Archive for December, 2014

Accidental Tamizh Love

Tamizh and I became friends because my parents told me I had to . My mom was adamant about her children learning to read and write their mother tongue. My brother escaped this by being absolutely terrible at Tamizh,like failing level terrible. Me, I was not not so lucky, at least that’s what I thought back then. I always managed to scrape through and be average. But we had a very strained relationship,me and tamizh. First somehow the hindi and sanskrit kids assumed an air of self importance. What was up with that? And then the tamizh scores would always bring my total down. This friendship was not working

It drove me mad. No matter how hard I tried, my scores did not improve.I tried very hard, I would write down every answer , practice writing essays , pour over grammar , try to understand the difference between பெயர்ச்சொல் and வினைச்சொல். My dad had a standing joke about questions on grammar. “Mark all your grammar questions as ஈறு கெட்ட எதிர்மறை பெயரெச்சம்” he would say .“Because there will atleast be two that are those.So you are guaranteed 2 marks atleast”. It was funny when he said cause he was not writing the exams. It wasnt funny to me. So you can imagine my surprise when in my 10th public examinations , I was slapped with a 91% in Tamil. I thought it was a joke. For almost a month after that I was expecting a mail saying there was an error in my language marks and that I had managed a 74%. The mail never came.

My high school refused to let me choose Sanskrit as second language.There was nothing more I wanted than to take up sanskrit as second language cause first, initiation in to cool club which regardless to say was number one priority in high school and second more total score cause you know colleges and all. High school tamizh is the nail in your coffin if you were the type that was harboring ambitions of Bits, Pilani etc. ( Yes, you can laugh here). You can kiss a 90% in language goodbye if you take tamizh unless you are a direct bloodline of mahakavi bharathiyaar or kannadasan. My parents obviously did not help me here.

As I expected, my performance in Tamizh was not great in my board examinations mostly because it is incredibly hard to score above 85% in Tamil board. Atleast average students dont. I was incredbily proud of my 85% in Tamil in boards because that is equivalent to a 99% in sanskrit. I have made up this stat and I am not backing down. But this time I did not blame Tamizh. The two years of high school Tamizh made me fall in love with that language like never before.

I stopped studying Tamizh and started learning and appreciating it. The sangam poetry, verses from agananoonru, puranaanooru, kalithogai, kalingathuparani, silapathigaram, manimegalai stole my heart. The beauty of the language dawned on me in these two years. It was this time that my mom initiated me in to Bharathiyar big time. Apart from curriculum where we learned quite a bit of Bharathi (Paanchali Sabatham being one of my favorite), my mother wrote most of my tamil speeches that were part of our school assembly and she would always, always quote bharathiyaar.There was a bharathi poem for every topic. Bharathiyaar was a huge inspiration for my mom and she transferred that to me. So much that when I left for US, among many things she gave me was a book of “Bharathiyar Kavithaigal”.

When I look back, I am delighted that Tamizh did not let me go and gave me another chance to learn and appreciate her . It is because of those two years that I was able to read numerous tamizh literary works. It was my mother’s maniacal insistence on learning one’s mother tongue and the school’s stupid policy of rejecting my application to take sanskrit that I have to thank and I will thank them forever.

Today is Bharathiyaar’s birthday , and Bharathiyaar to me in many ways is synonymous to my love for the language. He made me appreciate that poetry doesnt have to be sophisticated or embellished with big complicated words. Its the simplicity of his verses that captured my interest. The poem below is one of my favorite and probably one of the best motivational quotes ever. This was also the poem my mom helped me with for one of my first ever high school essays, it has stayed with me ever since.

அக்கினி குஞ்சொன்று கண்டேன் — அதை
அங்கொரு காட்டிலொர் பொந்திடை வைத்தேன்!
வெந்து தணிந்தது காடு
தழல் வீரத்தில் குஞ்சென்றும் மூப்பென்றும் உண்டோ?

Happy Bharathiyar day you all! வாழ்க தமிழ் !

Note: The irony of this post in english has not escaped me. However it is easier to write in a language that all my friends can read under 5 minutes. Plus I still need spell check on my Tamizh
பெயர்ச்சொல்,வினைச்சொல் and ஈறு கெட்ட எதிர்மறை பெயரெச்சம் : Tamil Grammar terms

Thoughts on Kaaviyathalaivan

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There is a scene where Kali(Siddarth) is chosen by his Guru to play Soora Bathman, the mythical demon Karthikeyan is born to destroy. His different portrayal of the demon king compared to the theatrical, loud and more common version of the demon by Gomathi(Prithviraj), won him the honor of playing lead in the play. Right after this, the movie cuts to an artist adding splashes of red to his painting of a demon to be used as a prop in the play. Gomathi’s jealousy is introduced to us very early in the movie in such subtle and then very not so subtle ways.

Gomathi is painfully direct in questioning those who favor Kali instead of him, so much that your heart goes out to him. When he questions Vadivu about her lack of love for him when all along he has only had her best interests in heart , you feel for him. “He has a point you know”, you want to tell Vadivu. Or when he asks his guru whether he would always be the Ekalaivan to him and fall short of Arjunan, you smile at his sly reference to his superiority in acting skills and his guru’s favoritism . Gomathi makes you feel sorry for him all the while making you hate him a little for acting on his jealousy . He makes you want to tell him, let it go, you are good and he is good too.

Kaaviyathalaivan has fantastic performances. Prithviraj dazzles as the jealous actor forever hoping to one up Siddarth who effortlessly wins everyone’s heart as the more natural actor. How this story of jealousy unfolds in the backgroup of a traveling theater when India is in the cusp of the freedom movement makes up the story. The art direction in the movie is stellar. It brings forth a dream world that is theater with the props and the actual staging of the plays.Very little needs to be said about the music , as much has been said and much more written. ARR is fantastic , his music was one of the reasons I wanted to watch this in the big screen and he did not disappoint . Vedhika was good too as the KB Sundarambal inspired Vadivu. You just wish she was given more scope and a more meatier role than just being the pretty , nightingale voiced girl in love with a boy .

There is something unexplainable and wrong in this movie. In spite of the great performances and a pretty strong storyline, you don’t walk away with the feeling that you just watched a great movie. Instead you immediately start thinking about what this movie did wrong and why it fell short. The answer to me was that this movie tried too hard. It was too ambitious. The jealous actor story definitely worked better in the world of theater than movies but the independence backdrop somehow seemed squeezed in to the movie . They neither evoke any sense of nationalism nor make you root more strongly for Kaali.

But then there are some wonderful scenes like the one where Kaali and Gomathi talk about the Rajapaat who reigns high and their ambitions in the world of theater.There was an MGR-Sivaji analogy there , atleast for me. The fundamental idealogical difference in their schools of thought. The Sivaji reference did not stop there. Going back to the Soora Bathman scene, when Kaali acts out his version of Sooran, with a demonic laugh that could run a chill up your spine, all I thought was this was how Sivaji would have done Sooran. (Please lets forget Veerabahu)

Kaaviyathalaivan – Watch it and if you left the theater feeling something was wrong , let me know what you think that is.