Friday, November 28, 2003

reviews past: balani runs lola into the ground

Anant Balani made his directorial début in a triviamonger's delight: a movie called Gawahi starring Zeenat Aman, Ashutosh Gowariker, Shekhar Kapur and Ranjeeta. Yeah. The film succumbed to gravity. Triviamongers rejoiced when he made his second movie, Patthar ke Phool, which marked the last film appearance of the late Vinod Mehra and the first of Raveena Tandon. This film tanked too, despite (or perhaps because of, in part) Raam Laxman's tinny songs sung to screechness by Lata Mangeshkar and the enthusiastically misfit S P Balasubramanium (NOTE: the infamous song invoking different road names in Bombay!). Balani then moved to television, directing A Mouthful of Sky, which featured Rahul Bose and a bunch of models/non-actors including Kamal Sidhu, and Milind Soman. And this went into the record books as India's first English soap. The title song wasn't so bad though. And recently Balani splashed back with the dismal Jogger's Park, Mumbai Matinee (which will remain a personal favourite, despite all the strange looks I get), ek din 24 ghante and the unfinished Chameli (Bose again, with Kareena -- ugh -- Kapoor. Sudhir Mishra was last heard to have stepped in to complete the film). Why unfinished? Because of Balani's untimely demise. Of these MM held the most promise for Balani. JP was tired, and ek din... has a bad title, rips off Run Lola Run, linearizes the delectable experiments with time, adds some lame angles and a very very badly placed noirish twist at the end. Bose is fine, Das doesn't do much, and the film has some of the languid quality of MM, but in more abandon. There's way too much slo-mo, the background score sucks for the most part, some of the dialogue and scenes reek, and there are strange hat tips (like the Bates Motel sign reflection running up Das' car). The film has some level of promise though. But I wonder ... (more coming soon)

thanksgiving: turkeys of movies

Google came up with another interesting logo

thanksgiving 2003 logo from Google.
I caught Will Smith, Gene Hackman and a bunch of uncredited people (Jason Robards, Tom Sizemore) doing their bit for another Jerry Bruckheimer/Don Simpson high concept action thriller called Enemy of the State. Cool font on the titles (with serifs on the E, O, Y, C, S, and no horizontal on the A). A slick product (expectedly), laced with enough terminology to make your head spin. And don't get me started on all the fake social security numbers in the film. I've always wondered what the formula for SSNs in the movies was ... (see also: Marnie) after all the telephone numbers are directory lookups (except Bruce Almighty). The prescient ominous note is Senator Thomas Reynolds' (Jon Voight) birthdate -- September 11, 1940. Brr! And there's Hackman's inclusion of the word "Allah" as a word that could raise the alarm. The end credits include a line "The CNN journalist is a fictitious character". Based on what I think of CNN, that line holds a whole different meaning for me. Cool movie though, very entertaining.

Wouldn't it be appropriate to celebrate the Day of The Turkey with some movie turkeys? A movie geek's poetic justice, as it were. Try Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost. Dumb describes it mildly. A premise of potential is wasted in a film that was made "with the blessings of shri shatrughan sinha, smt poonam sinha", offers "sincere thanks to mr amitabh bachchan (for the opening voiceover) and mrs jaya bachchan", is dedicated to "pahlaj and neeta nihalani", features the obnoxious Chunkey Pandey, includes cleavage-that-passes-off-for-acting called Lara Dutta, has Abhishek Bachchan veering dangerously close to cloning his father's performances and never really bettering them, has meaningless S&D interludes backed by pathetic songs that offer a red carpet to the FF button, features a lot of people from the cast of Lagaan, includes a BPL TV (that even showcases a BPL ad at one point), has clips from Aankhen (a.Nganaa me.n baabaa), Raja Hindustani, Kaala Sona, Jaani Dushman(YEAH! see also: experiences: phases I, II and III), Jaanbaaz (pyaar do pyaar lo), Ramayan, Mahabharat, and a movie with Hemant Birje dressed up as Superman carrying Kimi Katkar around (not sure if it was Dharam-paaji's Superman). The film had a potential to be a postmodern western (the only things that even retained my interest as it turned out were Dayashankar Pandey's fantasy excursions paying homage to Feroz Khan in Kaala Sona). Especially notable as rotten-tomato prizewinners are the rather pointless starry introductions afforded to the characters of Dutta (a random dance that serves as an assets advertisement) and Bachchan (something better fitting a horror film). The needlessly violent climax fails as a poor attempt to do a Sam Peckinpah, and even contains a straight lift from Mirch Masala (minus the sociological impact of the source!). Strictly avoidable.

Chaar Maharathi is the stuff that made Zee Cinema appealing. The print was bad on this Mithun starrer, which also featured Om Shivpuri (also credited for the story idea) as John, Amjad Khan as "Professor" Shakti Singh (supposedly a criminologist!), Kadar Khan as "Ustad" Suleiman, the ever irritating Tina Munim as Phool (yep, you read that right!), the heinous Asha Parekh, Bharat Bhushan, Chandrashekhar and Raza Murad in a pre-credit cameo as Mithun's ill-fated father. Characters interestingly change names in the movie: Bharat Bhushan character goes from being Ramesh to Rajesh; and Mithun's childhood name seems to change from Rohit to Raja/Rajinder. Some nice pieces of dialogue though: aurat aur zamiin apane a.ndar sab kuchh chhupaa detii hai.n; and the following destined for Mithuniana:

(ustad bhiku): seTh, mujhase paise maa.Ngane waale kaa mai.n sab kuchh jalaa detaa huu.N
(mithun): sab kuchh to bahut duur kii baat hai. pahale apanii ##cigarette## jalaa ke to bataa

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Gazal for the day {aka: with so few people in the office, do you really expect me to manage to achieve something?}

The shaayar for the hour is Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib. And the work is aah ko chaahiye ik umr asar hone tak (or hote tak, depending on how much of a purist you want to be). I was lucky to listen to renditions by Jagjit Singh, Ghulam Ali and Beghum Akhtar thanks to And the translations and commentary from the Divan-e-Ghalib page (a wondrous achievement by Frances Pritchett) were most enlightening.
bits and peace

In Technology Has Us So Plugged Into Data, We Have Turned Off (Wall Street Journal | November 11, 2003) Dennis K Berman writes about a new plague of inattention that is spreading called "surfer's voice": -- a habit of half-heartedly talking to someone on the telephone while simultaneously surfing the Web, reading e-mails, or trading instant messages. On one end of the phone is an annoyed colleague or family member discussing an important topic. On the other end, a party puts on a meager soundtrack of knowing participation: "OK ... uh-hum ... right ... OK." It is punctuated with surreptitious tapping of a keyboard. The brainy people who study these things call this phenomenon "absent presence.". I have been (and will unfortunately continue to be) guilty of this myself, although I'd have to add hacking out and building lines of code to the list of simultaneous activities.

Aditya adds to his list of nice little posts with a fresh addition that reviews Jagjit Singh's Close to my Heart, and describes the rubaa_ii. This is the first time I heard of the show Pop kii Aa.ndhii, and I must say I'm still rocking in my chair at the pun.

From rmim {original post}:

hey hey!

me again, the white boy who works at a south asian tv station.

can someone help me? on the show india top 10 on B4U one of the songs
in the top 3 or 4 is by this girl with a totally perfect face. i don't
know her name or the name of the song. all i can tell is that she wears
the traditional indian gear with a big nose ring in the video and after
she sings what i think is the chorus she shakes her body real fast. she
has a perfect smile and face. what is her name? hope this helps.

sorry to be a bother about these things all the time but it's the south
asian women's fault for being so hot all the time. yeah.


Tuesday, November 25, 2003

hey joe

After sampling the first CD of Sixty Six to Timbuktu, I clearly wanted to sample the second as well. The only recourse I had came from sound bytes online. These included a fragment of Plant's searing cover of Hey Joe. The most famous version arguably comes from Jimi Hendrix. I also know Deep Purple covered it (don't have the cut though). So I set out doing a little Internet searching to dig up the roots of the song. The AMG page included a little blurb: a wailing version of Billy Roberts' "Hey Joe" (recorded in 1967 and rivaling the emotional wallop of Jimi Hendrix's version recorded that same year).. Searching for Billy Roberts on AMG didn't come to much. The Covers Project had more information about other people covering the song. Seems like The Leaves were there first, although they had neither writing nor composing credit. So it was back to Google. And lo and behold, I wasn't alone. There's actually a website dedicated to the song, which hosts a growing list of covers. There goes my search. Now all I have to do is track down these different versions and make my own mix CD. At least there's still something I can do.

Monday, November 24, 2003


R. I. P. Uma Devi (better known as Tun Tun) who passed away today at the age of 80. Survived by a legacy of films and a brief career as a playback singer (we all know about afasaanaa likh rahii huu.N).

Branding continues to dominate filmmaking in Bollywood

Yana Gupta deserves kudos for getting her goals realistically straight: She's aiming for a record for the most item numbers in films...

muse-ick! {previous in thread}

Anu Malik and Javed Akhtar team up again (read: Refugee, Border) for J P Dutta's LoC: Kargil or LoC. Whatever. I didn't expect anything but the long-winded overstaying unexciting stuff that Malik dished out in Border and Refugee (all the good moments were short-lived; and the latter went on to snag Malik a National Award thus sending his ego to unmentionable limits!). Wasn't wrong. Sadly. siimaa_e.N bulaa_e.N has pretty much the same instrumentation (after all if JPD wants to inflict a trilogy of borderline -- no pun intended -- movies, why should Malik not indulge in the same arrangements) with the same dismal enthusiasm of the mainstream playback singers. On and on it goes. Shreya and Kneegum present pyaar bharaa giit -- another overlong song complete with trite high points and Rafi-esque soundscapes redeemed only by a backing male vocal riff and some strange sitar riffing that brings up the welcome coda. If you haven't already figured out by now, the melodies are strangely similar to Malik's previous efforts for Dutta. mai.n kahii.n bhii rahuu.N will probably be my pick -- to be more precise the catchy opening vocal riff in diip cha.ndii before the male singers wreak havoc. Everyone else except Nigam and Udit (to a lesser degree) seems to summon enough heart and verve required. Kush rahanaa has a nice guitar riff as its spine. Everything else is irritating jingoism waiting for the next song in the list. ek saathii aur bhii thaa has Nigam again. 'Nuff said from my end at least. And then two instrumentals for afficionados to karaoke to (although Before We Forget --- siimaa_e.N with its raag des touches was appealing enough). Someone should study this CD for useful compression techniques employed to retain all the tracks on a single disc! And could we just stop churning out crap like this. Please?

Indiafm has a more enthusiastic review ("[this track] should bring tears to the eyes when seen on screen"). I won't even bother to relish the irony in that line.

At the music release party, Dutta had this to say about Akhtar and Malik: "As far as my music is concerned, Javed Sahab is my right hand, because Javed Sahab always does things right. And Anu Malik is my left hand without which I cannot do because I am a lefty!".

The Malini/Deols pose for a photograph at the music release party. The photograph could serve as a good publicity shot for a horror movie about a cannibalistic mother and daughter who dance and sing to lure their prey ...
hema and esha from Hindustan Times

on how i changed my mind about piedmont park

Saturday Nov 22 and Sunday Nov 23, 2003 should be recorded in Atlanta history as starkly misaligned days of springy weather in winter. It was to celebrate this bright wonderful event that I ended up in Piedmont Park on Sunday afternoon with friends. The only time I've been here has been for the Atlanta Jazz Festival, which happens to the right side of the park (point of reference: looking at the main entrance at Piedmont and Charles Allen Drive). The left side is where the park really opens out as a park. It's not as bad a place as the 10th St view or the sparseness of the right side (during the concerts) make it out to be (for me at least). Expect recommendations from me the next time around. And now, Monday morning is here with dark, grey overcast skies spitting rain like nobody's business.
ignoble borders

Chanced to visit Borders on Ponce last Saturday and I was appalled to see the transformation. The store has been rearranged and remodelled to uncannily resemble a Barnes and Noble. The horror, the horror! A set of large dark bargain shelves at the entrance replace all the little bargain carts scattered about the place. The new scan-and-listen system (another B&N nugget) is admittedly nice (allowing me to sample Sixty Six to Timbuktu), but I found nothing that interested me anymore. Pity. Wish they'd just knock prices down, so I don't have to keep trolling used stores and portals.
we bury our sins, we wash them clean ... in the mystic

I am pleased to announce mystic river as another Eastwood success. Admittedly, I am a fan of the man, so I went in with a certain level of comfort expecting the patient undulating tone of the film. In fact, I'd contend that this pace adds an extra level of uneasiness to the pivotal pre-climactic scene. Based on Dennis Lehane's bestseller (which has already moved onto my long to-read list), and embellished by a score by the director himself, this is a fine ensemble. All is forgiven for Sean Penn's "Oscar-pitched" Sam Dawson, as he adds every bit of menace, pain and Catholic guilt and retribution to the character of Jimmy Markum. Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laura Linney, Marcia Gay Harden, and Laurence Fishburne provide other stellar examples in fine acting. This film is a clear runner for the Oscars, which makes me glad (for Eastwood) and sad (because of what I really think the naked man with the sword is really worth!). About the only time Eastwood and editor Cox seem to slip (and perhaps a little too badly) is the add-on scenes after what might have been a good time to end the film and before the end credits roll. But that's a minor grouse. Boston never looked so beautiful, or darkly sinister. And there's great production design from the dependable Henry Bumstead. Eastwood fans will also smile at Eli Walach's cameo as the liquor store owner.

Friday, November 21, 2003

updated googlism

Auto-Ego-Googlism gives me richer results than the last time around. Apart from the ego-boosting hails of cool, great, natural, moving, gorgeous(!), and "a winner" we have some ticklers:

george is a large part of our problem

george is written in perl

george is now bouncing around alaska

george is released from hospital by kevin patton (who he?)

george is changing the environment

george is a punter of screenarts.

I am the One.

Dhoop: sunburnt by the maudlin

What prevents this film from being a worthy cousin of Mahesh Bhatt's Saaraansh based on the real-life story of Shaheed Capt. Anuj Nayyar is the sentimentality, songs (both in the foreground and background), pathetic background score, bad editing and general TV-style filmmaking. Gul Panag makes a better-than-crashed début, but her dimples merit more praise than either her acting skills or diction. Om Puri and Revathi (whose South-tinged diction may get some people flaming me and the film) are first-rate in this tale of the parents of a decorated Kargil martyr who struggle to get the permissions necessary to set up the petrol pump that the Government has given them as compensation. Sanjay Suri passes muster in a brief role, but the romantic flashback was really unnecessary. And having Jagjit and Hariharan inundate the soundtrack with deja-vu-esque light singing did not work for me. A waste. The downward spiral into corruption and the parents' struggle marks the most engaging section of the film. The problem with the utopian end is the sheer amateurish approach to setting it up, sending it all the way to the fence with the absurd. After all how can the PM (of whom we only see stilted eyes reminding me of S P Balasubramaniam and horror films where the protagonist turned into a snake) bring order to the chaos in FIVE MINUTES??? A pity really, The heart's in the right place. But the mind did not intervene. But I don't think I'll be premature in claiming this as my pick for a movie based on Kargil. J P Dutta's starfest does not pique my interest one teensy weensy bit.

more listens

Thiruda Thiruda refuses to age for me. Makes me sad too. Wonder if ARR will ever be able to return the simplicity and sparseness of this effulgent score, now that he seems to building and crossing new bridges of sampling complexity? Wish I could understand Tamil too.

Other aural nuggets in the playlist include

* yaade.n banii.n parachhaa_iiyaa.N from JL's songlist for Soch (Strangers on a Train with songs) {NOTE: the link to the lyrics might cause a "Save As" dialog box to pop up if you are using a non-Internet-Explorer browser. Vinay is looking into the problem}.

* Thahare hue paanii me.n from Dalaal

* Sandeep Chowta's Satya-esque theme for Asoka, and Chowta's rollicking title track for Kaun

* The retro vibe of unase milii nazar from main madhuri dixit banna chahti hoon

* aan milo sajanaa in raag Kamaaj from Gadar

* kuchh mere dil ne kahaa from tere mere sapne

And another ISB post in the THGHT series: cha.nd roz aur merii jaa.N from the under-rated Sitamgar.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

listens and reads

Current listens: audio clips hosted by Electric Magic. Krishna by Sanjeev Abhyankar {see also: musical nirvana entry and album details}. Madonna's Like a Prayer and The Immaculate Collection. Torn Curtain: The Unused Score (related: cape fear: every man has to go through hell to reach paradise).

Current reads: Oracle Magazine Nov/Dec 2003. Linux Journal Dec 2003, The Life of Pi. Understanding comics : the invisible art.

Coming up: a huge huge pack of Pancham goodies from R&N featuring volume II in the customized mix series, Agar Tum Na Hote (being a compilation of Kishore songs for RDB including the title song for the film that also gives this collection its name), joshila/dil diwana, khalifa/parchhaiyan/itihaas, ghungroo ki awaaz/apne apne, and chandan ka palna/gomti ke kinare.

numerical understanding: credit cards and social security

Living in America means you are inundated by all kinds of numbers. You are ultimately a number in the system (think Big Brother) and this number is called your social security number (the ironies and paradoxes in that moniker are food for another post). Then, since you need to contribute to the economy and the tilted scales of demand vs supply, you get one or more bank accounts and one or a pack of credit cards. More numbers. Then there are debit card PINs, credit card security numbers, toll-free customer service[sic] numbers. Admittedly, there are established and adequate mechanisms to deal with lists of phone number, important dates and such.

Which brings me to some questions that inevitably popped up as I got used to this system: what does the format of a Social Security Number (SSN) mean (if anything at all)? and the format of a credit card number? and how do they validate and cross-check? A recent technical article contained a useful phrase "the LUHN formula". This sent me googling, and I found a page that offered an explanation. And another one provided a description with a programmatic bent (and made even more sense). And then there was the ever-reliable Wikipedia page, which also links to the number patterns of different credit card companies.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

stray thoughts

i wish ... Jimmy Page would get more concert-only performances out on CD, digitally cleaned and sparkling. Like their cover of "As Long As I Have You," by R&B pianist Garnet Mimms, which (like most covers) transformed into a medley that included "Fresh Garbage" by Spirit, "Shake" by Sam Cooke, the blues-steeped "Susie Q", and the traditional song "Mockingbird" -- "Hush little baby, don't say a word, Papa's gonna buy you a mockingbird." Or their version of Howling Wolf's "Killing Floor", which included a cool loopy bass line, embellished by a drum solo of Bonzo's "Pat's Delight".
why does ... Madonna's Keep It Together from Like a Prayer sound prophetically like Janet Jackson's If from Janet?
for a few newsitems more

After the splash called Chokher Bali, Rituparno Ghosh (last mentioned on this blog) is all set to make his first Hindi feature called Raincoat (the punny euphemisms notwithstanding), and nets some prime fish with Ajay Devgan and Aishwarya Rai. A TOI article titled Tabu is great, says Rituparno Ghosh hides this and other bits of trivia (Nandita Das was the original choice for Binodini, before the part went to Aishwarya Rai), and Tabu's name finally crops up only in the last answer (on page 2 at that!). Talk about bad headlining. Another turkey feather in TOI's punctured cap.

The mis-aligned gangster flick Supari becomes the first Hindi film (or Indian even?) to exploit the P2P medium for movie sales ... $2.99 for the asking. Send me a cheque instead. {more}

J P Dutta talks about LoC: Kargil: All of [the 32 heroes and 11 heroines] were needed to tell the true story; each character is based on a real-life person. Each one has his role etched out, and has his moment of glory. Note the rise from 26 to 32.

Monday, November 17, 2003

why I don't like spielberg/on rankings, and peter jackson{related: another countdown}

Yes, I wouldn't have minded Peter Jackson's inclusion in the Guardian's list. Anyone who can make outrageously funny gore-fests like Bad Taste and Braindead/Dead Alive, and then make something sanely chilling as Heavenly Creatures, and then step up to front an adaptation of Tolkien's trilogy that rocks just for how he makes telling such a long complex multitextured tale with such ease and elan.

And now Mr Steven Spielberg. It's not that I haven't enjoyed his movies. But his ouevre seems awfully limited and constrained. Yes one may argue for his ease at making end-of-the-seat entertainers, critiques of war and genocide, sensitive socials, and comfortably mixing genres. To borrow a phrase from the C2Wiki entry, his films are "affable and homiletic". Which would translate as feel-good treacly, emotional, simplistic cinema for the family to cuddle up to. Now I don't have anything against films for the family, I don't think SS's ability to churn out one blockbuster after another that follows the same pattern would qualify him for the Guardian's list. He always squeezes in fists of emotional moments into all his films, and this can often conflict directly with the vision of the premise and mood of the film (Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report, A. I.). I have constantly failed to understand Kubrick's vision, which meant that A.I. represented the worst of both worlds as far as I was concerned (and what little I saw failed to win me over, except visually, which is what most of Spielberg's cinema does for me). SPR was another example of a good idea meandering down the path of John Williams-drenched mellow drama. Everything "new" that he ever attempts soon succumbs to his overarching vision of cartloads of the milk of human kindness.

A little example to close my quick belch of words above. Triviamongers will recall that Schindler's List was originally a project to be directed by Martin Scorsese. Spielberg was wrestling with Cape Fear. They swapped projects and Spielberg went In Scorsese on Scorsese as well as in his commentary accompanying Cape Fear, Scorsese talks about the changes he made to Cape Fear, and how Spielberg would have approached the project. In the case of this film, I liked Scorsese's approach. It would have been interesting to see Scorsese's Italian-Catholic approach to Schindler's List, but then again, I haven't seen the film yet (yes, the horror!), so I am hoping it's as good as people make it out to be (the Oscars notwithstanding).

As for the Wachowski Brothers: In addition to the cinema-hall pleasures of the Matrix trilogy (also forking off countless scribbled napkin-discussions, blogs, websites and cliques), they were responsible for things as diverse as the screenplay of Assassins (which actually has a couple of cool shots in it), fronting Bound, which easily mixed the caper movie, the gangster movie, the film noir, the sex movie (more precisely the lesbian sub-genre) and the slapstick comedy. Tip of the hat for that. Their next flick could cause a drastic shift in my opinion, but I'm hoping against it.

Related flames/posts: Anti's take

dvd special features: the manchurian candidate, the two towers

John Frankenheimer's commentary adds value to the chilling experience of the film. Especially interesting is the description of the process that contributed to the wonderful brainwashing sequence in the opening. Lots of trivia and notes on little bits in the film that were not immediately clear on first viewing. My pick (for sheer personal reasons) would be the nod to Foreign Correspondent ("these days they call it an homage. back then it was a ripoff") in the way Marco figures out where Shaw is holed up at Madison Square Garden (part of which was on location, and most of it on a soundstage in LA).

The special features on The Two Towers DVD were modest (paling before the recent box set), but were still enough to provide evidence of what a committed dedicated hardworking crew can put together. The set construction details, the locations, the detail in the costumes, the seamless integration of CG and live action (culminating with Smeagol/Gollum). And that infectious theme again ...

tarang: the spectacular end to the ICMS proceedings of 2003

Abhijit Banerjee on tabalaa and pakhwaaj; Snehashish Majumdar on mandolin, banjo, double-necked mandolin; Somnath flexing around myriad gems of percussion like the ghatam (mostly), the kanjira, a bamboo tarang, maadals, shaker, tambourine, cymbals, TunaTunaa, ghungruu, and taashaa; B Rajasekhar on morsing. This percussion ensemble (taal-vaadya kacherii) was presented by the ICMS under the umbrella of an event called Tarang. A delight in every sense. A very useful introduction to the efforts toward adopting instruments more common in carnatic music in hindustani classical.

vedaa: an invocation of the gaayatrii mantra preceded a splash of fervent mandolin playing accompanied by tabalaa/pakhwaaj, cymbals and vocal chanting

swaas: Exploiting the des raag and the diip cha.ndii taal, this one featured the tabalaa, banjo (with a capo)/mandolin, tambourine, ghatam, claps and open-mouth pops

dusk: Based on raag shrii and set in the matta taal (9 beats), this one had the banjo, ghatam, tabalaa and the morsing duelling it out

return to home: A taanya vartanam featuring claps, the morsing, ghatam, tabalaa/pakhwaaj

There was a post-intermission slot where Snehashish explored the range of his mandolin in isolation, without any accompanying percussion.

Pancham: This one will remain special for me. Abhijit Banerjee announced the name of the piece and then proceeded the explain the name. The piece used a pentatonic raag (ha.nsadhwanii) and a 5-beat cycle. I was so sure he was going to mention R D Burman at this point, and was smiling like a jackass when he actually did. This piece was also a tribute to the late great Pancham. The fervent improvisations and jugal ba.ndii that followed featured the mandolin, tabalaa, morsing, and taashaa.

dancing daffodils: A play on Wordsworth's poem, this one featured a laggi (the percussion improvisation that accompanies the end of a thumrii) with melody. The mandolin, ghatam, shaker, tabla, and morsing featured along with the maadals who made their first appearance on this track

naughty laalaa: A playful piece that switched occasionally to diip cha.ndii dedicated to Abhijit Banerjee's son that employed the dholak, cymbals, tambourine, TunaTunaa, morsing, bamboo tarang, maadals, the mandolin, and two tabalaas.

varshaa: The final piece of the evening in raag megh started off in ek taal and moved later to tiin taal in the drut. The 2-necked mandolin (the upper neck of this work-in-progress experimental mandolin currently had only 4 strings) made its appearance finally, along with ghungruu, pakhwaj, tabalaa and tambourine.

Was also lucky to join the artistes for dinner at Maharaja restaurant in Tucker.

zepp at the royal albert hall 1970 {backstory}

Glorious. Ostentatious. Bodacious. Can't help sounding like Michaelangelo. The longest fragment on the first DVD in the pair has Zepp in their traditional mould (perfectionists even in live performances) as well as goofing off (miming to Communication Breakdown). It's also interesting to see how LZ in the early days were like most bands today in their early days, striving for a look and sound. Goes to show you never can tell who'll be the next big one. The sound quality is excellent, especially given the time these recordings were made (after all remastering isn't magic!). Itching for a time slice to relish DVD II. In the meantime, I think I'll just stay dazed and confused.
revolutions: indiainising the green

The short of it is I enjoyed myself sitting there looking up at the Wachowksi brothers dish out another heady mix of mainstream existential angst and SFX-assisted action-o-rama. The final edition in the trilogy leaves a lot unanswered (which is good), adds more fuel to the fire on ambiguity (very good) and mercifully does not suffer from sagging midsection issues like the second edition did. Great action, swift pace, more loopy dialogue that goes nowhere. The downsides: As if compensating for the excesses in Reloaded, this film gives short shrift to a lot of ideas, threads and characters, while introducing a whole new set (including the Charon-esque trainman -- more here). The delightful Merovingian gets precious little screen time, and the steatomammate Monica Bellucci and her assets get only enough screen time to qualify her presence as a cameo. The battle for Zion has the predictably jingoistic elements, along with the usual "loser makes it big" moment. And there's the exchange between Neo and the Oracle when he asks when this will all end. The self-referential irony had me chuckling.

Which brings me inevitably to the "Indian" (quotes intentional) elements in the film. The kid playing Sati does a good job, but it's just a wrong Indian name. Strike one for the American idea of India and cool Indian ideology. Then we have an American (Bernard Wilson) playing Rama-kandra (Strike two and three for America's Indianness -- the closest you can have to this butchered name is raamacha.ndraa) and Tharini Mudaliar playing Kamala (pronounced, in American fashion, as kamaalaa instead of kamalaa). Now don't get me wrong, I'm not criticising the incorporation of Indian elements (perhaps the mystique is a benefit) into the film, but I still get sore at pronunciations. Most of the dialogue in the Mobil Avenue (name explanations here) sequence, and in fact the whole sequence itself, seems to be rushed -- making Reeves' weakness as an actor more evident. And then there's the much talked about shlok from the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad 1.3.28 that is heard on navras, which dominates the end credits (although it sneaks up on you early on as neodammerung during the apocalyptic battle between Neo and Smith):

asato maa sadgamaya
tamaso maa jyotirgamaya
m.rtyormaa am.rtamgamaya
(The next line is a repeated invocation of shaa.ntii: The Waste Land by Eliot comes to mind)

The first vibe I got when this began to drum out (against a strong electronic rhythm, and peppered with violin rushes and a female alaap) was of the clichéd use of gregorian chants in horror films. And considering the meaning of the words in the shloka (From delusion lead me to Truth/From darkness lead me to Light/From death lead me to immortality -- This translation is from the liner notes of the soundtrack were from the Penguin Classics publication of the Upanishads, as translated by Juan Mascaro). Wish they had gotten the pronunciations right though. Quibble quibble.

Interpretations. Rife. Numerous. I'd love to watch the trilogy on DVD in one go. Would help to see if the Wachowski Brothers were trying to be clever and changed ideologies somewhere down the line. For now I'll rest with my favourite moments in the movie: the hordes of sentinels (pouring into Zion from the docks, inundating the Machine world, seating Neo into a makeshift jackport, and rallying about to give form to the Deus Ex Machina). And Hugo Weaving's great monstrous laugh.

Friday, November 14, 2003

another countdown

aranyak points me to rediff's syndicated mention of a Guardian feature titled "The world's 40 best directors". The panel of critics (Peter Bradshaw, Xan Brooks, Molly Haskell, Derek Malcolm, Andrew Pulver, B Ruby Rich and Steve Rose) have put together this list, which mercifully does not include Steven Spielberg. The burning question is: Why 40?? And I definitely disagree with the casual use of the word "best". A more appropriate title just based on the names and the ouevre would have been "some of the most-talked about filmmakers in the last X years" (where X could be some number less than 10). While "veterans" like Lynch and Scorsese (I must admit that seeing the two up there on top does make me happy) and Cronenberg (then again, why did he slip down?) have been around for a while, entrants like the Wachowski brothers, David Fincher, Spike Jonze, Michael Moore, Paul Thomas Anderson and Wes Anderson (two very good and strong reasons for me to close my browser window and proceed to other chores) and Gus Van Sant have had a relatively short time in the filmmaking space. The variety of the list is refreshing (for lists full of pandering and self-congratulation consult the AFI).

But the rediff report slips a bit: Here are a few that missed the list: Gus Van Sant ... He's down there at #40. And their list of omissions includes people who mostly deserved to stay out (Steven Spielberg, Anthony Minghella, Baz Luhrmann, Ridley Scott).

out of the past: being about a leaf that the wind blows from one gutter to another

Although I would have wanted to watch cat people or i walked with a zombie, Out of the Past became my first Jacques Tourneur film. Robert Mitchum chews cigarette butts, walks about with a snarly downbeat face and dishes out lines that ooze the muderous cynicism characterizing most of film noir. Kirk Douglas, Jane Greer, Rhonda Fleming, Paul Valentine, and Dickie Moore lend able support as Roy Webb's music guides us to the eye of this whirlpool of love, lust, deceit, treachery, and death. has more detailed coverage and preserves most of the crackling dialogue including this little gem:

Jeff: Meta always talked about you like you were the ninth wonder of the world.
Eels: She skipped one.
Jeff: For me, it must be the eighth.
Eels: All women are wonders because they reduce all men to the obvious.
Meta: So do martinis.

Other favourites would be Joe couldn't find a prayer in the Bible (Whit Sterling/Kirk Douglas) and You know, a dame with a rod is like a guy with a knitting needle (Jack Fisher/Steve Brodie)

Thursday, November 13, 2003

the manchurian candidate: an intriguing exercise in paranoia{WARNING: things like spoilers will be trivially discussed here}

The Manchurian Candidate was released in 1962. With a taut screenplay, great performances and an eerie background score (with a very delicious motif), the film was destined for greatness. JFK's assassination a year later, however, cast the film in a whole new light (it was even referred to as being a blueprint for the assassination), and, along with Suddenly (a brilliant atmospheric film I caught on Star Plus back home), it was withdrawn by Sinatra (who starred in both films). The film resurfaced several years later to much-deserved acclaim.

The real-life echoes are disturbing: James Gregory's communist-hating John Iselin is a different Senator McCarthy; Angela Lansbury's mother prefigures Margaret Thatcher; Laurence Harvey's disturbingly effective performance as Raymond Shaw as well as the circumstances we see him in towards the climax of the film are uncomfortably close to JFK events a year later ...

My favourite sequences in the film would be:

* a bravura setpiece of editing (which could squeak out only an Oscar nomination) revealing the soldiers being brainwashed through 360 degree pans between Communist Korean puppetmasters and their projected image of a spinsters' garden party in New Jersey.

* Bennet Marco (Sinatra) meeting Rosie (Leigh) for the first time on the train. The dialogues are perfect for one of those sit-upright-in-the-seat-wondering-WHAT moments.

This brings me to the one thing that worried me throughout the film: The dialogue exchanged in the Sinatra/Leigh encounter leads me to just one conclusion: Marco, not Shaw, is the real "Manchurian candidate" and Rosie, not Mommy dearest, is the real "American controller". This gives the climactic events a more ominous ring smacking of a deeper conspiracy.

Wonder how someone who hasn't been in the US will be able to make the Heinz/57 connection...

Laurence Harvey had an unfortunately short career. He also starred in Orson Welles' unfinished The Deep.

{more material}

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Orson Welles' Macbeth: twisting Shakespeare about and echoing Eisenstein

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

Caught Orson Welles' Macbeth yesterday. This was the VHS print of the 45th anniversary release, which restores the original Scottish soundtrack as well as 20+ minutes originally chopped out by the studios. I also had The Oxford Shakespeare edition of Macbeth complete with footnotes, which meant that I could (a) follow the soundtrack (as with most Welles' cheapies, the dialogue is not too clear, and the Scottish accent makes it worse) (b) understand the flip flops that OW kept performing with the script. Shakespeare purists might well discount this adaptation for its brevity and liberties (note the additional character of a priest, the omission of several scenes, the changes in assigned dialogue, the temporal mixing of asides and monologues, the more omniscient nature of Welles' Macbeth), and one may be tempted to side with them, because this is one of Shakespeare's shorter plays. However, this film ultimately works a great exercise in merging theatre and movie mise-en-scène, and also (at some level) a horror film, as OW continues to play around with his favourite themes. Lots of labyrinthine Kafkaesque moments, allusions (at least so far as I could see) to Eisenstein (especially Ivan the Terrible Part I). Once again, Welles does not disappoint. What I need now is the shooting script.

just say NO! media slaughter

there's an online campaign afoot for a shout-back on the decline of standards in the Indian media. The recent political tirade against The Hindu (which as far as I can see continues to maintain good standards on the newsreporting front). Scream bad usability if you'd like, but a superficial interface is much worse than a rudimentary one. {courtesy: lazygeek}
films get longer ... and STILL have songs

apanaa Bollywood filmmakers will never learn. Long films, especially those with flagging narrative and dumbass songs touting pathetically synthetic family values[sic] and the virtues of true love (with dancers dressed in their skimpiest best. how ironic!) suck. And J P Dutta, for all the promise of a great visual scape seen in Ghulami and Batwara, seems to want to lead this effort. LoC Kargil features 26 Bollywood heroes and 11 heroines, and runs for four hours. With all these people, this Altman wannabe effort will clearly have songs. Despite all that praise (what in the name of grief were people thinking?), Border was a vain attempt at trying to shove in a square peg into a round hole -- getting stars to act (I mean COME ON!), lugging in Anu Malik's "new wave" of "good" [sic] music (which kept looping Javed Akhtar's lyrics close to an end but never got there -- something the Rolling Stones should have patented), featuring tired dialogue, overlong jingoistic moments and a Filmfare award-winning background score by Aadesh Srivastava, which stuck out like Godzilla's sore thumb and really got on my nerves. Should I expect anything different from this? I don't think Bollywood has enough "acting" talent to fill an Altmanesque multistarrer (although star appeal might arguably take precedence over acting in such ventures), and I would really welcome an effort that attempts to put acting first instead of hurling reeking star suckfests at us. But then the mainstream isn't complaining. And is willing to dish out hard-earned rupaiya and $$$ to watch cuties (M and F) indulge in flights of moronic fantasy. Time to break the ribbon and peg myself to a stupor.
mijhik reviews{previous review}

Plan marks the return of the Gang of Guys called White Feather Films. Sanjays Gupta and Dutt who tormented us narratively in the multi-filched Kaante are now back with what looks like a clone of their clone, Plan. Gupta produces this time, with Hriday Shetty (son of the late fight director Shetty) functioning as director. The film has already been in the news for Sameera Reddy's replacement of Isha Koppikar in a cast that includes Sanjay Suri, Dino Morea, Rohit Roy, Bikram Saluja, Cleo Issacs and Priyanka Chopra. The promo on the Eros page features the video shot at Mecanos Discotheque in Bombay for pyaar aayaa featuring the featureless expressionless steatomammate Chopra. The truly cool thing about the predecessor film was Anand Raaj Anand's electronic sample-drenched energetic rave soundtrack (perhaps a lot rubbing off from his infamous sibling Harry Anand?). ARA is back with stuff that still sports some pixie dust from his last venture. Starting off with ishq samu.ndar's new cousin, pyaar aayaa. Kumar Sanu and Sunidhi Chauhan step up to render hotaa hai hotaa hai pyaar against a traditional standard beat. Also featuring a decent guitar solo and stalactites of samples. Adnan Sami replaces Sanu for kaise kaise, opening with a rabaab(?) and diving into the safe rhythm track adorned with samples and more rabaab(?). Parts of the song sound like they came out of Altaj Raja's tum to Thahare pardesii. Up next is the credited-to-various aane waalaa pal. A decent intro. I could hear Sanu, and the painful Udit. Wonder who the others are ...kal raat se has Shreya Ghoshal joining Kumar Sanu for a fairly standard song employing yet another standard backbeat, lots of nylon guitar fills, and vibes. Alisha returns for mahabuub mere, which also features electronically-phased female refrains, male scatting riffing with more guitar fills, and an easy standard beat. Sanjay Dutt insists on singing pedestrian lyrics for em kem (somehow this fits more on the Munnabhai MBBS soundtrack than here?). The reprise of aane waale pal does not do much to help the album. Not a great followup to Kaante, but it should still work in the clubs.

{more about the film} {rediff}

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

current reads and listens

Two wonderful books from Shashi Tharoor: India: From Midnight to Millennium is a welcome introduction for me to the background of Indian politics since independence (including "stuff that they did not tell you in your history textbooks"). The work is admittedly very subjective, but Tharoor's chapter exploring the changing caste system in Kerala and what it means to be a marunaadan malayaali really struck a very very personal chord. Not too many books have done that for me. Show Business, on the other hand, is a satire of the Bollywood movies and the moviemaking machine, written in true Bollywood fashion (how reflexive can you get!), and borrows a lot from the life and times of superstar Amitabh Bachchan. Complete with ditties, monologues, clichéd dialogues and situations, bad villain names, terrible costumes, and gossip. Even though I haven't finished either, I strongly recommend both, along with The Great Indian Novel. Tharoor also has a new book on Nehru coming out soon.

Revisited is my first long introduction to Blue Öyster Cult (connections include John Carpenter's Halloween and the TV miniseries adaptation of The Stand)

The Paradine Case is a very strange and deceptive title for what is essentially a compilation of piano pieces composed by Franz Waxman, Bernard Herrmann, and Alex North. The first track is from Waxman's score for Hitchcock's The Paradine Case, and gives the compilation its title. Good sleeve notes add value to the two Herrmann tracks (the reason I even picked this up), one from Hangover Square, and the other a short prelude for piano from 1935.

chhoTii sii ye duniyaa

Aditya explores the collapsing degrees of separation syndrome in the US ... and despite a reference to your humble blog, this is not a loopy attempt to auto-plug.

Monday, November 10, 2003

my first DVD purchase

Got the 2-DVD component of the recent Led Zeppelin power release. Having already grabbed a copy of the CD pack, I have been sitting on the fence on the DVD front. I finally gave in a grabbed the set on a decent sale price on Saturday last. All I have to do now is ... watch it (yeah!).
reeling out the hours

Movies peppered my weekend, instead of inundating it. So perhaps there's hope for me.

Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away is a wonderful children's anime. Lots of Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz allusions. Surreal sets and flourishes of animation eyecandy. My favourites are the worker sootballs and the twin witches Yubaba and Zeniba.

Diksha: An old NFDC/Doordarshan collaboration featuring a talented cast (Manohar Singh, Nana Patekar) and some humbling strong Hindi (with a lot of literary baggage). Simple, effective.

Swami Vivekananda: G V Iyer's interpretation of the life of Swami Vivekananda is often clumsy and badly put together. This may well be the consequence of a limited budget, and a complete lack of interest from parties that have the moolah but score a big fat goose egg in the cultural sensitivity department. G V Iyer has a rich legacy of spiritual films (including India's first full-length Sanskrit film Adi Shankaracharya). This time the narrative structure is simpler. Iyer manages spatial explorations, but the complexities and textures are rare. Mithun Chakraborty is excellent as Ramakrishna Parmahansa, and his scenes with Naren/Vivekananda are worth the watch. As is the rich dialogue. But the cameos by famous faces (Pradeep Kumar, Tanuja, Mamooty) as well as the ineffectual turn by Sarvadhaman Banerjee as Naren. He lacks the fire of the character he portrays. The wonderful songs (barring Yesudas' often disturbing pronunciation) -- including one in jhap taal -- comprised Salil Chowdhury's swan song. Predictably, HMV politely buried this soundtrack, and afficionadoes will probably have to scout dark and decrepit alcoves of stores to dig up the music.

The title tacks on a "Part I". And this harsh review clears up the mystery (besides explaining why I saw names like Hema Malini and Meenakshi Sheshadri in the end credits but never actually saw these people). The print I saw was an NTSC conversion from a PAL recording of a DD-I screening in 1997. The jumpy nature of the film may be attributed to the fact that either DD-I or someone else down the pipeline decided to produce a shorter version of Iyer's longer opus. This only means that I have to wait to find the original full-length version.

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: While the extended edition hits the stands, and reports of Saruman not making it to the final edition in the trilogy pour in, I managed to watch the theatrical-version-DVD. Never long, always consistently engrossing, and gentle -- just like the first installment. And Gollum is a wonderful achievement, merging emotion, life and technology. Note to self: make sure I watch at least the final edition in the theatre.

Friday, November 07, 2003

music review{previous review}

Waisa bhi hota hai: A mixed bag provides the songs for video director wunderkind Shashank Ghosh's directorial venture. The English-dubbed version will bear the moniker Shit Happens!. Quite prescient, perhaps, considering the soundtrack. sajanaa is the first of three tracks contributed by pop singer Shibani Kashyap. This one has her voice blended into the lounge-beat-laden-scape in conventional electronic fashion. {official page}. The film also has Chhal-debutante Prashant Narayanan. The full title of the film includes a deceptive suffix of "Part II" (there never was a Part I!). Hope the film holds up to the evidently skewed spirit of the proceedings. The opening strings gave me Irish vibes. Kailash Kher's Allah ke Bande is a refreshing calm before the crassy storm of Rabbi Shergill's lau.nDiyaa. Shibani bounces back with prem da.nk. Her next, tum bas tum has some cool funk phased guitar riffs slicing away, along with sitar samples thrown into a lounge mix. Bali Brambhatt's my name is gurdeep is a shameless ripoff of my name is manjeet, a cool release from Bangalore duo the Balle Balle Boys. The dependable Sunidhi Chauhan wraps up the album with jism.
{planetBollywood review} {indiafm review}
the news tightens

In a burst of upgrading their image, the Sangeet Natak Akademi has announced a new award category called 'Best Contemporary Music'. What will most likely raise a minor sandstorem is their highly questionable decision to name the controversial Kaanta Lagaa remix as the first awardee in in this category. Are we talking "musical" merit here or succumbing to populist trends? Personally, I don't see anything of musical merit in the remix. It may arguably be slightly better than the flood of similar releases in the market, but the only reason it's even getting popular is the accompanying raunchy video, which raises the bar on viewing tolerance. I am sure a lot of people don't really care about awards, but I wonder if the SNA are keen on getting themselves onto this list of "awards that don't really matter". The National Film Awards have been going increasingly populist with disastrous results. Lending an appreciative note to the latent quality in mainstream film and music is one thing, but going brain dead in doing so is quite a different story. Hopefully, the copyright law gets an upgrade soon, and stems this tide.

Media giants BMG and Sony have announced the decision to merge their music units into a joint venture ... {more}. This might be good for Pancham fans like me: BMG's catalogue boasts some unfortunately out-of-general-circulation soundtracks like Zameen Aasman, Jeeva, Anand Aur Anand, Agar Tum Na Hote, Aan Aur Shaan, Aawaaz, Andar Bahar, , Boxer, Main Awaara Hoon, Saveray Wali Gaadi, Mil Gayi Manzil Mujhe, Sunny, Hum Dono (the new one with Kaka in a double role!), Ram Tere Kitne Naam, and Shiva Ka Insaaf.

Meanwhile, the Bhatts (papa Mahesh, beTii Pooja) are getting sued for an uncredited use of Makhdoom Mohiuddin's nazm i.ntazaar (credited instead to lyricist Nida Fazli). [urdupoetry page dedicated to the nazm]. The tune smacks of memories of yaad me.n terii jaag (making this another instance of Anu Malik revisiting Naushad's tune). Another version of the nazm may be found on the album Kahkashan. urdupoetry has a more detailed track listing, and there are more lyrics here.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

revived memories of humorous dubs and fun fights

Snake-Crane Secret (1985 according to the DVD) is one among several standard Chinese kung fu exports, and betrays all the trademarks of the "genre": bad picture quality (almost alike the Bollywood B flicks that dominated the early mornings and scattered afternoons of Zee Cinema), fragmented bursts of dubbed dialogue (an attempt to sync with the speaking moments of the characters on screen) -- which offers tons of limpid sequiturs for perusal, blinkouts marking DVD chapter transitions, cool fight sequences (where people don't really seem to be trying to kill each other!), and the overlaps with the western (something that QT's Kill Bill Vol I recently fleshed out in greater gory detail). Brings back memories of the marathons that Star Movies tended to run back home comprising of old Jackie Chan flicks including Fearless Hyena, and Fearless Hyena II.
another ISB ... and noting that AVS Atlanta is no more

My second ISB post on the giitaayan wiki: chup chaap, from Chhal.

Atlanta viewers of the AVS segment on Saturday mornings may note that the hour-long weekly programme is going off the public air. The only way you can catch it now is every Sunday at 4pm on Sony, which means you need to have a Dish Network connection. Public message reproduced here:

AVS Atlanta is no more!
Since 1993 AVS has provided excellence in programming content no other program could match. Recent set backs in the economy along with increased competition in the retail sector impacted businesses and advertising budgets dramatically resulting in reduced television advertising as airtime costs increased.
If you have Dish Network, you can still enjoy AVS every Sunday at 4 pm on SONY.
Thanks to all the loyal viewers and clients for making AVS the number one program in Atlanta!
Raju Kotak, President ~ WOWNOW, Inc.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

lola das

Aditya points me to this article on the TOI about Ek Din 24 Ghante, another of the late Anant Balani's legacy projects slated for release this Friday. The synopsis: Sameera (Das) is a woman on the run, desperate to deliver 20 lakh rupees to her boyfriend, Viren (Balani's favourite Rahul Bose). This, as Adi rightly points out, smacks of a mutual favourite Run Lola Run (brief note). As a Yahoo! newsitem notes: The Hindi flick has been lengthened to suit the Indian appetite for long cinema.

sssshhh... sing and Scream

{see also: music review}

What a terrible movie title. Not a single syllable. s4h3 would have been better. Consider the following (imagined conversations):

A (one end of the phone): Hey, what are you watching?
B (other end of the phone): Sssshhh...
A: Sorry, I didn't realize I was so loud over the phone.

A (phone, again): Oy! kyaa dekh rahaa hai?
B: Sssshhh...
A: Abbe!! Terii **** kii!!!

For plot sources see also: And Then There Were None/Ten Little Indians. For the clown angle, try Stephen King's It (or the rather commendable miniseries) For denouement inspiration and general chills, watch Scream and Valentine. In fact, skip this movie entirely, and rent Wes Craven's return to form instead. Even the sequel is miles ahead of this bore-o-rama.

The film opens with its first murders at a squash court and Simone Singh chalks up points with her brief ill-fated cameo. The well-shot sequence (and the film as a whole) benefits also from a trustworthy creepy background score from Salim-Suleiman (see also: Teen Deewarein, Darna Mana Hai, Bhoot). We also see the killer, albeit decked up in a black cloak and donning a clown's mask (designed by a dude called Vivek). Allusions to the coulrophobia in Stephen King's It are probably purely unintentional. At this point, you must realise that the only reason for the getup is to add mystery for us viewers. Shame! Little can be said in favour of the rest of the proceedings. Starting off with a fairly unreadable credit sequence (the dark red letters fail to stand clear of the changing backdrop of a tableaux of death!) as Nigam belts out his first contribution to the soundtrack. Adan Sami's song failed to make the final cut, which is a pity, considering we have to sit through several more painful songs (although the FF button was put to good use for most of the musical interludes and the overlong boat-trip to the remote island of Poda from the Thai mainland). The plot drags on and on. All menace has to sadly come from the sincerity of supporting players like Shivaji Satam, Maya Alagh (surprise! surprise! it's been a long time!), and Aly Khan, some commendable camerawork (although most of the time the camera-people decide to favour tilts and inverted slides instead of more appropriate straight on slick-edit sequences), and the unassumingly screen-friendly presence of Gaurav Kapur. Dino Morea's much-lauded performance didn't grab me at all -- too artificial and hammy. And now we come to the "star" of the show, Kajol's little sister Tanisha who makes her début. The Kajol connection buys her some tolerance, because she looks ordinary (and even repulsive at times), can't act for nuts (check out her moments of fear and anxiety and her screech-fests -- proof that the FF button is the most useful button while watching a flick like this). And just about everyone else looks like the woodwork -- no distinguishing attributes, although some of the banter and characterization of the clique are well done. Maybe there is an irony in naming her character mahak (meaning: fragrance). She stinks in the acting department, as does the repulsive Suvarna Jha as Gahanaa (meaning: Jewel). Can't say much for Karan Nath (Suuraj), Kushal Punjabi (Nikhil), or Tina Chaudhary (Ria). And there's Naseer Abdullah in a blink-and-you'll-miss-him cameo as Mahak's late father (other scenes on the chopping table?).

Rakesh Roshan's Karobar had people deciding to take a trip to South Africa in the same vein as they would decide to go for an evening walk. A similar moment occurs when the friends decide to take a trip to Thailand.

Meandering from killing to killing and peppering the flagging narrative with songs that deserved a place elsewhere (try a trash can), the film finally brings us to the climax, at which point we really don't care. In fact, for all that she has put us through, Mahak deserves to die. Sadly, Kaul and party Scream to a finish, tacking on an explanation of motivation that reeks of countless nights of bad (most) Bollywood movies. At one point in the film, Dino's character says: tuu Hindi filme.n bahuut dekhataa hai: There's another reference besides the self-reflexive irony: the person this remark is addressed to seems to owe a lot of his performance to one in the source movie. Unintentional touch, I guess.

Director[sic] Pavan S Kaul and other people responsible for this yawnfest were last reported to be exploring innovative marketing strategies to promote the film using SMS. Why bother?

While on the subject of horror, K-fetishist Ekta Kapoor and loud-adaptation-fetishist Satish Kaushik are planning a remake of the Nutan classic Saraswati Chandra.

Also on a related note, the first of the final three editions in King's Dark Tower/Gunslinger series has hit the stands.

more on the value addition of Scream to the horror film genre.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

love's a bitch

Amores Perros tips a hat to QT's Pulp Fiction. There I've said it. Three stories involving dogs (titular pun?), people facing love, betrayal, death, loss and regret, interconnected by a brutal car accident. Characters from one story spill over into another: something that reminded me of similar light flourishes in Kieslowski's less satisfying French trilogy. There's a lot of blood and violence, and there's a general ache in the film, a sweet painful ache: we know how things are going to end up sometimes, and we hope they turn out otherwise. And Emilio Echevarria rocks as El Chivo. The soundtrack is cool, too.
rahmanreview: ennaku 20 unakku 18 (Disclaimer/Caveat: I don't speak Tamil)

Azhahina Azhahi has the strange combo of Surjo Bhattacharya (the voice of Thakshak's dhiim taa) and Shreya Ghoshal. The song has an interesting musical opening (am I surprised, given ARR's capability to churn out good soundscapes?). The same for Santhipoma, Kama Kama (which betrays a strong Middle-Eastern bent and some more terrible lyrics from Blaaze). Oru Nanban starts off quite like Kaamosh raat, and then loses it as it descends into high-speed miasmic textures of sound. Yedo Yedo will probably end up as my pick, although I am not quite sure why. Asathura returns to the Middle-Eastern flavour for its opening, before becoming one of those Rahman standards I've heard more than enough of.
charles claps for the rising ... and sanu gets some

All ironies intact, Prince Charles clapped up the muhuurat shot for The Rising (English) / Mangal Pandey (Hindi). Aamir looks interesting in his get-up and the conspicuous moustache. {more} {and more} [photograph reproduced here for smiles]
prince charles claps for the rising. The last time royalty graced a film's release was on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of India's Independence[sic], in 1997, when Queen Elizabeth graced the launch of Kamal Hasan's ambitious short-lived project Marudhanayagam.

In another "awardfest" (this time the Bollywood Music Awards 2003), Kumar Sanu was presented the Artist of the Decade by Moroccan Singer Ishtar Alabina. The reasons for Sanu's smiles are manifold.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

an offended panther, a giant bunny rabbit, a mithun b-flick

The first titular element refers to the uncut version of Michael Jackson's video for Black or White. The delay in transmission of new media to India meant that we only read about it. The extended sequence features a panther that morphs into MJ. He then proceeds to dance about, graciously grab his crotch on more than one occasion and gyrate suggestively, smash the windshields and panes of cars and doors that have racist graffiti on them, throw a garbage can at a store window (a nod at Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing?).

The second refers to a wonderfully dark/comic/brooding/clever skiffy called Donnie Darko. Jake Gyllenhaal is a delight in as the eponymous protagonist, and the soundtrack is groovy. The climax offers great food for thought and debate. The special features (especially the deleted scenes and the soundtrack notes) are fun too. All in all, a perfect 10 on "let's try this film and see how good it is".

Ghamandi has Sarika in the title role, with Mithun Chakraborty playing her Petruchio. Skip ahead through a couple of pleasant songs, and Aruna Irani's love-sacrifice to a short rewarding sequence of Mithun's dance routines. And then rewind, and return. Bad print. Bad acting (Sarika takes the bakery on this one). Terrible dialogue. A B-movie miss.

KHEL: a game of wits (the lack thereof)/ JUNG: a war against time and an exemplar of multivariate wobbling

Ajay Jadeja and Celina Jaitley make their débuts in Khel (music review). The former plays what could have been an even more interesting character (essentially a soul who believes in and lives the spirit of human trust and kindness). The latter plays the obligatory female interest, and does what most switchovers from the modelling world do in films: provide expressions and cleavage for oglefests, pout, attempt to act (and ham as a consequence) and generally walk about being an embarassment to acting. Ajay might do well to stick to cricket for a while, unless he radically changes his choice of film. This one is a big pretentious front-bench dud made by and with people who are full of themselves and false notions about their abilities. The key culprit here is Suniel Shetty. Cavorting about in faux cool and adding shameless plugs for his fashion chain (notice the Mischief bag containing a dress he hands to Celina at one point in the film), exhibiting bad cellphone usability (held in the right hand against the left ear/held in the left hand against the right ear), wiggling a cigarette in his left hand in pseudo-rad, displaying a cover of India Today with his photograph on it, the list goes on and on. Take away all the sheen, and SS still can't act for squat. Aah, the sheen. The storyline is old hat and rendered unbelievably long. The only time the film really picks up is when Sunny Deol makes his "entry" (second-half; in a tradition that he established with Damini). He beats people up at a discotheque (and you get some X-Ray shots of the skeletons of people he bashes up). He dodges a bullet in true Matrix fashion (he is the ONE!). And then even gets to speak some solid Punjabi with Gulshan Grover. Thus, he achieves all the objectives set up to please the front-benchers and get this dull film some business.

Jung must go down in the history books for Ajay Devgan sparring with Mithun Chakraborty for screen space; for Ajay Devgan's sequences in drag; for bad bad bad dialogue; for another use of the double role that screams deus ex machina. Most of all this film must stand tall as an exemplar for the multivariate wobbling that Rambha indulges in. She reminds you of Sridevi: fatty; thunder thighs; a squeaky voice; egregious facial expressions; deafening acting. And when she begins to dance to a song, she swings the scale effortlessly from playfully seductive to a garishly horrifying image of a multithreaded boulder hurtling down at you on an incline -- and all you can do is wonder how she isn't falling apart to pieces yet!

musical workshop with Sanjeev Abhyankar

This year seems to be destined to go down for me as the year of Sanjeev Abhyankar. Not so long after I attended his concert and shared dinner with him, I was privileged to attend a vocal workshop that he conducted at Post Vinings. Spread across two days, in two two-hour-long sessions, we explored raag maalkau.ns, yaman and ahir bhairav by ba.ndish and bhajan and ended with a question-and-answer session after a bhajan that employed aspects of raag bhim palaas. He used very interesting analogies to explain how a raag was different from a scale, and how two raags could have the same tonal structure, and yet be different based on their chalan: like pieces of cloth stitched into different forms of garment.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.