Saturday, July 31, 2004

conflict of faith and duty

David Mamet's Homicide packs in the standard Mamet trademarks: razor-sharp dialogue, and his wife Rebecca Pidgeon. The good news is Ms Pigeon (a) has a very limited screen presence, and (b) is not given a chance to exercise her acting skills[sic]. The better news is that the cast, overall, is splendid with the material. There are the familiar Mamet favourites: Joe Mantegna, William H Macy, Ricky Jay. The only problem I had was I over-reacted to the Mamet mystique and thought everything was one big con game. However, it was an interesting character study of a Jewish cop, who has to deal with internal conflicts and alienation from his faith, his duty and his desire to be accepted. Roger Ebert's laudatory review begins by describing what was also my favourite scene in the film. And he closes by noting that Mamet uses the elements of traditional genres - the con game, the mistaken identity, the personal crisis, the cop picture - as a framework for movies that ask questions like: Who's real? Who can you trust? What do people really want?. An interesting POV that should provide fodder for discussions of films that have defied genre classification, albeit in a very subtle understated fashion (not as overtly as Tarantino recent "Bill"-ious pastiche/homage, for example).

Friday, July 30, 2004

leela: a smattering of ideas

There's something about Leela that puts it just beyond being yet another ABCD/young-guy-falling-for-an-older-woman/let-us-be-progressive-in-our-ideas-of-marriage flick. There's a nice soundtrack (courtesy lyrics from Gulzar and Jagjit Singh's rich voice). There are some interestingly written moments. And performances that are mostly honest. The characters, however, don't transcend the superficiality of their clichéd prototypes. The filmmakers describe it as a Hollywood film with the soul of Bollywood. The truth of the statement might just be the undoing of the film. Still, it's better than paying $$$ to go into a cinema hall just to find an empty section of wall to bang your head while Suniel Shetty (or some similarly talentless cardophagus) embarks on another voyage into inane absurdity (aka "acting").

Thursday, July 29, 2004

fragmented widescreen workspace

A spare monitor. An ATI FireGL E1 video card with a DVI port. A DVI/VGA adaptor. Usable desk space. A few connections, and seconds later, I am set up with two monitors. I still have issues with certain windows spanning the two monitors in oh-so-ugly a fashion (coincidentally, they are all MSFT applications!). But this is both useful (visual compares, output monitoring) and cool (do I need to say the words?).

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

dementia 13: coppola for corman

vidcap from Mondo Digital

Before Coppola became (in)famous as the maker of such important films as the Godfather trilogy, Apocalypse Now and The Conversation, he was one of several later-to-be-famous people who worked for B-movie baadashaa Roger Corman. FFC (credited as "Francis Coppola") wrote and directed this shocker about an Irish castle, the family that inhabits it, the grief and gloom and depression that haunts them (rooted in the death of the only daughter Kathleen), and a shadowy figure wielding a mean axe. It would be clichéd to note that the film offers several portents of FFC's talent and promise. What can be said is that FFC manages to pump this great B-shocker with lots of chiaroscuro, and camera angles and twists. Add to that Ronald Stein's creepy motif-rich score.

The film opens with a high angle shot and we are introduced to John Haloran and his wife Louise. A late-night boat ride ends in tragedy as John succumbs to a weak heart. The problem is: with John dead, Louise stands to gain nothing from his inheritance. So Louise dumps John's body, and pays her sasuraal a visit, in time for an eerie memorial service for the young drowned Kathleen. The surviving members of the family include a mother (whom Louise has to win over), and two brothers (William "the squire of gothos" Campbell and Bart Patton). As Louise prepares to exploit the spiritual baggage associated with Kathleen's unfortunate death to win over the mother, she goes almost-skinny-dipping in the pond, sees a corpse, surfaces, and gets bumped off by a faceless suit swinging an axe. After this Psycho-esque twist, the film moves to more familiar ground as the axe murderer claims more victims, and the family doctor tries to get to the bottom of this gruesome affair. The other cool thing is the sense of closure: the opening credits hover over outlines of a body and other images that add to the eerieness of the moment. The final shot of the film explains the source of that opening outline. FFC has no need to hide his association with this film. Yes, it's a cheapie, but it still has class.

Gaffe alert: When Louise strips down to take a dip in the pond, she is wearing light-coloured panties, which miraculously become black as soon as she's underwater!

Mondo Digital's review of the DVD release

Monday, July 26, 2004

ensemble mayhem

Deewar: Let's Bring Our Heroes Home [another priceless Hindi_title: useless_English_suffix sample, btw]. This proves that the Big B has soldered himself into strictly-for-the-$$ roles. Anyone who casts the talented and underrated Kay Kay Menon in such a thankless role deserves to get his nuts blown to kingdom come. KKM holds his ground in whatever tatters he is offered though, and his introductory scene completely without any dialogue is effective. Other decent moments include:

* The Big B's peer explaining his helplessness

* Akhilendra Mishra telling Akshaye Khanna to walk confidently

The bad moments include:

* Anything featuring Sanjay Dutt (yegads, give me a break. You expect me to believe this chunk of skunk can act???)

* Scenes featuring Akshaye Khanna and Tanuja

* The first song. Oh well, all the songs, really.

Mathematically, neither Akshaye Khanna's age nor the age of his character match up. And the background score[sic] features a riff cogged from the opening of ek pyaar ka naGamaa hai. There are other talented faces in the mix (talent lost in the marsh of mediocrity): Aditya Shrivastava, Virendra Saxena, Raghuvir Yadav, Piyush Mishra. And some familiar now-you-see-me-now-I'm-gone people like Rajendra Gupta and Arif Zakaria. The editor was asleep. Which would explain the fluid slowness of the film. And there's also the obligatory patriotic dirge [aka emotionally charged song about the country, patriotism and all that va.nde maataram-ia]. These guys deserve sepukku. But even that was part of an honourable tradition. Gah!

Aan: Men at Work Madhur Bhandarkar deserves a fate worse than hell without commercial breaks. Not for the alleged rape charge, but for descending from a promising tightly written well-acted film like Chandni Bar to a splurge of stylish stinking toilet paper like Aan: Men At Work. How can a guy who could give Tabu one of her best roles in a long time even think of Akshay Kumar and Suniel Shetty as actors? Or was MB in it strictly to get some mainstream exposure? The style hits you right from the opening quote about a man's finest hour being somewhere near the time he lies exhausted but victorious in the field of battle. A quote from Vince Lombardi. Ye kaun hai? A famous coach for the Green Bay Packers (hey M, you need to watch this film!). Baah! And then there's some more nonsense about a policeman by August Vollmer. After all this, there's this opening credit sequence in grey with splashes of some colour. The film opens with Irrfan Khan, whose opening moments echo his role in Charas. And we get introductions to some of the worst people to ever step up to the acting[sic] podium in Bollywood (Rahul Deo and Suniel Shetty -- who gets to spout some vernacular, and once you've heard that you are convinced that this guy is a language-independent mumbling bad apple), favourites from his last disaster called Satta (Raveena Tandon, Manoj Joshi), people who now belong to classic film history (Jackie Shroff), people capable of more (Om Puri, Anjan Shrivastava, Sri Vallabh Vyas, Vijay Raaz, Rajpal Yadav, Milind Gunaji -- yeah, honestly, it's just that he needs a good director), faces you didn't expect to see (Ajinkya Deo), and some people you thought had the good sense to quit the industry (Lara Dutta, Preeti Jhangiani), and then you have people who live up to all their nostalgic value and can still liven up the proceedings in such a dead enterprise (Shatrughan Sinha). The first word Shotgun ever speaks is (predictably) Kaamosh. Just for him, this film's a winner. If you can wade through hajaar scenes that ape and shame John Woo (including the use of a reflective motif!), filch stuff from bizarrre places like Bringing out the Dead, continue to exorcise clichés like murder during the Ganesh festival (a hit embellished with the background score previously used during Anupam Kher's killing in Parinda), and split screens (Brian de Palma may sue now!). And then the "speech impediment" muting of cuss words continues ... I wonder if it's something in the source print (then why bother to slap on a censor certificate anyways?) or something the DVD creators decided to exercise liberties on.

One of the strangest things about this film is how unimportant the names of all the different characters are. Count yourself observant if you remembered Rajpal Yadav's character's name.

Other moments of style include Akshay Kumar using the butts of guns to repel bullets in a chakravyuuh shootout; A fight where the antagonists repel each other with fists; When Akshay Kumar kills Rahul Dev the colour seeps away from the frames and all you see is the red bullet proceeding at ease from Akki's gun to Dev.

Most obscenities and cusses get muted although Suniel Shetty's slo-mo introductory sequence features an uncensored very slowed down howlarious bit where SS goes (say it very very very slowly) "Thok ... saale ... ko".

And we must thank this film for letting us know that the salary of a constable is Rs. 5327.96 won-lee.

And finally, the section we've all been waiting for: Die-logs

* abbe o tel\-ghii kii chhaTii aulaad. billii ke naaKun baDh jaane se billii sher nahii.n ban jaatii ... aaj ke baad dobaaraa ko_ii aisii harakat kii naa, to ye haath khaane ke laayak to kyaa dhone ke laayak bhii nahii.n rahegaa, samajhaa? (who else but shatru)

* kachchii miTTii kaa gha.Daa hai. dekhate hai.n kitanii barasaate.n jhel paataa hai (once again the shotgun himself)

* ham se bachane ke liye ##they have to be luck-key all the time. but we have to be lucky just once## (akki this time)

* arre o umaraao jaan, apane aap ko rekhaa samajhatii hai kyaa? (for its sheer flipped homage, I'd pick this as my favourite line in the film)

* and let's not forget the Amin/RGV flick nod ab tak chhappan maar chukaa hai

* we end this rant-fest with some subtitles accompanying the song nashaa. Original lyric: ek lailaa ne dil uchhaalaa hai/saare aalam ko maar Daalaa hai ... haaye haaye re cha.Dhaa (etc etc) nashaa nashaa nashaa. The subtitles: one juliet has offered her heart/she has killed the whole atmosphere ... hey, the inebriation has taken effect.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

omigawd! it's the triffids

The Day of the Triffids is the second John Wyndham adaptation I have seen. The first was Village of the Damned, which was based on the much superior The Midwich Cuckoos. The Triffids movie also seems to be a letdown as far adaptations go, although I haven't read the Wyndham book. Think of it best as a Roger Corman film, with some old-fashioned Twilight Zone vibes. A prolonged meteor shower plunges most of humanity into blindness (nice touch), and triggers a mutation amongst triffids giving them size, mobility and a hunger for humanity. As the survivors come to terms with the chaos, and try to find a way to stop the triffids, more random extras get consumed by the demonic plants. Cheap, and fun.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

jack's bile duct rages again

Finally, finally, finally, thanks to the Midnight Movies series at Midtown Art Cinema, I had a chance to catch Fight Club on the big screen. And the hall was nearly packed too! For a week or so, coincidentally, I've been spouting quotes from the film, and it's probably scary, but I empathise completely with everything in it. The film made me a fan of David Fincher, Edward Norton, Brad Pitt (in his good roles, that is), and Chuck Palahniuk. Now, if only they had managed to adapt Survivor as well. The significance of the assumed names [Travis (Bickle), Rupert (Pupkin), and Cornelius] is clearer (or is it?). Duly noted: a cinema hall playing "Seven Years in Tibet" (with some letters knocked out), which also starred Brad Pitt. Also duly noted: Detectives Andrew, Kevin and Walker. And of course there's the weird significance of the Narrator wanting to fight William Shatner (yikes! is my geekiness so far removed?)

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

a smattering of movies

* Red Rock West: Before he made The Last Seduction (where Linda Fiorentino's good performance was denied an Oscar nomination only on the technicality that the movie opened on HBO and not in the theatre) and Rounders, John Dahl made another little best-enjoyed-on-the-small-screen nugget that mixes film noir, westerns, twisty con game films and deadpan black humour. Nicholas Cage's understated near-dead demeanour is perfect for the part he plays. The plot crunches in a lot of twists, surprises, turns and macabre humour. While frequent viewers of such lesser-known flicks will not be thrown off-guard, it still makes for decent viewing. Besides, how many Dennis Hopper flicks can you think of where he doesn't say "man" even once!

* Main Hoon Na [notes on the soundtrack]: I must be suffering from an early second childhood or something. This is the second SRK flick that I enjoyed. Farah Khan makes her directorial début with a safe homage (albeit with modern yuppie updates) to the twisty-turny entertainers of yore that mixed coincidence, high emotion, action, and song-n-dance and wrapped them up into a tidy package. SRK plays Major Ramprasad Sharma, which should have Gol Maal fans momentarily tickled. Naseeruddin Shah cameos as SRK's dad -- both are army dudes -- who is killed by Raghavan (Suniel Shetty, who proves yet again that there is no profession employing human beings that he could possibly apply for). Naseer also provides the lost-and-found angle by revealing to SRK that (a) he is the result of a brief fling that Naseer had (strong echoes of Masoom are probably intentional) (b) he has a brother (Zayed Khan, who takes to most of his role like a fish to water), the product of a legit marriage with Kiron Kher (competent, restrained and adequate). Around the same time, Kabir Bedi asks SRK to go undercover as a student (strong echoes of Back to School) to protect his daughter Sanjana (a sprightly Amrita Rao enjoying a grungy look for most of the film and switching to a cleaner makeover later on) from Raghavan. The link: SRK's brother Laxmanprasad 'Lucky' Sharma (Gol Maal déjà vu) is in the same school. That takes us to the first song (Javed Akhtar's sanan sanan for Anu Malik), which begins from a photograph (gaffe goblins will note the anachronism of the photograph) and proceeds as a single take for the most part (ruup teraa mastaanaa anyone?) , except near the point where Zayed Khan enters the scene, and then it's another single take. Interesting. What follows is a Sumeet-mixie concoction of Manmohan Desai (moments from Naseeb) and Nasir Hussain (check out the best product of the Malik/Akhtar collaboration tumase mil ke dil kaa). Sushmita Sen relishes her short part as SRK's muse, Boman Irani digs into his role as the principal who can barely remember anything, and Bindu's cameo is mercifully brief. The problems with the film lie in the technical department. The SFX are bad. And yes, that's not the focus of the film, but defying physics can be done tastefully. And the general look and feel was pedestrian. Farah Khan's brother Sajid Khan pops up hamming it to the hilt as the prom night band leader. And FK manages an interestingly warm touch for the end credits giving us a match several familiar names (Abbas Tyrewala yet again, for one). Overall, SRK didn't grate as much. And the emotional moments don't get as leaking-shower-tub mushy as Munnabhai MBBS). Unfortunately, this could start off a volley of revisionist nostalgic cinema ... I guess Bollywood will never grow up.

* Friday double bill: First up, Spider-Man 2. A good improvement on the first one. Sam Raimi packs a lot of human drama and adequate thrills into the running time. Everyone's casting makes a strange kind of sense, and Alfred Molina truly rocks as Dr Octopus. The story adheres to and deviates from the mythology of the comic books, but struck a decent balance as far as I was concerned (although it would have been nice if Gwen Stacy had figured in part I, if the Mary Jane Watson relationship had been given more time). Loved the opening credit design. Next up, Isaac Asimov's famous Laws and the series of stories based upon them takes a severe beating as Dark City director Alex Proyas takes a giant leap backwards to helm a Will Smith ego trip called I, Robot (was that meant to be a pun?). The best part of the experience is being able to listen to an extract of Stevie Wonder's Superstition (Led Zeppelin alert: John Paul Jones looped a twisted fragment of this song's riff for Trampled Underfoot) [of course, you have to deal with the inexplicably ghastly sight of Smith Saar nude in the shower!]. There's action, specious emotion, a few cool shots, a wasted cameo by James Cromwell, and a simple algorithm to prove that this film ultimately belongs with Minority Report as a visually entertaining failed adaptation of a much richer literary opus/corpus.

* Sunday double bill part I: Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is a good cross-genre exercise featuring Forest Whitaker as a professional hit-man on contract for a dysfunctional Italian Mafia mini-mob, who tries to live by the code of the Samurai (Hagakure is the handy reference he quotes from) and uses a carrier pigeon for communication. His "best" (and perhaps only) friend is a French illegal immigrant who can't speak or understand a word of English (delightfully played by Isaach De Bankolé) [and Ghost Dog doesn't understand French]. There's a nod to Bird. There was something I noticed in the flashbacks to how Louie (John Tormey) saved Ghost Dog's life (thus putting GD in his debt): GD is being attacked by some punks in an alley, when Louie drives by. Louie stops, walks out and asks them what the problem is. The way GD remembers it, one of the punks points his gun back at GD, about to shoot, when Louie ices them. The way Louie remembers it, he fires when the punk points his gun at Louie in response to his query. I wonder if this was an intentional reference to Rashomon (the book being the obvious doff-of-the-hat).

* Sunday double bill part II: John Frankenheimer (irony: he passed away earlier this month) exercises his filmmaking toolkit admirably in making Seconds a gloriously creepy journey in "suffocating paranoia" (to borrow a phrase from the IMDB page). All the exercises in framing, wide angle lenses, sharp editing and good performances that made The Manchurian Candidate a shocker are evident. Two additions would be the score by Jerry Goldsmith (who ironically passed away recently: Jerry Goldsmith), and another classic opening credit sequence by Saul Bass (TRIVIA: Bass revisited unused portions of this sequence for Scorsese's Cape Fear). Trivia mongers and film students will have a lot to relish in Frankenheimer's commentary.

addendum: original draft post for Friday and Sunday double bill destroyed by events resulting from an ISP crash [grr!]

Friday, July 16, 2004

espionage ... with due government process

We sat down yesterday to watch The Ipcress File, and thanks to a great cast (led splendidly by the excellent Michael Caine), generous doses of wry humour, a sweet score by John Barry, unsettling camera work, and patient direction, we sat the whole film out with gusto, relishing the adventures of an underpaid government agent who is also an excellent cook. Yep. He goes to work like a regular government servant, has tons of paperwork to deal with when he changes departments, has to fill out a daily report. But, he gets to fight bad guys, wield arms, net a girl, and cook a fine dinner. All in a day's work. "Now my name's not Harry", says Deighton's unnamed agent in the novel, and ironically that's what they decided to call him in the movie! And after making a clear classic, what happens to director Furie? Producer Saltzman (who along with Barry adds the Bond connection) fired him, banned him from Cannes, and apparently even stole his Best Picture BAFTA. Strange are the ways of the world.

elsewhere: loads of trivia on the movie canon

the DEVil is in the details
Despite the avalanche of his mainstream plunge Thakshak, Govind Nihalani continues to grapple with an unrewarding medium. Thakshak had interesting possibilities, all rendered awry thanks to GN's insistence of spicing it up. Somehow, it seems impossible to be able to put in a song-n-dance number in a film and expect it to resonate on the narrative and allegorical plane. With Dev, GN ropes in old favourite Om Puri to play another kind of cop (although OP's character seems destined to go along the same path as his character in Droh Kaal). He ropes in the Big B, Rati Agnihotri (thus giving mainstream historians something to write about). He then chooses the ineffectual, wimpy Fardeen Khan and the ghastly outrageous rouge-foundation-hurricane Kareena Kapoor. And that's not it either. Bebo gets to exercise[sic] her vocal chords for a song, and even has it picturised on her. Emotions associated with constipation come to mind. GN once again takes interesting albeit familiar elements (communal riots, political machinations, the helplessness of sane logical decision makers, principled and pragmatic officers of the law), mixes in some masala (songs on screen in a film like this: GIVE ME A BREAK!), and produces a film that is both uneven and heart-rending. Heart rending on the twin counts of actual intended impact (the riots are decently done, and the helplessness of Dev -- nice nominal touch there -- comes across well) and of how much potential just got flushed down the toilet (the last thing we need is a love story). There's way too much kissing, romantic nonsense and empty rhetoric along the way. The nice moments usually occur when people are talking (AB and OP exchanging ideologies; AB lamenting his helplessness at the riots -- repeated references the motif of smelling corpses echo Kurtz's final words in Apocalypse Now). Rati Agnihotri passes muster, coming into form only in the short scene with OP just after Dev's funeral. Amrish Puri lends his good diction to a part written for any random human being. Ehsaan Khan grates as the "bad Muslim politician" Latif, even giving me many an impression that he was rejected ghaaT actor. Pramod Moutho as Fardeen's father triumphs with his makeup job. On the overall plus side, GN still manages to refuse to compromise on the mortality and morality of his characters. And despite what die-hard fans of the Big B (who would probably worship any ker-kacharaa that he dished out) say, OP gets to play the most interesting character, and even manages to make AB's impassioned performance seem lacking at times. The technical department deserves to be exiled to a remote island and forced to watch Jaani Dushman over and over again. And to think GN is a cinematographer. Overall, though, this isn't as bad a disaster as Thakshak, but the ending nearly took it there. Where o where is the Nihalani who gave us Ardh Satya, Aakrosh, Tamas, and Droh Kaal?

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

how the stuff we do helps us learn ...

I've been reading Christopher Sandford's journalistic biography of Sting titled (appropriately enough, actually, aside from the reference to the title track he contributed to the Stallone vehicle) Demolition Man. Interesting character insight. And also a lesson in how simple facts are not often helpful in understanding why things happen (for example, "why did the Police break up when they were at their peak?" is a question one can answer more easily, and perhaps even explain rationally). Now, Sting's from Newcastle. Hence he calls himself a Geordie boy (apparently, a reference to the support the people there voiced for the first and second Kings George).

Now at work today, I began to loop Knopfler's Sailing to Philadelphia and the title track comes up with Knopfler going "...I'm a Geordie boy ...". Nice. Hadn't paid attention to the lyrics all that much, but this line grabbed me, and the bonus was, I already knew what it meant:)

the way of all music

The All Music Guide has been my favourite portal for popular music album and performer information. In the last couple of days, they just had a rhytidectomy, and now things are really in the pits. Why "really"? Well, they served their content off a Win2K IIS server to begin with. And now, the pages load up so slowly (and the searches crawl like dying snails!). When I hit the pages with Mozilla, I get a peek at the new interface with a badly placed notification (as if the misaligned images weren't a dead giveaway) that my browser wasn't supported and that the site had been optimized for Internet Explorer 5.5 and above on Windows. So I opened an Internet Explorer window, pointed the browser to the portal and what do I get? We apologize for the temporary connection delay.
Please click the refresh button on your browser.
. Sweet.

Monday, July 12, 2004

bollywood marketing

Masoom DVD Cover
begin inconsistent prelude It should come as no surprise that the occasional movie of quality from the mainstream meat processor in Bollywood is most likely to fail thanks to a complete lack of marketing. It would have been nice to have a marketing machine like Miramax (minus all the megalomaniacal control issues) that would get more people interested in semi-alternative-fare. Mercifully, as friends tell me, the multiplexes have made such films less risky propositions.

And then we have DVDs. Current movies lend themselves more easily to DVD mastering. Yet, a blue moon is more likely to occur than a good DVD master. Which means that old movies (cult/classic) would suffer a worse fate. Negative preservation is unheard. Quality of film stock was questionable. The red rage abounds along with hazy greens and fuzzy other-colour. end inconsistent prelude

Masoom, despite the Erich Sehgal sourcing, showcased Shekhar Kapur's skill at dealing with children and producing a fairly balanced film that could straddle the fence between mainstream requirements of songs (a veritable coup of netting Gulzar and Pancham resulting in a musical watershed) and the desire to tell a different tale (no love and trees, thank you). All prints since the release have suffered age. And the DVD probably uses one of those stale prints. But now, we have some marketing at work. The result is a tagline that would give you exactly ALL the wrong ideas about the film. Child's Play, anyone?

Sunday, July 11, 2004

please farce

An Inside Story is the obligatory English suffixal decorator for a movie called Police Force[sic], starring Akshay Kumar, Raveena Tandon, Amrish Puri, Mohan Joshi, Govind Namdeo, Alok Nath, and Raj Babbar. An ambitious description of the film includes several apocrypha like it's being based on a book called "Carnage of Angels" (scroll down and there's a response from "Dilip Shukla" the director of the film -- ? -- refuting this claim). Essentially, this film is the new avataar of an old Akshay Kumar flick called Vidroh {see also: Screen's Ali Peter John waxing effulgent praise and hope}. Dilip Shukla used to be an editor, but that doesn't speak much for this flick itself. If you want dessicated formula product, look no further. Everything hammers déjà vu down your spine. An ambitious police trainee (SI trainee badge number 26) is transformed by vicious political machination into a vigilante, while his principle-driven mentor (Puri) looks on helplessly. Anand-Milind dish out dollops of classic 80s/90s punchy musical numbers that echo and foreshadow classic Nadeem-Shravan, could masquerade as Govinda numbers, and clearly belong in the collection of B-soundtrack afficionados. The silly plot and all other junk aside, here's what you can look forward to in this sorry piece of work:

* The first song of the film o mere yaar kar de ishaaraa (dil churaayaa aap ne) ends with a weak attempt at a vertigo zoom!

* Amrish Puri's catch-phrase is you bloody jokers

* A multiplex is screening Deewangee and Leela

* Raj Babbar goes into the stratosphere of ham with his performance as the corrupt Ratan Sethi (correction: R-A-A-T-A-N, mai.n ##double A## likahtaa huu.N). The first time we see him is at a flower exhibition ("real-lee gawd's kree-ay-tion is phan-tie-stick. eats-grate")

* Rami Reddy returns to spout classic lines like apanaa ekiich: ##deal## me.n ga.Dba.D nahii.n, kaam me.n ##doubt## nahii.n and idhar ek ##police##waalaa muulii kaa pattaa suu.Ng le to saare ##department## ko zukaam lag jaatii hai.

* That the police station is a set is clearly indicated by the board outside that reads "POLICE HEAD QUARTER". Gruesome, what?

* There's this attempt at solidarity as Akki assists a Gujju shopkeeper, Raj Babbar visits a Maharashtrian home and speaks Marathi (yikes!).

* Asha Lata turns in a Lata-Mangeshkar performance as she shrieks and shatters the biosphere as Akki's mother (little wonder he decided to join the Police Force: anything to get away from manic mama!)
american earnest

never attended a DramaTech event while I was at Georgia Tech. Perhaps this was my way of making amends: accompanying a friend for a performance of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. My reservations against hearing plays written with a British English flavour being performed with an American sensibility reared its ugly head, because although everyone was earnest (no pun intended) in their performances, a lot of the humour was just lost in some hasty dialogue delivery, and a generally different aural experience given the different accent. Call me territorially snobbish, but methinks when Wilde wrote this, he had a certain rhythm of pronunciation to draw from and write for. And somehow a lot of what was said would have benefitted if it were said differently. Similar reasons explain why I have never returned to the Shakespeare Tavern. But, the coolest part of the evening was the place itself. A central rectangular area with overhead lighting and rows of seats rising upwards from each of its edges. Made me wish I was back in the Bharat Natya Mandir again.

This was followed by some improv comedy. Some of the stuff was not unfamiliar thanks to viewings of Whose Line is It Anyway?. Everyone did their best, but it just goes to show how difficult improv comedy really is. And kudos for a rollicking use of if you build it, they will come.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

u 2 PC?

Friends have been noting my insistence on using the words mai.n huu.N naa at least once a day ever since that SRK vehicle hit the screens everywhere (still haven't seen it, ain't losin' no sleepless nights over it). And now PC seems to have done the same at the budge presentation this year. {TOI's PPT overview}

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

the future of hindi film

* oh what a babe from Mahesh Manjrekar's Rakht (source material: The Gift).

* uuf kya jadoo mohabbat hai..! the power of innocence [yeah, you heard it right!], the whimper from Rajshri Productions who gave us a sax-playing musclebond, a squeaky voiced goodie-goodie girl, a talented culver, a poodle named after a summer delight, an egregious ode to love set to the alphabet, a 3D parrot, and a 2D dog.
d'new yahoo!

Yahoo! Messenger v6.0 looks cool. Feels cool. Wish they had tabbed chat windows. My favourite smiley [:O] now has animation -- there's a vigorous head shaking to go along with the really cool shocked look. And the reflexive ROTFL animation takes the cake.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

musical goals

When he recommended Lakshya's soundtrack, Aditya tactfully dropped names (John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Jethro Tull), knowing fully well that such influences would offer a better USP (is that even valid? saying a better USP?) for me. I've already missed out on an opportunity to catch it the theatre (thanks to bad timing). And the first time I caught the soundtrack, I never had reviews like Aditya's, which would point to more interesting and relevant references instead of unfairly comparing everything that SEL did with Dil Chahta Hai. mai.n aisaa kyuu.N marks a start that is both interesting and disappointing. It's interesting for all the James Bond-esque fills and disappointing because it sounds like A R Rahman recycled (Aditya refers to SEL as ARR minus the melody -- Can't say I agree with that completely, but it's an observation that fits this song). agar mai.n kahuu.N is a more interesting find: the song's spine is an acoustic guitar riff, which -- were it not for the usual memory lapse -- I could place almost within a snap. But there's more to the song: a wavering melody, and some tasteful bits of musical spice (harmonica, flute) thrown into the mix. Unfortunately, I can't stand Alka Yagnik, making the usually unsettling Udit Narayan a bit more palatable. But this would be my pick on the album. If only because of the guitar (TIP: if you want to sell me a song, put in some interesting acoustic guitar, and you have a customer). The Hariharan/Sadhana Sargam ballad kitanii baate.n is a delicious dollop, but the title track, while interesting in the musical arrangement, fits perfectly in the slot of motivational songs, and only works marginally thanks to a flip between the gentle and the aggressive (the bagpipe-toned synth riff accompanied by other furious flourishes of regalia and percussion are a strong plus). Hariharan, Kunal Ganjawala, Roop Kumar Rathod, Shankar Mahadevan and Sonu Nigam appear next to render the "patriotic fervour" for ka.ndho.n se milate, which starts off with the melody of the a.ntaraa of ARR's que sera sera. And the rest is jingoistic history. However the energetic arrangements work in the song's favour (of course, why did I keep thinking of oruvan oruvan from ARR's Muthu?). Following a nice fragment of instrumental music (separation), there's a reprise of kitanii baate.n, which unfortunately dug the maudlin mush of the song deeper. Bad move. But those melodic fills remind me both of heartbeat and the title song of Kal Ho Naa Ho. The next musical fragment (victory) is appropriately arranged but cheeks a quote from John Williams's theme for Jurassic Park -- yep, Aditya right on!). A touch of Brad Fiedel perhaps, even Hans Zimmer (although a whiff for me). Interesting.

CAVEAT ALERT: Javed Akhtar's font of nippy dialogue and lyrical efflugence seems to be running out dry. The words that the tired Alka Yagnik spouts ruin my favourite track on the album: mai.n tumase kahuu.Ngii is baat ko agar tum zaraa aur sajaa ke kahate zaraa ghumaa\-phiraa ke kahate to achchhaa hotaa. One could attempt to make a convincing case for simple conversational more believable lyrics, but it's a weak argument. We've already ignored the fundamental flaw that people don't randomly burst into song anyways. Given that people on screen still have the liberty to summon instant musical arrangements, chorus singers and melodic fills (let's not even get started on random locations and talented guest dancers), it's probably better to go all the way with the escapism. Never hurt in the last few decades anyway.

spinning independence, drawing lines and the stinging aquatic

On July 04, 2004, I found myself doing stuff I had never done before, had never ever planned to do. I was at Lenox Mall in the evening. I was listening to the Spin Doctors live. And I didn't even know they were the real deal until they said so. And then I was watching the fireworks. The smell of beer and overpriced junk food permeated the proceedings, and the crowds filled me with dread. But the brief display of light was a minor consolation. Synchronized[sic] with patriotic songs from different genres of popular music (e.g. Bruce Springsteen, Ray Charles -- in a timely manner), these blasts were fun to watch. What was really cool was how the explosions of colour unfurled down on you just like the inhabitants of the machine world in The Matrix: Revolutions.

Lakeer: Forbidden Lines marks the lacklustre insomnia-curing directorial début of dance director Ahmed Khan. If only he had remained the guy who came up with the cool moves of Rangeela. A R Rahman returns the favour with a soundtrack that competes with Tehzeeb for lifelessness, and other sub-standard Rahman fare for inanity. The opening credits are cool, but what ensues is a tale of love, rivalry that seems like a watered-down version of Mukul Anand's Mahasangram. And that one had much better songs from Anand-Milind. Ahmed Khan does not choreograph a single one of the sequences of wasted footage. Raj Zutshi sports an interesting look. Suniel Shetty continues to provide an example of the success of the poor man's Peter Principle. The background score rips off Nirvana's Smells like Teen Spirit for a basketball match. And a Sunny Deol stunt rips off John Woo's Hard Target, if only in spirit. And you are even rewarded for your patience with a subtitle that reads "are you angry? (reel 4)". Touché and stay away.

My first visit to the Fernbank Museum was marked by a long romp through the Walk through Time in Georgia exhibit. The realistic recreations of the geological variety of Georgia were cool, and I managed to catch most of The Genomic Revolution. Marking an interval between these two walks was my first IMAX experience: a movie called Dolphins, a rather superficial "aren't dolphins cute" narrative dominated by a voiceover by Pierce Brosnan (who probably did it for the $$$), and adaptations and fragments from Sting's songs. Which meant that instead of enjoying the cute goings-on seen elsewhere a million times, I was tagging each piece of music heard, and running through a chronology of Sting's music in my head. Damn!

Sunday, July 04, 2004

jungle, girlfriend

If only RGV could have wielded all the clout he commands now when he had made Jungle. In itself the film isn't too bad. The opening sequence (an army squadron making its way into a hostile forest) complements the opening credits as they fade in and out. Chowta works wonders with another collection of synthesizer drones giving us the sense of ominous menace. With aplomb, the jeep blows up after the final opening credit. We are then transported to the urban setting where we see the young lovers (a confused Fardeen Khan and the incomplete Urmila Matondkar) well into an advanced stage of love [although since we still need songs, we get flashbacks]. Nevertheless, there are family issues, which impede smooth sailing for the love boat. Events move back to the jungle and a family holiday turns into a horrifying experience, when the filmic avataar of viirappan (here known as Durga Narayan Chaudhari and essayed with quiet menace by Sushant Singh -- credited only by his first name) and his cronies hold a busload of people hostage to negotiate the return of their captured colleague (an uncredited menacing turn from Vijay Raaz). Rajpal Yadav munches merrily at the role of Sippa. And Kashmira Shah shows up in a role more bearable than most of her forgettable work [although one can see the item number coming several light years away]. The songs do hinder what promise this film had, as does the presence of the pathetic exhaust-pipe-voiced presence of Sunil Shetty. What is interesting though is that structurally this film resembles Roja so much it could have been called Ramgopal Varma's Roja. After all there is the Ratnam/RGV connection: RGV co-wrote Thiruda Thiruda and Ratnam co-wrote Gaayam. Very interesting indeed.

Which somehow brings us to Karan Razdan's "progressive" tale of a lesbian nutcase. With strong echoes of movies like Single White Female, Razdan proceeds to demonstrate the complete lack of sophistication that one might expect from a flick like this. Clearly, this mainstream film that attempts to "be different, give people more interesting subjects, [all that B.S.]" only manages to position stale B-movie fodder in the multiplex. The preview actually has more explicit content than this sorry state of affairs (something also seen with a waste of footage called Paap). The first sounds you hear against another stellar aural abomination ("background score" they call it) are the ambiguous sounds of a woman panting. Turns out Isha Koppikar's jogging on the beach. Everything that follows adheres strictly to the formula of the ghisaa-piTaa genre: wasteful song-n-dance routines (the Nadeem-Shravan homage is courtesy Anu Malik's chhoTaa bhaaii Daboo[sic]), tired dialogue, less-than-incompetent acting[sic], stale suspense you can smell miles away. You see the two lassies (Isha K and Amrita "I should have stuck to doing item songs like dillii kii sardii" Arora) executing such intimate dance moves you wonder if not one but both were lesbians[sic]. Yet, Isha's the one: "I'm a lesbian. ek la.Dakii ke jism me.n qaid ek la.Dakaa". So much for a deep intelligent exploration of the issue. About the only shard of novelty this film seems to have achieved is make a jealous friend a lesbian (and an inaccurate one at that -- yeah, you become a lesbian because you were sexually abused as a kid. sure). As if to lend credibility[sic] to the proceedings, director Karan Razdan does a "mai.n bhii Subhash Ghai" cameo in the first song suno to jaanaa (jaanaa (jaanaa (jaanaa))). The subtitles were a product of denied insomnia: the spoken words "please mujhe pick karo" are translated as "please ditch me". [SIC] I say. And there's the hamaare hasiin jalawe/our satin fires. And if you're still awake by the time the end credits roll, you see AA and Ashish C [north-indian B-movie material] visit Tanya (IK)'s grave. So, Tanya was not Hindu eh? That would be another pat justification for safe lesbianism. Oh yeah, here's another example of how committed people were to the film: The standard disclaimer opening the film goes "all characters in this film are fictional any resemblance shall only be coincidence". Typos are one problem, a complete grammar knockout is another. I am Jack's complete lack of surprise.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

hum tum

Add to blender: When Harry met Sally, Before Sunrise (and just when the sequel Before Sunset was on its way to the theatres). Season generously with irritating intrusions (aka songs). Add element of filmic nostalgia that would appeal to a lot of NRIs (in addition to all the foreign locale hopping): a mother watching Shammi Kapoor dancing to tumane mujhe dekhaa from Teesri Manzil and swooning over him, Rati Agnihotri cementing her status as post-modern 80s icon (still the same bad acting, less of the flat-screech dialogue delivery and little-to-nothing of the accident-ho-gayaa jhaTak-maTaks), Rishi Kapoor reprising his affable on-screen charm and quoting mai.n shaayar to nahii.n [doing a good piano playing imitation on a Roland this time] (just to remind all those $$$-tossing oldies about the good ol' days of cinema). And just in case they still didn't get it there are two references to Bobby: Kiron Kher's character's nickname, and a back-handed reference to Dimple Kapadia by Rishi Kapoor. And now that you have failover in place, toss in the new-Gen yuppie romance. Upgrade everything on the dialogue and boldness front. Even toss in a few incongruous mouth-to-mouths. Dice up a rain dance (I mean give me a break!). Put in a twist that has newly grown old (girl marries another guy, guy dies). Get a promising actor to cameo as the ill-fated first hubby (Abhishek Bachchan, who thanks to a small denominator of time, packs in the BEST performance in the film by delivering his lines with the conviction and consistency lacking in his longer full-length film roles). More movie in-jokes: On the plane, Saif Ali Khan asks Rani aatii kyaa kha.nDaala, a reference to her role in Ghulam; as Jimmy Shergill (interesting makeup, sorry state of affairs otherwise) drives Kiron Kher and Rani from the airport, the radio begins to play anadekhii anajaanii sii from Kunal Kohli's directorial début Mujhse Dosti Karoge.

The leads turn in likeable performances and the earnestness carries the weight of this heavyweight chick flick to the door. The cartoon interludes jar after a while, and the film spans so much time it's unbelievable (the yellow/orange/black colour scheme was nice though). Kiron Kher packs in all the gusto that could have saved her face in Devdas into a role closer to home that her other great turn in Bariwali. The less said about everything the better. Jatin-Lalit's music sounds like their usual fare these days: tired, and familiar, and lifted. And will someone think of better song situations please? And quit with the slo-motion sequences with ooh-aahs in the background. And get someone who can use camera angles to better effect.

Friday, July 02, 2004

no more brando

terry malloy/vito andolini/stanley kowalski/walter kurtz passed away at 80. This was a legend who was known for being a great and difficult actor and person all his life, and now most of them won't even tell us how he died (lung failure), although there have been other stories about the squalid state of his last days.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

can you feel this? (what you don't understand you can make mean anything)

Diary [official page].
Characteristic touches: the use of leitmotifs (in this case details of muscles employed by furrowed brows, frowns and smiles; featuring the comatose Peter in both second and third person; the Glasgow Coma Scale, what pigments are made of, graphology, the camera obscura. A dash of Jung here, a pinch of Jainism there. Ecological portents. Anticommercial gibes). Overall, although full of the stuff that makes me reach for a Palahniuk book, it's closer to Choke than to Fight Club or Lullaby in its consistency. There's a general sense of dangling threads and ideas throughout, and the denouement doesn't register fireworks.
what if dali made a chick flick?

The Man Without a Past (which incidentally would also be my first Finnish film) may not qualify without argument, but it at least drove me to ask the question. The film begins with a man accosted by street thugs who beat him up and divest him of his valuables (and anything that may provide a clue to his identity). What follows is an austere, staid exercise in minimalism as the man proceeds to make a life for himself, falling in love with a Salvation Army worker in the process. The event log is Forrest Gump-ian at times, but with a very very dark deadpan streak. All the humour is quiet. The most upbeat thing, as it were, would be the soundtrack (featuring cuts from Blind Lemon Jefferson and the Renegades). Still, despite the generally unexciting nature of the goings-on, I seemed to have a positive view of the film as it moved from almost sinking into a depressing exploration of the lives of people living in containers to our hero furnishing his container, getting a jukebox, breaking the ice with a gruff landlord, finding interesting jobs, and even proving to be a conundrum for an administrative system that doesn't seem quite equipped to deal with people in his situation. And if there's something else that seems to pervade this wry comedy, it's a strange tired faith in the healing power of rock n' roll.
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