Fun-filled, traumatic, joyous, troublesome, boring, cruel, pleasing, satisfying, challenging, tempting, misleading - yes Life is full of 'em - that is why life is so very SPECIAL - and yet the thrill is in "living" life! And all the accompanying ordeals are the frills attached with the thrills.

Monday, December 22, 2008


I don't remember when the "mega serial" or the nedunthodar buzz word caught up but it sure has caused havoc - hasn't it? Maybe it was during the DD days of Ramayana and Mahabharatha, which were considered India's first soaps - oh no - wait a minute! I think we had Hum Log and Buniyaadh much before that - didn't we?. Sadly, the soap operas have set a bad trend. I was (again) reminiscing those good old DD days when a serial had to strictly stick to a 13-week schedule. Though some had their own histronics and depicting scenes with no, they were still much much better than the mega serials of today. I could even probably watch a re-run of those serials with pleasure. Infact, Sun TV, during its heydays, when its telecast time was between 6.30 and 9.30 pm did just that - re-telecast old DD serials and that did help increase their viewership. (ofcourse other reason being it was the first alternative to DD). Back then, unlike soaps, the 13-week serials were relayed on a particular day of the week. So one had to wait, rather impatiently, for one whole week and there were no silly "re-cap" bits. And interestingly no ad breaks. All ads were shown *before* the start of the serial.

The first Tamil serial I remember was that of S.Ve.Shekhar's - Vanna Kolangal. Wow! I would love to watch it again and again. The husband duo of Kutty Padmini and S.Ve.Shekhar was an instant hit. A similar venture of S.Ve.Shekhar came up later called Thevai oru maapillai with Arundhathi as his pair. Infact the title song had the same tune as Vanna Kolangal. This was aired, I think, in the 8.30 to 9 am slot or 9 am to 8.30 am slot.

The first major serial to draw attention was Idhu oru manithanin kadhai mainly for two reasons; first, it was based on writer Sivasankari's novel and two, it had popular cine actor - Raghuvaran donning the protagonist's role. Raghuvaran gained immensely out of the serial, many pitied him while some related to the story. It was about a man addicted to alcohol and kicking his habit through a rehab, getting re-addicted and finally doing away with alcohol again forever.

Another big hit serial was the one which had Sharath Babu and Y.G.Mahendran in the star cast named Doctor Narendhiranin Vinodha vazhakku (remember this anyone?). Sharath is a medical practioner accused of murdering his patients and Y.G.Mahendran plays his defense lawyer. The story is also based on a novel by Sujatha with interesting and gripping twists.

A funny serial to come up later was "Dinesh-Ganesh" starring Delhi Ganesh and Kathaadi Ramamurthy. Sulakshana plays Delhi Ganesh's wife. Though the serial takes off as a hilarious one, later, probably to match a movie, the serial had few thriller elements too. A movie on similar lines was produced with Sivakumar, Cho, Jeevitha in the lead (don't remember the movie name though).

Though I hardly remember anything of Solladi Sivasakthi which was telecast every Thursday, one thing which is still vivid is the title song rendered by none other than Chithra!

One serial had so much speculation even before it was named or anything about its cast, story-line was known. But people were looking forward to it so much. Even as school kids, the talk of this 'to-be' serial was doing the rounds, the only reason being its director. For a while then, speculation was abuzz that K.Balachander would direct a T.V. serial and since DD was the only medium for serials, there was no second guesses as to where the serial would feature (unlike today!). The serial was Rayil Sneham. This serial was like a rennaissance for DD serials. It had extensive outdoor shoots capturing the beauty of Pollachi in a very picturesque location and it almost brought the 'flow' of a movie into a serial. Importantly, it had wonderful music by L.Narasimhan and also songs sung by leading playback singers Yesudas and Chithra. The title song was by KJY and a beautiful number (still popular on Youtube) - Indha veenaikku theriyaadhu, a soulful melody was rendered by Chithra and another version by KJY. The story would seem to be in bit and pieces and the suspense element was maintained till the very end. Its almost like connecting jigsaw puzzles - wonderfully taken. I think KB paved way for other successful directors/actors to venture into television. This featured every Thursday (or was it Wednesday?) between 7.30 and 8 pm. After about many years of watching this on TV, I picked up a video cassette (yes, a cassette) from a Video cassettes rental shop to watch it again mainly for the Indha veenaikku theriyaadhu song!

Another big serial which took everyone by storm was Penn. The colourful star cast was one of its top factors for success. The serial had Revathy, Shobana, Bhanu Priya, Radhika, Geetha, Amala, Suhasini - all lined up for one story per episode. Suhasini donned the director's cap (probably for the first time). She later said in an interview that Vasanth was to direct all episodes with Suhasini playing the main role in each episode (it was one story every week). But later due to marriage and pregnancy, she said the plans changed. Infact the last episode had Suhasini herself in the lead with Parthiban playing her husband. The story-line, acting, star cast was so crisp and fresh.

En Iniya Endhira was another serial which went on to become very popular. The main star value here was the fact that the serial was based on Sujatha's novel with the same name. It takes us to a future world dominated by machines (I am now curious to know what is the year which Sujatha mentions in that novel! Its probably one of the years now!!).

There was another Sunday 8.30 am serial Neela Mala which had ThalaiVaasal Vijay and a little Neena playing one of the two lead child characters (the other character is also a well known person today I think - was it Swarnamalya?). Vaazhvin Vaasal, a very novel serial with rational thoughts on widow re-marriage had Srividhya playing a lead role with Poovilangu Mohan, Kuyili, Gautham (Major Sundarrajan's son) playing supporting yet well-etched roles.

Another serial making a big impact amongst the viewers was Ivalaa en manaivi on Wednesdays (or Thursdays?). I felt the serial was bit of a drab - with not much of a crispy flow. The serial had Idhayam Nallennai Chithra, Sharat Babu and Nizhalgal Ravi. The ending, however, was quite interesting but tested my patience!

Then there was this serial with Revathy in it, who acted as a blind girl. It was a thriller. A famous character name in the serial which I still remember was "Mr.D'souza" (don't know why I still remember this name!).

Cho had his series on Sundays - the best being Saraswathi Sabatham, a scathing mockery of movies depicting larger than life heroes. And also there was a series depicting Panchathanthra tales or something similar of 5 stupid students of a gurukulam. One episode which I vividly remember was how the 5 of them would carry a needle pierced on a log (supposed to be "sharing the work"!). Each episode seemed so insane.

A few serials came up in the 10-10.30 pm slot on DD-2 (often called "second channel" but available only in Chennai and its suburbs). Of them one was a comedy serial by S.Ve.Shekhar. I think, as far as my memory goes, this was the first time Madan Bob was introduced on TV as an actor. Brinda Das (the vamp on Aanandham) played S.Ve.Shekhar better-half! Another one was a serial with Kaveri (or popularly known as Mrs.Dhanam Bose for the Metti Oli fans).

A very interesting programme called Kaalathai Vendravargal featured in this slot. A celebrity of the past adorned each episode. Speaking of this reminds me of another music related programme on MSV every Tuesday at 7 pm (rather 7.05 pm just after Seithi surukkam) on DD-1. An interesting anatomy related programme was Ucchi mudhal paadham varai. Another series was based on wild life. I was in 7th standard then. Our Biology teacher made us watch the show and would ask us questions based on the show the following day.

DD-2 had many interesting English or German serials like the Didi's comedy show, The Invisible man and one more, a German detective serial - Derrick.

Then there was Adada Manohar and another one with Y.G.Mahendran and Ramya Krishnan (its called Thirumathy or something...). The serial supposedly had an interesting ending with the viewers left to their own imaginations on the finale.

Writing about these serials reminds me of a comment I read in Aval Vikatan site. A reader had mentioned "Today, we are so restless that we can't stand a single ad and switch channels right away but we are the same people who patiently waited for the only Oliyum Oliyum programme for a week!". How true!!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Trrrrring... Trrrring...

The penetration of mobiles into the nook and corner of the country amazes me no doubt. People get jittery, anxious, restless if they leave their mobile phones behind. Today, as I was reading this post, being the usual self I am, went into a nostalgic walk yet again down memory lane to recaptulate about the black, heavy telephone.

A pista green phone was the cynosure of our visitors' eyes back in mid 80s. We had got it from our abroad return. Back then, it was looked upon as a very 'advanced' phone - the only reasons being that it was a coloured one and had a key pad instead of the circular dial. Discussions would crop up as to how having such a phone would invite levying of an extra fee from the Telephones Department and so we had it covered with a cloth most of the time (how silly!).

Ofcourse the regular phone was the heavy black phone with a jarring trrrring trrrring ringing sound (ringing 'tone' would not apply or was not in vogue then). [Digression: During one of the "Pattimandrams" chaired by Dindigul I.Leoni many years back, he took a dig at the song "Telephone mani pol siripaL ivaLaa" (from the movie 'Indian') leaving it to the imagination of the audience as it how it would sound if a girl were to laugh which sounds like trrrrringggg trrrringgg. Obviously, what Vairamuthu would've had in mind then while penning the lyrics, was the sound of the new phones which somewhat relates to loud giggling]

A person had to be extra careful not drop the receiver onto his/her foot lest it should break - the foot I mean! And there was no tone dialing (or speed dialing). Each swirl of a number had a taka-taka-tak... echoing effect and no... there was no 'redial' option either on such dials. One just had to meticously keep rotating the dial, thereby testing not just the patience but the strength of the index finger as well!

Once, when I visited relatives in Cuddalore, I was amazed to see that the phones there did not even have the dial. Becoming desperately curious, I wanted to know how it worked. Well, simple... you just had to pick up the phone, a person on the other end would ask for a number and you would be connected! But again, no guarantee that the person-on-the-other-end would answer you right away. I seldom felt comfortable talking through such connections as I felt, without an iota of doubt, that my conversation was being tapped. Cuddalore had just 3 digit phone numbers in that 'era'.

An upheal task was to book a trunk call and you would have to thank God if you were lucky enough to have your call placed within a few hours. The process started with calling the trunk booking number, mentioning the place and the phone number, then the person gives you a tracking number. Then you wait, wait, wait! Lets say you book a trunk request at 9 pm, you might get a call by 11 pm - pretty impressive huh? And you thought the other person was talking from a well? No! its a trunk call remember? No wonder the oldies bellow with all their energies when it comes to talking over a phone. Once you are done with the call, you get another call 'confirming' that the call is indeed over. And you probably thought you just spoke for a minute and you get a whooping 80 Rs. entry in the following month's telephone bill! I think there were different classes as well - ordinary and urgent. Urgent was 3 times the cost of ordinary.

There was a day when we had booked a trunk request and since the message was already conveyed, we did not want a huge trunk call bill, so had the receiver put away to avoid getting the trunk call request through!

But the biggest advantage was there was no pulse metering - atleast for local calls. So a minute or an hour of talking all costed the same. Imagine when once owing to my absence from school, I had my friend dictate History notes over phone.

So people who still think India hasn't made great strides in anything.... THINK AGAIN!