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.