Monday, September 29, 2003


a great gala weekend of movie watching. the pleasure of the festival was augmented by some perfect weather on Sunday. but first, we step back in time, to

friday, september 26, 2003: the movie of the evening after a couple of Fawlty Towers episodes (A Touch of Class, The Builders), it was time for some Southern Gothic thrills with Bill Paxton's directorial début Frailty. Well-written, well-made and well-acted. Spooky. Special features on the DVD tell you how Bill Butler achieved the "Poor Man's Process" for the sequence in the car (reminiscent of the tricks employed for the famous cab scene in On the Waterfront) -- completely shot on a sound stage. Impressive.

saturday, september 27, 2003: first up, Better than Chocolate. canadian. lesbians. family breakups. transgender club singers. banned books. some of the jokes in this superficial comedy (The Birdcage -- haven't seen the original -- was much better). and one of the songs on the soundtrack.

To follow this up with Dum (a remake of the Tamil film Dhill, which was a remake of Kireedam. Dum has Mukesh Rishi playing a good guy, and Rishi had made a big splash as the baddie in Gardish. ) might seem ridiculous. The film is a royal pain to watch. It's staged as one of those standard 80s/90s revenge dramas with clichéd dialogue and situations. All this film can lay claim for is a set of decent videos for some decent songs on the soundtrack. Therefore, the best thing they could have done with this film would have been to package and release the videos of the soundtrack. Atul Kulkarni is menacing enough as the crooked Encounter Shankar, but what will actually go into the books of bad film cultists is the use of the word POLICE as an abbrevation to introduce his nickname: Power Order Law Income Commision Encounter Shankar. Outrageous. Vivek Oberoi and Dia Mirza are ineffectual. The physics of impact in some of the action scenes defies science. And the shining USP of the film is the front-bencher song baabuujii zaraa dhiire chalo, featuring Yana Gupta and a big fat buffalo (that HAS to be a first!). Watch out for Atul Kulkarni mouthing maadarc****. The plot device of the dalit mahaasabhaa is also a plus. The flash dissolves get painful after a while, and there are way too many closeups. The 'helmet utaaro' sequence would have worked really well had it not been paced so slow (and to top it all, there's some slow motion!). TRIVIA: the film is dedicated to Bunty Soorma (who produced Damini, Arjun, Raja Hindustani [BOO!], and Dushmani; was responsible for the filched story and passed away on March 19, 2002). And yes, there's more comedy (not all good, but at least marginally funny) from Flop Show regular Vivek Shauq. Later-to-be-famous-as-Laakhaa in Lagaan Yashpal Sharma is Babu Kasaaii. Sushant Singh gets to add as much as he can to the role of the close-friend-who-is-doomed-to-die-later-in-the-film. Nice opening too. Bad titles.

Finally, I watch Koi ... Mil Gaya: Overall, unfortunately, I must say I was disappointed. Given, the alien is cute. Given, there are some interesting moments in the songs (very very few). Actually, come to think of it, I think the only song I really cared for was idhar chalaa for (a) the sfx-enhanced choreography and (b) the brushes of electric guitar. It was also a very explicit plug for Coca Cola and Café Nescafé. But it, along with the other songs, contributed to the musical slowdown of the film. The first song in pa.nchhiyo.n ko dekhakar (on seeing these birds) features CGI birds and sky enhancements (clearly a viewer's irony). Other product plugs include Hero Honda, Sansui, Avon and more Coca Cola. Wonder if all cops in Kasauli wear blue caps. The mostly flacid background score features snatches from RR's compositions[sic] for Kaho Naa ... Pyar Hai (especially chaa.Nd aur taare), El Bimbo and pyaar maa.Ngaa hai tumhii se (which leads me to wonder if that song has a source that both Bappi Lahiri and RR are aware of...). The dialogue is truly immature. There are two dominant irritating patterns: the use of a hindi word followed by its explanation in english or the use of an english word followed by its explanation in hindi. Why? why? The religious bent to director Rakesh Roshan's Dr. Mehra's (it's great to see RR back on screen, but equally to see him die off early on in the film) message to outer space (the word Om in different frequencies) reeks to the high heavens of clichés. And his explanation of the word is cult fun: On is a Hindu religious word that has all the vibrations of the universe. Preity Zinta looks cute, but has little to do. Coming to Hrithik Roshan. Yes, he's not as bad as I had expected him to be. His gestures as a kid do hit the grate limit occasionally. But what really hinders him from delivering what could have easily been his best performance so far (except when the alien upgrades him so that his mental age and physical age are on the same page -- at which point he becomes ... Hrithik Roshan, the star) is the poor job that the screenplay and dialogue do in defining most characters (especially his) in the film. Spielberg's E. T. (to which this film owes its biggest debt) covered more ground in far less time. And what was that Govinda-esque song hailaa hailaa doing in the film?? Three cult moments: (a) when HR finishes indulging in his crowd-pleasing dancing {some funny steps there -- very Carrey-esque}, one girl comes up and says "You were fantastic. Good!" and walks away {you really need to see this to hit the floor!} (b) the upgraded HR explaining madness to PZ's folks and family friends {a tribute to Amitabh Bachchan?} (c) HR answering a difficult computer question -- reproduced here:

Q: kisii particular file ko khole bagair Window ke ek drive se duusare drive me.n copy kaise kiyaa jaataa hai?
A: sabase pahale Program me.n jaakar click kiijiye. Jab Windows Explorer khul jaaye to cursor ko us file par le jaakar right click kiijiye. Phir binaa button chho.De duusare drive me.n le jaakar button chho.D diijiye. Aapakii file copy ho jaayegii sir.
(Principal): That's absolutely right.

Would you want to learn computers from such people?

sunday, september 28, 2003: a more fruitful day, movie-wise. First up, Love Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega. The only reason I even gave this movie some thought was because I am admittedly a Vishal fan. And the songs on the soundtrack are pretty cool: the title song has two variants: one with soaring vocals and a rocksy riff; the other owes a lot to qawwalii. And then there's the crowd pleaser aslam bhaaii, which turned out to be no mean song to write: it's brimming with film-insider references (which are even more evident when you see the film). Johnny Lever scores by being more entertaining than irritating as Aslam Bhai. Kudos to Snehal Dhabi (famous as Chandar in Satya) for bringing down the house as the trickster/movie-producer Aaj Kapoor promising Aslam Bhai that his next film titled ham dilawaalo.n ko bahut kuchh hotaa hai sanam will be directed by Sooraj (barjatya) Aditya (Chopra) Johar (Karan) Bhansali (Sanjay Leela). And the reference to five fingers (Hrithik Roshan) makes its way into the song along with digs at Salman and Shah Rukh Khans. The songs feature Kerala (raamaa raamaa), a retro dance-up (remember the first segment of vo la.Dakii hai kahaa.N in Dil Chahta Hai?) with bright coloured sets (socho kyaa karogii) and some interesting lyrics (baa.Dal ko takiye saa gaddaa ye aasamaa.N), a third variant of the title song as a romantic duet (sunidhi chauhan soars up the frequency chart leaving udit narayan far behind on this one). And then there's Aftab's song dil meraa dil, a section of which seemed like a take on D'Angelo's infamous bare-all video. For more filmi digs check out the names that Fardeen and Aftab take up when they pose as kidnappers: Sultan Ahmed and Khalid Mohamed (good old vitriolic film journalist turned editor turned chastened filmmaker turned back to diluted vitriol?). There are funny lines in the film and the only real problem is that none of the main players can really get the rhythm right. Their inadequacies as actors are clearly evident and the only one who really surfaces above the morass is Saif Ali Khan, who seems to be getting better at his comic act. Viewers of Ruthless People and Fargo may sense some familiar elements, but there was more potential in this film. It still isn't that bad though. And it marked an E. Niwas (who also directed Dum) double bill. TRIVIA: opening voiceover by Paresh Rawal (hence the acknowledgement). This was also an RGV co-production. And the end credits roll against shooting moments and outtakes (watch carefully and you'll see Fardeen Khan give a two-handed finger salute to the camera -- another exhibit in the "sleeping censors" case). And the intermission screen is cute too: a freeze frame of Saif Ali Khan with a single word -- Relax.

Next up was Chhal, Hansal Mehta's second directorial feature, which, had I watched it when it was released (US release: DVD-only) would have been my pick of the year. There was no way in hell that any other film could have beaten this highly talented and motivated group of people before and behind the screen at making a very engrossing film, satisfying every demand you could make: narrative, performance, music (there are songs too, and work into the background, never encroaching on the proceedings). Rediff columnist Suparn Verma turned screenwriter with this great saga about an undercover cop who infilitrates the underworld and experiences a conflict of morals and values as he comes to understand that the line separating good (defined by the cops) and evil (defined by the goons) is not so fine after all. Kudos to all involved (the following is only a brief enumeration):

*Shwetah Priyam from Maya Entertainment, inc (title design)

*Ketan Rawal (production design)

*Arun Nambiar (sound)

*Ajay Verekar (art direction)

*Apurva Asrani (for returning to form in editing after Satya, and also his cameo as Kunal Sarpotdar)

*Neelaabh Kaul (cinematography)

*Viju Sha (music) and Amitabh Verma (lyrics) for music that complemented the narrative, and lyrics that gave the songs more than what such films usually get. And for giving me another song to fall in love with: chup chaap with Shaan and Sadhana Sargam sounding like their best

*producers Nitin Patil (a builder from Nashik), Uday Shah and Umesh Bagul for enabling this film to see the light of day.

*A spunky cast: Prashant Narayanan (as Girish), Naved Aslam (as Dave), Vallabh Vyas (as Shastriji), Jaya Seal (as Padmini), and the talented and underrated Kay Kay Menon (as Karan Menon/BCom)

The film is full of several great moments. It has at least two sequences where edits mix different moments and splice together a coherent exchange of dialogue (similar to the technique Soderbergh adopted with The Limey and Out of Sight). Lots of acid-washed blue drenched scenes. The film opens with an in-joke: people watching Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar! in a movie theatre (Movie Time in Malad?) [GAFFE: the sequence of scenes doesn't seem right -- just like the use of footage from Border in Satya]. Several minutes there's a shootout at a restaurant. And then a flashback. And once we get to the point we started from, there's a blur montage of the events we just saw, except, if you notice carefully, these are embellished with details that add more in the way of explanation than the usual mainstream approach of spoon-feeding. The camera perpetually holds a twisted tilted perspective (nothing is straightforward in this world) -- the nightmarish claustrophobia is well-evoked (a bit like Welles' visual adventures in The Trial). Lots of slide/dissolve (aka blur) montages (terminology is my own, formal equivalents are welcome). All in all, a wondrous moviewatching experience. All is definitely not lost. And I don't really care about complaints that we have had too many gangster/underworld movies. Haven't we had several times that number in mushy love stories? And if you want a love story, there's one here too. With its maturity and complications, instead of tree-hugging and clichéd promises. And Shyam Kaushal's action sequences can have action fans screaming John Woo, but it doesn't really matter. There's a payoff for everyone. If only people had noticed this film instead of Mujhse Dosti Karoge. See also: Donnie Brasco

A prematurely terminated transfer from DVD to VHS prevented me from soaking completely in the archetypal pathetic piece of filmmaking that Kaizad Gustad's BOOM represents. The film is an exercise in faux-Luc-Besson (ref: The Fifth Element) setpieces and flamboyance marred by terrible performances (did you really think he got all those models and lookers for their acting skills? grow up, it was the promise of an oglefest!) all around. There were some interesting bits in whatever I got to see (the diamond angle in the opening plot element kept reminding me of de Palma's Femme Fatale, but that's probably just a vibe): character names and aliases, characters providing voiceover introductions to other characters, and a great use of original old photographs of the actors when the characters they are playing are introduced. But Zeenat (thanks Sudarshan and JR for noting another descent into senility when I initially posted 'Dimple' instead of 'Zeenat') doing a post-modern kickback tabletop dance to dam maaro dam is embarassing. And the Big B seems to be in dire need of funds to have agreed to participate in this marshy venture -- his whacko character hits the embarassing button way too often. TRIVIA: when boom boom shankar (jaaved jaaferi) takes the models through a disco you can hear maar gayo re from Sandhya playing.

Friday, September 26, 2003

upside peter, imaginary book list and more

Apparently many of us are incapable of figuring just how incompetent we actually are ...

Jarno Virtanen has a wishlist of imaginary Python books (call it a wish-wishlist if you will).

news and wasted resources

After hogging media news thanks to (a) failed "chemistry" with Little B (b) starring in a TV series that indulged in the usual plagiarism but got a slap on the wrist this time around, Karisma finally got married. And got a few kiloquarts of web space (at least) dedicated to this affair. Clearly, we have nothing much to write/talk about. (Personally guilty even having VISITED the site!). Oh yes, and this is what everyone ate. Raucous laughter ringing down a dark autoreflexive corridor.

Update on RGV's MMBCH: the inevitable rediff portal.

Must also add a plug (the largest in the shop, please) for Amol Palekar's latest directorial effort, Anaahat. It has several great things going for it: Palekar helming it (the most underrated actor who epitomised the essence of the delicious long-dead genre of middle-class mainstream cinema, besides playing several memorable characters across different flavours of cinema; a director with enough variety in his small -- for now -- plate), a foundation in theatre (being an adaptation of Surendra Verma's Hindi play Surya Ki Antim Kiran Se Surya Ki Pehli Kiran Tak), and a great shot in the arm for Marathi cinema (the film's primary language is Marathi!). Cool. The good words are pouring in, but I'll wait to watch before I rave or rant (hope it's the former).

a nice little featurette on actors as composers, a look at Usha Khanna's career

calcutta mail: SSH resurfaces {see also: music review}

Let's start with awarding points:

* screenwriters Sudhir Mishra, Saurabh Shukla and Ruchi Narain for distilling the essence (minus the star baggage) of the Chiranjeevi Telugu vehicle Choodalani Vundi, and giving Mishra another chance to create a cut-to-cut pacy thriller

* Saurabh Shukla (again) for some great dialogue (you can even sense this is SS's work)

* Shukla (yet again) in one of several good performances in the film, as Ghatak, a pimp whose only allegiance is to takaas

* The other performances from Anil Kapoor (sincerity all over), Rani Mukherjee (very much at home), Sayaji Shinde, Satish Kaushik (in his first negative role, and making up for some of his fox paws as a director[sic]), Shivaji Satam. Manisha Koirala's role is mercifully brief -- can't stand this lady. The same trademark collection of expressions regurgitated

* A great first half with little mercy for taking stock of breathing cycles

* Mishra's use of Calcutta's backdrop -- the train, tramlines, Durga Puja, red-flag marches, Howrah Bridge, Sona Gachhi (a set recreation) to augment Avinash's pain as he seeks the kidnappers of his son

And now, the bad. What are songs doing in this film? Well, the same thing they did in Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin. Clog the narrative. Admittedly, ye saahab ajiib hai.n has a Sai-Paranjpe-esque appeal to it and is even entertaining. But the other song breaks are painful -- although the dance routines are (perhaps intentionally) comical, the sojourn to Salzburg was uncalled for. Damnation.

And last but not the least, SSH (Sagging Second Half). The film begins to lose steam with the flashback narrative (although not completely).

The film was delayed due to the ill health and the eventual death of Mishra's wife Renu Saluja, one of the best editors India has ever had. This might explain the few jerky switcharoos and jumpy little visuals that interfere with the pace of the film and the narrative. These minor glitches apart, I'd recommend CM -- on VHS or DVD only, so that you can skip the songs -- as an alternative to mainstream turdbags featuring famous hunks in romantic rain and foreign locales vying for the amorous attentions of sassy semi-nude senoritas. Ugh! for that last thought.

R. I. P. Renu. We'll miss you. {obits}

{Sunday Midday review and Khalid Mohamed's review for the Midday}

addendum (october 08, 2003): I must retract the SSH label and put on a new one (once again overloading an existing technology abbreviation): the film offers an example of SMS (or Sagging Middle Section). This happens (coincidence?) when we see Manisha Koirala. Thankfully, the latter portions resume their pace and the film races to a conclusion. So no SSH here, really. If only the songs and the Manisha portions were excised (or at least edited for brevity). But if you liked a well-paced, well-made little domestic thrill ride (no fancy jumping off building tops and slow-mo kung fu here) go take a look at Sudhir Mishra's eulogy to Renu Saluja.

desi no-no for Yahoo! Groups

Although the problem seems to have passed now, it deserves mention on this fertile ground of rants.

Once upon a recent time, in the world's largest democracy [sic], India (meraa bhaarat splitting at the seams), the Department of Information Technology sired the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) as the authority for blocking of sites. This shockingly anti-democratic move went largely uncontested. Until now.

CERT-In discovered kynhun, a forum carrying postings by the secessionist group the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council, one of 14 organizations banned in India (The ban was imposed in November 2000). (Incidentally, with 82 members (20 a week ago) and just 33 postings in a year, this forum isn't exactly busy!).

The government immediately asked Yahoo! to remove the forum. Yahoo! refused to comply. Who can blame them, really? Huh? So now, the Government issued a blanket ban on Yahoo! Groups. Unfortunately, a lot of ISPs went along with this, and blocked out the whole domain. (Insert suitable rants about nincompoops running the asylum)

A DoT note says: "Blocking of such Web sites may be equated to 'balanced flow of information' and not censorship". I leave the political analysis of this whole mess to people more qualified and objective. To speak for myself, I'll just add members of the CERT-In and its proponents along with Kalam and Vajpayee to my version of the Titanic's passenger list. How about a CERT-In music video with Hrithik Roshan singing "yahoo, yahoo" instead of "jaaduu jaduu"?

related articles: yahoo! groups blocked in india | india blocks yahoo! groups | india's yahoo! groups ban | government is not on solid ground | india blocks a yahoo! group carrying anti-government messages

Thursday, September 25, 2003


{previous edition}

Sssshhh... (aka S4H3) is another Anu Malik venture of self-rediscovery. Teraa meraa dil has the disgusting Nigam dueting leftovers from previous Malik compositions for Refugee and Border with Alka Yagnik. Ishq daa maaraa huaa has Sukhwinder Singh and Sunidhi Chauhan doing the obligatory bhangra/dance-floor bit for the album (rhythm programming embellishes leftovers from Soldier). Add to that some dance-hall-rap of the this-is-cool variety. Sukhwinder does a cool little piece of turnaround taan, which soon gets buried into the regularity of this unending song. This is what I sometimes refer to as the Rolling Stones syndrome (translated: we have this cool riif going and a few cool verses, but we're not sure when to end this song, so we'll keep hammering at the riff). Dhiire dhiire huaa opens with a trademark Anu Malik whistle melody (a mix of previous efforts at adapting themes from The Godfather). Sami launches into the mukha.Daa with characteristic (or clichéd) verve. There are a couple of interesting Pancham-esque variations at the end, but nothing too startling. Alka Yagnik pales before Sami when she joins in. And the melody gets me singing pehalaa pehalaa pyaar from Hum Aapke Hain Koun.... Gaah! The antara tune betray another influence, seen in a stronger form in the title song for Hameshaa [That incidentally became more famous as the SJ-composed trademark Raj Kapoor drone adorning[sic] all his later films, and was ripped off Iosef Ivanovici's "Anniversary Waltz"]. Sapane opens interestingly, although trivially a mix of influences ranging from African music (or The Lion King depending on how mainstream you are), lots of nylon guitar, and then Nigam (Aw Gawd!) launching into a Rahmanesque tune, where the lyrics are as bad as the tune. Alka Yagnik joins in the festivities, and what is this I hear, more Dil Chahta Hai-esque choruses? Shaan does another of his forgettable turns with a badly (howlariously) worded Mohabbat me.n. Another Sonu Nigam song kab meraa haal dil starts off sounding like Doom level music, and then descends into the "I think I've heard this before" space. Take a look at the album cover. Night of the Living Dead, what?
CD cover for Sssshhh

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

office space ... really

Joel Spolsky maintains an excellent page of articles on software development. His latest (Bionic Office) covers an important aspect of software personnel management: space. A great read, with lots of pictures. Hope someone out there who has the power to make a decision on floor and space planning reads this. One of the reasons Joel offers for considering this to be important is especially cute (perhaps for the India reference): Having drop-dead gorgeous, private, windowed offices makes it a lot easier to recruit the kinds of superstars that produce ten times as much as the merely brilliant software developers. If I have to compete at New York salaries against Bangalore salaries, I'm going to need those superstars, so when people come in for an interview, I need to see jaws on the floor. It's about drama.
/. score

School mate Vivek makes a /. splash with a post very much in keeping with the spirit of yours truly about Welchia crippling the U.S. Visa Approval System. Aren't you glad (as an immigrant) that all your sensitive information is stored on virus-friendly computers?
along came a spider ... laid a goose egg, got confused and collapsed

Too brutal a heading. Along Came A Spider is the second Alex Cross film after Kiss the Girls, and marks Morgan Freeman's return as James Patterson's mainstream bestseller[sic] police detective/profiler/writer. Lee Tamahori (who went on to helm Die Another Day) directs ... strictly by the numbers. The holes in the geography and plot are larger than the sum of the coherent parts. The only reason I kept looking at Megan Potter was because she looks so much like a young cleaner version of Julia Roberts. Apart from that, no great shakes either in the acting department (although everyone performs adequately given medium-to-rare roles). Aside from Jerry Goldsmith's cool score, there's also the cold texture of the film (provided without much ado or elan though) including some Virginia exteriors filmed in British Columbia (monitor the end credits carefully and you'll see an acknowledgement of the usual Canadian contribution). The real star of the piece, however, is Morgan Freeman. To quote Roger Ebert: No one is better than Morgan Freeman at being calm and serious and saying things like, "He's really after somebody else." ... Of Morgan Freeman as a movie actor, no praise is too high. Maybe actors should be given Oscars not for the good films they triumph in, but for the weak films they survive. The focus of his gaze, the quiet authority of his voice, make Dr. Cross an interesting character even in scenes where all common sense has fled.

atl, GA cribs

The first (and hopefully last) time I saw Georgia Governor Sunny Perdue (not unlike the chicken) was when he was walking about in a MARTA train, accompanied by nymphets with faces drowned in garish makeup handing out cute little cards, peddling for votes the day before the election. Since being elected, he has proceeded to provide Bushian tormentertainment down here. The latest in his "exploits" is funding roads to nowhere.

And now, since it's such a beautiful day outside, let's all sing suprabhaatam, and then as the flute takes over the melody, move into Rahman's maargazhii puuve.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

new lost word

Great great weather outside. Offset by a couple of variably sick colleagues. Great impetus to find a new word for them. Found two. Pertussis (the whooping cough: from the Latin tussis for cough) and to tussicate (yes, to cough). This would also explain how the standard cough syrup Robitussin got its name (origins of Robi still unknown).
do not call ... well, not just yet {see also: tele-panic, and all about being architecturally stupid?}

Even though the Do Not Call List goes live only on October 01, 2003, the sudden spate of blank calls we've been getting today morning prompted a Google search. What I found was not really germane to our problem. Just some information on the downside[sic] of the event: The American Teleservices Association claims that 2 million jobs could be lost when the Do Not Call registry becomes active on October 01. I feel for these people, but being called up at inconvenient moments is just so annoying!
DVD player comparisons

Never thought I'd ever be able to do this -- a comparison of DVD players. It's not full blown though and there are just two (well three) players involved. The suspects: APEX AD-1200, APEX AD-1201, PANASONIC DVD-S35S.

APEX AD-1200: The first DVD player whose brand and series number I could remember. Seemed full-featured at a very basic level (could handle DVDs, VCDs, CD-RWs, Audio CDs, picture CDs). Didn't have a good television set to check finer details though.

APEX AD-1201: A purchase made solely based on information about the one above. The purchase is also marked by an inundating update (courtesy a Circuit City store assistant): S-video, component video et al. This results in a headspin. The DVD player is purchased. Back home, one discovers how the remote control serves as a great idea for Human Computer Interaction class show n' tell. To scroll up and down or across menu items one has to press a green key labelled 'shift' (which results in a yellow rectangle on bottom-right corner of the TV screen with the word SHIFT in white!). Nice. S-video is the maximum the DVD player will support. A Monster cable connects its output to the TV, which can actually go up to component video. Soon it is evident that this DVD player sucks. There are so many colour artifacts and jealousy (read: colour green) abounds on screen.

PANASONIC DVD-S35S: Purchased in exchange (within the 30-day period, thank heavens!) for the above. Supports component video, optical audio output AND progressive scan. Cool. Looks silver and sleek too. Really cool. The Monster component video cables are a medusan monster indeed. However, once the wires are all in, the TV looks like a large jellyfish supported by audio and component video cables from the DVD player and RCA audio and video cables from the VHS player. This time it is clear that the purchase has been a good one. The colours are wonderful, they don't overflow and good bye green monster. More $$$ definitely, but evidently worth it.

Monday, September 22, 2003

you tell him, you tell him I'm coming ... tell I'm f*****g coming

As Wilson, Terence Stamp defines the essence of the revenge drama/throwback to the 60s anti-establishment spirit that is The Limey. Steven Soderbergh scores again. Playing with film convention and lore he effectively turns a Lem Dobbs screenplay about a vengeful father into a watchable melange of homage (the anti-establishment sentiment of the 60s and 70s), reused iconography (Easy Rider Peter Fonda, The Vanishing Point Barry Newman and Billy Budd Terence Stamp, along with a cast who "brought their own 60s baggage" including Lesley Ann Warren), and prismatic filmmaking. Soderbergh splices together fragments from different portions of the narrative's linear spectrum and wonderfully depicts the subjectiveness of memory. The best examples of this style are:
(a) Wilson talks to Elaine (Warren) about his past. What we see are snatches from three different places: a restaurant, a pier and Elaine's home. Soderbergh shot the same scene at all three locations (allowing the actors to explore the different dynamics of the space) and then, in the editing room, spliced together portions from each of them to give us a fine example of the fuzziness of memory (you might remember what was said, but it's always hard to remember who said what when)
(b) Soderbergh pieces together different shots featuring Fonda from the rest of the film to create an introduction to Terry Valentine, when we see him for the first time in the film
(c) The film begins with words that occur at the very end -- we also see (with cool simple titles running in the foreground) Wilson on a journey. It is only towards the end of the film, that we realize that the whole film has been one big memory flashback -- and the editing no longer seems haphazard. Everything makes sense. Mostly. For another cool mainstream experiment with time and memory, see Memento.

Not to forget the great intercutting of footage from Ken Loach's directorial dé Poor Cow to serve as flashes from Wilson's past in his introspective moments.

Great colours. Nice background score by Cliff Martinez, enhanced with the songs used on the soundtrack (including a different Steppenwolf song when Terry Valetine (Fonda) is driving a car -- remember Born to be Wild from Easy Rider?)

Other Soderberghia include rhyming Cockney slang (see also: Ocean's Eleven) {especially the priceless "butcher's hook" -- usage: Take a butcher's hook around = Take a look around (hook, look, get it?)}

Don't miss the special features: especially the technical specifications and the two commentary tracks (one has Soderbergh and Dobbs abusing each other -- quite typical if you've heard other Soderbergh commentaries; the other is a "60s docu-commentary" featuring Dobbs, Stamp, Fonda, Warren, Soderbergh and extracts of an RFK address). The director/screenwriter commentary track also augments itself with audio echoes and refrains -- cute.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

what do you love about music? To begin with ...

To begin with is also the title of Stillwater's first album. Stillwater is the fictional yet oh-so-real band careening from one inspired-by-real-life incident to another, in Cameron Crowe's crowning tribute to rock n' roll, Almost Famous. I love Led Zeppelin, and the fact that Crowe pulled off a coup convincing them to loan their songs (5 in all -- That's the Way [the first of them all -- it augments the on-the-road sequences, The Rain Song, Misty Mountain Hop [wonderfully used when they get to New York], Bron-Y-Aur, Tangerine [heard at the end, just before the final credits roll]) was enough reason to watch the film. Crowe is also famous at getting Zeppelin to open up to the press and get a cover story for Rolling Stone. The film is chock-full of homages and references, and counter-references ... to both music and film. The IMDB trivia page meticulously lists most of them.

The only regret is that I picked up the single-disc original release. Since then, Crowe put together Untitled (finally getting to use his original choice of title for the film), a 2-disc "bootleg" release with deleted scenes, and audio commentary. Someday ... In the meantime, rock on.

Friday, September 19, 2003


Microsoft Excel [aka nominal paradox] 2002 {10.3506.3501} SP-1 does not allow me to open two documents with the same name, even though they are in different directories. Boo! [serves me right for even using the stupid thing ...]
noose noose

Somehow echoing the fatuousness of his narcissistic Censor, Dev Anand is being wooed to fill the seat of the chief of the Central Board of Film Certification (yes, that's what CBFC stands for ..) | Ajay Jadeja is finally making his film début with Suniel Shetty's production dé (2 dés for the price of 1) Khel; "The difference is huge, cricket is reality and films are fiction. In cricket you are the actor, director and producer at the same time, but in films the pressure is less," is what he says. This from the dude whose planned début starring opposite Madhuri Dixit was hyped to the high skies, and who has been involved with some rather dirty dealings at the willow | Govinda is back, or is he? | Antara Mali returns with RGV's Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon {Rangeela revisited?} {the film is fronted by editor-turned-director Chandan Arora}| Bhawana Somaaya explores the unending grey controversy surrounding another song written by ae mere watan ke logo.n lyricist Pradeep, this time it's the title song of Jai Santoshi Maa, the strange entry in the list of top moneymaking Hindi films. [Thanks to JR {see comments} for spotting my fox paws in attributing the controversy to the famous patriotic song (which is admittedly shrouded in controversy anyways, hence my oversight) instead of the popular song of praise.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

H1-B update

Backers of the H-1B program argued Tuesday that the visas aren't taking away U.S. jobs, because some technology companies still can't find qualified workers for some positions. "It is hard to displace U.S. workers when you don't have any U.S. workers to choose from," said Elizabeth Dickson, advisor of immigration services for Ingersoll-Rand. {more}

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

great workplaces ... free classics ... and more

Business World is running what may be India's first Great Places to Work list, based on a survey by Grow Talent.

Planet PDF is offering an assortment of some of the most popular (pinch of salt) classics -- free, as PDFs (duh!).

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

377: no more hanky panky {aka am I posting this only because I just finished remodelling my floor laughing out loud?}

Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code ("Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine") is interpreted to suggest that if even a man and woman, married or otherwise, indulge in anything but the straight and narrow required to produce a child, they could be hauled up if caught in the act. Even in their home. And gay rights activists are furious, needless to say. [ref: sex on your mind]
blogger will be free: Yay!

Blogger (my blog providers) have a paid version of their blogging engine called Blogger Pro, which goes for an annual fee of $35, and provides more features (including an RSS feed). Now that Google has acquired Blogger, it's no longer a struggling startup and so the need for a paid service has passed. This means that the Pro services are going to be rolled out in the free version in a few days. Yay!

Monday, September 15, 2003

rmim nuggets

The thread: What is the difference between "Guest Actors/Actresses" and "Special Appearance"?

The post:

When the artist bring his own lunch box, then it is called Guest Appearance.
A small icon depicturing Tiffin Carrier may appear on the right bottom
corner of the screen.

For example, Pran and Johny Walker in Devdas.

Opinion: Priceless
bouts of depression aka how I went masochistic over the weekend

So I found out on Friday that I had to work over the weekend. Demo. Stuff unfinished. Despite having done all that I had to do, there were things I was responsible for that came at the end of a pipeline, and the previous stages were still in flux. Resentment galore. Coupled with the possibility of good weather (it rained when I returned home in the evening on Sunday, though).

The only movie I have at home unwatched was Chandni Bar. I am fully aware that despite Tabu's great performance (and having watched it, I strongly agree), its theme and execution make it one of the most depressing films ever. And one would think I would have gone smart and picked another more uplifting film. Nevertheless, after running through the gamut of emotions in the spectrum of frustration and disgust, I still managed to relish the film, despite its strictly downbeat approach. The only problem is that most of the events are expected -- we know that Mumtaz's life is going only one way: along a downward spiral. Wonder what Madhur Bhandarkar will tackle next (there's still the lingering fear of him going commercial ...).

Sunday, September 14, 2003

culture overdose

First, an informal afternoon performance by Rajendra Kandalgaonkar.

Then an evening of Indian theatre at Emory University.

Friday, September 12, 2003


Something I hadn't noticed before: Gracy Singh was not the only Lagaan-ite in Jha's recent film. We also had Yashpal Sharma (Laakhaa) as Sundar Yadav, Rajesh Vivek (Guuran) as Bholenath, Daya Shankar Pandey (Golii) as Mangniram.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

more ailing artists {see also: new honour and support system}

Given shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan's failing health and the utter disregard he has been afforded, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan voices his concern as well as a demand for a 'corpus fund' to helping artists in times of distress.

In other news, Asha Bhosle turned 70 on Monday, September 08, 2003.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

what will bollywood think of next?

As if lifting the sentiment of The Full Monty and crushing it like a dead cigarette butt with Oops! wasn't bad enough, we now have a mainstream look at lesbianism with Karan Razdan's Shock. The cast includes Meghna Naidu (from the kaliyo.n kaa chaman video), Aryan Vaid, Tarun Arora and Salil Ankola (???) among others. Aryan Vaid says: "There is tons of sex in the film. Apparently, they plan to show two women kissing". Bhaago!!!
msft security ... again

A colleague just sent out a link to a Yahoo! News story about yet another Microsoft security flaw. What makes it funny is that this came "just moments before its senior security strategist, Phil Reitinger, told lawmakers on the House Government Reform technology subcommittee about the company's efforts to help consumers defend themselves against viruses and other Internet attacks".
looking forward to ...

Darna Zaroori Hai, the sequel to Darna Mana Hai (even though it might be a while coming, since they are still accepting script ideas from the public for a prize) | Vishal's second film, (Miyan) Maqbool (a Mumbai underworld adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth) {synopsis}

Grahan: This was a long-in-the-making K Shashilal Nair film, whose claim to fame in the musical milieu was the music-directorial début of Ilayaraaja's son Karthik Raja. All I remember, besides vid previews featuring aaj mai.n Kush huu.N, was that KR sounded more like ARR than his father. Kehte hai.n jisako is a prime example. The second interlude includes flute odes to the interlude in tanhaa tanhaa from Rangeela. Asha sounds a little tired in aaj mai.n Kush huu.N and ye sochataa hai kyaa (kyaa kyaa time hai/mausam fine hai: someone got paid to write this crap ???) (the male vocal taan and female chorus -- Jolly Mukherjee? -- are nice though) -- frankly, any of her attempts to sound young, coquettish and playful end up being embarassing. She should just stop playback singing, release some pop albums (at least that way I won't have to buy them!) or better still, indulge in more heartfelt riyaaz so that she doesn't render embarassments like raliyaa.N {ref: Khwahish}. Chup chup's appeal begins and ends with the opening female chorus, before never-say-die Bhosle emerges from the ashes. What was Mehboob smoking when he wrote such drivel anyways? There's an unidentified male voice (or voices? unless that's echo and reverb again) indulging in vocal histrionics and some nice south-indian percussion improvisation which although brief redeem this song a bit. {movie review on rediff} Unheard and unreviewed: Dominique's disco rap (must I even bother?)

Pinjar: Uttam Singh tunes lyrics by Gulzar, Zehra Nigah and Amirta Pritam (who also wrote the source novel). Very very earthy and rustic, and lots of Punjabi lyrics, like our first candidate shaabaa nii shaabaa, which has a turnaround echoing that in dulhan Kuubasuurat hai from Phandebaaz (Clearly, I have R D Burman on my mind!). However, US gets a chance to retune Gulzar's rewritten haath chhuuTe bhii to (last tuned by Jagjit Singh for Marasim) and gets JS to sing it again. It's an interesting different tune too, especially with its incorporation of a female taan (Preeti Uttam) and a chorus (chhuuT gaye yaar naa chhuuTii yaarii maulaa). The Wadali brothers make an appearance (their first on a Hindi film album?) along with the painful Jaspinder Narula with dard maryaa, right after US lends his voice (another first?) to tail-end the pleasant Roop Kumar Rathod-sung vatanaa ve. Uttam Singh's daughter Preeti Uttam steps up to sing charakhaa chalaatii maa.N, a song about the inevitable fate of the girl child (Gulzar revs back with some nice lyrics too). Incidentally, this is the first Bollywood movie whose music was released at the Indo-Pak border (Wagah). {links and listing courtesy: Pavan Jha, moderator of Gulzarfans and owner of Gulzaronline}. Here's the track listing (lyric credits are Gulzar, unless otherwise indicated):
1. Shaba ni shaba - Kavita Krishnamurty, Saadhna Sargam, Udit & Chorus
2. Maar udari - Jaspinder Narula, Preeti Uttam, Amar Date, Nihar S & Chorus
3. Haath chhoote bhi to rishte nahin - Jagjeet Singh, Preeti Uttam & Chorus
4. Vatna ve - Roop Kumar Rathod and Uttam Singh
5. Darda maarya - Wadali Bandhu, Jaspinder Narula and Chorus
6. Charkha chalaati Maa - Preeti Uttam and Chorus Poetry - Amrita Pritam
7. Sita ko dekhe - Suresh Wadkar and Saadhna Sargam Poetry - Zehra Nigah
8. Shabad (Hymns) - Preeti Uttam and Chorus (Traditional)
9. Waarish Shah Nu - Wadali Brothers & Preeti Uttam Poetry : Amrita Pritam
CD jacket

gangaajal: jha-m packed with fragments {official site}

The best part about Gangaajal (shot in Wai and Satara) is the incorporation of the famous Bhagalpur incident into its otherwise striving-to-be-mainstream narrative. The background music by Wayne Sharpe redeems itself with a titular motif that recurs at the end of the film -- the rest of it swings the spectrum from interesting, to mundane, to loud, to intrusive, to boring. Pity. The relatively clean DVD print was a blessing -- not too many dark zones. The editing and photography were the most surprising parts of the film -- given that Jha had a semi-decent narrative in place, he really should have paid more attention to these crucial aspects of filmmaking. Interesting moments get knocked by, strange camera angles and moves dominate. Very rarely does what is transpiring on screen get justice meted out to it -- most of the time you wonder what these guys were up to. Devgan's performance has merit and must be lauded -- here's hoping he can get rid of that Bollywood starry swagger and find more ways to hold a cigarette soon. Gracy Singh gets even more disappointing. Admittedly, the script has not been just to her character. Yet, it isn't a character that should have vanished on the cutting board. Given the brevity of the role, GS had an excellent opportunity to use her eyes and face to emote -- a very very good sign to weed out the wannabes from the good actors. When Ajay Devgan breaks down after losing a court case, GS gets one opportunity to react -- and what do we get, a blank expressionless face. Where are you Smita Patil when we need you most?

Laloo's brother Sadhu Yadav did try to put in some cogs by raising objections about the baddie's name being the same as his, but the objections were withdrawn when Laloo found nothing objectionable about it. Curiously, just as in Shool, that other film about a good cop struggling in vain against a system riddled with corruption, there's a Marathi actor playing the baddie (Mohan Joshi here, Sayaji Shinde there). The other Mohan (Agashe) gets another badly written part and tries to do his best with it. Ayub Khan (who carries over along with Mohan Joshi from Jha's last effort, Mrityudand) is stiff, which does not bode well since he is one of the key figures involved in the blurring of good and evil, thanks to the acid (the Gangaajal of the film) incident. The movie's ambiguous end is denied fruition by the previously mentioned technical department and Jha's (possible) desire of getting done with the film.

The one thing that puzzled me was the length of the film and how much was left unexplored despite having so much time. There were just two songs: one, the equivalent of mai.n aayii huu.N UP bihaar luuTane from Shool, which ends up being more rustic and believable (although badly aurally mastered and picturised); the second overlays lyrics germane to the narrative (if you can decipher them!) over the tune of chalat musaafir moh liyaa re (famously rendered by Manna Dey in Teesri Kasam). There's a third plaintive bit by Ustad Sultan Khan (who incidentally is the guru of the main music director Sandesh Shandaliya -- pronounced close to 'chandelier' (ha! ha! ha!)), which is rudely mixed from foreground to background to abrupt termination. Pity. So, back to the length. I didn't notice any evident excesses in terms of plot angles (except *perhaps* the news reporter), but Jha left a lot of interesting issues unexplored/half-explored: the questionable nature of the violent turn of events in the lockup, Amit Kumar (Devgan)'s restraint and principled pragmatism, the changing moralities of his subordinates, all culminating in the open ending (slightly marred by the closing voiceover which fails to achieve much). Bachhaa Yadav, however, does manage to come off as the second interesting character in the film,

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

happy pancham, Google

The world's favourite search engine turns 5 today. {washingtonpost} {searchenginewatch} {linuxworld} {bbc}
Google 5th Birthday logo
new honour and support system {See also: bleak horizons} {cross-reference: Will somebody please help Tony Vaz?}

Vinay has been kind enough to set up an online support system via Amazon to support Tony Vaz, ailing bass guitarist and former session musician for legends like R D Burman and contemporary music directors like Vishal and Uttam Singh. This will allow people in the US of A who would like to make a contribution.

no comments

Just to make the visually obvious official: YACCS, my comments server, went down a while ago, and is still staying there. I'm hoping for a speedy recovery. In the meantime, if you're itching to rant/blast back, drop me an email (see left sidepanel for relevant information).

mijhik mijhik

{previous edition}

Calcutta Mail: Why have songs in this potentially realism/humanity-drenched effort? Sudhir Mishra seems to have gone ga-ga-gagged once again (the songs from Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin survived longer than the film), adapting a Chiranjeevi-Anjala Zhaveri Telugu flick (Choodalani Vundi). Wonder how many of these songs actually feature in the film? Nothing special encountered in the first round of listening. Perhaps repeat hearings will lead to more conclusions ... {sudhir mishra disowns the film}

Inteha: Sa Re Ga Ma discovery and Ismail Darbar favourite (remember Devdas?) Shreya Ghoshal returns to dominate the tracks of this album. Sensing a potential hit, the tracklist features multiple versions of Dhalane lagii hai raat, which although a good melody, suffers from some Malik-patented puffy orchestration and engineering, along with a strong echo of Suno naa from Jhankaar Beats. Incidentally, the film marks the on-screen début of Ashmit Patel, brother of starlet Amisha Patel. Grief! Hamasafar chaahiye is a decent melody with some nice fills (and a lot of "this sounds so familiar" vibes), the only irritating aspect being the issues with pronunciation that Udit Narayan and the female chorus seem to suffer from. Gaah! {thanks to JR for pointing out an instance of foggy memory as I mixed Darbar and Anu Malik/Kareeb and Devdas}

Monday, September 08, 2003

mithunda returns

to the so-called "A-list" again. With Elaan. Gautam Buragohain talks to the Bengal tiger and even poses some irksome questions. Here's the interesting extract:

MC: (Slightly irritated) What's your definition of A-grade films?
GB: Big-budget films with a big star cast I guess.
MC: Yeah, I agree that of late my films are not that big in terms of budgets and maybe in terms of a big star cast (as you said). But, none of them have been loss making ventures. All my producers have recovered and even made money with my films. What's the use of making mega budget films that flop? Eventually they turn out to be mega flops. Moreover, it doesn't make a difference to me anymore, even if my film flops. I have learnt to rise above flops and hits, because I don't have that Friday box-office fever any more. I'm at peace with myself. No more running after stardom. First you struggle to become a star, then you struggle to become a superstar, and after that you struggle to keep that slot, it's a never ending struggle. I purposely decided to opt out of this mad rat race, because the race leads to nowhere.

Well said, Mithunda.

sarod and tabla madness: another great ICMS concert

When and where: Saturday, September 6, 2003 | 1930 | Emory University, White Hall Room 208
Who: Tejendra Narayan Majumdar (sarod), Subhankar Banerjee (tabla) {with Kakali Bandyopadhyay on tanpura}
Courtesy: ICMS

A rather formal performance -- at least in terms of a playlist. TNM was kind enough to attempt to announce and explain the piece before actually beginning to play it. That did not help to recover from the complex web of melodic, harmonic and rhythmic interplay that ensued. For the completely-blown away, the reaction would have been "awesome". For those (like myself) who tried to keep track of the 'sam' in the face of off-beat off-kilter taal patterns and sarod runs, it was a moment of "aha" every time the musicians converged from rather diverse tracks of improvisation. Here's what we got to hear: (a) alaap, jo.D and jhaalaa in raag lalitaa-gaurii (b) compositions in Raag puuryaa dhaanashrii in vilambit teen taal and madhya/dhrut jhap taal (I must add that this was the fastest jhap taal I had ever heard -- of course, it made it easier to count, but was still numbingly fast!) (c) intermission (d) a composition in raag gu.njii kaana.Daa in vilambit tiin taal (e) alaap and expositions in chaacho.D (14-beat-cycle) and tiin taals in raag mishra shivaranjanii (again I must note, as the performance approached the rock-solo-chaos crescendo aka find-the-'sam', TNM seemed to deviate more towards the 'mishra' aspect of things, which meant that we heard strains of piilu and maa.nD.

misc links (to celebrate a week that has begun with cool mornings and hot interiors thanks to procrastinating air conditioning systems)

A useful reference on adware, spyware and general crudware | runs linux (well, upto a point) | welcome to the hall of technical documentation weirdness {courtesy: /.}

updated reads

As if I didn't have enough on my hands already, I decided to deep six the books on drums and drumming, and grab something else. Having read updates on the new Jane Campion film, I picked up Susanna Moore's In the Cut off the shelf {synopsis and review}. The book is interesting -- I've never read Harold Robbins, but the erotic/racy/explicit slant of the book gave me vibes similar to those that I might have got from Robbins' ouevre. I liked the opening of the book, which introduces us, in first-person narrative, to our protagonist and narrator, and her profession (creative writing teacher), in addition to setting the tone of the book -- short economic sentences. It seems understandable to treat it as highbrow sleaze, but my interest has been piqued -- both by Jane Campion's decision to adapt this novel (which was optioned by Nicole Kidman, the original choice of lead), Meg Ryan's ambitious move to go against type, and some of the passages in the book. Here's the extract of the opening (courtesy:
mo' movies

* Thir13en Ghosts: An SFX-laden remake of William Castle's 1960 flick. That movie had a gimmick just like other Caste flicks {see also: The Tingler}: It was filmed in "Illusion-O" and a pair of special glasses where needed to see the ghosts. This version from Dark Castle Entertainment (Robert Zemeckis, Joel Silver and Gilbert Adler; who were also responsible for the other William Castle upgrade that year, House on Haunted Hill) assimilates this device into the plot and gives us instead a collection of creepy monsters, a great set (a glass house, with an intricate set of sliding panels, complete with containment spells, and cool sound engineering. Also cool are the opening credits some of which appear at odd angles and cast shadows against the objects of the house that they appear against. The opening credits appear as the camera begins a slow circular sweep about the house of Arthur Kriticos: while it continues, and credits appear at odd angles, the soundtrack fill us in on the tragic death of Arthur's wife -- she burns to death in an accident: when the camera returns to Arthur, the tone of the on-screen colours has changed, Arthur is now gloomy and hurt: although this owes a lot to SFX, it reminded me of Welles' bravado opening for Touch of Evil. The Arcanum is the evil book describing the Black Zodiac and the construction of the machine fed by the energy of the ghosts, which will open up the Ocularis Infernum, or the Eye of Hell. Predicatably, he who controls The Ocularis is the most powerful man on earth. In return for essaying the "black thang" stereotype of a faux-sassy house-helper, Rah Digga gets to sing "Mirror, Mirror" against the end credits. One of several irritating aspects. To paraphrase Roger Ebert, the plot and acting are D. O. A. But the production design and sound engineering are a good reason to catch this post-modern re-Castle.{production notes} {Zemeckis' Castle fetish and more rants} [more about the Ocularis Infernum]

* Ulysses' Gaze: The only thing I knew about this close-to-three-hour "epic" Greek film by Theodoros Angelopoulos was his resentment at Kusturica's Underground trouncing the film at Cannes for the Palme d'Or. I had caught Underground in one of the now-defunct CAN group screenings at Georgia Tech. That was an "epic" as well, and the only thing that seemed to save it from a big black mark in my book was some oddball black comedy that offset the tragedies that the film traversed. The film was also more active than Angelopoulos' epic. Theo chooses Harvey Keitel to play an expat Greek filmmaker (called 'A') who returns to his native Ptolemas to attend a special screening of one of his extremely controversial films. A's real interest, however, is in locating the mythical reels of the very first film shot by the Manakia brothers. To do this he crosses territorial boundaries and, from an artistic point-of-view, flits between the present and the past, giving us an extended lesson in Balkan history and geography, giving Harvey Keitel another chance to walk about mumbling inaudible nothings in English, giving the subtitlers another chance to make life miserable for us as the characters in the different settings switch spoken languages, giving Keitel another shot at frontal nudity (last evidenced in Jane Campion's lyrical The Piano), providing another example of one actress playing several different female characters who inexplicably fall for A in various forms of role-play (I found a more satisfying example in Miranda Richardson's performance in Spider). I initially sat down to watch the movie without any preconceived impressions, just to be fair to Theo's "vision". However, all the geographical information I got (which allowed me to understand the goings-on) was courtesy another friend who was watching the film. My adjectives for the film changed progressively as we moved from tape one to tape two: patient, slow, ponderous, blowhard boring. I initially relished the framing, and I still recommend this film only if you like to see several (and I mean several!) examples of interesting framing. Some tableux are interesting too : the inexplicable moment when A encounters a muse/vision and two masses of people rapidly converge on him; the single-take celebration of successive New Years in his old house, as A is seen to transition from a boy to a full-grown man. However, I soon began classifying these are mere examples of the pretentious bent of the filmmaker. By the time the film concluded the only things I could appreciate (aside from the framing and a sometimes interesting score) were: (a) the circularity of closure (b) the faint parallels to Ulysses' Odyssey (c) the possibility that this was Theo's 81/2 (an ode to his craft). Apart from that, I found little about the film that seemed to justify either his outburst at Kusturica trouncing him, or to recommend this film to anyone else. {Roger Ebert's rant} {reviews and reflections} {slant magazine}

* Bird: The first in my unplanned Eastwood double bill. Eastwood, with his love for jazz, seems, now, to have been the perfect person to direct this heart-felt biopic on the eventful traumatic life of Charlie "Yardbird" Parker. And it is to his credit that the film never sinks into being either (a) a film delving into the mush of human achievement with soaring achievement or (b) a film focussing on the technicalities of Parker's complex runs. Watch it, that's all I can say. For Forrest Whitaker's wonderful performance. For Eastwood's easyhanded direction. For the wonderful soundtrack (both the score by Eastwood regular Lennie Niehaus, and all that jazz ... literally.

* Blood Work: Sure, it's run-of-the-mill. But with Eastwood around, it works a lot better for me. Eastwood once again plays against the filmic iconography that his oeuvre has built up, and aims at the frailty of a man like him, in his position, at his age. He plays an aging FBI profiler and the film begins with his character Terry McCaleb (pron: muck-kay-lib) experiencing a heart attack while giving chase (strong echoes of Frank Horrigan running out breath in one of the subtle effective scenes in In the Line of Fire). Thence, the film proceeds like a thriller, but a thriller made by Eastwood, starring Eastwood. This means that there are no hifalutin gags, fake high points, pseudo-climactic moments of discovery. Everything is like the surface of a lake on a windless day: calm. But yet, you know there's a storm brewing. And Eastwood mercifully leaves that feeling up to you. He doesn't force it in. And with a cast comprising capables like Anjelica Houston and Jeff Daniels, Eastwood manages to dish out another watchable film in the league of Absolute Power: quiet drama.

* The Exorcist II: The Heretic: To see John Boorman as a director of a sequel, and a horror classic at that was a bit surprising. This film is strong on atmosphere, and the performances are subdued, except for the locusts:) Yet, there isn't as much dread as was fearfully evident in the first film. It's almost like attempting a sequel to Rosemary's Baby (which exists, as a book: Son of Rosemary). To achieve the same levels of original and innovative shock is a challenge that is sometimes best left unmet. You can note Boorman's achievements if you treat this as an isolated film, exploring the themes of belief, and the blurred line between good and evil. Of course, associating Satan and a Mesopotamian God called Pasuzu may not make theological sense.

Friday, September 05, 2003


Computer science:
(1) A study akin to numerology and astrology, but lacking the
precision of the former and the success of the latter.
(2) The protracted value analysis of algorithms.
(3) The costly enumeration of the obvious.
(4) The boring art of coping with a large number of trivialities.
(5) Tautology harnessed in the service of Man at the speed of light.
(6) The Post-Turing decline in formal systems theory

news, and updates

HAPPY TEACHERS' DAY to all concerned. The TOI achieves new tabloid-wannabe points with a little-bitty writeup about crushes on teachers.

Updates first: The TOI has an article about the dreaded bill that might strike the death blow for the H-1B visa. {see previous post}

The TOI barely redeems itself with a note about the product endorsement in Kuch Naa Kaho {see music review}, which incorporates desi-ized elements of Jerry Maguire. One must also note, at this point, the Videocon-ness of Hungama.

why was salman khan let off? asks the TOI. This from the rag that published a paean to Salman Khan (written by a certain Aparna Kalra) a few months ago {more about that in brains, people and common sense}

Kareena Kapoor is ready for risks. What that translates to is an interview with this horrifying ghoul about her role as a street walker (aka hooker) in the late Anant Balani's Chameli. A few "illuminating" quotes:

* An actress usually gets to play this kind of a character after a decade in the industry. At 22, with just three years of experience, I must be the youngest actresses to attempt anything so challenging (Note how she conveniently refers to herself as an 'actress' as opposed to a 'star'. Wonder when someone will explain to these star kids that stars don't necessarily qualify as actors. But then, we have her last "acclaimed" performance opposite a muscle flexer, a brooder, a 2D dog and a 3D parrot)

* Poo of Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham was a gamble, so was Asoka's Kaurvaki. Hey, if you remember, even my first film, Refugee strayed off-the-beaten-track... I'm very nervous about how people are going to react to my new "look"...the crassness of the character. (Just as they usually do: with fear, shock and disgust)

* [Sanjay Leela Bhansali] is the only director in the country I haven't worked with yet (Pretty small country she lives in ...)

* To do films like Chameli, Bajirao Mastani and Bewafaa so early in my career seems almost like a miracle. I've even managed to strike just the right balance between Govind Nihalani, Rituparno Ghosh and Deepa Mehta on one hand and Abbas-Mastan, Mani Ratnam and Dharmesh Darshan on the othe (yawn ... well, at least she got the polarity right)

* [Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon is] not as bad as it's made out to be. I loved it (sure, you got paid for it!) ... and people appreciated my performance. Every film of Sooraj Barjatya's can't be a Hum Aapke Hain Koun...! (it had better not be ... I'd rather see all that wasted money go towards a good cause)

* Right now I'm more interested in playing a sex worker! (At least she has clear objectives ... for now)

And finally, some new movie titles {previous post in thread}:

Ashiqui The Burning Love


Raste Ka Maal Saste Mein

Paayal Bar A Passion of Love

And, to reiterate, our mainstream releases this week are Kuch Naa Kaho, Calcutta Mail (a remake of the Chiranjeevi/Anjala Zhaveri starrer Choodalani Vundi), and Rules: Pyar ka Superhit Formula (ugh!).

Thursday, September 04, 2003

bleak horizons

Fans of R D Burman's music as also any college bassist trying hard to at least replicate all the wondrous patterns that underscored his 80s-and-post songs will have heard of Tony Vaz, the bass guitarist of choice for the late RDB, as well as music directors and arrangers like Uttam Singh and Vishal. What may be news to most is that Tony Vaz is in extremely bad shape and will probably pass away in neglect. Back in Pune, I have seen similar fairly famous sessions musicians living life the bad way, while the people hiring them made all the greens. Luckily, people like Vishal, whose scores for Maachis and Godmother had an extra something thanks to Tony Vaz, are helping out. Will the Music Directors' Association in Bombay wake up before it's too late? Or has talent and art already lost out to glamour and moronic ephemera?

more biased mijhik reviews

{previous review}

Khel (not to be confused with the Rajesh Roshan-scored Rakesh Roshan-directed ripoff of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) has music by Babbu Mann and Dabbaa ... oops Daboo Malik (see Screen bits). {Incidentally, DM's début as music director was Maine Dil Tujhko Diya, which had marked the inauspicious acting débuts of Sameera Reddy and Sohail Khan}. pyaar hone lagaa is a mix of ARR riffs, Jatin-Lalit melodies and R D Burman rhythms (ref: Jawani Diwani). has a musical opening whose violin runs are straight out the interludes of Tanhaa Tanhaa. These are followed by tired lyrics. Next! SharaaTaa is best summed up by the spoken line in the song i don't know what is this sharaaTaa. Shaan and Sunidhi Chauhan are put to ill use (again!) in chorii chorii. The irritating Sonu Nigam is back with tumako kitanaa hai pyaar, which is redeemed by some nice guitar fills. Skip otherwise! The chorii chorii reprise is ideal muzak. {TRIVIA: credits read Dudes Music Company}

Zameen has Himesh Reshammiya churning out bouncy love songs for Ajay Devgan, Abhishek Bachchan and Bipasha Basu. The turnaround in bas ek baar is almost identical to R D Burman's 7/4 theme for Khel Khel Mein. The dillii kii sardii remix starts off with a frequently used vocal sample, and then you cringe as scream-queen Shweta Shetty layers herself all over the track. The unmixed version is not too different (wonder why they had a remix in the first place!). Clearly the item song of the film, complete with comparing love to the cold in Delhi!! mere naal starts off sounding like Lagaan's o mitawaa repackaged, and then descends into Punjabi purgatory. And why Shaan and Hema Sardesai descend into a faux-foreigner accent on occasion is beyond me. Quite irritating. Sar\-zamii.n se is jingoistic crap: har indian kii pahachaan hai ye/bible giitaa quraan hai ye/ye hai maa.N hai ye/hai ishq hai hame.n sar\-zamii.n se (Chorus with fading echo: zamii.n zamii.n zamii.n zamii.n ...) and even some crap like my nation is my pride somewhere in the middle of the song. Ye gaads! tere ek simple sii coffee (yep, you read that right) is ham tere sanam naa hote from praan jaaye par shaan na jaaye. And it's Kay Kay's turn to do the faux-firang thingy.

the priyadarshan phenomenon

In 2001, Priyadarshan talked about "being consumed by the idea of directing Shah Rukh and Aishwarya in a romantic comedy set in a mental asylum" (a remake of the Nicholson vehicle One flew over the cuckoo's nest, complete with songs and twisted around to be a comedy). What he neglected to mention was that this horrifying prospect was nothing but remaking his Malayalam take on the subject, Thalavattam, starring Mohan Lal.

The bulk of Priyan's Hindi remakes have been Mohan Lal starrers, directed either by Priyan himself or someone else. Lal is a more versatile and talented actor, and also enjoys commercial appeal. Moreover, Priyan seems to be more at home directing movies in his mother tongue (malayalam) set in his native land (kerala). The best Malayalam cinema seems to benefit from the regional bias and is a little too strongly rooted in the culture, customs, practices and norms of the state of Kerala to lend itself to easy adaptation. No actors in Hindi cinema can boast the attributes that Lal lends to a movie he stars in. All this makes Priyan's remakes stink to the high heavens in the most cases. I wonder if there's anything beyond commercial success and more widespread mainstream appeal (read: any really artistic reason) that compels Priyan to churn out borefests like the recent Hungama. Here's a list of Priyan's Hindi films/remakes, along with information about the originals, and (since this is a blog after all) my rants and raves about either.

* Muskurahat (1992) {his own Kilukkam (1988)}. Revathi carried over, but Jay Mehta did not make even a passable replacement for Mohan Lal. Amrish Puri barely passed muster, standing in for Thilakan.

* Gardish (1993) {Sibi Malayil's Kireedam (1989)}. Incidentally, Dum was a remake of the Tamil film Dhill, which was also a remake of Kireedam. Dum had Mukesh Rishi playing a good guy, and Rishi had made a big splash as the baddie in Gardish.

* Virasat (1997) {Bharathan's Thevar Magan (1992)}

* Saat Rang Ke Sapne (1997) {his own Thenmavin Kombatha}. Pointless replacing Mohan Lal and Shobana with Arvind Swamy and Juhi Chawla

* Doli Saja Ke Rakhna (1998) {the Tamil hit Kaadalikku Maryada}

* Hera Pheri (2000) {Siddique Lal's Ramji Rao Speaking (1989), which also spawned a sequel called Mannar Mathai Speaking (1995)} [early reactions to Hera Pheri]

* Yeh Tera Ghar Yeh Mera Ghar (2001) {Sathyan Anthikad's Sanmanasullavarkku Samadhanam (1986) and apparently fragments from Minnaram and Vandanam}. Again Sunil Shetty for Mohan Lal.

* Hungama (2003) {Poochakkoru Mookkuthi (1984) | director: Priyadarshan}

As an aside, here are some Priyan films that were remade into Hindi, but not by him:

*Chandralekha (remade as Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega), although itself a remake of While you were sleeping

The one film I haven't managed to track back is the shoddy Kabhi Na Kabhi (1997), which lay in the cans for a while, and was one of A R Rahman's first Hindi movies (he signed on for this even before his eventual Hindi film dé Rangeela). The story is a rehash of Saagar (and one of the characters is Kacharaa Seth, played by Paresh Rawal, who shares a name with a character played by Shakti Kapoor in Hungama). Any surprise considering Javed Akhtar contributed to both? And mil gayii mil gayii is the same as a.njalii a.njalii in Duet.

related: discussion board for priyadarshan's remakes | Priyadarshan's films banned (June 2003)

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

current reads and old views

I'm flitting between Peter Cowie's book on the making of Apocalypse Now, Focus on Blow Up by Roy Huss (a compilation of journalistic and critical writings on Antonioni's wonderful {another sample verbiage-laden critical essay} film about filmmaking and voyeurism (which also captured some of the spirit of the mods) {this film was to Antonioni what 81/2 was to Fellini} {triviamongers will also note the explicit tributes to this film in the FTII cult classic Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron}, and three lightweight books on drums, drum kits and the spiritual aspects of drumming (on second thoughts, I'll probably skip that).

I must confess that I didn't (couldn't!) watch A.I. , or Yojimbo. I had to pass on the former, after the first 15 minutes of the film completely bored me: Kubrickian nothingness married with Spielbergian John Williams mush (aka background score). I did catch a look at the SFX of the film, and that is what cemented my desire to skip the film completely. I couldn't see the visions of Spielberg and Kubrick converging at anything but an impasse. I have grown to dislike the former's schmaltzy feel-good undertones and the latter's desire to extract over-the-top performances from his leads, accompanying classical music, phallic imagery, and lacklustre framing. Perhaps, one day, I'll return to Kubrick. And perhaps, one day, to this film.

The Criterion DVD of Yojimbo boasted a wonderful transfer from the source, but little else in terms of additional features. Since I had already seen the film, and had primarily hoped for special features, this was also a no-view.

CQ was delightful only for the movie-within-the-movie Codename:Dragonfly with its Barbarella-esque voluptuous female protagonist, catchy 60s theme and score, and outrageously B-plotting. Also worth mentioning is Roman Coppola's digs at his own film (and the films contained therein) potentially succumbing to the pretentiousness that it spoofs. The film, overall, is rather lacklustre. A cut below lukewarm, and nothing to rave about. Mellow's theme for the film is still running through my head though, and the computer voice with a French accent is worth several hats. If there's just one thing you'd like to take away from the film, let it be the soundtrack

more music {previous note}

Baghban is the new BR Chopra film starring the Big B and Hema "grunt" Malini. Yet another film about crusty stalwarts who refuse to accept their age and sit down? Perhaps. I don't like to sound pessimistic, but my expectations from this movie are in the Kelvin zone. Aadesh Shrivastav provides his staple soNii/shaavaa musical standards for the soundtrack. There's some crisp tabla on merii makhaNaa merii soniye, but that's about it from this assembly-line song. holii khele raghuviiraa sounds a lot like Sangeet's mai.n aawaaraa ek ba.njaaraa. mai.n yahaa.N tuu wahaa.N has a pleasant melody, but the Big B's familiar voice, tinted with rural inflections, somehow adds a certain incongruousness to the tune. chalii ishq dii hawaa chalii has music director Aadesh Shrivastava indulging in a North-Indian oye-paape-esque dance hall number. {music launch report}

related: B R Chopra explains the title of the film

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

rahman favourites

A post guaranteed to crack a smile on JR's e-face. Here are a few old and new reasons to find A R Rahman's "engineered" music interesting.

* Roja, Pudhiya Mugham, Thiruda Thiruda, Duet, May Madham, Gentleman, Kaadhalan, Muthu, Iruvar, Minassara Kannavu, Rangeela, 1947:Earth, Taal, Vande Mataram, Bombay (the Tamil version, simply because the Hindi lyrics changed concepts and ideas and also because I don't like Remo's patented over-tired yaa-baa-Duu-Daa anymore), Alai Payuthe (the Hindi remake Saathiya was a disappointment in comparison, despite ARR's interesting experiment in North-Indian singing)

* Athisaya Thirumanam Anandha Thirumanam from Parthale Paravasam, simply for its switching beat cycles and RDBurman-esque use of myriad instruments.

* Kaamosh raat dhiim taa daa re, and buu.Ndo.n se baate.n from Thakshak. de becomes horrifying when you see Tabu dance to an aging Asha's voice (or should that be Asha's aging voice?).

* Parts of Kannathil Muthamittal, Kaadhal Virus, Vandicholai Chinraasu, Karuthamma, Sangamam, Kandukondain Kandukondain, some of the creditable effort in The Legend of Bhagat Singh

* Kay Sera Sera from Pukar (some cool instruments there too) was a good reworking of kaadhal nayagaraa from En Swasa Kaatre (which also had the original Jumbalikaa). The other songs were interesting too (was it coincidence that one of the interludes for kisamat se tum hamako mile ho was the same as the key riff in Seal's Kiss from a Rose?), although seeing Lata sing her song on screen (which was a reworking of a Malay song ARR had done for a Bosnia Relief concert) was a little too dyspeptic.

* Lagaan would have been on my list a few months ago, but all its appeal is lost now, especially because Asha and Lata sound too tired to merit repeat playing, I hate Udit Narayan, and the songs seem too synthesized, despite all the attempts at staying close to sounding native and rural (this is not to discount ARR's hard work in the area, mind you, just personal reactions).

Although I had amassed a sizeable collection of ARR tapes back home, I'd have to go back (miles away), replay them and append to this rather predictable list. But, for the record, most of his mainstream stuff is beginning to suffer from the tab-completion syndrome. Hopefully, there are more songs coming up like Athisaya Thirumanam

* Then there's the interesting Andhi Maalai aka Fantasy (perhaps aka Vaishnavar).. {more}

role models redux {ref: brains, people and common sense}

Gaurav posted a rant about the TOI carrying an article extolling the role model virtues of Sanjay Dutt (aka drug pusher, gun chaser, Chota Shakeel buddy, and a complete embarassment to every good deed for society that his father Sunil Dutt every accomplished). While he justifiably didn't link to the article, I thought I would, just to note for posterity how stupid and low a formerly respectable rag like the TOI can get.

a movie-intensive labour day weekend

* Split Wide Open: Hyped for the appearance of VJ/model Laila Rouass, this film marks the second collaboration of Dev Benegal, Rahul Bose and Upamanyu Chatterjee (who co-wrote this film with Benegal), after English, August. Bose plays Kut Price (KP), who sells tank water to slum dwellers and bottled Evian to business people. KP is our guide through "the dwellings of urchins who sell flowers by the roadside, the mafia dons who control water distribution, and the growing urban middle class whose clandestine sexualities are pried open under the blinding arch lights of Bombay's TV studios" {source}. The prevalent outlook is bleak. Nitin Sawhney's simple sparse avant music emphasises this, undercutting great performances from Bose, Rouass, and a host of staples including Shivaji Satam, Ayesha Dharkar, and Virendra Saxena. The language is explicit, and even gets muted at some points (rather irritating). Although unsettling and perhaps predictably downbeat for some, this is a harsh but compelling look at the urban class struggle in Bombay. Watch out for the end credits, which include mention of incidental music used, as well as "Kut Price loves Evian". Writer Kiran Nagarkar plays a gay Catholic priest. Special mention for the screenplay by Farrukh Dhondy, Renu Saluja's editing, Sukumar Jatania's camera, and a confident performance by Farida Haider Mulla{BBC News Online | rediff page | music review | trivia galore}. question: what was the place referenced at the end of the film in regard to the water mafia raising their rates?

* Hungama: Priyadarshan (who should be shot in the nuts) lifts (yet again) from a South-Indian source for his latest film. This time, it's his début feature poochakoru mookuttha. Akshaye Khanna replaces Mohan Lal (the horror! the horror!). Jagadish moves from Malayalam to Hindi playing Pandu (the role was played by Jagathi Sreekumar in the Malayalam original). Paresh Rawal, effortlessly sleepwalking through his role, comes up with the best performance in the film (only because he can deliver bad jokes with comic timing -- something no one else in the cast can manage, even with good jokes, which are scarce). The movie is a tired exercise in loud comedy, and virtually nothing is funny. Some people got confused with the number of characters and their relationships with each other -- clearly they haven't heard of Robert Altman. The songs are Nadeem-Shravan standards. All in all, a great way to exercise the FF button on your remote control. Die Priyadarshan die. (Sidenote: Why do I think Sujoy Ghosh who made Jhankaar Beats would have done a better job with this one?)

* Khanjar: The Pankaj Udhas song a.nkhiyaa.N Gam kii nadiyaa.N hai.n employs the umro.n se lambii metaphor for nights (translation: nights longer than the course of human lives) , last heard in Gulzar's plaintive ek akelaa is shahar me.n, which applied the metaphor to the roads and streets of the city (of Bombay).

* Darna Mana Hai (yet again): It's about time I noted another reason (something I realised only later) for my liking the film. Neither the print in the cinema hall nor the DVD has subtitles. It's both embarassing and painful to watch Hindi movies with subtitles (1. I know the language, why do I need subtitles | 2. the people responsible for the subtitles are usually morons).

* Dance Dance: Not as impressive as its predecessor Disco Dancer in the unofficial B-Subhash/Mithun/Bappi trilogy of dance movies (Kasam Paida Karne Waale Ki being the third). Still there's Smita Patil playing Ramu's (Mithun) sister -- making your jaw drop and wonder what she was doing in a movie like this -- hamming away, singing bad songs, cavorting about and then dying. The film is full of references to Disco Dancer and Tarzan in terms of diegetic songs. Inconsistencies like Ramu/Romeo being mostly clueless in the English department suddenly singing a song with full-blown English lyrics. And then there's the whole angle of nutrition: the only thing that Ramu will eat is halawaa (Which means we have a superhit song that goes aa gayaa aa gayaa halawaawaalaa aa gayaa, which owes a lot to the title song of Jhumroo). Still it's great to see Mithun dance and distribute attitude and earnestness, something that even a cocktail of today's top stars will not be able to match.
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