Saturday, December 14, 2013

Places in Malaysia Named After Queen Victoria

Almost everywhere in the world, you will find a street, school, city, mountain, province, bridge, hospital, prison, state, park or any kind of place named after the late Queen Victoria. Some might wonder how is it a place in Africa or Asia is named after a British monarch. Well, the British Empire used to the biggest and strongest empire in the world. It had colonies all across the globe. Queen Victoria was the reigning monarch when the British Empire was at its strongest. This is why she is one of the most commemorated people in place-names in the world.

Since Malaysia was part of the British Empire, and is currently a member of the Commonwealth, there are many places here that are also named after Queen Victoria. The names of these places are retained till today to protect our rich colonial heritage. Here is a list of some of the places named after Queen Victoria:

1) Victoria Institution, Kuala Lumpur

2) Victoria Club, Kuala Lumpur

3) Victoria Bridge, Kuala Kangsar

4) Victoria Fountain, Merdeka Square, Kuala Lumpur

5) Victoria Memorial Fountain, Melaka

6) Victoria Street, George Town

7) Queen Victoria Jubilee Clock Tower, George Town

8) Victoria Green, George Town

9) Queensbay, Penang

10) Victoria, Labuan

11) Victoria Estate

12) Victoria Road, Nibong Tebal

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Top 10 Preity Zinta's Performances

Weather its taking up unconventional roles or standing up against the mob. Preity Zinta is your girl. She is unarguably one of the bravest movie stars in Bollywood. Let's look at her top 10 roles that set her aside from her contemporaries. She even once mentioned in an interview that when she first joined the movie industry, she was teased by her friends on the probability that she will play mostly stereotypical Indian film heroin roles. This has motivated her to play roles that are different from the conventional ones played by leading ladies in the business.

10) Dil Se (1998)

Though Preity only had less than half an hour worth of screen time in her first film release, her role in this film as the Malayalee Preeti Nair already showcased her ambition to be different. Despite her short screen presence, she was very much noticed by audience because of a rather daring line when she asks her hero, "Are you a virgin?" This is not expected from a traditional Indian girl, but there you go. This role earned her first first Filmfare Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

9) Heroes (2008)

Preity Zinta plays Kuljeet Kaur, a traditional young Punjabi war widow who becomes the man of the house following her husband's demise. There is no doubt that she can play both traditional and modern women well. In this role, she gets the opportunity to fuse both roles into one and showcase her full potential as an actress.

8) Armaan (2003)

It is very rare for women to play negative characters because the protagonist in Indian films are mostly men, and they need an equally powerful antagonist. Since it is almost imaginable for a woman to be seen as a man's equal, this film is a rarity in the industry since it has Preity playing a villain. She plays Anil Kapoor's schizophrenic wife, Sonia; a role written specifically for her. She became one of the few women to receive a Best Performance in a Negative Role at the year's Filmfare.

7) Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003)

Preity once again plays the role of a modern, strong-willed Non-Resident Indian (NRI) as Naina Kapur. Though it was her frequent collaborator, Shah Rukh Khan who stole the limelight with his portrayal of a young man with fatal heart disease, Preity's performance was as good as always she won a Filmfare Ward for Best Actress.

6) Salaam Namaste (2005)

Having played a teen mum, a surrogate mother and a schizophrenic, it was time for Preity to push her own boundaries. In this film, she stars as the highly westernized Ambar Malhotra, a strongly independent girl who not only leaves India for Australia to pursue her dreams, but ends up living together with her lover before marriage. This was one of the first Indian films to deal with cohabiting. Preity was once again nominated for several awards.

5) Chori Chori Chupke Chupke (2001)

Preity plays a sex worker turned surrogate mother in this film, which became one of the first to address the controversial issue of surrogate childbirth. In preparation of the role, Preity visited Mumbai's red-light district to study sex workers' mannerism and body language. For her work, she received her second Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Filmfare Awards. 

4) Kya Kehna (2000)

This very unorthodox Bollywood film about single motherhood and teenage pregnancy became a box-office success. Preity plays Priya Bakshi, a teen mum fighting social prejudice in conservative India. Despite not having much commercial elements when compared to other successful Bollywood films, this film was a surprise hit. Apart from being nominated for several awards, including her first Best Actress nomination at the Filmfare Awards, critics also categorized her as being part of a new breed of Indian film actors that break away from character stereotypes.

3) Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006)

Being no stranger to modern, independent women roles, Preity plays the role of Rhea Saran, a highly ambitious fashion magazine editor who puts career before marriage. One critic describe her as so: "The lady has not just looked glamorous but she has walked with poise, sat with grace, smiled with composure and spoke with calmness. Who would have thought that the bubbly girl could so skilfully shed her age-old tag and walk away as the don't-mess-with-me lass. So all those who are in search of the peppy Preity, well guys you've dialed the wrong number this time." Unlike a traditional woman who might have forgiven her cheating husband, Rhea kicks him out and divorces him.

2) Heaven on Earth (2008)

In this film, Preity shows us she can also play the role of the submissive, traditional Indian housewife. Based on a true story, Preity plays the role of an abused young woman who left India to be married to a wealthy, Canadian NRI. Preity had a crash course in less than two months in Punjabi since the film is shot in that language. Her performance was recognized internationally and she even won three awards in the West.

1) Dil Hai Tumhara (2000)

This film earned Preity her reputation as a bubbly personality. In this film, she plays Shalu, a neglected stepdaughter who years for her stepmother's love and affection. Unlike most wealthy kids, she grows up to be a well-mannered and warm young lady. Though the film performed moderately at the box office, Preity's performance was critically acclaimed and went on to be nominated for various awards. If you have ever watched this movie, then you will know all the Kleenex in the world is not enough. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Dream

A few nights ago, I had a dream that was beautiful yet deeply mysterious. I was stuck in a small town late at night. I was desperate to go home but I could not find a way out as I seemed to go around in circles. I also could not make out what town this was. For sure, it was nowhere in Malaysia. It could have been in India as the walls were filled with murals of Hindu deities. It also could have been Venice since there were streams and beautiful bridges. I knew that was my first time in that place but I felt as if I've seen it before on TV or in books. When I woke up, I struggled to remember where I had seen that town before. Only recently did I discover the town in my dream eerily resembled the set of a 2007 Bollywood film. Check out the pictures below of this gorgeous set.

Gorgeous isn't it? Oh yes... and everything was blue, black and green... Bhansali style.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Top 10 Most Unique Mosques in Malaysia

About a year ago, I made an entry about the top 10 most beautiful mosques in the country in my view. (Link: But then I realized that Malaysia has many more beautiful mosques than those ten on the list. So I made this separate top 10 list for the most unique mosques in Malaysia. This does not mean these mosques are in any way less beautiful than the ones on the top 10 most beautiful list, it is just that these 10 mosques are more unique in nature than your average mosque in Malaysia. Take a look at the list and you might get an idea what I am getting at.

10) Seberang Jerteh Timber Mosque

It is sad that this mosque is hardly known to tourist, or even the general public. Unlike most Malaysian mosques, this one does not feature any Islamic architecture at all, which immediately rules out a dome as its main feature. However, this means that the traditional Malay wooden carvings known as Awang Larat is the most prominent feature of this mosque's design.

9) National Mosque

This is probably one of the few famous mosques in Malaysia that does not have an Arabic dome. Instead, it has a 16-pointed star umbrella-looking concrete main roof. This roof is reminiscent of an open umbrella, while the mosque's the 73-metre-high minaret's cap a folded one. Since the umbrella is synonymous with the tropics, it serves as the main feature of the mosque's bold design. Reflecting pools and fountains can be found throughout the compound. Built right after independence, Chief Ministers of each Malay state wanted to name it after the Father of Independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman. However, he declined and it was named the National Mosque.

8) Rantau Panjang Chinese Mosque

Built in the east coast state of Kelantan, this is probably the first mosque built for the Chinese Muslim community in the country. The mosque is heavily inspired by the thousand year old Niujie Mosque in China. The mosque is often mistaken for a Chinese temple due to its pagoda-like structure. Unknown to many, the mosque also incorporates Indian and Uzbek features in its interior decorations despite its predominantly Chinese architecture. Other similar mosques are the Malacca Chinese Mosque and the Perak Jubilee Mosque.

7) An Nur Jamek Mosque, Labuan

This is probably the only mosque that features such futuristic elements so prominently. Located in Victoria on Labuan Island, the mosque is a symbol of integration between science and religion. Though it still retains the conventional dome and minarets, check out the rocket-like structures. This mosque looks more like a planetarium than a prayer house. 

6) Tuanku Mizan Mosque

The view of this mosque at night on a cruise along the Putrajaya Lake is surely one not to be missed. Located in Core Island, this mosque was built to accomodate the increasing number of citizens in Putrajaya. This mosque is fairly new and is often overshadowed by the older and much more traditionally built Putra Mosque. The construction of this mosque involved the use of 6,000 tons of steel, which represented 70 percent of overall structure earned it the nickname the Steel Mosque. 

5) Al-Azim Mosque

Like most mosques in Malacca, this mosque is unique because it has a rectangular dome shaped like a pyramid blended with the vertex of a pagoda tower. The mosque clearly fuses the different cultures of Malay, Javanese, Chinese, Peranakan and many more traditions that have made Melaka their home over the years.  This symbolizes the culture of Malacca that has been a melting pot for different cultures from all across the region. 

4) Penang State Mosque

Mainly designed based on the Cathedral of Brasilia in Brazil, this mosque's architecture is a combination of Western Modernist and Malay styles. This can be seen from its onion-shaped dome. What is interesting about the history of this mosque is that it was not designed by a Malaysian, but a Filipino working for the Public Works Department in the seventies by the name of Efren Brindez Pez, whose contract was extended by the government just so he could complete the design. 

3) Negeri Sembilan State Mosque

The roof is split into nine corners to resemble an umbrella. This symbolizes the history of Negeri Sembilan which is made up of nine distinct districts. Another aspect of this mosque that is most noticeable is that it does not have a dome, which further contributes to its uniqueness. Also, its tower is situated quite far away from the main building. 

2) Crystal Mosque

This is the only mosque ever to be built completely from only crystal, glass and steel, hence creating a crystal-like image. Located at the Islamic Heritage Park, this mosque sits majestically atop the banks of the Terenggau River. Its beautifully crafted frosted glass windows are carved meticulously with calligraphy. The best time to visit the mosque is during sunset when the sunshine is reflected on the glass and crystal, creating a calm and peaceful imagery.

1) Sultan Abu Bakar State Mosque

No other mosque exhibits Malaysia's rich European colonial heritage than this state mosque of Johor. Mostly designed based on British colonial architecture, the mosque looks more like a government building built by our former colonial masters than a mosque. However, other exotic elements are included as minor details as well. For example, the roof features a pyramid roof based on traditional Moorish architecture. Marble panels on the surface of the mosque floor and the stained glass on the dome were imported from Venice and other parts of Italy. The carved pillars were inspired from mosques in Egypt. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Top 10 Tamil Romantic Movies of The 21st Century

Tamil movies are almost anonymous for their love stories. Even movies of other genres like action and comedy always have a romance side story almost always. As we the industry entered the 21st century, film making showed some maturity, despite the still overwhelming cheesy and cliched love stories. Here are the top 10 Tamil romantic movies of the 21st century. Remember: this list is limited only to films made during and after 2000, means you won't find classics such as Mouna Ragam and Punnagai Mannan. 

10. Raja Rani (2013)

This movie packed three love stories into one film. The two minor love stories which are told in flashbacks have almost as much screen time as the main love story between John (Arya) and Regina (Nayanthara). Though it starts out with some comedy, it is fittingly the most mature love story of the three. The subplot with Regina and Surya (Jai) is the not only the most comical but also the most entertaining of the three. The subplot of John's first love is there almost just to show he too had a love failure once. This love story is more glitz and glamour than about telling a story, but it does indeed have a story. And not to mention some surprisingly good parts, like the predictable but heart-pounding climax, and the hillarious Jai-Nayanthara portion.

A reluctant marriage

Arguably the more superior love story of the three.

Raja Rani was a more than decent attempt by debutante director Atlee.

9. Paruthiveeran (2007)

The film is set in a rural village during modern times where everyone is still obsessed with caste. Paruthiveeran (Karthi) is a young country brute who has been brought up to cause mischief thanks to society's stereotype associated with his caste. His distant relative and childhood friend Muthazhagu (Priyamani) has always been in love with him since he saved her from drowning, but they can never be together because they come from different castes. Sounds like any other Tamil film with a rural setting, right? Well, you'll have to watch it till the end to see how things turn out. No poetic justice here, in case you need to be warned.

A village love story with all the required ingredients present!

National Awards for both of them for their portrayal of star-crossed lovers.

8. Rhythm (2000)

One of the industry's most mature love stories. Arjun and Meena play well-educated, middle-aged friends in the urban city of Mumbai. They never once try to romance each other even though they have feelings for each other. Why? Because they have been married to other people before, who died in the same tragedy years ago. Social stigma prevents them from being together since it might be considered a betrayal towards their dead partners' memories, even in modern Mumbai. But you will be surprised to see that it is members of the older generation who encourage them to be together, almost as if they recognize such rules don't really make sense any longer when two people are in love.

A very mature love story.

7. Kadhal (2004)

This love story could happen to anyone. A young and homely school girl played by Sandhya falls for a lowly mechanic played by Bharath. Family objections (and hormones, of course) force them to elope. Their love for each other is finally put to the test when they have to live with each other while still being immature to run a family. But the girl's family is not done with them yet. They manage to track the young couple down and forces the girl to marry someone more suitable to save their family name. The couple's love is once gain put to the test when she still has to love him even after getting married to another man and having that man's child.

A realistic portrayal of young love... with close to no glamour almost always associated with Kollywood.

6. Minnale (2001) 

Debutante director Gautham Menon allegedly was pressured by the film's star, Madhavan to narrate the story to his mentor, the legendary Mani Ratnam, to evaluate if this film would be a considered a romantic classic equvalent to their own previous film together which they did a year earlier, Alaipayuthey. Mani Ratnam was not impressed, but Madhavan allegedly still agreed to do the movie out of pity for the debutante, hoping it would at least be a moderate success. However, the film turned out to be one of the biggest films of the year. True, this film came no where close to being as legendary as Alaipayuthey. Still, the story of a college bully turning over a new leaf after sincerely falling in love with his sworn enemy's fiancee truly captured the hearts of many.

A kind favour that turned out to be a massive hit!

The church altar scene: One of the film's many gem moments.

5. Kushi (2000)

The Tamil film industry is full of romantic comedies with urban settings where the hero and heroine do not see eye to eye simply because of their ego. This film set that trend. And yes, it has been remade into many languages, but none could recreate the chemistry that Viyay and Jyothika brought onto the screen. Unlike the other films on this list, this one's a romantic comedy and not a romance drama, which might put it in a different category altogether. But still, this film deals with a serious subject matter too. While other couples in this list had to overcome social stigma, religious differences, caste issues, family objections and much more, Vijay and Jyothika simply had to overcome their ego, which is just as difficult as all the above. If you have ever been in a serious committed relationship, you will know this to be true.

The mother of all Tamil ego love stories.

The egoistic but lovable Jenny: One of Jyothika's best performances to date.

Surely one of the best romantic comedies to come out of Tamil cinema.

4. Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa (2010)

Yes, you will remember this movie partially because of Oscar winner AR Rahman's beautiful songs and background score. But let's not forget, without director Gautham Menon, this film would have just been like any other cheesy Tamil romance filcks. Tamil boy falls for Malayali girl, she is older than him, families object, they secretly date, she is forced to marry someone else, he is forced to go away for work, blah blah blah; same old same old.  Like Minnale and Kushi, this story has a Hindu boy fall in love with a Christian girl, but this story is so much more than religious differences. Gautham Menon, with lots of help from Rahman of course, brings such fresh poetic beauty to every line and every scene in this film, it is no wonder it is considered a modern classic. And we can all agree that though AR Rahman has produced some of the best tunes in Indian music history, this movie has some of his best works yet.

A slow-paced love story has never been so engaging!

Jessie said it best; "The Central Park scene was very beautiful."

The couple that will go down as the best pairing in Tamil cinema history. 

3. Kandukondain Kandukondain (2000) 

A modern, Indian retelling of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, this film has two love stories in one, both involving each sister. Tabu and Aishwarya Rai view love very differently. Tabu's suitor comes in the form of aspiring film director, the hot-tempered Ajit Kumar who is a stark contrast with Tabu's soft heart. Aishwarya Rai has two suitors; the much older former commander Mamoothy and the romantic hypocrite, Abbas. But being a dreamy romantic herself, Aishwarya years for Abbas over Mamoothy. This is only partly a love story, since it is mostly a family drama. The sisters and their mother get kicked out of their ancestral palace by an evil relative, they have to move to the big city and live on their own means; the movie can be quite the tearjerker at places.

An ensemble cast that has never been so perfect!

2. 7G Rainbow Colony (2004)

Now this one is the ultimate tearjerker in this list. It is also a realistic love story set in the rustic urban setting in middle-class Chennai. starring Ravi Krishna is your typical rebel with no cause, but with extremes. He almost hits his own father and makes his mother cry all the time. Sonia Agarwal is your conservative girl next door. But don't be surprised with what she will let you do with her when nobody is watching. This is not just a love story, it is also a coming-of-age one. Director Selvaraghavan shows how young love can both build you, and then really destroy you afterwords. Sonia Agarwal does not just let Ravi Krishna romance her, she helps him change into a better person, something his parents fail to do. Once again, don't expect your usual Tamil romance drama with poetic justice at the end. You will be disappointed. The ending will haunt you for days.

The rebel with no cause and the homely good girl -  a match made in hell!

The movie with an ending that will haunt you for days!

1. Alaipayuthey (2000)

This is a romantic movie in a league entirely on its own. It does not just explore the blossoming of love, it shows us how love can be even after marriage. This film reminded audiences Mani Ratnam can make love stories too apart from his mafia films and films dealing with serious subjects like wars and racial riots. Unlike most hero-centered love stories, this film gives equal importance to both Madhavan's and Shalini's character developments.

More than a decade old and still unbeatable at the top.