Thursday, October 31, 2002

Happy Halloween

A bucketful of blood and a roomful of eidolons to everyone out there. Google is celebrating too, in their own way. This is also, in my very humble opinion, to have cable and feast on the visiogenic reruns of such cult classics like Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street (with all their sequels), Michael Jackson's voodoo fandangos (Thriller, Ghosts), countless documentaries about your favourite famous and unsung horrors... the list goes on. Surrender to the children of the night and enjoy their music. Trick or Treat!

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

fishy and tacky

We had dinner at the Levi's Keywest Seafood House in downtown Decatur yesterday evening. The menu included a tagline that marketed the place as the tackiest place to eat in in downtown Decatur. The place was also "webbed up" for Halloween. I had their fried calamari and it was delicious and filling, although I would personally prefer garlic and butter to their tangy Levi's sauce and horseradish sauce. When we walked out of the place, the dark road, the calm parking lot and the uncrowded nature of the road sent me straight back to those eating places on and off Koregaon Park back home in Pune.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

electronic archaelogy

In chapter 7 of his book Practical C Programming Steve Oualline describes the most fundamental problem any software developer has to deal with: Electronic archaelogy. In his own words:

Electronic archaeology is the art of digging through old code to discover amazing things (like how and why the code works).

Unfortunately, most programmers don't start a project at the design step. Instead, they are immediately thrust into the maintenance or revision stage and must face the worst possible job: understanding and modifying someone else's code.

I remember Software Engineering as being the most boring class I had as an undergraduate. While the course content had enough material for several trivia nights at the CMM Café it remained, like most of the stuff we learned, purely academic and non-pragmatic. You can consider yourself lucky if you are involved in a project right from its inception and design. In the most general case, you will end up nursing a Child from Hell and patching leaky holes (bullet wounds) in the codebase (soldier's body after war). This can be quite frustrating. Such an experience of pragmatism conflicting with principles can leave you a scarred schizophrenic developer.

The antidote: Prayer. Pray that the code you end up dealing with and modifying has been written in your favourite programming language. This is not the right time or place to learn a new language...the wrong way. But then, most people learn a new language the wrong way the first time. Undoing that and correcting their impressions takes a lifetime (what they refer to as 'years of experience' in your résumé).

Monday, October 28, 2002

saving daylight ...for whom?
We all dream of being a child again, even the worst of us. Perhaps the worst most of all.

Saw The Wild Bunch yesterday, Director's Cut again, but mercifully in 2.35:1 (my VHS experience was destroyed by some moron's insistence on pan-and-scan). A great example of the benefits of repeat viewing: this time around the things that caught my attention were: the 12/8 motif on the excellent soundtrack, the wonderful sound, the moral ambiguity, and once again, Peckinpah's pioneering mix of slow-motion sequences intercut with regular motion film (employed to devastating effect in the disturbing shootout scenes).

Sunday, October 27, 2002

Lunch at the Red Fort

Our venue for the Sunday Indian (Indo-Pak) lunch buffet was Lal Qila in Lilburn, GA. Standard components, all well-cooked, along with an interesting curry meld of chholé and chicken), although our initial serving of naans was cold. They are a tad generous with the grease, but nothing beats Sabri Kabab House for that.

Lal Qila

4805 lawrenceville hwy. suite 112, lilburn, ga 30047

tel:(770) 921-5598, fax: (770) 921-4743


driving directions
Saturday, October 26, 2002

Brunch at Front Page News, a tavern with the look, feel and food of New Orleans. Situated in a small vritually unnoticeable pocket on Crescent Avenue, this is one place I really regret not visiting when I was living in Home Park, a pebble's throw (all laws of Physics considered) away. The special du jour was represented by wholesome, calorific Belgian Waffles which I had with Praline Sauce {for more on the contents of these and more items, check out their online dictionary}. The served portion looked moderate, but appearances were deceptive, and I spent the rest of the day in sweet sated glee.

Friday, October 25, 2002

Finally caught Boogie Nights on DVD.

Friday, October 25, 2002

The ALDaily Phoenix

I guess my eulogy for Arts & Letters Daily was thankfully premature. Chris just pointed me to their website today and they're back in business thanks in no small measure to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Just clicked through to my first article off the revived ALDaily: The Spectator's review of Milan Kundera's (bibliography) new novelette Ignorance. This is a good sequitur to Ken's take on Kundera's The Art of the Novel. The article ends by mentioning Kundera's fascination with the number seven.


Ken's Book Blog: Ken is a "constant reader in Arlington, Virginia" who "shares his opinions on his recent reading with the world"

Life is Elsewhere: Tom LeClair reviews Ignorance for BOOK Magazine.


Chris just pointed me to Doonesbury's take this week on the blogging phenomenon. For the convenience of couch browsers, here are the links to their dailydoses this week:

Monday : Oct 21, 2002

Tuesday : Oct 22, 2002

Wednesday: Oct 23, 2002

Thursday : Oct 24, 2002

Friday : Oct 25, 2002

It's a nice gentle spoof on blog content and the confusion of blogging newbies.

first mondrian ... now picasso

The last time Google celebrated a painter's birthday I could see a connection. This time it's Picasso, but the connection is still unclear (barring the fact that he was a great painter, of course). Information Retrieval is one of the domains that Google derives a lot of its core from. One of the important books in this area is Information Retrieval: Data Structures and Algorithms by Bill Frakes and Ricardo Baeza-Yates. The book uses Piet Mondrian's Composition in Brown and Gray on its cover. I am convinced that this, among other things, motivated Google's Mondrian tribute. With Picasso, I can't remember any such reference. Of course, this could all be a vain geeky exercise in conjecture and association.
toot ...toot...tootsie

We started watching Tootsie yesterday evening and there are good points to compare this with Mrs. Doubtfire, the like-themed Robin Williams vehicle. The transformation of Michael Dorsey to Dorothy Michaels is abrupt and the process employed is only detailed later. In the Williams film, however, the sequence of actions is reversed: I'm not sure which one works better, but Tootsie benefits from the potential reaction of surprise from the spectators as they see Dorothy Michaels for the first time, in New York traffic.

The cheesy "soapy" score mirrors the fact that Michael(s) is auditioning for (and later starring in) a soap opera. As for its viability outside the confines of the film -- sure, there are a lot of elevators in this country and overseas.

Pollack again rides his acting hobby horse by cameoing as Dorsey's agent, sharing some of the good lines in the film with Dustin Hoffman. Pollack's 1982 comedy got Jessica Lange a Supporting Actress (Actor: to be politically correct) Oscar.

The film ranked 82 in the AFI's list of the 100 funniest movies of all time.

on the way to being a collector

I made another trip to Texas Sari Sapné -- this time only to ogle at their collection of tapes. For a Bollywood B-movie junkie like me, titles like "Raiszaada" (Govinda), "Dost" (Mithun), "Bees Saal Baad" (the Raj Kumar Kohli remake with Mithun and Dimple), "Kudrat ka Kanoon",

Thursday, October 24, 2002

wada song (aka what a song!)

Thanks to the efforts of Renu I finally have a rough copy of a lost (yet famous) song of the 80s by the late R D Burman from an Anil Kapoor-Madhuri Dixit action vehicle called Hifazat. Starting off as an ode to the delectable batata vada the song employs all the 80s RDB trademarks: potentially unrelated phrases and oodles of electronica, mridangam and loops mixed together in a heady mix with conventional Bollywood violin sweeps and flourishes to burgeon into a duet about the unpredictability and inevitability of love. 'Nuff said.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

IM home

Mom and Dad finally got onto Yahoo! Messenger and we had our first family messaging session today. It's strange how other friends of mine and their families have been doing this (in addition to voice chats and webcams and Internet telephony) for so long while my family have stayed in touch purely by email and phone calls. Still, better late than never. My folks found this cool (who wouldn't) and the only things that prevent us from staying online chatting away are the time zone differences and the ISP billing back home (unlike the T1 and DSL/Cable modem connections at school or work that we all are used to here). Seventh heaven right now. And the few thousand keystrokes exchanged today have also had a more positive impact on my work. Am picturing myself in a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skies ...
music ... and the rest of a movie

I took time out in the evening to visit my guitar instructor Rick Burgess and he generously let me sit in for his Jazz Improvisation class for the evening. The song du soir was So What, the first cut off Miles Davis' 1959 jazz classic Kind of Blue. Everything he said made so much more sense now for some reason. Perhaps it's because I've been listening to a lot more jazz than before. Perhaps it's because I'm listening to the Miles Davis Quintet, 1965-68: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings.

Back home, I finished off my viewing of Arjun. This was not the Eros/B4U DVD, but an old "DVD Video" version, reflected by the lack of subtitles, a sparse menu (Play Movie, Song 1 Song 2, Song 3, Song4 ... yes I can see these guys doing the menus for Hum Aapke Hain Koun...) and some icky pixellation. In summation, though, they used a good source print (which must be expected for a 1985 film!). Once I get some time, I'll be able to type out my (unwelcome ?) comments on the film.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

music with crackles, HMV style

Got Manoranjan (1974)/Anamika (1973)/Paraya Dhan (1971) (EMI/CDF 120174) out for a listen and found another example of HMV's typical use of bad master sources (read scratched disused vinyl) to create a CD {That they completely missed the point of the digital advantages offered by a CD is fairly obvious}: crackles and signs of feeble sound abound on Paraya Dhan (another example). I also have this on tape (a combo with Anamika) and don't remember hearing any such aural unpleasantries on that one. This implies a thickening of the plot and adds more fuel to the theory that posits a complete lack of musical acuity in the recording industry in general, and HMV in particular.

Monday, October 21, 2002

a change of outlook

Just read a slashdot post about Mitch Kapor's Open Source Personal Information Manager (as part of the efforts of the Open Source Applications Foundation). Mitch uses a blog to provide news updates on this and other OSAF activities. Does this mean I'll finally have an alternative to Outlook? An extract from his blog post about this new PIM "... We are working with wxWindows/wxPython..." : Another reason to jubilate.
Sunday, October 20, 2002

Some Led Zeppelin, a handful of Star Trek TNG episodes and some of the music I had acquired over the last couple of days made up my time for the most part. I also got through the second half of Pukar (watch this space for more). The movie for the evening was Louis Malle's My Dinner with André. This overlong conversational movie will interest those with a philosophical bent and who don't mind watching a 110 minute long movie about two people talking. Some of the things they talk about are interesting, as are the two characters, and there's some Satie at the end of the film, but I don't think I'm going to watch this film again from start to finish, just little bits at a time. My emotions for the most part were reflected by the staff at the restaurant, who from time to time, indicate (sans dialogue) that these characters have overstayed their welcome at the hotel.

Saturday, October 19, 2002

Spent the day introducing some friends to Sona Imports ending up making a few purchases myself (my desi music binge is taking over my life)

* Kaisi Yeh Judaai (a compilation of songs apparently dealing with the pangs of separation)

* Voices (a collection of songs sung by a host of Hindi film music legends)

* Maachis

* The Ever Versatile Kishore Kumar

I also had the opportunity to visit Texas Sari Sapné {there's a photograph and brief description here}. The inner room of the store houses a modest collection of well-priced music with some good deals on both old and new music. Their tape collection is one of the best I have seen in this city so far (of course, I refer only to Hindi film music). Interestingly, they have trays for Bengali, Tamil and Telugu music as well. And I lost some more greens here:)

* Gurudev and other hits of 1992

* Gang (and a bonus CD of Love Birds)

* Daayra (a very underrated score by the much-maligned Anand-Milind)

* Manoranjan/Anamika/Paraya Dhan

* Parichay/Khushboo/Kinara

Pukar: Pre-intermission.

Friday, October 18, 2002

My trip to the Indian store got me two more rental DVDs: Pukar, this positions the Big B in the struggle to liberate Goa from the Portuguese (the other historical Bachchan effort was the Manmohan Desai migraine inducer Mard; and Arjun. I also picked up a compilation of Dharmendra hits titled Hum Bewafa, which includes the often-forgotten Morricone-influenced RDB song Raju Chal Raju from Azaad.

The movie to end the week was the howlarious gore-fest Bad Taste, which makes it both clear and unclear how Peter Jackson ended up helming The Lord of the Rings. The latter is also the reason the tongue-in-cheek blood-and-guts tale of four dimwits taking on a bunch of aliens who have decided on humans as the vital ingredient for their intergalactic food chain even made it to DVD. Watch this over dinner.

Friday, October 18, 2002

no more AOL CDs

This is the best thing I have read in a long time. Everyone living in the United States (and it would appear even abroad) has heard of AOL. Everywhere you go there's an AOL CD sporting a new version and offering you free hours: your mailbox, your trashcan, your landlord ... you get the picture. Two guys from California have decided to "make it clear to AOL that a lot of people actually do not want their CDs" and never "asked for" them in the first place. To back this mixed call for protection of the environment and one's privacy, they have been collecting CDs from AOL, and their subsidiaries Compuserve and Netscape. Their target is a million CDs. They then plan to drag the whole bundle over to the company's doorstep and, in their own words: "We're going to AOL and say, 'You've got mail". {slashdot post} {cnn article} {Official page for the No More AOL CDs Campaign}
anand hi anand ...

Thanks to the efforts of my friends Ashish and Aniruddha I finally received a package of RD Burman goodies in my mailbox yesterday, straight from India. The contents:

* Drohi/Palay Khan (tape)

* RD Burman: The Prince of Melody (a two-cassette compilation of BMG/CBS-owned scores from lost movies like Saweray Wali Gaadi, Anand aur Anand, Jeeva, Zameen Aasmaan, and Hum Dono (starring two Rajesh Khannas, which in case you didn't figure it out already, is much worse than two Dev Anands).

* Samundar/Zabardast (CD) {I'm still missing the add-on track aise na thukrao, which made it to the film only when Jaya Prada demanded a song for herself. Consequently, the delicious suno sitamgar never made it to the big screen}

* Jagir/Shatru (CD) {Jagir is a desi mix of westerns and the Three Musketeers. Shatru is a Rajesh Khanna as a cop vehicle}

Onward to the listening room.
double bill: the errant child and a deified victim of circumstances

I finally got done with Devata yesterday (the disarming theme is still running through my head). The film isn't a complete mainstream disaster. There are a few examples of good framing. Thankfully, the film also includes moments that merit my renting movies like this (Faced with the alternative of renting DVDs of the new releases instead, I would still stick with my preferences. A known evil is way better than an unknown gem). All I need is some time to type out my thoughts.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

the bright brrr ... continues today. I love this kind of weather, but that doesn't mean I stand unaffected. It's just a bracing refreshing change from summer and random rain. A lady at the bus station stared at me in horror and asked me about my lack of protective garments (she had a nice coat and sweater on, but they weren't doing too much good). I told her I dug this kind of weather. This brought a helpless smile on her face and my accent prompted the next question: Are you from London? (the justification of this question lies both in my accent as well as London's reputation for being cold and nasty). I replied telling her I was from India and the traces of British inflection and pronunciation were a result of the heritage left behind in the schooling by our once-rulers, the British Empire. She understood the references to places like Pune and Bombay and told me that she lived next door to Indian students. As it turns out, these were friends of mine from my former department. This encounter ended sadly and abruptly when both of us realized that the buses were running really late. She proceeded to another bus and I decided to walk to the train station. Coda inappropriata.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Bright Brrr...

is still what people in Atlanta are saying. However, what started off as a cloudy dark bleak day blossomed into a bright blue sky peppered with little shards of cloud. The temperature's a little nippy for the South 65 degrees F (that's 18 degrees C). The weather forecast predicts a drop in temperature (ostensibly at night), but that's not set in stone. Weather bureaus and stock markets seem thrive on intelligent speculation.
if I tell you i'll have to kill you: fighting the DMCA

The DMCA being the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. No, it is not a federal provision to protect people from inane boy bands and their facetiously titled albums of vacuous music. What the DMCA does is label the act of "circumventing" copyright protection systems as a crime. Since this largely corporate-backed, the anti-populist implications of the act are evident to the general public. They are immediately hilarious fodder for black comedy, but on closer examination you will find myriad issues to debate and ponder as well as challenge. Especially in the United States (aka the land of the 'free'). I just caught a post on slashdot about an article in The Register about a new RedHat kernel patch that cannot be explained to U.S. citizens or others in the U.S. because of DMCA restrictions. The "illegal" explanation is hosted at, a site created specifically to deal with these DMCA issues.

If the suits think the DMCA is the right way, they need to think again. Any good intentions behind the act are clearly overshadowed by the far-reaching consequences of its dictates. I just ran a DMCA search on Google and interestingly enough the first link on the results page is to the Anti-DMCA website. Apparently, a lot of people and webpages seem to agree that the DMCA is evil. Remember Dmitri Sklyarov?

a earful of jazz

Braving the rain, we made a trip to the Embry Hills branch of the Dekalb County Library to pick up a hold that I have eagerly awaited: Miles Davis Quintet, 1965-68: The Complete Columbia Studio Recordings, being the music from the five studio albums by the famous second Miles Davis quintet (with Herbie Hancock on piano) plus alternate takes and unreleased cuts. Rearranged in the order of sessions (as against the sequencing of the original albums), this is an essential set for lovers of jazz (especially post-bop modal jazz) complete with good packagingand liner notes packed with enough information to set the mind spinning.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002


is what people in Atlanta are saying right now ... with a temperature of 54 fahrenheit (that's 12 celcius) coupled with incessant showers against a bleak cloudy sky. So much for the Fall break that students at Georgia Tech were looking forward to...unless they're out of town.
Library haul

I visited the Atlanta Fulton Public Library yesterday evening and got myself a nice selection:

* Dot.con: The greatest story ever sold/John Cassidy {excerpt}

* Invention of morel; and other stories.../Adolfo Bioy Casares [Casares' obit] {This book is one of the unofficial influences on Last Year at Marienbad, which I had the pleasure of viewing on Sunday}

* I sing the Body Electric/Ray Bradbury {contents}

* Good Children Don't Kill/Louis Thomas

* We got rhythm: a Gershwin Songbook/André Previn and David Finck

Monday, October 14, 2002

Sunday, October 13, 2002

The Indian restaurant of choice for a lunch buffet was Kohinoor, close to Galaxy Cinema on Jimmy Carter Blvd. Interesting range, although nothing ground-breaking. The TV sets were tuned to B4U running First Love Letter (the second Manisha Koirala-Vivek Mushran film). What more can one ask for? Buffet and a B-movie to boot:).

Later in the afternoon, we attended a classical guitar recital by Peter Fletcher at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Decatur. This time around (I had been to his recital last year) it wasn't free and there was a good overlap with the playlist last year. Still it was a pleasure to listen to staples like Sunburst and Leyenda. Of course, like some of the other members of audience, I would have loved to hear Cavatina (the theme from The Deer Hunter).

On our way back, we stopped by Urvashi, a VHS/DVD rental place that also sells CDs and tapes. This was a friend's recommendation and boy, was it a good one. Found four little rarities (predominantly RD Burman, of course) lying in their stacks:

* Bade Dilwala/Zehreela Insaan

* Ishk Ishk Ishk/Manpasand

* Chalti ka Naam Gaadi/Padosan

* Raton ka Raja/Madhosh

Back home, I caught the first half of Devata. For the remotely interested, here are the DVD details and back cover synopsis.

DVD Details: Eros Entertainment/B4U DVD-E 167 Running Time: 146 Minutes/Color. Dolby Digital 4 Channel/ NTSC Format

N. N. Sippy's DEVATA

Produced by N. B. Sippy

Directed by S. Ramanathan

Music R. D. Burman

Starring Sanjeev Kumar, Shabana Azmi, Danny Denzongpa, Rakesh Roshan, Sarika

Tony is a village orphan who finds shelter under the wings of a parish priest Fr. Fernandes, who brings him up as his own son in the way so love, truth and tolerance. But Tony has a terrible temper and he is roused by the acts of injustice. Tony enjoys the friendship of an intensely loyal friend, Police Inspector Lawrence.

Tony is in love with a native belle, Lily, whom he marries but loses her in child-birth. He now showers all his love and devotion on his child Mary, who grows up in the living image of her mother. She goes to college where she falls in love with a play boy and losses her virginity and refuses to marry her. Tony goes to the boys house to persuade him to marry his daughter but on his refusal to do so Tony forcefully asks him to marry, but boy is brought to the church, he is found dead. Tony is arrested and sentenced for life, Fr. Fernandes dies and his daughter also committed suicide. But Tony escapes from the clutches of the law and returns years later as Tarun Kumar Gupta, but Inspector suspects the identity now becomes his shadow. He finds his daughter alive and with a lovely daughter but can't address his own daughter can't hear the word "papa" from her lips, can't even fondle her in his arms in a fatherly manner.

Chapter Index

1. cc/titles

2. tony and lily

3. song 1 - chand curake laya...

4. love marriage

5. lily's death

6. song 2 - jab ek kaza...

7. homecoming

8. inspector lawrence

9. song 3 - main to taare...

10. caught red-handed

11. unwitting murder

12. song 4 - main waqt ka mujrim...

13. sorrowful parting

14. tony escapes

15. arrival of vip

16. lawrence suspects

17. song 5 - kuch aise kismat wale...

18. fatherly affection

19. tony or tarun

20. song 6 - gulmahar gar tumhara...

21. marriage alliance

22. emotional meeting

23. confusion at wedding

24. tony reveals the truth

Did that sound familiar? Try Victor Hugo's classic Les Miserables.

More about Devata later. On to the main feature of the evening ...

Last Year at Marienbad is a mindblowing 1961 film from Alain Resnais (he that also made Hiroshima mon amour). There is no human way possible to describe or critique this film completely. The film rips apart all notions of classical narrative (linear or otherwise), blurs the boundaries of dream, fantasy and reality, time and space. Packed with luscious visuals encapsulating some of the best black and white framing I have seen, the film works off the rather simple premise of marital fidelity contrasting the unevenness and indecisiveness of the illicit relationship against symmetrical formal architecture, hedges set in geometrically symmetrical designs symmetrically aligning a perfect walk up to a perfect old-fashioned luxury hotel, opulent and symmetrical in every respect. Life and death are mere ideas cast into this filmic mix. Adding to this marvel of film are a game of 16 toothpicks/cards/matchsticks and theories on winning, compositions abounding in mirrors framing ambiguity to the point of despair and sequences that seem to presage movies as diverse as Reservoir Dogs. Besides, false realities are my favourite theme.

The film opened sans subtitles, which is the most irritating part about enterprises like this. The gothic organ music and the unintelligible French aural barrage seemed funereal... almost what the director must have intended. Perhaps I should watch this film without subtitles the next time. In fact, it's probably a better idea to do so...


Last Year at Marienbad: An Intertextual Meditation by Thomas Beltzer.

DVD review

Saturday, October 12, 2002

A movie...and another movie.

First up, a standard ghisa-pita (read: worn and tattered) Sanjay Dutt vehicle Sarphira from Khaitan Productions. This film has all the classic ingredients of a Bollywood B-movie: family strife, high-strung emotions, action, songs, terrible acting, deadbeat dialogue. The list is endless. As respite, here's the synopsis verbatim off the back of the DVD cover (which reminds me: this is a Baba Digital DVD, and they do a great botch job as one has come expect from them. Their runtime pan-and-scan algorithm to bring the cinemascope version of the film to the small screen deserves a patent.):

DVD Details: 150 minutes. Colour.

Khaitan Productions Sarphira with English subtitles (which, to borrow a phrase, constitute 'a hoot and a holler')

A mother's love is more valuable and sweeter than anything else in this world - but too much of it can completely ruin your child's life.

SARPHIRA - is the story of one such family. The father is a judge and following his footsteps is one son who becomes a lawyer and another son becomes a police investigator. But the son who is loved and pampered by the mother grows up to be a criminal. People call him SARPHIRA - But is he really so?

The movie for the night was Woody Allen's black-and-white ode to New York, Jazz, Jewish humour and sex jokes Manhattan. Don't get me wrong. The use of a diegetic neon sign for the title is very good (and something non-Allen-esque, since the credits of all Woody Allen films are presented the same way: the same white font against a stark black background with jazz music to accompany them). There are some good jokes too, but overall it's just a typical Woody Allen film without any of the bizarre strokes that he employed in Annie Hall.

Friday, October 11, 2002

A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all Heaven in a rage.

Significant lines from our post-dinner movie for the week: The second version of Thomas Harris' chilling novel Red Dragon, this time retaining the name of the source novel. The last time they adapted this novel, Michael Mann was forced to retitle his flick Manhunter, thanks to producer Dino de Laurentiis' superstitious aversion for the word "dragon" after Year of the Dragon flopped. The original adaptation merely used the novel as a seed for a designer thriller. Trivia mongers will note that the exterior of Hannibal Lektor's (yes, that's how they spelt his name in that film) prison is the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia. So on to the 2002 version. First off, it's technically a prequel, so all brickbats meant for prequels may apply here, except the source novels were always in sequence.

While Hannibal Lector rose in importance as the trilogy progressed, the focus of the novels also changed. We have three principals: Hannibal (H), the Investigator (I) being Will Graham or Clarice Starling and the psychopath (K) being William Dolarhyde or Jame Gumm. In this respect, here's how the relations of importance stand (a > b: means a is more important than b)

red dragon: K > I > H
the silence of the lambs: I > H > K
hannibal: H {Clearly no one else but Italy had any business being in this suck-up fest for Hannibal Lecter that also warped completely the character we knew as Clarice Starling. Character development is one thing, but desperate inexplicable character switches are a different ballgame}.

Back to Red Dragon. First off, let me say I wasn't as disappointed as I was prepared to be. The movie is entertaining. As a keen reader of the trilogy and a fan of the original (with all its overt designer chic and flaws), I did have some reservations. Then there were some other complaints that are purely those of a film goer: for instance, what in the name of all that is sacred was Harvey Keitel doing there? It's one of the worst written and helplessly rendered performances I have seen from an actor as established as Mr. Keitel. Although the dialogue (directly) derives its meat from the source novel, the talented[sic] director of such powerful works of film as the Rush Hour series and The Family Man, Brett Ratner makes evident his inability to mature beyond the standard mindless thriller action flick. It's quite painful to see Keitel struggle with inept dialogue and characterisation. It's also sickening to watch Edward Norton perform so ably on screen, yet fail to capture the Will Graham of the book -- a profiler struggling to control a very horrifying gift -- he can empathize with the fiends he is profiling. In the book, Graham's thoughts are easily presented in the print medium as he walks through the crime scenes. In the film, he mutters and mumbles (a la Sly Stallone) into a pocket recorder. Sorry, I refuse to buy this. IMHO, it adds an element of cockiness to the character of Graham, which was absent in the book.

There are the obvious liberties that the film takes in adapting the book to the screen. The dead body in Dolarhyde's destroyed house is that of Ralph Mandy, the man who threatens his only healthy relationship in this life, that with Reba McClane. In the book, he's just an off-screen (or off-print) minor character -- a gas station attendant. Also glossed over is the tension in the married life of the Grahams when Graham is forced to return to his job as profiler. The makers also add a pre-credit sequence based on material hinted at in the books detailing Hannibal's capture by Agent Graham. It's a little interesting to see Hopkins with a ponytail, but that is but a brief moment. Hopkins chews as much scenery as he is afforded (which thankfully isn't overly too much, but more than in the book), while Ralph Fiennes gets to chew a Blake painting. Fiennes comes out with the best performance in the film (which is something I would expect. Dolarhyde is the focus of the novel, making this an author-backed role). Everything with him in it has an edgy menace that is unsettling. Anything Hannibal says now is like the one-liners that Bond muttered through the late pale entries in the Bond saga -- expected, humourous yet vacuous. Danny Elfman's music echoes all his work with Tim Burton.

Technically, the film is a joy: The well-lit interiors and compositions of Dolarhyde's house, the opening credits (which although not groundbreaking are adequate), the sound. All in all, recommended for a once-view. Not the movie event it's made out to be, although like Hannibal, it's ruling the box office right now.

The previews included one for the second LOTR film, a reminder of how strange the choice of Peter Jackson (who made the wonderful Bad Taste and Braindead) was for the first film (which went on to rock the Box Office and the Oscars).

Personal note: Need to watch LOTR I on DVD and catch The Two Towers when it comes out ... a visual spectacle is guaranteed for all.

Related: Red Dragon rocks the UK box office

Friday, October 11, 2002

sorry in love

Ms. Manisha Koirala {remember the little tale of lost love?} apologized to the Bombay High Court to going over their heads to the Shiv Sena about her tiff with Nair. As a coda, the judge decided that the 'objectionable' scenes were integral to the film and deserved to stay. Guess it's a field day for people who harbour desires to ogle at overweight out-of-shape actresses with issues. And then there was Agni Varsha...

a Big Birthday...and an elusive critic resurfaces

Splashed over the front pages of the electronic editions of the leading Indian newspapers (and tabloids) is the news of commercial Hindi cinema's biggest icon Amitabh Bachchan turning 60. {TOI: swinging sixty, TOI: a journey in photos, Rediff: Everybody wants him to be Amitabh Bachchan, The Hindu: Amitabh turns 60}. Look closely at the article on Rediff titled you don't know where you stand with him and you'll notice it's by everyone's favourite desi Waldo Lydecker (don't know what I'm talking about?) turned screenwriter turned director Khalid Moham(m)ed. Forced by the failure of his directorial début Fiza {Planet Bollywood's review} to retreat into the shadows, Mr. M also lost his cynicism (guess his words weren't a very delectable dish), besides vanishing from the general print circles (apart from being the editor of Filmfare)

To celebrate this occasion, little wife Jaya Bachchan has released a coffee-table book titled To Be Or Not To Be {aah the corn}, with contributions by every member of the Bachchan family and a long interview (catch the link above) and analysis of the Big B's career by Khalid Mohamed.

and what better gift could he ask for than to see his son Abhishek (as an actor, a pale copy of his father, minus any visible potential) get engaged into the Kapoor family (to Karisma Kapoor). The biggest film family in Bollywood unites with the biggest superstar of Bollywood ... what can we expect? Stay tuned for an undocumented episode of Star Trek: Where No Talent Has Gone Before.

This event also merits a mention on Rick McGinnis' MovieBlog, which refers to him as the Burt Lancaster of Bollywood. An interesting comparison there. I'd have to study Mr. Lancaster's career more closely to even begin to comment on that, but the variety of roles he has essayed to success both in the mainstream and non-mainstream sections) may prove to be a useful indicator.

October 18, 2002: Sensational 60

Incidentally, Madame Rekha (the big B's unofficial extra-marital flame) celebrated her birthday yesterday. Not many people noticed, I guess...

On a sad note, veteran actress Dina Pathak passed away at the age of 82 late today IST. I'll always remember her as the elusive Mrs. Srivastav squeezing herself into the kitchen of the Sharmas through an open window in Gol Maal. {filmfare tribute: requires a free registration}

Thursday, October 10, 2002

The Lennon Peace Prize

Commemorating John Lennon's birthday and his commitment ('Give Peace a Chance') to peace, Yoko initiated a new prize at the UN. The first recipients were Palestinian visual artist Khalil Rabah and Israeli artist Zvi Goldstein.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Happy Birthday John

Today is John Lennon's 62nd birthday. As an ironic coincidence, his killer Mark David Chapman was denied parole yet again.

Welcome to India

Chris just pointed me to Welcome to India, a desi spoof on Welcome to Atlanta by Ludacris, by two Indian students studying in the US. The page also both the song and the lyrics to help you follow this South-Indian laugh riot. What they miss in clever rhymes and timing, they make up for with outrageous lyrics. kundi, by the way, is the Malayalam word that would translate to booty, the ubiquitous muse of most rap and hip-hop. The word means something completely different in Hindia. If you know what, you must have already figured out why some scenes in Hindi cinema send Keralites rolling on the floor in fits of laughter. 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

The South Asian Writers Group met again yesterday evening. We had some interesting poems, some subtly abstract and others weaving a rich web of poignant images.

After everyone disbanded, Chris and I drove to one of the outlets of Donatos Pizza (which for those not in the know, as I was, happens to be owned by McDonald's). We reached the place around 9:30pm and they had closed their indoor service early for lack of customers. We were forced to order a takeout (the coupon we had was a minor consolation), but had sodas on the house as consolation. Their Mariachi Chicken Pizza, which is what we ordered, is quite interesting: It's topped with sliced chicken breast with jalapeno peppers, sliced tomatoes, provolone, their own Mariachi Spice and a sprinkling of cheddar with sour cream on the side. Quite an interesting combination, and it made for a good change from the run-of-the-mill one-taste-fits-all pizzas dished out by Tech neighbours Papa Johns.

The meeting earlier today set me thinking about writing poetry. My cynicism makes for a poor match for the sensibilities required to write poetry (as Chris was kind enough to bluntly point this out:). However, I managed to strike gold with some atrocious verse, which I am glad to present below. Feel free to dismiss them as tripe, or pause to ponder deep hidden meanings.


A constant whirring
as the detergent unites with
the water washing over
ceramic and steel
supported on erect nodules
on a wirebasket
stoic as the waves of the centrifuge
raise a cleansing hell

The dripping continues
like the tinkling keys of a piano
cleansing cadences
sweeping suds
Clearly I'm going nowhere with this


Uniform and variegated
the garrulous packaging
of morning cereal
sharing the ubiquitous shopping cart
with a member of the cleaning mafia
shaped like a buxon belle
with a handle to boot
If only the cashier would hurry up

Eulogy for Arts and Letters Daily

Chris introduced me to Arts and Letters Daily {veritas odit moras}, an intellectual's filter to news and articles on the Internet, run from

Arts & Letters Daily

University Business, LLC

135 Madison Ave., 4th Floor

New York, NY 10016.

Today, however, is a sad day. Chris just told me that they died. Here's the message off the main page:

The magazine Lingua Franca and its parent company University Business LLC filed for bankruptcy earlier this year (Trustee, Robert L. Geltzer, of Tendler, Biggins & Geltzer, 1556 Third Avenue, Suite 505, New York, NY 101128). We understand that the assets of University Business, including this Website, are to be auctioned in New York City on October 24, 2002. For further information, we suggest contacting the Trustee.

Since the filing, Arts & Letters Daily has been kept afloat by the goodwill of its editors, Tran Huu Dung and Denis Dutton, and it is now time for them to move on. They will continue to supply content on other similar sites with which they are associated: SciTech Daily Review; Denis Dutton�s Philosophy & Literature site; Business Daily Review. Human Nature Review has fine science reporting, Arts Journal is our favorite for arts news, and Google News is invaluable for newspapers and magazines.

Another Internet staple bites the dust. The madness continues ...

Monday, October 07, 2002

has PageRank deteriorated?

That's the question that has plagued a few bloggers, as Wired magazine reports. PageRank is DEAD is the credo on Webmaster World.
Return to the South ... and some neo-realism

Sunday, October 06, 2002

My final day in Boston is marked only by a scenic drive back to the airport. I have now seen the Charles River from either end. What is also interesting is that on the way to the airport, just before the tunnel, the old Boston settlements fall to your left, while the new modern constructions fall to your right. The tunnel ride is quite interesting, but I'm sure for people who drive to and from the airport will find that the thrill has gone a long time ago.

It's funny how return journeys seem longer. My cold meant that my ears took a beating as the air pressure changed during landing: pinching my nose and directing a blow out fixed that problem with a pair of welcome 'pops'. And I also suffered momentarily from what they refer to in Pune as ardhee-sheeshi, a condition where a headache is localised only to one half of your head. Luckily, by the time I got off the plane, I was much better, but still tired enough to drop off periodically on the train home.

The coda for the evening after dinner was de Sica's classic neo-realist The Bicycle Thief. It's a moving film, and the influence on the great Indian film directors like Satyajit Ray, Bimal Roy and Guru Dutt is quite evident.

Saturday, October 05, 2002

hawa yeh prabhati ...

A wonderful Lata solo composed by RDB for Shubh Kaamna, another K Vishwanath exercise with Rakesh Roshan playing the "washed in milk" (non-Indians may miss this reference: think of it as the epitome of goodness/milk of human kindness ...) hero who helps everyone (played by Rati Agnihotri at the very least) in need. That started the day (well, afternoon, actually, since we had such a late night).

Friday, October 04, 2002

Lili follows me to Boston

... but it's still a great city!

I finally met Renu and Neeraj, ex-RMIMers and friends on the Pancham group. We met online a few months ago and have since exchanged loads of information and music. They have been great hosts and their music collection is to die for (ClichéMeter running wild).

Dinner tonight has been at The Kebab Factory ("Indian [cuisine] with a twist", said Neeraj and that's a very apt description). Great place set smack in the wonderfully quaint and chain store-free Cambridge downtown. The kabaabs are great and there are enough intriguing menu items that encourage repeat visits. R and N have been faithful patrons and I benefitted from the star treatment.

The evening was also punctuated by a surprise run-in with Ketan, another member of the Pancham group, who had been kind enough to provide me with a tape recording of the missing qawaali from Sholay.

Post-dinner, we spent a long (and I mean long: try 5 am as bed time) night listening to and discussing RDB's music -- especially rarities I had never heard before. What better way to wind up a week.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Off to Boston

Yes, I'm flying to Logan Airport, Boston. That marks another entry in my rather small list of places visited in the United States. Of course, I can claim a larger list of airports visited (thank god for flight stops). Since it's US Airways, Pittsburgh (which was my stop the last time I flew US Airways) was the first city that came to mind, and I was right.
Back to Sona

Have been running a terrible cold for the last couple of days and the sad thing is it's not even raining. With a heavy head and aching throat, I made another trip to Sona Imports. Got a handful, but the lack of any new rarities is a little depressing.

* Shraddhanjali to Pancham

* Mahaan/Giraftaar

* {coming soon}

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

film reading

Thanks to the Spragues and the Emory Library I have fresh reading:

* Guru Dutt: A Life in Cinema/Nasreen Munni Kabir

* The Essential Mystery: The Major Filmmakers of Indian Art Cinema/John W. Hood

Lunch from the "nicest staff in Atlanta"

Just had lunch with Vivek, Mahesh and Gautam at Satay Ria. Good food and a decent price, and nice service. The only place where the service actually takes the time out to ask a separate question about who wants ice in their water and who doesn't. And also the only place where the service is not confused by multiple cards and takes the time to arrange them correctly.

Lata laments ...

On the eve of her 73rd birthday, erstwhile nightingale of India Lata Mangeshkar expressed her dismay at the state of the nation and of music today in an interview with Subhash K. Jha. When asked about the quality of music these days she says: Is it really music? In my opinion, what's being made these days isn't really music. Actually we don't even have many music directors. Earlier, there were so many distinguished names who thought deeply about their music. They had the time and the inclination. . This from the person who continues to present one hackneyed glass-shattering banshee ballad after another ... And yes, she has something to say about the Truth Hurts affair too, but don't expect an interesting point of view.
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