Friday, May 28, 2010

Where Was It Shot - cataloging filming locations

Like most of you here, I have been a big fan of Tamil cinema all my life and one of the things that has always captured my attention about our movies is the filming locations that have been used in our movies. Frequently I would find myself googling for the name of a location that was used in some song or scene of a movie that I had just finished watching. So, naturally my thought veered towards coming up with a web site for the same. When (I & my friend Amar) we looked around to see if any such sites that already existed, we found none. There were a few sites that were dedicated to documenting the filming locations used in Hollywood movies (even they have not been well maintained) but absolutely none for those used in Indian movies in general and Tamil movies in particular.

So, this was the idea behind the site and thus was born www.wherewasitshot.com.

The problem here though is the sheer magnitude of information that we are looking at here. Hundreds and hundreds of movies released over the decades and thousands & thousands of locations that have been used in those movies. And here we are, just a couple of guys, attempting to catalog them in a site. That is where we are expecting co-operation of like minded movie buffs here.

We have launched the site with around 50 locations and we plan to keep adding new 1-2 locations every week. But like we said, it is just impossible for us to find & publish all those filming locations that have ever been used in our movies. That is the reason we are considering this whole effort as one big social media project that involves contribution from everybody around. And towards that end, we have also created a forum as part of the site.

We welcome everyone here to take a look at the site and if you like what you see, please contribute (in the form of comments, suggestions, pointing out inaccurate information, etc) and introduce the site to your friends as well.

Let me sign off by reproducing the contents of the ‘About Us’ page of our site:

Wait a second. That scene in the song that just played on TV. Where did they shoot it?

Hasn’t that question crossed our minds? Haven’t we all at some point of time thought ‘How cool it would be to have a web site dedicated to documenting locations where movies are shot?’? We heard you. This web site is our answer to all your calls to put together a comprehensive collection of movie locations on the internet. Having spent so much time on blogs, discussion forums, Orkut community forums, we realized that the movie buff in every one of us has always been curious about the locations where the movies we love, were shot. We have done the job for you, as we scoured through the bottomless abyss called the internet and have come up with this collection of Indian movie locations.

As you can see, this is strictly a Work In Progress site, which means only 1 thing – valuable inputs from users & visitors like you. We are considering this as a huge social media collaboration project. So, if you know of any movie shooting spot location that you don’t find it here or you notice an error in our records, shoot us an email – wherewasitshot@gmail.com.

The locations have been categorized based on languages (currently, only Tamil, Hindi & Telugu), geography (North America, Europe, India) and people (your favorite actors, directors). You can either browse through the entries or search for the entries with a query.

Don’t forget to check back, as we are constantly adding more entries to our collection of movie locations.

Looking forward to your enthusiastic participation and response to our humble effort!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Best songs of the year - 2009

I know, we are in the 3rd week of 2010 but here I am publishing a post on the best songs of the year, 2009. This is one post that I kind of keep on editing throughout the course of the year and it is precisely for this reason that I do not want to miss out on publishing the same, even though it is coming about a month late.

My self defined 'rules' that I followed in coming up with this list haven't changed form the last 2 years and here they are, one more time:

1) All songs should fit in a 80 min audio CD
2) There shall be no more than 1 song from any given movie
3) The album should have been released in the year 2009.

So, here are the best songs of the year 2009 (in no particular order):

1) Kannil paarvai from Naan Kadavul
2) Mella oorndhu oorndhu from Nandhala
3) Kadaloram from Kunguma Puraavum Konju Puraavum
4) Ragala Kaara from Odippolaamaa
5) Vizhi moodi from Ayan
6) Kooda varuviyaa from Vaalmiki
7) Oru Chinna Thamarai from Vettaikkaaran
8) Rayilin Paadhaiyil from Appaavi
9) Kannil dhaagam from Achamundu Achamundu
10) Aval appadi ondrum from Angaadi Theru
11) Maalai neram from Aayirathil Oruvan
12) Oru vetkkam varudhe from Pasanga
13) Naan Pogiren mele from Naanaiyam
14) Thuli Thuli from Paiyyaa
15) YaarOru yaarO from Yogi
16) Tharai Erangiya from Eeram
17) Yogi theme music (filler)

Honorable mention or the second CD:

1) Onnukkonnu from Nandhala
2) Ading Ading from OdippOlaamaa
3) Oru nimisham from KPKP
4) Oru Kal Oru Kannaadi from SMS
5) Enge povadhu from Vaamanan
6) July maadhathil from Muthirai
7) Poo Sirikkudhu from Valmiki
8) Kadhaigalai pesum from Angaadi Theru
9) Adada Mazhaida from Paiyya
10) Karigaalan from Vettaikkaaran
11) Edho Seigiraai from Vaamanan
12) Latcham vaarthaigal from Modhi Vilaaiyadu
13) Nenje Nenje from Ayan
14) Mazhaiye Mazhaiye from Eeram
15) Nee Thaane from Sarvam
16) Yaaradhu Yaaro from Yaadhumaagi
17) Poove Poove from Sidhu +2 first attempt

Other awards:
Album of the year: Modhi Vilaiyaadu, Sarvam, Eeram, Ayan, KPKP, Aayirathil Oruvan were the contenders for me. My choices for the best songs and the best album usually go hand in hand with the most popular picks in their respective categories. But this time around, my choice might baffle a lot of people as Kunguma Poovum Konju Puraavum is my choice for the best album of the year. There was no other album where I loved almost every single song of the album like KPKP and that includes the 'Naan Dharman-da' song sung by SPB.

Music director of the year: Has to be Yuvan again. Except for KPKP & Sarvam, he didn't have any album that can be called oustanding. But even in the other albums he had (like Muthirai, Vaamanan, Yogi, SIva Manasula Sakthi and Paiyyaa), he had some very hummable & high quality numbers. For that and also for the lack of competition form other music directors (with James Vasanthan being the only one who came even remotely close to being considered), Yuvan is my pick for the music director of the year.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Aadhavan - mediocrity at its best

  • Easily the worst movie that I have ever seen, which featured either Surya or KSR
  • Seriously, can't understand why an actor who has tried to do something different, signs to do a movie like this.
  • Makes you think you are better off watching a Vijay movie, given the fact that one is guaranteed to see some genuine & good looking dance movements that only he can do
  • Vadivelu's comedy, to an extent, was the sole saving grace of the movie. But there is only so much he can do, given the movie's mind-numbingly stupid screenplay
  • Surya's performance, for all the effort he has seemingly put in, falls flat and after a point, he becomes just unwatchable.
  • And Surya can now officially be called Salman Khan of Tamil cinema, as his directors come up with situations just to show off his well-toned body
  • We all know that the standard of Tamil cinema's special effects & graphics is just appalling but Aadhavan has done the impossible of pulling it down one notch further below.
  • The sheer stupidity of the underlying setup of the movie is mind boggling. Imagine this - a judge is about to submit a crucial report in 10 days but he has come to Kolkota with (literally) a truck load of family because they are on vacation and he wants to spend time with them too. What a boat load of crap?!
  • The tortured logic that goes behind the 'Vaaraayo vaaraayo' song will even give the worst director of Tamil cinema, P. Vasu a run for his money.
  • Saroja Devi is irritatingly bad and gets on your nerves, right from the get-go. Reminded me of MSV's 'cameo' roles in Kaadhala Kaadhala & Kaadhal Mannan.
  • Harris Jeyaraj needs to do something. I mean, how long is he planning to blurt out such songs that seem to have the same age-old template? And what was that English song in the background score all about?
  • We all have seen that even the best of directors age not so very aesthetically. And KSR, while cannot even be remotely called great, was a good director who could churn out watchable entertaining masalas in his sleep. But I think the day has come up for him to do some introspection and come up with a watchable movie, even if it takes a while longer for the movie to be made.
Surya takes a huge step backward with this crapfest called Aadhavan.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Khuda Ke Liye - Must-watch movie

Again trying to just list out some thoughts on the movie instead of writing a full-fledged review where I will have to worry about some sort of coherence. So, here you go:
  • A movie whose makers should be appreciated for the kind of problem that the movie tries to tackle and the kind of message that it tries to convey.
  • A moderate Muslim family in Pakistan with 2 brothers, who love music but decide to go opposite ways, from the perspective of Islam;a Muslim girl born & brought up in London, her father who is apologetic for all that he had done against Islam and is attempting to clean up the mess that he feels he has created; an American girl who falls in love with one of the brothers who comes over to the US to live the American life.
  • The film is almost like an appeal by the moderates in the Muslim community to the extremists both inside & outside their religion, as it tries to tackle many of the misconceptions Westerners have about Islam. Most of this explaining though is done in one very long speech by Naseeruddin Shah towards the end of the movie.
  • Sheds some light on the kind of paranoid patriotism and panic that engulfed many of the Americans post 9-11 and how that resulted in the Americans compromising on many of the moral values they used to stand for (enhanced interrogation techniques and et al).
  • Couple of very hummable songs in the movie but the BGM was so inadequate that I was literally imagining how someone like the Maestro would have scored for a movie like this.
  • Apart from the length which could have definitely been much shorter, another thing that stood out to me was the very average acting, that does not get salvaged by a cameo by Naseeruddin Shah at the very end. The casting was great but the acting was bad.
  • At 160 mins, a slightly lengthy film but a very good film nevertheless.
If not for anything , this is one of those movies that the 'They hate us for our freedom' crowd must watch.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Weekend Hike - Mail Box Peak

You are at a get-together with fellow hikers and you throw around something like 'I did Mail Box Peak over the weekend' and you will notice that your friends start looking at you with new found respect. That should tell everything one wants to know about this brutal hike.

It is as though the trail was designed & conceived by a hard task master who is mean and who was at his foulest of moods when he designed the trail. Bcos there is no other way you can explain the logic behind the way this trail has been designed. As it is frequently pointed out, it is like being on the stair-master for 2.5 hours straight (put in the number of hours it takes for one to get to the top). There is just no respite from the steepness throughout the hike. Each and every step you take, you gain some elevation. And there is one point in the hike almost 3/4ths of the way where I thought I had reached the summit only to be disappointed, bcos the summit was a good 45 mins away. Finally, after a lot of huffing & puffing, got to the top.

Though there is a 360 degrees view at the top, I wouldn't go far enough to say that it was all worth the pain getting there. There is indeed a mail box at the top (picture of which can be seen below) that has a registry, some dog tags and a few envelopes. Since it was October, it was way too cold at the top. Should have been in the high 20s. Since I had forgotten to take along any gloves, I couldn't stand the cold and after experiencing hypothermia for a few fleeting seconds, we started our descent.

The descent is equally painful. Beyond a point, it became so arduous & painful on the knees, that I started cursing but with no one else to blame for my decision to do this hike, the cursing did not go all too well. I surrendered myself to my fate and started looking forward to that trail head that I so badly wanted to get to.

I hike with one or 2 of my hiking buddies. And our usual routine is that we chit chat all the way during both our ascent and the descent. But was not the case with this hike as the only things we kept on repeating, after seeing switchback after switchback and one steep slope after another, were 'Are they serious?' or 'Is this hike for real?' After all, when every inch of your lower body is in unbearable pain, you can't really chit-chat, can you?

Some stats about the hike:

Distance: 6 miles RT
Elevation gain: 4000 feet
Time up: 4 hours
Time down: 2.5 hours
Difficulty level: Most difficult

Though my hike to the summit of St. Helens (done over a year ago) still remains the toughest of my hiking career, this one comes a close second. Overall, a memorable hike that you can be proud of yourself.


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Monday, September 21, 2009

Unnai Pol Oruvan - A pale imitation

When I heard the news that Kamal is going to remake 'A Wednesday', let me just say that I wasn't too thrilled. I mean, the biggest plus of the Hindi original was the way Naseeruddin Shah's character was shaped & portrayed, as a common man who was just taking out his frustrations on the inaction & indifferent attitude of the government to the specter of terrorist attacks unleashed on his city by terrorists. My biggest concern was this: even given how good an actor Kamal is, he can never be the 'common man' that was so central to the plot of the movie. And the moment I saw him mouth his heavily accented English dialogs in the trailer, I could see my fears coming true. And now after watching the entire movie, surprise, the movie just goes on to prove that my original fears were fully warranted.

I mean, I don't know. May be, I have the advantage of comparing his performance against Naseeruddin Shah's in the original but his heavily accented English & his frequent use of English dialogs only alienated me from the narrative. It's not like he always talks like this. In interviews that he gives to TV channels, his English comes across as more original. But when he starts talking in a movie, that fake desi accent comes into the picture and that irritates the hell out of me. And when it happens to be in a movie like this, it sticks out like a sore thumb even more.

Then in the most crucial scene of the movie a.k.a. the outburst/ justification scene, Kamal HAD to have that scene which was not there in the original, where there is a 60 second sequence of Kamal narrating a gory incident and more importantly, taking that as an opportunity to tell us one more time that 'Look, I can act great'. Well, we do know that you can act (and quite awesome at that) but was it really necessary in this movie? I didn't think so. It is in subtle things like this that UPO loses out to its original, to whom it stayed quite faithful other than these minor wanderings. Same can be said about Kamal's performance too - a rare occasion the actor in Kamal loses out to another great actor.

If you ask me to name 6 differences between the 2 movies, let me give you a couple that should tell you why I felt that the subtlety of the original was lost in this one. The scene in question is this one where Ganesh Venkatraman goes to the house of the informant to beat the constable who was sent for his family's protection but was flirting with the informant's sister. This (YouTube link) is how the scene plays out in the original whereas in UPO, the director HAD to show the sister coming out with a cup of coffee and the constable flirting with her, before Ganesh Venkatraman takes out his rage on the constable.

The second instance is almost similar to this one. This got to do with where Naseeruddin Shah places the bag with the bombs in the original (he places it in a crowded train terminal) whereas this one Kamal places in the same compartment where the wife of the police officer is traveling (& right next to her seat, at that). And just in case we missed it, they make sure to show the bag with the bomb one more time, sitting right above the seat where police officer's wife & kid are sitting

Some of the other issues/ grouses I had with this one:

- I am no big fan of Vijay but did they have to take that potshot at Vijay through that Sreeman character?
- Having someone to mimic Karunanidhi. Again, not a big fan of MK, but did they have to do that?
- Lakshmi. Enuf said.
- What was that all about showing the TV reporter smoking & Mohan Lal's not so subtle poke at the same?
- Mohan Lal's Hindi & Tamil accents, which just didn't sit easy on my ears. I mean, I am big lover of the Tamil accent of Malayalam actors but this one was a tough pill to swallow.

One might ask 'Aren't there anything noteworthy in this movie?' Yes, there definitely are some. Shruthi's BGM was a surprise, as in, she does so much better than expected for a debutant. It fit the mood of the movie, except for the scene where the twist happens. The dry humor in Era Murugan's dialogs were good, but some of them were lost in the confrontational scenes between Mohan Lal & Lakshmi, due to Mohan Lal's horrible Tamil & English accent.

Bottom line - If you have watched the Hindi original and if you are not a fan of Kamal, this is one below-par effort of remaking.

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Friday, September 04, 2009

2009 NFL Season - Predictions

So, its that exciting time of the year again when we are at the doorsteps of another NFL season (and the college football season). And this post is something that I have been planning to do, at the start of the season, for the last 2 years but just didn't get the time to do that. So, I am trying this one out now to see if I will be third time lucky.

What I am trying to do here is to just pick out the winners of each of the 8 divisions and also to pick the 2 wild cards for the 2 conferences and just stop at that. I am doing this based on the free agent acquisitions and the strength of the returning teams and not on the basis of their pre-season performances. Though I have been following the pre season games superficially, I do not think these carry any weightage once the actual season begins (the Lions were 4-0 in preseason last year and we all know how it went for them in the regular season) It is going to be too tough at this stage to predict the results of playoffs and thus ultimately who will make it to the Super Bowl & who will be holding the Vince Lombardi trophy at the end of it all. That is something I guess I can do at the end of the regular season. With that behind, let me get started with the division where the Seahawks are housed in.

NFC West
I am a big Seahawks fan but I do think they are a long way from getting back to the good old days when winning the division was taken for granted, and thus I predict the Cardinals to retain the division. Boldin wasn't traded and that makes a huge difference bcos Fitzgerald will be double teamed by opposition defenses which should leave Boldin relatively uncovered. Kurt Warner has atleast 1 more good year left in him. The 49ers and the Rams are still in the very early stages of their rebuilding process and they will thus make sure that for the 2nd year in a row, the NFC West will remain as one of the weakest divisions in the league.

NFC South
Now, this was a division which was one of the strongest in the league, couple of years back. Not so, anymore. I pick the Panthers to win this division again, inspite of Jake 'will-throw-5 Int-in-a-playoff game' Delhomme. As long as Bucs don't have a consistent QB, they are not going to be a factor. Saints still remain a middle-of-the-road team, inspite of Sean Payton & Drew Brees. I am not sure if Atlanta has it in them to repeat the season that they had last year, but they should still do decent as Matt Ryan is only bound to get better this year

NFC North
This will be the most watched division this year, because of Favre's umpteenth unretirement and Jay Cutler's trade to the Bears. Adrian Peterson with that O-line with Favre to back it up, the Vikings are definitely my pick to win this division. Bears will do better than the Packers, mainly bcos of Jay Cutler & Matt Forte. And Lions will live the 'Rome was not built in a day' lesson.

NFC East
This perennial powerhouse division has definitely lost some of its sheen because of TO's & Burress' departures. Giants suddenly do not look the potent team they once were. Redskins seem to be in perennial rebuilding mode, what with Jason Campbell at QB and an ageing Clinton Portis at RB. The Cowboys seem to be always 1 play/ game away form throwing it all away. So, the pick here becomes easier - Eagles. Though Jim Johnson's demise would be felt, the addition of Vick to their offense is going to make the defensive coordinators of their opponents scratching their heads.

NFC Wild cards - Atlanta, Cowboys

AFC West
This is the division where picking the winner should be the easiest job. The Broncos fired Shannahan and then traded Jay Cutler for Kyle Orton (seriously, what was that all about). That should say it all. Chiefs are bound to muddle in obscurity for seasons & reasons aplenty. The less said about the Raiders, the better. Jamarcus Russel has never inspired confidence at the QB position while their best player, CB Asomugha got injured and experts predicting few more weeks for him to get back to full form. So, that leaves us with the Chargers who should run away with the division. This is a make or break year for many in the team, including Rivers and LT.

AFC South
Tony Dungy & Marvin Harrison might have left but Peyton Manning is still there and that should be good enough for the Colts to win the division handily. The Texans might be everyone's favorite sleeper team of the season and I believe in that as well but that is not going to stop the Colts from winning the division. I predict a very pedestrian season for the Titans, one in which they might fail to make the playoffs. And the last team of the division, Jaguar's fall from glory of 2 years ago will be complete this year.

AFC North
The division with the defending champs, the Ravens and 2 other wannabe teams, in the Bengals & the Browns. I am (or any other Seattle resident for that matter) not big fan of the Steelers but I just don't see them not winning the division. The Ravens should be good enough to make it to the playoffs as a wild card but not good enough to stop the Steelers from clinching the division. The Bengals could suprise everyone with a much improved performance but that won't take them into the playoffs.

AFC East
Well, lets see what we have here, other than the Patriots. The Bills (even with TO, a decent team at best), the Jets (with a rookie QB and a new head coach, not expected to challenge the likes of Patriots) and the Dolphins (a resurgent team but with an offense still developing). That leaves us with the Patriots whom I expect to win this division rather easily. Tom Brady looks to be as hungry as ever and with Belichick determined to wipe away the bad memories of the last season when they didn't make the playoffs, the Patriots wrap up the division early on and then, expect them to go deep into the playoffs.

AFC Wild cards - Texans, Ravens

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