Thursday, September 30, 2004

the sounds of swades

The new ARR soundtrack to Ashutosh Gowariker's patriotic followup to Lagaan is a mixed bag. The sequence on Raaga is a saving grace. The first song yuu.N hii chalaa chal would be my pick. It's the longest song on the album (apparently), but ARR infuses enough in it to make it worth the while. My favourite (*just kidding*) singers Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik are involved (collectively) in the next four songs, of which ye taaraa vo taaraa and dekho naa are the "sleepers" (aka: ARR songs that just sending you nodding off), while aahistaa aahistaa has the strongest Lagaan hangover (strains of mitawaa) and sucks as a lullaby, and saawariyaa is a great melody that deserved a better singer (honestly, alka sucks). ye jo desh hai teraa is strangely mournful (was it the shahanaa_ii?) and ARR's (accent-tinged) rendition got me thinking of the song he did for Kannathil Muthamittal. Buried in that marsh is a raamaliilaa pal pal hai bhaarii that has interestingly familiar melody fragments (and strong echoes of o paalanahaare). And we wind up with two instrumental tracks. Not sure what I should make of this, but ARR's music is supposed to grow on you. So I might end up liking saawariyaa a bit more. Everything else (but yuu.N hii) might stay where it came from.
finally ...

A woman gets arrested for talking too loudly on a mobile phone ...[more]. It's time this happened on a more regular basis. I've been privy to break-ups, business decisions, domestic issues, where-to-go-out-to-get-smashed conversations, and many more horrifying aural assaults. It's time they took some action against douche bags who latch on to a technology like this despite its cost (honestly, we got along fine without cell phones didn't we? -- i can hear someone make an argument for the pre-phone days but never mind ...) without any sense of appropriate use. I can see the use of a cell phone when your car breaks down on the interstate and you need to call AAA or the cops (both of which will take their own sweet time coming). Apart from that, I can't think of any life-threatening situations that would really really require a cell phone (arguments anticipated: getting lost in a mall, haphazard planning for things to do on a Friday night -- choosing a place to dine at, a cinema hall to catch a flick, blah blah blah). And let's not even begin to discuss social menaces who insist on talking on cell phones while driving on interstates or inner roads.

more post-immigrant-generation blues

At one point in Raj Basu's Wings of Hope, a character uses the overloaded phrase "first-generation american". I have seen enough contradictory definitions to give up on trying to understand whether it referred to immigrants who decided to settle down in the USA or their offspring or their grand-offspring. That interesting nugget aside, this film is actually better (IMHO) than other flicks that recycle a stock of clichés about the confusion in the lives of youth whose parents have settled down in the USA but nurse a nostalgic sense of "Indian" values. This is not to say that the film provides fresh perspectives and interesting points of view. There are the unfortunate stereotypes, and the narrative is predictable. Where the film wins is in its stark look that adds a rawness (and IMHO natural touch) to the film. Other "ABCD" products have resorted to trite post-modern references to Indian clichés; along with cheap attempts at fitting in with some of the stereotypes here. The cast does fine, although fair arguments could be made for a tighter script and even tighter editing. However, given the film's budgetary and temporal constraints, what we receive is definitely better than most other claimants for the "indie" label. The almost predictable use of raags in the background (wonder what makes puuryaa dhaanashrii so popular) is unfortunate (predictable in treatment and not as a device, mind you). Although Deepti Naval and Suresh Oberoi have "special appearance" credits, Roshan Seth's role almost merits a similar credit. If you're tired of mainstream Bollywood product (who isn't), pick this off the shelf and give it a look see. It's short, and it won't hurt.

Monday, September 27, 2004

kyun...! ho gaya na, chot, rakht

KHGN: flatulent fellatio [September 09, 2004]

about the only interesting thing, speaking as a triviamonger, in this sorry waste of film stock and audience time and musical talent called Kyun...! Ho Gaya Na, is a vertigo zoom. But given the alarmingly high number of films I have seen that device employed in recently, I wasn't as taken aback. On the rest of the deal, what can you say about the Big B? This is strictly for the money, and despite his talent, one has to question the need to be part of such enterprises. Everything is auto-pilot. And what in the name of all lobotomy makes "C'mon Charlie" cool? Watch out for obvious product placement (Coffee Day, Castrol GTX, Ceat, Netware 5). Om Puri and Rati Agnihotri return, and the former continues to enjoy and devour his parts in retch-fests like this one. For that alone, he deserves plaudits (buraa waqt aur terii maa.N kabhii bhii aa sakate hai.n). Vivek Oberoi, the over-rated poster boy, gets a writing credit (screenplay, dialogue) on the film, and that alone is enough to convince you that is strictly a home movie that accidentally got support from mainstream distributors and made it to the theatres. The songs by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy are tortured beyond recognition, and every song-and-dance sequence begs for the FF button. Aishwarya Rai looks beautiful (and this observation supports my contention that she looks better in Western outfits), but continues to rule to roost as the perfect combination of beauty and a complete lack of acting talent. Filches galore ranging from MJ's Stranger in Moscow video, A Beautiful Mind, a faux Kal Ho Naa Ho device in the background track (jhuuT[sic] bolaa v/s galat ghar), a nod to the table sequence in Satte pe Satta. And there's even the classic language mix-o-rama with lines like "##answers##, jawaab Dhuu.NDh rahii huu.N". Also featuring pieces of wood (Suniel Shetty), and cute and clueless (Diya Mirza) [oh interestingly, given DM's presence in the film, I thought it was "cute" that Rai's character was named Diya ... ooh! so cute!!!]. The end credits feature outtakes (been there, seen that being flogged to death). And to top the vanity charts, débutante director (take my advice, open a paan stall) Sameer Karnik even drops a his name in the dialogues (a reference to Sameer Karnik's party). With all this, do I even need to say (explicitly) that this piece of Godzilla dung deserves all the Kiwi Dranex you can afford?

chot [September 26, 2004]

It is a sad state of affairs when talented actors like Ashutosh Rana get meatier parts in films that are destined to fade out of cinema halls just as quickly as they faded in. Rana is the only saving grace in this film that treads slightly familiar territory in a moderately different way: he is kishan yaadav, the leader of a horde of tabelaa folk whose establishment is in danger of being torn down to build a multi-storeyed complex. Added to the mix is the obligatory love angle featuring his younger brother and a news reporter. Muted are all the cuss words (despite the film being conferred an A certificate). Rana's great (IMHO) moment comes early on during the opening credits as he breaks into a spontaneous bare-bones aalaa on Prithviraj Chauhan. There's also this cool piece of allusion: when kishan yaadav is talking about his tabelaa to the minister, he uses the small paperweight with a national flag mounted on it and moves it over Jammu and Kashmir). And for those who miss taglines, please note that writer/director Nabhkumar 'Raju' did not forget: it's aaj isako ... kal tereko: a line uttered later on in the movie by Sharad Kapoor's corrupt violent cop).

rakht: the gift of blood [September 26, 2004]

Enough electronic ink has been expended in providing a blow-by-blow account of the transformation of Sam Raimi's film into this desi departure. The actual experience of viewing Mahesh Manjrekar's latest directorial venture is a picnic in Nitwit Nagar. Manjrekar manages to gather a cast of worthless souls and attempts to imbue rich reading into source material (story and dialogue: deepak kulkarni; screenplay: yash-vinay) that was strictly my-class-trip-to-the-zoo material. Sandeep Chowta's background music only confirms the grimness of the proceedings. And there's Shashikala cameoing loudly as daadii. The only grace lies in Abhishek Bachchan's cameo (the look and dance for kya mai.nne sochaa/one love is just about the only good thing in the film). Looks like the little B is making great strides and defining new benchmarks in the field of guest appearances. And the other little cute thing in this film about disturbed people is that in the garage you can hear the radio streaming Mukesh's rendition of the title song of another movie about a disturbed person Raat aur Din. Unintentional, clearly. And while the subtitles abound with rib-ticklers: Shivaji Satam says maanav tum se shaadii karanaa chaahataa hai and the subtitles go Manav wants to marry me. Then again ta.Dap\-ta.Dapakar marogii tum becomes you will write and die. As if to support the linguistic ineptitude on the outside, the film features the word bhuut scrawled as bhut. Before we depart into the sunset, was Rita Bhaduri's appearance as Drishti's(Basu) mother credited?

Thursday, September 23, 2004

spy game: all zip no zing

High-concept movie veteran Tony Scott helms Spy Game with blind ease. If you're looking for quick vacuous entertainment, look no further. This movie has all the sheen and zip you'd expect in a Friday night popcorn movie. Familiar conspiracy theory elements of paranoia, loyalty and betrayal are mixed with a fairly uncommon approach of using flashbacks for the majority of the film. Pitt and Redford don't share a lot of screen time, but their iconography does most of the work for them. There's a lot of product placement (Fujifilm, Coca Cola), naughty digs like "31 flavours", a sly use (although anachronistic) of the opening credits of Baywatch, and a variety of locations serving as alternatives (Casablanca, Morocco becomes Beirut; Shepperton Studios house the CIA office interiors). Brits David Hemmings and Charlotte Rampling enjoy small parts. The subtitles on the DVD go for a toss when the Dire Straits song Brothers in Arms becomes Soldiers in Arms (so much for irony). And there's another use of the vertigo zoom. For pure entertaining superficial product, look no further. Don't get me wrong though: it takes a great deal of skill and talent to execute a finely oiled piece of entertainment like this.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

bore bharaa veer-zaraa

veer-zaraa's music sucks - puke, puke, puke everywhere. is the email that hits my inbox. This is the first reaction I have seen to the soundtrack to Yash Chopra's new money-making Diwali release for 2004. The rediff review notes that the soundtrack is in "a class of its own!" (read: shelve separately, preferrably in a dark rancid corner). Just to recap: this is the soundtrack that cleverly takes the music-unfriendly money-hungry "creative" antics of HMV to the next level. The tracks are all tunes unused by the legend called Madan Mohan. Read the YRJ page dedicated to providing all the candy flush possible for this "special" 2 CD release, and, if you've been an ardent observer of the potty fodder classified as the "Revival" series (another attempt at remixing that attempted to call itself high-art), you'll see several familiar names. The most important name would be that of Madan Mohan's son Sanjeev Kohli (who, while at HMV, has been associated with some of the most murderous butchery and mockery of musical works ever seen). Given the ill-effects of MM's habits and lifestyle on his family, I would be tempted to see this as a subconscious exorcism of resentment on SK's part rather than a tribute. But then, that's an extreme view. Truth be told, there clearly is some awe for the genius of his father in him. However, his activities while at RPG/HMV/SaReGaMa are a strong indication of his musical loyalties. Now as the CEO of YRF (what could be worse, you tell me), SK gets a plum opportunity to deliver to the hapless Chopra fans (NRIs, North Indians, people who love mush-fests set against vistas of flaming sarson fields, people nursing soft-focus nostalgic visions of their motherland etc etc).

But I digress. As always. Armed with this mixed bags of reviews, I decided to sample the songs. A pointless exercise I must say. Remember quite a few years ago, if you happened to go to one of those "high-class" (well medium-high-class) fancy restaurants for dinner (hopefully someone else was paying!). Well, now remember the kind of soft strings-heavy melodies that wafted out as muzak? Well, this whole album has that vibe. Not to mention the ageless zombie-nightingale (who turns 75 on the 28th of September) Lata Mangeshkar (whose continued desire to keep singing and letting lose one capillary cannon-load of frequency missiles after another has forced me to lose respect for her immaculate singing abilities). And the usual bag of people I'd like to see marooned on a desert island (Udit Narayan, Alka Yagnik, Sonu Nigam). There's nary a trace of genius here. Everything sounds and feels lukewarm (aka: taken out of the fridge and left out too long to thaw). Like cold Maggi noodles.

An RMIM thread has more pearls of commentary including the inevitable "perhaps there was a reason these tunes were unused" and the magnificent dig "viir zardaa" (remember baba zarda?). Several Pancham fans have been excited at this venture, and hope that other people will take the lead and bring some of his numerous unused tunes to the general public. I think that's a great idea. But do it like Gulzar's tribute albums ... Leave the stuff in its original form. Bleargh! I wish I could sue for musical harrassment.

coda: hey, VZ is not as bad as I initially thought, half the problem was with the tape that i bought, [censored] fake! was the followup to the initial load of vitriol. This scares me. What if this soundtrack "grows" on you like ARR's soundtracks?

Another fawning review discusses the second CD (which features extracts from MM's original raw cuts of the songs) and notes This is the first time that we are actually made a part of the creative process in a movie soundtrack...Film music cannot get any more intimate and resplendent. Boo. Ever heard of the two Gulzar/Pancham tributes? Those had better packaging and quality too. Why? Because they didn't get some aging icon to shatter glass and render some gunk like this.

post-coda: On Friday, September 24, I joined a bunch of friends for dinner at Zyka, a local eatery that combines the fast-food/self-service ethic with a menu of familiars. And the muzak for the evening after the Main Hoon Na soundtrack was Veer-Zaara. And my reactions justified every ounce of bile I had dedicated to this album. If this is the future, it's time that nostalgia became cool again.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

nitpicking lakshya [trail: notes on the film]

An IM conversation with JR uncovered some trivia-friendly bits that I neglected to pursue with the expected fervour and hunger for the inconsequential. I'll deal with the second one first, because it's less trivial (aka more mundane). There's a point in the film when Karan asks his brother Udesh (working in the US of A) to check if the Jurassic Park DVD is out. We know that Farhan Akhtar's film takes place during Kargil 1999. Spielberg's film was released in 1993. That's a long time to wait for a DVD. Would this be an anachronism? IMDB's DVD details page clears things up for us. The first DVD release happened in 2000. Which would actually be a good thumbs-up for the goings-on in the film -- Karan is anxiously waiting for the DVD of the movie (and by the time it's out, he probably doesn't need it anymore).

Our first trivia morsel stems from the Aradhana book camp. A classic trivia nugget came from the moments during mere sapano.n kii raanii when Sharmila pretended to be reading a book on the train. Which book was it? Alistair Maclean's When Eight Bells Toll (although there have been furious debates on numerous fora -- including QuizNet -- about this). In this case, the question is: what book is Romila reading during the scene where Karan asks her what she likes about him... Yours truly is waiting for a response.

On a related alley, the technical aspects of the film continue to impress me. Having cranked out (no pun intended) the highest crane shot ever done for a feature film, DoP Christopher Popp had more information in a technically rich interview featured in the April 2004 edition of ARRI News [PDF link]. Therein are a few tantalizing photographs (and hopefully the DVD -- which has received good reviews for its mastering and transfer -- has more information) of the on-site shooting and the set constructed for the scenes where Karan and the rest of his team scale the peak. If only the film had done more resounding business back home. While the J C Pixies (J == Johar, C == Chopra) continue to be able to churn out mind-numbing Kelvin-IQ flicks , movies like this that can manage to sail along the waves of mainstream convention while telling a story well and using filmmaking resources to the fullest continue to have a hard time ...

On a non sequitur: two more posts see the light of day -- being thoughts on Sisters and Secretary.

bona fidaa boredom

Ken Ghosh should stick to directing music videos. If there's any sign that there was at least one brain cell operational during his second directorial venture Fida, it's during the songs (which were FF-friendly enough to almost force you to conclude that this was a hopeless effort). The plot does not lend itself readily for a direct-cog study. What seems to have happened is that scripters Mahajan and Mahajan (Lalit and Sunny respectively) sat down and watched several movies and decided to use the trustworthy Sumeet mixer to blend little Tuka.De from here and there. To use a tech analogy, it would be like downloading the source code for half-a-dozen projects on Jakarta, and filching stuff from different source files instead of simplying using the different libraries out-of-the-box. What struck me most about the film (which marks the return of clueless buddies Ghosh and Shahid Kapur) is how it structurally resembles Ishq Vishk: Cutie-face SK finds himself the target of one girl's affections (Amrita Rao/Kim Sharma) and hopelessly infatuated with another (Shehnaz/Kareena). The first flick used candy-floss collegiana to stuff the gaping holes (aka the rest of the average mainstream flick's film stock), and this one uses revolutionary[sic] ideas like computer hacking, film noir (a new genre, what?), revenge dramas, product placement (Nokia phones, at the very least), and cheeky nostalgia (at one point, Kim's character drops SK's character -- named Jai -- a line that goes shole ke viiruu jaise?). And perhaps Anna (a loud Akhilendra Mishra)'s cellphone ringtone (the theme from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly) was a dig at Anu Malik (who had ripped this off for a song in Beqabu). And did they mean for Akhilendra Mishra smashing his aide with a cricket bat as a dark dig at Lagaan? Somehow, these questions are as worthless as the film itself. Watch out for the Big Fish preview playing in a theatre. And then reward yourself by noting the typo in do mahine baad. And then, find a Colt and blow your brains out. Or better still, issue a supaarii in the names of Ken Ghosh and Co.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

zwei am freitag

Robert Altman's ensemble skills couldn't replicate the goings-on we were involved in on Friday evening. Myriad conversational threads covering what was currently playing on the currently selected TV channel, the state of the recently-cleaned carpet, the lack of munchies in the kitchen, the strains of songs streaming off from a desktop nestled in an inner room, discussions about the pop careers of Shweta Shetty and Suneeta Rao, bad movie line quotes from movies like Raat ke Saudagar and Julie, a sudden decision by a sub-group to go play some cricket (darkness had already set in for the evening), a kitchen-located pow-wow on emptying overflowing trash cans, a slab of peace as people cleared out, a steady stream of new music, the return of the triumphant sweat-drenched players, another flip-athon through TV channels as one of the group embarked on a mission to cook some exquisite chicken, and finally a twin movie marathon as the chicken vanished rapidly along with the bread and some rice.
The first film of the evening was Memphis Belle, a film about the final mission of a WW II bomber and its crew. First off, I must note that the genre of war movies is something I don't really care for. Probably because of the stench of predictable clichés that inundates your senses. Fundamentally, they all fit a pattern so boring, the only thing you can really do is exercise your knowledge of the technical details (the vehicles and weapons used, what "actually" happened, technical aspects of the film itself). This film is no different. It's about a bunch of Americans, and the clichés come pouring down like the rain that hit this city the day before. Each character is a repository of a given set of finite hackneyed attributes, and the most thankful task in the film is checking off the trite plug-and-play components as you go along. The only merit in this glossy fictionalization of "real" events comes from the human element in the whole thing. For people like us used to a world of vastly improved technological sophistication and automation, this look at the good ol' fashioned way of having to do things affords a certain appreciation.

Despite my emphatic warning cries, the DVD for Robert Altman's Gosford Park (ironic choice given our vastly superior and true-to-life ensemble early on) found its way into the player. Frankly and honestly, this film works only as another example of Altman's fetish (given J P Dutta's utter helplessness at even attempting a fraction of this, I'd have to use the word "ability" for Altman) for ensemble mayhem, and as a mix of a dissection of the English class system and an Agatha Christie whodunit. The "it" happens after a long while has been spent trying to get you acquainted with the characters (you could spend your time otherwise by checking off all the famous actors you can spot). The problem is that people got this DVD for the "murder mystery" tag and not for the "by Robert Altman" tag. Having endured this film at a greater cost in the darkness of a cinema hall (which augmented my appreciation of the sunlight when I walked out after the end credits), I indulged in my own "mystery science theatrics" while also helping people get over their confusion at the flood of names and faces. The technical merits (cinematography, sound, editing, screenplay, direction) are evident, but fail when you actually rented the film with a different assumption. It's a good study in Altman, but a bad mystery movie. And somewhere in there I even got some tea going while people slumbered and cursed through the verbiage. And I wonder if it's just me, but I never heard the title spoken even once in the film.

Friday, September 17, 2004

castle redux ... again

A significant slab of Roger Corman's work was his screen adaptations of E A Poe's works. And Roger was good with cheap shlock. Another guy who took shlock to new highs (seriously) was William Castle, whose shock devices accompanying his films are probably more famous than the films themselves. It was only with his production credit for Polanski's bone-chiller Rosemary's Baby that Castle gained critical respectability. But his canon of B-horror flicks have always been cult favourites. For some reason Dark Castle Entertainment decided to do a Corman/Poe on Castle and churned out remakes of his flicks. House on Haunted Hill is the second one I've seen (the first was House of 13 Ghosts). You needn't have seen the original to tell that this version is mostly lifeless (no pun intended). Admittedly there's a great upgrade on the technology front. And there are the obvious stereotypes. There's bad German. And there's homage too (Rush's character Stephen/Steven Price is named for Vincent Price, who starred in the original). And there's an interesting cover of Sweet Dreams by Marilyn Manson (a favourite of movies where green is a dominant colour?) on the soundtrack. There's a lot of fizz, in fact a flood-load. But there's no fear. It's all strictly by-the-numbers and for the $$$. Pity. Still, given that the outside was all pelting rain and blessed thunder and winds (Ivan was his name), this movie seemed appropriate.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

US-unfriendly titles from Bollywood

When I mean US, I mean people for whom Hindi is a foreign language (sadly that includes a lot of ABCDs -- no fault of theirs -- and a few wretched desis, who probably had fundamental issues with the language even before they migrated).

* Lakshya: Now from an ITrans POV, the English spelling of the title is correct. Pronouncing it correctly is admittedly tricky (especially given the jo.D at the end). But lakshay (The French Akshay?), the most popular adulteration[sic] , ain't getting any points. And the playful ghaaTii version (not counted of course, since it's intended only in fun) is lakshyaa. All in all, Farhan Akhtar's film got tongues all screwed up.

* Baghban: For a movie that scored big business (especially abroad, where a whole slew of expats went gaga over its clichéd family values[sic]), this one found no takers in the correct pronunciation department, despite a title song!! The erroneous version? baagh ban (A new type of ban waDaa? wild bread?). Yeargh!

* Sssshhh!: This one, to be fair, stumps every human being on earth. How on earth would you ask for this at your favourite video store? Prepare for a host of people going ROTFLMAO ...

Elsewhere on this blog, an old draft finally makes it to being an official post {being a collection of notes on the final Harry Palmer film and Mani Rathnam's second Hindi film}. Incidentally, another post makes it out of the trenches above -- reactions to In the Cut and Lakshya.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

a gift of blood [aka rakt kaa tohafaa]
Watched Sam Raimi's The Gift yesterday. Set (Brixon) and shot (Savannah, Thunderbolt, Springfield) completely in Georgia, this is a rather lukewarm unexciting tale of a psychic (Cate Blanchett) whose services are enlisted to find a missing young woman. The only merit in this film is clocking another bit of variety in Sam Raimi's ouevre. With a screenplay co-written by Billy Bob Thornton, the film accomodates a cast that is clearly qualified at playing people who can register the same level of emotion for happiness and sorrow (Blanchett, Greg Kinnear, Hilary Swank, Keanu Reeves). But there's Giovanni Ribisi who registers enough outbursts to compensate. And fans of Picket Fences will recognise Michael Jeter, and Rosemary Harris is now a familiar face thanks to Spider-Man 2. This is also your chance to catch composer Danny Elfman in a cameo as a fiddle player. The film is strangely ineffective in the thrills or the chills department. Not that I'm really concerned, though. The only reason I got this was to verify the floating hypothesis that Mahesh Manjrekar's latest "original" flick Rakht (as far as Hindi goes, I believe that's rakt, but who's bothered right? agnipath!). The evidence is evident (nice line, what?). I submit a version of the premise of Manjrekar's film, embellished with annotations from Raimi's film (italics for convenience).

Bipasha Basu (Cate Blanchett) plays a tarot card reader Drishti (get that? she can see the future! ROTFLMAO!) (Annie Wilson), who has an incredible abilty to predict future with her cards and forsee certain incidents much before they actually happen. She is a widow (likewise) with an 8-year-old boy (in the Raimi film she has three sons, but then Manjrekar clearly had budgetary reasons -- much better to have some wasteful songs and dances instead of a couple of extra child actors) .

Among Drishti's clients is Rhea (Valerie Barksdale) (Neha Dhupia) (Hilary Swank) , who is an abused wife seeking some help to find solution to her husband Sunny's (Donnie Barksdale) (Dino Morea) (Keanu Reeves -- but this is inspired casting, I say!) violent behaviour. Drishti advises Rhea to leave her husband. Her advice only angers Rhea's husband and he threatens Drishti with dire consequences if she did not stop counselling his wife.

Mohit (Buddy Cole) (Suniel Shetty) (Giovanni Ribsi) is a car mechanic, who is emotionally inclined towards Drishti. He is a slightly eccentric man because of his troubled childhood (sexual abuse by his father in the Raimi film -- wonder what it ends up being watered down to in the Manjrekar film ... probably some oldie extra whipping him with a VIP leather belt or something ... ).

Rahul (Wayne Collins) (Sanjay Dutt) (Greg Kinnear, who should sue methinks, for libel) is the principal of a school and is engaged to a beautiful woman named Natasha (Jessica King) (Amrita Arora) (Katie Holmes, vastly more beautiful than the strip-pole item number waalii) . Natasha is a fast (as in sports? intelligence? turnaround time?) girl with a sensuous demeanour (ROTFLMAO break). She is committed to Rahul (she is a relational database, yeah!). But then, she is also spotted in the embrace (embrace would be an understatement when it comes to what happens in Raimi's film) of a young man named Abhigyan (you have got to be kidding ... whose idea was this? David Duncan) (Himanshu Malik) (Gary Cole) at a party.

One night after a late party, Natasha goes missing. No one has any clue to where she is or what happened to her. Rahul seeks Drishti's help to find her.

Incidentally, the missing suffix for the complete title of Manjrekar's flick (no pun intended) is What If You Can See the Future. It will be. Yes, it will be. And yes, yours truly even noted the musical inanity of the trivia-friendly item number featuring Czech import item girl Yana Gupta (she should have stuck with the brownie points from the buffalo dance).

fresh off the blog

As if JR wasn't getting his fix after stuffing his fingers in myriad blogs all across the blogosphere, Sudarshan just uncovered a can of honest bile from the other side of the outsourcing tunnel. It's called Outsourcee, and believe you me, it's honest.

And that brings us back to JR's latest finger pie. A PuneTOI (Pune Times [of India(sic)] bile-a-thon imaginatively (and appropriately?) titled A Cruel Waste of Forests. Somehow it seems like an impolite sequitur to mention that (thanks to a kind email note from JR (again!)) the PTOI (pron: ptooey!) has a nice little article about the hitherto unsung (except in an esoteric fashion offering some competition to the secrecy of the freemasons -- and that has now become another inside joke too --) eclectic pursuits at the BC Lawns of COEP (currently going through an identity crisis following a change in appellation). The details for those of who who subscribe to the tree-killer are Page 17 of the Pune edition of the September 14, 2004 issue of the Times of India. The article is titled "Quiz Me If You Can". Incidentally, it pains me so to announce that the URL stems from the TOI E-Paper effort, which, in true TOI fashion, works only in Internet Explorer and you have to go through one of those sign-off-your-life registration deals (in simple speak: get an id). Call yourself Pappu Pager. Or Munna Mobile. Or Ipsitha Immobile. Or even Puny Thames. Who cares.

[more germane URLs may be found in JR's post]

Friday, September 10, 2004

julie: ek banaphuul ... i mean wild orchid

At one point in Julie (one of the new entrants in Bollywood's attempt at bold cinema -- a sham that attempts to wrap B-lascivious goodies in a mainstream plastic bag), Tara Ag(g)arwal (Achint Kaur, remember Banegi Apni Baat and Saaya)the host (hostess?) of the TV Show is mo.D pe aate hai.n is shooting more socially conscious promos of the next episode which will feature Julie in a bare-all mode (no pun intended). Her superior arrives and forces a pack-up insisting that the original titillating-and-loaded-with-shock-value promos will stay, despite Tara's arguments that their show has a responsibility for being socially aware and conscious. The same could be said, unfortunately, about the events that transpire later and bring up the if_I_didn't_own_this_TV_set_I'd_smash_it denouement. And it holds even truer to this film as a whole. I don't have very strong memories of B R Ishaara's Chetna (most of us will remember it as one of those "late Friday night" DD movies), but that might have been a lot better than this one. This film is exploitative, bland, badly scripted, badly acted, badly ... you get the point. But let's proceed with distilling the memorable good and bad.

The Good: The film opens with a nicely paced set of dissolves. As with most ephemerally satisfying fragments like this, the sequence has little or no bearing to or portent of the insipid tripe that is about to unfold. The opening credits appear in reverse order (and horrifyingly, the directorial credit appears on the last frame of Julie's flashback!): if I were to even wager the possibility of directorial intent, it would fit (marginally) the reversed structure of the film (begins in the present, relies on a flashback for its meat (no pun intended), and then returns to the present for a traditional yawn-inducing conclusion). A fragment of the background music features the sound sample that opens Khakee's excellent aisaa jaaduu Daalaa re (aurally, mind you; visually, that dance in the film only underscores the mawkish obscenity of Lara Dutta). An excerpt from the birds-on-a-wire sequence that precedes Finding Nemo in a movie theatre. The cool colourful shirt that Kiran Kumar gets to sport in the film.

The Bad: Aside from the inevitable hindi/english (and I thought the person subtitling this film was actually more qualified than the usual twerps!) mix [e.g. agar KudaKushii ##full stop## hai to Kud Kushii ##comma## hai, alpaviraam], the dialogues, credited to a certain Sanjay Pawar, rock the joint for inspired outrageousness. Take yaado.n kaa ##chloroform##, ##A/C effective(?)## nahii.n hai, aap kaa ##sleeveless## kuchh zyaadaa hii ##less## hai (I must say the combination of puns in that last one deserves an award), a comparison of someone's mother to a jellyfish(!), barf jaisaa Tha.nDaa ##helplessness##, mai.n ek aurat hone ke bajaay ek aam inasaan kii tarah pesh aa_ii (another plaudit please, ladies and gentleman), aag mere badan me.n lagii hai aur biskuT tum khaa rahe ho?, ham buraa_iyo.n ko miThaa_iyo.n kii tarah nigal lete hai.n, ##goldfish## ke ##colour## kii jalaparii. And then there's the shocking description of some cheap "poetic" tukke\-baazii that is described as a Gazal (subtitled: couplet!!), and then later as a nazm! Grief. Oh yes, must we note the TV soap reference in the phrase ##Julie## jaisii ko_ii nahii.n?

The Shameful: What's with the digital pixellation of hotel names? And what's with employing clichéd Goan accents and mannerisms? Grow up guys.

The Incongruous: mihiir shaa.nDilya (a dig at Chameli composer sa.ndesh shaa.nDilya? -- naah!) (another terrible turn by Priyangshu) has a vision of the time he spent with Julie (Neha Dhupia -- this quota system of getting models into movies must stop!! My eyes hurt. My ears ache. My bowels churn), except that the vision is all from a third-party camera POV. And then at one point Julie (metaphorically, it must be!) uses the phrase na.ngaa badan to describe her lingerie-clad body.

The Verdict: Keep such movies coming guys. Just don't claim that these are pushing the envelope (or whatever the etymologically more accurate version is) or raising the bar for Indian cinema. I remember a "social awareness" movie that had Aruna Irani living a second life of prostitution to support a family that didn't care to appreciate her sacrifices (also includes an Aastha-esque intimate scene featuring Aruna Irani, Amrish Puri and questionable sounds). And that one seemed more effective than this one. So convince yourself that you aren't capable of art, except the B-kind. And you'll be fine.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


Jonathan Glazer's Sexy Beast is about a retired gangster (well played by Ray Winstone) who tries hard to keep a promise he made to his wife. The problem is, you can't refuse Don Logan (Ben Kingsley in a powerfully evil and disturbing reading that destroys any image one would have had after having watched Gandhi). The cast is superb, the dialogue crackles (with Cockney gangsters whaddya expect?), and the pace is tight (the film length is a little shy of 90 minutes). The stylish intense character-driven film that opens with an overhead shot of plump "Gal" Dove lying on a beach chair in the hot Spanish sun and a voiceover that begins with "Oh Yeah! Bloody Hell!". The similarities between this film and Soderbergh's The Limey are most evident when Don gives Gal the backstory on the planned heist. And is the vertigo zoom (seen when Don Logan is at the airport) now getting more popular? This moody piece is highly recommended: for Kingsley's intense performance ("I'm playing a tomahawk missile", he notes on the commentary track), for the cool soundtrack (what with Dean Martin's Sway -- aka Quien Sera), and as a great entry in British contemporary gangster film.

Elsewhere: the Senses of Cinema page

addendum:[September 08, 2004] More insight from the commentary track on the DVD (Ben Kingsley and producer Jeremy Thomas). Director Glazer's description of the film ("a very very simple story about the redemptive power of love"). A Greek myth-style description of the film ("once upon a time, there was a man who thought he was very happy. So the Gods sent to him, the unhappiest man in the world"). That the phrase "my front bottom" owes a lot to the kind of rhetoric one hears from children, thus allowing a reading of the child in Don Logan. The small detail of a happy couple sitting in a restaurant with two separate menus, and the wife selecting something on the menu that the husband cannot find. And how the little details add up: the rabbit hunt, the dinner ruined by the news of Don Logan's visit, Gal's first dream (tinted in blue) as he sits with the kalimari (his choice for the aborted dinner) while a large rabbit rides up to him, Gal dining again (this time the food is real) and has a vision of the rabbit approaching except that this time it's Teddy.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

labouring with movies: aka reel life over Labour Day Weekend 2004

what could have been any different for me this time than last year? fewer movies, that's all.

saturday, september 04, 2004

Finally caught Hero on the big screen with a a group of friends yesterday and was glad to see that it lived up to my expectations. Both aurally and visually the film's expensive attention to detail and style pays off on the big screen. The general opinions about the film were mixed, and all the talk I heard in the crowd after the end credits began to roll indicated that people didn't think too much of Zhang Yimou's movie. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was mentioned in a couple of threads: I read somewhere that Hero intended, in part at least, to hit the same audience bracket as Ang Lee's West-friendly flick. Mercifully, this film eschews the sentimental mush of Lee's venture. And I didn't sense any attempt to claim something remarkably deep in the story, although I could be mistaken. The Rashomon-styled flashbacks with their different colour schemes are the strength of the film. And the lyricism of the fantasy is worth the price of the ticket. But was it ever unclear that this was a fantasy? A few stray complaints about "how do you expect us to swallow all those sequences with people flying and defying all the laws of Physics?" tell me that perhaps it was. However, both Newton and his theories came a lot time after this flick;)

sunday, september 05, 2004

Asambhav: The Impossible: Rajiv Rai's latest venture offers more proof that he has lost the accidental flair and zing evident in marginally better flicks like Tridev. Aside from giving us Viju Shah (credited here as well as in a rash of recent films as Viju Sha). Rai has been responsible for showering audiences with some of the worst scripts, dialogues, and acting this side of a lunar eclipse. His latest flick even had a warning in its title, but clearly no one paid attention. As if to remind us of our errors, the film opens with words flashing on the screen: "TERROR STRIKES ANYTIME ... ANYWHERE ... ANYONE..." In keeping with Bollywood's tendency to produce immature imitations of things seen in Hollywood flicks, Rai decides to combine Brian de Palma's favourite split-screen device with a bad trip. The result is a 2.35:1 screen split further into smaller vistas, each bearing indistinct visuals and unreadable credits (the screen is split into three horizontal bands; the central band is split vertically;
the left pane has a sequence of stills of the actors; the right
pane has their names). Is this a subtle plug for the zoom feature available on most DVD players? That Rai is completely blinded by false notions of his abilities as an auteur is evident from a screen credit that reads "story and original concept: rajiv rai". Watch the end credits carefully, and you'll even notice a singing credit for him!

Before we proceed to a detailed analysis[sic] of this masterpiece [sic] here's the gist of the goings-on: The Indian PM (Mohan Agashe) on vacation in Switzerland is held hostage (covertly), to be used as exchange contraband between terrorist organizations. An undocumented algorithm for choosing the best candidate to devise a rescue plan shockingly selects Captain Aadit Aarya (Arjun Rampal), who proceeds to take his own sweet time messing around with song n' dance routines, comic interludes, bad hamming and general smirking and muscle flexing before doing the impossible (whadda pun!).

We begin our analysis with plot devices. Most songs serve perfunctory purposes that are well-defined in the unwritten classic Bollywood Filmmaking for Dummies. We choose some rare nuggets instead. Question: How do you prove that you are willing to accept the risk of losing your life in a dangerous mission? Answer: Quote your father's rank and position and mention that he achieved viiragatii in some significant skirmish (in this case 1971). Question: How do you provide subtle proof that you invested zero time units in background research for this movie? Answer: Have the top brass in the movie provide a code name like "asambhav" (impossible) for a covert mission. (Don't they usually choose positive morale-boosting names like Vijay? Imagine naming your next mission Operation Paraajay!). Question: How do you make a weak attempt at masking the fact that you are a member of the club that filches the variable film-speed technique? Answer: Design a composite based on cogs from different movies (The Matrix, Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, 13 Ghosts, Resident Evil). Task: Design a naach-gaana sequence that will (a) satisfy the north-indian audience (b) indicate that the lead pair are officially in love (c) allow you some level of pitiful creativity. Solution: The song "goliyaa.N", which (a) uses words and beats common to the clichéd notion of popular Punjabi numbers, (b) conveys through trite visuals the adequate level of hornia exhibited by the hero and heroine, (c) serves as an exercise in finding as many words ending in "yaa.N" as possible (ranging from the simple saiyaa.N, baiyaa.N, goliyaa.N, goriyaa.N, chhaiyaa.N, paiyaa.N to neologisms like muskaiyaa.N). Question: Provide another example of a famous filmic device filched from abroad. Answer: The use of recursive mirrors for Parmar (Yashpal Sharma) pondering the identity of the traitor atthe embassy. One must also note that "chaahe bhar de jholiyaa.N" comes with the subtitle of "give in to me". Alert ears will note that the background score (sample-master Viju Sha again) borrows merrily from Carmina Burana and Deep Purple's synthesizer riffs. The end credits mark the climax of Rai's fetish for the split-screen device: the credits roll over a background with three panes nested inside the main frame, with the left and right panes featuring fragments from the shooting, playback recording and rehearsals (what? Rehearsals??).

We now move on to acting achievements. This will be a very short segment. The only person who seems to enjoy himself in the film is (predictably) Rai favourite Naseeruddin Shah, who gets to play a superficially cool arms runner called Sameer "Sam" Hans (and even gets to belt out a song on the soundtrack). Arjun Rampal never had any acting abilities, and should move to being a stunt double in zombie movies. Priyanka Chopra ends up looking a lot like Parveen Babi and should also consider a career move like the one recommended for Shri Rampal. Ramsay movie favourite Rajesh Vivek shows up as a verse-spouting "Panditji" at the Indian Embassy in Switzerland. One must note at this point that it is really shameful to see how the Indian Embassy and its staff are depicted in this film (mercifully, people will realise that this is all fiction -- it's only a movie, it's only a movie, it's only a movie). Milind Gunaji is miscast yet again as a terrorist leader called Ansari. Mukesh Rishi deserves a special award for providing a nearly flawless imitation of Kiran Kumar. Tom Alter appears yet again to play some firang. This time he's called Brian, and his dying words are "hail hail mother mary jesus". Given that this is a Rajiv Rai film you have characters with strange names like Yousan Baksh (Mukesh Rishi), Dibraal (Arif Zakaria), and Rafiq Maabros.

We now move on to (un)cool sequences. A clear candidate for the B-movie archive is the sequence where the Premiere (Agashe) tries to provide hints to Aarya (Rampal) about his being held hostage. Another classic indication of this being a rank reeking bad film is the presence of scenes where people congregate in a loose line or semi-circle and wait for their turn to interject with a few lines of dialogue that they have been assigned. Another sequence involves two women assassins shooting each other as their targets move aside.

The only two honestly cool aspects of the film were: (a) the use of a chainsaw (b) the content of the video-taped broadcast by the terrorists that comprised a reference to Daniel Pearl and even a line that ended with (translated) "... we will also break an international treaty just like America did".

And finally, cool bits of dialogue. How about the badly-in-need-of-a-diction-checker line "apane aa.Nkh se dekhakar aa rahii huu.N"? We have cheap poetry with "aap ne jab se kiyaa ##nuclear## vispot/tab se pa.Dosii desh kaa chhuuT gayaa la.ngoT". And there's a touch of the double entendre with "aur pratiikshaa mat karavaaiye naa pa.nDitajii, baahar [pause] nikaaliye naa".

Garv: Pride and Honour: Movie heavy Puneet Issar decides to change the spelling of his name to Punit Isarr and makes his directorial début with this loud Veergati-esque drama-emotion-violence-revenge snorefest (coincidentally starring Salman Khan). Any attempt to describe the waste of film and human resources in this film would be another waste of time. It's appalling that there are wealthy idiots (is that even a contradiction in terms?) willing to shell out dough to back pathetic attempts at filmmaking like this. And how can you encourage someone who had nary a shard of prowess in filmmaking to make his directorial début?? There's more of that slapdash film-speed altering gimmickry that now seems like a visualisation of the vinyl scratching that DJs indulge in. And there's Rajpal Yadav hamming gloriously as an informer called 555 (in devanaagarii of course). The vocals on Aadesh Shrivastava's background score continue to employ fragments that remind me of puuryaa dhaanashrii. Avid subtitle mongers (also fans of Bollywood courtroom sequences) can relish the fact that the words "your honour" are subtitled as "mi lord". And you have enough bad dialogue. A few samples: gaay ko kabhii apane bhaarii pa.Date hai.n??; vo hamaare kamiiz pha.De jaa rahe hai.n aur tuu kahataa hai kii tamiiz me.n rahe.n?; puliis\-waalaa huu.N ko_ii duudh\-waalaa nahii.n; abbe deshapaa.nDe, tuu to bistar pe pa.Dii solah saal kii lau.nDii kii tarah ghabaraa rahaa hai ...; khuubasuuratii Dhakii hu_ii zyaadaa achchhii lagatii hai; mai.n maut ko takiyaa aur kafan ko chaadar banaakar oDhataa huu.N. And despite using heavy words like narasa.nghaar (massacre) and kaulaa maal (virgin), they can't get their basic genders straight: sarakaar hamaarii aur sa.ntulan tumhaarii. And there's a classic bad scene too: This goon called yeDaa (debutante Stephen Fernandes) is in the process of threatening a producer called Chopra. He pours bullets into a glass of whiskey, a glass of soda and a glass of water. He then offers these as choices (along with a "direct" option), asking the producer how he'd like his bullets. And to round it all up we have exhibits for dumb-repetitive-action-for-protagonist (SK tracing out an X to all whom he threatens), dumb-acronym (maap-po-se meaning "maharashtra police sevaa" -- god knows how they came up with "maa"!), and dumb-CMM-terminology (D-final meaning "death final" -- bone chilling!). If you're thinking of sending in letters to "Reader's Don't Digest" don't bother. Take a chaTapaT chuuran tablet, an ampule of liquid Anacin, and go watch a Joginder movie.

Death Wish III: This is the first movie in the Charles Bronson common-man-as-vigilante series known for its violence and interesting choices for music directors (Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Page). Page does the honours on this venture (playing both electric guitars and synthesisers), and there were a few interesting cues. The film itself feels like a lot of those 80s follow-up ventures that took the characters introduced in the first flick, sucked out all need for character development, and dove straight into the business with a cold distanced approach that (at least in this case) gave the goings-on a slight video game quality. I wasn't completely thrown off by the movie, and the violence was disturbing. What was even more disturbing was the locality the action was set in. It's always interesting to see the "lesser" side of a country that trumpets its prosperity and progress and labels itself as a land of opportunity when the basic problems of poverty and crime remain just as unsolved as back home in India.

monday, september 06, 2004

Prarambh: the beginning is a minor piece of filmmaking starring Vijay Raaz and Gauri Karnik (and a narrative voiceover by Goga Kapoor) and would fall into the genre of the small movies made during the 80s and 90s dedicated to some social cause. Raaz and Karnik play sparring scheming temple mendicants in this flick that even gives Raaz a chance to claim a singing credit. The source of the narrative is a short story by Late Shri Jayanti Dalal (any background information would be helpful). The film is a straight piece of work and betrays a made-for-TV approach to a certain extent. Wonder if the rash of this and other minor movies in the recent past is a trend.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

bound by danger

The present: Govind Menon achieves mainstream cult infamy [sic] with a cheap badly-written Love Story ripoff called Khwahish, which made its mark in Bollywood not for (a) the terrible performances by two people whose time was best spent on the ramp or in classy red light areas (Himanshu Malik and Mallika Sherawat aka Reema Lamba respectively) or (b) the terrible songs, which invited an excoriation of the FF button or (c) juvenile lines like I'm feeling horny, which were supposed to herald the new modern cosmopolitan sensibilities of the mainstream audience, but for the 17 kisses (someone actually counted!) it featured.

Flashback: Govind Menon claims to have achieved a place in trivial history by participating in what he asserts is the first scene in Indian film to feature cannibalism. Having trumpeted his cameo in KALAPANI thus, he then proceeded to helm a film called Danger [you can run but you can't hide] {how's that as an entrant in the English_title: English_suffix list}. Menon probably had a crystal ball that told him his future was in ripping off foreign works. Vasant Chheda, who achieved minor brownie points for financing Dev Benegal's bleak cynical Split Wide Open, spent several nights watching a nice little noirish thriller from the Wachowski brothers called Bound and adapting the elements for the desi turf. Chheda and Menon had a fallout on the final product, whose sole merit lies in the complete absence of narrative-shattering songs or dances. What is left is a small credit for direction dedicated to Govind Menon, but several for Vasant Chheda (he presents the film, he is responsible for the script, screenplay and dialogues, he produced the damn thing, and co-directed it!). And yes, he even stuck in an end credit reading "a film by vasant chheda". Good grief! Ashutosh Rana noted the precision and detail in the script as being a plus. He praised its level of completeness. Seeing that it was a calculated ripoff, I don't see what else one would expect. Unless one had not seen Bound. In fact, it's only if you haven't seen Bound that you would find elements of merit in this sorry flick. Chheda takes out the lesbian twist in the former and replaces it with a stale sucky whore-falls-for-jailbird-who-speaks-the-worst-street-slang-ever subtext, complete with several mouth-to-mouth chummaa-chaaTii that irks. Tara Deshpande plays Jennifer Tilly's counterpart (I'd really like someone to confirm my worst fears that someone else dubbed for her!), and Gina Gershon is transformed into the vastly undertalented Jas Arora. And Joe Pantoliano's wired mob accountant becomes Ashutosh Rana's Nainesh Vohra, a bania on a high wire. Another trivia-friendly name pops up on the music and background score credit. Who can forget "Whosane?", whose fame came not from his music but from his brief fling with Manisha Koirala. All attempts at style fall flat on their face. And would this be the first film to feature the words "oral sex" and "cunnilingus" on screen (albeit in the pages of a porno mag)? There are cuss words strewn across its landscape: melyaa and bhaaD*** make it -- others don't. Like I said, no merit of any kind. Perhaps as a measure of originality, the makers decide to put in a Sunset Boulevard-styled flashback-based narrative, which decides to break a promising sequence of events with a backstory that begs for the FF button. Look carefully and you might even spot them filching the lovely opening to David Lynch's Wild at Heart. Oh yeah, wait for the end credits, and you can sit through another in-joke. Producer Bhai, the sole song on the soundtrack (which actually exists, I kid you not) has a North-Indian producer talking about plagiarism, sex, and his next flick, Danger II. Mercifully, that never got made. And in case you were wondering about acting merit, the only person who plumbs a few minor points is shishir sharma as sarfaraaz paThan. As for cool moments, check out Ashutosh Rana's kyo.n sequence, which is probably the closest we'll get to a desi equivalent of Shatner's Khan in The Wrath of Khan. And now for some cool lines: chaayalaa, charabii tere baaDii pe aisaa laTakelaay jaise baniye kii dukaan pe DalaDe kaa Dibbaa and jab lagii phaTane to khairaat lagii baTane. And B-movie lovers will love the possibly unintentional nod to Bappi Lahiri with a club called Night Lover as well as the fact that sarfaraaz bhaaii's favourite intoxicant is VAT 69!

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