The Rajini movie experience and a short spoiler-free review of Kabali

Thanks to the Bay Area Rajini Fans Facebook group, I got the opportunity to go see Superstar Rajinikanth’s latest blockbuster, Kabali at the premiere show in Towne 3 Cinemas in San Jose, CA. Here are my late night, sleep addled thoughts on it.

The Rajini movie experience is something unique that has to be experienced to be believed. It is unlike anything else. Across the world, I would argue that Rajinikanth is the only star who commands an almost religious following, especially on the eve of his movie releases. His movies are so few and far in-between that fans eagerly await every morsel of information from that rare original poster during the shooting of the movie to the launch of the soundtrack and then the trailer. Irrespective of how the movies fare, the experience itself is a celebration of the unabashed love the crores of fans have for their beloved superstar.

As a huge transplanted fan of the super star, I often long for the experience of watching a Rajini movie on the first day- something I had the luxury of growing up, year after year. The last time I watched a Rajini movie on the first day, it was the incredibly enjoyable Enthiran (Robot). I could not make it to Lingaa and wasn’t keen on watching Kochadaiyaan. Which brings me to Kabali.

kabali

Kabali got me excited from the get-go. I have not seen Pa.Ranjith’s movies. So I was unaware of what he brings to the table. But the prospect of Rajini playing his age alone is worth the price of admission ($25, no less). Leading up to today, the incredible fans have kept the expectation sky-high. A stylishly cut trailer with an excellent BGM also helped the cause. A few committed folks took great pains to organize the showing, printed unique commemorative tickets and had a streamlined process for fans to be part of the experience. Hats off to their organization. It was super well done.

Bay Area experienceI got to the theater, an hour or so before the show. There were a bunch of festivities planned and it was super fun watching folks just let it go! Never the one to dive in to a dance unfortunately, I was content being part of it and watching so many fans have the time of their lives. If you havent been part of a Rajini movie premiere show festivities, you truly have missed something. Endhiran 2.0 is on its way. That would be an excellent opportunity to make that happen. This one was fantastic and so much fun to watch in person and take in the thrill of the Rajini experience.

 

Kabali

I have penned down a short and simple spoiler-free review of the movie below if you are interested. I will tell you this- if you can watch it in the theater, just go for it. It is worth it. I am not sure how many more opportunities we will get to watch a new Rajini movie on the silver screen. While we have that privilege, I would encourage one and all to experience the Rajini magic on screen.

Kabali experience

Spoiler-free mini review of Kabali
Here is my super short, spoiler free review of the movie. Let us get the broad feedback out of the way.

The movie is pretty good. I enjoyed it and don’t regret one bit paying $25 and heading to the theater on a busy work weekday.  It is not what I expected and it is definitely not your classic Rajini movie in many ways. Yes, it has his signature style in old and new ways. And his charisma continues to thrill as it did, 30 years ago. But this is a movie driven by a lot of emotional underpinnings and Rajini emotes, more so that I have ever seen him do. And he does a fantastic job. He is ably supported by a bunch of character actors none of whom has a standout role but has something to contribute to the plot. Overall, it is a movie worth watching. I typically watch 1-2 Indian movies every year, if that. Using that slot for Kabali was a good decision. Rajini continues to appeal to the child in me.

The good stuff

  • Rajinikanth – this man can do it all and in a way that so many others try and fail miserably.
  • A bunch of supporting characters who move the story along.
  • An actual plot. Yes, it is not deep or complex but there is a story to keep things moving along.
  • Watching it in a theater filled with screaming fans.
  • Being part of the excitement leading up to the movie, thanks again to the BayArea Rajini Fans Facebook group.

The not-so-good stuff

  • The pacing sags for about 30 minutes midway through the movie- leading up to and during the India segment. This segment could have been trimmed by 20 or so minutes.
  • Every once in a while, the screenplay needs a little push to keep rolling. The director definitely should have tightened it.
  • The violence. It is the bloodiest movie of Rajini I have ever seen and that part disturbs me. As a parent in these dark times, I abhor violence, even in movies. Yes, I understand that a gangster movie leans towards gore as part of its realism pitch but still too much blood.
  • This is not a movie to take kids. Most certainly not. I have never recommended an Indian movie for kids and this movie will miss that bar by a large margin.

Dear Costco

I am a big, big fan of your store. I grudgingly respect the fact that you make my buy things I never wanted to. I admire the fact that you have a huge store that is ever crowded, yet fun to peruse. I could spend hours at your store gaping at each section. I appreciate the fact that you are an almost one stop shop for most parties people throw – at work, at home and at the office. I like the samplers you have at very many intersections within your cavernous store- the few vegetarian ones offered and fun to try out with my son. And I appreciate your founder for some of his worker friendly convictions.

Dear Costco
Dear Costco

All the good stuff has been said. Here is why I wrote this post a few hours after my most recent trip to your store. For all my love for you, you dont seem to love me back quite as much. Here is why. I never seem to be able to get the sizes I want at your store. Often times, the pants are 36 x 30 or 40 x 32. The shirts are very rarely S. They are usually L or XL. And it sucks. Because some of the clothes are good bargains. Your purchasers do a good job or picking the right brands and safe colors. But you are not making the best use of Big Data.

When I first moved to the Bay Area, I was fascinated to find that the local Costco carried half a dozen Indian items. This was but surely a product of demographic analysis. More Indian customers shop at Sunnyvale Costco than anywhere else in the country, probably with the exception of Edison, NJ. So it was but natural for the Sunnyvale Costco to carry Indian stuff.

Unfortunately, that same demographic analysis that you applied for food has not been applied to clothes. Everyone who lives in the Bay Area knows that the local Costco members are probably 75% Asian if not more. We all know that Asians are not very big people. When God made Asians, he didn’t use as much dough. I am not being racist here. As an Asian, I know. And we would love it if you stocked enough of our sizes. You know the 30×30 to the 34×32 range. And more of the Small and Mediums please.Most Indians make their annual or biannual pilgrimage to India with suitcases loaded to the brim with gifts for friends and family. If Costco has the right sizes, wouldn’t we buy more at Costco rather than drive out of town to the closest outlet mall? Win-win-win?

So my dear Costco, think about it. I would love to pick up clothes from your stores. If only…

Best Regards,

Me

The Bay Area Indian Parent – Part 2

When I wrote the first post on this topic, I received some interesting feedback. Some found it amusing. Others found it true. Some found it insulting. Obviously, I need to do a better message of keeping it amusing and true and not tread on the insulting part. So here goes.

Bay Area Parent
Bay Area Parent

Continuing from right where I left off in my previous post on the topic,

  • Unshackled from constant parental advice, the kid’s parents are ready to socialize. And the real decisions start. The typical Bay Area parent spends 6 hours working, 6 hours sleeping and 12 hours figuring out if they are doing the right thing for their kid.
  • When its time to pick a daycare, the big M question has to be answered. Should my child go to a Montessori or a regular daycare?. After hours of googling about the Montessori method and visiting every Montessori in South Bay, the decision is made. Remember we all believe our kids are preordained by Perumal to be Sergey Brin, Larry Page or Jeff Bezos.
  • At daycare, the mother furtively glances at the doodle from the other “Asian” kid to make sure her kids is better. Never mind the child is 2 years old and is literally scratching with a crayon.
  • Is my kid eating all his/her lunch. Should I pack some rice instead of the soup and salad at school?. Is my kid eating meat from the next plate? Shiva, Shiva.
  • Is the daycare teacher qualified to teach my 2 year old how to doodle?. Is the teacher for the 3 year class ready to teach my kid how to read and write? In the evening, the 3 year old is asked what he/she learnt in school. Did they teach you the phonics yet?. At the weekend party, her friend’s 3-year old kid can write her own name. Why can’t mine do it?. That night, sleep is an elusive commodity.
  • The third birthday arrives. After the festivities at Pump it Up, it is time for business. Should we move the child to Stafford or Challenger where they get real education?. Or will it be the daycare until 5?
  • If a house hasn’t already been purchased, house hunt starts at right earnest. Do I go where the flock is- Fremont, Sunnyvale or San Jose?. Should I really go into the desi bastions- why not the “American” neighborhoods of Redwood City or Palo Alto?. Or maybe my kid is meant for great things and we need to get into Cupertino somehow. Of course, the school district is the driver. The school api’s website is promptly bookmarked.
  • Brain Quest books are bought en masse at Costco. Crayons fill the kids room. Toys make way for the easel and the writing board.
  • Education alone isn’t enough these days- or so goes the talk at the kid’s school. So a checklist is made- martial arts, musical instrument, art and soccer. Swimming is assumed as a default requirement.
  • Oops, time for the next kid.
  • Rinse, lather, repeat.
The kids turn out OK. Life turns out OK. Bay Area turns out OK. What if….

 

The Bay Area Indian Parent – Part 1

Bay Area Parent
Bay Area Parent

We moved to the Bay Area from suburban Philly a couple of years ago. Our son was 1.5 yrs old then. After 2 years of living in the Bay Area and interacting on a daily basis with fellow Indian parents, I believe I am ready to write this post.

I looked at myself in the mirror before I started writing. I am the first and foremost example of much of what is to come in this post. If you are a {Bay Area, Indian, parent}, take this for what it is- a tongue-in-cheek look at the lives we lead and what we make of it.

It starts when a mother-to-be announces her pregnancy to the world. The parents-to-be are doled out gobs of advice on everything from then on. It really never stops. Early on, the advice helps. Soon though, you are starting to lose your nerves. Should you sign up for the much wanted daycare in Sunnyvale along side fellow Indians or the one in the Cisco campus?. Do you need the one with a camera in the classroom?. Or should you just go with the parents for a year+nanny for the second year option that is so popular with other desis?. Questions, questions, questions. The child arrives and the questions quadruple. And so does the advice. Here is where we go from that point.

The typical desi leans on the girls parents first and then the boys parents to brave a long flight and hours of boredom to come and clean their kids diapers. Poor parents. They thought their job was done once their kids were packed off to college. Little did they know it was going to haunt them for years to come. They start regretting the subtle and non so subtle advice they copiously doled out on why every couple should have a kid.

The parent of the child is immediately put into a vortex of conflicting advice– the American residing desi-at-heart doctor or the grandmother who knows best. Should she work on her diet or give Woodwards gripe water every day?. Does the vibhuthi on the childs forehead cause a dirt hazard to its eyes or will it keep the evil eye away?

The grandparents share their stories with many other such grandparents everywhere from baby showers to naming ceremonies to first year birthdays. At their grandchild’s first birthday you can see them beaming. Yes, their grandchild is a year old. More importantly, they can finally go home to their mega-serial and chatty servant maid. Not to mention roads swarming with people. To them, the joy of living in a crowded street is far better than the tranquil and serene surroundings of the suburban homes in the US.

Just before the second set of grandparents finish their 6 month trip, there is the inevitable nanny interviews. The Punjabi nanny is asked if she can cook upma and koozh. As the grandmother’s eyes meet those of the nanny, there is a wary acknowledgement of shift of power. Nanny approved, the grandparents cant wait to get out of this country. Seriously.

Along the way, the parents of the kid develop a new found zest for religion and Indian festivals. The Diwali that was otherwise a long drinking session with friends into the night is now a fancy dress affair comparing which kid’s kurta set was more expensive. And the visits to the temple just quadruple. Prayers, long forgotten are revisited and divinity is in vogue for the first time after 12th standard exams.

And we are not done. More next week.