Friday, August 30, 2002

La Fonda Latina

That's where we had dinner yesterday. There are a few branches over town and we chose the most obscure -- on Peachtree St (aren't they all called Peachtree?) right next to Fellini's (which also has other branches in the city). Blink and you'll miss it. The other branch I've been to is in Little Five Points. That time I had the paella, the national dish of Spain, which is a good thing to start off with, because they do a good job with it. This time I settled for a Reuben Cubano sandwich, which was also a filling delight. Service was a bit slow, but all in all, it still merits a visit or two. A little more about paella. The essential ingredients are rice, tomatoes and saffron. Other ingredients include one or more of chicken, chorizo, mussels, squid, peppers, beans, shrimp, lobster and duck.

Thursday, August 29, 2002

CPE1704TKS (or CPE1704JKS)

coming soon ...

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Shyam Benegal's Ankur: Phase One

The movie for the evening was Shyam Benegal's directorial début Ankur. The film is shot in Andhra Pradesh and locals of the village that most of the action is set in serve as extras for the film. In the opening scene, Ms Azmi (who won the National Award for this début), when we first see her, is a tad too fair and tall to be part of the crowd (perhaps this was the intention??). The lack of a decent budget is telling, as are the marks of "parallel cinema" -- long silent moments, silent montage sequences. The credits boast an impressive list: Pandit Satyadev Dubey and Govind Nihalani. Not to forget overrated future member of the Benegal camp, Vanraj Bhatia, whom Benegal deserted for his commercial venture Zubeidaa in favour of A. R. Rahman. Thus far the most promising performance comes from Sadhu Meher playing Lakshmi's (Azmi) mute husband. His silence has an intensity alike Om Puri in Aakrosh. As for the dialect: it seems artificial when Ms. Azmi mouths it, but I don't know too much about it to comment on the correctness of pronunciation or the appropriateness for the locale.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Books past and current

I finished reading William Shatner's Star Trek Movie Memories, a sequel to Star Trek Memories his clearly solipsistic but tongue-in-cheek reminiscences playing Captain James Tiberius Kirk on the classic TV Show. This book is about the 6 Star Trek movies and Star Trek: Generations (where Kirk breathes his last). Being a Trek fan, I didn't take too much time reading this lightweight collection of memoirs and it's heartening to see Shatner poke fun at his attempts to sing (Mr. Tambourine Man and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds are cult classics, but clearly indicate his future as a singer). And it's not the ego-fondler that was Where No Man Has Gone Before.

A couple of days ago I finished reading Black House, the sequel to The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub. The plot adds elements reminiscent of past King works like The Dark Zone and Insomnia. I haven't read enough Straub to detect past influences. King's contributions bear his signature: the italicized inner thoughts, the gibberish spouted by evil characters, the italicized, uppercase emotional outbursts... There are also references to myths that King visited in other novels (in-jokes, perhaps?) like ka and the crimson king. It was a great read -- a pageturner, if you wish to call it that. My favourites would be the Hegelian Scum (a clique of intellectual bikers) and Henry Leyden, a blind DJ with multiple radio personalities who can see more than mortals with sight.

My current read to work is Vertigo: The Making of a Hitchcock classic, which is an approachable text on what made Vertigo one of Hitchcock's most talked-about films. There are no humanities buzz words floating around here, so come all ye reluctant readers.

Monday, August 26, 2002

Blog Meetup

Chris just told me about Blog Meetup, which provides a forum to allow bloggers in the same city or region to get together and talk. Sounds like a good idea to me. I just registered myself there.
Musical ironies

The music streaming in the workplace is currently Abbey Road from the Beatles. A verse out of You Never Give Me Your Money perfectly describes my situation:

Out of college, money spent

See no future, pay no rent

All the money's gone, nowhere to go

Any jobber got the sack

Monday morning, turning back

Yellow lorry slow, nowhere to go

But oh, that magic feeling, nowhere to go

Oh, that magic feeling

Nowhere to go

Himalayan lunch, Indian music and a film trip to Vienna

I was denied the pleasure of listening to Music from India on WRFG 89.3 FM. All I got was static ... Wonder what went amiss. This meant we could drive out for lunch earlier. Our choice was the lunch buffet at Himalayas. The last time I came here was about a year ago. A decent selection, with a satisfying beef curry. The rest of the stuff passed muster, but lacked something to make it a complete winner (the cholé palak was a tad bitter and the vegetable makhani seemed a little less makhani). Still, I'd recommend it as a better restaurant, because if I remember right, the buffet menu changes as well (as opposed to some places that rarely vary their selections).

Next stop: Sona Imports, after a long long time. Apart from stocking a great music and VHS collection, the place is also DVD rental and pruchase heaven. We decided to rent Ankur (The Seedling). This 1974 critique of the caste system in India, was Shyam Benegal's directorial début and also launched Shabana Azmi as an actress. {more}. The film is generally regarded as the catalyst for the parallel cinema movement (although this issue is up for debate). I also got two more CDs:

* The golden voice of Asha Bhosle {CDF 029/MIL}

* Premnagar/Ajanabee {CDF 120217/EMI}

A visit to the Decatur branch of the Dekalb County Public Library and I had more items on my hands (as if The Mike Hammer Collection volumes I and II that I picked up on Friday weren't enough):

Saturday, August 24, 2002

The Pardes action of Des Pardes and some jungle hijinks

To quote Magnus Magnusson, I have started so I will finish. I devoted my Friday evening to the entertainment as defined and dished out by Mr. Dev Anand via Des Pardes. I had hoped for just a few minutes of on-screen howlers but Mr. Anand being the congenial generous host that he is provided me with more than that. The film has all the ingredients of a dvidevi (meaning a Dev Anand venture with him behind and before the camera...but aren't they all??) enterprise:

* A new face that is at least marginally cute or a looker or has a good figure (as judged by the Anand panel of corrective therapy) but has little to no acting abilities and has the gift of ticking the hell out of well-intentioned hapless viewers tired of average mainstream Bollywood fare and expected more from a matinee idol of yore: Tina Munim (who now has no reason to complain since she's part of the Ambani clan now!)

* Interesting to good music (in this case Rajesh Roshan) subjected to an inappropriate, bad, outrageous, grotesque or vicious onscreen treatment (My favourite composition would have been Aap Kahen, another decent Lata Mangeshkar number ruined online by the histrionics of debutante Munim, under the direction of choreographer Dev Anand, oops, Madhav Krishna

* Dialogue which is either prolixly or is built up from platitudes, answers to unasked questions, questions deserving no answers and oversimplification of obvious facts strung together against shots combined in a meaningless montage that predates the style in Fight Club by years

* Simple plot ideas exploded to explore subtexts that would ordinarily not matter either to the audience or the filmmaker. Consider the complexity of the task for the protagonist (read: person who inflicts the most agony on the senses of the viewer, usually played by Dev Anand himself), Veer in this case, of finding out that Gurnam (Ajit) has indeed killed his elder brother Sameer (Pran). Clearly, it's much ado about nothing, since the good old Bollywood Coincidence Meter (BCM) is on his side

* Ridiculous characters played by actors who were either handed a pretty pay packet, or were on the skids or too high on LSDev to realize how corny they looked on screen. For example, Dr. Shreeram Lagoo (famous for defining principled wizened patriarchs with a smouldering anguish within) playing Sameer's godfather Mr. Barnes. With a name like that, I would expect him to have an accent more tinged with the British rather than the Indian accent, and certainly not (as in this case) that of the cliché Goan father seen so often in the Bollywood genre of films that sought to first represent and then completely caricature the fun-loving community. Of course, by the time I see his daughter Sylvia (Bindu) dressed in loud clothes and enough makeup to grab the attention of the deaf

* At least one "look Ma, cool camera gimmick no?" token in the film: Here it's a camera shot from inside a liquour barrel that Anwar (Mehmood) dips a goon's head into during a skirmish

* Technical contributions to scenes that do not benefit from them: the high-angle/overhead shot of two people involved in a fistfight as they move parallel to each other in opposite directions, one towards the top of the screen and one towards the bottom. This recurs in a skirmish near the end of the film, which shows that more than one person on board had lost their ability to make a cogent decision on the matter

* Dev Anand emulates Groucho Marx. Now Groucho had good jokes and only turned to the audience to give them the benefit of a punchline that they might miss in the rich train of puns he had lined up. Mr. Anand on the other hand insists on displaying his dexterity at a forgettable home-brewed sign language of mannerisms (derived from ancient jungle traditions and backwater anorexic orangutans no doubt) and overshadows any performer on the screen (unfortunately!)


In this film, Mr. Anand decides to flog the dead horse of the problem of illegal immigrants (especially Indians) in UK and tie it up with some sentiments of nationalism. But let's not let our emotions get the best of us shall we? So, on with the story. The family in question is that of Mr. Balbir Singh Sahni, a station master living in Kartarpur, Punjab, with his wife and sons. The elder son Sameer (Pran) works in London (presumably, using movie math, in the pub circuit) and 'looks good in a grey flannel suit', but more about that later. Back in Kartarpur we have his wife Rama (Indrani Mukherjee) lives in India with a daughter Geeta and a soon-to-be-born-and-remain-unnamed-for-the-rest-of-the-film-yet-referred-to-using-the-general-epithet-of-Munna son. Also part of the household is Sameer's younger brother Veer (Dev Anand), whose handwriting is identical to that of Sameer's (one of those handy plot devices). When the film opens, we see Sameer, Rama, Geeta and Veer walking on railway tracks (ostensibly to provide a visual counterpoint to the fact that there is travel in the future). This is a time of farewell, the end of a 3 month vacation (which comes once in 3 years) for Sameer. Rama, of course, doesn't like it, but has to live with it. We have the usual moments of sentiment (with the context of separation) as also Veer saving Geeta from coming in contact with a defective telephone pole, from potential electrocution. The camera (traditional Bollywood zoom-in/zoom-out/close-up/montage approach) and Sameer's dialogue tell us that the skull-and-crossbones symbol is going to resurface later on.

In the UK, the place where all the action will happen is Charlie's Tavern, a pub that's up for a 35K lease. Sameer has saved £ 20K and is waiting for a response to a request for a bank-sanctioned loan, so that he can take the pub. He was once thrown out of English pub because of his colour and has since vowed to own one someday where 'Englishman and Indian can drink together'. We meet his godfather Mr. Barnes (Shreeram Lagoo) a widower (his late wife was Indian too) and his daughter Sylvia (Bindu), who is engaged to Gurnam (Ajit), who is axiomatically the villain of the piece. Gurnam offers to put up the balance of £ 10K in return for some share in the article. In obeisance to the demands to move the film forward with some semblance of a storyline, Sameer agrees (against the cries of the audience: "Can't you see it's Ajit? How can you trust him???"). Another important thing we are told about Sameer is that he is punctual, always. And 7pm is a time that he reserves for 'cheers' with Mr. Barnes (something the two look forward to). We are now taken to Scotland Yard to meet two more unimportant players: Mr. Martin (Tom Alter) who is important in the London Immigration Department only because he converse with Indians in Hindi ('their own language') and his Indian sidekick Kashyap (who of course, thanks to the BCM knows Sameer very well). As the head of the Indian Workers Association in London (and thus a respected member of the community) Sameer has been invited to the Yard to discuss the problem of illegal immigrants (especially Indians) into the UK using false passports. Sameer offers his support to the cause. The error in his judgement (the deal with Gurnam) receives further foundation in the next few scenes. These tell us that Gurnam and his friend Bansilal (Prem Chopra) are involved in one such racket. Some of our important characters brought in using a false passport include Buta Singh (Amjad Khan), whose real name is Avtar Singh, bus conductors Gangaram (Sujit Kumar) and Murarilal (Bharat Kapoor), and unnamed characters played by Paintal and Sharat Saxena, as well as Murarilal's nephew played by staple child actor Master Alankar (remember the young Amitabh in Deewar?). Gurnam and Bansi exploit the helplessness of the illegal immigrants and exact a 50% cut of their wages as a commission, 2/3 of which go to Mr. A. Tupper (Keith Stevenson) who runs Horizon Tours, a travel agency. Anyways, Sameer cuts Gurnam in for a 33-and-a-half(!!) partnership. Of course, Gurnam (with Sylvia's help and her contacts with Mr. Tupper's lawyer, a certain never-seen-never-heard Mr. Smith) schemes to add a clause to the deed papers so that in lieu of the death of one partner, the other partner gets complete rights to the pub. Gurnam also apparently cannot read (we are not sure if it's English or Hindi, but who cares. This is just another wasted character embelishment). The day comes to inaugurate the pub. It's a Saturday and Sameer leaves Mr. Barnes (who is now living with him) at 10am, heading for the pub. At the pub, Gurnam and Sylvia prepare a poisoned drink for Sameer. Murarilal, soused out completely, swims across from a boat (convenient location for the pub, evidently) to cuss Gurnam and threaten to expose his deeds to a reporter he has been hanging out with. Sameer arrives in time to see Gurnam throw Murarilal's body over the side (after stabbing him). Gurnam kills Sameer as he attempts to call the cops and the engaged couple proceed to hide Sameer's body in the pub and clean up all signs of a struggle, besides fending off a stuffed toy black cat (black cat = unlucky omen! get it??). Sameer meanwhile gets his moment of solitude to curse and rant as he dies in fake blood before sealing an envelope addressed home with a cross that he traces out with the murder weapon drenched in blood {Look out for a scene later in the film where Veer employs his amateur deductive skills to deduce that a certain knife dipped in varnish was used to knock off his brother}. He manages to drop the letter out of a nearby window. The BCM rears its ugly head again as Gangaram passing by on his way for groceries finds the letter and sends it on its way. Kashyap arrives at the club for the hawan (a traditional fire ceremony to ward off evil and sanctify the dwelling) as well as Buta Singh (now in Gurnam's employ) with Shastriji (A. K. Hangal), the Pandit at the Trimurti Ashram (who also knows Sameer, of course, but you figured that out already, didn't you?). Of course, they wait and wait but there's no Sameer. Back at home, Mr. Barnes waits for Sameer to 'come at 7 and say cheers'.

In all this ... where was Bansilal? Well, he flew to India, making his annual recruitment drive for fresh unsuspecting hopefuls to get in the illegal way. He also has another assignment: to get a soni kudi for Gurnam (whose relationship with Sylvia is a loveless selfish business-minded one). BCM again, as we discover that Bansilal is the son of Dayaram (Jankidas)'s paternal uncle. Dayaram, of course, is next-door neighbour to the Simpsons... oops...the Sahnis. A radio broadcast, and two letters (one, the letter from Sameer and the other from Kashyap) and some deductions by jasoos Veer and everyone is worried for Sameer. Veer decides to go to London to investigate. His co-passenger on the Air India flight is a decked-up Indian bride Gauri (Tina Munim). Yes, you guessed it! BCM again: she's the soni kudi that Bansi procured for Rs. 1000 only for Gurnam. Gauri indicates her displeasure at the relationship which is 'not a marriage, but just a business transaction'. Veer aides her to get out of the airport (after a quick change of clothes). A forgotten undergarment leads airport cleaning employee Anwar Sayeed (Mehmood) to Veer, and it's BCM time again. Captain (yes Captain) Veer had saved Anwar's life in the war of Bangladesh (indicated by a flashback set in non-existent sets and fake smoke). Gauri is of course a naive (Ms. Munim was 16 when she made her dé) God-fearing lass who has her prayer times for Lord Krishna.

The stage is set now for Veer to infiltrate the Sam-and-Nam pub (Sam for Sameer, and Nam for Gurnam. get it?) and track down the killers of his brother. The remaining length of film stock also gives him time to indulge in some song-and-dance as well as ridiculous stunts like setting Gauri up as a mute bartender at the pub and cooking up a complicated procedure (involving a song-and-dance-routine and another cross-dressing venture by Mehmood) to kidnap Bansilal before he can get in touch with Gurnam and spill the beans about Gauri and Veer. Along the way, Veer must also clash with the irate illegal immigrant squad led by Gangaram who are hot for revenge for the now-deceased Murarilal.

Mercifully, there is no romantic angle explored on screen between Veer and Gauri. Mr. Anand also does not attempt to tie up too many ends by the end of the film: we do not explicitly see what happens to Gurnam and Bansi and the clique (including Mr. Tupper), although Veer's letter home helps us conclude that they are all behind bars. There is the inevitable final fallout of thieves (Buta, Sylvia and Gurnam). Adding to the fun is the expected climactic fight sequence between Veer and Gurnam. This involves a crescendo involving gas cylinders, rubber, dry wood and water (including dialogue to explain its ostensible scientific correctness). It ends with Veer pounding Gurnam with a machine gun (talk about wasted machinery).

Classic lines:

{Buta to Veer, when he persists with questions about Sameer}: zyaada sawaal poochhoge to itna hi kahoonga-glass khatam karo rasta naapo baar band ho chuki hai. Quite a few Amjad Khan tributes include this moment

{Veer to Gurnam, at the end the final fight}: zinda kabr mein rahoge to pataa chalega maut kya cheez hai


Pran who plays Dev Anand's elder brother here plays his father in Warrant.

In-joke: When Gauri presents herself before Sylvia for the position of bartender, Sylvia asks her for her name. Gauri responds (via written notes) 'Shabnam'. Bindu (who plays Sylvia) became famous as the vamp Shabnam in Kati Patang(1970) (immortalised by Mera Naam Shabnam an R. D. Burman composition with an unconventional song form). She is perhaps best remembered for this role. Another character that she immortalized (but few would associate her with) was Mona Darling in Zanjeer (1973).

Stats: Des Pardes : 159 minutes : colour : the Eros/B4U DVD mistakenly credits R. D. Burman for the music

Tarzan (1985) was the next movie for the evening.

Friday, August 23, 2002

Dev Anand: Des Pardes

I started watching Des Pardes yesterday. As I noted before it's been regarded as his best work. I am inclined to agree based on what I saw thus far. Which is not saying much about his abilities as a self-indulgent solopsistic filmmaker/actor who restricts his on-screen acting histrionics to a limited set of gestures from epileptic simian sign language. Music director Rajesh Roshan sounds like his good self, just the right mix between simple lightly embelished asthayis and experimentall wavering antaras. I have very fragmented memories of the film, so I'll have to wait to watch the whole thing before doing another take on it, but knowing Mr. Anand I believe I'm entitled to at least a couple of minutes of on-screen howlers.

Nostalgia: Friday night blues {NOTE: Some people may find this offensive}

Yesterday's post brought back more memories (especially since I had nothing much to think about on the bus home). I've already written about DD's Friday night spiel. When satellite television hit India, several channels also reserved late nights for 'mature' fare -- Star Movies, Jain TV {this action must have surely gone against any mission statement they had}, TB6 {if I remember correctly, it was this Russian channel that had a great following among friends who lived in areas where the cable operators were indiscreet enough to include it as part of the package. It featured native Russian sleaze as well as Russian dubs of American movies. The only time I accidentally caught it I saw James Woods mouthing Russian in a terribly dubbed version of The Boost}. More about these later. As an aside, The Boost was based on a book by Ben Stein (viewers of The Wonder Years will remember him as Mr. Cantwell, the Science teacher with the hilarious dry disinterested monotone.

First, the Friday Night Intimate Scene Rule. Friends of mine arrived at the following conclusion based on their empirical corpus of mature films viewed: If the film is R-rated then there will be an intimate scene within the first hour of the film. The levels of intimacy would vary based on the plot of the film. Based on my experience, this rule has held out strong and I was reminded of this every time I caught a movie for the first time on Star Movies.

What was I doing up so late? Well, in the four academically void but culturally interesting years as an undergraduate at the cheapo-gothic Govt. College of Engineering, Pune (which asserted its autonomy by changing its name to Pune Institute of Engineering and Technology), I got used to late nights at home surfing channels and consuming movies. Since I preferred to study in the wee hours of the night, and because I was hooked on TV (providing the hum and buzz in the background as I tried to understand why lathe machines were important to my future as a computer scientist), I caught a few movies that were fodder for trivia years later: Eat My Dust! (Roger Corman's vehicle for Ron Howard), Love Letters (a relatively obscure Jamie Lee Curtis movie with David Duchovny cameoing as an old boyfriend), and obscure B-films on Zee Cinema {including some howlarious dubs of Nagarjuna starrers suffering from a Shiva hangover: for example, consider gundas and disco beats plus the desire to be a singer etc etc}. Some of the films were re-runs of primetime blockbusters like Die Hard. Of course, the government soon decided that it was time to take umbrage at the potential damage that these satellite channels would cause to traditional Indian values upheld by a corrupt bunch of halfwits. Thence movies like Die Hard and Platoon suddenly became short family films with all the scenes and dialogues involving cuss words making a quick hasty abrupt departure into the neverland. This is what irks me most about satellite channels. It would appear that there weren't enough movies that could be shown to a home audience without being subjected to the scissor considering how many mainstream hits (read: movies laden with intimacy and invectives) they insisted on presenting in bowdlerized form. Of course, it was always a delight to catch them where they faltered: I remember points in Die Hard: With a Vengeance where you can hear the cuss words they forgot to take out. Cheap thrills of an insomniac.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

another encounter with david lean

First off, let me confess that I have never been able to sit through Lean's epic Lawrence of Arabia completely. My introduction to it in fragments did not help me appreciate the film. I still found it a drag (which cuts me off from a large audience of satisfied moviegoers). The only things I will probably always remember about that film are the opening (overused in quizzes I've been to) and the fact that Peter O' Toole had the longest speaking part ever. However, Mr. Lean's early films have been watchable for me. I remember having a great time watching Blithe Spirit on the telly late Friday night. Some context for Friday night may be in order. Doordarshan (DD), the national TV network in India, reserved Friday night to screen late night movies. This practice had received the unsavoury reputation of being an avenue to catch forbidden flicks (aka films with the 'Adults Only' certificate). This meant that a lot of friends often stayed up to catch the movies. Some of the films had their own merits: Mani Ratnam's Nayakan (the only decent Indian answer to the genre of films inspired by The Godfather), Shyam Benegal's early films like Nishant and Mandi (the desi take on The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas), Victim (which has the distinction of being the first English language film to use the word homosexual). Some of the films bore the 'Adults Only' certificate, some just seemed like late-night fare to DD. Of course, DD did not disappoint the drooling young viewers too...

But I digress too much. One of the films I managed to watch as part of DD's Friday fare (on our old Dyanora B&W box) was Brief Encounter. Caught it again (this time on DVD) yesterday evening. Remembered most of all for its interesting look at a "forbidden" middle-class romance and the effective use of Rachmaninoff's 2nd Piano Concerto {Raj Kapoor fans will recognise the melody introduced in the first movement as being one of several elements in the effulgent background score used in his films}. I had enjoyed the film when I caught it the first time, but this time it was even better. I understood more of Lean's use of the medium to tell a tale as best he could, building upon the material offered by Noel Coward's play Still Life. Good performances and dialogue with nary a moment drenched in maudlin and cliched social dilemma, the film was a pleasure. Special features on the DVD included commentary by film historian Bruce Eder which comprised interesting insight on the significance of the film to audiences and film scholars as well as overdrawn career profiles of the players of the film and the director. My favourite elements in the film (apart from the aspects I just mentioned) were:

* The in-joke promo for a fictitious B-movie called Flames of Passion based on the (fictitious) novel Gentle Summer by Alice Porter Stoughey {copyrighted MCMXXXVIII by Polk Production Inc.} (See, I'm a movie geek). Apart from adding a taste of humour to the tale, it also adds a little irony to the affair that's about to ensue by way of the "Coming Soon" screen.

* The Wurlitzer being played before the main screening

* The opening and closing moments of the film which are identical except with slightly different perspectives. This provides closure to the movie, but the repetition at the end fills in the gaps and answers questions raised at the opening of the film. The device also affords the film a certain melodramatic impact.

more about brief encounter

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

fondling your ego and massaging your favourites on Google

A small part of my morning activity (email, slashdot, the news, the Pancham group) comprises random searches on Google. As an impulse I sent a search for r. d. burman and george, and (surprise, surprise!!!) my blog came tops! My home page also figured on the first page. H2J2! (that's happy happy joy joy).

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

The classical roots of the Beatles

The Beatles need no introduction. Their music has continued to be influential over the years, as it was in their heyday. We were listening to Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata on the way to work and I remember reading about its influence on John Lennon's lovely ballad Because (on the wonderful Abbey Road). Did some digging and found out that the influence wasn't as straightforward as it was made out to be. Here's more from urban legends and beathoven (another interesting site analysing the music of the band).

Monday, August 19, 2002

Dragon rock

Tuned in to PlanetRock as always during work today. At one point, the host mentioned Don Airey, who guested with Black Sabbath on Never Say Die, and with Rainbow on Down to Earth. I immediately opened up a session with the All Music Guide to re-read the brief bio for Rainbow. Their début album Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow is generally regarded as the first example of dragon rock. After a little digging I found out what this meant: this style of rock is characterised by lyrics about (to wit) men in silver mountains, medieval kings and torture (remember Iron Maiden?). We learn something everyday. Wonder if Led Zeppelin's Tolkien-inspired songs (including the legendary Stairway to Heaven) would qualify ...

Sunday, August 18, 2002

A typical 70s Bollywood product, Oscar-winning visual pornography, and a weekend of darkness

I began my movie spree on Friday night with Trimurti (which I got last weekend). The film had all the ingredients of a typical Bollywood entertainer: lost-and-found children, the rich/poor divide, devious relatives, a touch of mystery, mandatory (yet unwanted) comic relief, songs of love, hope, innocent fun and platitude, thodi si maara-maari (aka clichéd fight sequences) and the ever-late-for-everything Indian police force. That in a nutshell was Trimurti. A longer review is in the works and is the latest addition to the unfortunately growing pile of things to do.

I finally got an AC/DC adaptor for my Sony walkman on Saturday from Radioshack. Have been meaning to do that for over two years -- talk about taking procrastination to new heights!

Got two more DVDs from the India store trip this time: the B Subhash howler Tarzan and another Dev Anand exercise in hogging footage, Des Pardes (which is more objective circles is regarded as his most coherent work -- NOTE: the word coherent is not to be used lightly when one discusses the corpus of Mr. Anand as a director). An interesting sideline: The title of the film is set in a red font (evidently Mr. Anand's favourite colour -- perhaps for the hidden message it holds for unwary viewers) styled so that the letters appear to drip blood! Since the film is ostensibly about traditional family values and the pull of the west, I guess one must interpret this as another subtle cautionary signal to viewers who should have known better than to have ventured into this.

The movie for Saturday evening was the winner of 7 Academy Awards: Out of Africa, using the life of Karen Blixen (played wonderfully by Meryl Streep) to unfold yet another tale of the triumph of the human spirit, the film is a terrible exercise in visual pornography -- on display here are different visages of Africa put together to create breathtaking visual after breathtaking visual connecting often empty scenes of now clichéd vignettes in the life of Ms. Blixen. I offer my most humble apologies to everyone (including the Academy that never awarded the only deserving Oscar for this film -- Best Actress for Ms. Streep) who liked this film when it was made, but I am sick of travelogue tripe that seems almost packaged to appeal to the committee: schmaltzy epigrams about life, love and the whole yada-yada, sweeping irritating pompous orchestral music by John Barry (who perhaps deserves plaudits only for the Bond theme) and Robert Redford looking like the suave sexy Robert Redford and spouting Redfordisms (watch him revisit his role with added pizazz in the equistrian disaster The Horse Whisperer. Sidney Pollack has an interesting body of work as a director (and even as an actor: Husbands and Wives, Eyes Wide Shut and Random Hearts), but I have nothing to say in his favour for this one. Perhaps I've become too cynical for my own good, unable to appreciate the candy-floss Enid Blyton-ish happy world movies anymore.

I made up for that environmental disaster with The Brides of Dracula, kindly furnished by AMC. The second Hammer Dracula film, this doesn't have Christopher Lee playing the Count, since he died in the last one. Good fun, nevertheless.

I tuned in to Music from India on WRFG 89.3 FM, and the only uplifting aspect this time was the sole R. D. Burman song featured in the oldies section: Hum dono do premi from Ajnabee. I was happy enough to forgive them for citing the reason for playing this 1974 song as "we have to play some eighties"!!

In the evening, Chris and I attended the final double-bill of the Weekend of Darkness at the Rialto. The movies on show were Sweet Smell of Success and Kiss Me Deadly.

Sweet Smell of Success was a very tight film with great dialogue (reminding me of Laura) and great performances by Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis.


Roger Ebert's Greatest Films


Kiss Me Deadly, which I have read about in several articles on film noir was anything but expected!! While firmly drenched in the conventions of the genre, the film is a campy tongue-in-cheek adaptation of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer novel of the same name. With moments of sheer scientific inaccuracy and jaw-droppingly funny random violence this irreverent film deservedly got resounding applause from the audience once it was over. Starting off with creepy credits proceeding top-down as opposed to bottom-up (something modern filmgoers will remember from Se7en), the film has great lines, funny moments (intentional and unintentional) and an ending that presages modern cult favourites like Pulp Fiction. Highly recommended.


Film Monthly
Other what's in the box movies {NOTE: potential spoilers}

Friday, August 16, 2002

Radio jazz

So Chris pointed me to an hour long show on BBC Radio 3 about the Miles Davis Quintet. As I tuned in, I found this great cornucopia of links by Peter Losin. Among other goodies, this page houses LP liner notes and cover shots of several albums (including a special section for Miles) from Prestige and Blue Note Records.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

Speak softly love

Well, I managed to catch the second half of TNN's rendition of The Godfather {yesterday} right after a rerun of The Schizoid Man, an episode from Star Trek: TNG where a dying genius transfers his personality into Data (yes, intergalactic cornfest, but handled better, IMHO, than the like-minded disastrous Spock's Brain from the original series. Back to the Godfather. Started off bang-on with Michael heading to the restroom to retrieve the gun to shoot Sollozo and McCluskey. Of course, he has to flee to Italy to escape the heat. The dulcet Speak Softly Love is provided as background music in different arrangements as Michael explores the Italian countryside, the village of Corleone (shot in another village), falls in love, gets married and gets tragically widowed. The rest of the film stood the test of time, but my chief peeve was the pixelated nudity on the wedding night of Michael and Appolonia. After all that painful advertising about it being uncut, this was an irritating copout. Perfect moment for MST3K:

Michael (in Italian): My dear Appolonia, you have such a low resolution.

Appolonia (in Italian): <speechlessly staring doe-eyed at him>

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Classics revisited

The new TNN (I wish they had called themselves The New TNT. That would have been a cool example of a recursive abbreviation à la GNU aired the first part of The Godfather (for all ye in America, I am sure you recall the hip pop culture The Godfather Uncut promos). This is not a bowdlerized version of the Coppola classic, but the uncut original. Of course, you still have ads (albeit fewer than the usual, although I did get tired of seeing the stupid ad for Oblivious again and again) and the 2 hour telecast yesterday abruptly ended as Michael Corleone walked to the restroom leaving Sollozzo and McCluskey at the table. I agree that this is a suspenseful moment (note: only for those poor souls who haven't seen this movie yet!!), but ...sigh! The great pacing, and the great music and performances. Recommended for repeat viewing.

Incidentally, if you've seen You've Got Mail (best seen if you've been living in the United States for a while), some scenes in this film will stand out more than before (especially the one with the references to "hitting the mattresses").

Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Yet another Blogger

Vijay, my friend from some guitar classes here at Georgia Tech has finally given in (after getting sick of listening to me go on and on about blogging) and has set up his own. It's been a while since I saw the etymology of nerd according to Dr. Seuss, but you can catch that in the left panel on his blog. Welcome to the Blogosphere, Vijay.
Movieblog: Matching acerbicity

Thanks to Nidhi for a pointer to Rick McGinnis' Movie Blog. He shares my tone and PoV. Case in point: his review of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's exercise in opulent excess, Devdas.
Egosearching on Google -- with a twist, shaken but not stirred

Picked this cool idea off Gaurav's blog.

The Algorithm: Type a few verbs after your name in Google's search box

The Output: Potentially interesting results

"george is" got me about 127, 000 results {since my name was the most popular one in the US in 2001 [behindthename] am I surprised?}

Top result : George is moving

{ True a while ago, but no longer }

George is, quite simply, the worst helpdesk technician ever

{ I disagree!! }

George is a kind, generous, and enthusiastic person who loves economics

{ Modesty prevents me ... }

George is an Emeritus Professor of Computer Systems in the Department of Computer Science...

{ Wishes ... Horses ... }

George is taking a nap

{ Something my employers must not know }

George is Dead

{ Zombie, zombie ...}

George is one of Hawaii's best known performers of slack key guitar music

{ I'm in the derby ... }

George is written in Perl

{ No way!! }

George is the type of guy who tends to make a mess

{ Excuse me!?! }

George is the coolest

{ Mirror mirror on the net ... }

George is a god

{ aah! }

George is polite but firm with his audiences

{ I'm overwhelmed }

That's enough ego fondling for a day.

Having a wonderful time, wish I were here

That's the tagline for the movie we watched yesterday (courtesy: Netflix): Mike Nichols' Postcards from the Edge. Based on Carrie Fisher's semi-autobiographical book of the same name, the film is a humorous feelgood (even clichéd) look at Suzanne Vale (Meryl Streep), an actress with a drug problem who has to now live with her mother following rehab in order to still be considered for acting roles. Her mother (Shirley Maclaine) has a problem with alcohol and it is very evident that the two do not get along well. The film chooses to delve more on the relationship between daughter and mother and tends to gloss over or gauchely gloss over Suzanne's drug problem and the aftermath. There are great cameos by Richard Dreyfuss and Gene Hackman (and a blink and you'll miss her turn by Annette Benning) and a wasted turn by Dennis Quaid. There are a lot of funny lines and moments in the film and a great caricature of an aging star by Shirley Maclaine. My favourite moment was Suzanne's first post-rehab day of work on a cheapo without rehearsals requiring her to be tied to a fake cactus against an equally fake backdrop of the desert (SPOILER: wait for the moment when part of that opens out as a door!) with real snakes. The followup when everyone on the set offers helpful advice to her about her being too restrained in that scene:). The film unfortunately lacks heart and ends up being an ephemeral collection of moments of varying quality and intensity and is soon over, with Meryl Streep perfoming with the Blue Rodeo as the credits roll up.


The movie that Suzanne is shooting for as she sings "I'm Checkin' Out" at the end of the film is "Postcards from the Edge"

When Dr. Frankenthal (nice name there!) played by Richard Dreyfuss asks Suzanne Vale out to a movie, she replies, "Sure, as long as it's not 'Valley of the Dolls.' Well, Valley of the Dolls (1967) was one of Dreyfuss' first movies.

Monday, August 12, 2002

Sunday evening with /dev/anand

I finally finished reading Philip K. Dick's classic on distorted realities Time Out Of Joint. Great read. The end isn't as satisfyingly complete as I would have wanted it to be, but I'd still recommend the book.

The DVD for the evening was Dev Anand's latest exercise in narcissism Censor. As expected, a terrible film. But more on that later. The only merit in the soundtrack is the qawwali Aaj mazhab. Of course, you must take your eyes off the screen to enjoy the song... what happens on-screen (as with the other songs in the film) is a travesty of the intelligence of even dead ants in the audience.

Saturday, August 10, 2002

More Jazz

I haven't rid myself of my jazz purchase impulse. Chris was nice enough to offer to drive back to Borders at Gwinnett Place Mall {ref: the last time} so that I could get a Miles Davis CD in the bargain bin that I had missed the last time. I ended up getting a lot more:

* Round About Midnight/Miles Davis {the one I wanted}

* Porgy and Bess/Miles Davis

* E. S. P. /The Miles Davis Quintet

* Truth/Jeff Beck
To quote Led Zeppelin: Hey hey what can I do?
Dil Vil Pyar Vyar

Anant Mahadevan's film that bears this moniker has for its soundtrack a selection of R. D. Burman tunes. This would have been great news had the filmmaker and his troupe decided to stick with the originals, spending time in cleaning up the masters in the process. Instead they opted to churn out an official remix of the same with new singers and lacklustre, pale and lifeless music that not only would cause the late genius to turn in his grave, it could even prompt him to rise from the dead and wreak havoc on the lot! I sampled a few songs and although there are a few interesting music samples in the new versions, they are no patch on the originals, which were all IMHO complete examples of the genius of Pancham. Anything less than the best is a sheer felony.

Related: Bollywood continues to churn out R. D. Burman tributes

Postscript: {August 21, 2002}: More on the Jhankar Beats vs. Dil Vil Pyar Vyar in Filmfare. It's interesting how the industry took turns shunning the late Pancham and are now wrestling over his legacy now that he is no longer with us. Necrophiliac incompetence!

Bollywood Bs for the week

So we stopped over at Taj Stores to return the DVD of Warrant that we had rented last week. Of course, I still have to work out a review of the film {and it's a repeat viewing for me, although the last one was VHS}. I chose two for the following week: Dev Anand's latest squib, Censor {review on} and Trimurti, a prime example of the never-heard-of-it genre, this is a Sanjay Khan, Rakesh Roshan, Asrani starrer with music by R. D. Burman (there, now you know why I picked this one off the shelf). Here's the synopsis of the film verbatim (which means all outrageous typos intact) followed by the scene index (which merits an award in itself).

DVD Details: Eros Entertainment/B4U DVD-E 119 Running Time: 140 Minutes/Color

Kiron Productions TRIMURTI

Produced and Directed by Rajendra Bhatia

Music R. D. Burman

Starring Sanjay, Parveen Babi, Rakesh Roshan, Asrani, I. S. Johar

Happines is relative. Money certainly can't buy it. So what is happiness? "TRIMURTI" presents a solution to this mystery in the traditional Indian way.

It is the story of a mother, who without money tries to give happiness to her sons, just as Mother INdia manages to keep her sons happy even though she herself is stepped in poverty. This then is the theme of "TRIMURTI".

Vijay, Nandu and Bhola, the three brothers who are the "TRIMURTI" of the picture, try to find contentment in life by being footless and free. The soaring unemployment has compelled them to ask society whether it owes them a living, and add to their problems, they fall in love with the daughters of rich men.

But wealth has its own wicked ways of becoming a barrier to happiness, and this is what happens. One of the three brothers happens to be the long lost son of the rich man whose daughter is in love with the eldest daughter.

Events take interesting twist again! The father of the other two girls is a rich man with a secret, and he wants the long lost boy to marry one of his daughters. In the vast jumble the poor mother holds the thread of ethics together and tries her hand at unravelling the problems that face all of them.

Matters soon come to a head as the voice of the poor is raised in anguish against the powerful language of money. But who cares?

Chapter Index

1. cc/titles

2. sunita fooled

3. in search of employment

4. girls rescued

5. song 1: ab rahoge tum ...

6. the three stooges

7. song 2: milegi ek nayi zindagi ...

8. song 3: aachi aachi pyari pyari ...

9. nandu behind bars

10. a mothers sad plight

11. raaz ki baat

12. a sad parting

13. song 4: daulat ke rang ...

14. hume izzat pyari hai

15. romance in the park

16. song 5: hum to hain ...

17. material sentiments

18. shocking truth

19. vijay vs nandu

20. nandu's threat

21. mother kidnapped

22. conflict among brothers

23. balram ke jal mein

24. confession resolves matters

Phew. Now all I have to do is watch it:)

Book SIG and a handful of books

Chris convinced me to tag along as his guest for the Book SIG meeting of the Atlanta chapter of American Mensa. He's a member, and I supposedly also qualify for membership. Why I haven't joined is a matter for another day. I knew only a couple of people there (based on a dinner I had joined two weeks ago), but people were kind enough to shatter the ice (since I was clearly incapable in that department). Soon, after the eats (doritos, chips, cake, hersheys chocolates, soda) we began the discussion of current reads. Bill Bronsy

Friday, August 09, 2002

The Old Spaghetti Factory and The Flying Biscuit

Dinner and lunch places respectively. The former has a great ambience and generous service (every order is accompanied by iced tea, bread and a dessert). There's a wait though, so make reservations before you go there, just in case. The latter, on 10th St, is famous for the biscuit (surprise, surprise). I tried their love cakes (it being Friday, I stay off the meats), which were an interesting preparation involving beans. The biscuits continue to be great: another example of simple yet satisfying gastronomic concoctions.
A moment for Dijkstra

Edsger W. Dijkstra, a legend in the field of computer science, passed away on August 06, 2002. A friend and I were discussing rumours a couple of days before another follower sent me a pointer to the obit at the U of Texas. I actually had the privilege of meeting him, shaking his hand and attending his talk at a colloquium at The Computer Science Department at UGA in Fall 2000. What I remember most was the clarity of his thoughts and the evident simplicity he lent to ostensibly complex ideas. Computer Science and the IT industry owe a lot to EWD.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Lunch recommendation

We (that's Chris, James, Mandeep and yours truly) just had lunch at Noodles, sandwiched between Joe Muggs and Celebrity Café at 8th and Peachtree. I chose the spicy basil rice with chicken and was not disappointed. The place looks like a Starbucks on the inside {complete with dark ceiling pipes and designer walls}, but to be fair, the similarities are superficial. Low-key lighting accentuates the interesting noodles that serve as overhead lights at the central bar spread. The red walls betray the eyes of countless faces drawn out. The place is lively but never noisy. Would I like to go again? Sure.
Life in bleak Anarene: Citizen Kane revisited

The movie for the evening yesterday was Peter Bogdanovich's critically acclaimed Oscar winner The Last Picture Show, set in Anarene, TX (shot in Archer City, TX). This was my second Bogdanovich film, the first being the hilarious Noises Off. The film is shot in black and white to complement the completely bleak lives it catalogues: Sam the Lion (which won Ben Johnson a well-deserved Oscar for Best Supporting Actor) runs a movie theatre, which affords us both the opening approach and closing retreat shots (a la Citizen Kane, which has an obvious impression on Mr. Bogdanovich). The theatre acts as the titular icon for the town that seems to be filled with people who have a lot of issues in life. There is clearly no happiness. Every potentially happy moment in a frame is offset by a contrasting vision, thanks to deep focus (another trick made legendary by Citizen Kane). The film is full of marvellous visuals that say a lot. Some wonderful scenes too. But I am probably watching this film out of its original context, both in place and time. Most of the events have been reduced to clichés by now: Duane's inability to please Jacy, Sonny's bittersweet affair with Ruth, the wife of his homosexual coach (reminding us that the whole town is aware of this clandestine relationship and subtely telling us about Coach Popper's preferences are things Bogdanovich does a good job with)... In fact, I got to a point where I was predicting scenes and encounters, making it difficult for me to appreciate the efforts of the director and the rather capable and talented cast. There is no score for the film: the only thing we hear are songs on the radio (Hank Williams being a favourite) introduced by the director doing a vocal cameo as the announcer. I don't want to question the opinions of critics or even doubt that this film was an important one in its time, but frankly, it's all lost to me now.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Happy Birthday Andy

Were Andy Warhol alive today, he would have been 74. Google has yet another interesting logo (although a tad garish) to celebrate.

Monday, August 05, 2002

Greasy lunch and a ton of music

So yesterday I woke up late and only managed to catch the last 45 minutes of Music from India on WRFG 89.3 FM. As the oldies segment began, they threw a quiz to the listeners: Name the movies produced by Raj Kapoor that did not have Shankar-Jaikishen as music directors. I called in, of course, only to get a clarification on the question: they were looking for collaborations with other music directors while Shankar and Jaikishen were still alive and kicking (oops composing). That ruled out the RK-LP and RK-RD films. I could think of only two films: Aag (his début as director and producer, which had Ram Ganguly churning out the music) and Jagte Raho (which he produced, but was helmed by Shambu Mitra and Amit Mitra, with music by Salil Chowdhury). As it turns out these aren't the only ones: Ab Dili Door Nahin produced by RK but helmed by Amar Kumar had music by Dattaram. When Jaikishen passed on in 1971 (after Shailendra in 1970), RK had no choice but to turn to LP for Bobby.

Our choice for South Asian lunch place for the day was Sabri Kabab House in Norcross, GA. The lunch buffet would give you cause for concern about the name of the place. Another cause for concern for health-conscious people is the high oil content! The food wasn't bad, but nothing to scream to the roof tops about: beef curry, lamb, cholé, naan, roti, rice. The overhead TV sets broadcast the Zee Gold Bollywood Awards 2002 (with grating unfunny compere Ruby Bhatia and endless lip synching performers) to add counterpoint to the lunch. As an aside: Why don't they get someone who can speak Hindi to host these shows? The English adds a surreal touch to the already dismally staged proceedings (Indian film award shows in general) and it becomes more painfully obvious that the actors and actresses of today are not comfortable conversing in the language of their profession. Sigh!

Our next stop was Discover Mills on Sugarloaf Parkway in Lawrenceville, GA. Be warned: this is not an outlet mall. And it's a painful ode to the credit card company with a large chalice adorning a junction somewhere inside. Disappointed, we headed to a Borders outlet housed in the Gwinnett Place Mall in Gwinnett County. The ambient album playing at the music section was Led Zeppelin's untitled album. A good sign, that. It's also the first time I've heard LZ in a Borders branch. After some interesting reading and music sampling sessions, I walked out with a handful of jazz CDs off the bargain bins and a couple of books. The young lady at the counter also tactfully asked us if we would like to make a book contribution to the Atlanta Primary school children. Not that I'm averse to charity, especially for a good cause, but asking people point questions like this puts them in a no-win uncomfortable situation where there is clearly no choice (yes, yes, we can argue that I could have said "No, thanks"). Here's what I got:

* Miles Ahead/Miles Davis and Gil Evans

* Milestones/Miles Davis

* Sketches of Spain/Miles Davis

* Jazz: Red, Hot and Cool/Dave Brubeck Quartet

* Ken Burns Jazz: Herbie Hancock/Herbie Hancock

* Blues Guitar Heaven {a 2-CD compilation}

* Ebert's Bigger Little Movie Glossary: A Greatly Expanded and Much Improved Compendium of Movie Cliches, Stereotypes, Obligatory Scenes, Hackneyed formulas, Shopworn conventions, and outdated archetypes/Roger Ebert

* Introduction to Postmodernism {a humorous look at this abstract bag of worms}

Saturday, August 03, 2002

Walking through Miss Daisy's neighbourhood

Chris and I took a guided walking tour of Druid Hills. We were the only people who showed up for the tour, which must have evoked mixed feelings from our guide, the kind Charlotte Stone Johnson, as she walked us through several years of Atlanta history aided by the varying architectural styles of different houses on Oakland and Lullwater. Chris is an avid reader and has a strong interest in architecture. I'm a movie buff. This means we have a lot of useful American trivia to help us understand the importance of the different people and events that our guide talked about. Of course, our familiarity invited increasingly large gapes from her -- after all, it's tough enough to find a lot of Americans who know a great deal about American history and here she was confronted by two Indians (with Christian names to boot) who seemed to be comfortable with the information she was dishing out.

The star attraction of the walk was of course 822 Lullwater Rd: The house from Driving Miss Daisy.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

On the joys of public transportation

I love public transportation. At least in concept. In practice, there's usually a lot left undone, unfinished, half-done or patchy. Bombay (aka Mumbai) is an example of a system that serves the population well, but suffers from overcrowding. People commute everywhere by train and/or bus and in their hustle and bustle miss out on the simple joys of public transportation. Atlanta has MARTA.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.