Madras to Chennai: The wave that got us here..

Chennai always had this strange appeal to me. Not just because it hosts my grandparents’ place or it was my summer vacation city, but also because it brought my textbooks to life. For instance, if we read about the oldest banyan tree in our school books, we got to see that in Adyar on our next visit for holidays. Or if you read about Mr. Cuddapah Rangaiah in history class, on your way to the railway station you casually see a Cuddapah Rangaiah Street to your left. The more you explore the city, the more it surprises you.

Chennai, as a city, started at the foundation stone laid by the British, near Parry’s corner, and rose to prominence engulfing the surrounding land. From being a colonial city to holding an important place in the Indian Independence movement, Chennai is a historical treasure trove. The Red & White buildings that we frequently see around have such important stories to tell. And it gives you a high in every instance you are around them.photo6188077739664320494

The pre city area of Chennai, broadly speaking, the land between Nellore & Cuddalore, was ruled as one kingdom with Kanchipuram as its capital. The temples standing tall even today, last as a testament to the culture and heritage of those times. The uncovering of the spice route, in the age of discovery, changed the face of this land.

The Portuguese, who first landed in Calicut in the 15th Century, eventually found their way to Mylapore in the Coromandel coast by the next Century. They built a port here, marking it for all the future explorers. The SanThome Church & the Luz Church built in this age were one of the first colonial structures in the city, but not necessarily in the same form that we see them today.

With the SanThome as the guiding center, towards the 17th century, almost all the major European powers established their presence in the Tamil Land. The Dutch East India Company that followed the Portuguese built forts to the north of Mylapore near Pulicat, and later to the south near Sadras. Further south of Cuddalore, near Tharagambadi (Tranquebar), the Danish Company built a fort Dansborg. And the French chose a place between these two near Pondicherry to build their fort, but all of them eventually lost their colonies to the British.

In the intervening period, the English East India Company, in the 17th century, after careful exploration, chose a sandy strip at Madraspattinam, the land between Pulicat and Portuguese settlements as the most favorable place to build a fort for trade; thus laying the stone for the City of Chennai & giving us our very first White building St. George Fort of the British Chennai. All these forts put on the map form the borders to the land between Nellore and Cuddalore neatly encompassing the city.

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With St. George Fort as the nucleus, the city rebuilt itself many times, each time expanding the city limits. The red hues from the Central Station or the High court and the white light from the Rippon building or the Higginbothams touch us from time to time when we are up and around the city. The colonial influences don’t just end here. It can be a street name or a school you see in the passing, that triggers something or makes you curious to know the stories behind it. The Lady Andal VenkataSubba Rao Matriculation School & the Ellen Sharma Memorial School are two names that get to me every time.

Towards the 18th century, British India formed the Madras Presidency which changed the lives of many people including my grandfather’s. In the early 20th century, as a young man when he needed to migrate from his birthplace Cocanada lands, in search of his livelihood, he chose the capital (Madras) and shifted to the city. For years, he worked at the Parry Company and made a home at the Luz Church Road-Mylapore. So I guess, it’s only natural for me to trace back the lines.

Anushka’s adda – through and through!

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The biggest measure of how scared an audience – at least for me – is how much people in the theatre titter and giggle even at the minutest of jokes. And if that yardstick is true, Bhaagmathie (I hope I got that numerological spelling right) was truly scary. People around me in Prasads were laughing out loud for the smallest of jokes or even things that were perceived as slightly funny. They kept screaming at Anushka to not go that way. And clapped their mouths in horror whenever she did something inexplicable. For the crowds that haven’t seen the ITs and the Conjurings of the world, Bhaagmathie provides decent enough scares.

Bhaagmathie is about Chanchala, I.A.S (Anushka), a sincere official who serves as a Personal Secretary to an equally sincere minister Eashwar Prasad (Jayaram). The government is out to trap him in some scam or the other and to this end, they target Chanchala, who is awaiting trial on a murder case. They shift her from jail to a remote bungalow in the middle of a forest so they can investigate her without a third person knowing about it. Chanchala proves a tough nut to crack and keeps the investigating officers frustrated. As the evenings approach though, she gets possessed by the spirit of Bhagamati, a queen who used to rule her kingdom from that very bungalow. Who is Bhagamati? Why does she choose to possess Chanchala? Did Chanchala really commit the murder she is accused of? Does the government manage to blot Eashwar Prasad’s spotless career? Bhaagmathie answers these questions in a barely there first half and an engrossing second half.

First things first, Bhaagmathie is Anushka all the way. She is absolutely spot on as the IAS officer who finds herself in a different situation. As Chanchala and as Bhagamati, she is absolutely terrific. She’s been there done that, but you will still come out awed about her every single time and that is her strength. Jayaram as the sincere minister, Unni Mukundan as the activist and lover boy, Mural Sharma as an ACP, Asha Sharath as a CBI officer and Dhanraj and Prabhas Sreenu as constables do justice to their roles.

The film’s strength is its technical department. The set laid out for the Bhagamati bungalow is brilliantly done, the background music is absolutely spot on and the photography is suitably claustrophobic and scare inducing. The film begins well, falls into the repetitive scare trap and has a bang on interval that will leave you spellbound. The second half has an interesting tempo for the most part, but once the story is revealed, you might feel slightly underwhelmed with the denoument. One dialogue from Anushka towards the end made it all worthwhile for me though – when someone asks her why she didn’t trust anyone, she says ‘Ee rojullo manushulani evaru nammutaaru… devullani, deyyaalani nammutaaru gaani’. How true and how sad a reflection on our times!

జల్లికట్టు కలిసికట్టు

జల్లికట్టు కలిసికట్టు

పోరాట పటిమ అంటే ఏమిటో తమిళులని చూసి నేర్చుకోవలసిందే ఎవరైనా. ముఖ్యంగా ఆంధ్రప్రదేశ్ వాళ్ళు. “పట్టు పట్టరాదు పట్టివిడువరాదు ” అన్నది నానుడి. ఇది రాసింది తెలుగువారైన, తమిళ తంబిల విషయంలో ఇది సరిగ్గా సరిపోతుంది. ఇంతకీ ఇదంతా ఎందుకంటారా, తమిళ సాంప్రదాయ క్రీడ  జల్లికట్టు విషయంలో  తమిళులు చేస్తున్న పోరాటం  చూస్తుంటే భళే అనిపిస్తుంది. స్వయంగా ఉన్నత న్యాయస్థానం  జల్లికట్టు ఫై నిషేధం విధించినా , దాన్ని రద్దు చేయాలంటూ చేస్తున్న పోరాటంలో దినసరి కూలీ  నుంచి రాష్ట్ర ముఖ్యమంత్రి దాకా ఏకతాటిపైకి వచ్చి పోరాటం చేస్తున్న తీరు చూస్తుంటే అది కేవలం తమిళులకు మాత్రమే సాధ్యం అన్నది అర్ధం అవుతుంది. తమిళలందరు ఒక్కటి కావడం కేవలం జల్లికట్టు విషయంలోనే అనుకుంటే మనం పప్పులో కలువేసినట్లే .

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గ్రామాలు, నాడు… నేడు…

==కలలకొచ్చె కండ్లనిండా
ఊరికాడి చెట్టు నీడ…
సల్ల గాలి గట్టు కాడ…==

~   వాకిట్ల అలికిన బర్లపేడ…
దొడ్ల కట్టిన ఆవు దూడ…
పాల పిట్టలు పాట పాడ…
మేక పిల్లలు ఆటలాడ…  ~

== కళ్ళు తెరిసి ఇయ్యాల సూడు దేవుడా ఇది ఎంత తేడ…
మారిపాయె వూరు వాడ…
కానరావు పిట్టల జాడా…==

~ కూలుతున్న బావులు…
బక్కచిక్కిన ఆవులు…
దలార్ల చేతుల పావులు…
దినాము రైతుల సావులు… ~

== పైస కోసం కౌలు రైతు దిక్కులన్నీ దేవులాడ
పుస్తెలమ్మి వాడు తెచ్చే అప్పు సావుకారు కాడ… ==

~సల్లినాడు పురుగు మందు లెక్కలేక ఆడ ఈడ…
రైతన్న మీద అలిగి దేవుడు చుక్క అయిన రాల్చడా… ~

==చినుకు రాక…
ఆశ పోక…
కాపు కాసే చివరి దాక…==

~ మిత్తి మీద మిత్తి గట్టే
ఇంట్లకెల్లి యెల్లగొట్టె…
ఊపిర ఆడక గొంతు పట్టె…
సావుకారా  వేటగాడా…~

~ పంట పాయె…
బతుకు మొత్తం అయ్యో రామ ఆగమాయే
రైతులిందరు రాలుతుంటే…
మనకు చీమ అయినా కుట్టదాయే  ~

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==నిద్రలెసి నేటి తరము…
మధనపడితే నిరంతరము…
నిర్వహించి  కనీస ధర్మము…
కారా వారే ఊరి వరము… ==

~కాదు కాదు  సాగు భయము
ఇస్తే మనము నిండు అభయము
చేతనయిన సాయము
వెలిగిపోవు వ్యవసాయము ~

~పచ్చ చీరలో ముద్దు గుమ్మలు
పల్లెలేరా పట్టు కొమ్మలు…
అన్నము పెట్టు అన్నపూర్ణలు…
దేశానికే అసలు సొమ్ములు… ~

 

Rama, Shah Bano & Other Riddles

Rama, Shah Bano & Other Riddles

Inspired by Anand Patwardhan’s award-winning documentary (read our review of the documentary), in this article, we examine the context in which the Babri Masjid demolition took place in 1992. We try to look at surrounding issues that led to the event, based on news reports and analyses of the issue. Continue reading

Paadi-Panta Today: A First-Hand Perspective

These are some musings and thoughts about what keeps me restless, and what my experiences have been, from a little journey of an organisation that I work with to make our villages a better place. I have put my perspectives in black and white as to what muddles my peace.

I shall speak of what I have witnessed happening at large – things we are all quite aware of – and then how these phenomena have affected my village, a hamlet about 100 km from Hyderabad. Continue reading

Ram Ke Naam / In The Name Of God – A Documentary Review

Ram Ke Naam / In The Name Of God – A Documentary Review

We got curious about this movie after several screenings of Anand Patwardhan’s movies have been disrupted (sometimes violently), abruptly cancelled or threatened by members of ABVP and other youth (read: nuvvu youth entraa) organizations associated with the Sangh Parivar in the last couple of years.

The disruptions were usually accompanied by slogans against the filmmaker, the film, the venues, and the organizers alleging them for being anti-national, anti-Hindu and offending religious sentiments of the majority religion – which was weird because this was a movie that has a U-certificate from the censor board, a National Award, and was telecast on Doordarshan many years ago during prime time.

We decided to watch it on Youtube and see what the fuss is all about.

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When Charity Is Pointless

People get different benefits out of social service, whether spiritual, tax-related, career-related, or social-media-appreciation-related. I have volunteered for a bunch of non-profits, and my motivations have been varied. To each his own, really. Whatever gets you to volunteer is great because society needs manpower to do things that the government and capitalism have somehow missed doing.

But from working with and observing a few organisations, I’ve also noticed the things that render charity completely useless. It is problematic when individuals and corporates want to “serve” a non-profit on their terms, irrespective of what the needs of the non-profit are. The idiom for this, as I discovered, is to “carry coals to Newcastle”. Continue reading

Free thinkers

We have a voice everywhere these days. Internet and social media has made activists out of most of us and we hold strong opinions on a range of issues. The definition of intellectual has changed, ‘liberal’ tag has become a subject of mockery and I don’t think many of us really understand what it means to be free. Continue reading