Tuesday, July 29, 2003

they said ...

Anu Malik (in a Filmfare July 2003 interview): I'd like to compose tunes for Norah Jones who picked five Grammys this year. I'd like my daughters Anmol and Ada to stop listening to Backstreet Boys and listen only to Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon. And some day I'd like to work with Britney Spears and Whitney Houston. These are some targets I've set for myself.

Monday, July 28, 2003

indian restaurant recommendation

The mega lunch buffet at Minerva Indian Cuisine [4305 STATE BRIDGE ROAD, #108, ALPHARETTA, GA 30022] on Saturday and Sunday (which is when we went) is worth every nickel, dime and dead president. There's a grand variety in North-Indian, South-Indian and a few Chinese dishes. The ambience is more Indian than most Indian restaurants out there. The rush of people is enough indication that the buffet has already achieved deserved popularity. Special mention: the (esar halwa (shira), the wings 65 (aka chicken 65), the fried karela, the goat and chicken biryanis (although both seemed to have a common spice base with only the kind of meat as a discriminator). The gobi manchurian wasn't so good -- I landed a couple of unfinished florets. A minor grouse: with all that rush, they need to up the frequency of bowl and silver replenishment.
announcing the varma syndicate... [being also a very enthusiastic plug for Darna Mana Hai]

Go watch Darna Mana Hai if you want to pleasantly surprised at what a group of smart technically sound people can achieve with a budget a significant fraction of that in the Chopra-Baweja-Sharma camp of moviemaking. The film enjoys a great strength that all Bollywood films seem to sorely lack these days: a story. A plot, even. An episodic film at long last (7 friends stuck with a flat tire spend the night telling each other interesting stories "while another story begins to develop around them"), it nests little stories that are sometimes scary, sometimes thrilling, always entertaining and oddball. The film benefits from at-ease turns from the young principles (Sameera Reddy, who heats up the videos for the title song making the runs on music channels back home, looks good on screen and even manages a competent performance --- a rarity in this age of pretty faces moving to the film world with nary a clue about acting). Special mention also for Boman Irani in a splendid turn as the obsessed sole caretaker of the "Good Health" roadside hotel.

The film also marks another exercise in RGV's trademark/patent-pending trick of using famous faces in brief (in the case of Sanjay Kapoor, very very brief) appearances across the different stories . This give us someone easy to remember and associate with, thus dispensing with tiresome footage dedicated to introduction and identification. Alfred Hitchcock was known for doing this too. Talking about Cary Grant he once said: "[Cary] enables the audience to identify with the main character. I mean by that, Cary Grant represents a man we know. He's not a stranger. If you are walking down a street and you see a man hit by a car and you don't know him, you stop and look for a moment and you say, 'Tut, tut, that's too bad', and you pass on. Now, if the person hit were your brother, well, there's a different situation altogether. It's the same thing, you see, as Cary Grant in a film versus an unknown actor." {courtesy: Who the Devil Made it}

The film scores big in the technical department:

* A delicious postmodern Bond sendup in the opening credits (belles dancing against a red -- 'blood' -- background to a dance-floor-worthy title track by Salim-Suleiman, who serve up another cool suite of sounds for an eerie background score)

* The great sound engineering and background score combined with brisk edits and dissolves contribute a great deal to some of the shock effects: Check out Sanjay Kapoor's entry into his home -- the opening door and his entry are underscored with the scary roar of a train in the background. The marriage of sound and film provides but one among several examples of the scare in the ordinary.

* All that steadicam work

* I have to plug for the economy of the film again. It's not a complete lowbie, so there is a level of finesse. The simplicity of locations and the awareness of 'less means more' (Ref: the two versions of Cat People: Tourneur's subtle scary version and Schrader's erotic SFX-rich upgrade)

Some of the stars even manage to do better than in other movies: Shilpa Shetty, Saif Ali Khan (although he has excelled in other films too), Aftab Shivdasani, Vivek Oberoi. The only star who still manages to collapse despite the brevity and limited requirements of his role is the irksome Sanjay Kapoor. Something tells me he came straight off the sets of Qayamat, retaining some of that ham.

Ironically, Sameera and Sohail Khan crashed to ground zero in their début Maine Dil Tujhko Diya {TRIVIA: the instrumental track accompanying the main page on that website sounds suspiciously like nazar ke saamane!}. They manage to save some grace in this venture. Recommendation: take small slow steps, guys. Get some quality under your belt.

The in-jokes are fun, if you catch them. The promos already had RGV bashing his own films up -- I dare any other competent director ... oh never mind, I guess using competent just cleared the field. The film's first vignette has Antara Mali and Sohail Khan. At one point, Antara Mali says Road pe kya ho sakta hai? (or something along those lines). Sohail Khan responds Bhoot aayegaa (or something along those lines). The latter is an obvious reference to RGV's recent success. The former, as alert viewers will note, is a reference to the last directorial début from an RGV camp member, Road, which had Mali discovering exactly what could happen on the road.

Syndicate alert: Edward Stratemeyer was responsible for the most popular syndicate in juvenile reading -- The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew adventure stories were written by a group of people under the monikers of Franklin W. Dixon and Carolyn Keene. That was in the 1920s. Nearly 83 years later, Ram Gopal Varma seems to on the way to doing the same thing. The fact that he merely produced Darna Mana Hai seems less publicised. The film is instead seen by many as 'another' offering from Ram Gopal Varma. But there are notable differences that make this a significant 'syndicate': RGV is pushing the envelope for mainstream cinema: eschewing the mandatory songs, affording much-needed importance to plot and story, achieving more out of postmodernism and sendups, making the most out of less (instead of grabbing large budgets to make empty mushfests). This is one syndicate that deserves to stick around. Audiences welcomed Bhoot and I hope DMH gets the same response. It deserves it. Hope the planned sequel, Darna Zaroori Hai proves just as interesting -- although it already stands to lose out in the novelty department. There's one other element that probably contributed to my enjoying the film: the print displayed in Galaxy Cinema had no subtitles. As far as I know, all hindi film prints that spin in the theatres in the US come with English subtitles. The subtitling department usually leaves a *LOT* to be desired, and usually provides fodder for couch entertainment, but it's an annoyance and an embarassment to have to watch the subtitles when the movie dialogue is in a language you are very conversant with.

RELATED POSTS: [soundtrack reactions] [the promos] [initial thoughts]


* In Drohi/Antham, RGV signed on the late R D Burman to compose the songs (although Kirwani/M M Kreem guested for 2 songs. Perhaps in admiration and perhaps acknowledging the importance of Sholay in general, RGV had Raghav (Nagarjuna) play the title theme on his harmonica at a couple of points in the movie. The punchline of the DMH ad campaign (and the songs) has been Gabbar Singh's famous line from the same film: jo Dar gayaa [samjho/wo] mar gayaa. Coincidence, I guess. {Trivia mongers might even recall the song from 100 Days, which shamelessly filched from The Eyes of Laura Mars}. And then there was the puuchho naa yaar makeover in Mast ... Come to think of it, RGV seems to be going back and improving on his past: Satya and Company were retellings of the gangster saga which had its seeds in Shiva; Bhoot was an attempt to right some of the wrongs in Kaun; Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon seems to be another take on Mast ... Hmm. Food for thought.

* What ever happened to the track they were supposed to do (or composed and abandoned) for the second collection of music for Kaante? Although it was highly marketed as containing tracks by Adnan Sami, Salim-Suleiman, A R Rahman and Shiamak Davar, the collection never made it past the hype board, with the producers and PR folks abandoning the idea after the relatively lukewarm response to the film.

Saturday, July 26, 2003


Noticed this cool acronym on several /. posts and thought it merited a little note as well as endorsement by future usage. Every time you post a reference to an NYTimes article you use FRRYYY (which stands for "Free Registration Required Yadda Yadda Yadda"), because the NYTimes requires you to have a free online account in order to read their news articles. {more about this}
way to go Aparna Sen | R. I. P. John Schlesinger

Mr and Mrs Iyer scored big at the 50th National Film Awards. Konkana Sen deservedly won Best Actress for her convincing flawless performance as a married Iyer mother. Ironically a book on director Aparna Sen also shared the award for best book on film.

Director John Schlesinger (famous among triviamongers as the director of Midnight Cowboy, the only X-rated movie to win the Oscar for Best Picture) died at 77 on yesterday. I would also recommend Marathon Man, a terrifying movie with great turns by Sir Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman.

Qayamat: City under Threat from rocks, impossible missions, temples of doom, overdone matrices and honeychile rider

Qayamat has been marketed as India's first digitally enhanced film and lauded in several sections of the media as a great technical leap forward for Bollywood. Unfortunately, these guys still don't get it. What they need to improve is not their technical infrastructure (which allows them to make passable rip-offs/recreations from Hollywood movies that constantly push the envelope in using technology to enhance the popcorn movie experience) but their choice of actors and script writers.

Actors[sic] first: The only reason that morons like Sanjay Kapoor and Arbaaz Khan continue to survive in the film industry is because they come from filmmaking families. They are irksome to the core. B-grade ham Chunkey Pandey returns as the turncoat scientist and spends his time mouthing idiotic lines, paying a tribute to the irritating Rajendra Nath and walking about in beach garb. Isha Koppikar serves (as she did in Company) as eye candy. SK (as Abbas) and AK (as Ali) play two Pakistani
Neha Dhupia, yet another crossover from the modelling world to the world of Bollywood stars, cannot act. There is absolutely no chemistry between her and Devgan (yes, apanaa Bollywood scriptwriters added a love story along with the usual song-and-dance to augment the foreign source for desi front-benchers). Debutante Aashish Chowdhury (playing Nicholas Cage's role from The Rock) sucks. Listen to his dialogues and watch his action and delivery and you can spot enough ironies to set off streams of laughter. Riya Sen is a fine example of the finest granularity of dumbness. Give her just one word of dialogue, and she achieves new nadirs in delivery. If only they had bumped her off in the film, instead of some hapless more talented extras. Heavyweights Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Anjan Srivastava (who gets the most hilarious dialogue snippet in the movie: This is the go ahead order for Operation Elphinstone.... {voice and face shaking and breaking with theatrical grief} go ahead) and Govind Namdeo are wasted -- both in space and in having to deliver dialogue that was probably conceived on the back of a soiled paper napkin from the nearest garbage can. Suniel (spelling change must be noted) Shetty continues to suck as an actor: he has no sense of movement, a terrible voice, and bad diction. He plays the token good-hearted Muslim who screams patriotic lines at the top of his lungs throughout the climax of the film. Waste, total waste.

Script: The film, which generously borrows from The Rock (primarily), Mission Impossible, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Dr. No (or maybe Die Another Day, which pays tribute to it) and The Matrix (look, we're tired of slow-mo camera by now!), also adds enough jingoistic anti-Pakistan dialogue (totally unnecessary, as in Kaante) to please front-bencher fans of Sunny Deol. Look closely at the opening credits (appearing against a promising opening choreographed with technical glee by cinematographer Sanjay F Gupta) -- what's with the last name first anyways?? -- and you'll see Karan Razdan credited as script consultant. This is the dude who gave us Rajni. So don't expect intelligent dialogue. There's also some technical jargon that only serves to add more ache to your belly as you recover from one howlarious line after another. There are also these freeze-frame moments where text in the bottom-left portion of the screen informs us of an approaching deadline. Trust me, it's hilarious. The scenes they decide to freeze have nothing to do with the text that follows. And the freeze-frame vanishes before you can read how close they (whoever they may be) are to the deadline.

Nadeem-Shravan's patent-pending predictable music completes the Dilwale déjà vu. There's one passable song (with Devgan and Dhupia against some lush greenery), and a dance-hall raunchfest involving Koppikar (as Laila) and the brothers Ali and Abbas who lust for her. Front benchers satisfied, I guess.

The editing and camera angles are confusing and distracting at the same time: an amazing accomplishment.

The only person who really scores (except some crap at the coda) is Ajay Devgan, who walks about silent for most of the film. His success with presence is reminiscent of the image the Big B cultivated in his films as the angry young man. That, with the green tint, and Sanjay F Gupta's cinematography add some value to another edition in the "we can do Hollywood too" series of recent hi-tech ripoffs.

More trivia

Subhash K Jha didn't seem to like it either: Ajay announces himself with a poker face. This is James Bond with songs, sleazy titillation and provocative dialogues all aimed at inflaming anti-Pakistan sentiments among Indian audiences..

an entertaining review on Mouthshut that somehow credits the presence of Raveena Tandon(!!) but otherwise gets most of it right.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

lunch favourite | recommendation

Try the El Burro de la Roqueta {A soft flour tortilla filled with delicious pork tenderloin simmered in beer, topped with melted cheese, ranchero sauce and pico de gallo (a Mexican relish made of fresh ingredients, similar to fresh salsa} at El Ranchero. Awesome.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

more library hauls

This is the "I will never learn" moment. Got two books on JavaBeans from the public library. For my non-technical relaxing moments I also got the original Shaft on DVD and an interesting book by Thomas Hine called I Want That! How We All Became Shoppers, a book about the American the buyosphere (interesting term there) {not-so-promising review}.
to be honest

Windows XP and its associated runnables are flooded with "user-friendly" information, which, most of the time, ends up as an annoyance. Just noted one little tooltip that could prove to be a good exception: I was naming a new folder, when I accidentally hit shift and the '8' key on the keyboard. This would have given me a '*' in the filename, an invalid character. The system did not process my input and a friendly little sober-coloured tooltip (with an enhanced raster shadow) popped up informing me that a filename could not contain the following characters: \/:*?"<>|. Quite useful -- unless you hadn't realized that you had hit the wrong key!

The Oracle Containers for J2EE (OC4J) has been a faithful pain in the rear end. It is another example of Oracle acquiring technology that they can't maintain [There's a related discussion thread on TheServerSide]. The documentation is shoddy, packed with errors, and inconsistent. The rate at which Oracle fixes problems that have already been resolved in existing application servers is appalling. And the product does not match up to all the hype. I have been scouring all the public forums (newsgroups, OTN) in the last several weeks on numerous occasions to find people similarly afflicted. A very popular strain of posts seems to be "why can't I do [something supported by the standard, or other existing application servers, or both]?".

Oracle also seems to revel in dishing out tools that compete with each other for destruction. OC4J requires its own deployment descriptor (which is a souped-up version of the Orion deployment descriptor) and JDeveloper insists on creating one for you -- except it messes it up most of the time, especially when you move beyond simple kiddie code.

The IDE also provides Class Wizards that allow you to do crazy things like add the same field to a class twice (errors appear only when you attempt to compile). The IDE provides a "Sample Client Wizard" that will generate a sample client for a business bean. The downside is: you cannot name the file at creation time. So if you create more than one sample client for a business bean called BooBean you end up with files like BooBeanClient.java, BooBeanClient1.java, BooBeanClient2.java. Anyone with a modicum of understanding of good software engineering will tell you that these are bad filenames. How ironical it is to hear Oracle scream to the rooftops about employing best practices in their J2EE tools and products.

The IDE has an EJB wizard which allows you dialog-based access to the properties of beans described in the standard ejb-jar.xml. If you use a SCM tool that leaves your local source file copies in read-only mode unless you explicitly check them out (a strict boo-boo, but the sad truth is they're out there!), then you will have two kinds of issues with this wizard: (1) If any action you take modifies files that are read-only, the Wizard will not complain about not being able to write to them. This is very very dangerous, especially if you forget to check out any files that could potentially be modified (NOTE: Anyone working in the J2EE space will know that this is not a trivial thing to do!). (2) As you move through the items in the dialog, the Wizard will pop up warning message boxes (badly designed) telling you that a certain file is not writeable (Talk about bad timing!). And this is even if you haven't modified anything!!! And if you think you can click 'Ok' and proceed, let me tell you that you are sadly mistaken. The only way out is to restart the wizard.

{For more background information and prior rants see helpful error messages, the bear called documentation, on the masochistic tendencies of bloated corporate software, the oracle of patience}

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

il forno NY Pizza and Pasta

a Lunch spot review

Stay away from Il Forno (at least the branch on College Park) if you're looking for quick and competent service. We walked in to a little room bustling with activity. The only table empty had leftover effects from a previous meal. Not finding anyone approaching us with assistance, we sat ourselves down at the table to wait. Thankfully, there was a shortage of chairs, which forced one of us to grab an extra chair, and on his way back, as at the counter if service could be expected (or if it was an "order-first and sit-to-wait"-type place). We were assured that someone would come to take our order. Having waited a little while, we decided to browse through the menus, which had a decent selection. After a little eternity, the table was cleaned. After another eternity, someone came to take our order. My companions ordered a salad as well. The salads came first, and then the water. Another eternity ticked by: how can I tell? Well, we managed to discuss (a) the entire Hannibal Lecter series, in book AND movie form (that's all 4 versions!) (b) the issues that a store/restaurant allowing payment by credit card would have to deal with (c) the "Help Wanted" sign (how appropriate!!) on the front window. This lag was really unfortunate, because the Milano's Pizza we got was quite tasty and filling without being heavy (I could taste the bread too, which is a rarity in this age of topping-heavy overbaked crust). When the tab came, one of the staff offered to divide it conveniently for us. And vanished, never to be seen again. Desirous of not destroying an already overlong lunch break, we walked up to the register to pay. The person at the register agreed to split the tab, except he executed a simple 3-way split, instead of a fairly easy split based on the orders (despite receiving and understanding an explanation of what his associate had promised). On the drive back, we settled our deficits, but the suboptimal service (3 entities in all!) overwhelmed any positive reactions we had to the food.
goodies, fragments and then some: an attempt to combat the fiercely aggregating grey clouds outside

Google has introduced an advanced news search, which allows you to search by source, source location, headline, URL or date {courtesy: Google Weblog}.

[ Lifted verbatim from a post on Ernie the Attorney's blog]: If you want to design a user-interface that is intuitive you need guidelines. And then you have to encourage developers to follow them. Oh, and if you Google "Windows User Interface Guidelines" here is where you wind up. That seems about right.

Bruce Eckel writes about the conflicting signals that the media are giving us about the state of the computer job economy. I don't think this means the jobs are lost, it's just that they are temporarily vanished in the process of migrating from large companies (who are not the traditional source of job growth) to smaller companies (who are). Some of those small companies haven't been created yet, because the problems they solve haven't been discovered yet. I agree with the coda too: If you can create a good environment (see Demarco and Lister's great book Peopleware and some of the XP books to learn how), then it's far less likely that you'll lose people to higher salaries when the economy swings back upward., and I found Peopleware to be a great informative read -- if only the right people would read it without getting offended.

David Giacalone points to a well-written article by Diane Karpman for GPSolo magazine that looks into the ethical and liability risks from not using new technology in one's law practice.


Those are the notes in the shutdown jingle played on Windows XP. Those are also the first four notes (and the notes beginning all the 12-string breaks on The Byrds song Eight Miles High). This is what Roger McGuinn, founder of the Byrds, alleged in his announcement posted on his website on July 19, 2003, that he was "filing a copyright infringement lawsuit against Microsoft, charging that the software
company is illegally using the first four notes of the Byrds hit, 'Eight Miles High' in the closing theme music for the Windows XP operating system". {see more}. Dr. Jordan Bochanis of the University of Bridgeport, a noted music culture anthropologist, had this to say: "Roger McGuinn is arguably one of the most influential guitarists of all time, and he has every right to lay claim to these four notes," said Jordan Bochanis of the University of Bridgeport. "If I were him, I wouldn't stop at Microsoft. I'd sue the Beatles, Tom Petty and the Gin Blossoms. I'd even sue Bob Dylan for making a hash of Mr. Tambourine Man after the Byrds did such a nice job on it. So I'm glad to hear Roger McGuinn say to Microsoft - hey, no more getting 'High' for free.".

All this sounds ludicrous to say the least, and one followup response to the post on the MSFN sums it up rather well: I think King Solomon should sue Roger McGuinn for stealing the entire lyrics of "Turn Turn Turn" from Chapter 3 of Ecclesiates in the Bible. That's the song that they are best known for, so Israel deserves some compensation..

Hardly had Redmond-naysayers and believers in other causes that McGuinn supports (including free music downloads) started their hosannas, when McGuinn posted a followup on July 21, 2003 cancelling the suit after remembering that he didn't really write the first four notes of "Eight Miles High" after all. "After I thought about it, I remembered that John Coltrane actually wrote that riff, and I basically stole it," McGuinn said. "Actually, the parts of the song I didn't take from Coltrane were ripped from Ravi Shankar and Andres Segovia.". Responses to this were mixed. There were supportive fans, shocked and disappointed fans ("I can't believe Roger McGuinn uses Windows. I was sure he was a Macintosh guy")

And Dr. Jordan Bochanis, the "music culture anthropologist" from the University of Bridgeport, is actually a waiter at the Acropolis Diner in nearby Fairfield, Connecticut.

On a related note, here's another great hoax: "Metallica are suing independant Canadian rockers Unfaith over what they call "unsanctioned usage of two chords [Metallica] have been using since 1982 : E and F".

Monday, July 21, 2003

hawa: all air, mostly hot

Guddu Dhanoa adopts a simple formula for Hawa: Take The Entity (which features a hitherto unexplored idea in Bollywood: a woman being physically violated by an unseen spirit) and Poltergeist (as a source for some cheap attempts at exorcism and also for ideas to explain why all this is happening). Mix in some dumb add-ons: (1) using some bad CGI for scenes involving flying bats (2) using some bad CGI to actually show the entity (This is strict BOO! Anyone making good horror movies knows that the unseen is more often scarier than the seen. In this case, every time we see the 'entity' it's time to hit the floor laughing) (3) using some stupid ideas and more bad CGI to include a humane spirit (who looks like a cheap Santa Claus) in the climax (4) Using Shahbaaz Khan to play a shrink (although marginally better than his brief turn in Khwahish, SK still invokes titters). Ironically, the sincerity of the protagonists (Barbara Hershey in The Entity and Tabu in Hawa) is what adds some decency to the proceedings and keeps you from going completely overboard with laughter. Some reviewers (like rediff) have praised Tabu's performance. To say that she had much to do in the acting department is ridiculous. Guddu Dhanoa has been a director of Deol vehicles, and clearly lacks the sensitivity and intelligence required to even float a flick of this kind. He thus can offer no input to Tabu's histrionics. Left to her own devices, Tabu does perform commendably, but she is clearly an actress who requires more exposure to directors who tap the resources of their cast (like her mentor Gulzar). But, to give her due credit, anyone else in that part, who have made Hawa look like a blast of bad air. And yes, before I forget, the child actors who play her daughters, are irritating -- no sympathy when one of them is kidnapped (a la Carol Anne in Poltergeist). Also watch out for the hilarious exorcist who mouths lines in a crazy anti-entity mantra, transitioning from some bad English lines to some terrible Hindi lines. The DVD is another example of bad mastering -- poor contrast, colour and shadows.


* Shot in Kulu and Manali in a record 40 days

* There are credits for Sameer (Lyrics) and Dilip Sen-Sameer Sen (Music). However, there are no songs in the film

Saturday, July 19, 2003

all about walking english ... namak halaal: the prakash mehra pattern

Caught Namak Halaal (again!) yesterday evening. The film is still fun, despite it's strict adherence to the entertainment formula of the 80s (complete with some rather tame innuendo). Since I caught Sharaabi (which was made a few years later) only a couple of days ago, the similarities between the two movies are rather clear:

* There are a lot of common members in the cast: The Big B (needless to say), Om Prakash. Smita Patil (who had a special appearance in Sharaabi) made her big commercial splash (no pun intended) with this film, complete with a helluva rain song.

* The 13th seems to have had a lot of impact on the plots of the two films (which were probably written around the same time). In Sharaabi, it's Vicky (Big B)'s birthday and sets the stage for the wonderful i.ntehaa.N ho gayii. In Namak Halaal, it's Raja (Shashi)'s birthday. Both characters refer to it as being a manahuus din too.

* There's a bus stop and a song to go with it in both films (Jahaa.N chaar yaar in Sharaabi and aaj rapat jaa_e.N in Namak Halaal). There are lots of posters in the NH song too, although the only one I caught this time was Kati Patang

See also: Bollybob's review of the film

Friday, July 18, 2003

more soundtracks

Kuch Naa Kaho: PRELIMINARY NOTE: The story is as boringly Dabbaa as you can get (if the rumour mills are to be believed, this is the desi version of Jerry Maguire). The title song opens with a pleasant catchy whistle. The main melody line passes bearability tests. The chorus (which starts off with the title) has some annoying dholaks at the beginning though (Sorry, I suffer from Laxmikant-Pyarelal syndrome, so it's tough for me to stomach dholak-music). Apart from some moderately interesting Carnatic-esque scatting at the beginning, Tumhe aaj mai.nne jo dekhaa (the Carnatic feeling persists) is skippable. The lyrics degrade in quality too (why Javed, why?). And I sense traces of a Dil Chahta Hai hangover. S, E & L managed to sound different and breakaway (and fresh, dare I say) with DCH, but I'm getting tired of waiting for them to get out of that cloud and do something different. From a triviamonger's P. O. V, this song marks the playback singing début of Sujata Bhattacharya. Baat merii suniye to zaraa (Mahalaxmi Iyer dueting with S) has more predictable lyrics, but a nice guitar hook and gave me a sense of nostalgic déjà vu -- the Carnatic element persists, albeit mildly. Kehatii hai ye hawaa starts off like it was the obligatory Punjaabii number on the soundtrack. Richa Sharma then moves into the main melody line against a strong rhythm track and S enters with the chorus line from the title song, righting all the wrong done in the title track -- restoring the rocksy passion that the three words required. And the lyrics are more bearable. It ends with a simple fading lick played on the electric guitar. This might just be my pick on the album. With standard rhythm programming, ABBG PPOG IPKI UPOG has the irritating Udit delivering some terrible lyrics along with Mahalaxmi Iyer (and a chorus of kids). Although more bearable than the alphabet soup ditty that Raam Laxman had dished out for Hum Saath Saath Hain, this candidate for the "longest string of letters strung together to stand for words" is skippable as is the next song (another Uditty -- Udit ditty/oddity -- good one no?), the only one with Kavitha Subramanium (formerly Krishnamurthy), achchhii lagatii ho. The soundtrack also suffers from the same problem that most soundtracks these days do: there is no element of surprise -- no interesting variation in the melody, nothing interesting in the rhythm section (kahaa.N ho tum pa.ncham?)

Darna Mana Hai: A purely functional soundtrack. Which is not such a bad thing. Salim-Suleiman build an entertaining web of dance-floor electronica and vocal refrains (the most common being "Daranaa manaa hai and jo Dar gayaa vo mar gayaa). The song with the latter refrain as the title even has the rather out-of-place word Khaanaa badosh in it! And the melody sounds a lot of ishq meraa ba.ndagii hai. It's always a pleasure to listen to Sunidhi Chauhan. Triviamongers will note Raghubir Yadav singing on Homework (where Aparna Jha scores by being more bearable than that nasty bit of kiddy crap called Aditya Narayan). And there are some familiar and some new names (in the singing department) on the soundtrack: Clinton Creejo (is this the same Clinton, backing and supporting vocalist for A R Rahman??). Sonu Nigam (yes, apologies to all his fans, but I find the baby-faced fine-example-of-wasted-talent rather irritating) can't bring enough oomph and verve to Stop. The clicking lighter at the opening of No Smoking almost got me humming It's Probably Me -- understandable no?? Ravi Khote is decent (slightly KK-ish), but his pronunciations need more work (it's dhuaa.N not dhuaa!). {SIDENOTE: Perhaps one of the stories is about a smoker trying to quit -- reminds me of the Stephen King short Quitters, Inc, which was the source for one of the segments in Cat's Eye}. A remixed version of the title track brings up the rear.

Kyon: ASIDE: Another common trend with websites popping up dedicated to Hindi movies -- the "The Film" suffix. Good time to make a spoof called chitrapaT, eh? Here's the "official" music site. A great trove for trivia mongers, because there's no way in hell (or heaven) that you can listen to the first track and name Bhupen Hazarika as the music director. As it turns out, the first track, dhiire se kuchh has rhythm programming similar to parii huu.N mai.n and by the Colonial Cousins (any surprise that Lez Lewis was associated with both?). A pleasant song. The lyricist for the album is Prasoon Joshi (the same guy who made great splashes in the advertising world with the Tha.nDaa ads; the same guy who wrote for Silk Route's Boondein, Shubha Mudgal's crossover Ab Ke Sawan, and the title song for Lajja). When was the last time I heard the word bataashaa? Asha is next with her version of baadalo.n kii oT me.n. There we go -- another rare word, oT. Asha still fumbles occasionally with pronunciation (it's haath not haat). Besides the words are occasionally stretched to fit the tune. Impedence mismatch? Both this song and the first one sound like adaptations of folk tunes. Next up: taDak taDak (huh??) with a host of voices: Dominique, KK, Sunidhi Chauhan and Sonu Nigam (ugh!). A bouncy bouncy song with lots of electronica and processed voice samples, and smooth sax ruined by Sonew KneeGum trying again to sound popsy (I really don't think I'm biased against him -- I just wish he'd stick to what he does best -- sing well -- and stay away from indulging in vocal histrionics that he just isn't made for). The lyrics are more competent than one would expect for this kind of song. Asha returns as pop diva with Jaa Re Jaa. The lyrics take a hike on this one, the tune isn't much to write about, and Asha just lacks the oomph now. Despite all the acclaim she receives for continuing to sing ably given her age, her failings with pronunciation and an aging voice get more and more painfully evident with each new song. She should probably release a couple of hard-core hindustani classical albums -- her voice can still manage those formal inflections and it would be better proof of her abilities than her status as pop diva. Rave music, an appropriately named musical track streams up next. Opening as lounge/atmospheric, it swings forward to a standard dance floor beat, and stays there, ending up as a decent candidate for some video game music. Kay Kay (KK) steps up to the microphone for the strictly standard dance floor song sun le saaraa jahaa.N. Almost consciously, Kay Kay redeems himself with the next mild romantic lament, aise ko_ii jaataa hai -- would the observation that the song sounds like a Silk Route number be a coincidence? Nice instrumentation. The only song I haven't been able to catch is Bhupen Hazarika's version of badalo.n kii oT me.n.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

rewriting the past aka Corrigendum

{Reference post: more samaachaar}Serves me right for quoting from a news article without making sure I had the facts straight. Although a lot of news reports note that the source novel for SBaG was written by Bimal Dutt, the writer to be credited is Bimal Mitra. Thanks vibhendu for pointing this out and being gentle about the whole thing.
yes minister: a lesson in software engineering

Having seen how tiring and arduous the process of negotiating a contract and cutting a deal is, I suddenly found one of Sir Humphrey's verbose explanations to Prime Minister Hacker rather appropriate:

Sir Humphrey: ... To put it simply, Prime Minister, certain informal discussions took place involving a full and frank exchange of views, after which there arose a series of proposals which on examination proved to indicate certain promising lines of enquiry, which when pursuit led to the realization that the alternative courses of action might in fact, in certain circumstances, be susceptible of discreet modification, leading to a reappraisal of the original areas of difference and pointing a way to encouraging possibilities of compromise and cooperation which if bilaterally implemented with appropriate give and take on both sides might, if the climate were right, have a reasonable possibility at the end of the day of leading rightly or wrongly to a mutually satisfactory resolution."
Jim Hacker: "What the hell are you talking about?!"
Sir Humphrey: "We did a deal."
{source: The Episode Guide (also includes a real audio clip of the scene)} CAUTIONARY NOTE for users of Microsoft Internet Explorer: You *might* see a lot of gibberish when you get to the page. I have no idea why this happens, and I don't really care (especially since the pages were composed using Microsoft FrontPage!). Here's how you get around it: (1) Go to the parent page. Click on the tab labelled "Episodes" (as it turns out, the tabs don't work in Mozilla! Touché) (3) Scroll down to the listing of episodes from "Yes Prime Minister". Click on the link for episode 5 in series 2: "2.5 - Power to the People". This should bring you to the page of interest.
ghosts of mars: vintage carpenter {a review in staccato}

Ghosts of Mars is John Carpenter doing (a la high concept) an "Assault on Precinct 13 in space". That last film was in-turn a stylized metropolitan upgrade of Rio Bravo (reminder courtesy PhobosWeb). Reminiscent of Id Software's classic Doom (perhaps because of the gung-ho kill-'em-all spirit and the setting on Mars). Carpenter comes up with an entertaining bricolage, as he efficiently sticks to his low-budget roots, shooting in a New Mexico gypsum mine (coloured red with a bio-degradable dye). He even composes the score (again) for this one -- getting Anthrax, Buckethead and Steve Vai (curiously uncredited, but seen in the Scoring-Of mini-documentary). Appropriate music for the tone and mood of the film. Natasha Henstridge makes a great feminine version of Snake Pliskken (Kurt Russell).

On the downside, Pam Grier is wasted in a brief role. There's not too much in the straight-line story and Carpenter barely makes up for it with a curious narrative style: flashbacks, flashbacks-within-flashbacks, and even a flashback-within-a-flashback-within-a-flashback. However, you can't shake off that uneasy feeling that you've seen all of it (and parts thereof) several other places before (and a lot of them, thanks to Carpenter).

Goodies: Two compact little mini-documentaries on the shooting and the scoring of the film.

a critical review of the film {Senses Of Cinema}

the value of blogging

Any good article on the interesting features of blogs will include a mention of their ability to present facts in different perspectives: Two mildly related or completely unrelated events when presented together, take on a whole new meaning. After all, that's why montage became so important. Brent Simmons has a wonderful example of this. Excellent! The tremors in cyberspace are me laughing.

{southindian accent; bad dancing; poster irony; sewri/ghote; good, bad, ugly}

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

library book fest

For reading, we now have Michael Crichton's Prey (mainstream sci-fi pulp adventure with a premise of nanotechnology), Who the Devil Made it (a collection of interviews conducted by Peter Bogdanovich {rant elsewhere} with famous Hollywood film directors), Stiff : the curious lives of human cadavers, Don't make me think! (a book on web usability by Steve Krug). For our viewing pleasure we have Ghosts of Mars, the last film John Carpenter made (to date, that is).
R. I. P. Ted Codd

"A relation is in second normal form if the relation depends on the key, the whole key, and nothing but the key, so help me Codd": A mnemonic from Codd on the second normal form {courtesy: Don Burleson} [more on Codd's normal forms]

A post long overdue. On April 18, 2003 Database legend and father of the relational model, Edgar "Ted" Codd died at his home in Florida. He was 79. Anyone working in IT/software development has dealt with his legacy -- relational databases. In his now revolutionary paper, "A Relational Model of Data for Large Shared Data Banks", Codd proposed a replacement for the hierarchical database model. The replacement comprised simple tables containing rows and columns. The need to provide a practical "proof-of-concept" implementation of Codd's idea led to the birth of System R, another hallowed name in database history. This model was also the seed for the first commercially available relational database in 1977 by a company called Relational Software Inc. Six years later, its creator, Larry Ellison, renamed his company Oracle. Codd won the prestigious Turing Award in 1981 and will be remembered, especially by those who only have his work as an introduction to his genius, as the person responsible for the rules of normalization, and someone who made a science of database management. {IBM Research Obit} {Mercury News}{wiki}

new blog additions

My sidebar welcomes Anti, whose post on "Indian History X" made it to the recent edition (hosted by Gaurav) of the Bharateeya Blog Mela.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

interesting soundtracks ... and some laughable censorship lapses

Been tuning in to some recent medium-to-low-profile desi soundtrack releases. A global comment: Sonu Nigam sucks, imho. I don't know what irks me most about him: his girlishness, his inability to sing songs worthy of his calibre, his stupid videos. his worthless image ...

* Oops!: This is Deepak Tijori's directorial début (he also has writing credit) and it owes a lot to The Full Monty. The songs on the soundtrack (by Ravi Pawar) are peppy. They aren't landmarks, but they have more spunk than some of the tripe dished out by the Nadeem Shravan school of music and the fairly predictable efforts of Anu Malik and A R Rehman.

* Mumbai Matinee: A fairly decent effort. For its sheer audacity and entertainment value, my pick is the Ode to Freud. And another plug for Joe Alvares (Pancham fans will remember him for "There could be so much joy to living" in Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai) singing Shame emulating the throaty passion of B B King. The lyrics suffer from a slight case of corn though.

* Chupke Se: This is the latest effort from the productive Gulzar/Vishal collaboration for the directorial début of Shona Urvashi, who happens to be the late Gul Anand's niece. (For those not in the know, Gul Anand is responsible for producing such gems as Chashme Baddoor, Jalwa, and the uneven nugget Hero Hiralal). Unfortunately, I couldn't latch on to the songs. The lyrics didn't grab me either. The mix is interesting: a guest song by Ranjit Barot, a duet with Asha Bhosle and Adnan Sami, and a song by Daler Mehendi. This leaves me in doubt about Vishal's contribution to the whole album. Perhaps a repeat listen will help matters.

Next up: Joggers' Park, Pinjar, Dogs

Wasn't anyone paying attention?: This is probably a nice time to bring up an interesting discovery. Our music and movie censors have been fairly active, latching on to violations both minor (laughable) and major (gratefully!). They missed the boat on the Aflatoon soundtrack by Dilip and Sameer Sen, featuring the predictable vocal gibberish of Remo. The song in question is the title song. About 2 minutes and 46 seconds into the song, you can hear a refrain that goes "terii maa.N kii c****". B-song lovers will relish the song nevertheless, but the glaring complacency of the crowd that lynched Anu Malik for the use of the word 'sexy' in the Khuddar song is appalling. Good reason to catch the song again, what?

IIS infuriations

The TOI continues to vex me. I ran a keyword search via their search facility, and got back a list of results. I was happy to find a link to the article I was looking for and clicked in anticipation. Only to be thwarted by their backend scripting engine and server, IIS, which sent me a stream of useful [sic] information:

Invalid Parameters, CacheParams:channelid=-2128958273,msid=45296563

I pasted the link in IE and got to the article sans incident. What is it with that stupid server? It's slow, it's dumb and it won't send back pages to any browser except IE.
news news news

Gulaab jaamuns cause panic in local train

Gulzar talks to Subhash K Jha about writer Bhisham Sahni (who passed away recently) and about literary adaptations for film and television

A retrospective look at Indian Cinema's Garbo, Devika Rani

Thanks to objections from the Big B, Kareena Kapoor is no longer part of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's next venture Black. It's Rani Mukherjee instead, and SJB should probably be happy with the casting coup he managed with the Big B. Now, hopefully, he has a decent storyline/plot ... you know, the "inessentials".

little piece of evil{WARNING: time killer} [courtesy: atul chitnis]

Take a look at this little productivity killer -- all you need is a java-enabled browser.

Murder! is an unsung little nugget from the early sound days of Alfred Hitchcock. Although a lot of the film (Hitchcock's second talkie) appears stagey and crude, it still has the indelible marks of the master: the subtlety and economy of camera and sound (which was then in its early stages), the vestiges of his education in German filmmaking. Herbert Marshall tends to overdo it as Sir John Menier and the print I had was in a terrible state. But I'd recommend this one for Hitchcock's version of 12 Angry Men(which ends up being a tad unrealistically overdramatic) and the foreshadowing of future Hitchcock masterpieces like Strangers on a Train. CAMEO NOTE: Hitchcock can be seen about an hour into the movie walking past the scene of the crime.


* The film opens with Beethoven's 5th playing in the background. Thoughts on the significance and importance thereof are most welcome.

* There's the prelude to Tristan and Isolde playing during Sir John's (Herbert Marshall) interior monologue. Herrmann's score for Vertigo quoted this famous Wagner opera several years later. Common themes more than a coincidence I guess.

{external review}

Monday, July 14, 2003

ayil aruhc

I was cleaning up some old posts on the RDBlog, when I chanced upon a post dedicated to Sandeep Chowta. To summarize and recap: Chowta released a private (read: non-film) album called Mitti: Songs of the Soil, a great lounge album mixing sounds and strains of diverse influences: Rajasthani folk, slide guitar, and, most importantly, back masking. The title of this post refers to a song on the album. Reverse that title and what you get is "chura liya". If that isn't enough evidence of Chowta's twinkle-in-the-eye adventure, try the following experiment:

* Rip the song into a .WAV file (this format contains the musical stream in its rawest uncompressed form)

* Listen to the track straight-through once. The only intelligible words you'll hear are "chura liya", towards the end of the song. The rest of it sounds like Eastern music

* Now play the track in reverse (in an application like Windows Sound Recorder, which allows you to do this). The music track will sound strange (which should be expected, since it's being played backwards), but the vocals should be intelligible enough now!

The rest of the songs on the album hold out well too, although Sonu Nigam singing My Sweet Lord is a stretch too far, especially when he alaap-izes the lyrics and the hallelujahs. That's when you should be rolling on the floor in laughter. But the backward vocal experiment (which was born out of Chowta joking to someone that the only thing left for him to do was to hear Chura Liya backwards) as well as the vocal talents of Soumya Rao and Sonu Kakkar make this album a commendable effort. Pity it didn't receive as much attention as it deserved. Guess the bhangra-dhin-chak crowd wanted something more dumbed-down.

the saaya of maya | compulsion: all goes welles, mostly

First up for Sunday was Saaya, Anurag Basu's directorial début under the wings of mentor Mahesh Bhatt. Appropriately, perhaps, just as Bhatt began a series of ripoffs in the latter phase of his career, Basu rips off the Kevin Costner starrer Dragonfly (directed by Tom Shadyac who has been responsible for a lot of irritating Jim Carrey vehicles like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Liar, Liar -- summarily ripped off in Kyon Ki Main Jhoot Nahin Bolta, and the recent Bruce Almighty -- which had its share of publicity too, as well as other brain-fry fests like the bad upgrade called The Nutty Professor, and the sob-fest called Patch Adams). His defense for this (reportedly) frame-for-frame copy (minus the maudlin cumbersome songs though) is both futile, immature and howlarious. There is nothing to report about this film -- the original Hollywood film was a failure, and this one seems slated for a similar fate(the DVD of the film hit the US market the day after its theatrical release in India). The denouement (check out the spoiler if you're sure you aren't keen on watching the film to find out). Nothing to write about the performances: Tara Sharma (as evidenced in Om Jai Jagdish).

Compulsion is not simply important as a vehicle for another great Orson Welles performance (he plays Jonathan Wilk, an ace lawyer who has been fighting capital punishment throughout his career -- modelled after the real-life Clarence Darrow). It's also a well-written tightly-directed movie officially based on the Meyer Levin novel of the same name, but really being a thinly disguised recreation of the Nathaniel Leopold and Richard Loeb murder case. This case had previously received another famous cinematic treatment in Hitchcock's first colour film, Rope, which also showcased his experiments with long takes. Comparing the two films is pointless. Both present an intriguing study of two diseased minds, but from different perspectives. It is Hitchcock's film that tackles the homosexual undercurrent of the relationship, while Fleischer's film focuses on the intellectual mindset of the partners in crime (including strong references to Nietzsche). The hallmark of Fleischer's film (besides a wonderful brass-heavy score by Thomas Newman) is Orson Welles' closing speech in court -- although comprised of several shots, it was done in a single take, and some unfortunate tax problems for Welles resulting in a remarkable editorial improvisation at the end {see more}.

finding nemo: on being scared out of your fins {with a coda dedicated to some BAD disney fare}

nemo ... scared finless

Finding Nemo, the latest and greatest from Pixar for Disney Pictures is a wonderful leap forward for CGI pushing the envelope of realism. Echoing Saving Private Ryan (only barely), this is the story of Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks), a clown fish living in the Great Barrier Reef, who ventures into the scary unknowns of the ocean, in search of his only son Nemo (voiced by Alexander Gould). As always, despite tackling a new territory, the people at Pixar excel in the animation, and the goings-on are very very realistic. In fact, a bit too realistic. I spent quite a bit of my time in the dark theatre, sharing Marlin's fear of the murky depths: the sharks, the angler fish, the jellyfish, the whale. Which made me wonder: how did all the kids take it?

In addition to great animation, the film has a good layered narrative, with enough for both kids and adults. There are some great jokes and comic setups (a trio of sharks forming a Fish-Eaters Anonymous, modelled after the numerous support groups; a bale of turtles modelled after surfers, with director Andrew Stanton voicing for Crush); the "mine mine" seagulls strongly reminiscent of characters out of the Wallace and Gromit shorts; Dory (nicely done by Ellen DeGeneres), a happy-go-lucky fish suffering from short-term memory loss, who helps Marlin get to Nemo. The animators at Disney are famous for incorporating the characteristics of the voicing actor into the cartoon character, and a good example of that is the fishtank rebel leader Gill, voiced by Willem Dafoe. Every time Gill smiles, we can see Willem Dafoe smiling. Great job.

Fans of movie in-jokes will note several references to other Pixar films like Toy Story and Monsters, Inc (especially in the closing credits), as well as the sly reference to Bruce the shark from Jaws. {more behind-the-scenes}.

As if the in-jokes weren't enough, there's a special preview for the forthcoming Disney movie Brother Bear, where the Elk characters, Tuke and Rutt, suggest that, "If you see only one movie this year, see this one." Tuke then reminds Rutt that "for those who see only one movie this year, it's a little late now". Both the elks then encourage everyone who are "only going to see one movie this year" to leave the theater. As the scene fades to black, Rutt says, "I see some of them leaving." Tuke then replies that maybe they're going to "go find that Nemo guy".

The Other Side of Heaven is a prime example of pretentious, faux art, mushy crap that passes off as intelligent mainstream filmmaking (yup, a contradiction in terms). Boring, oversentimental, badly directed, and full of humourous sequences that make you groan and serious sequences of human endurance that make you laugh. "Out goes the bad air, in comes the good ..."

Saturday, July 12, 2003

more samaachaar

Pritish Nandy Communications has signed Aishwarya Rai to play the haunting (bang on! great word) Chhoti Maalkin, in a new version of the 1952 Bimal Dutt classic novel Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (SBaG) which was immortally filmed by Guru Dutt in 1962 with Meena Kumari in the central role. {source}. After Bhansali took Devdas apart, we have another group of people who should really know better than to tamper with old classics. Why not remake bad movies from the 1970s and 1980s and give them more sheen instead? {Note from the future: The author in question is Bimal Mitra, not Bimal Dutt (who seems to be a wishful hybrid of Bimal Roy and Guru Dutt!).

Lata Mangeshkar continues to lash out at the remix crowd: "If you love the songs then one must not abuse them, but treat them with the respect they deserve". The crowd, meanwhile, seems to be filled with a lot of singers who are hoping to make the transition to mainstream music (singing, composing) instead of churning out remixes.

More Koi Mil Gaya. Quoting Rajesh Roshan from the music launch for the film at Planet M (courtesy: AVS): Dekhiye Hrithik ke role ki hisaab se ye gaane ... ek mamuulii jaise romantic gaane hote hai.n ... waise bhii hai.n aur waise ... hai.n bhii nahi.n ... kahii.n biich me.n mai.ne unako ... chho.D diyaa hai ... .

H1B visa in danger

The Hindustan Times reports: After moves to restrict L-1 employment visas, a member of the US Congress has now introduced a bill seeking the very abolition of the coveted H-1B visas, whose main beneficiaries have been Indian tech workers. {complete article}. We already have to deal with the H-1B programme rolling back to its pre-2000 level of 65,000 visas a year. If you remember, during the IT boom, the US had in 2000 raised its annual cap on these visas to 195,000, but only for a three-period. And now we have this bill. The Economic Times has more information and some interesting numbers in this regard. Gopal Raju, chairman of the Indian American Centre for Political Awareness, correctly notes: "There is little evidence that these jobs could be filled immediately by permanent residents and citizens. These jobs would most likely be outsourced, further hurting the economy by removing a substantial tax base." India's contribution to the H-1B visa pool has been dipping over the years: 77,000 H1-B visas in 2001, only 33,000 in and expected to drop to 30,000 this year.

Meanwhile, the rupee grows larger against the $ making the US of A a cheaper destination for tourist travel, higher studies and medical treatment.

unfulfilled desires and wasted technical flourishes

Khwahish: The only person who would term this as "a refreshing film" would be someone who

(a) has not read Erich Segal's Love Story and its numerous filmic adaptations (including old favourites like Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se)
(b) does not know much about acting abilities and the importance of a script to a film

This film was touted as a "bold" venture (because it features 17 on-screen smooches -- yes someone was counting -- which seems to be more of a bad marketing ploy (although it worked for the film, which got some good openings thanks to all those Gandhi stall people desirous of a little ogle-fest). And then there were some film journalists who loved the film for reasons as inexplicable as (a) the great performance by Mallika Sherawat (grow up please! she plays a GhaaTan with as much poise as a stinking dish rag, she knows not what acting is all about, and if she thinks that mouthing lines like "I'm feeling horny" or indulging in a clichéd diatribe on premarital sex is all about crowd-pulling, she's sadly mistaken. She just functions as the object d'ogle in the film) (b) the great singing by Asha (Himanshu Malik plays a 21-year old Rajasthani yuppie. Sure, sure. If that wasn't bad enough, they got the aging Asha to be the "youthful" voice of Mallika's character). If anything works in the film it's the scene where Amar (HM's character) is uncomfortable purchasing condoms. What is not cool is the rather awkward "bold" content in the script, the complete lack of respect for pauses and weighting of words in dialogue (a syndrome last patented in Andaaz), Lekha's nickname for Amar (Sethji), and the fact that they ripped off Love Story so blatantly and didn't even bother to acknowledge it. And yes, Asha excels in Rang Raliyaa.n, but expecting anyone to believe that Lekha could sing that is ridiculous. None of the embellishments in the plot (Lekha's being on a first name basis with her chicken farmer father Ulhas, the trip to Kerala -- the backdrop is wondrous, but the players are not) are useful at all. Shivaji Satam struggles to bring respect to a soggy can of squashed rotten bananas. Don't miss Shahbaaz Khan's howlarious cameo as Dr Mendora (yes, complete with Shahbaaz Khan doing a Big B impersonation at low speed). Any worth in the songs (music review) composed by Milind Sagar (last seen as a guest composer in Pyaar Kiyaa Nahii.n Jaataa) is lost once you catch them on screen. Do yourself a favour -- savour the best of this movie by listening to the songs online or grab a tape in the throwaway bin. Incidentally, there's an acknowledgement to Pandit for the wonderful Maalkauns number (Ra.ng Raliyaa.n), wonder if it's the same Hindustani classical music exponent of the Kiraanaa gharaanaa? Before I'm done with my rant, I should probably note and wonder about the references to R D Burman that crop up in the film. Explicit references about taste (achchaa tumhe R D Burman to pasa.nd hai na? ... thank god) and gifts ... Again, unnecessary elements, neither required nor exploited (just like Ulhas being a Dada Kondke fan). Oh, and what's with freely filching Joaquín Rodrigo's Allegro Con Spirito from Concierto de Aranjuez?? TRIVIA NOTE: Mallika Sherawat was born Reema Lamba. Since her father was against her getting into modelling and movies (how wise he was!) she used her grandmother's maiden name Gill. Her last film effort was a bit role in Jeena Sirf Mere Liye. Her new name is courtesy director Govind Menon. No use ma'am, didn't help you much.

Narendra Kusnur does a good job summarizing the experience that is 88 Antop Hill, while Deepa Gumaste continues to miss the point. The film is directed by Kulshan Nandy, whose credibility at filmmaking seems to stem from the fact that he is the son of veteran journalist and media figure Pritish Nandy (who has since branched out into film production giving us Kaante and Jhankaar Beats). To echo Kusnur's concern: What is an actor like Atul Kulkarni doing in a dump like this? The film seems to be a fine exercise in using music video moves, wipes, edits and lenses (and some irritating sepia) to distract the viewer from the one large gaping hole in the whole enterprise: a plot. There's a murder, and you don't really care who did it and why. And once you find out, you probably miss it all, because you are rolling on the floor laughing your guts out at the inane denouement. Notable laugh raisers include Rahul Dev (last seen in Supari) who plays a smartass cop, and this dude who plays his deputy Apte (the Marathi one-liners and more references to Dada Kondke are mild smile-raisers in this borefest). This film shot in a time span of 40 days over 27 different locations (none of which was a nuthouse) should be classified in the surreal comedy section. Or a WhatsGoingOn.

Friday, July 11, 2003

movie samaachaar

Qayamat: City Under Threat{last discussed here} has a simple structure: The Rock at the core, embellished[sic] with dhin chaak songs from the Nadeem Shravan camp. It also marks the return of Chunky Pandey to Hindi films (that silence is the applause, btw). Which means, as before, the "city under threat" could be yours. Loud raucous laughter fading into aural darkness ... {more} {director Harry Baweja discusses the film}

If (like me) you don't really care about the latest mainstream Hrithik-fanclub-oriented Film Kraft (that's Papa Roshan's production company) production Koi Mil Gaya, you can catch the plot here. It's being billed as "the first Sci-fi film in Hindi". Well, we faithful viewers of all trash coming from Bollywood know very well that making scientific fiction (read: anything scientifically impossible) is second-nature for Bombay's film capital. The soundtrack didn't sound too exciting either. ... E. T. (pron: Hrithik) go home. And stay there.

Some dumbass has filed a complaint against the crew of Bhoot [review] for "alleging that he had been experiencing immense mental torture and sleeplessness after watching the 'horror' scenes of the film". Well, Mr K B Goswami, did you go there expecting to see some Kareena Kapoor mush/scream-fest??? GROW UP. {actually, come to think of it, watching Kareena is probably more horrifying}.

The presence of the much-maligned Bengal tiger, apanaa Mithun-da, has made Oriya film A Jugara Krushna Sudama a big hit.

Dimple (abhi to mai.n jawaan huu.N) Kapadia is all set to play Nicole Kidman's role in the desi version of The Others [review].

Anurag Kashyap's directorial début Paanch will finally see the light of day, after languishing in the cans for such a long time.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen hits theatres here today. The fuss is all because of the presence of apanaa Naseer in the movie. The problem is that all the promos I saw focused mostly on Sean Connery, and just a select few even mentioned anyone else in the cast, but Naseer bhai did not merit any mention. If you watched the movie theatre version of the promo very carefully you would notice the elusive Shah.

Rahul Rawail's new Sunny Deol starrer Jo Bole So Nihal seems to be a lift of Crocodile Dundee...

And on a sad note, famous novelist Bhishm Sahni passed away yesterday at 84. He is best known as the writer of Tamas (the source for perhaps the best TV miniseries on DD), the protagonist in Mohan Joshi Haazir Ho, and last seen as the doomed aging Muslim in Mr and Mrs Iyer.

Here's a more detailed look at Joggers' Park. The last time I read about it, I thought of Kieslowski. After taking a look at the synopsis, I shudder at having done so. Subhash Ghai also contributed to the soundtrack as a lyricist, penning the song Kabhii Paa Liyaa To Kabhii Kho Diyaa. The music director for the album is Tabun Sutradhar (last heard from in Yash) {here's an RD Burman-centric music review}. And btw, despite their tall claims about director Anant Balani, his last film Patthar Ke Phool (which marked the début of Raveena Tandon) was NOT a runaway hit at the box--office. It was a big flop. I wonder if it was also Vinod Mehra's last screen appearance?

Oh yes, if you're wondering why I'm so obsessed with movies, I must remind you that films are a recipe for good health.

B O Y S: The latest sample bushel from the Panchatan valley

Couldn't miss an opportunity to (a) review a new A R Rahman release (b) Beat JR to it. NOTE: My runtime Tamil comprehension capabilities are not even entry-level, so don't expect to hear/read anything about the work of Vaali, Kapilan and Pa Vijay. You might get to hear some nasty things about Blaaze.

This is BOYS, the recently-released soundtrack (read: songs-track) for the latest Shankar film (yeah, that dude who rocks with less-than-dumb movies initiating global cinema-hall migraines). {track listing and more info}

* Ale Ale is a good way to open an album -- although, it didn't shake me up as much as Urvashi had. The musical tapestry is rich and catchy. Once again, I have little to no idea what they are singing about (except that I am sure it's in keeping with the central theme[sic] of the film)

* Boom Boom has ARR getting another non-Tam singer (in this case, Adnan Sami, who lent his vocal might to ARR in Saathiya) to sing Tamil. The beat's predictable, but the Beatles/Lennon-esque descent into instrumental chaos at the end is a nice little dollop

* Dating is inane and irritating (especially the by-now-all-too-familiar tired rap overlay on a popsy sample-laden beat and some exhausted English lyrics)

* Please Sir (pron: Plees saar) is a song found only on the Sri Lanka and Singapore releases (perhaps this has already been rectified, much to the dismay of sensible listeners who were glad with one song less). The rhythm and beats programming is strongly reminiscent of Sandeep Chowta's work with the title song of Dum (btw, the less-heard version by Sonu Nigam (pron: So_new Knee_gum) is a laugh riot). More English including phrases lifted from Cecilia. For the most part, this song is a cappella, something made famous by Penn Masala.

* Secret of Success goes Saa Ree Gaa May Paa Dhaa Knee Say. Sure sure... average.

There are more songs on this album methinks, but I couldn't grab a listen. Guess I can leave that to JR. BTW, according to that last song, love is the secret of success. Next!

Something more about Blaaze (pron: Blaa-zay or blasé) bhai. He's this average-joe rapper called Rajesh Raman from Bombay (Mumbai, whatever). ARR signed him on for this soundtrack and then got him to sing a little piece of rap for Rajinikanth saar's Baba [last endured] That piece of rap (lyrics and more history ) made him famous[sic] (well it impressed Rajini saar, which doesn't take too much effort methinks). Sorry saar, me not too blown away.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Bollyflops {url courtesy: guru subramanian/lazygeek}

6 months. 117 releases. 8 hits, and 109 flops. Do some math, and that's 6.83% success, unless you want to count the flops as positive indicators. That's Bollywood so far. MPKDH was a box-office downer in India, but soared up the charts in the UK and the US. Indu Mirani, assistant editor of Box Office explains, "I think they look for only gloss and stars abroad." Well, of course. What is even more distressing is that our filmmakers (read: purveyors of sleaze, skimp and skin packaged in the crumpled gaudy gift paper of family values[sic]) are fully aware of this and continue to churn out one puke cake after another packed with gloss and stars, just for these audiences in the UK and the US, who are willing to spend precious $$ and ££. Sanjay Gadhvi, Chopra camp dog and director of Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi (aka the Hindi-ization complete with titular translation of My Best Friend's Wedding) {more here} dismisses allegations of plagiarism (which is on the rise in all this gloss-fest) saying "we don't have good writers". Veteran filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt (whose meteoric rise with Saaransh was matched by an equally creative cop-out/sellout ...) defends this saying "When you take an idea and route it through the Indian heart, it changes entirely. You cannot pin a person down on an idea.'' As for originality (something he and his family -- especially Vikram Bhatt -- have long since abandoned) he comes up with an ace like "I've had discussions on original art with the greatest thinkers of the world including the Dalai Lama. They all agree only god is original." The latest Bhatt camp release, Saaya (which incidentally made it out on DVD in the US the day after it hit theatres!) is a straight lift of Dragonfly. The director of this lift, Anurag Basu, sings a different (read: outrageously dumb) tune: "Saaya is neither Dragonfly nor Ghost. I have seen those films. I am not a Film Institute graduate, but I have learnt how to make films. Watch Saaya and judge for yourself. ". Producer Bhatt says it's a "product of his paranormal experiences". More raucous laughter.

PRESENT: I won I won I won.

RECAP: To celebrate Pancham's 64th birth anniversary, the Geetvala Team organised a special 7-section quiz (complete with a crossword) dedicated to the sultan of song (term borrowed from an old TOI article). Guess who won? me ... me ... me ..
helpful messages

A T1 disruption (known in Pune/IT as "the time when the crow sits on your network connection") has led to all instances of Windows Explorer (read: the heart of the Windows Operating[sic] Systems[sic! hic!]) to *CRAWL* (analogy: running a data warehouse for Amazon on a 386). While trying various hacks to resolve the situation, I noticed that the "Automatic Update" agent had some more updates for me -- it's a good break to install some MSFT updates and then reboot (just for kicks). This time I had two updates: 823559: Security Update for Microsoft Windows and 817606: Security Update (Windows XP). The help text (meaning: a brief description that helps you understand why you might want to install this update) for both was the same and read: An identified security issue in Microsoft Windows could allow an attacker to compromise a Microsoft Windows-based system and then take a variety of actions. For example, an attacker could execute code on the system. By installing this update, you can help protect your computer. After you install this item, you may have to restart your computer. In short: (a) either they don't know what this update is supposed to do OR they don't want to tell me (after all, such information is useless right?) (b) There seems to be a strong connection in the way most MSFT update and information trackback hidden programs (aka those that send personal information back to MSFT without even a by-your-leave) mimic the SETI project. SETI = MSFT and will assimilate your machine at the earliest inconvenience.

Oh, by the way, I've decided to run the updates -- live dangerously. In case you don't read from me again, you know what happened ... or didn't.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

lunch on main street

That's a little lunch place (11am to 2pm) on Main Street in College Park, GA. Slice of old-style south, with simple walls and a no-frills look. Good food, good prices.
new blogs ...

Soft-corner time. Fellow Panchamite (trademark, copyright and patent-pending), creator/moderator of the Pancham group, owner of Panchamonline.com, father of giitaayan, long-time ISB contributor and initiator of the THGHT series, Vinay (stellar funk trumpets and sweeping Bollywood-ian violins mixed with flanger samples) has emerged from the shadows with two blogs:

* the Pancham Blog/RDBlog is dedicated to all things Pancham -- online articles, interesting posts on the Pancham group. V has also graciously added me as a fellow editor (all elements of strangeness may be attributed to this action)

* the ISBlog, relatively infrequently updated, is dedicated to ISB happenings on RMIM.
tele-panic, and all about being architecturally stupid?

Last month, the FTC opened up access to Do Not Call, where consumers could go and register their telephone numbers and get them off the lists of those dreaded telemarketers. Predictably, a *LOT* of people hit the site, and nearly slashdotted it. The FTC had contracted AT&T to manage the site, and the latter was soon adding more servers and configurations to handle the heavy traffic. What is probably not obvious as another reason to drop your jaws is that the site (like other government sites) is running Microsoft-IIS/5.0 on Windows 2000 {courtesy: Netcraft's Uptime Survey Site}. Sweet.

Which brings me to the stupidity section of this post. There are several such sites that serve content off MSFT products (IIS, MS SQL Server 2000) with MSFT web technologies (ASP, the whole .NET soup), including the Times of India and the Midday. What happens as a result of their resorting to "technology that allows you to develop something quickly and sit praying for scalability and performance" is the sites crawl. The spinning hourglass becomes the dominant active visual content on your screen. And for some reason (actually, it's quite obvious!) these sites fail to perform on non-IE browsers. All we get, when we use alternatives like Mozilla are friendly error messages (these designers definitely have never heard of the word "usability"!) like

Microsoft OLE DB Provider for SQL Server error '80040e31'

Timeout expired

/asp/columnsarchive.asp, line 58

The above was an error message I got when I tried retrieving all the Mid-day columns by Khalid Mohammed {last mention}.

cool (literally) tool and some more library hauls

Found a useful tool I've been seeking for quite a long time: a compressed air spray to clean your keyboard. All you do is affix a capillary to the nozzle, point it at the crevices in your keyboard, and hit the trigger. With some light spray, what you can expect to see is all the dust and the other crap that ends up nesting in those little dark areas in and around the keys. This product was Falcon's Dust-Off. The downside, according to the last link, is the presence of HCFCs in the spray. Wonder if that's still the case though -- the literature scattered on the can's surface has nothing to offer about the constituents. Man! That can was cold!

And it was another trip to the library followed by me trudging home with a loaded bag (the library bum, that's me!): a couple of Inspector Ghote mysteries (Inspector ghote caught in meshes, Inspector ghote plays a joker) and Randall Kennedy's controversial Nigger : the strange career of a troublesome word (something on my to-read list) comprised the dead-tree section. The movies included John Huston's Moby Dick on DVD (acquired solely to watch Orson Welles in his brief role as Father Mapple, Compulsion (being another filmic interpretation of the Leopold-Loeb case, the more famous version being Hitchcock's first colour film and experiment in long takes, Rope), Murder!, an early relatively unsung Hitchcock talkie, Belle Epoque (a tale of a Paradise of love and passion; winner of 9 Goyas (the Spanish Oscars) and the Foreign Film Oscar-- come to think of it, a lot of the "famous" foreign films I've seen seem to deal with eroticism in various forms). And rounding off the list is a 4-cassette audio version of This is Orson Welles, a compilation by Peter Bogdanovich (once again, a man good in print and bad on celluloid) of conversations with Orson Welles.

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

anarchy in the ... USA? {with due apologies to The Sex Pistols}

In Patent Bending, James Surowiecki discusses how patenting business processes marks a new low in stifling competition. Sean Gorman's disseration (tedious, according to his advisor) faces the danger of becoming classified, thanks to the security implications. Ryan McKinley, meanwhile, has created the Government Information Awareness Project, an Internet repository for citizens to provide information about public officials, corporations and their executives. Two-thirds of employees believe their co-workers are a bigger threat to customer security than hackers, according to a survey of 500 people released earlier in June by Harris Interactive Inc. [all links courtesy: slashdot]
extreme tuesday

After murphy monday (with me suffering from air-conditioning withdrawal), we now have the other side of the spectrum: full-blast cold air-conditioning in the bus, train and at work. Brr!

Just to make things interesting, here's an interesting auction item from the dudes at Bombay Beats: Bollywood BONEY M in HINDI: Yummy! Boney M goes hindi. Loads of Indian disco here, by the unsurpased Peter Moss, all covers of Boney M. We�ve got Sunny in disco, in 2 versions: one sung by a man, and one by a woman. Whoopie! They don�t know what Boney M is, but they for sure know something else. And there is Ma Baker. Toooo groovy! Sung by Mahendra Kapoor & Mussarat ("the Kashmiri Beauty with a stunning vibrating voice") All recorded in London, mind you. Music of India 1981 record.

monty python: ferociously oddball, eccentric, silly, abstract, and oddball all over again

Caught Six and Violence (volume VI of the compilations of Monty Python skits), which showcased stuff from episode 24. My favourite part: John Cleese's unbroken take as art critic GAVIN MILLARRRRRRRRRR talking about an artist called Shunt: Some people have made the mistake of seeing Shunt's work as a load of rubbish about railway timetables, but clever people like me, who talk loudly in restaurants, see this as a deliberate ambiguity, a plea for understanding in a mechanized world. The points are frozen, the beast is dead. What is the difference? What indeed is the point? The point is frozen, the beast is late out of Paddington. The point is taken. If La Fontaine's elk would spurn Tom Jones the engine must be our head, the dining car our oesophagus, the guard's van our left lung, the cattle truck our shins, the first-class compartment the piece of skin at the nape of the neck and the level crossing an electric elk called Simon. The clarity is devastating. But where is the ambiguity? It's over there in a box. Shunt is saying the 8.15 from Gillingham when in reality he means the 8.13 from Gillingham. The train is the same only the time is altered. Ecce homo, ergo elk. La Fontaine knew his sister and knew her bloody well. The point is taken, the beast is moulting, the fluff gets up your nose. The illusion is complete; it is reality, the reality is illusion and the ambiguity is the only truth. But is the truth, as Hitchcock observes, in the box? No there isn't room, the ambiguity has put on weight. The point is taken, the elk is dead, the beast stops at Swindon, Chabrol stops at nothing, I'm having treatment and La Fontaine can get knotted. Priceless.
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