind a couple of trucks taking up the two available lanes in parallel, one trying to overtake the other.....s l o w l y!!! This is a bit of a hilly terrain, which means most trucks can go only as fast (??) as, say 15 kph, and (here's where the '4th standard math problem' begins) -

"If truck A is traveling at 12 kph and truck B is traveling in the same direction at 15 kph on a parallel lane, how long will it take B to overtake A so that the rest of the frikking traffic can make a bloody move on?"
It can get quite frustrating - I just escape into an alternate reality where I'm a time-traveling Animal Planet correspondent who is shooting a documentary on the primordial mating dance of a couple of generally placid vegetarian dinosaurs (because that's exactly what this would look, sound and maybe even smell like!).

Still, this leg has its points - on a clear day, it's a magnificent sight in many places with all the rock formations and the neat tarmac strip of the highway winding its way around the hills.

--- Update - Monday, April 9, '07 ---

Just got this other priceless pic from Madhu (he snapped it from his phone) - a bit of philosophy to ponder over at 20 kph...

The text reads - "Life is Drama, Man is Actor"!!! :-)

--- End of Update ---

After Krishnagiri through to Sriperumbudur is a dream run, punctuated by toll booths (an excellent idea! - there are four toll points, with a fifth still coming up at the Chennai end. We did the math and it worked out to about 50 ps per km. Totally worth it), and not much traffic (well, we timed it that way I guess) - just the occasional comic relief provided by something like this (see below)...

...Fevicol, anyone? :-)

What also struck me was the quality of the roads - it comes close to anything I've seen internationally. The signage is good, there is surprisingly minimal to no debris on the roads (except the occasional road-kill), the road surface is absolutely clear and smooth, there are
railings in many places on the shoulders of the road to prevent people and animals trying to cross at random points, and the dividers actually have flowering plants in 'em! How cool is that! I'm more than willing to shell out good money to drive on well-maintained roads like these (and like my friend put it, not just on the highways but in the city as well. Why not, if you think about it). Good job, NHAI!

The thing you gotta watch out for is the absolutely mind-bending habit of the folks in the villages and towns on the wayside to drive on occasion in YOUR LANE, IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION, DIRECTLY INTO YOUR PATH!! It's a surreal feeling to be tootling along at 110 kph to suddenly find a smiling motorcyclist in the middle of your windshield coming right at you. The real reason why he's doing that is of course the fact that he thinks it's too much trouble to go down a couple of km out of his intended direction to take a U-turn at the break in the divider. The surrealism hits you when you notice that HE IS BUSY LOOKING AT HIS REARVIEW MIRROR AND COMBING HIS HAIR while coming right at you!! It's as if, for him, you don't exist! You know, it's an encouraging feeling to note the general feeling of prosperity and opportunity, and a growing sense of self-importance of the folks in the villages and towns which were fairly sleepy non-descript places a couple of decades ago, and I really wish them all well, BUT SOMEBODY'S GOTTA TEACH THEM HOW TO DRIVE!! :-)

All in all, though, this is a very do-able drive, and, given a good car, some great music to chill to, the company of friends and the easy banter that comes with it, it all actually adds up to a nice
stress-buster! And for a group of 4-6 people, with diesel and tolls, it's probably the next cheapest and fastest traveling option compared only to air travel! Strongly recommended!

Sunday, 18 March, 2007

Maid-en Heaven!?

EDDFEST happened in Bangalore last Saturday (March 17), and yours truly was there! At the very outset, I gotta admit this - from all the concerts I have ever attended, this one's gotta rank right up there for sheer energy! The adrenaline in the crowd was amazing! If you went in with fairly simple expectations of seeing a really great band in the flesh, and getting to see them perform some of their most popular numbers, you were in for an amazing time! Check it out in the video above.

Ok. Now that the hoo-haa is over. Here's the low-down from a more dispassionate point of view. It was a good show. I'll even say it was a really good show. Bruce Dickinson really kept at the crowds, and, man, did they respond. And the concert stage artwork and setup is perhaps by far one of the most elaborate we have seen in Bangalore. But...

...and here are the kickers.

The sound just didn't do it for me, beyond a point. I was literally at the mixing console, supposedly one of the best places to catch audio in a concert stadium, and there were points at which I got this very 'general' feeling with the sound. The lead guitars and vocals barely had a good definition. (I wonder if it was because of the very vocal crowd overshadowing the band's sound, but I somehow doubt it)

I'd also really wished that the band 'took off' on a few songs. You know, those once-in-a-lifetime occasions when a band just goes stratospheric on a single song, with seemingly never-ending and imaginative solos that stretch it to even fifteen minutes and more. Or maybe arrange a well-known song very differently, just to pull a fast one over the crowd, for fun. Just didn't see anything approaching that. Where is the magic? I somehow thought IM was happy to play to the crowds and 'true to track', and leave it at that. (Again, see video. There was one lead singer with a mic on stage, and some 25000 in the audience, without)

A majority of the audience didn't seem to agree with my thinking, I guess. The very fact that someone as legendary as Iron Maiden is playing in India was something that made it a memorable experience for many (and while we're on this topic, let's also understand something else - I am no longer pleasantly surprised at the fact that bands like Iron Maiden and artistes like Sting, Bryan Adams and Mark Knopfler now look to perform in India. Here's where the market, the money and the action is gonna be, honey!), but I feel that this was barely a memorable concert by itself. Honestly, I've seen videos where they've really cranked it up!

I'm sort of left with the feeling we all get when Sachin steps out to bat - and we expect him to deliver a legendary innings because that's what he is, a legend - and he makes a 'competent' 40 runs. Yes, he does it in some style. Yes, he's just played his trademark compact straight drive that looks so classy how many ever times you watch it. But, say, it's nothing close to the mastery he is capable of, the complete classic domination of the opposition. It's a 40, and not a hundred. Good. But not great. Something like that...

Wednesday, 14 March, 2007

Beat This!

I had the opportunity to attend an interesting concert organized by the ITC Sangeet Research Academy - the Sangeet Sammelan (Bangalore edition), held on March 11 at Chowdiah Hall. I use the term 'interesting', since this was a (mainly) percussion-only classical concert, which is something of a rarity. This taala-vaadya had Pt Anindo Chatterjee (tabla), Pt Bhawani Shankar (pakhawaj, which sort of looks like the South Indian mridangam, but having a very different tone/timbre and style of playing), and Ghatam Giridhar Udupa (ghatam).

There were several aspects that were new to me. I've seen and heard tabla players before, be it while backing up vocalists/instrumentalists, or in the solo format. But this was one of the few times I've seen a pakhawaj performance. And what an amazingly powerful percussion instrument it is! It's got a huge bass tone, and is played with a very 'open' style that allows for a lot of resonance and reverb - overall, creating an effect of power, strength and majesty. Not that it can't be played with a lot of sophistication or finesse, but the grandeur is what sort-of stands out.

What was also new was the format of the performance itself. Where one is used to percussionists playing a supporting role, here was an instance of the sarangi player whose only role was to 'keep time' by running over the same bandish (phrase/verse) again and again in the same tempo. And the percussionists basically play around on this structure. Very cool! Again, one can see this in the 'regular' concerts also, where, in Hindustani, the vocalist does the phrase-repetition while the tabalchi gets to improvise for a few bars right at the end of the bandish, or in Carnatic, where the percussionists get to do a thani-aavarthanam (solo improvization) at the end of the kriti. Imagine something like that, but only about 45 minutes or so long! That's the format for you!

There were creditable performances by all the artistes, but I was particularly blown away by Giridhar Udupa's playing. Here he was, in a predominantly Hindustani environ, playing with artistes who are much more senior to him (though in his case I don't believe that should faze him much, since he is a well-travelled and experienced performer despite his young age), and playing an instrument that, at best, is relegated usually to the status of providing extra embellishments to the overall piece.
Check out this piece (on Udupa's website) by Shri Vikku Vinayakram, perhaps the most revered ghatam player today.

From what little I've observed (and I confess it's not much at all), the
ghatam is typically not an instrument that is used as a stand-alone percussion support. It usually supports the mridangam in the traditional Carnatic format. The instrument sounds heavenly though, with very sweet sounds that often surprise you with their versatility, and often people like AR Rahman, Lucky Ali and many modern musicians and composers have given this pot a place of prominence in their scores. And it was this beauty and versatility that Udupa brought out very colourfully in this concert. There was style and power in his playing, and all the cunning and 'math' that is the very DNA of both the Hindustani and Carnatic percussion playing styles. The reason I think I am over the moon about Udupa's playing is, I guess, my pleasant surprise at the fact that he showed the audience that this clay pot can do so much! It was quite evident in the crowd's reaction and enthusiastic appreciation of his playing as well. The icing on the cake was, of course, his trademark electrifying konnakol (vocal rendering of rhythm, sort of like scat), which provides the final 'rush of blood' flourish to get the audience charged up.

Watch out for this man - he is likely to be one of the stars of this generation.