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Monday, 20 August 2018

Meet Jerinabegam, Chennai's first lady Uber driver who started her journey as a beggar

Meet Jerinabegam, Chennai's first lady Uber driver who started her journey as a beggar

On August 13, just like any other day had to rush for a media meet and booked Uber. As usual, called the driver to inform my drop and pick up location but for some reason, he canceled the trip and I got a call from Uber. But this time, it was a female voice and I thought some customer care representative was calling to inform me about the cancelation. To my surprise, came to know that a woman driver is going to pick me up. So I asked her, "Hello mam..are you the first woman driver in Chennai? And as expected, I got an affirmative answer. I was very confident because being a regular Uber commuter, I never traveled in a vehicle driven by a woman driver.

So I asked Jerinabegam about her driving experience, "I have been in the driving business for twelve years", she said. I asked her why she chose this profession, "Ellam Kudumba soolnizhai dhaan".

Jerinabhegam told me that her husband had gone missing long back and she actually started her journey as a beggar in the streets to feed her kids (two girl children and one boy). I was shocked, she said that a good man gave her a good sum of money and asked move to a hut. He actually advised her not to be a beggar for the better future for her kids. Later, Jerina started working as a maid in nearby houses. "Being an young woman, those awkward eyes and looks made me uncomfortable so I stopped working as maid. After a few days, I started working as a cleaner in wedding halls but I wanted a respectable job. Right from my childhood, I had the passion to be an auto driver ", said Jerinabegam.

So a few kind-hearted people gave her money to join in driving school and her first job is to load vegetables in Tata Ace (A mini truck which they call as Kutti Yaanai).

 Someone actually told Jerinabegam about FastTrack and then, she went to the office to enroll herself. "I used to earn well in FastTrack that we moved to a livable place and also provided basic education to my Kids".

Jerina says that a customer from FastTrack actually provided book, uniform and tuition fee for her two girl children. But they didn't get the fee for a year and when Jerina called, she came to know that the kind man is no more.

Even before FastTrack, Jerina worked a personal driver to a family. "They actually wanted me to come along with them to Bengaluru but told them that Chennai is my place. If I move out of my native, my neighbors would say that I'm earning money only in wrong way, enna solringa sir. Apdi dhaana pesuvanga? " and I nodded.

Jerina says that after FastTrack passed a rule that only drivers who have own vehicle alone should work for them, she lost the job." It was a tough time, I don't know what to do. Then, came Uber ", she said. 

Before joining Uber, Jerina once again had to work as a maid. "I'm earning 10k to 18k per month sir. With this income, my family is having one good meal per day. I start my work early in the morning and sometimes reached home in wee hours (2 am). My kids take care of themselves. I generally have my breakfast at home, during work, I would have biscuits and water. What to do sir? Work irukkula", she smiled. 

Jerina was actually interviewed by a private TV network saying when she drove Tata Ace saying that they would help her "But Ethum Nadakla sir'. However, through Dinamalar web channel, Jerina got around 60k fund which helped for the education of her kids. I actually asked Jerina if she ever wants an own vehicle, she smiled and said "Loan lam kashtam sir". 

 Before stepping out of the vehicle, I asked"Oru photo eduthukalama ungala. You are an inspiring woman, I work in the media. Though I can't promise anything, will write about you and let's see if someone come forward to help", she said "yes".

Though I immediately posted about Jerinabegam on Twitter, FB, and Instagram, didn't explain about her story in detail. I only wrote "Meet Jerinabegam, Chennai's first @Uber_Chennai woman driver. Her story is very inspiring, will write about it soon. Being a single parent, she has done all kinds of work for her three children. While we feel insecure for small setbacks in life, she has come a long way #Inspiration" but Uber quickly responded and actually honored Jerina (Pictures attached). 

On August 13, Uber India responded to my tweet "Thanks for the shout-out, Rajasekar. We are blessed to have such superwomen associated with us. She is truly an inspiration. We'll surely pass it on to the relevant team. Thank you, again. You made us smile from ear to ear! :)". 

Later, I posted "Hope you guys give opportunities to more such super women across India :)". 

Now after one week, Uber actually honored Jerinabegam at their office. Posting the special pics from Uber office, they wrote "We most certainly will, Rajasekar! Thanks again for sharing Jerinabegam's inspiring story with us – we've passed on your best wishes".

It's an amazing feeling to bring the smile on the face of inspiring, hard-working people like Jerinabegam and I also came to know that social media is a powerful tool that one can also use for a good cause. My friends in the media are also asking for Jerinabegam's number so that they can interview her. Hope Jerina gets the much-needed help. 

To contact Jerinabegam, call her son Alim - 86080 12909. Jerina also has her own mobile but she feels any call coming through her son would be risk-free.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Nadigaiyar Thilagam Movie review

It’s not an easy task to make biopics in India, you have to make a lot of compromises to make sure that nobody gets offended with your film and glorify the protagonist with all necessary positive aspects. Nag Ashwin’s Nadigaiyar Thilagam also have these shortcomings but the film stands tall with the collective team effort and the towering performance of Keerthy Suresh.

Nadigaiyar Thilagam basically deals with the rise and fall of veteran actress Savitri (Keerthy Suresh) who hails from a small village Chirravuru and becomes famous in her place for her acting stint in local drama troupe. Driven by her passion for acting, Savitri comes to Madras with her uncle K.V. Chowdary (Rajendra Prasad) to become a film actress but the unfamiliar language, camera and lights mount more pressure on the actress that she fails in her first attempt. If someone criticizes Savitri, she has the habit of bouncing back like a lioness. During her brief stay in Madras, photographer Ramasamy Ganesan (Gemini Ganesan played by Dulquer ) clicks a pic of Savitri which eventually gets her the first film offer and from there, there is no looking back.

Ramasamy Ganesan also becomes a famous actor and despite being married, he falls in love with Savitri. Slowly, Savitri too gets smitten by the candid speech and the pampering of Ganesan and agrees to marry him. Everything goes well until Savitri becomes a superstar in South Cinema and Ganesan couldn’t match up with her stardom so there comes the ego battle. Savitri holds on to the relationship until she gets to know the darker side of Ganesan and from that point, her life turns upside down.

Nadigaiyar Thilagam basically starts from the fall of Savitri, she goes to coma and we get to know about her legendary status, personal and professional losses, philanthropic nature, alcohol addiction, and recovery only through the journalist Madhuravani (Samantha).

Keerthy Suresh has delivered her career-best performance in Nadigaiyar Thilagam, she emotes various expressions with a great ease in the film. As a young girl, Keerthy attracts with her unparalleled energy level, innocence, egoistic nature, and naughtiness. Slowly the naughtiness fades away, Keerthy transforms into a majestic heroine but still, there is innocence. Post-wedding, we get to see her patience. There is a dialogue in the film once she signs Mayabazar saying ‘The story only begins now’ and from there on, Keerthy transforms into a queen, she no longer cracks jokes and there is no hyperactiveness in her body language, we only see the elegance and her big heart to help everyone around her. 

The scene where she gets to know the darker side of Dulquer and breaks out in frustration is easily the best part of her performance in the film. The post break-up mental trauma and alcohol addiction have been portrayed beautifully by Keerthy, she actually becomes a demon and only after falling ill, she comes out of her weakness for her children. It’s not easy for a 25-year-old actress to portray thirty years life of a legendary actress but Keerthy has pulled it off in style and this film certainly has broken all the doubts about her acting talent, meme creators can rest in peace for some time.

After Keerthy, it’s Dulquer who deserves a special mention. Only because of Dulquer’s character, Keerthy earns sympathy, a hero should be bold enough to play a grey-shaded character and Dulquer needs to be appreciated for his gutsy move. The irony is that despite knowing his darker side, we fall for him just like how Keerthy does in the film. Samantha has also excelled as the timid stammering journalist Madhuravani, especially in the climax scene.

There is absolutely no compromise from the technical team of Nadigaiyar Thilagam, the film’s cinematographer Dani Sanchez-Lopez used various color tones and angles to convey the emotions. There is a particular scene where Keerthy holds the liquor bottle in her hand for the first time and the frame slowly turns upside down, her life also turns upside down from that scene. In another scene, she breaks the mirror and we get see Keerthy’s face in the broken pieces, such subtle narrative adds more classiness to the film. The editing pattern was also brilliant, they only send us out of the theater with a recap of the majestic life of Savitri and not her downfall, which is indeed a clever move. The art department has also done an amazing job in recreating the iconic studios, trams and the 19th century Chennai (Madras).

On the downside, though Samantha-Vijay Devarakonda’s romantic portions have been placed for lighter side in this emotional drama, sometimes it distracts us from the core plot.

Director Nag Ashwin must be appreciated for his immense research, he also extracted the best performance from his actors, technicians and the entire team. We understand that a few things can’t be portrayed in Indian cinema as there is no enough freedom here but still what he has done is really commendable, he didn’t point anyone and not portrayed them as dark in Nadigaiyar Thilagam, he has only showcased their different shades. For example, we were shown both the good and bad in KV Chowdary, he could be portrayed as a selfish maternal uncle too but Nag Ashwin hasn’t done it and the same applies to Dulquer and Keerthy ’s characters as well, such calculative move requires a great maturity.

Overall, Nadigaiyar Thilagam is a must watch because we know that Savitri was a superstar but to understand what it costs her to be the legendary actress, you have to watch the film!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Verdict: A Solid biopic on Savitri

Actors: Keerthy Suresh, Dulquer, Samantha, Vijay Devarakonda, Rajendra Prasad, Prakash Raj

Music: Mickey J Meyer

Cinematography: Dani Sanchez-Lopez 

Director: Nag Ashwin

Production: Vyjayanthi Movies, Swapna Cinema

Friday, 28 April 2017

Baahubali 2 Movie Review

Baahubali 2 gives you the high of reading an amazingly written epic novel. Director SS Rajamouli has already transported us to the world of Magizhmathi in the first part, we lived with characters, know how they smile, cry and spill anger. However,  there is still a mystery and excitement to watch the sequel. To be precise, the first part is the phase before the wedding, you think you know characteristics of your soon-to-be better half yet there is always a moment to experience an unexplored angle. 

While the first part established the revenge angle and grandiose setup with stellar war sequences, the second part is filled with a lot of emotions but don't panic action movie fans, Rajamouli also has plenty of scenes spread in a royal plate for you. 

The plot of Baahubali 2 is simple, Palvallathevan (Rana Daggubati) cunningly kills Baahubali (Father Prabhas) through Magizhmathi Kingdom's royal slave Kattapa (Sathyaraj) and also arrests Baahubali's wife Devasena (Anushka). Saved by the sacrifice of 'Rajamatha' Sivagami (Ramya Krishnan), Shiva aka Mahendra Baahubali (Prabhas) knows the cruel death of his dad and takes revenge against his uncle Palvallathevan to enthrone as the king of Magizhmathi kingdom. 

The biggest success of Rajamouli is the way he elevates the mass heroism of his protagonist. Check out this scene for an example, in the interval block, Baahubali actually loses but with the help of the people of Magizhmathi, Rajamouli majestically projects him as a Godly figure. 

The voiceless newborn baby (Mahendra Baahubali) turns into a superhero with a single powerful dialogue uttered by Sivagami. Not only heroism, Rajamouli slowly but steadily injects the revenge flavor in our veins, when Palvallathevan tries to tear the heart of Mahendra Baahubali, we feel like breaking the head of latter and it happens. Palvallathevan treated Devasena like a slave so he deserves to die in a fire and it happens.  A villain tries to sexually harass Devasena, we want his fingers to be chopped off, it happens and for that, she's captured as a prisoner, Baahubali enters and we want him to save her, it happens! Like a God, Rajamouli gives everything we wish, with Baahubali the director becomes an ultimate creator and executed a film, which the audience wanted right from the inception of Indian cinema. 

The true success of an epic film not only lies in the exceptional writing, the actors should rightly convey the emotions to the audience and man, Prabhas does it in style, he lived both as Amarendra and Mahendra Baahubali, be it in his shredded physique, sharp look and swag walk, his powerful screen presence gives an adrenaline rush. Anushka looked regal as Devasena, she got a powerful role and brings justice to the character with her authentic performance. Sathyaraj reiterated the meaning of veteran in style so as Nassar and Ramya Krishnan.

Baahubali 2's another big hero is MM Keeravani, his songs and background score are truly epic. Also, kudos to the VFX team and cinematographer for their magnificent presentation. The only negative aspect of the film is the long drawn-out revenge portion and over the top action sequences in the climax but when we are ready to accept Spiderman, Superman and Ironman, why not the towering heroism of our own superhero Baahubali!

Rating: ****

Verdict: Epicness overloaded

(Part of the review with additional inputs available here (

Actors: Prabhas, Rana, Ramya Krishnan, Anushka, Nassar, Sathyaraj

Director: SS Rajamouli

Music: Keeravani 

Producers: Arka Media Works