Saturday, July 31, 2010

St. Anne's Feast... With A Vow This Year...

It has been two years since I last attended the last St. Anne's Feast or Sandanamma Tiruvela. Since I left Peninsular Malaysia for Kota Kinabalu to do my foundation programme, it is impossible to come back every end of July to attend the feast. Going on pilgrimage there every year has been a tradition in my family. The celebration is held at the famous Roman Catholic St. Anne's Church in Bukit Mertajam, which is located on mainland Penang.

When I mean my family, I mean my WHOLE family. This includes my dad, brother, sister, two uncles, three aunties and three cousins! Sadly, mom could not make the pilgrimage because she went to Ipoh that morning on official business and came home exhausted. Another aunt cannot walk for long hours as she gets tired easily. Another cousin also could not make it as she had mild fever. Grandma too did not come for she is too old to walk for hours. Three cars made the journey from Taiping to Bukit Mertajam.

The actual date of St. Anne's Feast falls on the 26th of July. But the celebration is so grand that it attracts pilgrims from all over Malaysia and some neighbouring countries like Thailand and Singapore, that it usually extends up to ten days.

We reached Jalan Kulim, which is the street where the church is located at around five in the afternoon, very much earlier than we usually do. We found ourselves nice parking loads. There was a huge number of pilgrims... and we tried to be clever by coming early to avoid the huge crowd. Hahaha...
Huge crowd.... Pilgrims from many different faiths come together to get Sandanamma's blessings on her feast day...

Since many pilgrims are Hindus, there are stalls outside the church which sell idols and pictures of Hindu deities alongside that of Christian saints and crucifixes.

Sorry for the low quality pictures... had to use my camera phone since my camera was out of battery. Maybe a sign from God that I should concentrate more on praying than photographing....

The wordings on the walls of the new church greets pilgrims...

Some of the unique features of the Sanctuary include the striking maroon-cloured Minagngkabau roots, rich mosaic murals, Gothic arches and beautiful idols.

Some of these idols of Jesus and the Virgin Mary depicting his last few hours before being crucified. They are called Statues of the Passion and were newly built in 2006.

St. Anne's Feast - Supposedly one of the 20 top Catholic gatherings in the world... and with a crowd like this, one can see why.

The famous candlelight procession which is the highlight of the celebration... and thousands of pilgrims were already in line!

The new church can be seen clearly on the way up the stairs to the old church...

Many devotees and church committee members line the streets heading towards the old church to collect alms that will be then donated to the poor...

Super crowded on the stairway...

The huge crowd viewed from above the old church...

One can hardly move once inside the old church... but the candlelight procession continues...

The altar filled with flower bouquets given as offerings by pilgrims and devotees.

The idol of St. Anne with the child Virgin Mary, beautifully decorated with flower garlands brought by pilgrims...

The other idol of Sandanamma

Another idol in the old church.

The Ten Commandments chalked on a huge rock right outside the old church, at the foot of
St. Anne's Hill.

The view of the old church from St. Anne's Hill

The newly built altar with the idols of St. Anne and the Virgin Mary on top of St. Anne's Hill.

A close-up of the idols.

This year, free food was provided for pilgrims. My family and I had some delicious vegetarian food provided by a group of Indian devotees - it was like going to a Hindu temple, where free vegetarian Indian food is served at the end an important prayer festival!

These Chinese devotees were serving Char Koey Teow! Knowing that we Hindus don't eat beef and pork, they explained to us that they don't and coaxed us to have some noodles! How nice of them!!

Hundreds of thousands of Catholic pilgrims flood into Dataran St. Anne to join in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament by the bishop. If you look closely, you will see the huge LCD screen...

I came with a vow this year - to be safe and happy in a foreign land. I am confident that the good Mother had heard my prayer. Hopefully I'll be back again next year since it will be summer break in England, and this time with my whole family, just so the journey will be more fulfilling. We came home to Taiping way pass midnight. Apart from feeling tired, there was a certain satisfaction in my hear... one that I had not felt for the pass two years.

To feel close to Sandanamma and pouring out all your sorrows to Her as you approach Her idol with your candlelight, I had almost forgotten how good it felt....


P/s: The Diocese of Penang, for which St. Anne's Church is a part of, is organizing a campaign to raise fund to help the poor. Here is the link for those who would like to lend a helping hand...

Friday, July 30, 2010

High Fashion in Kollywood

I watched Aadhavan the other day, and I think it is the first time Kollywood has truly embraced high culture... Take a look!

Striking red top, matching scarf and boots.

Sem-checkered shirt, blue scarf, tight jeans and black jacket.

Fedora hat, brown striped suit and blue scarf.

Blue sleeveless top with matching skin tight checkers long pants.

Body-fit blue shirt with white trousers and belt.

White-sleeved blue shirt with tight jeans and polka dot pink scarf.

Striped-sleeved green shirt with matching blue scarf and dotty jeans.

White cowboy hat with white quarter-sleeved sleeved checkers shirt and cowboy jeans.

Silver and grey shirt and pants with matching polka dot scarf.

And what in the world is this? Stripper? Gosh!!!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dubbing... an essential part of Kollywood

When I was in Primary Three or something, watching weekend-morning cartoons was my life. Tamil movies was not really my area of interest since there are not much Tamil programmes for kids. Mom told me that normal Tamil kids watch Tamil movies for entertainment, so Tamil cartoons would end up as flops. Okay....

But then I still watched some Tamil movies with my parents. It did not take me long to realize that all the heroins had the same voice! What????????? Then mom gave this bombshell. "Aya, you see this girls all? So fair, right? They all not Tamilachi la, yar. All Hindi people. They cannot speak Tamil la. So they move their lips only. Somebody else speak for them. They act only, look beautiful, wear sexy mexy clothes, dance nicely... enough already."

Dubbing you say? It sounded pretty easy back then. But now, come to think of it, how can the cast concentrate on getting into the character and all that stuff when crew members shout lines for the actresses to parrot along.

It is unfair to say a heroin is an accomplished actress no matter how many awards she receive or the large following of fans she might have. Their effort is only perhaps slightly more than half the actual performance seen on screen since the dubbing artiste has to laugh, cry, yell for the actresses!

1) Here is a list of Tamil movie actress who cannot speak a word of Tamil and rely completely on dubbing artistes.

- Genelia D'Souza
- Bhoomika Chawla
- Shriya Saran
- Laila
- Sonali Bendre
- Malika Kapoor
- Tamanah Bhatia
- Reema Sen
- Sadha
- Sameera Reddy (Telugu, but cannot speak Tamil)
- Anushka Shetty (Telugu, but cannot speak Tamil)

2) And these are the actresses who can speak Tamil well, but not fluently enough to dub for themselves...

- Simran Bagga
- Jyothika Saravanan
- Bhavana
- Aishwarya Rai
- Nayanthara
- Gopika
- Shobana
- Shilpa Shetty
- Namitha
- Naghma
- Tabu
- Manisha Koirala
- Devyani

3) These are the few actresses who speak Tamil fluently and dub for themselves...

- Asin (Malayalee, but speaks Tamil well)
- Meera Jasmine (Malayalee, but speaks Tamil well)
- Navya Nair (Malayalee, but speaks Tamil well)
- Sneha (Telugu by birth, but uses her voice mostly like in Pirivom Sandipom)
- Pooja Umashankar (used her own voice in Naan Kadavul, since the role was award-worthy)
- Priyamani (would have not won her National Award, if she used a dubbing artiste)
- Esha Deol (Mani Ratnam had her dub for herself)
- Madhoo (I think)

4) This list consists of 'special case' actresses, for they are Tamilians by birth, but are not fluent in the language itself because of studying in a English-medium Convent school, or being raised outside Tamil Nadu.

- Trisha Krishnan (she dubbed for herself in Aayithu Ezhuthu only)

5) Some top Tamil actress of Tamilian origin have also used dubbing artistes for no specific reason...

- Meena
- Saranya
- Kushboo (reportedly was the first actress to give credit to her dubbing artiste, Anuradha)

Now here is how dubbing is done in for Tamil movies....

By now you guys should already know that Tamil movies are not shot with synchronous sound because old fashioned cameras are still used in India that does not record sound. Therefore, the cast's speech has to be recorded separately in dubbing studios, where they watch they repeat the same dialogue as they watch their own performance. Dubbing gives Tamil filmmakers the advantage of casting actors who don't speak the language! This shows us that even though Tamil movies may have grand sets and stunning visuals, low technology is applied in production.

Some popular dubbing artistes include:

a) Uma Bharani
- Meena in Avvai Shanmugi
- Saranya in Nayagan

* but both actress can speak Tamil very well!!!!!!!

b) KR Anuradha
- Khusboo in Mannan

c) Kaniha
- Sadha in Anniyan
- Shriya Saran in Sivaji

d) Deepa Venkat
- Simran in Kanathil Muthamithal
- Sneha in Pandi

e) Chinmayi
- Bhoomika in Silindru Oru Kaadhal
- Tanisha in Unnale Unnale
- Padmipriya in Sattham Podathey
- Trisha in Vinaythandi Varuvaaya

* for Sattham Podathey, director Vasanth had hero Prithiviraj dub his voice twice to get rid of the latter's Mallu accent, but he did not do the same with his heroin even though she speaks Tamil fairly well!!!!!!!! Gender discrimination!!!!!!!!!!

f) Saritha
- Nagma in Kaadhalan

e) Revathi
- Kajol in Minsaru Kanavu
- Tabu in Kandukondain Kandukondain

f) Banupriya
- Urmila Matondhkar in Indian
- Jayasudha in Alaipayuthey

g) Jayashree
- Geetha in Azhagan
- Jyothika in Pachaikili Muthacharam

h) Suhaishini Mani Ratnam
- Shobana in Thalapathi

i) Rohini
- Jyothika in Veetayaadu Vilaiyaadu
- Aishwarya Rai in Raavanan

* Aish trained with a professional to brush up on her Tamil so she could dub her own voice. Despite all the hype, director Mani Ratnam opted for Rohini to dub Aish's voice. Sob..sob..

j) DJ Suchitra
- Shriya Saran in Kanthaswamy

* Probably one of the worst dubbing in film history. Notice how Suchi's voice and Shriya's lip movement were not in sync most of the time!!!! Gosh... Shriya should just move to Hollywood since she speaks great American accented English like in The Other Side of The Line, which was okay, and Cooking With Stella.

Not known to many, but some actors also require dubbing services. Famous director Gautham Menon has dubbed for the villains of his movies - Jeevan in Kaakha Kaakha and Milind Soman in Pachaikili Muthacharam.

During the shooting of Minsara Kanavu, Prabhu Deva had a serious throat infection and it was Vikram who dubbed for him. Vikram also dubbed for Prabhu Deva and Abbas in the film V.I.P. Dubbing for two actors in the same movie! Wow!!!

Vikram then later also dubbed for Abbas in Kandukondein Kandukondein. Ravi Devnarayanan dubbed for Abbas in Minnale and also for Sham in Iyarkai. I think Abbas only dubbed for himself in Hey Ram where all the actors, even Bollywood superstars Shah Rukh Khan and Rani Mukherjee dubbed their own voices despite knowing very little Tamil!

Dubbing artistes in the Tamil film industry claim they are only paid 1% of the salary the actors they dub for, despite contributing to almost half of the character's total performance! These dubbing artistes also say that speaking for long hours in different tones strain their vocal chords. Dubbing artiste S. Jayageetha dubbed for Shriya Reddy in Timiru, for which the latter received much critical acclaim. The dubbing artiste however had to wait for almost a moth until she got her voice back and was ready to return to work! Sad story....

Iconic Looks that Influenced Us...

To my Indian readers, I'm sure you all (the good ones only ok?) join the temple processions during any thiruvela at the local temple near you. Don't judge me, I enjoy this kind of festivals. But to me, they are not the best time to pray and have your personal time with God. Why? Well, there is the noise, the crowd and the Aiyoyo factor. To me, my personal time with The Almighty is some place where there is lots of peace and quiet. Friday nights at temple is a good idea. There is not much crowd despite being an auspicious time. But wait! What Aiyoyo factor? I'll explain in a jiffy.

Do you realize some people take the opportunity to show-off during this times. Some women would throw all the jewelry they own on themselves and waltz away, hoping people would notice and envy them. Then there are the youngsters. Always dancing away to the stupid ganna and rap music they play in thanir pandals. But what distract me most from prayers is the style they spot. Haven't their parents taught them that wearing black to temple is not encouraged?

You cannot deny that their sense of style is very much influenced by that of the Tamil actors in their latest films. Here, we shall discuss some of the most iconic looks from the Tamil movie industry.

1) Aalavandhan

According to an uncle from Klang (nest for Indian gangsters), hehehehehe... the bold Aalavandhan look was a trend when the movie was first released.

The bold head, and the Lady Gaga shades. What is it that makes them wanna don it?

2) Remo (Anniyan)

I was in Form Three when Anniyan was released. The Indian boys at school were all crazy over the Remo look. Who knew messy blonde hair and blue contact lenses suited dark brown skin? My Bahasa Malaysia teacher noticed this trend and commented, "Apalah gaya zaman ni? Mata biru, rambut karat... tapi kulit hitam!!! Cikgu tak fahamlah! Nak kata orang India tak, sebab rambut ngan mata warna pelik. Nak kata orang putih lagilah tak!!! Kulit hitam!!!"

This look was quite popular. Each time at a temple festival, where there was a chance to show off to other Indians that despite coming from a middle-class background and yet being able to afford the most costliest looks, many goons would don this look. Aiyoyo....

Though the style may suit Vikram because professional stylists worked on his look, but can the average Joe pull it off??

3) Nepali look

This Korean-inspired Nepali look is my personal favourite, but not really popular among the local Indian youth. Maybe it is difficult to appreciate this kind of look since Indians are generally not into Korean pop culture. With Bharath's beaming facial expressions, some might even find this look making him look like an anime character more than a stylish, macho hero.

Korean inspired

Bharath can even go blonde if he wants to and still pull it off because of his light skin.

SIDE TRACK A BIT: Bharath is one of the handsomest young Tamil actors today. It is no wonder directors have experimented with various looks on him and they all look great.

The Ivy League look

The rugged look

The rock star look

4) Braids

This look is not so popular as well but some guys to don it as well. Maybe it is more expensive, or maybe it is not spotted by most stars. Whatever the case, this look seems to be the most rebellious! Or maybe its origins from Africa makes it less glamorous. I don't really know.

Besides Dhanush, I've almost never seen another Tamil actor try this look.

5) Bangs

Now, I tried this look back in Form Four. But I people had spotted my source of inspiration, making it seem totally unoriginal, and besides, it looked awkward thanks to my large forehead... A friend tried this look - and another friend started calling him Sanjay Ram (with an American accent). This look is fashionable and also totally appropriate for official business and school-going guys.
Fashionable and smart

6) Six-pack

Now sexual beauty is no longer for the actress to work on. Actors too are put into pressure to look sexually attractive to lure women audiences. With women today actively pursuing equal rights, it is no wonder they feel they too have the right to enjoy eye candy of their own as much as their men. With the growing demand of shinny clean six-pack, gone are the days of hairy carpets on actors' chests.

Surya was the first actor to start the six-pack trend in the Tamil cinema industry through Vaaranam Aayiram.

Vishal (pic) and Aravind Akash have followed in Surya's footsteps to boost their commercial value.

7. Designer stubbles

Most actors who once had thick mustaches are now keeping stubbles instead. I don't know how far it's true, but Tamil men have always adored thick mustaches instead of a more fashionable goatee - probably to display manliness and maturity, I really don't know. Clearly, the look is outdated but it comes and goes depending on the role one receives. For instance, those who play police officers might find that mustaches fit the role.

Now you see it...

Now you don't!!! Hahaha...
Vijay has the most stunning stubbles in tinsel town.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Anti-Cheesy Masala

Because I'm an English-speaking Tamilian, people think I hate Tamil movies because I feel they are inferior. I don't mean to sound pompous, but they maybe right. I mean, even in this modern age where Hollywood is making groundbreaking movies like Avatar and Inception, while Bollywood is making My Name Is Khan and Wake Up Sid; Tamilians all around the world are still worshiping traditional, conventional Tamil film of the genre that simply irritates the hell out of me...

Cheesy Masala

Personally, I find it baffling that a genre that is so mindless can be of such appeal to our community. I'm definitely not saying that Hollywood never make mindless movies. I mean, there are some really dumb romantic comedies that I'm not very fond of. But still, Hollywood is renowned for making films of a variety of genres raging from romance, thriller, horror, fantasy and so much more.

BUT! There is a very strong 'but' here. There has been some Tamil movies in the past few years that really changed my mind about the industry. It turns out that Kollywood can produce some really different Tamil movies in a time where cheesy masala flicks rule tinsel town. I really admire the brave attempts by these few directors to actually take the risks to make such daring films.

1) Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu

Kaaka Kaaka was amazing, and so was Minnale. But trust me when I say, this is the movie that gave me faith that Tamilians can make truly entertaining thriller films. As much as Gautham Menon might want to deny it, but his movies never fail to have a Hollywood touch to it, right. But that should not be a problem since he manages to Indianize this films. But I would think that he should minimize the use of English lines in his films because they seem fake at times. Apart from that, there was much talk about the gruesome scenes. But that should not be a problem since it fits the tonne of the movie.

Movie Poster

I cannot imagine another actor pulling off the role of Raghavan as good as Kamal Hassan. I think for the first time in years, he became a director's actor - and it worked out perfectly!

Not too melodramatic, no overacting... absolutely realistic blooming love portrayed by Kamal Hassan and Jyothika.

The love of a widower and a divorcée - a rarity in Tamil cinema...

Apart from Chandramukhi, Mozhi and Pachaikili Muthucaram; this must be one of Jyothika's best roles to date.

This movie has many gory scenes, probably one of the most in Tamil cinema. But it also has some of the most thrilling action scenes ever made in India.

2) Autograph

Correct me if I'm wrong. But this must be the first time Kollywood has made a biographic film. This is director Cheran's most successful film to date. If you love sentimental and melodramatic films, but totally turned off by the usual cheesy mother-son drama and all, then Autograph surely is a movie for you. When I first watched this movie with my family, I never heard my parents praising a Tamil movie so much.

A realistic, non-over the top Tamil love story...

Cheran - the director and main actor of the movie... manages to evoke sentiments easily. He makes you recall your own childhood memories, first love and the ups and downs of youth life.

Gopika plays Cheran's first true love. Don't think this movie is all romance and melodramatic. There are a few comical scenes as well involving these two since Cheran's character is Tamilian and Gopika's is Mallu - so they struggle to understand each other, and it is hilarious at times! But puh-leez!! We've seen that 'dog' joke in Muthu already!

Cheran's character goes through much hardship after loosing his girlfriend. But guess who comes to his rescue....

Yes!!! It's our very own Sneha!!! By singing the iconic song Ovvoru Pookalume (and also guiding Cheran through his problems), Sneha plays the best friend role close to perfection!

Today, if your kid is entering a Tamil singing competition and you want to impress the judges by portraying yourself as a hypocritical, motivational-song loving person, then you can only choose this song! I mean, most other songs are either Ganna pattus, or love songs, rap songs, or even motivational songs but with the tune of the three genres mentioned! ;P

3) Chandramukhi

OMG!!! This scene gave me nightmares for weeks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Well, this movie has cheesy masala written all over it. Comedy, family sentiments, romance, unlogical fight scenes and lots of goofs! But horror-comedy is a genre rarely ventured in Tamil cinema. Now let me tell you why I love this movie...

a) Rajnikanth-Vadivelu chemistry:
You have to admit, it is the best hero-comedian duo we've seen in years! What's great about is there are almost no seperate scenes for the comedy scenes, because all scenes are relevant to the main storyline!

b) Jyotika's acting

This is one of her best performances we've ever seen! She not only managed to master Bharanatyam for the role, she even managed to play the role of a psycho, ghost possessed troubled young lady very, very, very, very well!

c) Background score

The songs were hits, but still had nothing fresh to offer. But if you listen closely, you might realized that the background music really can give you goosebumps!