Rangitaranga – Movie Review

•September 11, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Rangitaranga comes as a breath of fresh air for people who watch & follow Kannada films. The hype around the film has been growing steadily, and like ‘Lucia’ has been ably supported in this growth by the Social Media. There have been quite a good number of shows across the globe and the film has earned praise equally from all quarters.

Like the recent critically acclaimed film ‘Ulidavaru Kandanthe’ (Which I personally did not like that much), this movie too is set in Dakshina Kannada (Coastal district of Karnataka, India). The movie also features the local ritual art form called ‘Bhoota Kola’, prominently. Much of the work in the film – writing, directing, composing and writing the songs, have been carried out by Anup Bhandari, who deserves a huge applause and appreciation for this wonderful effort.

Rangitaranga - Movie Poster

Rangitaranga – Movie Poster

The setting in which the plot unravels is beautiful and interesting. And these two aspects of that area has been wonderfully captured into the film by the Cinematographers – Lance Kaplan & William David. Especially the dark parts of the movie give the desired effect with some meticulous use of subdued and minimalistic lighting. Technically the other departments too have done a good job. Notably, the sound department brings life to the gripping climatic sequences. The ritual art form of ‘Bhoota Kola’ has been used to good effect in the film, unlike Uttama Villain (which featured ‘Theyyam’, the equivalent version prominent in Kerala). Performance wise, Saikumar walks away with all the applause (more about that later).

But the movie is not without its faults.

Though the story seems to have been woven with a “Bottom-Up” approach, it worked on screen. The screenplay could have been tighter, whereas it actually introduces a lot of unnecessary characters and subplots. After starting on a high note, the movie kind of slows down and takes numerous unwanted directions till after 20 minutes into post-intermission. Some sharp cutting in the editing room could have made the film more interesting than what it is in its present form. The light humor that is sprinkled along the storyline, too could have been better.

Another noticeable and glaring observation is the “acting” of the lead pair. Nirup Bhandari, the male lead, appears almost with the same dead-pan look throughout the film. One can understand the nature of a mysterious writer who has a past, but dead-pan look is not for that. With the female lead, Radhika Chetan, the problem is to get the right emotions. She either smiles too fast or smiles at the wrong timeline in the dialogue. Case in point is the scene where the two leads discuss about the possibility of the travel to their native village (Kamarottu) and what is supposedly an interesting tit-for-tat written on paper, is completely messed up by the lead pair with some awful timing sense. Though Saikumar’s chaste and stressed pronunciation of Kannada is kind of irritating at the start, the climax reveals the reason for shaping up his character in that way. It is also Saikumar who steals the show and the thunder at the end of the film. Other actors in the film have more or less done what is required and nothing special to write about.

The music is nothing to write about, which actually is a big negative.
Rangitaranga is definitely not the very best in Kannada Cinema. But, it really showcases the immense talent that is available to create some wonderful movies in the language, which has been in a kind of draught since a long time. All credits for Anup Bhandari and his brilliant technical team for bringing such a gripping tale on screen. Hope he has better and more interesting stories to offer to the Kannada Cinema audience. Make sure to watch this on the big screen – the effect would be lost in smaller screens.

The Golden Temple at Amritsar – From My Tour Diary

•January 28, 2015 • 5 Comments

My decision to wear a ‘Khada’ (Metal bangle worn on the wrist) was born out of my quest for creating a definitive style for myself during my post-teenage years. There is nothing religious about it. The ‘Khada’ was sourced from a Gurudwara in Chandigarh through my parents while on their trip. Later I had few more sourced, through my parents again, from the Golden Temple at Amritsar.

My parents have visited the Golden Temple at Amritsar a couple of times. After each visit, they have had only words of praise for the place of worship. They are of the opinion that if there is one place of worship, in India, that should not be missed then it is the Golden Temple of Amritsar. Even if it were not for my parents’ suggestion, it was definitely on my list of places to visit. The visit did happen in the month of September-2014.

I have been to many places of worship, of different faiths, across India. Though these places are built for various faiths and Gods, there are certain aspects that are common to most of them – Commercialization & Unclean premises. Some of these places have created complicated procedures to ensure that the devotees thronging the place go through long lines, waiting for hours to catch that lightning glimpse of the subject of their devotion. It has been made to believe that the struggle that the devotees go through is a form of devotion by itself. Some of these places have made it a habit to segregate devotees on caste lines and even serve the meals separately in different halls. Some of these places are so filthy, that the moment someone steps out of the place devotion is instantly replaced with a strong sense of nausea. But none of these places have had any problems making money – from setting up multiple ‘Hundis’ (Donation Boxes) across the premises to leasing out to shops selling anything in the name of religion and God. Some have created a brand out of the place of worship and have diversified into Restaurants and other commercial ventures. In one place of worship in Tamil Nadu we were forced to “donate” 10 Rupees each into the ‘Aarti plate’ by the priest, without which he refused to distribute the ‘Vibhuti’ (sacred ash) and ‘Kungumam’ (Vermillion). In one place of worship in Karnataka, my father and I were led into different queues because of one wearing ‘the thread’ and the other ‘not’. I stopped wearing the thread around my torso sometime after that incident. Money is never a constraint or struggle for most of these places.

I may be Agnostic, but I have my strong views on how one should facilitate the meeting of a devotee to his/her subject of devotion. The devotee should not be harassed and made to sweat it out like it were his/her last days on this planet. Only a nominal amount of money should be procured from the devotee that shall be used solely for the maintenance of the premises and the proceedings. Devotees should not be rushed through and pushed through narrow lines between barricades; they should be allowed to move around at their will in silence and devotion. To this effect, even the people have to co-operate and maintain a certain amount of dignity in their devotion.

The Golden Temple complex at daytime

The Golden Temple complex at daytime

When I entered the Golden Temple, it was almost the place of worship that I wished it to be. There are rules to be followed here – followed by everyone. Everyone, without discrimination, was asked to remove their footwear and hand it over to the volunteers in the counters near the main entrance, who accept it with a smile on their lips. It’s a service that they do and they do it with happiness. Next, everyone is asked to cover their heads – men, who don’t wear a turban, can wear a handkerchief or a scarf and the women are required to cover their head with their Dupatta or portion of their Saree or a scarf. The third and the last rule before entering the temple courtyard is to go through a shallow pit filled with water to cleanse the feet. Someone who does not adhere to any of these rules is immediately approached by volunteers, like out of thin air, and requested politely to do so. There is no grumble, intimidation or high-handedness. Once inside the courtyard, it’s a visual treat (especially in the evening hours). The expanse has a ‘Sarovar’ (pond) in the middle which houses the main Temple. The corridors around the pond are laid in pristine white marble, which has a carpet running in the middle the entire length. People indulge inside the Temple complex in their own ways – some enter the pond and “cleanse” themselves, some take a brisk walk around the pond, some head directly to the main temple and some admit themselves into volunteering activities.

There are volunteers who are involved in maintenance activities, round-the-clock, across the premises. From collecting footwear at the entrance to cleaning the marble floors of the premises to cooking and serving meals at the ‘Langar’ (Community Kitchen) – the volunteers are everywhere. There are also regular staff of the Golden Temple who along with the traditional guards (dressed in Blue or Saffron, wielding a spear) ensure that there is nothing or no-one out of place. The guards too are not obstructive; on the contrary they are hardly visible. I had found a nice spot and fished out my tripod, fixed it nicely on the floor and started taking pictures of the beautiful Temple in the night. After a few minutes, a guard dressed in Blue approached me and enquired in a soft and measured tone, as to whether I had taken a permission from anyone for using the Tripod (Photography is permitted in the Temple complex; using a Tripod inside the premises requires a permission, I was told). When I answered in negative and explained that I didn’t know that I had to have a permission to use a Tripod, he replied with a smile and asked me not to worry. He told me that it was just a ‘customary permission’ that has to be procured from the office room. It was hard for me not to compare this treatment with the treatment meted out in other places of worship that I have visited, which have a rate card with a different rate for using the ‘Still’ camera and different rate of ‘Video Camera’ and lately they have added ‘Mobile Camera’ too!

The Golden Temple in the Night

The Golden Temple in the Night

The Temple complex is like a painting when viewed in the evening hours. I was fortunate enough to enjoy the beauty on a clear night sky. The pond with its near-still water reflects the image of the golden structure, if viewed from certain angles. The real with the reflected image on the water, with a thin almost invisible line is a treat to the eyes. When one enters the sanctum sanctorum, the golden glow is all around. The storeyed structure with a hollow main space, houses the holy ‘Granth’. Narrow spiral staircases lead to the upper stories from where one can look at the grandly secured and decorated ‘Granth’. This place is silent, but for the sacred chants of the guardians of the holy book and all one can do is watch everything in the milieu in awe.

The other important part of the Golden Temple is the ‘Langar’ – the community kitchen. I am not sure about other Gurudwaras in the world, but in here food is served to ‘One and All’ around the clock. The kitchen also is mostly run by volunteers, from cooking to serving the food to washing the utensils. Everything is done is an orderly fashion. People do not rush into the hall, like elsewhere. The streaming line of people are welcomed by volunteers handing over the dishes to have food with – a plate, a bowl, a spoon. Volunteers in the hall guide the people to places in the hall where they are made to sit on a carpet neatly laid out on the floor. Once seated the food – Roti (Indian bread), Dal (Lentils) and Kheer (Sweet porridge), is served again by volunteers. The other rule one has to keep in mind in ‘Langar’ is that the Rotis have to be accepted by holding forward your hands in a cupped fashion. There is no limitation to the amount of food one is served. Also there is no one to urge you to hurriedly finish your meals as is the case with one particular place of worship in Karnataka. After the meals, we are required to carry the dishes to an area where it is collected from us by other set of volunteers, again with humility and smile. The food, though a simple fare, is gratifying, sumptuous and delicious.

Food served at the 'Langar'

Food served at the ‘Langar’

Volunteers Cooking and Washing at the 'Langar'

Volunteers Cooking and Washing at the ‘Langar’

Near the main entrance to the Golden Temple a nondescript board announces the existence of a ‘Sikh Museum’. The laborious collection is hosted on the first floor of the complex that runs almost across the entire length of the face of the main entrance. The museum chronicles the history of Sikhs and the Golden Temple in detail; at times in gory detail. The museum also hints at the troubles that still exist between the different factions that frequently, even now, take to arms against each other. This factional disturbance is like a small dry twig in the midst of a delicious meal that leaves a small but bad taste. Nevertheless, the museum is worth a visit for its huge collection.

To sum it up, the visit to the Golden Temple at Amritsar is one of the most cherished memories of my life. Though I cannot still call myself to be attracted towards ‘Theism’, I was content at visiting a place of worship that is sans commercialization, filth and all that is Ungodly. If one has a desire to see all the beautiful places in India, kindly add the Golden Temple to the list, if it is not already. If there is no such list, create one that includes the Golden Temple that is formally known as the ‘Harmandir Sahib’.

Splendor Of Masters – Santoor in Jugalbandi with Ghatam and Tabla

•January 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment

My earliest memory of Pandit Shivkumar Sharma (and the musical instrument Santoor) is of the Doordarshan filler – ‘Desh Raag‘. The filler that featured stalwarts of Indian music performing the track ‘Baje Sargam..’ based on Raag Desh was a window to the amazing talent in Indian classic music from all parts of the country. I, like many others, still credit that filler for the knowledge of the various instruments (Santoor, Sarod etc.) and the musicians (Veenai Balachander, Shivkumar Sharma, Hariprasad Chaurasia and others). When my friend, Tejas, told me about this concert where the father-son duo of Pandit Shivkumar Sharma & Rahul Sharma would be performing, I was more than happy to accompany him. Another attraction to the event was the promise of a Jugalbandi of the Santoor masters with ‘Ghatam’ Vidwan Vikku Vinayakram.

'Splendor Of Masters' Concert Ticket

‘Splendor Of Masters’ Concert Ticket

The concert was scheduled for 7:30 pm on a Friday evening, the 23rd of January 2015 at Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Malleswaram, Bangalore. The hall was near full when we entered and the stage was beautifully set. After a brief introduction and a light warning to parents with infants, the artists made entrance to the stage, one by one. Pandit Anindo Chatterjee and Ramkumar Mishra, both Tabla players, made the first entrance amidst claps from the audience. Then came Rahul Sharma and the audience reciprocated with a higher pitch in their welcome. But the loudest of the welcome was reserved for the senior, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma with his mushroom cloud of hair now salt coloured. A sizeable number from the audience took to their feet to give a standing ovation. It was announced that Vidwan Vikku Vinayakram would accompany the musicians on the stage a little while later into the program.

Beautifully set stage at Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Malleswaram, Bangalore

Beautifully set stage at Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Malleswaram, Bangalore

With a brief introduction from the Pandit himself, the duo set forth into an Alaap for Raag Charukeshi. They started in a slow tempo, as is the custom, and gradually built up the pace and the excitement of the audience. The Table duo too was not left out; their charged accompaniment was equally appreciated by the audience and the Santoor masters. This performance was the longest of the day, clocking almost a little more than 45 minutes. For the next performance, a light classical composition of Pandit Shivkumar Sharma based on Raag Pahaadi, the Ghatam Vidwan Vikku Vinayakram was invited on to the stage. The aged musician struggled to get onto the stage and set himself right next to Rahul Sharma, who dutifully touched the former’s feet, amidst glowing appreciation from the senior Santoor master. Once into the performance of the composition, the old man unbuttoned the front of his shirt and cast away with it his “years” too! He suddenly became alive and charged, belting out the perfect percussionist rhythm from his Ghatams – yes, he had 2 Ghatams of varying pitches and he skilfully switched between these two and at times played them simultaneously. He appeared suddenly, by some miracle, 20-30 years younger. This performance ended, similar to the previous one, with thunderous applause. The Ghatam expert too stood up, gave his salutations to the crowd and the musicians on the stage and made his exit. It was a short stint from him for the day, but one that is worth remembering. The last performance was based on Raag Mishr Pahaadi – the base Raag being Pahaadi but with interludes from other Raags as well (as described to me by my musically Knowledgeable friend). It was a quick and energetic piece to conclude the concert.

To me the most astonishing part of the evening was the co-ordination between the musicians. I don’t think so it came out because of them being a father and son – there was more to it. They were seated next to each other, and the Tabla players, one each seated at 90 degrees to the father and the son. So, the eye contact between the Santoor players and the Tabla players is understandable, but what kind of cue or co-ordination that the father-son employed is something that is beyond my grasp. One knew where the other would stop or go into the low pitch so that the other can take over. The instrument itself is unique – a trapezoid box with horizontal strings that are played with two antenna like contraptions. They created magic by playing a range of sounds from that “box” and at the end, enthralled the audience with playing it unconventionally – plucking the string with hand in tandem and holding the palm pressed against the strings to bring out an electronic kind of music.

The concert was aptly titled – ‘Splendor of Masters’.

I – Movie Review

•January 16, 2015 • Leave a Comment

‘I’ comes amidst the hype that usually is a tag for Shankar’s movies. A product of 2-3 years of making and with stalwarts like A R Rahman, P C Sreeram on board and also the combination of Shankar – Vikram which had delivered the blockbuster ‘Anniyan’, this hype was no surprise and to a little extent – justified.

Shankar, the film maker, has emerged as one of the top commercial director in Tamil cinema with a line of blockbusters to his credit. His movies have also been trying to be more opulent than the previous one. ‘I’ is no different. Erected on a grand scale (without any knowledge or credible evidence let me not talk about its budget) the movie is rich and lavish. But, the part of Shankar, that has always infused a low level humour bordering on the nonsensical, has not changed. ‘I’ is no different. More painful is to watch this humour being constructed on a person of the third gender. The treatment of the person in question is itself very insensitive. All tall claims of making a movie at par with Hollywood cinema, making scenarios showcasing his technical brilliance – everything takes a small hit with such insensitive and vulgar film making. Let it be clear – no one will have a problem with making the person of the third gender a main character in the story. But the treatment of the character should not be insensitive and stereotypical – this movie fails miserably in this area and that is a big negative.

"I" - Movie Poster

“I” – Movie Poster

The other problems, albeit smaller ones are the length, the predictable turn of events and the gimmicks. The movie could have really enjoyed some trimming in the editing room. The first half more or less just skirts around the main theme and involves more in introductions, glamour and song sequences. The build-up to the ‘revealing moment’ also falls flat, because the audience already are pretty sure about it – at least I was. The other indulgence of Shankar, gimmicks – Bus made of glass in ‘Kadhalan’, 7 wonders in ‘Jeans’, painted trains and automobiles in ‘Anniyan’ and likewise – has now lost its novelty. I feel the gimmicks, especially in the song ‘Mersalayten’, though nicely done just add on minutes to the length of the film.

But all these take a back seat when Vikram sneers, growls and sashays in a long black dress with a hood. He steals the show with his portrayal of a hunchback on a mission. The other role of a bodybuilder is also essayed by Vikram with ease. The range of emotions displayed by the “Madras Tamil” speaking bodybuilder is praise worthy. Though the hunchback avatar has fewer dialogues to mouth, the emotional factor is high. One scene in particular – when the hunchback character happily totters towards his lover only to be rewarded by a coin as alms and his subsequent breakdown – is well done. Amy Jackson suits the role of a model perfectly, though the lip sync is totally out-of-sync in some places. She is gorgeous and makes the perfect “Beauty” for the “Beast” that is hunchback avatar of Vikram. The department that handled the makeup and effects is the backbone for this movie. The prosthetics and makeup done on the hunchback character (by WETA, Hollywood) appear so real and make the character believable.

If Amy is gorgeous, China is “Adhukkum Mela” in the movie. I have heard about the beauty of China’s landscapes from my friend, but seeing it on screen is a revelation. The breath-taking landscapes are made more exceptional by the brilliant cinematography of P C Sreeram. Be it the small lanes of North Chennai, the palatial residences of characters or the rooftops of China – his work has added another layer of beauty to ‘I’. One really strong reason to watch this movie on the big screen is his brilliant work in the song ‘Pookkale Konjam..’.

The other characters in the movie have little to do, but the actors portraying those have done enough justice, be it Ramkumar Ganesan (after a long time on the screen), Upen Patel, Suresh Gopi and Santhanam. Especially Santhanam – after a long time he makes his presence tolerable.

Story wise, it’s not a very brilliant work. It follows Shankar’s old template of revenge served in different ways by the protagonist. The screenplay has nothing much to do but play of the episodes of revenge, splicing in between the past in intermittent flashbacks. The absence of Sujatha is evident considering the dialogues do not make much of an impact, except in a few places. The music is usual Shankar-Rahman fare, but ‘Ladio..’ and ‘Aila Aila..’ make better sense when watched with the visuals. The background score is well done and keep the thrill and pace of the movie intact.

Though the movie falls into the usual ‘Shankar Template’ it’s good. It is definitely worth a watch, on the big screen. The movie might give us a feeling of revisiting “Anniyan” – but that should not take away the hard work that has been invested in this movie. Go watch this romantic thriller without any expectations – it will be good. Or, for some “Adhukkum Mela..”.

2014 in review

•December 30, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 28 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Conversations With Mani Ratnam – Book Review

•November 18, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Conversations With Mani Ratnam - Book Cover

Conversations With Mani Ratnam – Book Cover

For anyone born in the later part of 1980s and 1990s, in a proper Tamil household, Mani Ratnam films would have been part of staple diet of entertainment along with Ilayaraaja’s music.

My very first memory of a Mani Ratnam film is ‘Nayakan‘. I don’t recollect anything about the film during my first viewing but only vaguely remember going to the movie with my parents – it was a matinee show if my memory serves me right. Ditto with ‘Agni Natchathiram‘ and ‘Ithayathai Thirudathe‘ (The Tamil dubbed version of ‘Geetanjali‘).

I watched ‘Pallavi Anupallavi‘, ‘Pagal Nilavu‘ and ‘Mouna Raagam‘ years after they were made. I am yet to watch ‘Unaru‘ and ‘Ithaya Kovil‘.

Anjali‘ was big news those days. My father had watched the movie once with his friends from office and decided to take us the next day. The film was being shown at the Central Takies in Sheshadripuram, Bangalore (It was demolished long ago to make way for some shopping complex). The memory of watching that movie is fresh and I can even recollect my father telling me how some of the sequences of the movie was inspired from Spielberg’s E.T. (Extra Terrestrial).

Thalapathy‘ was a celebration. Personally it was the only time when the complete family from my paternal side had been to a movie. It was in Albert (or Baby Albert) in Chennai. The day was also special – they distributed sweets, played the Raakamma song twice (once before the actually movie screening and during interval). It was December 12th, Rajnikanth’s birthday, I think. The mood was jubilant. The crowd was frenzied. What remains fresh to me even after all those years is the shot where Rajnikanth picks up a jasmine flower bud that falls from the head of Srividhya, puts it in his palm and folds it.

Roja‘ took the nation by storm. We had bought our first car in the house and the first day’s itinerary included the evening show of Roja in Pallavi Theatre, Bangalore. The movie also gave our generation a new icon in A R Rahman (I personally had not come to like Ilayaraaja’s music at that point of time). ‘Thiruda Thiruda‘ was a fun caper movie but performed poorly at the box office. The music was a big hit and it played in continuous loop during our first road trip to Hyderabad. The controversial ‘Bombay‘ was a mixed package. It was the first time that I watched a movie with fear in a Cinema hall (the other time was very recent – Vishwaroopam). Controversy and a disastrous opening at the box office made sure that ‘Iruvar‘ was missed by most of us on the big screen. It was years later that I could watch the movie through a DVD. ‘Dil Se‘ is another movie that I watched years later of its release on Home Video.

After the beautifully shot ‘Alaipayuthey‘, ‘Kannathil Mutthamittal‘ took us onto a different terrain with a tight script. I was in college when ‘Yuva‘/’Aaytha Ezhuthu‘ caught the mood of rebellious youth. I bunked my classes and watched the Hindi version in the morning with my friend Ashok and the Tamil version in the evening with family. ‘Guru‘ was an OK movie by Mani Ratnam standards, but the disappointment started with ‘Raavanan‘/’Raavan‘.

Kadal‘ is unforgivable.

If K Balachander was the genius of Tamil cinema for the generation before us, it was Mani Ratnam for the ones who were raised in 1980s-1990s.

Having been an ardent fan of the film maker since childhood it was indeed exciting to read ‘Conversations with Mani Ratnam’. The decision to split the book into chapters, with each chapter dealing with one film of the master film maker, is fantastic. To make the books as a real ‘conversation’ between the author and the film maker is also a great thought. As the author, Baradwaj Rangan, mentions in the introduction, the book is not about throwing juicy tit-bits about the films; the book is an effort to engage with the film maker and understand the thought process that went into making these films.

The author has done his homework, by watching each and every film of Mani Ratnam and has tried to pose interesting and thoughtful questions. I even felt at times that the author dwells on a particular set of questions or themes (like the repeating probing about the ‘Nallavana-Kettavana’ theme). The author definitely is a big fan of Mani Ratnam and that shows in some of the questions posed at the film maker.

The answers given by Mani Ratnam are well thought of, detailed and at times philosophical. He does not evade any of the questions, but does get defensive at times. The film makers also gives credit to those involved in the making of these wonderful films – right from his technicians (like Thotta Tharani, P C Sreeram, Ilaiyaraaja, ARR) to his actors. Some of his answers clearly indicate how these classics were possible only because of the efforts of the team involved. He also indulges in some introspection and accepts that there are times when things didn’t come out well (like in case of ‘Kadal’). The answers to some controversial questions like the one regarding the decision to move away from Ilayaraaja to ARR are also handled deftly by the film maker. Occasionally he also retorts back humourously to the author. Without being dramatic, the conversation also slowly reveals the long struggle behind the successful acclaimed craftsman. Its also pleasant to note that the conversation rarely gets into the ‘personal space’.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I read the book one chapter at a time, and watched the movie after reading the chapter. It was such a wonderful “retrospective” feeling going through each of the film maker’s movies after reading about it. If you are a fan of Mani Ratnam, this is one book that should not be missed.

Bakers Dozen Books Bucket Challenge

•October 18, 2014 • 1 Comment

First, thanks to my blogger friend Maya, for nominating me for this ‘Bakers Dozen Books Bucket Challenge’.

I remember reading in my childhood that there will be 13 slices of bread in the loaf prepared by a baker, and that is why a baker’s dozen always has 13 and not 12. So below are the 13 books that I would like to list.

While preparing this list, I was frankly very confused. The reading habit in me was kick started by my family – Grandfather, Father and elder Sister. If I have love towards books now, I owe it to these 3 people in my life. Like so many other people, I started with fiction (Sidney Sheldon, Jeffrey Archer etc.) and hardly touched non-fiction. That came later, well near my graduation days and one of the first non-fiction I read was the brilliant ‘The Story of Philosophy’ presented to me by my Brother-in-Law, another well-read man in my family. I wasn’t sure how to prepare the list and decided to include only fiction in the ‘Baker’s dozen’ and the non-fiction that I have read will go to the special mention section. The other reason for having them as special mention is because, I use some of these books for reference and might have read only the chapters and parts of the book that I was interested in. An example is ‘Discovery of India’ – book so vast that I have still not put in the effort to completely read through the book and more or less use it as a reference when I need some information.

Now for the lists,

My Baker’s Dozen

1. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
2. The Day of the Jackal – Frederick Forsyth
3. The Prize – Irving Wallace
4. Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less – Jeffrey Archer
5. Thunderpoint – Jack Higgins
6. Vaanam Vasappadum – Prabanjan
7. Pigs Have Wings, Life at Blandings, Lord Emsworth & Others – P G Wodehouse
8. Animal Farm – George Orwell
9. Love Story – Erich Segal
10. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
11. Prey – Michael Crichton
12. The Guide, The Malgudi Landscapes – R K Narayan
13. The Godfather – Mario Puzo

The Special Mention list

1. Diwan-e-Ghalib – Collection of Ghalib poetry with translations in Hindi & English
2. Nine Lives – William Dalrymple
3. The Story of Philosophy – Will Durant
4. Discovery of India – Jawaharlal Nehru
5. India After Gandhi – Ramachandra Guha

Some observations about my book reading habit (I wouldn’t call them wonders)

* Never been a member of any library till date (except for the mandatory membership to my high school library)
* Library that I have visited the most (not as a member) is Eswari Library (Avvai Shanmugham Road, Chennai) with my grandfather
* I buy some of the books that I like a lot and have a small collection
* I cannot read an eBook/PDF from a computer screen
* Some of my favourite authors are – Frederick Forsyth, Jeffrey Archer, R K Narayan, and Jack Higgins
* The fastest reading record of mine till date has been ‘The Da Vinci Code’ – I started in the morning and by night I was done
* And longest time I have taken to read has been ‘The Lost Symbol’ (Dan Brown again) and it almost made me hate my reading habit

Now for the “tagging others” part, below are my nominations

1. Anjali Raman
2. Bingo’s Mom