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Sambhar Mafia - Cooked To Kill!

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Musician's Way of Torturing Tamil

The title track from the movie Vallavan is one of my current favourites. Yuvan Shankar Raja has scored quite well for this movie and that is quite evident by seeing the frequent requests for Loosu Penne song and the Vallava song on popular music channels and FM channels. Sunidhi Chauhan’s voice for the title track is equally captivating.

Unlike Shreya Ghoshal and Sadhana Sargam, Sunidhi Chauhan hasn’t sung that many Tamil songs. A glaring error in the pronounciation is the only drawback that one can think of. Sunidhi pronounces the word உள்ளம (uLLam) as உல்லம (ullam) and this has been overlooked by the music director and the lyricist. IMHO, Yuvan himself has lot of difficulties pronouncing Tamil words and it is no surprise that he forgot to spot this mistake.

Related Post: Will PMK come to my rescue?

Quarter Govindan’s Cup of Woes

S Anand of Outlook takes a look at the sorry state of liquor retailing in Tamilnadu and the numerous curbs which the state government imposes on the industry.

If you go by the book, almost every pub and bar in TN thrives on illegalities. On paper, Chennai has few real pubs or bars. Most are 'permit rooms', where only residents of the hotel can be entertained. For the record, the permit rooms maintain a ledger to show that guests in their mandatory 15-odd rooms have consumed alcohol that 400 people would consume in an evening.

Anand also digs deep into the modus operandi of the TASMAC outlets, which have a virtual monopoly over the liquor retail industry in the state (excluding pubs which are part of hotels)

The middle class, though, has only a sad choice at Tasmac outlets which rarely stock even regulars like Old Monk rum and Kingfisher beer.

Not only are Tasmac outlets filthy, they also force brands like Cosmopolitan whiskey and Day & Night rum on buyers. Sometimes even Romanov and Blue Riband are unavailable.

No prizes for guessing the weekend destination for the thirsty Tamil kudimagan (citizen).

Chennai's loss is Pondicherry's gain. The depressing liquor scene in the city forces many to risk driving three hours along the narrow, winding East Coast Road on weekends. Pondicherry, where you can rent a premium AC room for Rs 750, offers a spirited welcome

Since Pondy is sandwiched on all sides by TN, people take a local bus from Cuddalore, Villupuram, Kanchipuram and Chennai, drink their fill, and return. Budget-conscious drinkers take a bus from Chennai (for Rs 60) in the morning, drink over lunch and dinner in Pondy, and return by night. For Chennai revellers, Pondy offers solace. The several accidents every weekend on the ECR, due to drunken driving, are hardly a deterrent.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Quest for the Tax-free Name

Most of the debates in TN are centered around the eligibility of movie name to qualify for the exemption announced by the TN government. Big ticket movies like Dasavatharam and Sivaji have now entered this debate.

The production cost of the Kamal-starrer is likely to be in the region of Rs 25 crore, while it is estimated that the Shankar-directed Sivaji will easily cross Rs 70 crore.

The numbers are mind-boggling, “quite an uncharted territory for Tamil films,” as an old producer put it, and how well the films sell depend on whether the films will be granted tax exemption, given to films with Tamil titles. “Otherwise, distributors will knock off 20 percent of their money, since that is the amount they have to remit to the government as tax,” point out industry analysts.

Dasavatharam is thought to be a Sanskrit word, while Sivaji is the name of a Marathi warrior. Legal eagle and journalist ‘Cho’ Ramaswami, when contacted, felt that Dasavatharam will not get tax exemption since it is a Sanskrit word, but Sivaji may get it since it is a noun, and as such has no particular language.

President of the Tamil Film Producers Council (TFPC), Rama Narayanan, when contacted said only films with English words such as Love Birds or Love Pannunga Sir will not get tax exemption. “Any word which has passed into common usage, such as Navarathri or Dasavatharam, will be accepted as a Tamil word.”

If Rama Narayanan says that Dasavatharam can be treated as a Tamil name because of the frequent usage in the Tamil language, why did the Department of Commercial Taxes insist on a stupid name change from Jillunu Oru Kadhal to Sillunu Oru Kadhal?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Madrasa Suthi Paaka Poren

Parveen Travels, a popular tour operator has unveiled plans to offer hop-on hop-off bus tour in Chennai.

Parveen's facility plans to cover popular landmarks in the city such as Music Academy, Ashtalakshmi Temple, Kalakshetra, Birla Planetarium and Fort St. George.

"Usually, foreign tourists visit the city only as part of a travel package and spend about 10- 15 minutes seeing each of these places. As they stay in five-star hotels outside the city, sightseeing within the city is difficult," Mr Afzal said.

To help tourists explore Chennai, the company will initially ply three 35-seater air-conditioned buses through various sightseeing spots and heritage centres.

The company has devised an itinerary so that there would be a bus at these locations every hour.

Although open top bus tours are popular in western cities like London, it remains to be seen whether the hop-on hop-off concept can click in Chennai. Western cities are more organized and tourists can find their way using Lonely Planet guides and other travel brochures. In places like Chennai, the foreign tourists might need the assistance of tourist guides to get around. By using established travel agencies / approved travel guides, the tourists can avoid being fleeced by touts at the particular tourist attraction.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Fair Deal on Airfares

NRIs and foreigners booking tickets on Indian domestic carriers will now pay fares on par with domestic passengers. In the earlier set-up, when an overseas resident tries to book tickets online or through a travel agent, there would be a USD fare applicable to such purchases. Foreign residents were not given the benefit of the advance purchase discounts offered by most domestic airlines. As a workaround, most of the people tried to use their Indian contacts to buy tickets locally (in India) for domestic flights in order to take advantage of the cheaper fares. The airlines have decided to do away with the dual pricing setup and will go in for a uniform pricing regime.

The three legacy carriers — Jet Airways, Indian Airlines and Air Sahara — have a policy of charging dollar fares on tickets sold abroad to foreigners. These dollar fares are generally priced around 50% above the normal rupee fare. This practice is now being discontinued, and the dollar fares would now be charged on exact conversion rates against the rupee and not at a premium, sources told ToI.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Cable TV Gains

As expected, Kalanithi Maran makes an entry into the Forbes Richest Indians list after the wealth unlocked after the Sun TV IPO. He is at No. 20 in the current list and is second richest Tam in the list after Shiv Nadar of HCL (No. 14). Here is what Forbes had to say about Kalanithi Maran:

Politician's son dabbled in family's modest publishing business before launching Sun TV when India's satellite television market opened up in the 1990s. Sun now owns 14 channels, 4 radio stations, newspapers and magazines. Group's April listing made Maran, who owns 90%, a billionaire. Brother Dayanidhi minister for communications and IT.

With so much wealth behind him, it is no surprise that Maran hits the news when he purchases properties in the upmarket Boat Club locality and drives around the city in his BMW.

The other media barons in the list are Bennett, Coleman & Co.'s Indu Jain at No. 15 and Essel Group's Subhash Chandra at No. 23.

Romantic TR

(Pic Courtesy: Kumudam)
The fun continues here

Friday, November 17, 2006

Jet's Vegetarian Flight

Jet Airways has stopped offering non-vegetarian food to desi passengers on board its flights bound for Gujarat. Gujarat is a hardcore veg state and even McDonalds had to do away with non-veg burgers in its outlets in Gujarat. McD outlets in Gujarat could be the only "Pure Veg" outlets of McD in the entire world. Its not sure whether Jet Airways did away with non-veg food on its own or because of some external pressure.
Racial discrimination has touched the Indian skies too, albeit with a difference. On Jet Airways flights from Mumbai to Gujarat, non-vegetarian food—which the airline calls an ‘upgraded’ meal is served only to the white-skinned. If you are an Indian and have opted for a non-vegetarian meal, you either have to argue with the cabin crew and hope that you get lucky or make do with the vegetarian fare.
I guess they would start offering non-veg food in inbound / outbound flights from Gujarat after this issue has come out in the public domain.

Update: Shashikant points me to a news article which says that Jain shareholders of Reliance dumped the Reliance stock after coming to know that the newly launched Reliance Fresh (Reliance Retail) plans to stock non-veg food products in its stores.
The new element this time was a sudden burst of selling by the Jain community, which traditionally refuses to invest in companies dealing in non-vegetarian food or any industry that involves animal slaughter or processing. Their selling was triggered by reports that Reliance Retail planned to stock non-vegetarian food at its malls.

The company quietly clarified non-vegetarian food will not be sold within Reliance retail malls, but through a separate company that will be given its own space adjacent to each mall. Despite the assurance, its brokers had to work hard to sell this strategy to Jain investors by pointing out how they do not, after all, refuse to wear leather shoes or sit next airline passengers who eat non-vegetarian.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Techies Turn To Trade Unions

The IT & ITES Trade Union in West Bengal has finally taken shape. The formation of this trade union comes at a time when West Bengal is attracting huge investments in the IT and the non-IT sectors. This would probably pave the way for more such trade unions in other states like Kerala. Even though the union has been formed, IT employees might be reluctant to join the trade union as they might not want to be seen attending the meetings and gatherings of such trade unions. Attend union meetings might not go down favourably with bosses and this could be one of the main reasons why employees would think twice before joining a trade union.

As expected, the techies have shown their web savviness from Day 1 and have launched a website and a blog which will help them in reaching out to the public.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sarath Kumar - Comedian or Pachchai Thamizhan?

After hopping back and forth between the ADMK and DMK, Sarath has now (over)estimated his strength and making all preparations to float his own party. Sarath might want to add the Pachchai Tamizhan name to his Welfare Association but people like MK might call him Pachchai Drohi.

New Bookstores In Chennai

While Landmark has been expanding its presence by opening bigger stores (like the one in Chennai Citi Centre), other bookstores having been taking the medium store route to establish / expand their presence in Chennai. During my recent visit to Chennai, I squeezed in some time to visit two newly launched bookstores. The first one is the Oxford Bookstore in Haddows Road. The second one is Crossword in Venkatnarayana Road (next to T Nagar Social Club). Both bookstores could have aspired to be different if they had taken the niche route considering the space limitation. Since they try to be everything for everyone kind of store, they will lose out to biggies like Landmark, which is the undisputed king (am not counting Higginbothams here) when it comes to the space and the sheer range.

Oxford Bookstore’s split-level concept and the seating area will definitely find favour with book lovers. Oxford could have done away with the Tamil collection and the magazine section and used the precious space for some other purpose. I doubt whether the busy Haddows road with the overflowing traffic will prove to be good location for Oxford Bookstore. The complex in which Oxford is located has other commercial offices and hence there is not much parking space for visitors.This could prove to be a drawback for Oxford.

Crossword’s T Nagar store is the latest bookstore to grace Chennai. As with other Crossword stores, this outlet also features sections like Sriram Recommends. As Lavanya rightly points out, Crossword’s location and the extensive Business & Technology Section could just tilt the balance in their favour.

Inspite of the arrival of these new bookshops, I still feel that Landmark’s outlets at Apex Plaza, Spencer Plaza and Chennai Citi Centre provide good shopping experience and a much bigger range of books. Oxford and Crossword might need to innovate further to woo the avid booklover from regular hangouts like Landmark.

Chennai Metroblog had also covered the launch of Oxford and Crossword bookstores earlier.

Dubbu Ledhu

Not so long ago, we had Karnataka banning the screening of non-Kannada language films as it was felt that Kannada movies could not bear the onslaught of other language movies. Something similar is happening in AP right now. Movies dubbed from Tamil are doing good business in AP and this trend has not gone down well with the Tollywood fraternity.

The years 2005 and 2006 became milestones for dubbed films with `Chandramukhi', `Aparichithudu', `Ghazni', `Premisthe', `Manmadha' and `Pandhem Kodi' becoming bumper hits, grossing more than Telugu films. In fact, many of the established producers too took to dubbed films paying fancy prices and chasing Tamil filmmakers while the films were still in the production stage.

The big chase now is for Rajanikanth's `Sivaji' in the direction of Shankar and the grapevine is abuzz about the dubbing price put at a staggering Rs. 10 crores! Ditto with Kamal Hassan's latest Tamil hit `Vettayaadu Veliyaadu' reportedly commanding a premium. (Source: The Hindu)

In response to the drop in revenue for original Telugu movies, the Producers’ Council has decided to ban the screening of all movies which are dubbed from other languages. Theatre owners will be the ones to lose their revenue as a result of the proposed ban. Let’s hope better sense prevails.