Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Ilayaraja’s day the music died rant

July 20, 2017

Trust Ilayaraja to embark on a bitter rant during his birthday celebrations!  He said the era of music making per se is dead and composers, musicians and singers are only keeping up a make believe pretense (drawing a colourful parallel to make believe fight scenes in the films!), but there are, he asserted, no tunes, no nothing.  He said music had gone to Tirupati and returned with a clean shave (the true meaning of that analogy does not translate at all in English, unfortunately). The rant is in the first couple of minutes of this video:

Uncharitable ones may decry him as a bitter old man but more perceptive observers would sense a profound disillusionment as Ilayaraja senses he is in the twilight of his career and life as such.  Of course, you never know, he may live to be a 100 but as he lives on, he sees everything he believed in falling apart.  My father said perhaps he is going through what Einstein did in later life, wondering whether he had achieved anything of significance in his endeavours.

But let’s go back to what he said.  He referred to music being near-sacred (in not those very words, but it’s a view he’s espoused before) and having once occupied an exalted place.  True enough, the last three decades (since the 1990s) have seen music lose some of its earlier cultural relevance.  Some would say in comparison to how things were at the start of the 90s, it has lost much of its relevance.  Mostly, a song gets talked about when it jumps the shark, like Kolaveri or Gangnam Style.  Hey, I have nothing against funny, nonsense songs and they abounded in the glory days of music as well.  The point is, it’s almost only these songs that now grab our attention.  Music does not command our attention for being beautiful, soulful, touching, exhilarating, a few among its many positive attributes.

Ilayaraja’s observation has a more immediate relevance in the Tamil context and his detractors in particular would no doubt infer that that is in fact what he was harping on.  Yes, the Raja era.  During the Raja era, music occupied pride of place and a hit Raja soundtrack was the best insurance against box office uncertainty.  And…when I look at how things are today, I have to ask whether we are truly better off than we would have been with three more decades of Raja domination.

And, no, I am not a Rahman hater.  And while I would no longer identify myself as a Rahman fan (which I will get to later), I love many of his songs and his music was the soundtrack of my growing up years…along with Raja.

No, Rahman per se is not the problem though he helped unseat the king from his throne.  But along with, music directors like Deva, Sirpi, S A Rajkumar also reaped rich rewards as many film makers abandoned Ilayaraja in the wake of him losing his pre-eminent position.   You have to make a heck of an argument to convince me that the work of those fine gentlemen, along with Messrs. Harris Jeyaraj and Anirudh, is preferable to more of Ilayaraja.

We need not go into the unsavoury details.  It is known that Ilayaraja had many in the industry who held grudges against him and they were on the prowl for an opportunity to unseat him; we don’t need to get into who they were.  History has it that they succeeded. And from the days of commanding a higher salary than stars, Ilayaraja was relegated to second or third fiddle even as the popularity of Rajnikanth in particular (but also Kamal Hassan, Vijay, Ajith) exploded (needless to say, Kamal is different from these other stars and has also worked with IR during this period, though not in the last few years).  From a composer hegemony, Tamil film industry moved to a star hegemony.  And about now is a good time to ask whether that has at all served any purpose.

On the one hand, the soaring popularity of stars ensured their remuneration took precedence by an unprecedented magnitude over that of everyone else.  Ergo, the star now held the key to the film’s success or failure.  The quality of the script or the direction or, much less, the music all paled into insignificance compared to the question of whether the cast included a star and whether the star still commanded the loyalty of a large enough fanbase to justify his remuneration (yes, emphatically his, sadly no gender hyphenation required here).

This extreme dependence on stars has since spawned many a mediocre ‘mass’ film which still did well enough to justify bankrolling a zillion more like it. And here we come to the crucial difference between the Raja hegemony and the filmstar hegemony.  As far as his musical output was concerned, Raja did not shortchange anyone, be it the director or the producer or, most importantly, the audience.  He gave his best time and time again.  The worst that his worst detractors can still come up with is only that he was and is a difficult person to deal with (and I presume the stars are utter Lillywhites in comparison but moving on…).  But they cannot mount much of a case against his music.

The pre-eminent position enjoyed by him may have provoked many in the industry to resent him, but he did justice to this position.  Can the same be said of the stars?  Why are the stars only concerned with boosting their personal wealth in the name of entertaining the masses?  Why do they not aspire to help create a better PRODUCT?  This is what drove Ilayaraja day in and day out, to do better today than yesterday, and his ceaseless efforts gave a couple of thousand goodies for the audience to feast in, many of which continue to be remembered long after they were first released.

No, it’s pretty clear.  Where one man had a genuine passion and commitment to his art form, the others have only been concerned with their personal glorification and short term considerations.  And in their ceaseless urge to dominate and impose their power on the rest of filmdom, stars and their henchmen, the filmmakers, have not spared music directors either.

This came to the fore with Ok Jaanu, the Hindi remake of O Kadhal Kanmani, which featured a remix of Humma Humma, called, bizarrely, ‘The Humma Song’.  Ah, you see, it’s The Humma Song; everything has to be marketed as an event now and likewise The Humma Song is more an event than a musical creation.  The grotesque remix was widely panned with many expressing disbelief at how Rahman could have done this to his own creation.  And it was then that Rahman clarified that he had no part in this (the remix was done by Badshah) and he would not have done it this way.

Think for a minute would somebody have got away with remixing an Ilayaraja song badly and without the sanction of the maestro himself?  No way, macha, that would have been the end of that filmmaker’s association with Ilayaraja.  The very kind of behaviour for which they heaped calumny on him.  But, you see, he knew what depths the film industry can stoop to in its pursuit of box office success and defended his work with pride.  Today, the situation has changed so much that the much decorated, Oscar winning Rahman cannot stop the makers from doing something to his song against his own wishes.

And that was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and why I stopped regarding myself as a Rahman fan.  I don’t sympathise much with him for what Badshah did to his song.  He offered filmmakers a ‘pragmatic’, ‘flexible’ alternative to Ilayaraja’s ‘tyranny’ with an eye on the big prize.  And look where it got him.  Well, yes, the fame, the riches, the many musical projects he has been part of remain.  But of what use are they if they do not give him the power to protect his own work?

And so you see why Ilayaraja said there is only a pretense of making music left now.  It has been reduced to a mere vehicle to be manipulated by the film maker to grab eyeballs for his latest project and has no shelf life beyond that.  For everything else, well, there’s always Ilayaraja.  And I leave you on that note with a timeless melody of his, rendered by SPB and Asha Bhonsle, starring…oh, it doesn’t even matter who!

F-Minor

July 29, 2016

Hello All

Below is the link to a PDF file containing my novella titled F Minor.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/ei3pzqtvchi0wi2/F%20minor.pdf?dl=0

What happens when an artist has all the talent in the world and success, at least success in conventionally defined terms, eludes her?  Does she curse her luck, put herself down and blame the world?  Or does she seek joy in performing the very art which, after all, she loves?  The book seeks to ask and answer these questions through the account of a fictional ghazal singer who also makes earthenware on the side to keep going.

If the above interest you, you can click on the link given above and download the PDF.  Please feel free to share the PDF file with whomsoever you wish to.  I have only one request to make – please do not appropriate any part of the book and pass it off as your or anybody else’s work as I am the author of the book.

Please also feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below.  Brickbats and bouquets are most welcome.  If you do happen to like the book, please use the ‘like’ function below to express the same. 🙂  It’s an emoji world after all. 😉

 

Brexit: Britons call the bluff on clueless media

June 26, 2016

The mood before the Brexit in the media as well as the stock markets was one of cautious optimism.  Yes, the referendum was predicted to be close but surely, surely, voters would exercise the sensible, prudent option.  Tried and tested.  After all, who wanted another 2008, right?

In this general vein, CNBC TV18’s Lata Venkatesh made an observation that apocalypse is not a frequent occurrence in the markets and the last such was 2008.  Usually, and she cited the example of the Grexit that wasn’t, politicians got together to resolve a crisis in the eleventh hour.

There was something in that statement that convinced me to expect a Brexit when results would be declared on Friday and to pull out equity holdings in advance.  Let me  break it down now:

  1.  Yes, politicians may resolve a crisis at the brink but there is little they can do in a referendum.  So, no, Brexit had the potential to be yet another apocalypse.  Just as US govt erred in letting the Lehman Bros fail, British Prime Minister David Cameron had already erred in agreeing to a referendum and thus leaving himself at the mercy of events he could not control.
  2. The cautious optimism belied a lack of understanding of how voter turnout works.  I can excuse Western observers not used to the chaos of multi party democracy and gatbandhan politics that we Indians revel in but Indian journalists, including ones who sport fake American accents, should surely have been more clued in.  The point is this: only low turnout in England (outside London, that is) could have saved the Remain campaign.  High turnout would indicate that people who wanted out of the EU had turned up to vote.  Just as how high voter turnout usually, though not always, indicates anti incumbency in Indian elections.  Expecting people to turn out in large numbers to preserve status quo reveals either a lack of understanding of how voters behave or an overestimation of the benefits of EU to the UK.
  3. Grexit did not trigger a crisis in the markets because Greece was mouselike in its haplessness against the might of the European Commission-IMF-ECB troika. Brexit was a whole other matter and the third largest economy leaving the EU would be disastrous news for the EU, firstly, and, secondly, possibly trigger an exodus of other nations disgruntled with the management style of the EU.

I’ll address the last point in a bit.  But before that, let this be a lesson with regard to the media’s behaviour.  When they all display rare unanimity on an event that is in fact uncertain and ambiguous, they are very likely to be dead wrong.  Further, people in the media have a terrible habit of opining on everything so make sure you know what their speciality is and disregard their advice on other matters.  Yes, I am referring to the apparently reliable and erudite Lata Venkatesh here.  Listen when she’s talking about Indian monetary policy or breaking down the IIP.  But she’s no psephologist and she just proved it in the run up to the Brexit.  I have nothing against opinions per se.  People may air their opinions freely except that when appearing on TV, they ought to couch it with a suitable disclaimer to take it with a pinch of salt where it does not pertain to their field of expertise.

Now, as to the management style of the EU, which is my lengthy post script.  What would you do if you lost a long time and valued customer?  You would of course do your best to persuade him/her not to end the relationship.  If he/she was hellbent on a break up, you would respect the decision and agree to be friendly in parting.  If you instead badmouthed your customer for leaving, wouldn’t you expect to be fired by your boss?  Apparently Wolfgang Schauble, Finance Minister of Germany, doesn’t think so.  He didn’t lose the opportunity to rebuke Britain, a democratic nation, for exercising its choice and warned of taking tough action as a deterrent to other EU nations against choosing to leave the EU.

Excuse me, but Britain have the right to choose to end a relationship.  A Brexit in this case does not amount to a Greece-style default.  In fact, by threatening to punish Britain for merely exercising their free will, Schauble only lives up to the common complaint against EU made by Euroskeptics: that the EU is undemocratic.  The common sense thing to do here would be to learn a lesson from this debacle, make the divorce with Britain smooth and painless for all concerned and reach out to other nations and listen to their problems so that the EU doesn’t break up.  But then, whoever accused economists of possessing that elusive thing called common sense! I wouldn’t bet against this being the beginning of the end of the EU though it would be a sad day when that happens.

 

 

 

Ilayaraja melodies

May 28, 2016

Below is a tentative (and incomplete) list of good/hit Ilayaraja songs from 1976-1993, i.e., what could broadly be called his peak/prime phase, by whatever name called.  I have considered only Tamil songs and songs appearing more than once in a film (e.g. happy/sad, male/female versions) have been counted only once. Pl feel free to contribute more songs, especially the rural based films from late 80s to early 90s where memory fails me:

 Sr No Song title Movie Year
1 Annakilli Unnai Theduthe Annakilli 1976
2 Machana Parthingala Annakilli 1976
3 Sontham Illai Annakilli 1976
4 Naan Pesavanthen Paloothi Valartha Kili 1976
5 Kannan Oru Kai Kuzanthai Bhadrakali 1976
6 Kaalai Paniyil Gayathri 1977
7 Vaazhvae Maayama Gayathri 1977
8 Senthoora Poove 16 Vayathuniley 1977
9 Chinnakannan Kavikuyil 1977
10 Vizhiyile Malarnthathu Bhuvana Oru Kelvikuri 1977
11 Ore Naal Ilamai Oonjaladugiradhu 1978
12 Nee Kettal Ilamai Oonjaladugiradhu 1978
13 Ennadi Meenakshi Ilamai Oonjaladugiradhu 1978
14 Indha Minminikku Sigappu Rojakkal 1978
15 Ninaivo Oru Paravai Sigappu Rojakkal 1978
16 Chithirai Sevvanam Kaatrinile Varum Geetham 1978
17 Kanden Engum Kaatrinile Varum Geetham 1978
18 Oru Vanavil Pole Kaatrinile Varum Geetham 1978
19 En Kanmani En Kadhali Chittukuruvi 1978
20 Sorgam Madhuvile Sattam En Kaiyil 1978
21 Mancholai Kilithano Kizhakke Pogum Raiyil 1978
22 Poovarasam Poo Kizhakke Pogum Raiyil 1978
23 Malargale Kizhakke Pogum Raiyil 1978
24 Senthazham Poovil Mullum Malarum 1978
25 Nitham Nitham Mullum Malarum 1978
26 Adi Penney Mullum Malarum 1978
27 Uravugal Thodarkathai Aval Appadithan 1978
28 Paneer Pushpangale Aval Appadithan 1978
29 Ye Paadal Ondru Priya 1978
30 Enuyir Neethane Priya 1978
31 Naane Naana Azhage Unnai Arathikkiren 1979
32 Vaa Ponmayile Poonthalir 1979
33 Kanmaniye Kadhal Aarilunthu Aruvathu Varai 1979
34 Edho Ninaivugal Agal Vilakku 1979
35 Oru Thanga Rathathil Dharma Yudham 1979
36 Agaya Gangai Dharma Yudham 1979
37 Ilamai Yenam Poongatru Pagalil Oru Iravu 1979
38 Sindhu Nadhi Karaioram Nalladhu Oru Kudumbam 1979
39 Aayiram Malargale Niram Maratha Pookal 1979
40 Iru Paravaigal Niram Maratha Pookal 1979
41 Idhayam Poguthey Puthiya Varpugal 1979
42 Namthana Namthana Puthiya Varpugal 1979
43 Vaan Megangale Puthiya Varpugal 1979
44 Azhagiya Kanne Uthiripookal 1979
45 Geetha Sangeetha Anbe Sangeetha 1979
46 Enulil Engo Rosapoo Ravikaikari 1979
47 Orampo Ponnu Oorukku Pudhusu 1979
48 Solai Kuyile Ponnu Oorukku Pudhusu 1979
49 Aadungal Paadungal Guru 1980
50 Parandhalum Vidamatten Guru 1980
51 Perai Chollava Guru 1980
52 Edhan Kannil Guru 1980
53 En Vaanile Johnny 1980
54 Oru Iniya Manathu Johnny 1980
55 Senorita Johnny 1980
56 Kaatril Endhan Geetham Johnny 1980
57 Aasayai Kaathula Johnny 1980
58 Ennathil Yedho Kalukkul Eeram 1980
59 Siru Ponmani Kalukkul Eeram 1980
60 Yen Iniya Pon Moodu Pani 1980
61 Paruva Kalangalin Moodu Pani 1980
62 Entha Poovilum Murattu Kaalai 1980
63 Maaman Machan Murattu Kaalai 1980
64 Pothuvaka En Manasu Murattu Kaalai 1980
65 Madai Thiranthu Nizhalgal 1980
66 Ithu Oru Pon Malai Nizhalgal 1980
67 Poongathave Nizhalgal 1980
68 Dhoorathil Nizhalgal 1980
69 Azhagu Ayiram Ulaasa Paravaigal 1980
70 Naan Unthan Thayaga Ulaasa Paravaigal 1980
71 Deiviga Raagam Ulaasa Paravaigal 1980
72 Germaniyin Ulaasa Paravaigal 1980
73 Yae Thendrale Nenjathai Killathe 1980
74 Paruvame Nenjathai Killathe 1980
75 Uravenum Nenjathai Killathe 1980
76 Azhage Azhagu Raja Paarvai 1981
77 Andhi Mazhai Raja Paarvai 1981
78 Endrendrum Anadhame Kadal Meengal 1981
79 Thalattuthey Vaanam Kadal Meengal 1981
80 Manjal Veyil Nandu 1981
81 Idhu Oru Nila Tik Tik Tik 1981
82 Netru Indha Neram Tik Tik Tik 1981
83 Poo Malarnthida Tik Tik Tik 1981
84 Ramanin Mohanam Netrikann 1981
85 Mappillaiku Netrikann 1981
86 Anandha Ragam Panneer Pushpangal 1981
87 Kodai Kaala Kaatre Panneer Pushpangal 1981
88 Poonthalir Aada Panneer Pushpangal 1981
89 Ayiram Thamarai Alaigal Oyvathile 1981
90 Kadhal Oviyam Alaigal Oyvathile 1981
91 Vaadi En Kapakezhange Alaigal Oyvathile 1981
92 Chinan Chiru Meendum Kokila 1981
93 Hey Orayiram Meendum Kokila 1981
94 Radha Radhe Nee Meendum Kokila 1981
95 Oru Poovanathile Kazhugu 1981
96 Amudhae Thamzihae Kovil Pura 1981
97 Hey Aatha Payanangal Mudivathile 1982
98 Ilaya Nila Payanangal Mudivathile 1982
99 Mani Osai Payanangal Mudivathile 1982
100 Mudhal Mudhal Raga Deepam Payanangal Mudivathile 1982
101 Salaioram Payanangal Mudivathile 1982
102 Thogai Ilamayil Payanangal Mudivathile 1982
103 Vaigaraiyil Payanangal Mudivathile 1982
104 Kadhal Panpaadu Eeravizhi Kaviyangal 1982
105 En Gaanam Eeravizhi Kaviyangal 1982
106 Kanavil Midhakkum Eeravizhi Kaviyangal 1982
107 Janani Janani Thai Mookambhikai 1982
108 Bhoopalam Thooral Ninnu Pochu 1982
109 Thangachangili Thooral Ninnu Pochu 1982
110 Yerikkarai Poongatre Thooral Ninnu Pochu 1982
111 Kanne Kalaimaane Moondram Pirai 1982
112 Vaanengum Moondram Pirai 1982
113 Ponmeni Moondram Pirai 1982
114 Poongatru Moondram Pirai 1982
115 Ilamai Itho Sakalakala Vallavan 1982
116 Nethu Rathiri Sakalakala Vallavan 1982
117 Nila Kayuthu Sakalakala Vallavan 1982
118 Poo Vadai Kaatru Gopurangal Saivathile 1982
119 Endrum Vaanaveliyil Kelviyum Naane Pathilum Naane 1982
120 Vaa Vaa Vasanthamey Puthu Kavithai 1982
121 Vaarey Vaa Puthu Kavithai 1982
122 Vellai Pura Puthu Kavithai 1982
123 Neethane Enthan Ninaivellam Nithya 1982
124 Panivizhum Malarvanam Ninaivellam Nithya 1982
125 Rojavai Thalattum Ninaivellam Nithya 1982
126 Tholin Mele Ninaivellam Nithya 1982
127 Metti Oli Metti 1982
128 Santhana Kaatre Thanikaatu Raja 1982
129 Raasave Unnai Naan Ennithan Thanikaatu Raja 1982
130 Kuyile Kadhal Oviyam 1982
131 Naatham En Jeevane Kadhal Oviyam 1982
132 Nathiyil Aadum Kadhal Oviyam 1982
133 Poojaikaaga Kadhal Oviyam 1982
134 Poovil Vandu Kadhal Oviyam 1982
135 Sangeetha Jathi Kadhal Oviyam 1982
136 Velli Salangaigal Kadhal Oviyam 1982
137 Etho Mogam Kozhi Koovudhu 1982
138 Poove Ilaya Poove Kozhi Koovudhu 1982
139 Vaalai Paruvathile Kanne Radha 1982
140 Unnaithane Nallavanuku Nallavan 1983
141 Muthaduthey Nallavanuku Nallavan 1983
142 Geetham Sangeetham Kokarakko 1983
143 Ponvaanam Panneer Indru Nee Naalai Naan 1983
144 Mottu Vitta Indru Nee Naalai Naan 1983
145 Oru Killi Uruguthu Anandha Kummi 1983
146 O Vennilaave Anandha Kummi 1983
147 Oomai Nenjin Anandha Kummi 1983
148 Anantha Then Manvasanai 1983
149 Poththi Vachcha Manvasanai 1983
150 Andhi Varum Neram Mundhanai Mudichu 1983
151 Devathai Ilam Aayiram Nilave Vaa 1983
152 Sevvarani Thotathile Bhagavthipuram Railway Gate 1983
153 Aasai Nooruvagai Adutha Varisu 1983
154 Pesa Koodathu Adutha Varisu 1983
155 Rathiriyil Poothirikkum Thanga Magan 1983
156 Solai Poovil Vellai Roja 1983
157 Oh Maane Maane Vellai Roja 1983
158 Naanaga Naan Illai Thoongathey Thambi 1983
159 Thoongathey Thambi Thoongathey Thambi 1983
160 Varuthu Varuthu Thoongathey Thambi 1983
161 Paadavathatho Gaanam Ilamai Kaalangal 1983
162 Eramana Rojave Ilamai Kaalangal 1983
163 Kalidasan Kannadasan Soorakkottai Singakutti 1983
164 Uruginen Anne Anne 1983
165 Thendral Ennai Muthamittadhu Oru Oodia Nathiyaagirathu 1983
166 Vaanpole Vannam Salangai Oli 1984
167 Mounamana Neram Salangai Oli 1984
168 Thakitha Salangai Oli 1984
169 Devan Thantha Veenai Unnai Naan Santhithen 1984
170 Thalathu Maari Ponathe Unnai Naan Santhithen 1984
171 Vizhiyile Mani Nooravathu Naal 1984
172 Megam Kottattum Ennakul Oruvan 1984
173 Then Poove Poove Anbulla Rajnikanth 1984
174 Oru Nayagan Dhavani Kanavugal 1984
175 Vaanam Niram Dhavani Kanavugal 1984
176 Roja Ondru Mutham Koomberi Mookan 1984
177 Thaazam Poove Kai Kodukkum Kai 1984
178 Neelakuyilgal Magudi 1984
179 Maalai Soodum Vellai Naan Mahan Alla 1984
180 Kalyanam Vaibogam Naan Mahan Alla 1984
181 Paadavaa Un Naan Paadum Paadal 1984
182 Devan Kovil Naan Paadum Paadal 1984
183 Paadum Vaanampadi Naan Paadum Paadal 1984
184 Seer Kondu Vaa Naan Paadum Paadal 1984
185 Adiye Manam Nilluna Neengal Kettavai 1984
186 Oh Vasantha Raaja Neengal Kettavai 1984
187 Pillai Nila Neengal Kettavai 1984
188 Pottaene Poovilangu Poovilangu 1984
189 Kadhal Mayakkam Pudhumai Penn 1984
190 Kasthoori Maane Pudhumai Penn 1984
191 En Vazhvile Thambikku Entha Ooru 1984
192 Kadhalin Deepam Ondru Thambikku Entha Ooru 1984
193 Azhagu Malarada Vaidehi Kaathirunthal 1984
194 Inraiku Yen Indha Vaidehi Kaathirunthal 1984
195 Kaathirunthu Vaidehi Kaathirunthal 1984
196 Rasathi Unnai Vaidehi Kaathirunthal 1984
197 Megam Karrukaiyile Vaidehi Kaathirunthal 1984
198 Kannil Enna Un Kannil Neer Vazhindal 1985
199 Ada Machamulla China Veedu 1985
200 Chittu Kuruvi China Veedu 1985
201 Antha Nilava Than Muthal Mariyadhai 1985
202 Poongatru Thirumbuma Muthal Mariyadhai 1985
203 Vetti Veru Vasam Muthal Mariyadhai 1985
204 Yeh Kuruvi Muthal Mariyadhai 1985
205 Rasave Unnai Muthal Mariyadhai 1985
206 Poomalai Vangi Vanthaan Sindhu Bhairavi 1985
207 Kalaivaniye Sindhu Bhairavi 1985
208 Naan Oru Sindhu Sindhu Bhairavi 1985
209 Paadariyen Sindhu Bhairavi 1985
210 Thanni Thotti Sindhu Bhairavi 1985
211 Sangeetha Meham Udhaya Geetham 1985
212 Paadu Nilave Udhaya Geetham 1985
213 Ennodu Paatu Paadungal Udhaya Geetham 1985
214 Thene Thenpandi Udhaya Geetham 1985
215 Siriya Paravai Antha Oru Nimidam 1985
216 Kadhal Kasakkuthayya Aan Paavam 1985
217 Oru Jeevan Geethanjali 1985
218 Thulli Ezhunthathu Geethanjali 1985
219 Malare Pesu Geethanjali 1985
220 Poo Malaye Pagal Nilavu 1985
221 Poovilae Medai Pagal Nilavu 1985
222 Vaidhegi Raman Pagal Nilavu 1985
223 Kanmaniye Pesu Kaaki Chaththai 1985
224 Nama Singari Sarraku Kaaki Chaththai 1985
225 Poo Potta Dhavani Kaaki Chaththai 1985
226 Vaanile Thenila Kaaki Chaththai 1985
227 Pattu Kannam Kaaki Chaththai 1985
228 Adhikaalai Nerame Meendum Oru Kadhal Kathai 1985
229 Idhayam Oru Kovil Idhaya Kovil 1985
230 Kootathile Kovil Pura Idhaya Kovil 1985
231 Naan Paadum Mouna Idhaya Kovil 1985
232 Paatu Thalaivan Idhaya Kovil 1985
233 Vaanuyarntha Solaiyile Idhaya Kovil 1985
234 Yaar Veetu Roja Idhaya Kovil 1985
235 ABC Nee Vaasi Oru Kaidhiyin Diary 1985
236 Ponmane Kovam Oru Kaidhiyin Diary 1985
237 Aala Asathum Kanni Raasi 1985
238 Nilavu Thoongu Neram Kunguma Chimizh 1985
239 Pen Manney Naan Sigappu Manithan 1985
240 Mayanginen Solla Naane Raja Naane Manthiri 1985
241 Oora Therinchukitten Padikkadhavan 1985
242 Kavithai Paadu Thendrale Ennai Thodu 1985
243 Thendral Vanthu Thendrale Ennai Thodu 1985
244 Pudhiya Poovithu Thendrale Ennai Thodu 1985
245 Kanmani Nee Vara Thendrale Ennai Thodu 1985
246 Engey En Jeevane Uyarndha Ullam 1985
247 Kaalai Thendral Uyarndha Ullam 1985
248 Vanthal Mahalakshmiye Uyarndha Ullam 1985
249 Chinna Kuyil Poovae Poochuduvaa 1985
250 Poovae Poochuduvaa Poovae Poochuduvaa 1985
251 O Vaanambaadi Sadhanai 1986
252 Naan Thedum Sevvanthi Poo Dharma Pathini 1986
253 Aayirathil Nee Oruthan Naanum Oru Thozhilali 1986
254 Aarum Athu Aalam Illai Muthal Vasantham 1986
255 Hey Maina Maaveeran 1986
256 Mandhira Punnagaiyo Mandhira Punnagai 1986
257 Naan Kadhalil Mandhira Punnagai 1986
258 Chinna Mani Kuyile Amman Koil Kizhakaale 1986
259 Kaalai Nera Poonguyil Amman Koil Kizhakaale 1986
260 Un Paarvayil Amman Koil Kizhakaale 1986
261 Poova Eduthu Oru Amman Koil Kizhakaale 1986
262 Vaan Megam Punnagai Mannan 1986
263 Singalathu Punnagai Mannan 1986
264 Kavithai Kelungal Punnagai Mannan 1986
265 Kalamalaga Vaayum Punnagai Mannan 1986
266 Edhedho Punnagai Mannan 1986
267 Enna Satham Indha Neram Punnagai Mannan 1986
268 Mandram Vandha Mouna Raagam 1986
269 Oho Megam Mouna Raagam 1986
270 Chinna Chinna Vanna Kuyil Mouna Raagam 1986
271 Nilave Vaa Mouna Raagam 1986
272 Pani Vizhum Iravu Mouna Raagam 1986
273 Adi Athadi Kadalora Kavithaigal 1986
274 Kodiyile Kadalora Kavithaigal 1986
275 Poguthey poguthey Kadalora Kavithaigal 1986
276 Oomai nenjin sondham Manithanin Marupakkam 1986
277 Vaa Vennila Mella Thirandadhu Kadhavu 1986
278 Ooru Janam Mella Thirandadhu Kadhavu 1986
279 Dil Dil Manadhil Mella Thirandadhu Kadhavu 1986
280 Thedum Kanpaarvai Mella Thirandadhu Kadhavu 1986
281 Kuzhal Oodhum Mella Thirandadhu Kadhavu 1986
282 Vikram Vikram 1986
283 Meendum meendum Vikram 1986
284 Eanj Jodi Vikram 1986
285 Vanithamani Vikram 1986
286 Ilanjolai Unakkagave Vaazhgiren 1986
287 Kanna Unnai Thedukiren Unakkagave Vaazhgiren 1986
288 Oh Endhan Vazhvile Unakkagave Vaazhgiren 1986
289 Ennamma Kannu Mr Bharath 1986
290 Adhikaalai Subavelai Natpu 1986
291 Malaiyoram Veesum Paadu Nilave 1987
292 Kokarako Padura Paadu Nilave 1987
293 Chittirai Madha Nilavu Paadu Nilave 1987
294 Vaa Veliye Paadu Nilave 1987
295 Manathil Uruthi Vendum Manathil Uruthi Vendum 1987
296 Kanna Varuvaaya Manathil Uruthi Vendum 1987
297 Aararo Aararo Anand 1987
298 I want to tell you something Anand 1987
299 Thodatha Thaalam Anand 1987
300 Ola Kudisaiyile Anand 1987
301 Aethamayya Aetham Ninaive Oru Sangeetham 1987
302 Pagalile Oru Nilavinae Ninaive Oru Sangeetham 1987
303 Edutha Vecha Ninaive Oru Sangeetham 1987
304 Yeriyil Oru Jallikattu 1987
305 Hey Unnaithaane Kadhal Parisu 1987
306 Kaadhal Maharani Kadhal Parisu 1987
307 Koo Koo Endru Kuyil Kadhal Parisu 1987
308 Puraakale Puraakale Kadhal Parisu 1987
309 Oru Kadhal Enbadhu Chinna Thambi Periya Thambi 1987
310 Thenpandi Nayakan 1987
311 Nila Aduvanathu Nayakan 1987
312 Nee Oru Kadhal Nayakan 1987
313 Andhi Mazhai Megam Nayakan 1987
314 Naan Sirithal Deepavali Nayakan 1987
315 Shenbagame Enga Ooru Paatukaaran 1987
316 Madhura Marikozhumbu Enga Ooru Paatukaaran 1987
317 Kannan Vandhu Paduginran Rettai Vaal Kuruvi 1987
318 Raja Raja Cholan Rettai Vaal Kuruvi 1987
319 Chinna chinna roja poove Poovizhi Vaasalile 1987
320 Oru Kiliyin Poovizhi Vaasalile 1987
321 Thotathile Paathi Velaikaaran 1987
322 Vaa vaa vaa kanna vaa Velaikaaran 1987
323 Kannukkum Kannukkum Modhal Ninaikka Therintha Maname 1987
324 Jingidi Jingidi Guru Sishyan 1988
325 Vaa Vaa Vanchi Guru Sishyan 1988
326 Kandupidichen Guru Sishyan 1988
327 Malayoram Mayile Oruvar Vaazhum Aalayam 1988
328 Nee Pournami Oruvar Vaazhum Aalayam 1988
329 Thenmadurai Vaigai Dharmathin Thalaivan 1988
330 Muthamizh Kaviye Dharmathin Thalaivan 1988
331 Poove Sempoove Solla Thudikudhu Manasu 1988
332 Engirundho Azhaikkum En Jeevan Paduthu 1988
333 Naan Enbadhu Soorasamharam 1988
334 Neelakuyile Soorasamharam 1988
335 Valayosai Sathya 1988
336 Aasayilae Enga Oru Kavalkaran 1988
337 Thenpandi Tamizhe Paasa Paravaigal 1988
338 Oru Poongavanam Agni Natchathiram 1988
339 Ninnu Korri Agni Natchathiram 1988
340 Thoongatha Vizhigal Agni Natchathiram 1988
341 Raja rajathi Agni Natchathiram 1988
342 Vaa vaa anbe anbe Agni Natchathiram 1988
343 Idhazhil Kadhai Ezuthum Unnal Mudiyum Thambi 1988
344 Unnal Mudiyum Thambi Unnal Mudiyum Thambi 1988
345 Punjai Undu Unnal Mudiyum Thambi 1988
346 Kuyile kuyile En Bommukutty Ammavukku 1988
347 Adhikaalai Neram Naan Sonnathey Sattam 1988
348 Kalyana Maalai Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal 1989
349 Keladi Kanmani Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal 1989
350 Guruvayurappa Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal 1989
351 Gangai Karai Varusham 16 1989
352 Hey Aiyasamy Varusham 16 1989
353 Pazhamuthir Cholai Varusham 16 1989
354 Poo Pookum Maasam Varusham 16 1989
355 Maanguyile Karagatakaaran 1989
356 Indha Maan Karagatakaaran 1989
357 Malayala Karayoram Rajadhi Raja 1989
358 Enkitta Modhadhey Rajadhi Raja 1989
359 Vaa Vaa Manjal Rajadhi Raja 1989
360 Meenamma Meenamma Rajadhi Raja 1989
361 Athadi Yammadi Idhayathai Thirudadhe 1989
362 O Priya Priya Idhayathai Thirudadhe 1989
363 Paapa Laali Idhayathai Thirudadhe 1989
364 Vazhavaikkum Aboorva Sagotharargal 1989
365 Raja Kaiya Vachcha Aboorva Sagotharargal 1989
366 Annatha Aduran Aboorva Sagotharargal 1989
367 Puthu Maapilaikku Aboorva Sagotharargal 1989
368 Unnai Nenachen Aboorva Sagotharargal 1989
369 Adi Vaanmathi Siva 1989
370 Ennathan Sugamo Maapilai 1989
371 Maanin Iru Kangal Maapilai 1989
372 Maarugo maarugo Vetri Vizha 1989
373 Poongatru Un Per Vetri Vizha 1989
374 Velli Kolusu Mani Pongi Varum Kaveri 1989
375 Aathaadi Allikodi Thendral Sudum 1989
376 Ilam Vayasu Ponna Paandi Naatu Thangam 1989
377 Siru Koothu La Paandi Naatu Thangam 1989
378 Un Manasula Paandi Naatu Thangam 1989
379 Idhu Neeyum Naanum Udhayam 1989
380 Vanthathey O Kizhakku Vaasal 1990
381 Pachchai Malai Kizhakku Vaasal 1990
382 Paadi Parantha Kili Kizhakku Vaasal 1990
383 Oru Vittuku Kizhakku Vaasal 1990
384 Mazhai Varudhu Raja Kaiya Vachcha 1990
385 Irandum Ondrodu Pannakaaran 1990
386 Nooru Varusham Pannakaaran 1990
387 Silence Pannakaaran 1990
388 Agaya Vennilave Arangetra Velai 1990
389 Gundu Onnu Vachchuriken Arangetra Velai 1990
390 Mamannukum Machannuku Arangetra Velai 1990
391 Ila Vattam My Dear Marthandan 1990
392 Sattam Varadha My Dear Marthandan 1990
393 Paaku Vethala My Dear Marthandan 1990
394 Anjali Anjali Anjali 1990
395 Mottamaadi Anjali 1990
396 Something something Anjali 1990
397 Vaanam Namakku Anjali 1990
398 Vegam vegam Anjali 1990
399 Iravu Nilavu Anjali 1990
400 Kalyana Thenila Mounam Sammadham 1990
401 Aattama Nadigan 1990
402 Sorkathin Vasapaadi Unnai Solli Kutramillai 1990
403 Yerasathi En Uyir Thozhan 1990
404 Maalayil Yaaro Chatriyan 1990
405 Mannil Intha Kaadhal Keladi Kanmani 1990
406 Thendral Thaan Keladi Kanmani 1990
407 Nee Paathi Naan Paathi Keladi Kanmani 1990
408 Karpoora Bommai Keladi Kanmani 1990
409 Aracha Santhanam Chinna Thambi 1991
410 Povoma Oorvolam Chinna Thambi 1991
411 Thooliyile Chinna Thambi 1991
412 Ada Uchcham Thala Chinna Thambi 1991
413 Kaatukuyile Dhalapathi 1991
414 Yamuna Aatrile Dhalapathi 1991
415 Chinna Thaiaval Dhalapathi 1991
416 Sundari Kannal Dhalapathi 1991
417 Adi Rakkamma Dhalapathi 1991
418 Sundari Neeyum Michael Madana Kamarajan 1991
419 Sivarathiri Michael Madana Kamarajan 1991
420 Per Vachalum Michael Madana Kamarajan 1991
421 Ram Pam Pam Michael Madana Kamarajan 1991
422 Kuyil Paatu En Rasavin Manasile 1991
423 Parijatha Poove En Rasavin Manasile 1991
424 Vanna Poongavanam Eeramana Rojave 1991
425 Adho Mega Oorvalam Eeramana Rojave 1991
426 Vaa Vaa Anbe Eeramana Rojave 1991
427 Kadhal Kavithaigal Gopura Vasalile 1991
428 Keladi En Gopura Vasalile 1991
429 Devadhai Poloru Gopura Vasalile 1991
430 Thalattum Poongatru Gopura Vasalile 1991
431 Paartha Vizhi Guna 1991
432 Kanmani Anbodu Guna 1991
433 Aanenna Pennena Dharma Durai 1991
434 Maasi Maasa Dharma Durai 1991
435 Pottu Vaitha Oru Vatta Idhayam 1991
436 Idhayamae Idhayam 1991
437 Kangalukul Thanthu Vitten Ennai 1991
438 Varudhu Varudhu Bramma 1991
439 Ival Oru Ilankuruvi Bramma 1991
440 Aattama Therottama Captain Prabhakaran 1991
441 Annakilli Nee Sirikka Rickshaw mama 1992
442 Muthumani Maalai Chinna Gounder 1992
443 Chutti Chutti Chinna Gounder 1992
444 Adukku Malli Avarampoo 1992
445 Pudhucheri Kachcheri Singara Velan 1992
446 Sonnapadi Kelu Singara Velan 1992
447 Thoodhu Selva dhavani Singara Velan 1992
448 Pottu Vaitha Kadhal Singara Velan 1992
449 Ada Oranga Sriranga Singara Velan 1992
450 Innum Yennai Enna Singara Velan 1992
451 Kannakarunguyile Paandi Durai 1992
452 Pandiyanin Rajiyathin Pandian 1992
453 Anbe Nee Enna Pandian 1992
454 Chinna Chinna Thooral Sentamizh Paatu 1992
455 Kalayil Kethattu Sentamizh Paatu 1992
456 Kuttukoru Sentamizh Paatu 1992
457 Amma Endru Mannan 1992
458 Rajathi Raja Mannan 1992
459 Sandi Raaniye Mannan 1992
460 Pattu Poove Chembaruthi 1992
461 Nila Kayum Neram Chembaruthi 1992
462 Andhiyile Vaanam Chinnavar 1992
463 Kottukkilli Chinnavar 1992
464 Naan Erikarai Chinna Thayee 1992
465 Potri Paadadi Penne Devar Magan 1992
466 Sandhu Pottu Devar Magan 1992
467 Inji Idupazhaga Devar Magan 1992
468 Maniye Manikuyile Nadodi Thendral 1992
469 All The Time Nadodi Thendral 1992
470 O Butterfly Meera 1992
471 Pazhaiya Vilangu Meera 1992
472 Valli Valli Enna Deiva Vaaku 1992
473 Oru Mantharapoo Chinna Zameen 1993
474 Poongatru Pillai Walter Vetrivel 1993
475 Chinna Rasave Walter Vetrivel 1993
476 Mannava mannava Walter Vetrivel 1993
477 Kannale Kadhal Kaditham Athma 1993
478 Adi Poonguyile Aranmanai Killi 1993
479 Raasave Unnai Vida Maaten Aranmanai Killi 1993
480 Vaanmathiye Aranmanai Killi 1993
481 Aalappol Velappol Ejamaan 1993
482 Adi Raakumuthu Ejamaan 1993
483 Ejamaan Kaladi Ejamaan 1993
484 Nilave Mugam Ejamaan 1993
485 Oru Naalum Ejamaan 1993
486 Anbe Vaa Arugile Kilipetchu Ketkavaa 1993
487 Kalaignan Kattu Kalaignan 1993
488 Kokkarakko Kalaignan 1993
489 Dillu Baru Jaane Kalaignan 1993
490 Endhan Nenjil Kalaignan 1993
491 Aasai Athigam Marupadiyum 1993
492 Ellorukum Nalla Marupadiyum 1993
493 Ellorum Sollum Paatu Marupadiyum 1993
494 Nalam Vazha Marupadiyum 1993
495 Nallathor Veenai Marupadiyum 1993
496 Nenjukkule Innarendru Ponnumani 1993
497 Ennulle Ennulle Valli 1993
498 Oru Myna Myna Uzhaippali 1993
499 Vennilavu Kothipathana Chinna Mapillai 1993
500 Kadhoram Lolakku Chinna Mapillai 1993

 

The war on inflation-targeting

February 7, 2016

Ever since RBI announced the intention of installing an inflation-targeting framework, there has been a regular supply of articles criticising this move, arguing at once, that inflation targeting does not work in Indian conditions and, that it has failed in developed nations (where demand was saturated a long time ago).  That is fine; views of every hue should be welcomed.  Of late, though, the supply has positively intensified, to put it mildly, and there is a complete (and curious) lack of articles arguing for the benefits thereof to balance the equation.  I could speculate as to the reasons for this based on what I believe in private but in this defamatory age I would rather not.

Briefly, the arguments go that, as said earlier, inflation targeting has failed in countries that adopted it, that monetary and fiscal policy should go hand in hand and that growth is what India needs at the moment.   All these arguments are fine and dandy but do they not disregard the evidence of what happened in India between 2009-2013?  That is, the last time monetary and fiscal policy worked ‘in tandem’?

What is this working in tandem business such columnists refer to anyway but a euphemism for saying monetary policy should bow down on both knees to fiscal policy…and restart the printing press?  By all means, monetary and fiscal policy should go together and the RBI governor does not seem to be saying anything different.  Yes, fiscal policy should support monetary policy in the mission of bringing down inflation in a long lasting manner…by implementing necessary supply side reforms.  Asking the central bank to toe the line of government in inducing demand when inflation hasn’t yet been contained is….well, in that case, you don’t need an academic to head RBI and any meek public servant who can be threatened with suspension of his pension dues will do!

But coming back to the lessons of 2009-2013, what happened is govt decided to ignore fiscal consolidation ‘temporarily’ to revive the economy….at the behest of industry.  RBI followed suit by following an easy money policy.  Both the Finance Ministry and the RBI stayed the course way too long in this instance until inflation spun out of control.  To remind the pro-growth lobby of the facts, WPI inflation, which is today in negative territory, hovered in double digits through 2011-12!  It was in early 2011 that RBI finally seemed to ignore pressure from the growth lobby and doubled down on inflation.  But it was too late to contain the damage by then.

The other problem caused by the easy money policy was to create growth out of thin air, a govt spending induced bubble which burst the moment RBI tightened the screws (and Fin Min, with Chidambaram taking over again, too resumed consolidation).  Industry, which directly or indirectly bemoaned tight policy then and now, paid a heavy price as the capacity they installed to meet high demand during 2009-10 was laid to waste and remains unutilised or underutilised to date.  As somebody who works in the auto sector, I know this all too well and the situation is much worse in sectors like steel where there is a global glut.

There is no point in crying over spilt milk.  The mistakes of 2009-2012 are in the past and India will have to live with their consequences.  But the least we can do is learn from them and not repeat them.  It is way too soon to be clamouring for a demand injection to spur growth.  Households are just about beginning to recover from the battering they faced in the high inflation years, particularly post 2012 when inflation remained high but growth, and hand in hand salary raises, slowed down.  The repairing of the economy is not over.

If at all you should clamour over something, it is the pace of the repair job being undertaken by the govt (as distinguished from the narrow monetary policy remit of the RBI).  Urge govt to hurry up and get done with the plumbing.  But urging RBI to repeat the mistakes of 2009-12 is intellectual dishonesty of blatant levels.  You could cite any number of studies or theories to serve your anti-RBI conclusions.

Or you could just step out and check the prices of everyday essentials.  Yeah…you know where the truth lies.  Inflation targeting may not be the panacea it is seen as by some folks, but it happens to be the need of the hour in a country that has suffered high inflation for the last few years, a country where govts are given to fiscal profligacy, a country where revenue generation is just not enough to finance govt expenditure and finally a country where wasteful govt spend is justified under populist pretexts.  To quote Barry Goldwater, “In your heart, you know he’s right.”

 

Wimbledon 2012: An overwhelming display of warmth

July 9, 2012

Before I start, let me mention that I enjoyed Wimbledon 2011 far more than 2010.    Both finals produced first time winners and though the matches themselves were somewhat one sided, it was exciting to see the fancied favourites being upset.   Djokovic ran Nadal around Centre Court in ways I hadn’t seen before and Kvitova’s effortless yet powerful groundstrokes were magnificent to behold.

But the sound of the Wimbledon crowd’s applause and the reaction of the champions brought to the fore the difference between 2012 and 2011 more tellingly than any stats or effusive superlatives.    2011 was professional and polished, an entertaining and frequently spectacular exhibition of tennis.  2012 brought sportsperson and spectator closer than is usually the case.

Maybe I watched with rose tinted eyes….I don’t know, I wanted to see Djokovic upset Nadal and was thrilled when he did.  But I seem to remember that he celebrated this year’s Australian Open more emphatically than last year’s Wimbledon, even though it was his first triumph at SW19.   The generally reserved Kvitova too was controlled in her post match celebrations.

Serena on the other hand jumped for joy, to put it mildly.  She was winning it for the fifth time but she underlined in poignant words why this Wimbledon title mattered so much to her.   While, objectively, I have to admire Serena’s awesome tennis, I honestly cannot call myself a fan at all.  And yet, I could not help feeling moved to see her overwhelmed with emotion and to see even Venus fighting back her tears of joy.  No gnashed teeth or clenched teeth,  warm hugs was what we got from the Williams camp.   Serena accepted the trophy almost with gratitude.

In the meantime, Murray’s defeat at the hands of Federer left Centre Court and Henman Hill devastated.   I think I saw middle aged men choke with grief at the history that wasn’t made on Sunday.  This gloom was mitigated when Federer’s twin daughters stole the spotlight like isolated sunshine through cloudy British skies.   Federer was, well, Federer but hasn’t it been a long time since we saw him smile so brightly?  As he put it eloquently, it felt like the trophy had never left his hands.   And if there is one man who can beat Murray at Wimbledon and still win over the crowd, it’s Federer.   The crowd got over the catastrophe for at least the time being and whole heartedly rejoiced in the triumph of their favourite guest.  By the by, yes, Radwanska too was rewarded for her valiant resistance with generous approval from the Wimbledon crowd.

It’s that love and affection that was so infectious at this year’s Wimbledon.   Where, really, was it last year is a mystery.  I can hardly remember about 2010, so don’t ask!  😀  For all my advocacy of contemporary tennis and contemporary champions – and it’s 100%  sincere, mind – I am wise to the trap of recency and see trends as they are rather than explain them away.    And a clear and present trend is of Wimbledon gradually joining the rest of the crowd and its exalted position in the minds of tennis followers fading just a bit.

Serena and Federer rose to the spotlight within a couple or more years of each other.  They clearly belong to a different generation from that of the Noles and the Vikas.  One that doesn’t just bask in quaint curiosity in all the tradition and convention of Wimbledon but truly adores all that it stands for.  Pete Sampras, King of Wimbledon in the 90s, was spot on when he said Federer probably loved Wimbledon as much as he himself did.   In the run up to Wimbledon, Serena and Fed bore the brunt of much criticism over their recent form.   Perhaps because of that,  they gratefully accepted the gift of a Wimbledon trophy at a time when they needed it so much, in spite of having won it more times than players win slams overall in their career.

For a long, long time, Wimbledon has unofficially occupied a lofty perch, a sort of first among equals of the four slams.  Fed and Serena’s reaction was a reflection of a time when that distinction clearly held good.  Does it anymore, or is it just another competitive and lucrative tournament like the other three?

I am not saying these distinctions should or shouldn’t hold, because I don’t know the answer and, besides, it’s just a game at the end of the day.   But the audience received familiar champions with a spontaneous display of warmth because  (and this is just my, possibly inaccurate, conjecture) (a) in their heart of hearts, they knew that there may just not be a next time and (b) they didn’t know when next two champions will care quite so much about winning Wimbledon again.

If you skipped this year’s Wimbledon, you missed something that goes a bit beyond sport…and something that we may just miss a little bit in the foreseeable future.  Oh wait, there’s the Olympics up next!

Serve and volley? Who cares! Enjoy the tennis.

February 7, 2012

It’s pretty much become the norm now that each time Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal play out a hard hitting Grand Slam finale, a few obituaries in memory of serve and volley are written.   When this happened after 2012’s Australian Open epic, it made me a bit uncomfortable.  No, of course, each to his own and people can have their own views and preferences on the whole thing, nothing against that.  But a funereal note sounds especially discordant when the rest of the audience is celebrating a great era of tennis, right?

I sometimes wonder if such articles are written by people who are reluctant to say they are still diehard Roger Federer fans.  But that doesn’t make sense.  I am still very much a Fedex fan, while conceding that his two younger rivals have upstaged him for the moment.  Secondly, Federer has an excellent baseline game, otherwise he wouldn’t be where he is.  So what is it exactly that the serve and volley club still craves for?

Most such obituaries start with Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg.  Yeah, the two gave us three epic Wimbledon encounters; there’s no denying they were both a treat to watch, whether against each other or just in their own right. And hey, I have nothing against serve and volley per se (nor the baseline game, for that matter).  But I would like to suggest that such a perspective is a bit limited.  You have to consider tennis before and after Edberg to get to grips with the role of the baseline game in tennis.

It’s not hard to see why a Djokovic would prefer to pound groundstrokes from the baseline: the risk of getting passed is too great and when you play as astute a defender as Nadal (or Andy Murray), the margins are really thin.  One extravagant approach too many could be the difference between victory and defeat.  Djokovic is at the peak of his career and it’s understandable why he would want to stick to the winning strategy.

Because even the legendary Billy Tilden did not see it very differently.  He said that if a great serve-and-volleyer and a great baseliner play each other, the baseliner would win because he would pass the volleyer with his groundstrokes.   All the more reason why two baseliners playing each other would prefer to stick to their strength.  Whoever makes the first move to the net may end up losing the point.

A certain Swedish champion confirms Tilden’s theory.  Yes, Bjorn Borg, the king of Wimbledon in the 70s.  He could play the netgame when he had to, but he preferred to dominate from the baseline.  Jimmy Connors who won Wimbledon twice also preferred to play from the baseline.  So it’s not unusual to see baseliners do well even on grass courts and hard courts (which is the chief source of anguish for the S&V club).    Why then did the notion that Wimbledon and US Open are the home of S&V take root?

For that, maybe it’s time to look at the 80s from a different light.  The first graphite racquets arrived in the mid 80s and made the serve an even more lethal weapon than before. It made sense to move to the net right behind the serve and cut the short return (if any) from the opponent.   Boris Becker had a wonderful service motion as such but with graphite racquets, he was unstoppable when he found his rhythm.  Pete Sampras’s rise in the 90s was based on similar strengths.  Sampras was a great volleyer and hit great groundstrokes as well but the serve was his chief strength.  The only baseliner who won at Wimbledon in the 90s was Andre Agassi and he had to overcome serious resistance from big serving Goran Ivanisevic for that.

Those who basked in the glory of the Edberg-Becker-Lendl rivalry didn’t care much for the Sampras era.  But the Sampras era was my first experience of tennis and it is very important to me.  I did not know what to expect from the game then as a child but looking back, I can certainly see why people moaned about Pistol Pete acing his way to victory.  It was not a very exciting time in tennis and especially not in comparison to the tennis of today.

Take the Federer-Sampras Wimbledon match of 2001 or Sampras-Rafter in 2000. The QUALITY of serves, volleys, groundstrokes was top notch but the competition was not so engaging because both players had a similar strategy and hardly played rallies of any length.  Either the incoming volley was out of the receiver’s reach or the receiver passed the volleyer.  Better yet, the guy who served simply hit an ace!  You can see why so many sets in competitive Wimbledon matches of that time used to go to tiebreaks.  Neither player could break the other’s serve.  Compare that to Gustavo Kuerten v/s Juan Carlos Ferrero,French Open 2000. Now that was battle!

In hindsight, when I briefly lost interest in men’s tennis in 2002, it probably had nothing to do with Sampras’s decline and eventual retirement but the state of the game at that time.  It was all the things then to me that people blast the current baseline game for being: monotonous, one dimensional and boring.   Sampras and Andre Agassi were just personalities who made me want to return, out of habit more than anything.  Along came Swiss Ace Federer and he not only served almost as efficiently as Sampras would have, he also utilized every part of the court and passed Andy Roddick till he looked bereft of ideas.

And much of the reason why the game is the way it is today is because Federer raised the level and added a different dimension to the game.  Placement and angles became paramount and that is really what Djokovic and Nadal do essentially. They just ‘lack’ his finesse and grace.  But in tennis, you get the whole package, you can’t cherry pick.

In summary,  I know where those lamenting the dying out of S&V come from but I would simply say that in sports, people are habituated to craving that which they don’t have.  In the Sampras era, people wanted to see somebody return and rally and force him to sweat some more for his victories.  Today, people don’t want rallies, they want volley and soft touch.  I say screw whatever it is that tennis doesn’t have today because it has plenty that a viewer could enjoy and that’s what matters.  Missing out on such a truly epic time of tennis as this is, ultimately, your loss.

 

 

 

Will Nole get the calendar slam?

February 3, 2012

Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open 2012 last Sunday, making it his third straight Grand Slam title.  And already, there is anticipation of a possible Calendar Slam for the Serb.   Just in case, Calendar Slam means winning all four Grand Slams in the same year.  It is a feat that only two players have achieved in singles in the Open Era, Rod Laver and Steffi Graf.  Martina Navratilova also achieved a doubles calendar slam in 1984, but it is a feat in which she doesn’t stand alone in the women’s draw.

The fact that nobody since Laver has achieved a Calendar Slam in the men’s draw shows what an elusive feat this is.  Forget a calendar slam, after Laver, only three players  in the men’s draw have achieved a Career Slam – that is, winning each of the four slams at some or other point in their career – namely Andre Agassi, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.   Even a Straight Slam – winning four consecutive Grand Slam titles – has eluded players since Laver.  Even in the women’s circuit, since Graf, only Serena Williams has achieved it.

But it’s not for nothing that watchers are hoping to see Djokovic break into this most exalted club.  Last year, Djokovic won three of four slams and reached the semi finals of the French Open.  He has expressed his desire to do even better this year and what does that mean but a Calendar Slam!   In a sensational 2011, he enjoyed a 70-6 win loss record.  By overcoming tough challenges from Andy Murray and Nadal at the Australian Open this year, he is already off to a dream start.

Next up is the French Open, which is expected to be his biggest hurdle to achieving this feat.  He has never won the French Open and more importantly, he will be up against Rafael Nadal, by many accounts the greatest clay court player since Bjorn Borg.  Nadal has won 6 of the last 7 French Opens and if he wins his seventh this year, he will stand alone as the King of Clay.

Should Djokovic win the French Open, he would have at least become the first player since Serena to achieve a straight slam, a feat that has eluded even Federer and Nadal.   And he would certainly be the hot favourite, match fitness permitting, to win at Wimbledon and US Open where he achieved relatively comfortably victories over Nadal in both finals.

But at this point, I am going to talk about something other than trends and stats.  More important is the indomitable spirit of a champion that is in evidence in Djokovic’s performances since last year.   To my mind, and I am sure many will agree, his semi final clash at US Open against Federer was more crucial to his hopes than the Final against Nadal.

Federer had won the first two sets and was looking unstoppable.  Djokovic unbelievably arrested the momentum and swung it in his favour to win the next two sets.  Still, the Swiss Maestro found himself serving for the match in the fifth and 40-15 up.  Run to wherever you can to watch the next few moments of play because they underline what is it that Nole does that confounds Federer and Nadal.  Djokovic produced a simply astounding service return that Federer couldn’t get even close to, to save one match point. An unfortunate net cord for Federer on the next point brought up deuce. And…would you believe it, from thereon, Djokovic won the match!  Well, Federer couldn’t believe it anyway, calling it the greatest defeat of his career.

He repeated the feat again this year in the Australian Open Final.  Even Nadal was almost gushing about Nole’s lethal weapon, saying, “Is something unbelievable how he returns. His return is probably one of the best in history.”   For someone with no mean return like Nadal, gracious as he is known to be, to say that is telling of the mental edge Djokovic has now gained over his old rivals.

And that is what brings to mind 1988, when Graf, just a year after she broke through with her first Slam title at the French Open, won everything in sight, as they say.   The passage of time and the usual revisionism that goes with it has taken the sheen off that feat a bit but, make no mistake, it was a simply stupefying landmark for such a young and inexperienced player to bag the elusive Calendar Slam (and an Olympic Gold to go with it).

To achieve this, she had to dethrone the reigning Queen of Wimbledon Navratilova, who had won six successive titles at the event at that point.  Ah, you see the parallels now!  Graf had played tennis on clay in her formative years and people wouldn’t have thought in 1988 that they were looking at a new Queen of the Wimbledon lawns then.  And certainly not when she was trailing a set and 0-2 down in the final against Navratilova.  Incredibly, she broke right back and won the next five games to win the 2nd set and eventually the title.  What stood out in that match-changing game was two powerful forehand returns that whizzed past Navratilova, who was about to make the approach to the net.  The second of these, which sealed the break, was off a second serve.  Djokovic does that to first serves and Federer and Nadal can’t get to them even from behind the baseline!

Forget history and forget past trends, if Djokovic channels that indomitable spirit for the rest of the year, he can very well achieve the unthinkable.   He has not won on clay and nobody in the men’s circuit has done it on grass, clay and hard court but there’s always a first time.   And you had better be watching it if it’s history in the making!

 

Aus Open 2012: New v/s Old

January 24, 2012

New v/s Old has been the theme of this Australian Open.   Not necessarily always age wise but certainly slam wise.  In both the men’s as well as women’s circuit,  the heavyweights with multiple slams have tried to stave off the challenge posed by young upstarts.  The results have been contrasting and show just how different both legs are presently.

When Bernard Tomic made the quarter finals of last year’s Wimbledon, he was the youngest to do so since Boris Becker!  At 19, he is still a young hope and ‘bright star’ of men’s tennis.   Which basically means he will have to bide his time.  Although barely 2 years older than him,  the current no.1 of women’s tennis, Caroline Wozniacki is hounded with questions over why she still can’t win a slam.  People urge detractors to lay off Tomic and give him some time.   Wozniacki will field more uncomfortable questions after her straight set loss today to Kim Clijsters.

For quite some time, the men’s circuit has become extremely demanding and highly competitive.  As a result, only the most seasoned and accomplished players tend to go the distance at the slams.  The youngest player left in the men’s draw at this point is Kei Nishikori and he’s already 22, older than Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova!  Hot favourite for the men’s title Novak Djokovic  turns 25 this May and is looking at a window of 2 to 3 years in which to bag as many slams as he can.  Beyond that, the wait can get excruciating as new opponents raise the bar.  Ask Roger Federer!

With Rafael Nadal to play Thomas Berdych and Andy Murray to take on Nishikori, the most familiar semi final draw is all set to be reprised.  Don’t rule out an upset yet but time and again, those four gentlemen, Federer, Djokovic, Nadal and Murray, have kept rivals away from even a semi final slot, let alone a slam.  The last one to breach this impenetrable wall was Juan Martin Del Potro, who won the US Open in 2009.  Today even his best appeared not nearly enough against Federer.

Things couldn’t be more different in the women’s draw.  Maria Sharapova and Clijsters are the only familiar faces left in the women’s draw.  Don’t believe me….ask somebody who is a bit out of touch with the women’s scene.  If you told him Kvitova or Victoria Azarenka are among the top contenders for the title and Serena Williams is not in the hunt,  he would be shocked.

It’s not their fault, really.  For the last two years, the women’s draw has been anything but stable.  Upto 2010, Serena Williams could walk right into a slam and more or less duly collect the trophy if she so pleased.   Clijsters followed suit.  In last year’s Wimbledon,  even a hugely unreliable ball toss couldn’t stop Sharapova from strolling to the finals.  Sharapova, 25, is already a veteran and winner of three slams.  If it seems as if she’s been around forever, it’s because that’s indeed the case.  Young, up and coming players didn’t seem to have the answers and faltered either on account of inconsistency or simply a lack of depth.

In the meantime, seasoned players who could not overhaul the might of either Williams sibling or other multiple slam winners have cashed in on this vacuum to collect a slam for themselves.  Francesca Schiavone and Li Na helped themselves to French Open titles and Sam Stosur fetched a US Open title, beating a below par Serena.

At this year’s Australian Open,  Serena could not even halt the march of unseeded southpaw Ekaterina Makarova.  Her elder sibling, Venus, is physically incapacitated at the moment.  Clijsters is the last player from that generation holding fort for the old.  She has publicly declared that this is her last fling at the Australian Open.   The old appears more and more unable to resist the new in the women’s draw.   On the other hand, the new kids on the block in men’s tennis turn up at the slams only to find themselves confronted with ‘new’ questions as the old continue their relentless march.

Today, both draws briefly converged.  Del Potro’s powerful ball-striking was not enough against Federer’s formidable repertoire.  While it was not a walk in the park, Federer more or less out-thought and outplayed him all the way.  In spite of nerves and the resulting errors,  Clijsters too had a relatively comfortable win against Wozniacki. What was common to both matches was also that the veterans here showed more willingness to come forward and take on their opponent at the net, who were caught well behind the baseline.

And that’s where the similarities will likely end.  Clijsters will probably find the rest of her opponents more fearless and aggressive.  And Federer will likely meet old nemesis Rafael Nadal!  Normal service resumes.

 


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