Friday, December 28, 2012

Tamil Pesum Kadhanayagi: Top 10 Tamil-Speaking Actresses


Despite being foreign educated and speaking English with a heavy American accent, Priya Anand is still very much grounded and knows her roots well. She is fluent in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi, and has dubbed for herself in all three languages. Unfortunately, Priya Anand has not been seen much in Tamil movies this past year apart from the Tamil-dubbed Hindi English Vinglish which she dubbed for herself, which is quite rare since actors usually use dubbing artistes when dubbing for a film in a different language. Her previous Tamil film was the critically acclaimed average grosser Nootrenbathu, but she is geared up for Ethir Neechal opposite Sivakarthikeyan and with Dhanush at the producer's chair.


Let's all first admit how skeptical we were when this young lady was all set to make her debut. Being the daughter of movie icons, she has definitely proved she is not just another child of the industry. With a more than decent debut in Podaa Podi, she has proved she is not only a good actress, but an amazing dancer. With a heartfelt performance that almost overshadowed STR in comedy, drama and dance, this is quite a rarity in Tamil cinema for a female lead actress. Her next movie will be Sundar C’s Madha Gaja Raja opposite Vishal.


Now here is a triple threat rare in Tamil cinema - an amazing singer, a more than average actress, and a good dubbing artiste. Although being English educated and coming from an Anglo-Indian background, she speaks Tamil more fluently then most Tamil actresses. Although being more famously known for her playback singing in movies, she has proven herself as an actress herself, having worked with big names like Gautham Menon, Selvaraghavan and Venkat Prabhu in the past. She has three big movies coming out way - Kamal Haasan’s magnum opus, Vishwaroopam. Pudhiya Thiruppangal opposite Nanda and Endrendrum Punnagai with Jiiva and Trisha.


For a National award winning actress, she had done some rather less prominent projects such as the recent 
Charulatha and some other movies which did not fare well with critics and audiences. However, her critically acclaimed performance in Paruthi Veeran is still strong in audiences' minds, and that is powerful enough to remind is she is in no way lost in our industry. Despite being more appreciated for her character acting, she is not hesitent to take up glamorous roles as well.  Her future Tamil projects are yet to be announced, though she works actively in other languages as well.


Another triple threat, Shruthi Haasan has always been an amazing singer and a good dancer. Despite her performance in 7am Arivu being badly received, she surely made up for it by giving one of the best performances from a female lead in Moonu, where she was delivered an equally powerful performance as her more mature male lead Dhanush. She is no longer known for solely being the daughter of movie stars and has made a name for herself. Being a pan-Indian artiste, it is only expected that she is busy working in movies in other languages as well, particularly Telugu. But she dubs for herself in Tamil and she is definitely much missed by the industry. Her future projects in Tamil are yet to be announced, but she has definitely raised the bar of expectations for herself this year.


Now here is one of the few actresses in the industry who have made it to the top merely by talent rather than glamour. Angadi Theru and Engeyum Eppothum allowed her to flex her acting abilities, and she has even proved that she can do sensational roles with projects like Kalakalappu. This talent powerhouse has a slew of projects like Vathikuchi, Madha Gaja Raja, Onbathula Guru, Kalakalappu 2 and Settai coming our way.


Nobody ever expected anything from this one, especially for her to dub for herself. Despite having lived in Chennai all her life, she is from a mixed Telugu-Malayalam household and attended English medium schools. Unlike her Telugu movie career, Samantha had a rather slow start in the Tamil cinema.  But thanks to her recent films like Naan Ee and Neethane En Ponvasantham, she has successfully overtaken more experienced Mumbai girls in the industry and established herself as one of the few top Tamil-speaking actresses. By dubbing for herself in Neethane En Ponvasantham, Samantha has waved goodbye to Chinmayi, at least when Tamil movies are concerned. She is all set to sizzle with a Suriya in two movies, one with Lingusamy and another with Gautham Menon.


She is still one of the industry's top actresses despite not having made an Tamil movies for the last two years, proving that she has a loyal following among Tamil moviegoers. Though she has proven herself to be a talented performer, the sensationalized linkups and breakups has been the one responsible for keeping her relevant in an industry where for actresses, one day you're in, the next day you're out. It is unclear if she dubs for herself, though she speaks Tamil fluently. She has dubbed for herself in Malayalam, and it is rumored that she will start dubbing for herself in Tamil too. With the announcement of her comeback with her famous Billa team, the entire industry is abuzz with the return of the queen. We can see her soon in the Billa team's return, Surangani  opposite her former co-stars Ajith and Arya and an Udayanidhi untitled film with Prabhakaran.


She was once the Tamil girl living in Chennai who is English educated and is not fluent in her own mother tongue who people love making fun of. But not anymore. Post Manmadhan Ambu, she too has waved goodbye to her string of dubbing artistes including Chinmayi and Savritra Reddy and is committed to dub for herself now and in the future. Despite no releases in 2012, her performance in Mankatha, Manmadhan Ambu and of course, the classic love story Vinaithandi Varuvaaya has kept the industry and fans alike well-informed of her talent and beauty. We can expect to see her next in Samar opposite Vishal, Endredum Punnagai opposite Jiiva and Boologam opposite her former co-star Jayam Ravi.


Bet you never saw this one coming, did you? So did we. After a two decade hiatus, Sridevi is unarguably the most successful former female movie star to make a comeback after such a long time. There was once when she conquered all the major movie industries in India and was at the top of her career. And true, English Vinglish is not strictly a Tamil movie, but Sridevi dubbed for herself, showing her commitment to act in any language movie as long as the right script comes her way. The last actress to make such a big comeback was Simran in Vaaranam Aaayiram, but that was only after a few years of taking a break. Sridevi still looks ravishingly beautiful and her acting skills are still topnotch, not to mention she has her producer husband to keep her going all the way. She is yet to announce any future projects, but we can expect big things from Sridevi.

Other names worth mentioning: Sneha, Asin, Bhavana, Meera Jasmine, Nithya Menon, Lakshmi Menon, Vijayalakshmi , Oviya, Padmapriya and Jasmine Michael

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What is Thuppariyum Anandhan all about?

Now that superstar Surya has confirmed that he has signed his next movie with one of India's best storytellers, Gautham Menon, this has created quite a frenzy among Gautham-Surya fans. These two have a track record of being probably the best director-actor combo in the industry despite making only two movies together in the past. But those two movies are often cited as among the best to come out of the Tamil film industry, and every Tamil movie fans are definitely familiar with Kaakha Kaakha and Vaaranam Aayiram.

This news is sure to come as a relief to all Gautham fans after Yohan: Adhyayan Ondru starring Vijay has been cancelled due to unknown reasons. Also, Thuppariyum Anandhan was supposedly written for Ajith Kumar, who then left the project. Somehow, Gautham seems to not click with mass heroes, though it would have been amazing to see a different Vijay in a Gautham Menon movie. The whole premise of Yohan seemed exciting too as it was supposed to be an action thriller that would be the first in a series of prequels and sequels and each will be shot in different international locations such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Australia and many more. I must admit I was pretty excited. I like Vijay and he is a great actor, though I am not a fan of his masala movies. But this movie would have greatly showcased his talent as we have seen in his earlier movies. This was obviously planned to be a very urban, dark themed film - Gautham style. But as a mass hero, this definitely did not fit Vijay's fan base. So the plan was dropped altogether. However, the premise of Yohan sounds interesting and let's just hope Gautham continues the project with another actor, maybe Vikram! Can you imagine? Gautham and Vikram together? Epic! 

Now let's forget about Yohan. It is said that Surya will begin working on Thuppariyum Anandhan after the completion of his Singam 2. AR Rahman, who was earlier signed to work on Yohan will now probably move on to work on this film. The rest of the cast and crew has not yet been confirmed, which is why we are here - to speculate and anticipate the best! 

First, let's look at the story. It is said to be a mystery-thriller set in 80s, with Surya probably donning the role of a detective in the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which is like the Indian version of the American FBI. It is also said to have elements of an action-romantic film. There is a high chance we might be seeing Surya playing a CBI detective investigating a series of murders in Chennai. Like all Gautham Menon movies, we can expect an original story but with shades of strong Hollywood influences. The question is, which Hollywood movie(s) and how is Gautham planning to execute it? Will it resemble Kaakha Kaakha or Veetayadu Veelayadu more? 

I would really like to see it resembling Mystic River. Yes, that movie revolves only around one murder. But then, it does have the interesting character development subplot that we all love Gautham for! Not only that, the mystery aspect of it was pretty amazing too. It would be really cool to see Gautham give us an M.Night kind of twist ending! 

Or another fun idea would be to fashion it like Zodiac. This seems most possible since it is a about the authorities tracking down a serial psychopath after all. Like Zodiac, maybe Thuppariyum Anandhan is based on a true story as well. There was the Stoneman Murders which was made into a popular Hindi movie, The Stoneman Murders. In Chennai, there was the Auto Shankar case which shock Chennai back in the late 80s. It would be fun to see Gautham adapt it onto the silver screen. 

What I would really like Gautham to do is make an Alex Cross kind of thriller. We have already seen him doing that with Veetayaadu Veelayadu, which was much more critically acclaimed than all three Alex Cross films put together. Alex Cross is no Raghavan for sure. But it had a gripping mystery action-thriller main story line with a mature, touching romantic subplot with the Jyothika character. Now that would be completely amazing to see Gautham recreate the magic from Veetayaadu Veelayadu but with a fresh script and new premise. 

Now for the female lead, or as we call them, the heroine. Rumour also has it that Samantha Prabhu is at the top of the list to play Surya's love interest for the first time. Gautham has made it public that after working with her in four films, he is his favourite actress. She has also proved herself a decent drama actress with Neethane En Ponvasantham. It is easy to picture her giving an equally heart-rendering performance like Jyothika in Veetayaadu Veelayadu. She has also waved goodbye to Chinmayi, her loyal dubbing artiste and now speaks with her own voice, at least in her Tamil movies. So that is a major plus point for our Telugu Jessie! 

Next in line is Aishwarya Rai. Unlike other Indian actresses, marriage and motherhood has not stopped the queen of Bollywood as she is searching for a suitable comeback vehicle. Despite having her acting skills being overshadowed by her image as the most beautiful woman in the world, she is still a favourite among India's top critically and commercially acclaimed directors like Mani Ratnam, Shankar and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. It has been almost three years since we last saw her in Tamil movies like Raavanan and Endhiran, where she did much more than a good job. Her Tamil skills have definitely improved alongside her acting and she was almost considered to dub for herself. She has worked with Gautham Menon before back during his assistand director days in Kandukondain Kandukondain, where she delivered one of her best performances ever and he is surely well acquainted with her talent. 

Another actress rumoured to be considered to bag the role is newcomer Pranitha of Saguni fame, where she starred opposite Surya's brother, Karthi. Almost twenty years Surya's junior, it might not be an issue in Tamil Nadu, especially with Surya well maintaining his youthful looks. Having her in such a big scale project does seem risky, although more veteran movie makers like Mani Ratnam seem to be okay with that, as he is doing in Kadal. However, the very idea of it seems random and might quite possible start and end as nothing more than a rumour.

Whatever Gautham has in mind for us, it surely will be a treat. When he does romantic dramas, they touch our souls and haunt us for days. When he does action thrillers, they take our breath away and leave us stunned. And with AR Rahman handling the music department, we can rest assured that the magic the Gautham-Rahman combo created in Vinaithandi Varuvaaya will be reincarnated in the form of a different genre in this movie. I just can't wait. If you guys have any speculations or comments, do leave them below for me and others to read and share. Thank you! God bless you all =)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Remembering the Milk Miracle

It is November the 21st year 1995. The sun has not risen yet, but a man in the south of New Delhi visits a Hindu temple to offer prayer to Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed good better known as the Remover of Obstacles. Earlier that night, he had a strange dream in which the deity came to him and asked to be fed some milk. The man provides an offering of a small pot of milk in return for all the prosperity He had given him. For some reason, it suddenly occurs to him to feed the deity's idol the milk rather just as requested in his dream. He scoops up a bit of the milk and gently hold it up to the idol's trunk. 

The statue sucks it up. 

The astonished devotee rushes home to tell his family and relatives. But to his surprise, the idol at his local temple does not seem to be the only one performing the miracle. Idols of Ganesha all around the world, from as far as United Kingdom right down under to Australia were seen doing the same thing. 

Many Hindu organisations all around the world proclaimed that it was a miracle. Within hours, it was said that some idols of other deities such as Siva, Amman and Murugan - Ganesha's father, mother and younger brother respectively were seen 'drinking' milk given as offerings. New Delhi witnessed an overwhelming increase in milk sales that day to up to 30%, which is more than there is to sell in the capital of the second most populous country in the world. Even milk sales in other predominant Hindu communities, like a Somerfield store in the UK selling over 25 000 pints of milk that day. 

The first thing to do before recognising a miracle is to prove it is not a natural phenomenon that can be debunked scientifically. Physicists from the Ministry of Science and Technology of India traveled to a New Delhi temple and offered an idol some milk with food colouring. While the milk disappeared as expected, the physicists hypothesised that the coloured milk coated the statue beneath where the spoon was placed. This led to Professor Yash Pal, a prominent Indian scientist to conclude that this was simply a result of capillary action or the movement of liquids within spaces of porous surfaces due to surface tension, adhesion and cohesion. . 

Pal explains that when a spoonful of milk is touched to the idol, the surface tension of the milk pulls the liquid up and out of the spoon, before gravity causes it to run down the front of the statue. Similarly, this surface tension phenomenon can be witnessed in a common water tap, where a drop of water stays suspended and drains away when simply touched. 

But this scientific explanation did nothing to reduce the number of believers who rushed to temples in large numbers, offering large stainless steel cups and clay potss of milk. I remember visiting the local Sivan temple back in Taiping with my family and relatives. The temple was filled with folks from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. I was accompanying my aunt to offer milk to an idol of Murugan. A Chinese man before us commented in full disbelief that he offered the idol milk twice and both times it accepted it. Then it was my turn. I suppose I was too young at that time to understand how big a thing this was. Like other Hindu temples around the world, some folks force-fed the idols but the floor still remained dry. 

So was this truly a miracle by the Lord, or was it simply a mass religious hysteria caused by gullibility and scientific ignorance? Even if the capillary action theory provided some insight into the matter, the fact that the miracle only lasted a day appeared to further prove that there was some divine power behind this. Idols in big cities and well-developed urban areas ceased taking in more milk before noon the following day, though some temples in rural areas, including rubber estate plantations in Malaysia reported the effect continuing for slightly over a week. I remember some of my relatives traveling to these estate temples to witness the miracle before it ended there as well. In some cases like the Northridge California Temple, the miracle was reported to last up to six days. No further reports of the miracle occurring was reported after the beginning of October. 

Looking back, I do see it as a form of miracle since the scientific community to provide an explanation why the phenomenon happened only for slightly over a day. 

But why did the Lord choose this particular day to show us his greatness? Well, it is the age of the Kali Yuga, the final era before the end of the universe as we know it. This is not the first time a divine sign was show to us. According to one Hindu text, the Srimad-Bhagavatam (, it is stated:

"When Kali Yuga began (5000 years ago), disruptions in the normal course of seasons occurred  The idols in the temples seemed to be weeping, lamenting and transpireing. It was as if they wanted to leave." 

The disappearance of offerings to idols has been known to Hindus across the world in different cultures. But the Milk Miracle is unique in a way. For the first time in 5000 years, the deities accepted offerings from regular devotees in such a large world wide scale. The norm was holy men and women who had sacrificed their lives as householders and taken up the role of monks to serve for the needy can witness such physical offerings, and even that through sophisticated ceremonies. 

Pluralism is the very foundation of Hinduism and skeptics are respected equally. But in order for the Lord to prove His greatness, it takes only a day to do that and that is probably what I saw with my own eyes seventeen years ago. But why milk, of everything else mankind can offer Him? It is simply because milk has a deep symbolic meaning according to the sacred texts. It is provided to us by the most sacred of animals, the cow, though I doubt the idols would have rejected an offering of goat's milk.

Here are some newspaper reports from across the world covering the Milk Miracle:

Dos and Donts When Buying Your (Malaysian) Friends Presents

We Malaysians are made up of folks from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. We live in relative peace despite our differences which is something to be envied especially considering the wars and conflicts that has been terrorizing other parts of our world. A key factor of our stability is tolerance and understanding. That is why it is important to consider the different belief systems and taboos of our friends from different ethinicities before buying them gifts. 

So here is a list of considerations that you should look into before buying a fellow Malaysian a gift: 

For a Malay friend: 

1) Most Malays are moderate Muslims, and pigs and dogs are considered unclean in Islam. Don't buy them food containing pork or any traces of it. Also, avoid buying them gifts depicting either of these animals, including pictures. 

2) Alcohol is not tolerated at all levels in Islam, so much so that Muslims avoid having anything to do with it at any circumstance, even working at bars.  

3) Items with human and animal patterns on them should be avoided too. More conservative Muslims might consider this as a form of idoltary, which is against Islam too. Opt for floral decorations instead whenever possible. 

For a Chinese friend: 

1) No handkerchiefs as they are associated with hardship. It is more than a metaphorical symbol that you might use to wipe of tears, since it is truly considered to bring bad fortune.  

2) No knives since giving them as gifts not only symbolize an intention to end a relationship, it is once again a bringer of misfortune. 

3) No clocks since they are also considered unlucky. It is a metaphorical reference to one's life-clock which is constantly ticking and that death is inevitable. Giving it as a gift shows you wish them dead!  

For an Indian friend:

1) No beef or pork: Many Indians are Hindus, and cows are considered sacred to them. Think twice if you are buying them a wallet or purse. Any leather products should stay away from your gift list unless you are absolutely sure they are not made from cow skin. Also, food products made of pork should be avoided as they are considered unclean in Hinduism.

2) Garlands are cute, and it is very formal when you give it to someone of a certain degree of respect. If in any case you want to present someone with a flower garland, make sure they don't contain frangipanis as they are only used for funerals. 

3) Some sects of Hinduism encourage vegetarianism. So avoid buying food with meat, fish or eggs if your friends are strict vegetarians. Milk products are okay, but alcohol is forbidden too, even to same non-vegetarian Hindus.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Colonial Architecture in Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur, our nation's capital is a relatively young city, which is why most of its colonial buildings were built during the late Victorian or early Edwardian era. The architecture styles include Moorish, Tudor, Victorian, Neo-Gothic, Grecian-Spanish and much more. What's special is most of these buildings were built to suit the local resources and climate. Here is some pictures of the most famous colonial buildings that today stand as a landmark and memorial to our colonial heritage.

1. Neo-Moorish

The colonial rule of the British introduced the fast developing Kuala Lumpur to the Neo-Moorish, or locally known as the Mughal architecture. Some iconic buildings designed in the Neo Moorish style include:

KTM Headquarters

Sultan Abdul Samad Building

Kuala Lumpur Railway Station

 Kuala Lumpur City Memorial Library

InfoKraft Textile Museum

Old Kuala Lumpur High Court

Bandaraya Theater

2. Tudor 

A prominent feature of the Tudor architecture style was the buildings were built with such precision that would acclimatize them to their environment's weather conditions. This is why the Tudor buildings in Kuala Lumpur were designed to help resist the hot and damp climate of the tropics. Large exposed wooden beams in half-timbered walls was the typical model for most Tudor styled buildings in the country such as these:

Royal Selangor Club

St. Mary's Cathedral

3. Victorian

The Victorian architecture style was also popular choice, naturally during the late Victorian and early Edwardian era. Many colonial schools were designed in this style. Victorian buildings usually are made up of elegant proportioned columns and plaster.

Victoria Institution

4. Neo-Gothic

Many religious buildings in the city are built in the Neo-Gothic style, though other buildings were build in this style too. Some fine examples include:

Church of the Holy Rosary

St. Andrew's Church

King's House of Carcosa Seri Negara

5. Grecian-Spanish

The use of red and white bricks are the most prominent feature of the Grecian-Spanish architectural influence in Kuala Lumpur. Before World War II, most two story shop houses were inspired from Straits Chinese and European traditions. Other buildings also are designed this way. Some of them include:

St. John's Institution