Tuesday, January 16, 2018

'Deivathul Deivam'- Tamil Stage Play from SS International Live - A Review

From the time I lived close to Ayodhya Mandapam in West Mambalam, Chennai, I always used to feel fascinated by the devotion of people on Mahaperiyava of Kanchi Acharyas.  As a devotee and it was this interest and devotion of the living saints of our times, I pinged Kumaran, son of Sri Elango Kumanan, Director- SS International Live who is the writer /Director of the Stage Play – Deivathul Deivam.  Kumaran and his mother Smt Karpagam were happy to share the passes for the show at Music Academy on 15 Jan 2018.    

It was the beginning to a spectacular extravaganza of devotion, dedication and delight to the eyes and sweet honey tones of sankara hara hara sankara to our ears.
It is a week-long celebration of the Kanchi Acharayas in its own way by the bhaktas.  There is no end to this surge of devotion and every minute of the 3 hour show is an indication of celebrating the life of a great man who lived amongst us.

The Life history of Mahaswami, the great Mahaperiyava Chandrasekarendra Swamigal, is presented through the play Deviathul Deivam, by close to 100 + artists and technicians working under the able guidance and leadership of Sri.Elango Kumanan.     I am sure SS International will have this as a biggest feather in their cap of success as they organized this drama – a delightful festival celebrating the saint with the blessings of Kanchi Acharaya and a gamut of well-wishers and devotees...    

The sets were equally spectacular and appropriate by none other than the designing genius Thotta Dharani.  Having hailed from the family of Art Director, A.K.Sekar, I could not stop admiring the beauty and reality of the sets that transformed the stage into the divine Kanchipuram and other areas where ever Sri Mahaperiyava has laid his golden footprints.    Having Mandolin U.Rajesh and Sri Rajesh Vaidya sitting few rows in front of us, along with so many other industry stalwarts, I could not stop admiring the spirit of devotion to the Kanchi mutt and dedication to the Tamil stage.

Right from the childhood/teenage to the various stages of life of Mahaperiyava, his transition from being a student to a saint, his softness, his simple and humble living, his high thinking, his deep understanding of his devotees, his breathtaking narratives of his times and relating to the future and today’s presence all added to the spectacle.  

The personal experiences of various people, irrespective of religion, age, caste, creed, rich, poor, men, women, has been very beautifully portrayed.  The Bangle seller, the poor lady, the muruku patti,  Sri Kalki Sadasivam and MS Amma couple, Padma Subramanyam , autograph student, judge, auditor, business man, various other devotees greeted, revered and respecting Mahaperiyava shows that he was beyond any kind of limitations.   To him, everyone was equal.  He never let anyone go empty handed.  Not to expect more than what is needed, is not just sanyasi stage, but a sense of contentment which leads to fulfillment in life.  The actors made the audience relive the moments of our experiences with the great saint. 

Thotta and Set Design goes hand in hand and there can be no flaws when it is the man behind the show.  It is just another feather in his cap.   For us audience, it is just another piece of excellence to witness.   The houses of Dindivanam,  the temples during travels of Mahaperiyava, the street lights, the beautiful set of the kanchi mutt,  the living room of the saint and the final scene of Kanakabishekam, the background screens, beautiful and timely lighting, very balanced sound added value to the play.   

Background music needs a special mention.   The music, the appropriate selection of songs, the music of the instruments, especially the piece played by none another than the genius Late Sri Mandolin U Srinivasan and then the music melodies from the equally talented brother Sri.U.Rajesh touched our souls deeply.   The sounds of temple bells, the flowing rivers, the divine songs, the mantras and shlokas, added to the mesmerization of the audience. 

The definition of secularism touched the audience with the loud applaud.  The Christian Father from the American Mission High School in Dindivanam where Young Swaminathan did his schooling, his friend who later turned to be his devotee as destiny led Swaminathan to thread the spiritual journey to become the Head of Kanchi Mutt at the young age of 13.    

Beautifully written and elegantly executed by a spark of perfection in Direction by Sri Elango Kumanan and presented by SS International will definitely live in the hearts of the audience for a longer time. 

Where there is a dire need, the universe conspires to make it happen.   The miracles and discussions that were portrayed showcased this truth of the universe.   When the economically poor woman planned her daughter’s wedding and came to seek the blessings from Periyava, miracle happens in the form of another rich devotee offering a huge sum to the mutt at the same time.   The dialogues of contentment and giving back of the rich showcased that humanity still persists.  

The way he interacts with the school student saying who is the VIP,  his sharing of the rich village landlord with struggling farmers,  accepting the produce of a poor farmer as an offering,  the contribution of the Muslim brethren to the Mahamaham festival where lots of people assemble , the botany student who is brainwashed to stop brain drain and contribute to the agricultural needs of the Nation, think of the aged parents and the country  and the couple who have differences of opinions in terms of devotion to God and the Saint saying that the reluctant husband is the actually right and who later on offers respects to Periyava shows that his simple living and high thinking led to harmony, respect and sheer devotion.

Amidst the 4 actors who performed as the Acharaya,  the one who acted as 13 year old and the one who acted as the senior periyava made us feel that the saint himself has come alive on the stage.  The other two also did an amazing job.  They literally brought in the subtle moments of the saint on the stage with life.  

Kudos to the make-up artists and the costume designers.  They did a fabulous job doing it for more than 100 artists.   The back stage support was excellent. 

One thing I could say as the pitfall is the very slow movement of the script at some places making us feel that it is repeated or dragged.    People falling at the feet of Mahaperiyava though was natural, it was becoming too much to watch on the stage but I guess both these things are the ask of the script itself and cannot be avoided

One other comment I heard from the audience is that Periyava worshipping the Goddess Kamakshi, performing the rituals or abhishekams would have added value.   But again, I felt that the connect between the Goddess and Periyava was always there throughout though it was not explicitly shown.
Paramacharya caressing the cows was not visible to all parts of the audience.   And the relevance was also not understood.   That could be little more elaborated.  

Despite the very few negligible things, it was a grand spectacle celebrating not only the life of Mahaperiyava but the grandeur of the Tamil Stage.   It is a celebration of a lifetime of memories of a saint who touched our hearts and souls.   The final scene was the most touching of all.  The grand celebration of 100 years of Mahaperiyava with the grand Kanakabishekam, was touching.   I have seen many people holding hands in devotion with a mist in their eyes.   

Best of all was the engrossed audience who were glued to their seats with no disturbance or moving around.  Without saying, the cellphones were on silent mode showing the respect the script commands.

I wish I had the names of the entire crew and cast, however, I am sure they all will have lifetime of memories having been part of this beautiful show.   I was so happy to see Lavanya Venugopal and Nannu Sir on the stage with others.  Kudos to SS International and especially to Sri Elango Kumanan sir, the excellent sponsors, producers and the technicians who made this possible.  

May the spirit of harmony continue, may the beauty of the devotion survive, may the way of life of Hinduism coordinate with every other religion and live in a secular sense in its true meaning and May the blessings of Mahaperiyava Sri Chandrasekarendra Swami continue with all of us.  
God bless!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Demystifying the Corporate Board....

As you climb the corporate ladder, you aspire to be part of the Corporate Board....The Board of Directors manage the Organization's Top Level of Survival and it is very important to understand the nuances of being a Director in a company.

It was a quite enriching session conducted by EWIT inviting Aspiring Women Leaders who want to take up positions in Boards with an eminent panelists providing a Bird’s eye view of

a)      Board and its constitution,  various sub committees and their R&R
b)      Responsibilities of an independent director and practical examples
c)      Responsibilities of an executive director
d)      An external perspective from a statutory auditor stand point- Legal as well as regulatory requirements

It was a privilege to all of us who attended the session for the interactive and insightful details shared by the eminent panelists that included

1.    Independent director: Mr. N. Kumar - Vice Chairman, Sanmar Group
2.    Executive Director: Ms. Neeta Revankar - CFO and member of the Board of Directors, Sasken Technologies
3.    Company Secretary: Ms. Sujatha - Company Secretary, Cholamandalam Investment & Finance
4.    Statutory Auditor: Mr. Ravi Veeraraghavan - Partner, Deloitte
Key Takeaways from the Session:

Responsibilities include:
1. Managing the Organization Performance
2.  Management interactions with due diligence
3.  Competency of networking and engaging connections
4.  Maintaining relations and compliance
5.  Ensuring longevity of the organization
6.   Drafting the succession plan
7.  Financial and commercial acumen

Skills Required:
A good Director should have the skills that including Business acumen, understanding the industry, nature of business,  and having independence of authority, good judgement skills, ability to speak your mind, focus on networking, good and efficient communication skills and an urge for continuous learning and staying bereft of the current affairs

Key things to do before joining as a Director

It is important to understand the company's public perception, financial performance, governance reporting and very important meeting the founders, other members of the Board, auditors and top level management executives to understand the company.   Passion about the company's nature of business and industry would be an added advantage.  You should walk the talk and have strong sense of significant governance, compliance responsibility and network effectively.  Above all, don't mess up with your day jobs.
Roles and Responsibilities of Committees

Ms. Sujatha gave a detailed view of various committees that change the mode of governance.   She referred to Harischandra Committee, CII introducing voluntary governance in 1991 and the need to understanding the changing perceptions and current affairs with each committee and its reports from a legal stand point.     Evolution of committees is key for governance, regulatory requirements, better management, expertise,  understanding risk management, contribution to Corporate Social Responsibility, coordination and recommendations
The various types of committees include Audit Committee, Nomination and Remuneration committee, stakeholders relationship committee, CSR etc.   

The core functions of these committees include Competency, fraud management, discipline, handling sexual harassment issues and POSH etc.

Ceremonial, Liberated and Progressive Directors -   An insight from Mr. N. Kumar
 Mr. Kumar explained the need for the Directors to be logical and have quality process as DNA of the company.   They should be ready for good practices and governance, voices need to be heard,  ability to detect fraud early, follow ethical practices, focus on continuous improvements and understanding the intricacies of the role, appreciate solutions to the problems and issues to address,  have control on the check and balances and risk management.  Independent Directors also need to interpret the mandate and be catalysts who can help management and contribute with a state of business mind.
Should help with the mergers and acquisitions with the industry expertise gained over the years of experience.  Directors should take liability to manage frauds, process of setting and knowledge to enrich their contribution to the companies.

 Driving from Cockpit -  Mr Ravi Veeraraghavan ...
 emphasized on the need for creating value by understand few key contributions to Contracts, Legal and Compliance, statutory requirements, conflict management and keep up the TRUST word.   Focus on cyber security in this digital era,  having a good code of conduct,  tab on POSH, tax policy, strategy, Capital Resources and Plans,  Retaining KMPs (Key Management Positions), Transfer pricing, Board competence, COSO (Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission ) framework,  anti-corruptions steps, understanding the tone at the top.

Less is more.  Keep an eye on whistle blowing,   understanding the legal cases, data analytic,  self-assessment,  reporting to shareholders, deep dives, audits - both internal and external and industry insights.

Evaluation of Board-  A Mandate

Zero-tolerance areas to be identified and gained a strong hold on.   The need to understand the audit findings, having discussion committees, compliance and cyber security, risk mitigation plan in place,  questions to be raised on the financial statements, identifying the warning signs there by paving way for Risk Intelligent Compliance gives companies a competitive advantages through its directors


There can be no literal conclusion to this discussion on what takes to be a good Director of a company, however, as we interpret and understand the nuances of being a Board Member will enrich our contribution as a Director - either independent or otherwise.  It provides a logical sense of understanding,  an equitable interpretation of the needs of company and its business and also provides a sense of learning and satisfaction to the Directors.    
Breaking the glass-ceiling and climbing the corporate ladder for women leaders have always been a challenge, thought this stereotype has been broken by various women already.  However, the  numbers are still less and it is necessary to bring in the glorified intuitive management skills of women to the Corporate Boards to make it more meaningful and successful.

Thanks to EWIT Chennai for this wonderful and enriching session....Inspiring!  And a special mention of the Power Woman behind this whole program right from conception to getting it executed in her style and strength is our own EWIT's Pride Rama Sivaraman,  who sets a solid example of women power at work.

Image result for board of directors


Monday, January 1, 2018

A Prayer With Love!

Woke up to a new dawn
A New Year, A New Month
A New Week, A New Day
With a little smile on the face
With hands together in God's grace
Bowed to the Almighty
For a year to be Mighty
Left behind the hatred
Anger and Sadness
Looking forward for Grace
Filled with Love and Happy Phase
Image result for prayer in love
Give me the courage to face this year
Give me the wisdom to share without fear
Give me the goodness to spread along
Take me to things where I belong
Give me the wealth that I can share
Give me the knowledge that is fair
Take me to the world of goodness
Far away from evil and sadness
Push me into the challenges
that I can manage in my ranges
Put me in your shoes
when I cannot manage my truce
Surround me with people who need
Me to help them without any greed
Make my days filled with nothing but peace
Let me spread, nothing but love in glee
You filled my bucket of life
with loads of your love and grace
Fill it with more happiness and peace
that I can spread all around in peace
I see nothing but your footsteps
I seek nothing, but your depths
I pray for nothing but endless love
I ask you for nothing more than peace!

May the New Year be Filled with more love, happiness, success, peace to you all!   
Happy New Year 2018

Sunday, November 12, 2017

My 2 cents on the Short Film #Lakshmi ....

When whole of the Social media was going against with negative reviews and comments on the short film, Lakshmi,  I took sometime today to watch it with curiosity.    Usually I enjoy short films for the message conveyed, the effort taken with low budgets and upcoming artists...however, this short film which I watched with the curiosity, made me end up in deep thinking.

This short film is not about extra marital affair of the man and justified by the affair of the woman in turn.  It is the routine life that is portrayed.   How a middle class family goes through a mundane life with cooking, getting the child ready to school, husband dropping the kid, then the woman getting ready to work,  coming back, cooking, putting the child to sleep and then satisfying the physical needs before calling it quits for the day.  There is no sharing of emotions, affection or exploring love and embracing happiness and there is neither appreciation nor a moment of pause to care.   It goes on like a well oiled machine.  Forgetting the fact that human emotions gets lost in this cycle.

So when the women goes out of a routine due to a strike in transport, and ends up in the road,  the husband's attitude towards the woman, not worrying about her safety or return but selfish about the next morning breakfast, makes the woman pause and wonder what she needs..That's when she says that she is hungry.   Yes, she is hungry not for food or sex as the internet calls her as an item.   She is hungry for care and affection.   So when she gets that from another man outside marriage, she accepts it.   It is not about the extra marital affair,  it is about the moment of self-need for that warmth and love that a third person Kathir shows her. 

What starts as a silent smiles and acknowledging each other during travels to work everyday, to the moment of togetherness on a silent night that ends up in sharing dinner, art, poetry, appreciation of the inate beauty of the woman both in her looks and inner feelings and then that takes it up to end in bed.   This story if understood rightly do not set a context for extra marital affair but to a woman who identifies her own needs and takes that extra step away from the dark routine of life.   After all she is a human being with emotions

Pain, Doubt, Redemption and Happiness. All in a split second. Those breathtaking eyes-  Salesh Dipak Fernando

Indian Cinema or the society is not immune to these relationships and all most three decades ago, Tamil Cinema accepted Sindhu Bhairavi,  Chinna Veedu and many other memorial films.   However, when it is showed in reality, on how even a sex is a routine,  and how the mother expresses her anxiety when the child turns towards them and how she just fulfills her man's needs and end up a tired soul, people are not able to accept.   It is for the simple reason, that the society is still tangled in the so-called morals which in truth is gone away long ago.  

Here it is not about both the man and woman indulging in extra marital affair.  It is about the woman not able to strike the cord of love with her husband.  It is about a man who does not express his feelings but bothers only about his needs both domestic, financial and physical.  It is about a man, who is still accepted in the normal family set up inspite of his affair to the other woman.   It is the narrow mindset of our present society to throw dirt at the woman when she does that.

What was getting done behind the scenes for decades together, when is shown on screen, making it visible for every one older than 18, on their small computer and phone screens, people started shouting against and it is the very crowd who made this movie popular or else there is nothing new that is shown in the film.   

Coming to the technical aspects,  the movie is technically rich, shoot in the natural environment of the house, work at printing press, train and bus stand..and then the house of an artist...paintings and sculptures...the artists have done beautiful portrayal of the roles....expressions, dialogues and the art making this movie a wonderful art piece.

For every grown up adult, especially in marriage, this is a must watch short film.  Look at the positive message it gives on how not to let your lives fall apart...how not to let your spouse drift apart for love and care.   Take a break from the mundane routine and learn to enjoy life and embrace happiness.

#Lakshmi is a powerful film conveying this message.  Stop looking at the negatives of this film.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Why inclusion is still a distant dream in India?

Being a social activist and volunteer in community service, having had to mingle with various people and people with special needs was always there.  However, such interactions only pained me within.   It is not because I am sensitive to the limitations of people around me, but because as a system we are such a failure even today when we are talking about Robotic Sciences, Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive technology, and explore Space and Earth beyond imagination.  
At Worth Trust Katpadi

Though I know Siddharth Jayakumar and his condition of Cerebral Palsy since many long years, it is only after we started to write the book, that I could see from his side of life.  Struggle is a small word and sympathy is the harshest feeling once can show to people like Sidd.    
Who needs your sympathy!    Being empathetic to the situation and creating a comfortable living to everyone in this society is the NEED,  a Necessity,  not a privilege asked for.  

Forget about beaches and exhibitions being accessible in wheel chairs or the blind,  is our most necessary places accessible?  How many local Railway stations and bus stands are wheel chair friendly?   Do we have banks having ramps or lifts in all areas?   Are our schools ready for inclusion?   Even after 20 years since a guy like Siddharth fought his way into Boston Matriculation School,  for mainstream education, we still find it a challenge.

Being differently abled is not a curse.  But in India, it is an unfortunate situation.   Visually challenged vendors in train teach us that they too want to live in dignity.   SoulFree kind of organizations provoke our thinking towards taking inclusion to the grass roots.   Worth Trust kind of industries and rehabilitation centers keep doing in what they believe silently and successfully without the drama of publicity or government intervention.  

We need one Para-Olympic Mariaapan to tell us despite all the struggles, they stay motivated.   We take pride in the success of Deepa Malik for the achievements she brought into the country.   But, for a moment,  pause and think....have we done what is needed around us.   

INCLUSION is a big word.   A great challenge to our country.   We have to redesign our infrastructure,  create avenues of accessibility,  acceptance of the limitations of specially abled and give them equal employment opportunities and vocational training.   

We need more schools like APL Global where children of all kinds are treated at par, given equal opportunities and enjoy the mainstream education and sports.   We need more employers like WORTH TRUST,  RBS, Cognizant and IBM who give a sustainable employment opportunities to those who deserve...It is time, we look back and think forward.   

Each one of us should take a pledge to work towards inclusion, towards a better society and towards a more inclusive India....