Posted in Pictures Desi, Reviews

Review: Queen (Tamil Web Series)

Queen (Tamil Web Series) is on MX Player.

Directed by Gautam Menon (No.1 copycat and idea thief from Hollywood and crypto (?) christian allegedly responsible for maximum conversion to Christianity along with actor Joseph Vijay in Tamil film industry), starring Ramya Krishnan as Jayalalitha…. yes, this is supposedly the life story of the most beloved woman from Tamil Nadu by the masses, our ex-CM Jayalalitha Jayaram, who died an untimely (and an unnatural?) death just a couple or more years ago…

Eyes pregnant with tears, i am glued to my screen even though most of JJ’s private life was public as well. Her rise from stardom to the state politics. Her topping the entire state in the school final SSLC board exams, her reluctance to join the showbiz world, her short lived love story, her gradual climb to power with authority and strength… We will never see a woman like her for a long time… I missed Indira Gandhi mostly. In fact it was a working day for us in our school when Mrs. Gandhi got assassinated. But what I missed about Indira Ji, I caught up with in JJ. She was the one and only queen. Queen of the masses. Intelligent, shrewd, with an inborn compassion for fellow women. She did not bow down to anybody. May be that cost her her life who knows.

As ever, I got my first opinion on JJ from my maternal granny. I think she attended JJ’s ‘Bharatnatyam’ arangetram (south classical dance debut stage performance) at RR Sabha in Mylapore. The function was presided over by thespian Tamil actor Shivaji Ganesan, reigning hero of silver screens at par with MGR in those days. Shivaji referred to Jayalalitha, the 15 year old, as ‘thanga padhumai’ (golden doll) that made to headlines in Tamil dailies like ‘Dina Thanthi’ then. Her first film happened almost immediately. This interesting snippet was missing in Queen although i do not expect the director to cover all grounds. Supposedly, JJ’s dance recital pictures in black & white were splashed in Tamil magazines and newspapers that won her her entry into the tinsel world.

Jayalalitha was a contracted actor working with M G Ramachandran, popularly known as MGR, who became Tamil Nadu’s chief minister in 1977. Before her for MGR, there was Saroja Devi, and after her there were Manjula and Latha. MGR’s ‘contracts’ were ‘popular’ indeed. It was also common knowledge that Jayalalitha’s impending marriage to Shobhan Babu, Andhra actor, was done away by MGR. JJ was manipulated throughout her life. First it was her mother who stage-managed her, then it was her co-actor MGR before she fell into the hands of some ‘vested interests.’

Shobhan Babu passed away a few years before JJ. Every time I pass his house and his bust (what for??), i can’t help thinking of his love affair with Jayalalitha in the ’70s. In fact on his demise, I half-expected JJ to turn up for his funeral. No chance, still. There was and is a secret love child, now into her 40s, as rumours have it. Shobhan became one more man who hardened Jayalalitha into toughest woman with his cowardice.

JJ’s relationship with MGR may have been an open book but looking at the old black & white and colour pictures that came later, the bond that they shared is pretty evident. There is more than hero worship in JJ’s eyes for MGR. True, she had none to blame. Much of her pain and suffering was self-inflicted. After Vaijayanthi Mala, Rekha and Hema Malini from Tamil Nadu who graced Bollywood, it should have been Jayalalitha next before Sri Devi’s turn. Reportedly she turned down a Raj Kapoor offer on MGR’s diktat. MGR could have made a star out of JJ, but she also in turn seems to have paid a heavy price. A stint in Bollywood could have changed Jayalalitha’s life completely freeing her from MGR’s clutches.

I have no memory of JJ’s film life. By mid ’70s she was already out of films entering the next phase of her life. But it was the time when I discovered pictures. The earliest memory of mine about Jayalalitha is her appointment as propaganda secretary for ADMK. We had a maid in our house when I was a little girl. She was smitten with MGR films those days. I remember her telling me and my sis MGR picture stories as she hounded the cinemas almost every week. Almost always the heroine of the story would be Jayalalitha. My fondest memory is making our teenage maid tell us the story of ‘Kannithai’ (virgin mother). Many many more films of those times. This might have been between 1972-1976. This is how Jayalalitha became familiar to me at a very young age. I had never watched a single film of her until we bought our own tv (in 1977) but I had listened to her film stories from a huge fan of hers describing to me scene by scene, dialogue by dialogue. The pair’s unbeatable winning combo was also JJ’s debut film ‘Aayirathil oruvan’ (one in a thousand).

I don’t remember having any political opinion on JJ therefore when she entered politics somewhat backdoor. Jayalalitha became a part of active memory for most of us only since she became our chief minister for the first time in 1991. I remember watching live her oath taking in tv. This is however for the next series.

The series stops with a rising Jayalalitha, pushed from MGR’s funeral cortege by Janaki Ramachandran’s kith and kin. Her phenomenal rise in Tamil Nadu politics is national news. The single shove that sent her reeling down the carriage forever uplifted her in public memory as the still was played repeatedly in tv winning JJ public sympathy. That combined with the sympathy wave for Congress after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination (ADMK had tied up with congress for 1991 elections) saw her becoming the state’s first woman chief minister. She was only 43 then. The next series will hopefully start with her ascension to power and her way of conducting administration.

We Tamils have felt safest and securest when Jayalalitha was around. Civic administration was its best – long before Swachch Bharat got enforced. Every ten foot stood a cop on patrol day and night around the city. I was once surprised to find two women constables in Aalaiamman temple in T. Nagar where I had gone visiting (2003 or 2004) for cooking and offering sweet jaggery pongal for Mother Goddess within the temple premises. The temple, even if at the heart of the city, was empty. Two women cops came to our rescue and gave me and my aunt some interesting company. They even drew water with us from the temple well for cooking pongal. As the temple invited women devotees mostly, JJ saw to that women who visited the temple didn’t get alarmed as the place was deserted. Extremely thoughtful of her. May be it was not the need of the hour but she made women’s security her top priority. There was not a square inch of the metro that was not under police survey. CCTVs arrived later. I have a lot to say on JJ. I have blogged much in the past about her. But nothing is concise enough to put down here. I will keep some info for the next series of Queen. I have seen JJ touch women’s life. In this part of the world, it mattered. It is such a basic but powerful thing that couldn’t be missed. Health center medicos met regularly every week in Rippon Building in JJ’s times. I came to know of this through the car driver of a lady doc who used to have an easy time in DMK period. New born girl babies health and post natal death stats of mothers/infants were high on agenda, as JJ took a personal interest in women’s affairs. Never were the health centers run with such an efficacy as in JJ’s period. Even today if you walk into govt primary health centers run by state govt in Tamil Nadu, you can see how well it is run and managed and how hygiene is maintained. And it is almost free or heavily subsidized. Rare to see corporation/govt run clinics on their toes. She put into place a good and functional system regularizing the basics. Hopefully the set-up holds good after her.

Watching Queen, I reminded myself the reason why JJ accorded a priority to women’s issues. She became the one true ‘kannithai.’ – the Amma.

Jayalalitha passed away in power on her fourth term as the state’s CM. She returned to power effortlessly not even battling it out tough the final time as her deteriorating health took a heavy toll on her after her brief spell in Bangalore prison. The masses were aware, how much of her wealth was self-earned. Long before she joined politics, JJ was already a star. She was born with silver spoon and attended the finest convent in the city. If JJ had to suffer a sentence for corruption, I wonder what must be the case of EVERY SINGLE INDIAN POLITICIAN. Vendetta politics killed Jayalalitha. Disloyalty  shadowed JJ right through her life. What a tragedy. Not having a single human being to love or trust being so powerful, so beautiful, so successful, so classy, so wealthy. The unfairness of her Bangalore prison stint still hurts me and millions of Tamils. She did not deserve it. Okay, let me wait for the next series.

Ramya Krishnan is trying her best to justify her role as Jayalalitha in Queen but she has large shoes to fill in. I don’t have the names of those who have played the roles of younger JJ – first as a pre-teen and upto 15 years first and then as JJ in her twenties. They both have done a stupendous job. The MGR character selection is also good. It is possible that the actors have been chosen for their resemblance to original characters and also for their good mimicking of the stars’ mannerisms. JJ’s pout especially with her slightly upturned lower lip. Very characteristic of her and the one who played JJ in her twenties has tried her best. Still has not got it! Okay almost there.

Back in 1960s or 70s we had no mass media. Only by late 70s and early 80s, most of us got home even a black & white tv set. So it is interesting to watch the MGR JJ scenes being played out. Not much of info on Sandhya, also an actress and JJ’s mother. Not a happy childhood for JJ. Her whole life was an untold tragedy even if she was too good for the state. How could someone have lived such a lonely life entirely, yet become the CM of a male chauvinist province. Who cried for Jayalalitha when she lay lifeless. Which kith and kin. Her loneliness from the start is what breaks my heart.

Jayalalitha Jayaram will always be my heroine No.1. Bollywood did not have the fortune of having her because she was destined for greater glory. Although I became aware of her from the 1990s only, ever since i had paid her great attention. Her upright governance, how she took things head on and made the men squirm at her foot – won her accolades from every quarter. She toughed it out bravely and singly in an all-male world. Not even in my wildest dreams did i think that her chapter would draw to a close so soon. I will wait for the next series of Queen.

There is no point in producing a film on JJ if it is not honest enough. If truth does not hold good, it is better if this series is not made at all. I hope the director-producer keep this vital point in mind. I have nothing to say on screenplay/direction because this is a known script. You know what is coming.

Posted in Political

Dharma In The Times Of Corona Virus

First of all let me express my utmost and sincerest empathy with the people of China whose entire world has turned upside down in a jiffy thanks to the Corona virus.

May be this is not exactly the time to preach, but let me take the risk.

The vegetarian food habits of Hindus have always drawn flak from the west (for supposedly being an imbalanced diet)  although of late we see many turning to veganism even there. Similarly, the cremation of the dead by Hindus also used to be criticized. There have been instances where it would mentioned that only ‘heathens’ burned their dead and not believers. (I am not believer of your God, I am believer of MY God!!!). The Chinese govt has now ordered cremation of the virus victims as new reports pour in. Hindus continue to cremate their dead in utter disregard to world opinion for this very same reason. Another spiritual reason is that, the dead should not linger behind for any reason whatsoever. Their role in this mortal world is over. Not a trace of them can remain on earth after their time expires. Now this is a big chapter by itself that I shall skip.

Liberals advocate no boundaries, no caution. We Hindus and we Indians in general often are accused of nationalism and racist cultural practices.  Our ancestors did not ask us to refrain from meat without a reason. There are non vegetarians among Hindus as well. Even the hard core non veggies among Hindus have poorest appetite for meat when compared to the Abrahamics. For instance, in winter (I mean Indian winter), non vegetarian Hindus refrain mostly from eating meat for religious purposes. Similarly after monsoons, we have Hindus practising strict dietary controls keeping in line with the revolution of earth and consequent changing seasons. In Tamil Nadu, for instance, in the months of July-August (Aadi), the serving of ‘koozh’ (millets) along with buttermilk to cool our bodies after a long summer is a common religious/cultural practice. For an entire eight weeks, the custom is observed in Devi temples and rural homes which prevents the onset of small pox, chicken pox etc. Next comes September or the Shravana month when again, 99% Hindu meat eaters give up meat. Then the festival season. If you carefully study the times of outbreak of epidemics and/or the incubation period, you will notice that the infectious diseases spread after the monsoons and during winter months when there is not enough sunlight/heat to kill the bacteria/virus.

A friend was once struck by JB syndrome that paralysed her for four valuable years in her thirties. Where did this infection come from. The west of course. Then the germ adapts to Indian climatic conditions and mutates. A young father with an expectant wife returned to India after weeks in Hong Kong some years back. With him he carried an infection that was passed on to the pregnant mother. The child was born with an anomaly. Tests later proved that the infecting strain was alien to India. These cases cannot be proved at the world stage. These germs are not of Indian origin yet they find a way into our country destroying lives. It is funny that when those from the west want to visit India, they take preventive vaccinations!

Why don’t Hindus eat beef. It is possible that our forefathers discovered that the beef eaters developed heart ailments dying before their time. It is now established that the Indian subcontinent stock inherit the narrowest arteries by genetics compared to other races of the world. Risk factor for us for heart disease therefore is maximum. Blocks are common occurrences. Abstinence from red meat saves millions of lives every year in India.

China is a communist state controlled with an iron fist. No ethics, no conscience, no morality… Whatever control exists in public life in China seems completely absent when it comes to the personal lives of the chinese. Looks like the chinese students who travel abroad for education ask back when questioned, ‘Tiananmen, what Tianenmen??’ If you have read ‘1984’ by George Orwell, you will know what it is to ‘ERASE’ from a national memory a part of real time contemporary/happening history. How do we even compare China with India or with any other nation for that matter. Such a meticulous management and planning. Such a manipulation. I can’t believe in that case that the corona virus broke out of Wuhan just like that. How did things go out of hands.

There goes a conspiracy theory that, China was developing a bio weapon to take on India after the Doklam setback for the chinese in the bordering Himalayas. Is it the Corona virus? Was there an accidental leak from the lab. Many Israeli and US reports point to that. Even if so, my heart goes out to the common man of China who may have nothing to do with the sinister plan of their government. Once again, Karma is at play. Another conspiracy theory is that the west let loose the virus in China fearing China’s growth, to contain China. China is racing ahead of the US to become the next first global super power. The 21st century will be China’s, not America’s. (With China, India may join the race).

So many many millions assemble at a spot in Kumbh Mela in India every 12 years. Even the Haj draws millions from around the world to one place in Arabia every year. Do we see such horrendous outbreaks of epidemics anywhere. What is the reason. Self control. Regulated food habits. Hygiene that is not mere pant-suit and scented perfume.

The ancient and still-practised Hindu custom of eating with bare hands from the banana leaf (green plate), washing (!) with water, brushing with neem stick etc., are the healthiest and most hygienic practices that we need not have to be ashamed of. A carbo rich breakfast is the ideal way to kickstart your day. Not a sucking Keto diet! The cow urine is the best natural pesticide and antibiotic. The cow dung is the most natural and oxygen emitting cleanser and fuel – the only biogas to emit oxygen and not CO2. While ridiculing Hindus for the cow fascination, the west still has not alongside stopped from patenting even the cow urine benefits. The cow milk of the Indian subcontinent alone is A2 milk which is a brain stimulant that is not derived from the Jersey cows of the west. A2 is again patented and the Asian countries are forced to breed inferior and non-native cattle using global trade pacts. In this part of the world, we don’t even consult a physician if we get measles. We make the patients lie on neem leaves and feed them neem paste. Now that neem formula is patented by the west. Same for jaundice. For jaundice, we feed the patients with ‘keezha nelli keera’ (a green that grows only in India mostly). No medication. The patient makes a full recovery. This green is also now patented by the west. Ayurveda and Siddha are the best streams of medical practices in the world but mostly under-rated. Food is therapy for us Hindus. Food is holistic. Banana stem is a vegetable we include in our menu every week. This is a natural colon/bladder/kidney cleanser. So much has been taken out of India and patented for material benefits by vested interests. While at the same time, anything and everything Hindu has been ridiculed and mocked at.

Years back however, bubonic plague broke out in India (1994) out of nowhere. Surat was the epicenter of the plague. Fingers pointed to only one direction: field experiment by the rich and powerful nations. One can’t help believing the conspiracy theories in this case. Every Indian citizen believed it was a well executed lab test.. Soon situation was brought under control on quarantining the region arresting the spread of the dreadful epidemic.

When I was reading the ‘Kite runner’ by Khalid Hosseini, I was shocked that the little boy grew up watching the sacrifice of goats and cows in the name of God. It was normal and accepted in the society where he came from. Then it dawned on me why some ideologies breed terror. The little boy was comfortable watching cattle slayed with blood splashed. In fact, it was an annual ritual he eagerly looked forward to as a child. Our food habits have a lot to do with our spiritual quotient. Our moods and behaviour. Even our intelligence. Our conscience. Our gunas (qualities) ‘Satva’, ‘Raja’ and ‘Tamas’ are determined by the food we consume. Our food maketh us. Hindus are satva for the reason that we are basically, inherently and mostly vegetarians. The gunas are not limited to individuals. The gunas are applicable to races and nations wholesome. I understand my native culture and my dharma a lot more now than I did all these years.

We will never know the real reasons behind the Corona virus. Neither will we have the actual statistics from the chinese government.

Back in India, masses are worried more about the rising cost of spare parts for anything and everything as flights and container shipping to and from China are suspended until further notice. Meanwhile wondering how Gwadar is pulling. Hoping for some nice corona figures from our friendly neighbourhood?  😀