Monday, August 30, 2004

a rotten concert, and a pentateuch of viewings

Had a chance to attend a concert in Lilburn. The venue was a hall provided by a public school. The hosts were the Dharmic Sabha (don't even ask me how they mangled the pronunciation on that one) of Georgia. The performers were old favourites. But things refused to go up the slope of improvement. The performances focussed on Krishna bhajans and the like, and the performers were assisted by some "local talent" student who seemed like a candidate for Indian Idol rather than a performance of this nature. And the audience underscored the definition of "clueless and just here to be seen". This was the first time I took the interval as an opportunity to join a few friends who were fleeing for dear life. A pity really, since I had hoped I would never have to do this. The only plus of the evening was finally getting hold of a handful of audio CDs a friend had got back for me from desiland.

Resident Evil: This film gets full points for simple couch entertainment. I haven't played the game, and know little-to-nothing about it. Which was probably just as well. The film itself is a conventional mix of high concept ingredients: a perfect laboratory setting is violated unleashing another of HAL's siblings and tons of mutated scientists ... to quote from IMDB: A special military unit fights a powerful, out-of-control supercomputer and hundreds of scientists who have mutated into flesh-eating creatures after a laboratory accident. Apparently this is also the first (and only?) film that Marilyn Manson scored. Choosing someone like Manson also qualifies as another cliché if you're familiar with Trent Reznor's work for Id's Quake games. That kind of music[sic] is perfect for the stuff that unfolds (don't ask me why, find a psychology major somewhere). The cutest thing about the movie was the line in the opening narration: At the beginning of the 21st century, the Umbrella Corporation had become the largest commercial entity in the United States. And if you're alert enough you can even spot the references to Alice in Wonderland and George Romero's Dead trilogy. It's fun in the "give your brain a rest" category. And since this was a DVD from the Public Library, it's another win-win situation.

Gayab: After the well-crafted Darna Mana Hai, Prawal Raman crafts a tale of lesser quality for The Factory. Taking off on the Aftab Shivadasani segment and borrowing from Memoirs of an Invisible Man, PR gives us Tusshar Kapoor in another role that gives innocent-expressionless-wooden-face TK a chance to do something of merit. With the uncool moniker of Vishnu Prasad, he is the quiet shy confused bundle of nerves who loves Mohini (Antara Mali; wonder if this name was chosen for its Madhuri-ness and for Mali's homage in MMDBCH). Tusshar gets more mustard than his other outings for Bollywood (including the ones exclusively sponsored -- read: inflicted on us -- by his ghastly K-fetishist sister). Raghubir Yadav is adequate, but Rasika Joshi scores top honours (see also: Ek Hasina Thi) as Vishnu's haranguing mother. The film itself has some nicely shot moments, and I also liked (a) the ideas employed for ##I love## tum se, and (b) the cartoon boards that form the backdrop for the end credits. The ring of familiarity denies this film a strong thumbs-up. But hopefully PR will make amends with his next venture.

Raghu Romeo: It's always nice when you look forward to a film after reading about it, and then, when you finally get to watch it, it meets every expectation and even gives you more than you wanted (see also: Maqbool, Darna Mana Hai). Rajat Kapoor's follow-up to Private Detective is a deliciously dark comedy that, at its core, spoofs television soaps wonderfully. His official website even has details on the unique approach to funding he had to adopt for this film. Raghu (Vijay Raaz in a performance worth awards) is a waiter in a dance bar, who has fallen for Neetaji (a character played by Reshma(Maria Goretti) in a TV soap). Also in the mix are Sweety (Sadia Siddiqui), who nurses a soft spot for Raghu, and Mario (Rajat Kapoor's buddy Saurabh Shukla), a hit man who loves Sweety. Some of the innumerable goodies in this flick that earned a lot less acclaim than it deserved are: the outrageous take on all the mushy tadpole-intellect tripe generated by Balaji Arts on cable television; the Buster Keaton-esque sequence as Raghu attempts to find a dry spot for his television accompanied by a riff that owes a debt to flight of the bumblebee; the background score that might owe a subliminal debt to Nino Rota's work on The Godfather; the wonderfully edited and timed evening at Raghu's house where Virendra Saxena and Surekha Sikri argue in the real world while Raghu watches the latest episode of Dard ka Rishta. Everything that the elders discuss finds a clichéd echo in the TV world that Raghu's mind has meshed into reality. His responses to the show and ostensibly on occasion to the arguing elders are clear evidence. Yet, the fact that he is smitten not by Neeta [the character played by Reshma played by Maria Goretti], but by the complete pure (yet fake and unreal) goodness that she embodies is a piece of perfect irony; The personalized vision of Neetaji that Raghu sees on the screen of a television set that a guy is cradling in the back seat of a cycle-rickshaw; the wonderful joke of Krishna ancestory; the conversation Raghu has with Neetaji's photograph [another great piece of editing which exploits the cut to span time and thought (see also: Chhal) right before the first musical impromptu flourish. What lyrics! And then we cut to the female vocal, about the artificiality of the world around us, set against every prop and artifice you could see on a shooting stage. Hats off to the imagination of everyone involved. I'd be really impressed if someone discussing Kunal Ganjawala's promise as a vocalist would note his work here]; the first murder attempt on Neetaji with a trippy mix of the reflective surface of a glass pane and the kaDak-lakshmii at the Hiranandani Complex; another wonderful montage follows in the aftermath of the botched murder attempt (interview snippets counterpointed by soap opera sequences and an excerpt from a,Nkhiyo.n se golii maare, and an astrologer's predictions for Reshma's future); a much better use of the laughter club than the could-have-been-a-much-better-flick Munna bhai MBBS. Here's looking forward to Rajat Kapoor's next.

April Fool's Day: A harmless piece of Agatha Christie-esque whimsy that echoes the core of Ten Little Indians/And Then There Were None and adds a domestic twist at the end of the whole enterprise. Harmless flick to fill a block of spare time, if you have nothing else to watch.

Hollywood Homicide : I wish I could think of a good reason I wanted to see this movie. The only one I can think of is "for Harrison Ford". Besides, from the looks of it, it didn't seem like a product genre part that he was going in on auto-pilot for. On one hand there's Clint Eastwood who uses genre roles to downplay a composite mystique built on the foundation of the numerous cult figures he has played and made his own: a composite of a renegade nameless gunslinger who values money more than morals, a cop frustrated at working within the restrictive limitations of his job as social law and order fall apart, a veteran member of a prestigious space program about to be entrusted a dangerous mission where men will be men and boys will be boys, a former secret service agent living with the guilt of JFK's death while becoming the chosen one for a sychopath, a retired bounty hunter who reluctantly returns to the world of violence for one last time. Eastwood's career has been easier to follow than Ford's. Ford has been associated with some of the biggest blockbusters of all time as well with some of the most acclaimed films as well (note: the two sets do not intersect, as far as I am concerned). And at this point in his career, he has been playing a lot of roles where he adds a sense of world-weariness to his parts. A rich sense of personal déjà vu if you will. And Ford also underplays his parts, and this is something that actually helps when you are doing comedy. Harrison Ford is no stranger to that genre, and if you even examine his work outside that genre, you can see sparkles of his ability. Which brings me to the movie I had started out with. This film, on the face of it, is a straight police procedural -- two police officers investigate some murders in a club, and this brings them (and us) face-to-face with a vista into how much corruption has seeped into the system and how many people are actually involved. However, with a name like Ron Shelton (Bull Durham, White Men Can't Jump) on the directorial credit, I knew I could expect more. Sure enough, the director's commentary confirmed my assumptions: this film was all about playing the genre for its stereotypes, and giving Ford a chance to do something he can do well: comedy. In addition to the regular narrative, which functions only to push events forward in a linear fashion, something that we all are most familiar with, we also get some interesting insights. Cops and detectives can and do have more than one job. With overtime and comp-time, they can manage to juggle both during a given working day. Ford's character Joe Gavilan is a real-estate agent. And he's desperately trying to get rid of a property on Mount Olympus. His cellphone has the opening bars of My Girl (a Smokey Robinson song sung by The Temptations, also used in the Macaulay Culkin film of the same name). His younger partner, K C Calden, is played by Josh Harnett. KC's cellphone rings with the opening bars of Funkytown. And KC wants to be an actor. Throughout the course of the movie we see him preparing for Brando's part as Stanley Kowalski in Tennesee Williams's A Streetcar named Desire. Personally, I can see a slight resemblance to Brando in Hartnett. And throughout the film he manages not only a few Brando expressions and mannerisms, but also a couple of Brad Pitt ones. As if this was not enough, KC also teaches yoga to a bevy of young nubile nymphets: initially in it purely for the pleasures of the flesh, he now claims to actually believe that there's something to all this. Along the way we see mixed with everything you expect to see in a film like this (more deaths, explosions, gunfights, chase sequences, a car on fire, roof-top chases, showdowns), we meet a bunch of interesting people: Eric Idle in a blink-and-you'll-miss-me cameo as a rusted British celebrity arrested for soliciting, Lou Diamond Phillips in a cameo as "Wanda", an undercover cop in drag (just to see LDP -- who was a painful component of several DOA movies on Star Movies -- in drag is worth it IMHO), Smokey Robinson (who wrote My Girl) pops up in a cameo as a cabbie (and the end credits begin with the original song), Martin Landau as a former producer eager to sell his house, Bruce Greenwood (who looks like Frank Sinatra) plays Bennie Macko (a reference to Sinatra's Ben Marco in The Manchurian Candidate?), while Frank Sinatra Jr. plays Martin Landau's lawyer. And we have a phone psychic who used to date Macko and now dates Gavilan. Phew. Lots of Motown references. And then there's a cameo by Robert Wagner at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. And since this is a Ron Shelton movie there's also a sly baseball reference ("Say it ain't so, Joe"). But trivia aside, this film is loaded with fun. Much much more fun that I had expected. And definitely due a whole lot more credit.

Friday, August 27, 2004

bleak new york city and the indecision of youth

In the Cut [wednesday, august 25, 2004] will be remembered trivially for Meg Ryan's nude scene. I must say Meg Ryan chose the right film to make the transition from being the cute face in chick flicks to being able to tackle darker and more complex characters. I managed to read the source novel before watching the DVD (which features a more explicit director's cut) and the change in ending was a bit disappointing. But the film suffers from other problems besides that. My favourite motif in the book was Frannie's fascination for slang. And the way the book was written -- short direct cold sentences, Hemingway in glass darkly, if you will. The film manages to get some of that feeling across, and its use of colour (a claustrophobic mix of red and green) is definitely a plus. There are noticeable motifs (women running from something, for example). The film also has, in its best moments, a surreal dream-like quality just like The Piano or Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock. And the colour red is a very obvious motif (right from the blood to oblique references like Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse). The lighthouse also functions as one of several phallic references (apt in a movie like this), and also echoes in the final sequence. But I am inclined to nod towards to the camp that maintains (perhaps a tad harshly) that the film is "a mess". Wish I could put my finger on what was wrong though. And yes, does anyone know why "mayor" harvey keitel got an acknowledgement credit?

Lakshya [thursday, august 26, 2004]: At long last, I finally managed to watch Farhan Akhtar's second film. Right from the opening shots (which made me kick myself at having missed a chance to catch it in the cinema hall), this film marks a big leap from his début. Fundamentally, both films still explore youth and their times, but FA takes a different approach here. One cannot be faulted for thinking of movies like An Officer and a Gentleman and Vijeta. Pa Javed Akhtar returns on a "story, screenplay, dialogue" credit after a long time (in addition to penning the lyrics as well). As far as mainstream films go, this film scores high. If only for the excellent handling of Karan and Romila's relationship. And its excellent battle sequences put to shame Kubrick wannabes like J P Dutta who got so much adulatory press for his castle of cowdung called LOC. Lakshya eschews all need for jingoism and the only shard (unfortunate, but understandable) of mainstream patriotism that survives is the song ka.ndhon se ka.ndhe, where people burst out into song on screen (why? why?? why???). And when did a mainstream film have nicer names like Akhilesh and Saket? Hrithik lives up to his reputation as a great mover with mai.n aisaa kyo.n (noted the similar fragments from akaDaa in Indian), imaginatively choreographed by Prabhu Deva (note the bowling alley freeze and fade-out that builds up to the song). And Vaibhavi Merchant's choreography made agar mai.n kahuu.N, my favourite song on the album, a ton better. And there's even a vertigo zoom therein, right before the coda. Also noted the clip from Commando, and the unintentionally multiple references to Jurassic Park: Karan asks his brother Udesh (who is never seen or heard in the film -- a nice touch) to check for the availability of the DVD (the obvious reference), the shot of a blast shaking the Big B's cup (just like the water cup in Spielberg's flick), the fragment from John Williams's theme that appears all over the theme for this film. Indigestible were the brevity of Om Puri's role, the brevity of the Big B's role, and the Big B speaking Marathi. But then, in addition to being a love story, the film also functions as an ensemble piece, which might serve as the only explanation. Minor complaints aside, this film filled me with hope for Bollywood, which seems otherwise doomed to producing North-India friendly movies filled with Punju dances, brain-dead superficial emotions, and hamming par excellence. Here's to FA's next venture. {elsewhere: musical notes}

Monday, August 23, 2004

sanjeev chimmalgi

* when: august 20, 2004

* where: holiday inn select, Decatur, GA

* who: sanjeev chimmalgi (vocal) accompanied by milind pote (tabalaa) and krishnakali bakshi (harmonium)

the programme

1 dhanakonii kalyaan (aka dha nako -- omit dha --, komal nii se kalyaan): created by his guru the late great Pt. C R Vyas: vilambit and madhya in ek taal; drut in tiin taal

2 le jaa re jaa patikawaa in raag bihaag (aadhaa tiin taal; drut in ek taal)

3 ba.ndish by Pt C R Vyas in raag jog (madhya ruupak). as he was kind to point out, this taal-centred incorporated elements of the agra gaayakii style.


4 another agra-style taraanaa in maalakau.ns ... a bhe.NDii baazaar ba.ndish followed by another one by kumar ga.ndharv

5 a nirguNii kabiir bhajan by kumar ga.ndharv {kauno Thagavaa}

6 the bhairavii presentation was a bhajan in kannada

As SC himself noted later, his voice took a while warming up and seemed to have made it just as things were about to close. That said, I was glad to finally hear the bhairavii after the last concert I attended (a not-too-pleasant experience in itself) skipped this wonderful raag.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

another music maker passes on ...

Just when we had come to terms with the loss of Ray Charles and Jerry Goldsmith (Ok, even Rick James!), Elmer Bernstein departs at the age of 82. [recently encountered by yours truly in his work on Cape Fear, Bringing Out the Dead, Far From Heaven]

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

all men are fools. they want to be heroes. and their widows mourn

The beautiful Jeanne Moreau gets to utter this sobering line in her cameo as Christine in John Frankenheimer's engaging war/action/adventure film The Train (not to be confused with the 70s standard thriller where Pancham's music allowed Polydor to make a jubilee splash on the Indian record label scene, where all Helen had to do to look like Nanda -- fat hips and all -- was put on a mask, where whodunit didn't really matter, where the on-screen goings-on completely destroyed some of the most inspired music mixes and melodies that Pancham ever came up with). Frankenheimer lets his trademarks slide in gently, and lets the simple narrative and strong performances guide the film through its never-boring 133 minutes. One must note, however, the single tracking shot at the German HQ as the camera follows people walking in, going about their jobs, until it chooses von Waldheim (Paul Scofield), follows him around, until he stops outside his superior's office. Nice. Now, if only I could get my hands on the DVD with commentary. It also struck me as interesting that Orson Welles, responsible for (arguably) the most famous tracking shot in film history, regarded Moreau (who worked with him in The Trial and Chimes at Midnight) as "the greatest actress in the world".

[a more detailed look at the other academic merits of the film]

Tuesday, August 17, 2004


Brian de Palma has been a personal favourite for a long time both for the films in his Hitchcock-ian phase as well as for the variety in his ouevre. Another reason was Bernard Herrmann. After Herrmann's tiff with Hitchcock, nothing he worked on since got him as much attention. De Palma and Scorsese, both personal favourites (back when I hadn't made the connection), managed to get him back some of the limelight that he deserved (after all he *was* the dean of film music). The Criterion Collection DVD of Sisters, an important De Palma film (its heavy Hitchcockian references notwithstanding) includes the reprint of an essay by De Palma that describes how Herrmann came on board. And all the praise for the Moog cue that Herrmann wrote for the opening credits doesn't prepare you for the sheer chill that runs down your spine. Only Herrmann could have written something to match his cue for the Psycho shower sequence. Sheer brilliance. The film offers rich rewards if you want to study the themes explored, voyeurism and duality in particular. Also included on the DVD is a text version of a 1973 interview conducted by Richard Rubinstein, where de Palma talks about the cameras he used, the different kinds of film stock, as well an idea based on ROPE (the set for the interiors of Danielle's house was erected to allow De Palma to track through the entire length and back and around, as a body bled through the bottom of the couch) that remained unused because of budgetary constraints. Some of the proceedings may seem a tad stagey (something that I believe is an artifact of editing approaches in 70s films), but there's enough in the chills and thrills department. Now if only I didn't know the plot twist -- I think I might been even more delighted.

more trivia

[august 01, 2008]: the intriguing title sequence (QuickTime) accompanied by Herrmann's nerve-chilling cue.

Monday, August 16, 2004

KHGN revisionism

[see also: JR's take]

Not long after MHN, we have another mainstream soundtrack that harks back at the days of yore. S-E-L's soundtrack for the Rai/Oberoi love [in]fest opens with the energetic pyaar me.n sau uljhane.n hai.n first takes you back to stuff in SDB's songs for chalti ka naam gaadi, before landing at the doorstep of the source -- Hollywood musicals. A good beginning, if you ask me. However, the next song, ##no, no##, sends S-E-L back into sounding like ARR. Honestly, if these guys have to really really make a mark for themselves, they'll have to stop this. It's an effort, but at least by staying away from this, they'll be able to grab more points for sounding like themselves. Two things you should be saying as soon as aao naa starts off with the saragam are "Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy" and "Javed Akhtar". Sure enough, this is another slap-in-the-face for all those morons out there who under-utilize a voice like Sadhana Sargam. mai.n huu.N featuring Sunidhi Chauhan and Shaan is the kind of close-to-ARR song that S-E-L excel at. The mix has enough non-ARR attributes, but suffers from a slight Lakshya echo. If only Shaan could have been more forceful in his responses ...baat samajhaa karo has the Konkani ingredients (the beat, and the yaa-yaa-maayaa-yaa melody line) and Chetan Shashital voicing for the big B. That itself (the latter, not the former) gives the song it's titanic anchor. dhiire dhiire almost has the possibility of becoming another chaa.ndanii ruup kii despite its echoes of the KHNH title song (which got Rafi-clone Sonu Nigam the recently announced 2003 National Award). All in all, these guys are becoming a more permanent fixture on my list of interesting music directors today.

Which gives me the legal right to segue silently into S-E-L's other release, the soundtrack to Revathy's Phir Milenge. Once again they get things right (at least from my POV) with a catchy acoustic guitar riff (with tons of fills later on) before Shankar Mahadevan begins jiine ke ishaare mil gaye (aasamaa.N ke paar vibes minus Gulzar's cooler lyrics). The only worry I have is that Javed Akhtar might decide that S-E-L represented the music of his words and decided to write more of these lyrics that seem to make one wonder if he had decided to try and be Anand Bakshi's successor at generating quick and serviceable lyrics. Nice key change near the end, btw. When betaab dil opens with a bad case of Nadeem-Shravan/Anu-Malik-itis, your jaw drops in shock, you become incontinent. And then it dawns on you. This is not S-E-L. This is Nikhil-Vinay. Ok, Revathy-jii, what in the name of all that escaped the murderous blandness of the Dholak made you choose NV when you had S-E-L? Sonu Nigam sounds like the painful Gulshan Kumar prodigy (aka Rafi clone) that he is, and Shreyal Ghoshal does an Anuradha Paudwal albeit with better pronunciation and articulation. And damn me! I've heard the a.ntaraa melody before (like a Jatin-Lalit-ized Pancham melody)!!!! Help, someone. I confess, milord, I skipped this track. S-E-L return with a version of jiine ke ishaare. This one starts off on the sax, before the fingers snap in, and then Abhijeet leads this slow melody with pathos. Bombay Jayshree's Richa-Sharma-esque vocals and some dulcet instrumentation embellish khul ke muskuraa le (although a metaphor like Gam ke moze does raise eyebrows). And up next is another musical dollop called Kushiyo.n kii koshish me.n. The sounds of early light Indian rock mix with a nice use of jingles. Bhavatha Raja (Illayaraja's son, who also did Revathy's Mitr), also responsible for the background score, steps up on the next few songs. The first one up kuchh pal has Vijay Yesudas (that he is KJY's son is evident the moment you hear him). Have to hand it to lyricist Prasoon Joshi for a commendable turn on the S-E-L songs.

Can't resist noting that a dude called Akash Gandhi who reviewed this album for Planet Bollywood ain't heard of Revathy, probably, since he "makes a man of her" as it were: After his cross-over film, Mit [sic], Revathy makes a great entrance into mainstream Hindi cinema with a heart-warming album complimenting his highly-anticipated film.

each cut, each scar, each burn, a different mood or time

Secretary achieved notoriety for all the wrong reasons. Maggie Gylenhall's (last seen in Donnie Darko) nude scene being the most significant one. Yet, Steven Shainberg's directorial début tinged with sado-masochism is a love story about people who have learnt to find relief in pain. Until they find each other. And try to come to terms with their confusion, to finally muster the courage to accept one another. The performances are top-notch, and there are nuances in the script and narrative that the director/writer's commentary track helps clarify: the appropriateness of the typewriter ball in the opening credits, the importance of pain as something you can feel in a world without feeling, the tiny sado-masochistic elements (the typing coach hitting his hand with a ruler), the red riding hood motif (and the choice of purple instead of red because it can imply a bruise, a rarity, or even a colour that would appeal to a child), the subtle reduction of light during Edward and Lee's conversation in the library, the importance of the extreme close-ups, which make their first appearance during this scene, and the slow zooms-in (lifted, apparently, from Mike Figgis's Leaving Las Vegas). Then there's the very Lynchian fantasy (was it the red?), which also marks another use of the colour purple (no pun intended). And it's interesting how one could also read the film as a coming-of-age story. All in all, quite rewarding. More rewarding than I had expected it to be.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

horror, partition and pilferage

horror: Cabin Fever [August 14, 2004] revisits familiar territory and functions best as a mild exercise in combining two genres: the cabin-in-the-woods horror staple and the deadly-virus staple. The film is too brightly lit for the most part, and the scenes depicting corporeal waste as a consequence of the virus are sufficiently gory. Angelo Badalamenti (who notches an acknowledgement credit along with David Lynch) provides three wonderful cues ("Red Dream", "Deputy Winston's Theme" and "Love Theme"). And the end credits are accompanied by a bluegrass version of Swing Low Sweet Chariot. If you wanted to dig deeper, you could read this as a critique of civic administration, mob mindsets, and the ill-effects of polar points of view. But, perhaps, you aren't supposed to.

partition: Coincidentally, I ended up watching Train to Pakistan on August 14, 2004. I remember the mild hubbub when this film was telecast on one of the Star channels (World, Plus, Gold?). After having finally seen the movie, I don't see what the fuss was about. I got the idea that there might be objectionable content, but all I found was a fairly languid film (Pamela Rooks will find it a very tough job to get on my list of interesting directors) boasting a cast of art-circuit familiars who unfortunately don't seem very interested in imbuing any heart in their parts. Divya Dutta manages to score another ace with a very convincing performance (and if you've seen her in other films, you can surely appreciate the transformation into this role). There's M S Sathyu as Imaam Baksh. And the rest of the roster comprises Nirmal Pandey, Smriti Mishra, Mohan Agashe, Rajit Kapur and Mangal Dhillon. People who have seen Pinjar will note the presence of waaris shah nuu and avval allah nuur. There's also another instance of musicians tuning their instruments (see also: Bhopal Express) and also a reference to the stench of burning corpses (see also: Dev). I wasn't sure what to expect from the film (perhaps because I know very little about Kushwant Singh's source novel), but what I saw didn't give me enough enthusiasm to probe further.

pilferage: Aatank hi Aatank [August 03, 2004] is a certifiable entry in the canon of films that most stars would want to forget about in the future. This certified-in-1995 flick features a young naïve Aamir Khan starring opposite a young naïve Juhi Chawla (no this is not Qayamat se Qayamat tak). Written, edited, and directed by Dilip Shankar, this undisguised copy of The Godfather features Rajnikanth getting top billing. Trivia-mongers will note the deadly combination of Super Star Rajni and Soon-to-be-Star Aamir. Given the plagiaristic bent of the proceedings, it seems appropriate that Bappi Lahiri would tune the songs written by several people (naqsh lyallpuri, anwar sagar, shaili shailendra, bali brahmabhatt, sanam gazipuri). This means we get veritable classics like the irritating gu.nDaa ##rap## belted out over the opening credits by Bali Brahmabhatt, akkhaa hai bamba_ii -- a jhopa.DapaTTii song for Rajni Saar voiced by Mohd. Aziz, duniyaa se vo kab Darate hai.n jo pyaar kisii se karate hai.n featuring lots of Madhuri-esque costumes and gestures, we are together, love is forever featuring Bappi Sir himself (for Aamir Khan, no less; see also: Love Love Love) and Alka Yagnik (for Juhi).

Before we indulge the academics, here are the other interesting bits. Classic lines of dialogue include shaadii me.n tumhe dekhakar pahalii baar aisaa lagaa ki ##revolver## se zyaadaa Kataranaak chiiz agar ko_ii hai to vo hai tumhaarii aa.Nkhe.n (Rajni Saar to Archana Joglekar), paisa garden kii nas kaaTakar bhii kamaayaa jaataa hai aur pajaame kaa naa.Daa kholakar bhi (Ishrat "Godfather" Ali), abe o Kudakushii kii chaukhat ke kutte (Ishrat again), and golii ##revolver## se nikalakar vaapas ##revolver## me.n nahii.n aatii (Aamir Khan providing a scientific note on momentum, irreversibility and entropy to Rajni Saar).

And now, for the academics, we present the mapping of the characters/players in this ripoff to the original Coppola flick:

Rajnikanth | Munna | Sonny
Aamir Khan | Rohan | Michael Corleone
Juhi Chawla | Neha | Kay Adams
Rita Bhaduri | | Carmella, Vito Corleone's wife
Joginder | | McCluskey
Bharat Kapoor | Gogia Advani | Virgil Sollozzo
Radha Seth | Anju | Connie
Dalip Tahil | Robert | marries Sister
Ishrat Ali | Shiv Charan Sharma | Vito Andolini
Friendly appearance
Kabir Bedi | | Signor Vitelli, Apollonia's father
Special appearance
Pooja Bedi | Ganga | Apollonia
Girija Shankar | Ganga's fiancé |

The characters included for the patent-pending desi-ization process include:
Archana Joglekar as Razia, a foil for Rajnikanth's character providing the cross-religious, rebellious, romantic angle.
Om Puri as a hired gun
Shafi Inamdar, Sameer Khakkar as one of Rohan's men, Vikas Anand, Suhas Joshi as Razia's mother.

The baddies are a composite of the original family heads and the desi-ized father figures: Raza Murad (Aslam Pathan, Razia's father), Goga Kapoor (Birla Singh Thakur).

And Dilip Shankar even manages to squeeze in the bedroom gunfire attack from Part II. The video tape I viewed also had an added bonus in the form of an old Haywards Lager ad featuring Lisa Ray that pokes fun at the Pepsi ad (Hi! I'm Sanjana. Got another Haywards?).

Watch this for all the reasons above. And to watch Aamir sport that thin moustache after transitioning to the role of the new Godfather.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

back to woodruff

Accompanied S on a pair of free tix to a Summer Sampler of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra yesterday evening. Following free dessert samples from Mary Mac, Jake's and Intermezzo and a splash of over-iced coke, we sat down for a mixed treat of music. My pick was Wagner's celebrated The Ride of the Valkyries (who can forget the choppers in Apocalypse Now), which was the closer for the evening. Aside from that, art music continues to leave me cold overall. I can do without the effulgent richness of a string-laden set of movements (with most of the appeal relegated to a theoretical subtlety) of the famed masters. Give me the discrete daring of Herrmann, Crumb, or Stravinsky.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

another fuzzy online personality evaluation

You are water. You're not really organic; you're
neither acidic nor basic, yet you're an acid
and a base at the same time. You're strong
willed and opinionated, but relaxed and ready
to flow. So while you often seem worthless,
without you, everything would just not work.
People should definitely drink more of you
every day.

Which Biological Molecule Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla
the irony of kong

Was watching a documentary yesterday evening called The Horror of it All, an interesting overview of the horror film genre embellished with clips from classics like Lang's Metropolis and rarities like Dementia 13. One of the obvious clips was from the original King Kong from 1933, which featured Fay Wray. And today I find out that she passed away last night. That's a scream that will be missed.

Monday, August 09, 2004


So I happened to leave for Tampa, Florida on Friday Aug 07 (to return on Sunday evening ) to help a friend move stuff over to GA. This time around the FL drive was better ... had a distinct sense of being cramped in the car (NOTE: I was not driving in either case). Had CDs of music swinging the barometer of quality to entertain us on the ways back and forth. Weather-wise we were in for either the usual humidity (very Bombay-like, and even more unplesant) and spells of rain. While we caught a beach or two, the main beaches eluded us (however, since we hadn't planned anything rigorously, I was happy with what I got ... not much a beach buy anyways). The big attraction, though, was a concert at FSU with Rattan Mohan as the main performer. At this point, I must note that Yesudas was performing on Friday at Georgia Tech (and thanks to the usual ineffective publicity machinery, there was nothing we could really do!). This concert notched several important events for my concert-going experience. First off, I was taught never to assume a high quality for any concert involving touring artists. A lot can go wrong, and what transpires aside from the main performance is really important. In this case, things mostly went downhill.

* The audience for one thing was a global downer. Perhaps I've been spoilt by the ICMS experience. The true 'rasiks' were almost a default in the ICMS concerts (one good way to tell is how many people have an intuitive understanding of the sam during improvisations -- note: i said intuitive, not formal). Here the audience seemed more like a foreign audience reacting to a music different from the kind they were used to -- which isn't such a bad thing, unless your applause reveals not what you actually liked about the performance, but just you taking a lucky guess. And the thickly fake accents all around -- gah!

* The opening act had rahul patel (I couldn't make out the introductions clearly but I heard "pt ravi shankar" and "self-taught") accompanied by aditya bannerjee on tabalaa. They performed yaman in madhya and drut tiin taal. What they lacked were soul and cohesion. And AB (a faculty member at the Pandit Jasraj School of Music (PJSOM) offshoot there) was one of the most self-absorbed self-congratulatory tabalaa players I have ever seen. Although capable, he seemed more interested in showing off than complementing the main performer.

* The main act had rattan mohan sharma (RMS) accompanied by more students from PJSOM. And the people on taanapuraa were clearly not ready for performance. Given this and AB on the tabalaa, RMS could only hobble through a vastly undernourished series of renditions: raag puriyaa (vilambit in ek taal; madhya and drut in tiin taal) -- I must note here my first exposure to a lakshaN giit: where a portion of the lyrics is devoted to outlining the salient features of the raag:: ga vaadii nii samavaadii pa bachaa ma ba.Dhaa; u.D jaa re bha.Nwaraa in raag madhukau.ns (tiin taal); aaj mere ghar aa_e re balamaa in raag maalakau.ns. After an intermission, we retreated further back and sat through a couple of compositions in raag megh, before the final performance (audience request) of om bhagawatii vaasudevaa in bhiim palaas. This last rendition, apart from suffering from the sin of ousting the bhairavii, included other disasters like aditya banerjee's lack of cohesion and the ma.njire going out of time. All said and done, an experience more instructive than rewarding.

Friday, August 06, 2004

maudlin by holcroftian proportions

You wonder how a fine actor like Michael Caine and a capable director like John Frankenheimer [The Manchurian Candidate, Seconds, Black Sunday, The Train] could collaborate to generate this Ludlum adaptation that virtually operates throughout its entireity in auto-pilot mode. Caine's character is an architect, who finds out that his father, a confidant of Adolf Hitler, had left behind a fortune to make amends for all the atrocities the Nazis had committed, except that he has to find the heirs of his father's colleagues as well, before attempting to use the money for charitable goals. All along the way, there's the predictable sense of nothing really being what it appears to be. There are artifacts of Frankenheimer's talent in framing, editing, and pacing, and the fairground chase sequence recalls Welles's nightmarish surreal assemblage for The Trial. And Caine's underplayed tongue-in-cheek becomes less of what he is capable of, to being something that he just turned in, in return for a paycheck. And he also gets to mouth some of the worst lines since his turn in The Swarm. Priceless as a bad movie, worthless as a testimony to the skills of anyone qualified who chose to retain a credit for this movie.

For a more detailed shootout, check out the review on Jabootu's Bad Movie Dimension.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

naseeruddin shah meets premchand

with Katha Collage... the other interesting person on the roster is Vishal Bhardwaj. [more from Midday]
a man could spend the rest of his life trying to remember what he shouldn't have said

That line echoes the sentiment running through Abraham Polonsky's noir (in the Paul Schrader sense) classic Force of Evil. This was Polonsky's first film as director, and he was, shortly afterwards, blacklisted for refusing to "name names" for the HUAC. John Garfield plays Joe Morse, an ambitious young lawyer, who wants to get ahead in life, and fast. He has a plan that will allow his client, the gangster Ben Tucker, to consolidate all the small-time numbers racket operators into one big powerful operation. He is torn by his feelings for and against his elder brother Leo, a small-time operator himself, who refuses to deal with the gangsters. The inevitable noir falling is aided by David Raksin's score, excellent Edward Hopper visuals, biting dialogue, and a general sense of urgency that made films like this classics.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

a claptonian high

Yet again, the people at BMG read my mind as I thought "hmm, it's time to beef up my Clapton collection a bit". With a nice deal (and no shipping and handling), I wound up with four little nuggets: his début album, a special 2-CD remastered augmented (and diminished, in an undocumented way) release of Derek and the Dominos playing Live at the Fillmore, a special 2-CD remastered edition of Blind Faith's sole eponymous album, and finally Cream's d´but album.

The first time I had heard of Cream was when my guide/mentor for my final year undergraduate project lent me his CD. And I kept looping the thing ad infinitum soaking myself in the sounds of energetic bluesy jazzy riff-laden songs with rip-roaring solos and infectious refrains. And the day my package arrived, with my own copy of this masterpiece, I also receive an email from him saying he was moving on from his current job to something different. All the best to you D, and thanks for the unintentionally delicious "spoonful" of irony.

black sunday [not to be confused with the Mario Bava horror classic]

I'm on a John Frankenheimer trip [see also: The Manchurian Candidate, Seconds]. This flick helps me close the lid on all the film adaptations of Thomas Harris novels (all of which I own as well). It's interesting that someone who wrote a book like this (which seemed ominous back then given the events at the Munich Olympics, and even more now given the 9/11 tragedy) made a transition to writing a well-begun ill-terminated trilogy of books about a super-smart cannibal. The film itself boasts good performances from Robert Shaw (what is it with him and characters with interesting accents) and Bruce Dern, a good pace (aided by a tight script bearing the name of Ernest "North by Northwest" Lehman), and a lot of Frankenheimer trademarks (low-angle shots, medium shots, interesting framing). However, given the enormity of the task undertaken by the villain, the filmmakers had no choice but to resort to SFX, and thus, the climax is both predictable and unsatisfyingly specious. This limits the film to being an above-average thriller, but not a very great Frankenheimer flick. What redeems the film are the strictly-grey characters of Capt. Michael J Lander (Bruce Dern) and Major David Kabakov (Robert Shaw). Their motivations and actions are enough to twist the notions of good and evil, of right and wrong.

Monday, August 02, 2004

a pair of reel-fests: aging caine and a saga of troubled youth

Bullet to Beijing: This made-for-TV film tail-ends the Harry Palmer series of films, and unfortunately serves not as a fitting coda (as Welles's Touch of Evil was to the film noir genre), but as another example of a bad auto-pilot for-the-money ensemble. Michael Caine delivers the goods with little to no effort. Everyone else plays characters who are not what they appear to be. Friends are not friends, foes appear out of the woodwork. And just to add a touch of nostalgia to a collection of witticisms, Sue Lloyd ( Agent Jean Courtney in The Ipcress File) appears as a voice on the phone. Since I haven't watched any other Harry Palmer movies except the first one, I could only spot the strong echoes from that film. This film begins just as the first one did, with a surveillance setup, except that a lot of the stuff that transpires suffers from déjà vu. After an assassination, the next significant plot move occurs when Harry is laid off and is offered a lucrative contract by a nefarious individual. As if the confusion wasn't good enough, a few lines of dialogue drop hints that Jason Connery's character might be Harry's son. More droll one-liners, action sequences, chases, explosions, and gobs of nudity (enjoy The Village People singing Go West at a strip club) follow before a denouement that is consoling in that we have finally seen the end of the series. If you stick on till the end credits roll, you can pat yourself on the back for spotting a typo("Special Effets Assistant").

Yuva: The vast improvement of Mani Rathnam's second venture into Hindi cinema over his first owes a lot to one man: Anurag Kashyap. The dialogue "keeps it real", keeps the characters believable, and spares us from the pontification that MR is likely to indulge in. The structure of three separate lives linked by a common incident has been done to death already (and with Amores Perros and 21 grams, writer Guilermo Arriaga can easily claim a small crown). But did we really need stylish freeze frames telling us whose story was about to unfold? That and a few other elements in the film still make me wonder what MR thinks of his audience. Is the entry-level value of intelligence the same as that for any mainstream film? Seems unlikely given Abhishek Bachchan's character. But then we have Om Puri hopelessly miscast (what's with that terrible Bengali accent?). And we have a Hindi teacher who mouths a piece of dialogue like "mazaak suujh rahii hai"?? ARR's songs work better on-screen although it would have been nice if they had taken out kabhii niim niim, left Kudaa haafiz in the background, left the title song in the background where it worked wonders and completely eschewed the sequence with everyone singing it on-screen (the first sign of the inevitable MR preachy fallout). And to top it all, the ending in parliament almost destroys all the good that MR achieved with the rest of the film. Still, I'd recommend this film, simply because very few of Bollywood's filmmakers are making movies that don't insult your intelligence. In fact, I even doubt the intelligence of a majority of the filmmakers. Back to YUVA. Most of the cast shines, although Abhishek Bachchan and Rani Mukherjee take top honours. Ajay Devgan is sincere, but his character lacks the complexity of the beast that Abhishek has to play. Vivek Oberoi should stick to directors like Mani Ratnam who can allow him to develop some acting chops while sticking to his cutey image. Kareena Kapoor continues to look like India's answer to Medusa. On the supporting cast, Vijay Raaz does his bit, but ultimately it's the dialogue and the technical crew that take home all the laurels. And yes, I loved that fight sequence on the bridge (even though one could argue convincingly that the traffic seemed a little unrealistically light). Do I think MR has shaken off his Steven Spielberg-ian goodness-and-virtue-filmmaking habits? Nope, but I'll keep my fingers crossed. This is a man who, like SS, is capable of exploting basic film technique and equipment to good effect. If Yuva is any indicator, we might have darker characters emerging in his films. The days of wine and roses may finally be over. Trivia note: acknowledgements include Shaad Ali, who had assisted MR on Alai Payuthe and helmed its Hindi mush-cousin Saathiya.

long friday night with music

Come Friday evening, and we had a private concert hosted at the residence of an ICMS committee member. The performers were faculty at the Pandit Jasraj School of Music. And there was even a brief tabalaa exposition (and another display of the Zakir Hussain style percolating into his students). There was a santoor recital too ... and the hour was late. But the icing on the cake (in a weak manner of speaking) was some late late dinner (late into the wee hours of the morning) courtesy Cafe Bombay.
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