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Thursday, May 30, 2013

I AM SAGAR, SIDDHARTH SAGAR!

Watch out for Siddharth Sagar, the trail-blazing TV star and comedian performer from the No. 1 Comedy Show on the planet, Comedy Circus (at least India Pundit thinks so). Don't go by his disarmingly naive looks - he is as equally explosive as he appears demure, a show-stealer as he pretends like he were a slow-mover. Be ready to welcome the shooting star Siddharth Sagar, applauded by key entertainment industry celebrities as the future promise of Bollywood.

The following videos trace his meteoric rise from a guest performer to being the co-star to one of world's best comedy pairs - Krishna Abhishek and Sudesh Lehri. They themselves deserve a separate post which will happen coincident with Comedy Circus's successful 7th year as India's No. 1 show:

Monday, May 27, 2013

Isai Chakravarthi TMS departs


India Pundit records with inconsolable sorrow and deep regret the departure of the ethereal voice of Tamil Films, the irreplaceable playback singer Sri. T.M.Soundararajan (TMS to all his worldwide fans). This phenomenal South Indian vocal legend is no more with us. His singing career spanned over 60 golden years in which he cut 10,000 film songs and 3000 devotional songs. This 91 year old maestro born on March 24, 1922, experienced breathing difficulties for a while and passed away peacefully at 3:50 PM on Saturday in his Mandaveli residence in Chennai. A lifelong devotee of Lord Muruga, he reached the Lord's lotus feet as serenely as he lived his last few years. Is that not a gift his Lord would gladly bestow on him that lived the role of Arunagirinathar singing the evergreen Thiruppugazh verse Mutthai Tharu Patthi Thirunagai?

Thuguluva Meenatchi Iyengar Sundararajan, like many of the Saurashtrians hailing from Madurai was born talented. Studying under Chinnakonda Sarangapani Bhagavathar and later under Ariyakkudi Rajamani Iyengar, this gifted singer first started as a carnatic musician at the age of 23. Even though he was rejected by film fraternity in the beginning because of his nasal rendition and sruti variation at higher octaves, his fate was to take a turn for the better. The legendary composer Sri. S.M. Subbiah Naidu gave TMS his very first break in 1946. But it is after singing Innum Etthanai Kaalam Thaan Yemaatruvaar Intha Naatile? for MGR that TMS actually shot to instant fame. But after the year 1955 he never really looked back. His uncanny ability to sound just like the voice of the hero he lent his playback for, made the thespian doyen Sri. Sivaji Ganesan prefer him for all his films. Sivaji-TMS-MSV-TR/KVM-Kannadasan/Vaali/Maruthakasi became an inseparable and insuperable team that would provide hit after hit and many memorable Silver Jubilee films with unforgettable songs. TMS sang for MGR until he entered politics full time in 1977, and sang for Sivaji as late as in 1995. A misunderstanding between him and Composer Maestro Ilayaraaja signaled the downward spiral in his film career after that. But till such time he ruled the roost in Tamil Films as a leader of Chennai's own film quintet - TMS, SG, A.M.Raja, PBS and SPB. He continued to thrive until Yesudas (see video at 4:26 for TMS reaction) became the stock choice for Ilayaraaja's classical film songs. TMS's duets with P. Suseela, S. Janaki, L.R.Eswari, Jikki and Jamuna Rani are a class in themselves.

It is an urban folklore that if one would sleep quietly on the terrace of a Chennai home, listening to TMS on a radio set, it would transport you directly to the heavens. That scintillating voice with an immense range from classical to western to devotional, is now no longer live. But I would rather think of it as his singing in front of Lord Murugan and His divine consorts an Azhagendra Sollukku Muruga, or in front of Parthasarathi Swami of Triplicane a Pullanguzhal Koduttha Moongilgale. Like his many fortunate fans, my parents, my brother and my family got to meet him few years back at the Lanham Murugan Temple in USA. Though considered imperious by many, his last years saw a remarkable change in his personal and public demeanor. He became more lovable as his die-hard fans celebrated his 90 years of earthly life with pomp and splendor. It is truly an irreparable loss to all Tamil language and music lovers. To borrow a quote from William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar where Mark Antony reminisces Caesar's greatness - Here lay TMS, when comest another?

A recent alert from Smt. Rangam Balaji, my cousin who sent me these 100 tidbits about TMS listed in http://sakthistudycentre.blogspot.com/2013/05/tms_7079.html. Thank you Rangam!

Walk down your memory lane with the unforgettable and irreplaceable TMS, viewing the slideshow A GOLDEN VOICE FALLS SILENT, courtesy of THE HINDU Newspaper.
Awards Won (just to mention 12):
  • Honorary Doctorate
  • Padma Sri from the Indian Government in 2003.
  • The Tamil Nadu state's honorary Kalaimamani Award.
  • "Isai Chakravarthi" Pattam.
  • "Padakar Thilakam" Pattam
  • Lifetime achievement for "MGR Memorial Award".
  • Lifetime achievement for "Shivaji Memorial Award". 
  • Tamil Nadu Musical Artist Lifetime Achievements Award  
  • Tamil Nadu State Awards, many years continuously (1960s), shared with [[K. J. Yesudas]
  • "Pesum Padam", awarded 21 times, including consecutive annual awards from 1954 to 1969
  • Tamil Film Fans Award, 22 times in the early 1950s, 1960s and 1970s
  • 20th Century Top Playback Singer from South African city mayor through Tamil fans, 1995
A video of the coverage on this world famous vocalist par excellence and a jukebox of his everlasting songs for your listening pleasure:

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Vos can quoque tauri stercore latine

In the modern world, it is vital to learn at least a few popular phrases in Latin. I know it sounds Greek to your ears, but much of the day-to-day legalese is hinged on Latin phrases. Try to make a commitment to start right away, unless of course you are already a Latin-O. And that is supposed to sound corny dammit, not racist! Have fun learning, try some tongue twisters, or even blabber (Greek goes Latin).

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Engaging Your Conscience - 2

It's been a while since I visited this column. This post will examine two other Indians with a first name VIJAY. Before we get there, a gentle recap of the earlier post on RAVISHANKAR (SRI SRI and PANDIT).

GOOD vs. EVIL 
This is an age old conflict that dons different garbs, assumes different proportions, and happens at different levels. In the angelic realm, it is the eternal struggle between the forces of light (Devas) and darkness (Daanavas). In the human realm it takes possession of two different personalities and sometimes pits them against each other based on the governing principles of their life. You can find many real life/celluloid examples as representatives of this conflict.

Humanitarian nature is a hard find these days. But when highly successful people cultivate that quality it becomes even more visible to the public. Same goes with Bohemian nature also. Its notoriety rivals the popularity of the former. An example in case is Vijay Amritaraj, the former Tennis superstar turned media businessman turned humanitarian. It is almost intuitive to infer that, conservative Christian values of a church-going family had much to do with Vijay's formative years. Least flamboyant amongst the three brothers, fans fancy him primarily due to his low-key profile and disarming smile. It has been years since his hey days, but he only seems to grow younger. Being chosen to be UN Ambassador of Peace in 2001 is no pedestrian achievement for this sports titan. Compare his life with the other - Vijay Mallya, the former liquor baron and derby owner turned beauty pageant sponsor turned airlines owner, finally turned over belly up. At some point of time in his checkered career graph, this inveterate womanizer even had an ignominious and anti-national linkup with Shaw Wallace CEO Manu Chhabria and underworld don, the infamous fugitive Dawood Ibrahim. Other industrial, social and political achievements of this slime-ball is now in the history books for many of his adoring worshipers to drool over and prostrate (some of his top-notch tycoon friends and immoral, wayward fourth estate). I am writing this exposé in the desperate hope that the media brainwashed youth of India do not get misguided, but cleverly decide who deserves hero-worship. By the way, there was also a Gandhian politician Ullal Srinivas Mallya, lest he be forgotten totally.

Let's attempt a 10-point tabular resume of this jet setting/owning now MP compared to the trend setting yesteryear tennis flame sharing the same first name, VIJAY:


Vijay Amritaraj                                                            Vijay Mallya
Tamil Christian                                                            Mangalorian
Tennis Ace                                                                  Liquor Baron
Sports & Media                                                           Business & Maja (fun)
Philanthropist                                                             Philanderer
Hobnobs with world elite                                            Hobnobs with any willing elite
Peace Maker/Adulatory                                              Family Breaker/Adulterous
Humanitarian Outlook                                                Bohemian Outlook
Tennis Courses                                                          Race Courses
National Champion                                                    National Disaster
Amiable & Pleasant disposition                                  Arrogant & Lecherous disposition

You decide - Desiyaa? Drohiyaa? Who deserves to be glorified?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

श्रीमद भगवदगीता UNLEASHED

Bhagavad Gita is perhaps the single greatest scripture that is entirely a message from God, spoken directly by him as Lord Krishna to Warrior Arjuna in the form of 700 verses. It is a divine song, hence the name Bhagavad Gita. Many of the verses are replete with philosophy so abstruse for us that it requires none other than the Lord Himself to explain it in a easy to grasp method. So much so, Srimad Bhagavad Gita is now making its way into the motel rooms across USA as Motel Gita.

My cousin Ravi is an avid student of Bhagavad Gita. Under the spiritual guidance of his Guruji, he and his wife Vidya are distributing free copies of this scripture amongst the poor. They also distribute the other holy book Srimad Bhagavatham. For a while now, I actually wished to do a post on Bhagavad Gita as an acknowledgement of his charitable work as well as his abiding interest in it. I now have that blessed opportunity. Hey, if you are like his two inquisitive and intelligent sons Shreyas and Vivek, you would perhaps like to try this Gita Quiz first.

One organization that is so fervently promoting devotion to Lord Krishna is ISKCON. They have a web resource for their publications accessible to devotees called the ISKCON Desire Tree.. The founder of ISKCON, His Holiness Jagathacharya Srila A.C. Bhakti Vedanta Swami Prabhupada, is aptly famous for his widely sold book Bhagavad Gita As It Is. Click on the image to read the contents of the book.

I have put together some illustrated verses as a slide show and a sample video from the famous Hindi serial Mahabharath (only Bhagavad Gita), for your viewing pleasure: