Monday, June 30, 2003

AUZAAR: a weapon of doofus destruction

Sohail Khan's Auzaar is a very strong reason why Salim Khan's scion should be shipped lock, stock and barrel to the cold Tundra. Add to that a shipment of nonessentials of the Kapoor family tree (all the granddaughters of Raj Kapoor, all brothers of Anil Kapoor). The money invested in this film could have been better spent in more useful causes as mundane as free lunches for months, or as noble as the Gujarat Relief Fund. The film glorifies stupidity and is proud to do so. (Oh by the way, add the Shetty sub-tree to the shipment as well).
Malik also manages to elevate Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's Mishra Khamaj allah hoo to new levels of buffoonery.

Sunday, June 29, 2003


After just under 3 years in the US of A, I got a chance to play carrom yesterday evening. I can honestly say I wasn't so bad, especially given that I haven't been playing for over 6 years now. Good fun. And a lot of boric acid powder.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

charcoal chicken

Despite a brief shower and the constant threat posed by overcast clouds, we attempted a meat-of-all-kinds barbecue. The bacon survived, the beef died a horrible fiery death but the chicken ruled the roost (raucous laughter at bad pun). And then there was the usual malt and madiraa, but having had no part to play in it, my reactions are third-party and vicarious.

Friday, June 27, 2003

an interesting way to find a job... {courtesy: Vivek}

Get someone else to do it for you ... and offer them an incentive.
a 3D parrot, a 2D dog, 2 brainless hunks, one ghastly woman, and a business-wise production family (did I mention that both hunks were called Prem?)

Need we mention that dark cloud that engulfes our silver lining? It's called Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon (aka MPKDH) and it's hitting theatres today. Typical to their tradition, the Barjatyas have come up with another innovation to draw audiences to see this atrocious movie: they've reduced admission rates. Someone should pelt them with CDs of Anu Malik's Eyes for this: after all, they were the ones who pioneered a hike in admission rates for Hum Aapke Hain Koun (HAHK).

While a lot of attention goes into guessing who gets Kareena in the end (like we all care!!!), perhaps the rumour that it borrows (just as HAHK borrowed merrily from Nadiya ke Paar, an old Rajshri production) from yet another old Rajshri production called Chitchor (yeah, sacrilege, what?) should help the discussion. And of course, you need more reason to stay away till DVD/VHS, Sukanya Verma is inclined to agree.

To be fair to the Rajshris though, they've had an impressively varied production list. And they also gave us Ravindra Jain... hmm, perhaps I should reconsider my niceness.

Great review of the insipid (imho) music from Anu Malik.

BTW, in case you didn't notice it, Sooraj KB has a fetish for the name Prem {Salman's character in all three of Sooraj's previous movies was called Prem}. And the fact that he now has TWO leading dudes with that name reeks of insecurity.

news news news

The untiring and tiresome /dev/anand has announced another film (where does he get the money to make these samples of celluloid waste anyways? why not just donate that money to a worthy cause?) called Songs of Life. Although Mr Anand has vehemently denied any connection to Ravi Shankar and his offspring sired by invocation of local and remote interfaces (Anoushka and Nora respectively) (yes, I'm neck-deep into J2EE!), the basic storyline rings too close to Shankar's life in that it has a musician father, an American wife and a daughter born out of wedlock. Dev Saahab, however, insists that he has immense respect for the maestro and did not want to hurt his sentiments (that loud echoing sound is me laughing down a long long gothic tunnel).

Had the late Rahul Dev Burman been alive today, he would have turned a wonderful 64. While Jhankaar Beats, a better tribute (soundtrack-wise) than Dil Vil Pyar Vyar, but still a so-so effort, idles in box-office doldrum (although it's restricted release seems to have worked), the man who was the inspiration behind it continues to draw more and more fans -- and, unfortunately, more and more vultures who attempt to palm off his stuff mixed with dhin-chak synthesizers and semi-clad mud-drenched women and men indulging in libidinal family-oriented manoeuvres. And then they are unapologetic about it too.

{what did I do last year?}.

What others had to say: from the Indian Express (in the wake of Jhankaar Beats and its 100% returns)

Thursday, June 26, 2003

what adsense do I make? ... and some poor math

The Google Weblog allows you to see what ads AdSense thinks are relevant to your page. Here's the adsense I made. The results are neither pleasant nor enlightening: here's a text dump:

A load of bollocks: A new spoof newspaper on the web ! What do you want to believe today?

Far Side of the EarthPoems By Tom Sleigh. $15.40: 30% off.

Benders Magnetic Figures: Plastic coated wire characters with magnets in their hands and feet.

John Paul Jones: Buy Evan Thomas' book Now at 30% off. associate

Play Like Paul Simon: His songs arranged for fingerstyle guitar. 90 minute video $ 29.95.

Do Aur Do Paanch: The Big B's first release of the 80s (a big FLOP too!) has him sparring opposite Shashi Kapoor and vying for the attentions of Parveen Babi. People probably remember the cartoon sequences accompanying the opening credits showcasing the rivalry of the lead characters. The things that stand out in this boring mess (how long can you sustain the high concept of people trying to kidnap a wealthy man's only son?) are Rajesh Roshan's music (including RR himself singing for Shashi Kapoor!), interestingly photographed fight sequences between the Big B and Shashi K, and some outrageous fast-car sequences (featuring the Big B) -- was that an old Cadillac?

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

friday night

it's here again ladies and germs ... friday evening ... when people hit the beer jugs and chill out after a week of hard[sic] work. As for me, I retired to something I do a lot (and love doing): watch a movie on cable. This one was Piranha, a predictable B-horror flick about genetically re-engineered piranha (to be used in bio warfare, predictably). With that kind of a plot, the only person who could do justice to it was Roger Corman, the King of the Bs. Impressive credentials here: In addition to Barbara Steele (queen of the Bs) and Kevin McCarthy (they're here! they're here!) on the roster, there's John Sayles with a writing credit and Joe Dante directing with Pino Donaggio providing the eerie score. All in all, good fun, no questions asked.
i18n java

If the hindi/urdu literary world were to focus its attentions on java and all things thereof, would jar files be referred to as martabaans and enterprise archive files as kaans?
yet another jaunt to the library

After having enjoyed Mr Arkadin recently, I walked over to the Ws in the fiction section and was overjoyed to find a copy of the source novel. Add to that two more Sherlock Holmes homages from Nicholas Meyer, The West End Horror and The Canary Trainer. Hope they're as entertaining as his first effort The Seven Per-Cent Solution, which I bought last year. There's also a tribute to Duke Ellington featuring Wynton Marsalis.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

ebay seer II

*TEESRI MANZIL great Bollywood garage funk DVD:Here's one DVD that I thought also listing in the LP section would do justice. This is a superb Indian movie from 60s that's just gorgeous by all terms! This is one of those rare Indian rock'n'roll movies with superb Indian go-go dance scenes and crazy surf-meets-Indian-music-meets-rock type of craziness. Exciting theme and 158 minutes of adventure-meets-comedy and music type of fun. English subtitles. I've to be honest: I really viewed this only once, it is completely mint! NTSC format. Music by R.D. Burman and it's one hell of a monster! Highly recommended! (note: this is no cheap-copy DVD's floating around on eBay. This is a factory made REAL and ORIGINAL DVD!)

*YAADON KI ... great Bollywood psych funk DVD:Here's one DVD that I thought also listing in the LP section would do justice. This is a superb Indian movie from 1973 that's just gorgeous by all terms! This is one of those rare Indian rock'n'roll movies with superb Indian go-go dance scenes and crazy psych-meets-Indian-music-meets-rock type of craziness. Exciting theme and 154 minutes of adventure-meets-comedy and music type of fun. English subtitles. I've to be honest: I really viewed this only once, it is completely mint! NTSC format. Music by R.D. Burman and it's one hell of a monster! Highly recommended! (note: this is no cheap-copy DVD's floating around on eBay. This is a factory made REAL and ORIGINAL DVD!)

mr arkadin: here's to character

More details and trivia in The Essential Orson Welles and the Wellesnet page.

Monday, June 23, 2003

movie-o-rama (being a consolidation of activities over a wonderfully bright and sparkling weekend)

Friday, June 20, 2003

Joe Queenan's rants in the supercynical Red Lobster, White Trash and the Blue Lagoon added an alternative angle to our choice for Friday lunch: Red Lobster. No complaints about the food -- but then, it's just my first time. The porphyrous aquatic-themed shirts (part of the uniform there) are quite distracting, though.

The movie for the Friday night movie, madira and chicken fest was Andaaz, a premier example of filmmaking in the pits. And this movie is actually a hit back home ... why am I surprised? The only reason I can see for a lot of people (minus the NRI desh-premii parivaars) even hitting the theatres is to ogle at Madames Universe (make that uni-worse!) and World respectively Lara Dutta (read: Duh!) and Priyanka Chopra (last seen in The Hero). The former hogs the first half of the film and the latter infests the SSH (Sagging Second Half). The standard dhin-chak dumbass music comes from hit chartbusting composer duo Nadeem Shravan (composing via RPC these days, thanks to Nadeem's alleged[sic] involvement in the death of Gulshan Kumar). If the only performance you remember in a film is Johnny Lever's (playing a cook called G I Joe married to an unfaithful wife --- basically an extended spin of his irritating turn in Baazigar), then you know you are in trouble. Having the fast-forward facility helps with so many songs teeming in this marshy mess. Even before the grown-up versions of the threesome show up, the film already doffs its hat to movies as diverse as Forrest Gump (the child version of Akshay Kumar, goaded by the child version of Lara Dutta into roller skating to escape some bachchaa goons, loses his crutches -- shades of SAAJAN -- and makes a miracle-drenched first effort! -- run Forrest run, becomes bhaag Raj bhaag. Right! Don't even get me started on the story (or whatever post-apocalyptic soup they dished out) or the dialogues. Ugh! Even the character attribute that Raj likes model airplanes and wants to be a pilot, and grows up to eventually become one adds no value whatsoever to the proceedings.

Despite the promised ogle-fest, the complete lack of any shard of acting ability combined with some grimace-laden facial expression kits seemed to have the opposite effect on me {more on the nation's fetish for beauty}. For a n effulgently positive review, hit Yahoo!. Prerna Singh Bindra seems more realistic in Hot bods turn on Bollywood box-office fire for the Daily Pioneer: Two of the most beautiful women in the world, Miss Universe Lara Dutta and Miss World Priyanka Chopra, have, in their hot pants, delivered a full opening for Suneel Darshan's Andaaz. Says trade analyst and Box Office editor, Vinod Mirani, "The film opened to full houses in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and drew 80 per cent initials in Mumbai. I can't remember the last time a film did that." Such is the buzz in the market about the girls' bare-all dresses, that its thin story line, fumbling treatment and male lead Akshay Kumar are forgotten. Except in the critics' columns, one of whom called Andaaz "a strip to nowhere."

And then as if this was all not enough, there was Chalte Chalte playing back home. To say that the movie is a complete waste of time and resources might be being polite. This is Shah Rukh Khan's version of the Saathiya genre of films: post-marital strife. If you adore SRK or Rani Mukherjee (whose voice makes her the prime contender for 'Demi Moore of Hindi Cinema') you'll probably stomach the tripe and mush dished out in gallons. The songs go from pleasant to monotonous (a penchant of composer duo Jatin Lalit) and are mostly intrusions. SRK continues to hone his hamming skills, and despite having chewed everything including the scenery in Devdas, he still can't act drunk for nuts -- he still continues to ape Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan, adding his own flavour[sic] to his interpretations. There are glimmers of brand names throughout (Castrol, in a very explicit way, and Pepsi too, --- or was it Nescafé?). About the only scene of merit (imho) is a domestic squabble that stays as a serious argument instead of breaking down into semi-comical farce like the other scenes (what was SRK thinking ???). And most of the supporting characters are given thankless roles -- Johnny Lever can be edited out for the most part, Satish Shah moves into and out of the woodwork. The climactic predictable sequence at the airport is an assault on common sense and a mockery of airport security (things cannot be this lax!). And yes, the penchant for people in the movie to fly to Athens, Greece at the drop of a hat is rather irritating.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Another music acquisition: Jahan Tum Le Chalo. Nivdung and nostalgia.
Sunday, June 22, 2003

Apne Dam Par, Supari {catch Subhash K. Jha's effulgent review while I get my act together}, Aali Angaavar, Padosan, The Fast and the Furious.

Friday, June 20, 2003

ebay friday

your ebay seer is back.

* Hum Kisise Kum Naheen.Instrumental FUNKY INDIAN OST: Classic funky soundtrack by Rahul Dev Burman with a great colourfull gatefull cover that folds open in the middle. 'Bachna ae Haseeno' has the funkiest intro ever, and is a whole instrumental in itself. Groovy brass section and a spacey Miles Davis Solo. 'Chand Mera Dil' is introduced by weird weird keyboards and equally weird trumpet, which sets pace for a psychedelic Indian tuned percussion beat. Again an instrumental in itself! R.D. Burman's Moog goes wild in the intro of 'Mil Gaya Ham Ko Saathi. Listen to some excerpts of these intro's on our site! This album has loads of samples & breaks and an incredible fat sound too!! .

* USHA IYER - Usha sings - INDIA : Early seventies album by USHA IYER. Track listing: Beautiful Sunday, When you Smile, If We Try, Never Never Never, Touch me in the mroning, Seasons in the Sun, No Tears, I believe in Music, Losing my Mind. When a woman falls in love. Most remarkable titel: jezehel.

* Usha Iyer BOMBAY jazz Lounge Legendaric LP by the Indian Jazz Diva Usha Iyer. Fab LP, with an unique loungy jazz atmosphere Indian style. Not a perfect copy, nevertheless a nice change to listen to it. With Fever half in French half in English! Great version! 2 tracks accompanied by the Indian beat combo "The Savages" ( Calefornia Dreaming, Midnight Hour) and 10 tracks accompanied by the Ronnie Menezes Quartet (Fever, Left my heart in san Fransisco, Bye Bye Brown Eyes, Big Spender, To Sir with love, Sunny, Blue Prelude, Hurry Sundown, Scotch & Soda, Taste of Honey)

* Erick Sermon & Redman ORIGINAL BOLLYWOOD sample LP: REACT:Hey, check this out! The originalBollywood soundtrack LP that Erick Sermon & Redman used for their hit REACT. This is from the 1963 TAJ MAHAL Bollywood movie, and the sample is of the voice of Asha Boshle. Many early 60's movies were never issued on LP or 7", this is the first edition on LP, from 1979.

* FUNKY INDIAN OST- Hera Pheri:Incredibly funky TITLE TUNE a heavy AFRO FUNK groover by the brothers by KALYANDJI/ANADJI. Great track with hordes of elephants instead and many hypnotized cobras as well.

* rare Bollywood 60's stomper GUMNAAM :The greatest, hardest rockin' 60's Bollywood track ever? Jan Pechechan Ho rocks the house! Crazy horns, Animal drummer, devastating beat. Meet Shankar Jaikishan, in case you weren't aware yet: they are the unchallenged kings of Indian 60's R&R. Also on this LP: a the unearthly beautiful, light and sexy duet between Sharda & Rafi: Jane Chaman Shola Badan.

* Bossa lounge Moog Bollywood OST: Seeta Aur Geeta R.D. BurmanAlbum with an amazing Burman Bossa Nova. One of the most beautiful Hindi songs around, with a relaxed jazzy mood & hauntingly beautifull vocals by Mme Mangeshkar. Great instrumental Hammond parts, jazzy saxophone and fender solos. And, of course: addicting Hindi violins. The Bonus: no less then 3 instrumentals! The majority of Indian Soundtracks contain -unfortunately- no instrumental music from the background score. Some do, and contain a 'Title Music', 'Dance Music' or simply 'Music' track. Look out for those albums! Seeta aur Geeta does. It even contains three! Composed by Burman, and that means a lot of inventive and uncommon tuned percussion and a whole series of musical gimmicks. So, what do we have here? Bombastic Film-Violins, crazy & happy organs, psychedelic moog sounds, punk Tijuana Brass, hysteric panting by the master himself, surf guitars, one-cent flutes, sirenes, indefinable bells, heavy tuba's. An overdose of sounds which would take any Western healthy artist about 5 albums to cover but is digested by Burman within 5 minutes. Both the 1st and 2nd 'Music' are top hits, incredible strange, funny & nr 2 also very danceable track. And with panting by the master RDB himself! Check it this Out! Odeon 1972, MOCE 4165.

* Bollywood JUNGLE MOVIE Bappi Lahiri TARZAN Can you imagine? Back in the 60's there was a very popular explotation genre in india called 'TARZAN MOVIES'. To mention a few titles: Tarzan & King Kong, Tarzan & Gorilla, Tarzan & Hercules, Tarzan & Delihah, Tarzan in Fairyland, Tarzan comes to Delhi, Tarzan 303, Tarzan & Circus (!)

In the early 80's the Tarzan genre was rediscovered with films like 'Jungle Love (love adventures of a tarzan) and 'Tarzan'. It was the perfect excuse for a plentitude of wet sari's under waterfalls and snake bites legitamiting deep toe-sucking. Put TARZAN or JUNGLE in the title and you were asured of a public hundred of thousands of country-side boys in seedy C-grade cinema's. This is the absolute bottom of Bollywood, shot is 7 days on a budget of $10.000. And of course there was Bappi to complete the whole thing eagerly! (Remember: he scored OVER THREE HUNDERED films).

The soundtrack to this underrated movie falls probably more in the category REMARKABLE soundtracks than that it is necessiraly a GOOD one. The opening track of side A is called "TARZAN, MY TARZAN" and is acyually a COUNTRY tune (Yes, this is Bollywood: you NEVER know what you're going to get).

Opening track of side B is, let's say 'CONTEMPORARY EXOTICA'. An abstract beat with these typical jungle drums, and Tarzan is doing his stereotypical cry. When the song starts you hear somebody trying to imitate a LION but who ends up imitating a PIG. Also a SEMI-ELEPHANT and a couple of other semi-inhabitants of the Jungle. There is even a JUNGLE-DUCK. They will continue to scream there blood stirring cries while the JANE-girl sings her innocent song. Right.

When you think you had EVERYTHING it gets even worse. The Jane starts to teach the Tarzan. Because that's what a Jane is supposed to do: civilize Tarzan. And she does, she teaches him the alphabeth. SINGING! Get into your bunker, quickly!

And look at the cover! A very skillful photo-montage. The out-of-focus Tarzan is actually tickling the tiger's ear. One elephant fell on it's nose, the other one is happily running like a doggy towards his master Tarzan to greet him. The Jane is above in the waterfall of which the water somehow refuses to come down. So the lion, the tigers and the Tarzan keep their feet dry! Also the back cover has enough to offer: Tarzan cries the track-listing for us. Alltogether a real collectable. 1985.

* nude TARZAN cover BOLLYWOOD OST JUNGLE-LOVE Spectacular Bollywood cover with a Tarzan and a half nude Jane. And the unimagible is the case: the NIPPLES of the JANE are CLEARLY VISIBLE. In extremely PRUDISH India we thought this to be completely IMPOSSIBLE: a Bollywood cover with nipples. But this 1990 tarzan cover proofs different: her wet dress shows everything: breasts, nipples & huge nickers!

Tarzan was since the early 80's THE excuse to show nudity & semi-nudity, and a whole string of tarzans where made. And Tarzan is in India not so much a person as it is a type. The LP sleeve of Jungle Love states: 'A TARZAN MOVIE' and 'ADVENTURES LOVE STORY OF A TARZAN'. Exciting!

(In India no pornography is made. Officially. But of course there is. What they do is this: they cut the sex scenes out of the film before it goes to the censor board. The film passes the commision, and after that the forbidden scenes are put back again. And the full films are show in seedy theaters in run-down neighbourhoods in obscure small town. Hand-labourers and truck drivers are the public, and any theatre with some nuditry or sex will be sold out. Yes, exploitation cinema is BIG in India.) India 1982.
did you know?

* about the New Zealand porn king who is threatening to sue the New Zealand stock exchange for stealing the name of his publication? (courtesy: The Trademark Blog)

* about Senator Orrin Hatch willing to smash the computers of people who illegally download music (more interesting things happening on slashdot)

* today is GIF liberation day

baba re baba

caught moments from Rajinikanth's Baba (which was sold for 8 crores in Japan, where Muthu and Baasha have already made Rajini saar a hit with the Japanese masses, much alike Mithun and the Russians). What makes the film worse than it actually is (and it's terrible to begin with) is the utter stupidity that went behind its making. Rajini saar is credited with story, screenplay and production. Of these, he seems to have succeeded in the last. The film scores a big fat rotten fungal loaf of wet bread in the writing and acting department (and don't even get me started on Rahman's tunes). How someone could be so moronic to attempt such an audacious mainstream marshpot is beyond me: What were (was) they (he!) thinking: "they're such great fans of mine, they'll lap up anything I dish out to them"??? Badly sync'd dialogue go on par with outrageous dances (check out the Rajini introductory number!!), situations and stunts (the first ridiculous sequence involves Rajini saar defying gravity and using his ballplaying mates as stepping stones as he ascends to hit the ball back across the net -- presumably they're playing volleyball, but I ain't see no ball like that before in volleyball. Then there's the "endlessly spinning ball on my fingertips used as a deflector shield" sequence. Then there's the "I hit these guys and they are suspended in space like clothes left out to dry, until I leave this shot" sequence). While Rajini's stunts have always been more outrageous (and more "respected") than Mithun's, I'd prefer the Bengal Tiger any day -- his movies have no false impressions of themselves as ground-breaking or popular cinema. They are simple profit-oriented business ventures. Apart from that, I can see only electronic retaliation from any hardcore Rajini-bhakt who ever reads this post.
acid-washed nautch poetry

Caught chunks of Kamal Amrohi's literary uneven paean (as it turned out) to his dying wife Meena Kumari, who essays a double role (mother, daughter) as women caught in the web of mujras and social stigma. The songs (whose reuse in East is East raised a minor dust puppy made this film a classic. The acting is really nothing to rant about. Ashok Kumar ends up looking as out of place as Dilip Kumar did in Mughal-e-Azam. Amrohi fails in making the film a literary watershed --- the heavy Urdu soon jars, which is unfortunate. Besides, Meena Kumari can't dance -- which is more than a little letdown, because she plays a courtesan. Amrohi scores primarily in the visuals, but the print that TCM had acquired yesterday for their Bollywood month was pathetic --- note: they got no prints from India, afaik, and this one, like some others, came from Channel Four, who cannot be blamed at all for being helpful where mera bhaarat mahaan came up with a rotten egg.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

ek aur haul

Library time again. What with the droves of rain... Picked up videotapes of The Oblong Box and Mr Arkadin. The latter is an unsung Orson Welles gem, which suffered like most of his films, from the multiple version issue. I bookended the tapes (notice the wonderful pun ... ) with three books on poetry: How to read and interpret poetry, being a basic introductory guide, Sound and form in modern poetry; a study of prosody being a nightmarishly technical work, and Frances Mayes' wonderful The discovery of poetry : a field guide to reading and writing poems. Watch this space for some verse soon ...
american greetings: short verse of observation

"How're you doin'?"
What do you care??
I start to respond ---
You're not even there

You say "wassup!"
I don't know what to say
I hope to figure it out
'Have a nice day!'

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

RIP: jankidas

Veteran actor Jankidas passed away today at the age of 93. While many of us know him for his brief roles in Hindi films, both forgettable and unforgettable (and quite often playing characters called Jankidas), he was an interesting person, from a triviamonger's POV: He was the only Indian to have broken the world record in cycling between 1934 to 1942. He was also the only Indian member of the International Olympic Committee at the Olympic Games in 1936 at Berlin.
SPIDER: the insistence of memory

I've always found it odd that I can recall incidents from my boyhood with clarity and precision, and yet events that happened yesterday are blurred, and I have no confidence in my ability to remember them accurately at all...

Thus begins Patrick McGrath's Spider, which I had picked up from the public library (the second time) a while ago, and finally did justice to -- by reading it. Just like Asylum, McGrath has a great knack for exploring mentally disturbed characters with a sense of pity and understanding for them, while writing with startling clarity descriptions of the sickness that afflicts them (in this case, complete with dreams and the smell of gas). The book begins as a journal of Dennis Cleg, back to his old neighbourhood (London's East End) after twenty years of treatment and recovery. We share Spider's (that's Dennis' nickname) memories and also begin to question them, as he does, while enduring a disturbing journey into the mind of a schizophrenic individual trying to come to terms with reality, as he knows it.

McGrath grew up in 1950s England on the grounds of Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, where his father was the superintendent. This has given him the ability to write about the sick and demented with uncanny sympathy and tenderness, while retaining all the grit and gloom of a gothic mystery.

David Cronenberg's screen adaptation featured a stellar performance by Ralph Fiennes with excellent support from Gabriel Byrne and Miranda Richardson, but suffered from the inability of film to hide the truth. While McGrath can use words to construct multiple realities and leave some of them to our imagination, the stark clarity of the visual medium prevents Cronenberg from providing as disturbing an experience as the source novel. The film worked on its own terms though, as we see Spider from without (instead of within), and we long to reach out and console him, to assure him that everything is going to be all right.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

in the heat of the night

Set in Sparta, Mississippi (shot in Sparta, Illinois) -- nice touch with the town name there -- this story of murder and race tensions was the first PG-rated film to win the Oscar for Best Picture. Rod Steiger is excellent as the gum-chewing Police Chief who manages to overcome his strong prejudices (see also: On the Waterfront), in tandem with Sidney Poitier, in one level-headed scene after another. What I found most impressive about the film, was the way nothing was played for spectacle or applause. Every confrontation --- good or bad --- works on its own steam, without relying on fanfare or crowd-friendly lines (although "They call me Mr Tipps" became the title for the first sequel, followed by The Organization). And Quincy Jones' music provides the necessary urgency and verve. I wonder if I can get through the commentary track now ...
Happy Birthday M C Escher (that's Escher, not Usher!)

Creator of the drawing hands, the ascending and descending stairs. Google celebrates with another cool logo:

Google's Escherian logo.

And, for the record, and for people like me who caught only a glimpse, here's their cool Father's Day logo for June 15, 2003:

Google: Father's Day 2003

Monday, June 16, 2003

how many ... does it take to change a lightbulb?

All (well, most of) the variants on this one, for your reading pleasure at the lightbulb warehouse {courtesy: vanity foul}

Carlos Perez runs an interesting blog called Manageability. Here are a few samplers: how do you pronounce C#?. 101 ways to make money off Open Source. Microkernels storm the Java world as conventional J2EE containers seem doomed to extinction.

another eating conquest, and some interesting books

Thanks to my repeated praises of Kudzu Book Fair, my roommates decided to give the place a look-see. Although they were impressed with the slashed prices, I ended up (again!) being the only one to make a purchase: got Kieslowski on Kieslowski for about 2 bucks, the first volume of Projections, and last, but not the least, I picked up Pornocopia, Laurence J O'Toole's exploration of "adult entertainment" (Yes, time to whip out the brown paper).

As for the eating conquest, let me recommend CHINA INN, innocuously located in the same strip (Chamblee Plaza) as Kudzu Book Fair, this place has a touch of class and some great food. If you feel penny-pinched, I'd recommend the Early Bird Specials: each order comes with jasmine tea (as do all orders, in general), a pair of wings, and an egg roll. There's an aquarium full of fish that you can admire, or you can look into the pantry through the glass and watch some human automation in progress.

hopscotch: nostalgia

There's hopscotch, the game and there's the movie starring Walter Matthau, based on Brian Garfield's novel. Doordarshan featured the film in its infamous late-night slot once, and I watched it only because I had bought a second-hand copy of the book somewhere in Appa Balwant Chowk (I think it was because I liked the cover design, considering I was quite young and by-and-large totally clueless about spy games and the like). An ad somewhere reminded me of tipri, which was a local version of this game, which apparently, by common perception, was a girls' game. Now, having played the game pretty frequently as a kid (with a group of girls AND boys), I had to make sure I wasn't suffering from issues in childhood. Thankfully, I wasn't.

Talking of Brian Garfield, turns out he also wrote the source novel for Death Wish (which boasts a score by jazz renegade Herbie Hancock) and the story for Joseph Rubin's creepy The Stepfather

vadh: the death of an idea ... and X marks the spot

Two things ruined what would have otherwise been a great entry in the murder mystery genre. I refer to Vadh. Released in 2002, with two dubious credits: "a film by Nana Patekar for Dilip Dhanwani" and "directed by N. S. R". Before I delve into the reasons for this film not working as well as it should have, here's some trivia on the credits. Apparently Nana himself had undertaken to ghost direct the film since he had a major difference of opinion with Raj Bharat who was the actual director. Raj Bharat preferred to walk out and Nana suggested that his stepney -- a director called Rajesh Singh who is directing Nana in Aanch -- step in as the official director. Rajesh Singh, however, does not wish to come out in the open as the director. In short, NSR means Nana, Singh and Raj! Cool, what? {information courtesy of India Syndicate}

On to more affective matters. The first irksome aspect of the movie had nothing to do with the filmmakers or the actors and technicians. Some Dynamic Dhanaji had decided to play with the settings of their DVD/VHS hookup as they made a copy for rent, and we ended up getting a colour-shorn black-and-white print. Now B&W works decently for bits of the film, adding some menace to the darkness and the shadows. But since it wasn't the intended medium, a lot of the other colour-oriented portions (read: frivolous dances and songs) look drained.

The second, and more pertinent annoyance is two-fold: the pigheaded desire to adhere to the mindless Bollywood need for songs and dances and a hackneyed narrative involving love birds. The songs in this film add no value whatsoever. The only exception is the Jagjit Singh-voiced "bahut Khuubasuurat ho", which after an initially hilarious sight of Nana lip-synching to JS's voice, becomes a decently picturised song with the lyrics and music counterpointing a montage of matrimony. And then there's the Shweta Menon cameo that opens with one of those delicious lines that are ephemerally ingenious: kamasin kalii huu.N tuu mujhako khilaa de. The title song that plays in the background of the opening credits is marginally passable. The rest of the songs seem like justifications for the presence of the ineffectual Puru Raj Kumar (last reviewed in KKK). He is but one of the many people who suck big rotten eggs in the acting department. The others include Anupama Verma playing Nana's wife (note: she joins Nutan-- in her 80s movies -- and scores of other actresses, whose facial contortions of love and shock are enough for Madame Tussaud's monster wing), Meghana Kothari (to quote Mustafa Mastaan "bad! bad! bad!"), newcomer Nakul (why even bother?). The only competent people in this titanic enterprise are Nana and Arun Bakshi. Nana plays Dr Arjun Singh, a moneyed psychiatrist married to Jyoti (Verma). His younger brother Vijay (Nakul) is a police officer, and Aaryan (Puru), a rich spoilt playboy is a very close friend. A crazy killer escapes from an asylum under Dr Singh's supervision and dead bodies begin to pile up ... with death veering close to the Singhs. A needless element in the whole cauldron is Dr Singh's background: he's a Rajput from UP. While Nana puts in a sincere effort with the dialect and slang, he can do little to mask his hard Maratha accent. And the background matters squat, beyond providing fodder for a song.

The merits of the film: the denouement (which should not be a big surprise for people familiar with The ABC Murders and Malice) is revealed with wonderful underplay. The explanations are engaging. And apart from some atrociously filmy devices and some ghastly faces from Verma and (yes, I'm not done yet) some more ham-bane-tum-bane from the supporting players, we have a stellar example of a film suffering from the SFH (sagging first half) syndrome. The SFH plagued a lot of movies of the 70s and 80s (where audiences would shift about in their chairs, dive out for a smoke or a thums up as a song came on, and indulge in other time-filling activities till the "Intermission" sign came up and then breathe a sigh of relief, settle in their chairs and await the "real" picture). Despite the controversy behind it, this film deserves a little credit. Some of the dialogue (mostly delivered by Nana) is entertaining, and there aren't too many instances of the metaphoric cliché caches that pepper the standard Bollywood by-the-numbers product.

Saturday, June 14, 2003

desi writing and some discount music

Since I last picked up a couple of books by "lady writers of South Asian origin", I also added Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's Arranged Marriage to my list. While Bharati Mukherjee came off as a tad too cynical, with prose that hit you in short bursts, her canvas is broad, and there is an interesting look at the immigrant community in general. For me, however, the Indian immigrant experience is something more familiar. This augments my positive reaction to both Arranged Marriage and Interpreter of Maladies. The other names that come to mind as I read the nuggets contained in these two compilations are Ruskin Bond and R K Narayan. There is no high-concept twist, or a 30-second storyline. Like Bond and Narayan, Lahiri and Divakaruni examine or present slices of the human condition: little incidents that mean a lot but lose out in the quest of the big payoff (because a lot of short story writers want to have Dhaa.Nsuu endings like O Henry, but miss out on the fact that his narrative had humanity).

Grabbed 5 CDs for $10 (a good deal, especially, based on a baseline of prices back home in India!) at Taj last weekend, and although they were a mix of the good, the bad, and the "why bother getting it", I found a lot of effort and talent that just seemed to lose out when the song made it to the silver screen.

* Company: Chowta did not have as much to do with the background score as he did in Satya, but since he was also responsible for the songs he created a set of numbers that fit the narrative of the film (mostly playing in the background), and work wonderfully as post-modern satire than at face value. Asha Bhosle oscillates between admirable and horrifying in Khallas. The tracks of choice are Ga.ndaa hai, A shot of company and Malik's soul. The Music Magazine has a more comprehensive review.

* Aks: Anu Malik deserves some credit for the collage of sounds and strains on this album. Around the time this album was released, he also seemed to be going through a "mai.n bhii Rahman" phase, and this soundtrack is no exception. He even outdoes Rahman in drowning out Gulzar's lyrics, making a waste of a lot of precious creative time. Rediff has a more comprehensive review. The album misses crediting voices on a couple of tracks, and surely Shubha Mudgal's raat aatii hai is nothing but Pancham's Sharm aatii hai...

* Hey Ram: Kamal Hasan's ego interefered with his well-intentioned exploration of the events before and after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, on both socio-political and artistic fronts. Some of that rubbed off on the album too. What must make Ilayaraja's wonderful compositions even more outstanding is the fact that he had to step in and compose songs already picturised, after the previous composer L Subramaniam had a fallout with Hasan.

* Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar: After acquiring the tape cheaply not long ago, I was more than happy to grab a CD. Yes, I like Vishal. Yes, I like Sanjeev Abhyankar. Yes, I liked the movie. And yes, anyone who can compose a song that starts off as "dil kii koTharii me.n jo ruu_ii kaa puli.ndaa hai dhiimii aa.Nch sulagii hai us me.n" definitely deserves some points.

* Drohi: R D Burman's sole score for RGV. Along with two songs by M M Kreem/Kirvani/Maragatamani (uncredited), this is a nice little album that was doomed thanks to RDB's status as box-office poison. The intentional references to Sholay exemplify a rarity in today's times: a collaboration between director and music director on ideas explored in the film (Raghav, Nagarjuna's character, plays the famous Sholay theme at a couple of points in the film; and what better tribute to the quote than to rope in the original composer again, and what better tip_of_the_hat from the original composer than to acknowledge this by quoting his own composition in a song for DROHI?). The bonus songs from Roop ki Rani Choron ka Raja and Hasti are worth skipping, and I already have a copy of the Amit Kumar rendition of Majrooh's salacious and mischievous lyric for Gurudev. Of note: In Aise hame.n dekho nahii.n, RDB gets away with reusing not one but two of his compositions: the core of the song is jaane jigar from Pukar, and sun cha.mpaa sun taaraa from Apna Desh. What better way to cap a handful of five CDs with a CD from Pancham?

monsoon mazaa

While Bollywood is gearing up its takes on the different Hollywood blockbusters (the choices are a mix of the obvious, the "why did they even bother" and the "what? are they out of their mind??"), Subhash K Jha decided to profile a few "promising" and "original" works. One of the films caught my attention. It's Subhash Ghai's latest production, a low-key/low-budget one, considering that his last few films were devoid of quality AND were box-office duds. The film is called Joggers' Park, and explores an encounter between a young girl and a retired judge. Although this is not much to go on, I was reminded of Kieslowski's Red. If I am right, this could be the second Bollywood take on Kieslowski.
Ogres are like onions

Before I managed to watch BHOOT, I caught SHREK at long last. And boy was it worth it! The animation cannot compete with the work at Pixar, but there's a wonderful cache of spoofs and ribs to make your day. Great voice talents (Myers, Murphy, Diaz), countless digs at Disney flicks (including a mockup spoof of Magic Kingdom and It's a small small world). And of course the references to other movies are numerous, sometimes obvious, but better noted elsewhere.
a chill down the spine (WARNING: potential spoilers)

Finally, yes, finally I got to watch BHOOT [previous post in thread]. Albeit on a VHS copy of a rather poorly mastered DVD (how could you allow this to happen RGV?). But it was worth every minute of it. Apart from the merciful exclusion of songs, the film has a great ensemble of famous names adding their personas to fit the roles they handle. Urmila has improved since Kaun, her last turn at doing the whole "I'm nuts" deal. And the new hairstyle and deglam look work fine for her and everyone else. The tremendously effective makeup job also helps. No other role in the film is thankless, although Seema Biswas' character does a delicate tightrope between mystery and incredulity.

Friends who have seen and who saw it with me commented on the lack of surprise in the plot or the storyline. The Exorcist and Poltergeist were popular choices for the "yaar, this is a copy". But the arguments are futile. The themes in this film and these two "sources" are similar and common. These two films have been stellar examples in the genre, and hence are very powerful exemplars. It is thus natural for people to quote sources. I will, however, recommend BHOOT, both as a strong entry into the genre of desi scarefests (which has reaped both benefit and shame from the Ramsay Brothers) and as a great showcase of film technique.

The deceptively simple plot and story are enhanced by some stunningly effective camerawork and a gamut of lenses (I caught a couple of fish-eyes), including the surreal "surveillance camera" feel to the proceedings and a general sense of consuming claustrophobia enhanced by the restrictive indoor setting and the trappings of the house. Although this is admittedly geeky, I haven't found any article online detailing the lenses and apertures used. The film deserves a writeup like this. After all, it doesn't help to simply cut out the offensive comedy tracks and stay bang-on on the track to make a good horror film. You need to keep the chills coming, keep them there for just the right amount of time, and get your technical department beefed up to support your goals. RGV does all this. I just wrote about the camera. And it's not simply the views. There's the razor-sharp editing, which must owe some debt to The Exorcist. Every time there's a scare, you are pulled away before you can deal with what you just saw ... or thought you saw. The editing also helps to add an REM/deam-like quality to the "normal" events. The dream sequences are aptly paced and fervently edited. Gasps are assured. The shocks work as shocks, and not as gags.

A little note about the other characters: Victor Bannerjee's Dr Rajan is a strong counterpart to Father Damien Karras in The Exorcist. Nana Patekar's welcome return is a great turn as Inspector Liaqat Kureshi, who seems to have more issues to him than the length of the film will allow. Rekha, Tanuja and Fardeen make their brief parts meaningful, thanks to their star legacy in the industry.

A rave about the technique would be incomplete without crediting Salim-Suleiman for a marvellous soundscape. There is the background score, complete with a little catchy unnerving riff, a more respectable palette of sounds (instead of the mono creaking door sounds of yore), along with the augmented levels of everyday sounds: ambient music playing in the different houses, people talking, the sounds of the house, the silences. And who can forget the elevator? The seemingly extraneous repetitive intrusions of the elevator serve the unsettling tone of the film well.

Truth be told: RGV does lose it a bit in the second half (demarcated by the interval, mind you). But this is a minor aberration and unfortunate only because I had hoped that RGV would be immune to the SSH (Sagging Second Half) syndrome. But such complaints aside, this is a film that, if it doesn't shock you out of your wits, will at least leave you shifting about uneasily in your seat.

Friday, June 13, 2003

RIP Gregory Peck ... down with AFI

Continuing with its self-congratulatory tradition, the AFI recently came out with another list ... marginally entertaining and superficially ephemeral at best: the top 100 heroes and villains (NOTE: no mention of mithun and rajnikant immediately disqualifies such lists). Atticus Finch topped the heroes list, preceding the unfortunate demise of the person who made the role famous: Gregory Peck, who passed away Wednesday night in his sleep at 87.

FRIDAY the 13th

(Lunch location: Johnny's New York Style Pizza)

Yep, it's the kind of day ... and I almost missed it! Thankfully, or predictably, if you will, the lunch discussion included coverage on the Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises and a consensus on the unpleasant ominous feeling of dread regarding the latest movie avatar of a comic book character, The Hulk.
the truth, and a ghostly prospect

Caught SATYA again on VHS yesterday evening, and the experience caused twin emotions of joy and frustration. Joy at beholding a great product out of the Bollywood factory: a wonderful script, authentic dialogue, dedicated talented performances, a background score that complements the tone of the film in every way, great camerawork, good songs (more on this in a moment). I could go on. Frustration at seeing RGV give in to producer pressure and dilute an otherwise perfect experiment in mainstream-realistic cinema with songs. Vishal composed a brilliant kitty of songs written by the best abstract poet in the industry, Gulzar. And all the songs, save one, fit well into the narrative: the point-blank (no pun intended) gangster booze-o-rama song (so reminscent of the RD Burman-tuned Akhtar lyric in Arjun), the brief paen to wet water (the complete song available on cassette and CD is a gem of a composition, although I still mind Lata's piercing voice!), the song of love that textures the background for the burgeoning but doomed relationship between Satya and Vidya (the use of Bhupinder after long last must be the playback singing coup of that year), the song at Chandu's sister's wedding (complete with apt lyrics and some authentically outrageous dancing). The aspect of grief is the Khandala duet, where all hell (read: filmic unrealism) breaks loose: the couple sings (well, lip syncs), changes costumes. GaaH! Apart from this minor annoyance, SATYA is a once-in-a-lifetime gem from RGV. Every character in the movie is doomed for auto-destruct. And this driving fatalism elevates the film miles above the commonplace. Company, a thinly disguised retelling of the Dawood/Chota Shakeel affairs, made amends by embedding all songs into the narrative background, but suffered from issues of length and a bleakness that overstayed its welcome.

The prospect of not being able to catch RGV's Bhoot [previous thread] is a distressing one. Galaxy Cinema in Atlanta dedicated itself week after week to ARMAAN (rant elsewhere) and today they are all set for Chalte Chalte, another Shah Rukh Khan vehicle dedicated to being coo-coo mushy, smart-ass sassy and catered (whether they choose to admit it or not) to the NRI dollar vaults abroad. So clearly, I don't stand a ghost of a chance at catching RGV's mini-masterpiece in the theatres (couldn't resist that pun). On that note, Bhawana Somaaya actually managed the impossible feat of presenting the enigma that is RGV -- asking him the right questions, getting responses that aptly described this director who continues to have the ever-important cherubic fascination for the medium. Here's more about the location of the film. And if you thought all those SMSs and email messages about the climax of the movie were authentic, you just contributed to the success of the film. Predictably after it did so well, everyone in Bollywood now wants to make scarefests ... with songs and dances in Switzerland I am sure. And after an RGV retrospective, how about some real-life jitters?

Thursday, June 12, 2003

helpful error messages

Many of us out there (and me in here, included) have ranted, raved, and exchanged chuckles about the unhelpful and incongruous error messages and dialog boxes that Microsoft's Windows suite of Operating[sic] Systems and Office Products have been throwing back at us hapless users. Based on my recent and past experience, MSFT's hot competitor (and leading bemoaner) Oracle deserves mention (nay, a crown) in this category. Here are two pieces of evidence:

* I once (well, yesterday) tried to deploy a J2EE application developed using the features and conveniences[sic] provided by JDeveloper to an Oracle9iAS (that's Application Server) installation. With Oracle all the way from start to finish, there shouldn't be any problems right? Unless I wrote some bad code. But then I was deploying code that compiled sans errors or warnings. The only thing that should have gone wrong was with the "business" logic. The usual messages scrolled up in the tiny window at the bottom of the IDE. And then there were a couple of blank lines. And then a line that said nothing except "ADM 300075' or something to that effect. A Google search returned nothing. And Metalink wasn't useful either. So now I'm stuck wondering what went wrong. As it turns out, following a day of suffering and geekish-Do_It_Yourself, I figured out that JDeveloper had written a bad deployment descriptor for the Application Server. When wizards and auto-generation aids go wrong, what convenience must we hapless derive, I ask!

* Been helping my boss get Oracle9iAS set up on his workstation. I've tested this out on similar systems and I envision no problems. But one of the components fails at installation time. And apart from the "blah blah blah failed to start" all I had in terms of an error message was the number 2. Now if I were reading Douglas Adams I might have appreciated the irony and humour. But this was not funny. Still haven't figured out what 2 was ... Perhaps a count of the number of installations completed? (highly unlikely, since I unleashed my patent-pending DIY clean uninstallation magic toolbox on the workstation before each installation). Perhaps the time of the day? Yeah, right, somewhere in the world. What was that Slash album again? aah, It's 5 O' Clock Somewhere

ponder this ...

There is value in a cluttered desk. Many software licenses have language saying you can't publish benchmarks or studies about the software without written permission from the vendor; astounding. Tips on how to keep your job. The Conditional Access System (CAS) [where you subscribe only to those channels that you are interested in: something sorely lacking in the US of A] is a welcome step in India. While we get pelted by rain with little ado as a warning, India seems to be pining for some, especially since Hindi films are so full of it (rain, that is). At what point does a CD-ROM drive explode?. The .zip format will no longer be the same.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003


* You are writing application code, and the song streaming off the CD is Nobody's Fault But Mine

* You're struggling to fix the wrong code generated by an IDE (JDeveloper) that is supposed to speed up development time and ensure a great ROI. By the way, you've lost over two days of work, fixing these issues, and having generated an embarassing few lines of code.
new blogger interface

Just logged on to my Blogger browser-based edit console, and was greeted with a smacking new interface. Is this Dano?
What really rocks is that I can now open this console in Mozilla and have the same edit space as in Internet Explorer. The previous iteration of the console didn't behave well in Mozilla, and gave me a much reduced left-aligned window, forcing me to open up Internet Explorer. With the recent release of Firebird (I tried out this new avatar of Phoenix, and I must admit, it rocks ...), this is a really really welcome change.

Monday, June 09, 2003

a descent into the maelstrom of american consumerism

I haven't even begun to relish Unplugged and No Quarter, which I got from one of BMG's recurring discount_with_no_shipping_and_handling deals, when they popped me another deal, with a higher discount (which meant that I could have got these CDs cheaper, had I waited... but that's another sequitur). Sure enough, it didn't take me too much time to give in. Overall, it was a great deal: Shaft, the annniversary double-pack issue of Superfly, and the anniversary double-CD edition of Deep Purple's Machine Head.
truth hurts on ebay

The Bombay Beats dudes are back: with the soundtrack LP for Jyoti, which should be familiar to followers of Bappi Lahiri and his Truth Hurts triumph:

* TRUTH HURTS-Dr DRE Original BOLLYWOOD sample:Very rare Bollywood soundtrack LP that contains the original song that Dr Dre Sampled for TRUTH HURTS' big hit: ADDICTIVE, produced by Dr DRE. You bet Bappi was damn excited when he heard that his song was in the USA top 10!! And the Truth Hurts song not merely contains a sample, but actually half of the song! When the song hit the charts a New York based Indian Journalist tried to track down which song was used. But no Bombay Hindi music connoisseur recognized it! They only knew it was Lata Mangeshkar singing, who has sung since 1948 till upto 1995 in virtually every Hindi movie. They were only able to say �Well it�s not Laxmikant/Pyarellal�s, not Kaliandji Anandji�s, not Burman�s�, etc. Until one identified it as a Bappi Lahiri, from an ultra obscure 1981 Bappi-flop (He scored over 300 films!). And when the journalist called Bappi he hardly remembered song either. Firstly he said too be just happy with the honour. Later he realized that there could quite a lot of money in it�. ...and he sued Dr Dre for $500 million! ....and recently he won l!! How much money he won he wouldn't tell but it is fun that Bappi ("King of Copy" as he is called in India) went into court to sew another Copy Cat. Interesting case! India 1981, Sleeve VG++ (some ringwear & one repaired seam), Record NM This is a numbered copy, nr 450, all 4 LP's I've seen thus far were number (till no 912) so it's likely that only a 1000 were made. The last copy went for $500. The same song is also featured in an long instrumental version by the way.
yet another guru, two vikrants and some diluted primal fear ... and not to forget kam akal kii chaay-pattii

As if I hadn't had my fill of people called Guru, I now had to contend with yet another dude called Guru. And not just Guru, but Guru Gulab Khatri (Akshay Kumar). Aka the desi version of Jimmy "The Tulip" Tudeski (replacing the tulip with the rose!). And then there's Anmol Acharya (Aftab Shivdasani), the desi Nicholas 'Oz' Oseransky. All this in Awara Paagal Deewana, a desi melange of The Whole Nine Yards, The Matrix, Mission Impossible II, Snatch. A lot especially, in the humvee-laden fight finalé.

A look at the two photographs on the Planet Bollywood Preview page is proof enough of the confused vision of the film: to look cool, classy, slick and mod OR to continue to cling on to Bollywood's confused mix of traditional costumes and incongruous musical numbers. And this is what describes the film best. Anu Malik, truth be told, provides a soundtrack of songs that are surprising and eclectically all over the place (dholak-based standards, infectious dance hall numbers laden with arabic riffs and vocals, standard love mush duets). The opening credits and the first Aftab song are wonderfully rendered in a postcard dissolve montage. Om Puri poorly managing to stay this side of the ham fence in a brief role, Johnny Lever as ChhoTaa Chhatrii and Paresh Rawal reprising his I_can_do_this_in_my_sleep Gujju_in_the_US act provide all the laughs. The rest is boredom. The villains are boring. The heroines are uninterested and uninteresting. And despite what a lot of people say, Akshay Kumar and Sunil Shetty are still lacking in skills germane to acting and comic timing. And their voices are another issue altogether. All in all, while still being the standard hybrid ripoff characteristic of Vikram Bhat, this is a good way to pass your time.

Another review

Where did the two Vikrants come, you ask? Well, the first is the villain of APD above, and the second is some dude at a party in the opening of Deewangee. Read the last related post, if you will, before proceeding.

Why did Anees Bazmee credit himself to a story that wasn't his at all? Deepa Gumaste echoes my concern. While the opening credit sequence features some nice graphics (faux flash), type and a predictably red-dominated canvas, the rest of the film is a tired exercise in combining the best[sic] of two worlds: Hollywood, and traditional Bollywood. So the first half of this movie is a complete desi take on Primal Fear, minus a lot of complexity of the source plot (Yes, it was pulp, but it still had more substance). The sensitive backdrop of the church is replaced by the conventional backdrop of the music industry. A sinful priest morphs into a devious music exec. Of course, there is enough motivation provided for the crime. And the heinous elements of the crime are diluted by cheesy background music (will someone please get Sandeep Chowta and ditch Raju Singh and his ilk?), bad acting, and the use of the clichéd chhappan (56) as the number of stabs (78 in the original). And Ajay Devgan, despite his abilities, can do little to elevate a role that was buried at the script and plot stage itself. If you are wondering why there are other dudes credited on the screenplay, wait till the second half, which is little more than a hybrid of all those hounded_by_a_crazed_psychopath movies (including desi clones like the Yash Chopra [see rant elsewhere] blood-and-bore fest Darr. Lifeless, and overlong. Another victim, just like APD, of the classic SSH syndrome (that's Sagging Second Half, not Secure Shell!).

Sunday, June 08, 2003

offensive subtexts, two gurus, a pickle jar, an indra-genious stunt, some chinese food and a long-drawn love story

Great post heading what? Wish I had more weekends that could be summarised with such ultra-cool words.

Offensive subtexts: The Yash Chopra (see rant elsewhere) late 80s box-office success Chandni was the Friday night VHS movie of choice. Rented with serious intentions of review by a friend, the movie became an exercise in talk-back and subtext exploration for the rest of us, over some nachos and wonderfully spiced chicken served over steamed rice. Our comments, observations and reactions would have made even sailors blush... and some of the scenes were begging for this treatment. I never realised that this film had so many songs, and most of them seemed lacklustre in retrospect. Yash Chopra still seems to have been working at perfecting his fetish for glossy-candy-flossy-cutesy-beautiful-yellow_fields-pastoral yucky senti-mush-fests, but the film still garnered the National Award for providing wholesome entertainment. Clearly, someone was thinking ahead when they chose this movie (laughter into the darkness...)

Two gurus: I finally waded through the rest of Guru Mahaguru, a lifeless mess despite (or especially because of) the presence of Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah and Ashutosh Rana. While one could go into shock wondering what these capable dudes were doing in such a boring flick (which marks the directorial début -- the horror, the horror -- of one Alok Srivastava), one can clearly see this as a paycheck-pichchur for the veterans Puri and Shah. Each gets to cavort about in a song -- Puri's dance-o-rama is reminiscent of Amrish Puri's turn in the much better Chhammaa Chhammaa from China Gate, while Shah's naaTya-pradarshan is fodder for dropping jaws. Puri spends his time in the film playing A G Rawal, the villainous twin of P K Rawal (played by Om Puri again, of course), a crime lord complete with an accent and delivery borrowed lock, stock and a roomful of smoking barrels from his TV turn in Kakkaji Kahin. He also turns out to be this international elusive criminal called Crocodile (yes, I know, ROTFL material). Shah wanders about playing Mukesh Agarwal (in reality, a CBI officer undercover tracking the whereabouts of Crocodile, not knowing that Rawal is the one), complete with a hat covering a wig of long WWF hair. Rana sleepwalks through his role as a crook out to avenge his father's murder, and out-smarting Mukul Deo's character, who is in reality, his younger brother. Been there, seen that. The most interesting part of this whole [sic]fest is that when Daddy dearest is dying, he manages to write "AGRAWAL" on the wall. This leads the two brothers to seek out a dude called AGRAWAL (which is not unlike looking for an American called SMITH). Except, Daddy dearest was low on punctuation, and meant to write "A G RAWAL", namely, the name of Om Puri's evil dude character. Apart from that, grab an old Mithun flick for a better way to kill your time.

DVD cover of Guru Mahaguru

A pickle jar: Caught Foxy Brown on DVD. Cool score, and an interesting director's commentary. Overall, the film does look dated, especially in it's gung-ho characterisations, cuss words, and front-bench dialogue. But it's still cool to see Pam Grier "give 'em hell". And then there's the opening credit sequence which owes a lot to the Bond movies and to Hitchcock's Vertigo. What's the pickle jar title for? Well, Foxy punishes an evil couple by presenting the girl with the guy's tom and jerry sealed in a pickle jar.

An indra-genius stunt: Being a laudatory mention of Chiranjeevi's INDRA, for featuring Matrix-esque fight sequences and also a Mithun/Rajnikant-reminiscent scene where C's character utilizes his Uttareeyam (correct me if I'm wrong. My friend told me they call it a kandoba. It's basically a piece of garment worn by men on their shoulder, and a mark of high class) to snag a chair just as his adversary is about to sit down, proceed to sit on it, do a Sharon Stone/Basic Instinct leg wind, and then display the dexterity of the material of the garment. Priceless, with or without subtitles.

Some chinese food ... and the second guru: And the plot gets clearer and clearer (and clearer ... (and clearer ... (and clearer ...))). After a post-rain-shower experience from the safety of an airconditioned home, I ventured for dinner with a friend clique to Chin Chin (not to be summarily translated from English to Urdu as thodi-thodi). Slow service, despite the conspicuous majority of empty seats, but the food was decent enough, albeit wee-slightly on the upper side of the dollar. On the way back, thanks to a critical mix of low fuel and unfortunate positioning on the freeway, I got a taste of standing on the shoulder watching the cars whizz by (yeah, I was the cool dude on the side, with my hair tossled about by the car blasts into weird geometrical shapes). The initial thrill wears off soon, and the sound of rubber and Doppler's legacy get on your nerves, unless, as in my case, you've got friends to banter with. Mercifully, the AAA rep was quick and over-prompt and we were soon back home. But the night was still young. I walked down to the lower living room to find a congregation of friends settled down to watch the Mithun classic Guru (Yes, the second guru!). With hit music from Bappi Lahiri (I remember the songs being roadside-blare-speaker hits when the film's music was released) and some really cool dialogue (neutron, proton, proton, neutron equals atom), in-jokes (at a certain point a woman starts going 'ammaa, ammaa' in fake pain, and Mithun retorts "abhii koii Bappi Lahiri kaa gaanaa chaaluu hone waalaa hai kyaa"?) and wonderfully counterpointed performances (the ever-sincere Mithun backed by a sober Sameer Khakkar, a high-pitched Sridevi and a bhuut huu.N mai.n Nutan) made this movie the perfect gem for the evening. The only problem was it never seemed to end: what with two Sridevis and a convoluted climax straight out of Goldfinger. But the best part was the talk-back and sing-along that everyone got involved in: both with the film's songs as well as with the Vicco Vajradanti and Vicco Powder/Vicco Paste ads that punctuated the action. A splendid time for one and all.

A long-drawn love story: As if all this was not enough for one night, we had an exodus to City Café Diner nearby for some coffee and pastries. I then walked into an expedition of an interesting nature: walk over to my friend's house at 3am to borrow the copy of Haasil lying at his place. Mercifully, another resident of the house, also a resident, was up and so in about 10 minutes we were all back home watching HAASIL. Impressive for a début feature, this film boasts a stellar performance by Irfan Khan (credited with his first name only). I should take pride in having placed my faith in his acting capabilities long back when he played a single father nursing dark secrets of others in the thanklessly soppy Banegi Apni Baat on ZEE TV. Ashutosh Rana turns in a good performance for his brief role. The dialogue and the script capture the atmosphere of Lucknow, and Jimmy Shergil is bearable. The first song (yes, despite the realism and a simple story and plot, the film has songs, and LOTS of them) Aa.nkhe.n bhii gets by with being hummable and decently picturised. The rest of the music by Jatin-Lalit goes downhill, and takes a long long time to get there. Repetitive, generic and synth-mushy, with lyrics that get bored with themselves. Hrishita Bhat gets by looking like Alyssa Milano, and does little else of importance in the acting department (but hey, she was supposed to function just as a pretty face, right? right?). There's also the talented Rajpal Yadav in another cameo. All the promise of the film, however, is diluted with the overburdening songs, the progressive drop in pace, the growing importance afforded to the non-existent layers of the love story, and ... well, basically, another victim of the SSH (Sagging Second Half) syndrome. But if you're prepared to bear it out (as I did), don't miss the film because of Irfan Khan, in one of the predictably unsung performances in 21-st century mainstream Bollywood cinema. {into the future: gaurav's take -- has quotes and a detailed synopsis}

Friday, June 06, 2003

how the west was won (It's so great to have a heading that fits all the different threads in a post)

First interpretation: The great wonderfully-priced remastered power-packed 3-CD set representing two Led Zeppelin concerts in June 1972 (see previous note). Fans familiar with the BBC Sessions release will not be as awed as the rest of the crowd: Page's Bach quotes, the seamless medleys, the endless improvisations, and the (not surprisingly) overt raw sexual undercurrent to the guitar/vocals interplay. Fabulous stuff. (If you haven't already figured it out, I got myself a copy -- from Borders, which had a surprisingly low price for the set, although the retail price was not unreasonable to begin with). The only thing that prevents me from going and grabbing the 2-DVD set that accompanied this CD set, is my distaste for the whole region-specific business-minded encoding approach.

Second interpretation: TCM's Bollywood month kicks off. Caught Ismail Merchant talking to Robert Osborne, clearing the clouds on such mysteries[sic] as the meaning of the term 'Bollywood'. The kick-off film for this celebration of mainstream Hindi (which they have conveniently labelled as Indian) cinema was Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, famous among us trivia-mongers as the first Hindi (or ever?) film to have a credit that went "Title suggested by" (Kiron Kher, by the way, last seen providing faux Bengali ham in Devdas). This was a film I had seen in the cinema hall, and nothing could bring me to watch it all over again -- there are no subtleties, no fine points. Just bravura performances that border on the fence of cheese and ham.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

ITIHAAS: historically, by the numbers (being an outpouring of reactions to a late 80s Bollywood flick)

clearly, coming soon

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

from shiv market to more diasporic goodies

Finally (and I repeat, to the tumultous background of screeching violins and vigorous cellos, finally) I got to the last page of Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy and got closure to a great reading experience. Seth's wry and affectionate exploration of the Mehras, the Tandons, the Khans and the Kapoors embellishes what is ultimately a story of love in post-independence India. His knack for rhyme and wit (previously evidenced at length in The Golden Gate) as well as his ability to translate texts makes Ghalib and Mir (and Mast) more approachable. The most interesting part of the book for me was how he presented conversations in English, but noted the humour and puns in the source language (Hindi, Urdu), without marring the narrative. People familiar with Indian (and especially North Indian) will have a lot more to relish in this book, but foreign readers need not fear: this is a very engrossing read. To describe it as a literary Indian soap is being a tad flippant.

And then of course, there's Vikram Seth's trademark cameo in anagrams: every novel of his, right up to An Equal Music (which would appeal to afficionados of chamber music more than a general reader), has an anagram of his name popping up as a character, or in the case of A Suitable Boy, a confection: Kim Tarvesh in The Golden Gate, Keith Varms in An Equal Music. Here's the relevant extract (with some font colouring so you don't miss the cameo) from A Suitable Boy:

Instead, she made sure that they had enough food for the journey; she had brought extra provisions, just in case they hadn't thought of it themselves including a large cardboard box marked Shiv Market: Superb Sweetmeats and a thermos flask filled with cold coffee.

To celebrate this reading conquest (the last book I read that had over a thousand pages was Stephen King's magnum opus It), I decided to traipse about AFPL (another way to combat the sudden turn of bad weather: bleak skies, rain, grey clouds, the works) and pick up some items on hold as well. Two of them were fuelled by Aditya's constant (and recent) plugs for them: Jumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies and Bharati Mukherjee's The Middleman and Other Stories. The rest included Salman Rushdie's début effort Grimus (how could I resist after a description that went: After drinking an elixir that bestows him with immortality, a young Indian named Flapping Eagle spends the next 700 years sailing the seas with the burden of living forever. Eventually he grows weary of the sameness of life and journeys to the mountainous Calf Island to regain his mortality. There he meets other immortals obsessed with their own stasis and he sets out to scale the island's peak, from which the mysterious and corrosive Grimus Effect emits. Through a series of thrilling quests and encounters, Flapping Eagle comes face to face with the island's creator and unwinds the mysteries of his own humanity), Ernest Tidyman's Shaft, and a long-awaited DVD of Foxy Brown ("Interesting taste you have there ... old school movies", said the librarian as she handed me my holds). Perhaps what set up the contrast the most was that the other item I had on hold was an introductory text on SAP R/3. Not a good time to mention that I already have Beja Morris' text Film and Literature to inaugurate.

Monday, June 02, 2003

IBM launches Linux Desktop in India

Last week our Prez was encouraging the use of OSS (Open Source Software). Now the Big Blue is taking some serious Linux initiative in India.
eBay watch

saas bhi kabhi bahu thiAnother interesting item up for bid on eBay. This one's an EP -- an Iranian pressing of a rare RD Burman soundtrack from the 70s: Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi:
SAAS BHI KABHI... R.D. Burman bollywood EP: Record: SUMAN KALYANPUR & KISHORE KUMAR "Sunoji Tum"/MOHD. RAFI "Kholke Ankhen"/KISHORE KUMAR "Ek Bottle Hoga"/KISHORE KUMAR & LATA MANGESHKAR "Lelo Chudiyan" (Royal RT 2751) Origin of pressing: Iran Condition of cover: VG++ Condition of disc: EX+ Details: Here's an Iranian pressing bollywood EP! Music is by the legendary R.D.Burman and a really very nice one over here. Strange record from tip to toe: weird cover graphic, very flimsy paper quality that managed to survive, very interesting label, great music etc.

The image you see here is a better cover shot from a page in Niall Richardson's awesome collection of Bollywood LP covers.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

Welcome musings and such, nothing much

Welcome, at long last, to the blogosphere, ex-housemate and friend Aditya, currently in the doctoral grind in Stanford's Learning Sciences and Technology Design programme.Here's hoping that "nothing much" will soon be a thing of the past. Expect a lot of Ghalib, urdu shaayarii, book recommendations, and old movies.
avs snapshots, armaan and stumped (being, partly, a reaction to the weekly AVS show) [previous post in thread]

The Hit Pick of the Week was a video for The Bullet Train, specifically, for one of the teaser streams released as part of the promotion by Saregama/HMV. While it was nice to hear the tracks again (I own the CD), the video was the usual fare of passable girls dressed in skimpy outfits of the most mismatched, bland and tasteless colour schemes; dudes in leather; groping about like animals. All in the name of profit, I guess. Sigh.

Caught the opening quarter of Armaan, stopping just when Preity Zinta is seen for the first time. Gracy Singh has some work to do before she can tackle dialogue and parts with ease. Anil Kapoor is uneven. The Big B tries his best to lend some respectability to dialogue that, unfortunately, for the most part is tired. Honey Irani has been a script writer before, but there isn't much in the plot to write home about. And the dialogue really deserved a makeover. Scenes seem forced at times. And brief. The importance of silence and pause is lost on Bollywood. The only two sequences that interested me were the conversation as Akash (Anil Kapoor), the Big B and Neha (Gracy Singh) are in the Gypsy driving homeward (after the Big B's appearance puts paid to a day out together for Akash and Neha. The second sequence is a very subdued and well-drawn conversation between father and son over a couple of drinks. The lines are natural, and the Big B gets to prove his ability to excel.

Although I watched Stumped, which apart from some irritating songs, is a decent effort. Here there is respect for silence. And the dialogue tries hard to avoid cross the fence into cliché territory. There is a lot unsaid and implied, which makes the film worthwhile. If only the background score wouldn't encroach on the senses all throughout the film. Pity, it bit box office dust. Deserved better.

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