Saturday, September 15, 2012

Will and Kate: The Malaysian Tour

The day Malaysian well-wishers of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge has finally arrived. The royal couple was in Malaysian on a three-day visit to commemorate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. 

After landing in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport at noon of 13th of September, William and Kate were taken to Putrajaya to meet Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib at the his official residence in the Seri Perdana. 

A display of Malaysian fruits including durians, dragon fruits, cempedaks, guavas and jackfruits presented before the Duke and Duchess.

"Wow, I love unusual fruit!" Kate was heard saying.

William would later cheekily comment he was thankful durians were not on the menu.

William and Kate visited Hospis Malaysia which is a charity body that care for patients with life-limiting decease. The Duchess sat down with 15 –year-old Zakwan Anuar, a boy with acute leukemia. He postponed an urgent blood transfusion because he wanted to meet the Duke and Duchess so badly, enduring lots of pain in the way. Since his birthday was only two days ago, Kate presented him with a card, and they also made some craftworks together. The boy’s mother reported he was happier than usual. 

Prince William was seated on another table as he mingled with some other children there. Though they seemed shy at first to have a prince come talk to him, they finally opened up to his friendliness and warmth. 

Kate also gave her very first speech in foreign soil where she praised Hospis Malaysia’s great work. This was also her second public address, which showed how strongly she felt on the importance of hospices. She herself is the patron of various hospices. 

Later that day, the Duke and Duchess attended the British Malaysian Chamber of Commerce Luncheon. In his speech, William praised Malaysian businessmen and businesswomen for investing in the UK's open and growing economy. He was also pleased to see more people here with British qualifications than any other part of the world.

“My grandmother told me that Malaysia would provide us with some wonderful experiences and unforgettable memories. And so indeed it has proved. The Queen has asked me to convey to the Malaysian people her deepest good wishes in this, her Diamond Jubilee Year. Thank you for this lunch, and thank you from the bottom of our hearts for welcoming us to Malaysia,” said the Prince.

The royal couple then had an audience with the Agong or the Head of State, His Royal Majesty Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah and his wife, Tuanku Hajah Haminah at a grand royal banquet held at the newly built National Palace. Kate once again captured the spotlight with her white Alexander McQueen dress with embroidered golden hibiscus patterns, which is the Malaysian national flower. The dress was short sleeved and floor-length, in line with the palace protocol. The royal couple was amazed by the luxurious palace, with Kate admiring the large chandeliers. 

Netizens would later go crazy over how elegant Kate looks in her gown, even comparing her to a Disney princess! 

The Agong presented William with a traditional gold encrusted Malay kris and a photograph collage of the Queen’s friendship with Malaysian monarchs across the years. 

The kris

The collage of photographs. 

As for Kate, she was given a pair of black designer lace peer toe shoes, a clutch bag and a traditional Batik dress. 

The Batik dress

The designer shoes

As the royals dined, they were entertained with some traditional performances by the royal dancers

The following day, I had a chance to see the royal couple at the grand cultural walkabout at Kuala Lumpur City Centre Park where they were greeted by an overwhelmingly large crowd of Malaysians from all walks of life. People were waving the Jalur Gemilang and the Union Jack, and some even made banners to express their love for the Duke and Duchess. Cultural dances from different Malaysian ethnic groups were performed before the royal couple and the crowd.

Earlier that day, some controversial photos of the royal duchess was published by a trashy French magazine. Though the couple was reported to have reacted with disbelief and anger, they were successfully cheered up that day thanks to everything that was planned specially for them. 

The Duke and Duchess were delighted to watch the colourful performances

Over 3000 Malaysians and expats from all walks of life came to catch a glimpse of their Royal Highnesses.

Many of those who came, like these preschoolers, made banners to show their love and appreciation for the royal couple.

The iconic Petronas Twin Towers at the background. 

William and Kate were taken straight to the Assayrikin Mosque which is located withing the park itself.

Kate wore a simple shawl over her head in reverence. She and her husband also took off their footwear before entering the prayer house.  

The head division development manager of the mosque gave the Duke and Duchess a tour around Malaysia's biggest mosque. 

The manager explains to the royal visitors the meaning behind taking ablotution as they watch a few devotees . 
Later that day, William and Kate tried the Malaysian traditional tea, the teh tarik at a tea party hosted by the British High Commissioner Simon Featherstone. The royal couple even got to watch a live demonstration. Around 160 Malaysian public figures.

The Duke and Duchess enjoying a cup of local BOH tea. 

William and Kate watching a live demonstration on the process of making teh tarik.

With Malaysian Bond girl Datuk Michelle Yeoh

With Malaysia's number one recording artiste and businesswoman Datuk Siti Nurhaliza.

With Malaysian Olumpian medalists Datuk Lee Chong Wei and Pandalela.

For their last stop before leaving Malaysia, William and Kate flew all the way from the capital to the state of Sabah in Borneo to visit the Danum Valley Conservation Area. While Kate is a hospice enthusiast, William is keener in conserving nature. In order to reach there, they had to walk through a thick rain forest. The centre is run by the Royal Society, to which the Duke is a member of.

The warm and damp weather did not stop the Duke and Duchess from enjoying the scenic view the rain forests of Borneo had to offer.

The conservation area is a good 43 miles from the nearest town, Lahad Datu. But that did not stop the Duchess from enjoying what the rain forest had to offer.

Looking down below from one of the rain forest's hanging bridges.

Enjoying abseiling.

In conjunction with the Duke and Duchess' visit, and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, two very special stamps were released by Pos Malaysia. One featured Will and Kate, while the other was a stamp-on-a-stamp type with a young Queen Elizabeth II. I managed to buy the stamps, but unfortunately my local post office were out of first day covers, which was kind of sad. My parents were very optimistic that Taiping folks don't appreciate collector items and they will be plenty for us to buy. Too bad they were wrong. 

The Diamond Jubilee stamps and the first day cover by Pos Malaysia

The Commonwealth is huge, and the fact that the Duke and Duchess chose to visit Malaysia is indeed a great honour and I am pretty sure those behind the events organised for them did a magnificent job. Hopefully it has strengthened the diplomatic ties between Malaysia and the United Kingdom.

NTV7 also had a documentary made following the royal couple's Malaysian tour.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Most Beautiful Romantic Scene in Indian Cinema

Well at least to me. So it does not necessarily have to be true. But if you disagree, feel free to point out any flaws here. Now if you’re a fan of romantic Indian dramas, then you can easily guess from which movie this scene comes from. If you’re a true romantic, then you’d probably got it right. It’s from Gautham Menon’s modern classic Vinaithandi Varuvaaya (Will She Cross The Skies). 

As for the scene, it just has to be the one towards the climax, where Karthik (Simbu) and Jessie (Trisha) bump into one another in New York after a bitter break up three years ago in Chennai. Both assume the other one has moved on with his or her life. So the conversation starts of pretty casual with Jessie doing most of the talking, asking how Karthik’s family is back home and all. For the first time between them, Karthik is the more silent one. The only background score at this point is silence. 

But as Jessie starts to ask more intimate questions about Karthik’s love life, we feel certain awkwardness in the scene, which is in contrast with the bright spring sun shining upon Central Park. This is where Rahman comes in. He provides little strums of his guitar to show to rising tension in the conversation taking place. 

Jessie, being the indecisive tweak she is, asks Karthik to describe the new girl in his life. Obviously, we know she is secretly hoping he hasn’t moved on so they can get back together. But he starts describing this so-called new girl of his, not realising the sudden change on her face. Gautham Menon leads us into thinking that Karthik is describing Nandhini (Samantha). But it all just doesn’t seem to fit. Karthik says she wears sarees a lot, but we were never got to see Nandhini wearing one. But his description does fit another girl the audience is familiar with. Then Gautham drops the bomb; “Padam paakka avalukku pidikkadhu (She does not like watching movies).” 

Welcome back Rahman! The Hosanna melody starts playing at the background. Jessie realises at the same time as us that Karthik has been describing her all along. Now if you’re a Rahmaniac like me, then you will totally relate to me when I say at this point, I fell love with the Mozart of Madras all over again! It just reminded me how I grew up listening to his background score in all these famous Tamil romantic films like Jeans, Alaipayuthey, Bombay, Kandukondain Kandukondain, Kadhal Desam, Kadhalar Dhinam, Minsaru Kanavu, Duet, May Madham and so much more. The background music from all these films still haunts me till this very day.

"Avvw perre Jessie, Jessie..." I cheered like one of those rowdies at the cinema. But it was okay since I was watching the film on DVD on my laptop alone in my room -  the best way to enjoy a romantic film.   

But back to the present. When Karthik says that he thinks Jessie is already married, Rahman provides a shocking tense-rising drum twang. This of course mirrors the shocked look on Jessie’s face. She then says, “Naa kalyanam paneekele, Karthik. (I didn’t get married, Karthik.). Once again, there is no background music, as if Gautham and Rahman are giving us time to process the truth. Jessie continues, “Unnai venna soluthu ponne. Adhu unmei dhan. Anna naa kalyanam paneekele.” 

And once the surprise has sunken in, there is Megha’s angelic humming at the background. It starts with Hosanna's melody and ends with parts of Manipaaya. No instrumentals, just the soothing sound of her humming, as if to cure the pain Karthik had to endure all this time thinking he had lost Jessie. Then that one teardrop falls from Karthik’s eye. 

Never had the Tamil audience seen such poetry manifest itself on screen in years. 

But Karthik is enraged, having realised that what he had to go through all this time was for nothing. We sense the tension rising with Rahman’s guitar work playing along. As Jessie prepares to leave, he stops her and immediately proposes. There is a hint of humour when Karthik says that she would blame him one day for not proposing right now since the moment had gone. Well, that’s exactly what she had been doing most of the time throughout the film. 

And she says yes. The cymbals signify the turn of events. Then the guitar returns along with the piano, and the most romantic background score is player, not sentimental this time, but more of a rejoicing tonne. Karthik and Jessie embrace, and since they are in New York and not Chennai, they share a passionate kiss. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is, in my head, the most beautiful ROMANTIC scene in the history of Indian cinema to date.