Yes Dear I’ll start in next half hour or so. I’m in a small interview. No they are interviewing me. Honest. I swear Dear. Err… Listen I’ll call you back. Half hour max. Text me the address. I will… Listen… OK gotta go honey… Bye… Bye bye…
Err… Eh he he, sorry dude. That was the Missus. Have some family function to attend tonight. Some distant relative of her is opening some store somewhere. You know how crazy these things are, don’t you? Alright, let’s get down to business. I’m still not sure if you are serious Sudhi. Hey before that, Coffee? These guys serve the best coffee in town. Take my word for it. 😉 Excuse me, two coffees please? Thank you.
Alright, so let me get this straight. You want my story for a Blogging Competition? You’re kidding me right? Did Sasi put you on to this? And did he tell you everything about me? Everything? Even the beach house… Oh boy, that guy is so dead the next time I see him. Anyways let’s get started then…
It all started when Yours Truly came into this world naked and crying. Mom used to say how much of a commotion I would create. I’d keep wailing every time someone would come near me. But strangely, I would fall quiet, and even hint a smile, when placed with other girl babies or when that good looking nurse would lift me to change my diapers. I had an eye for spotting the good stuff, my dad used to say, and more importantly the talent to find faults, which is why perhaps; I would cry the loudest when that plump, old, matron was on diaper duty. 😉 Karthik… Karthik Rajan was what they named me. Fault finding was in my blood. 🙂
It was in my childhood is when I realized that I had this sinister knack of calling a spade, a spade. Fortunately that’s an age when the children don’t really mind if you are frank and honest. Unfortunately, their grown up parents do. Once I told Raju’s father that he looked like a big water tank on a lorry, when he drove his scooter. Another day I told Subha Aunty that she did not look like Deepa’s Mom at all. She was pleasantly surprised, expecting perhaps that I’d say she looked like her elder sister. I said she looked like her Granny. Hell broke lose, angry stares were exchanged, my little ears were promptly pulled, and other kids were told to stay away from me and my ‘bad influence’. Countless sermons on how I should talk to adults were administered to me by the entire neighborhood. Oh yeah, I was the little devil with a big mouth.
College wasn’t too different either. In college I would flatly tell the lecturers when they really made no sense and hence was quite popular with the rest of the class. This popularity did not extend to the HOD though, in whose office I spent a good deal of my time, helping him give his hoarse and guttural vocal chords some exercise. I was also quite famous for my Hot List 10. That was a weekly top 10 list of good looking girls of the college. I was the only guy who could do the fairest assessment of the maidens of my college. I was also perhaps the only guy to have been slapped by the most women of the college. On one such assessment, I rated an absolutely gorgeous looking girl as number one right on the day she entered college. Everyone seemed to agree, but there were only two miniscule problems. Turns out, she was the newly recruited lecturer for Advanced Mathematics for the first year students, and she also happened to be a relative of the Principal’s. I never saw her after that day; or anyone else from that college for that matter. I was politely asked to leave, but there was nothing polite about the manner in which Dad reacted to that. Years passed, Colleges changed, but I didn’t.
I was a good student in college. Maybe that’s why I never used any of the skills learnt there in my many jobs. I started my career as a Software Tester in a small IT company. My job was to find where they had screwed up during coding, which they politely called defects. And they didn’t call me Mr. Defect Google for nothing. I had some fun initially, but soon it became way too boring. One day when I openly panned a module calling it the worst piece of programming ever. Turned out, the Manager had coded it. He said nothing, but his stare seemed to say everything. IT wasn’t cut out for me, but I really had no other skill or no other source of income to afford losing this job. Hence, I toned myself down and hung in.
I had always wanted to be a reviewer. In fact, every one of us tries to be one at some point of time. When elections happen, when India loses a big cricket match, when budgets are announced, or even when a new family with a good looking girl moves into the neighborhood, the hardcore reviewer in each of us surfaces. But I wanted to make a career out of it. “When you are good at something, never do it for free” a wise man once said. But a reviewer of what, I did not know. I had always loved books, so I started blogging my reviews of them. It wasn’t a huge hit, and there was no moneyin it. But it was liberating. Tearing a book apart in a review, gave me a high like nothing else. A friend of mine recommended me to a local book store and they hired me to do reviews of some books and put that up in their website, hoping to perk their business up. I relished the opportunity. I decided to concentrate on new Authors, because they were a safe bet. The first few books I read were really good. Swaroop, Aarthi S, Pradeep Prasanna and some other guys were truly good. But the rest of them were stale and very clichéd. And I minced no words when writing about them. I was beginning to get noticed. Well perhaps a tad too well noticed, as I found just a few weeks later. Apparently, my reviews were so effective that people stopped buying the books I had reviewed badly. And it was a good number that fell into that category. The book store began to notice that and the owners began pulling their hair out. They told me that I had excellent skills as a reviewer. So much so that I could even make the Bible go out of sales if I ever reviewed it. It sure did prove my power as a critic, but sadly it also cost me that job. I later realized that reviewing books was not for me.
I can review absolutely anything on the planet. From cigarettes to ‘after smoke’ mints, the best watering holes in the city, the most happening place in town to do a bit of, err bird watching, the best joints to hangout with friends without spending any money, to even the people who will lend you money when finances are a bit dry. I’m not too much of a sports guy though, but thankfully, this country of ours isn’t short of critics in that department. I once tried reviewing a politician when he was giving a speech near the bus stand, but I decided to not do that anymore after his crazy follower threatened me at knife point that day.
But one thing I’ve enjoyed doing more over the other things I do, is reviewing and tearing movies apart. After having spent a decent amount of money and a few hours of my time, if a movie doesn’t live up to my expectations, I find nirvana, in tearing it up like there is no tomorrow. Having seen the critic in me from boyhood, Sasi gave me a chance to put my reviews up in his website that was quite popular among his friends. I became instantly popular. Some movie websites would call for reviews from the public, and I would invariably have the reviews of all the movies releasing on Friday, penned and sent on the same day. Slowly, one of the leading movie review portals of the country, FlickBox, offered me a full time role as their in-house movie critic. I gave up my software job, and began to watch movies for a living. 😉 I was loving it.
My reviews were usually cut-throat and spared no one. I was blessed to have employers who believed in being equally forthright. One day there was this over hyped period flick which was releasing to huge expectations. It was made by this new, rich producer, who spared absolutely no expense in promotions for the movie. I hated it to the core. I hated it so much, that I could not even sit till the interval during the preview show. I started typing out the review on my mobile and by the time I reached home, I had my review ready to be sent out to be published. We were the first web site carrying the review of the film. “A Guide On How Not to Make a Film – A Review by Karthik Rajan – A FlickBox Exclusive”. It was a hit. And that was unfortunately, a problem.
A couple of extra strongly worded lines, in my equally strongly worded review of the movie read – “I imagine the Producer of the movie must be one of those rich, plump, dumb, dhoti-clad, business man from a remote village, who has so much money lying at his palatial bungalow, that he does not know what to do with it. After having decked himself in gold, and buying himself some well built, 8 pack endowed, henchmen to move around him, this movie must be his way of challenging the other wealthy, show-offs out there, that he has some mighty big, gold plated balls to make the biggest flop that this country has ever seen.” Turns out I was absolutely right in every respect. (Except perhaps the gold plated balls, which was only a figure of speech, you see) But I had missed one small yet crucial point. The Producer Govardhan Sachidanandham, was also an MLA from the nearby district.
And thus, in true filmy style, I was kidnapped from the parking lot of my office, my face covered with a black cloth, and delivered to the beach house of the MLA. The table with a single bulb hanging from top, the gag on my mouth, the goons brandishing knives, sickles and other sharp objects the size of my leg, looked straight out of a movie torture scene. The lighting could have been scarier, but then, I was not exactly in a position to point that out. Even the MLA standing before me, looked every bit a menacing villain, I’d seen in Bollywood movies. I nearly felt that it was ‘The End’ of my story, when my past came back to save my life. Aarthi, the girl from my college, whom I had never rated above 5 in my Hot List 10 in college, and whom I had once given a big lecture about creative writing and why her writings sucked, happened to be his only daughter. She noticed me being brought in and spoke to her father about me, who I was, and how much I was responsible for her success as a writer. Oh yes, Aarthi S was now an emerging author and was even reviewed favorably by me when I was doing book reviews. She was the angel of the Sachidanandham family. In the huge family of business magnates, she was the only spark of creativity, and the entire family loved her for that. Soon the hanging bulb was replaced by chandeliers, the henchmen replaced with family members, and the gag in my mouth was replaced by laddoos. This was one crazy family. Aarthi’s dad’s ‘loving’ thump on my back had me confused if I was still being tortured. But I was alive, and I had only Aarthi to thank for it. I smiled at her with gratitude in my eyes, and she acknowledged it with a simple smile back. This was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Now Aarthi and I, we weren’t exactly made for each other. Aarthi Sachidanandham was a girl who was fed on fairy tales and stories of brave, young princes fighting for love and slaying dragons. Sadly, all I’d ever ‘slayed’ were a few mosquitoes with that ‘Made in China’ mosquito zapper bat. And I wasn’t even good at that. She was the most diplomatic, and the most politically correct person, I had ever seen in my life, while I could not even spell diplomacy. However, she would tell me that she was in love with my no-nonsense attitude, and the frankness in my mind. She admired my honesty and outspokenness, and my lack of thinking about consequences. Oh, the things that love does to a person. This was what I’d call being blindly in love. But trust me, Aarthi is a wonderful girl.
I had once remarked to her, on the day that she had saved my life, that I would be indebted to her forever. I told herthat I wouldn’t mind to be her slave for eternity if she wished. I guess she took it rather seriously and proposed marriage one day. Now I sure did love Aarthi, but was in no hurry to get married. But, having seen her father from quite close quarters earlier and the love he had for his daughter, I had now understood when to open my mouth and when to simply nod. And soon enough, the same Govardhan Sachidanandham, who played a cameo as a villain in my story, had now turned character artiste and thus an even bigger baddie in my Technicolor life. He had become my Father-in-Law.
After my marriage I continued to do movie reviews, but had toned down my language significantly. “The director must have been an idiot to have done that” became “With all due respect to the director, he could have handled it differently.” The Sachidanandhams continued to make awful movies, and I continued to avoid them. I felt sorry for the many young men being paraded into the beach-house, their faces covered with black cloth. And besides, everyone was trying their hand at movie reviews, so I thought I’d try something else.
And that’s how Foodline happened. I have been a hardcore foodie right from my college days. So when I decided to leave movie reviewing, Aarthi suggested I pick up food review. It sounded like a fantastic idea. I jumped right in and tried to review a few joints I had been to. It came out brilliant. Aarthi pulled up some of her contacts in a leading magazine, and they gave me an okay to feature my column in there every fortnight. They’ve made me quite a star. I get called by all the big restaurants in the city on opening night, and they usually have a table reserved just for me. I got my ruthlessness back and if some joint doesn’t live up to its promise in quality of food or its decor, one 500 word write up in my column, and they’d be thinking of moving shop. Like that awful Italian restaurant that closed business recently. But if some place manages to impress me, like this place did, I put in a few good words about them in my column, and their business simply takes off. You must read the latest column I’ve written, that comes out tomorrow. Its on this new posh joint called Rendezvous on Khader Nawaz Road. Awful, I tell you. Bland, Pricey and Awful. If you want to see how ruthless I can get, you should read that. I’m now considered the leading food critic of the city no doubt. But behind this success, there is a lot of struggle and a lot of hard work.
What would I tell your readers? Never give up your dream, even if it changes every month. 😉 Be the best in what you do. Speak your mind, but remember this. The key to success is to know when to open your mouth and when to shut up.
That’s all I’ve got to say. Alright boss, gotta run. Say Hi to Sasi for me. Got to attend this function with the Missus. Let me see where that is, she must’ve sent me a text. Khader Nawaz Road.. Rendez…
Give me a minute, I’ve got to make this call.
Hello? Hey Jose, Karthik here. Dude what was the name of the guy who owns Rendezvous that we are tearing up in tomorrow’s edition? Bharathan S? What does that S expand to???
Oh bloody no…