Sunday, October 31, 2004

ICMS 2004 ends

* when: Saturday, October 30, 2004

* where: The Georgia Tech Student Centre Theatre

* who: pt suresh talwalkar (tabalaa: tuned in the lower register giving us the effect of a pakhaawaj), ramdas palsule (tabalaa), sameer dubley (vocal), pt sudhir phadke (sitar)

miscellaneous highlights

* sameer dubley, the speaker for the group, noted that the introductions were the shortest that they had had on this tour

* he also introduced the pieces presented (the best I have seen since I started attending the ICMS concerts), and also provided explanations about the different improvisations attempted

* he also noted the uniqueness of using vocal (instead of saara.ngii) to accompany tabalaa performances

the programme

1. excursions in diipacha.ndii taal with vocal/sitaar melody in raag yaman, which included anaaghaats, and taal improvisations by dividing the beat cycle into 8 and then later into 6 {while the spinal melody and rhythm maintain the 14-beat cycle}

2. improvisations in drut ek taal with the melody in raag shyaam kalyaan

INTERMISSION: wherein CDs by the artists (including Pt Talwalkar's Taal Kalpana produced at Shivaranjani Studios in Pune, and Dubley's 2-disc instruction to raags)

2. [sudhir phadke on sitaar; ramdas palsule on tabalaa] Short and light exercises in improvisation: the first in raag maa.Nj khamaaj {alaap; gat in diip cha.ndii} and the second in raag rasiyaa {madhya and drut in tiin taal}. During the end of the presentation, sudhir phadke (who almost inhumanly remained as a paradigm of time during all the crazy temporal percussive adventures during the show) recovered seamlessly from several pitfalls including a string breaking off and a string going ever-so out-of-tune during a furious pre-coda riff-o-rama (he effortlessly switched to another riff)

4. all the performers returned to the stage to present two compositions in raag bhairavii {where the vocalist was denied room to improvise}. The first composition (bhavaanii) was in jhap taal (10 beats) and the second (jaa jaa re jaa) in drut tiin taal.

Both Pt Talwalkar and Ramdas Palsule participated vocally with counts, bols, and even singing along with the vocalist on occasion. It was evident that everyone on stage was enjoying the improvisations and Pt Suresh Talwalkar's exhuberant frenzies on stage were a sight -- he was all pumped up like a dancer restricted by the need to sit cross-legged. This performance ranks right up there with (and might even supersede) splendid percussive coda last year.

Friday, October 29, 2004

misc bits

After deciding to flash skin and assets to family audiences and mix this with the usual generous blend of dance-o-rama and emotion, Bollywood seems to have taken the next step in its multi-point programme to clone Hollywood and even surpass it: trailers with English voiceovers (for a funny take on this, check out the preview for Jerry Seinfeld's Comedian). The movie: Aitraaz. This brings together the showman[sic] Subhash Ghai and dilute-duplication duo Abbas-Mastan: in a world of/with women, you either play by their rules, or .... Or what? ... nothing. from mukta arts limited, and director duo abbas mustan [pron: abbaas mustaan] comes another [what context please?] gripping tale of a woman who wouldn't stop at anything to get her man [yawn!] and a woman [shot of kareena kapoor ... now we know this is a horror/comedy] who would not let her have him ... ai_traaz [for best results: pronounce 'ai' like Mithun would!]

There are more and more reports of Priyadarshan's next directorial venture (his latest, Hulchul -- not to be confused either with the O P Ralhan flick or the Ajay Devgan/Kajol starrer -- is about to hit the screens ... and I'm sure it's a local/foreign rip-off). Although touted as a remake of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest with Salman Khan standing in for Jack Nicholson (deep breaths in, deep breaths out), I contend that this is simply a remake of his Malayalam remake of the Foreman flick Thalavattam, something he has been meaning to do for a long while now. [more Priyan rants and a detailed rip-ography].

reading, reading, reading

A recent decent haul from the public library seems to have made me Eco-unfriendly [explanation]. But I must acknowledge that before I left off on The Name of the Rose I was pleased by the rich writing (which makes it a good translation from the original Italian -- how faithful it is to the original language remains to be seen, but it works well in English, which is what really matters).

There's The director's event; interviews with five American film-makers: Budd Boetticher, Peter Bogdanovich, Samuel Fuller, Arthur Penn, Abraham Polonsky by Eric Sherman and Martin Rubin. This is followed by Steven Soderbergh : interviews edited by Anthony Kaufman. Ben Sidran's Ben Sidran : a life in the music falls in the category of "I was browsing around and picked this off the shelf", and looks like it is destined to return to the shelves sooner than expected. I'm almost through The Ig Nobel prizes : the annals of improbable research. But the leader of the pack is a book that brings up stuff very close to my heart, and is an extremely delightful and insightful read: Lynne Truss's Eats, shoots & leaves : the zero tolerance approach to punctuation.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

marta tv

I step into the bus that takes me from the train station to my workplace and-- lo! -- there are three flat-panel TV screens up and playing animated multiple-choice trivia, running ticker ads at the bottom, presenting news in dark text against a mostly dark background, secular videos featuring different ethnic communities, and reminding you that this is the Transit Television Network. I must applaud Marta on this splendid move to improving service. After all, the first thing that people in need of a good public[sic] transportation system would ask for is flat-panel closed-circuit(is it really closed?) television. Yeah, right on. Given the inevitable incumbent bankruptcy, they probably want to go down with a blast (no pun intended).

Monday, October 25, 2004

ab...bas![caveat:not a hiccup-y invocation of either the late filmmaker or a contemporary talented screenplay/dialogue writer]

The sleaze piles up like a thanksgiving turkey flood of rancid dung. After other seemingly innocuous titles like Murder (the farthest thing on the minds of the filmmakers and audience alike), Girlfriend (at least there was a hint in the title of this unbearable mess), and Julie (then again...), Hawas (aka this is not a children's movie), we now have Ab...Bas! (ROTFL at ease and relish the irony) starring[sic] hunk number 56 (bearing the moniker of Shawar -- pronounced shower? -- Ali) and expressionless overrated model Diana Hayden (whose turn in Tehzeeb should have convinced anyone with half-a-peanut-sized-brain that she had as much talent as a wet piece of wood ...). The film, to quote Hayden baa_ii, is a dream role for any aspiring actress and I feel it to be the best launching pad that can ever happen. A few tra-la-la's later, you return to catch the preview for this woman-oriented (I kid you not, this is what they say) flick. It's woman-oriented all right ... ogle away as Mr Bathroom and puffy-middle-aged-faced dayaa-naa madam cavort about in fake faux erotic poses and clinches (makes the connubial bliss of roaches seem like a work of art). And then you hear a catchy melody (which, of course, does not match the goings-on at all!). Another mai.nnuu tere naal rip-off, you scream! This must be Anu Malik (who was responsible for bhiige ho.nTh tere, and even had the audacity to go about preening about his genius ... ye gad!). However, it's his younger brother ... another vastly derivative scion of not-very-prodigious Sardar Malik, who has decided to do what ba.De bhai_yaa left asunder ... oops unfinished ... rip-o-rama galore. Bring on the sleaze, please.
lowbie fun ... unanswered questions and a visitor from outer space

The unimaginatively titled Phantom from Space makes a DVD début courtesy Alpha Video Classics. The print quality is suspect, and there aren't any special features. But the flick itself boasts several aspects of merit: no explanations are offered; as soon as the opening credits roll off, you are plunged into the action; and even after the film has ended, we have no answers, we just have a close encounter of the third kind to ponder. Budgetary constraints seem evident when a voiceover provides an explanation of the dragnet set up to catch the alien in the latter half of the film. And there's the tapping code (another unexplained motif). This is like The Day the Earth stood still minus the convenient explanations. And this is Close Encounters of the Third Kind minus the SFX gloss and soaring moments of emotion. A simple low-B flick that was more engaging than I thought it would be. As always, don't expect scientific coherence:)

Saturday, October 23, 2004

the soundtrack of raincoat

Quick notes on a wonderful breath of fresh music (mostly). Hope the film manages to keep my positive impression about Rituparno Ghosh intact, despite the presence of la femme Rai.

Excellent guitar throughout.

* mathuraa nagar (shubha mudgal): pilu?

* piyaa toraa (hariharan): maru bihag? yaman?

* piyaa toraa (shubha mudgal): with poetry by gulzar

* raah dekhe (shubha mudgal): should qualify as a maajhi song just for the immediate mood evoked ...

* akele ham nadiyaa kinaare (shubha mudgal): another qualifier? even the lyrics help us ... there's nadiyaa, kinaare, and even maajhii. yup.

* hamaarii galiyaa.N ho ke aanaa (meena mishra, dominated by a chorus): sounds like sapna awasthi's banno terii a.Nkhiyaa.N from DUSHMANI. and then as S says, there are a million songs like this. true. unfortunately. strict product, perhaps. more pilu.

* jug jiye (meena mishra, dominated by a chorus): very very typical. jis kii biiwii etc etc. skip.

* the sad (no pun intended) version of hamaarii galiyaa.N. skip.

I'd recommend getting it just for the hariharan (doesn't sound much like his usual self) and shubha mudgal tracks.

imdb corrections

Yay! The corrections I had submitted for Vishal Bharadwaj's entry in IMDB have been accepted. I just submitted another correction for "Krishna Cottage", which should take care of the confusion between him and Vishal Dadlani (the Vishal in Vishal-Shekhar). This explains why the lady introducing Maqbool at the High Museum earlier this year mixed the two up: her "research" was IMDB.

The recipe: mix The Fast and the furious (and its source Point Break), MI2, Ocean's 11, The Man with the Golden Gun; add the "new Bollywood" elements (cleavage, salacious dances); add the regular Bollywood elements (songs, bad dialogue, bad acting); add the "this makes the movie different" bits (excessively stylish lame-brained stunts, pathetic editing, and a general lack of balance). What we get is the bolder-than-most-mustard-field-love-fests Yash Raj Films product Dhoom. It's easier to deal with the acting department -- Abhishek Bachchan manages (once again) to add some seriousness to his wafer-thin role. However, the legacy of his father's [now questionable] ability to rise above material that reeked is evident. And when Abhishek has his drunken scene he picks tips from the great roles of his father. With his voice and the fabulously unreal flying acts in the second half, Uday Chopra can now proudly bear the moniker of the castrated Jonathan Livingstone Seagull. The women serve only as objects to be ogled at ... and La Femme Sen makes sure that salivating voyeurs stay on in the theatre for the rest of this flick (and sticks to fast Bengali and bad Hindi for the rest of her time on screen). The producers exhibit smart thinking by putting the best song (the title song) in the second half, although the untalented and malformed Esha Deol ("Dharmendra in a bikini" screamed a friend as she rose out of the waters a la Honeychile Rider) destroys the magic of the title song, and a much better music video pops up during the end credits [more about that piece of eye candy]. Salim-Sulaiman's background score cannot overcome the doddering foundation of crappy dialogue, where no attempt is made to even imbue any character with more than a fractional dimension. As for the rest of the soundtrack, squeaky-voice Chopra gets to do an ek laDakii bhiigii bhaagii sii.

The film also makes no assumptions about audience intelligence. Note the extremely dumbed-down B-grade explanation for the custom-made bikes that John Abraham's biker gang employ.

The only conclusions you can draw from this movie are: (a) the world is full of stupid people (b) some people are more stupid than others (c) some idiots were so smart that they managed to fool a whole slew of idiots to shell out valuable rupaiyaa-dollari for a exercise in inappropriate exposure (of footage). That this film was a hit only speaks volumes for the kind of progress that lobotomy-Bollywood-style has made.

Friday, October 22, 2004

how not to rename a film on re-release

The DVD for The Trollenberg Terror (more info) bears the title The Crawling Eye. Everything else including the censor certificate bears the original title. The film (evidently a spin-off from a TV show) is a fairly engaging bit of good ol' sci-fi-esque horror -- strange decapitations by a radioactive cloud hovering near the top of the Trollenberg mountain, a telepath, and the unfortunate laughable cliché of the American superstar/hero who has all the brain and brawn while everyone else (read: every other European) (including eminent scientists) seems at their wit's end. The writing's merits stem from Jimmy Sangster, a familiar name from the Hammer horrors. And the film benefits from the Tourneur-esque "less is more" approach, except when the monster is finally revealed -- it's a large eye with tentacles (the ideal reaction would be a nod of appreciation at the effectiveness of the construction as well as a round of ROTFL). And with the revised title of The Crawling Eye, you lose out on anything that they were building up to. As with most of these old invasion horrors, the denouement is quick and terse. Stanley Black provides some appropriately chilling background music. The opening credit sequence begins as a train enters a tunnel. Against the dark background, arrows slide in along the X and Y axes to point to credits (which begin in white letters and later move on to collections in black against grey-filled boxes). When Anne (the telepath) suddenly begins to insist that they break their train journey at Trollenberg instead of going on to Geneva (their original destination) and stop at the hotel Europa (a place she has never heard of or been to), the first thing that popped into my head was a similar sequence (with different motivations, of course) from Kudrat with Hema Malini. No further comparisons intended, clearly.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

another random online personality assessment

You are .gif Sometimes you are animated, but usually you just sit there and look pretty.
Which File Extension are You?
matrimonial miThaa_ii

Raj Kaushal follows up Pyar Mein Kabhi Kabhi with Shaadi ka Laddoo. Music directors Vishal-Shekhar return with another bag of lightweight tunes, including an interesting ("spring of 2004") version of musu musu haasii (which unfortunately doesn't feature on the soundtrack release!). Sanjay Suri seems poised to be for this century and the upper crust what Amol Palekar was for the good old middle class in the 70s and 80s. Ashish Choudhury redeems himself of some of the sin of Girlfriend, and even wins special points for the eruption of laughter on the bench (his reaction when Suri's indiscretion becomes public). And Divya Dutta sinks comfortably into another role with ease. There's a lot of Rang Birangi you can think of, and there are extended quotes from Sholay's ye dosatii ham nahii.n to.De.nge, The Pink Panther theme, kabhii kabhii mere dil me.n and the Bond theme. Pepsi gets shameless promotion. Tons of silly lines (e.g. jis tarah chaa.Nd se bichha.Dakar chakorii, aur thaalii se bichha.Dakar kaTorii alag nahii.n rah sakatii.... And there's the following classic moment:

SS: excuse me, do you speak english?

DD's uncle: haa.N

SS: good, where is XXXX street?

The film wasn't as bad as I had feared it might be. Nigar Khan has been in the news for other forthcoming ventures, and one can only shudder. Mandira Bedi manages the looks and personality department, but this isn't a role to judge acting abilities with. On the whole, this ain't a bad way to sit back and enjoy some old-fashioned light humour. Now if only I could get that version of musu musu somewhere ...And using outtakes for end credits is getting kinda tired, isn't it?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

learning to be a man by becoming a bear ... and the end of jungle terror

Disney's Brother Bear marks another of their ventures into "original" stories (aka not based on popular fairy tales). The story is engaging and the songs are often entertaining. The makers use an interesting filmic device (a device that seems to be a retort to television's deplorable panning and scanning of movies). The film begins in 1.85:1 and switches to 2.35:1 when Kenai becomes a bear. Other recent uses of varying aspect ratios include Kill Bill Vol II and The Incredibles (a reference from the future as it were, since this film hit theatres in December 2004). Watch the credits carefully and you'll see the name Nancy Cartwright (Bart Simpson) in the list of voice coaches. The song accompanying Kenai's transformation was translated into innuit and then performed by the Bulgarian women's choir. And stick around for the end credits to see Koda talk to the camera (in accordance with all federal and state wildlife regulations no fish were harmed during the making of this film), while, in the background, a bear is chasing fish to death; the film ends with a blackout and a bear's belch.

The news that Veerappan was finally captured and killed seemed to add a touch of irony to my recent viewing. All things considered now, I wonder what happens to RGV/Shimit Amin's Let's Catch Veerappan?

Monday, October 18, 2004


Hazaar Chaurasi ki Maa treads familiar territory (Ek Din Achanak) with its premise: the departure of a close family member triggers an evaluation of self, relationships and society. Govind Nihalani's adaptation of Mahasweta Devi's novel is a welcome reminder that he is still capable of good filmmaking (although this 1997 film was followed up by a spate of unsatisfactory mainstream-friendly works beginning with Thakshak and culminating in Dev). Jaya Bachchan made a second comeback and delivers a splendid interpretation of a mother who begins to come to terms with the loss of a son she thought she knew everything about. Joining the band of talent are Anupam Kher, debutantes Joy Sengupta and Nandita Das (although she gets an "introducing" credit here, I wonder if this was her first film), Seema Biswas, and other familiar faces like Milind Gunaji, Mona Ambegaonkar, and small-to-tiny turns from the likes of Bhatki Barve, Sadia Siddiqui, Lovleen Mishra (remember chuTakii from Hum Log?), Aditya Srivastava, Yashpal Sharma, and Rajesh Khera (the ill-fated smoker in Darna Mana Hai). Govind Nihalani even gets another shot at tackling the superficial gaseous vapidity of the upper class with the engagement party (see also: Party). There's a lot of dialogue in the film, as well as moments that benefit from their silence. At one point in the film, when Nandini (Nandita Das) tells Sujata (Jaya Bachchan) about the need for her to make the effort to understand her son, Jaya retorts "is rishte me.n bhii koshish, na.ndinii?". That is the essence of this tale.

More junket material

Sunday, October 17, 2004

duniyaa kal jalatii hai, aaj jal jaa_e, maachis chaahiye, mai.n de duu.Ngaa

[being my thoughts on Sangharsh]

RGV officially calls his shop The Factory (at work). The rejuvenated commercially-aware Mahesh Bhatt actually seems to be running a factory ... of rip-off specialists. His protégé Tanuja Chandra is a case in point. Her directorial début Dushman (which introduced the mainstream world to the capabilities of an actor called Ashutosh Rana, chose Eye for an Eye to Bollywood-ize (with doleful songs from Uttam Singh sung by pathos specialists Jagjit Singh and an agelessly aging Lata Mangeshkar; a strongly vintage wooden performance by Sanjay Dutt as a blind army officer; and Kajol barely making it to the finish line of sobriety as twin sisters). This time around she chooses a much more familiar movie. And a very unlikely candidate. It's almost as if Bhatt had thrown her an over-dinner challenge to do something like this (see also: Howard Hawks making To Have and Have Not solely to show that he could make a good movie out of one of Hemingway's worse books). The choice: The Silence of the Lambs. The task of creating a potent gruel of source elements and destination clichés (aka the script) lies in the capable hands of Mahesh Bhatt. He takes Clarice Starling's gnawing memory that gives the film its title and converts it to Reet Oberoi's(Preity Zinta, looking plump and innocent, and still feeling her way about -- aah the good old days) fear of the dark (a fear linked to the death of her revolutionary brother on the night of his birthday). He takes the cold evil enigmatic character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter and creates a for-the-gallery object-of-Reet's-fantasy Professor Aman Verma (Akshay Kumar hamming away with a funny moustache). And Buffalo Bill is developed into what could have been an interesting character but ends up being a loud ill-baked decrepit piece of expired pastry called Lajja Shankar Pande (Ashutosh Rana resorting to an unsubtle approach to winning gallery whistles). Pande is a Kali worshipper (echoes of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom?) who kidnaps kids and sacrifices them during solar eclipses. We are introduced to the solar eclipse motif through a visual that opens the opening credits (hmm, nice little piece of linguistic flourish there!). Vishwajeet Pradhan plays Vishwajeet, the desi equivalent for Scott Glen's Jack Crawford. The film also provides the stronger vertex for the mandatory triangle of affections in the form of Aman Verma's sappy Amit. Jatin-Lalit delivered a competent set of songs for the film (including the nice naaraaz saveraa hai/nazadiik saveraa hai and the Rafi/Ek Musafir Ek Hasina-ripoff mujhe raat din [the original: mujhe dekhakar). But nothing works on screen. The saveraa songs feature in the background but some shoddy editing and pitiful framing put paid to any derived benefit. And Sonu Nigam's tribute to Rafi becomes a Sujata-esque on-screen FF-friendly excursion. Other unnecessary elements include a neighbourhood rock/pop group called the Brahmaputra Boyz (who perform ma.nzil naa ho at an Easter celebration sponsored by Officer's Choice -- what was it with Jatin-Lalit and Remo those days?). There's even a film quote for the alert viewers: at a point in the second half, Ashutosh Rana cradles a child in his arms and sings vo subah kabhii to aa_egii -- it's all set up just like things were in the original song with Raj Kapoor and Mala Sinha. And for the "intelligent" masses Bhatt adds a scene involving the extraction of a bullet that provides a not-very-subtle metaphor for congress. Perhaps the only decent yet undeveloped element in the film is the character of Reet Oberoi. Full marks on the casting front, but the writing department didn't quite get a handle on developing Reet's naivete and child-like outlook to things into a more mature point-of-view by the end of the film. Pity, really. This was a struggle that was guaranteed to fail.

Friday, October 15, 2004

no more maa.N

Leading lady of the black-n-white era Kokila Kishorechandra Balsara aka Nirupa Roy who gained fame for being the most sought after 'mother' in Bollywood (and most of the Big B's) is no more. And Rediff has just begun a slew of eulogies with a backgrounder and a stock of tributes.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

gulshan rai is no more

Veteran producer and hitmaker Gulshan Rai passed away yesterday. People will probably remember the famous Trimurti Films logo that opened his productions. The banner was associated with the better films of Yash Chopra, classic Dev Anand movies, as well the blockbusters his son Rajiv Rai turned out. And, of course, a lot of great Pancham soundtracks came forth too.

Monday, October 11, 2004

musafir: lounge away

The pasha of stylish distributed plagiarism, Sanjay Gupta, has unveiled the soundtrack of his next opus Musafir. On the film front, there's more cool makeup, and there's bound to be oodles of style. Hopefully, it proves as entertaining as Kaante and not a befuddled pile of week-old noodles like Plan. The soundtrack album touts itself as being India's first club lounge album. It's a 2 CD set, which mixes new work from Vishal-Shekhar in both regular (how can you tell, really?) and mixed form (courtesy Nikhil Chinappa I am told), and also bundles tracks from the Kaante soundtrack. Sunidhi Chauhan claims top honours with little effort (despite saying kaTin instead of kaThin in ishq kabhii kariyo naa, and Shreya Ghoshal comes across like a North-Indian version of Chitra with an oh-so-squeaky voice. The advantage of the layers of sampling and beat paste is that bad voices get superseded by infectious loops. Sanjay Dutt's singing attempts (note how he decides to go liberally tuneless on numerous occasions like mai.n boluu.N aaj tuu bole kal) on tez dhaar have some street-smart lines and a heavy ode to Mark Knopfler/Dire Straits, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ry Cooder and Carlos Santana as a saving grace. Sukhwinder Singh, Kunal Ganjawala, Kumar Sanu and K. K. do the needful on the other tracks. And Krishna's sufi-tinged rendition of rabbaa rocks. One of the CDs bears the tag "Club" and the other "Lounge". All this I am told. Wouldn't mind getting myself a copy. But if club/lounge ain't your thing, stay away. And a few extra points for strange mix names (Pyschedelic Insomnia, Kinky in Ibiza).

The film was slated to collide head-on with Yash Chopra's Veer-Zaara during Diwali, but the actual release date seems to fall somewhere in the late November fragment of the year.

One thing puzzles me. Sanjay Gupta had announced a special audio complement to the Kaante soundtrack -- with extra tracks composed by Viju Shah, Lucky Ali, Shiamak Davar, Adnan Sami, Sulaiman and Salim Merchant and A.R. Rahman. Although they abandoned that ambitious plan, I wonder if it was all hoopla... Is any of the stuff on Musafir a residue of rejected music on Kaante?

more RGV goodies in the pipeline

The official page for Vaastu Shastra begins with a contest: you tell The Factory (incidentally, that site doesn't seem to work well in Mozilla) about a scary experience that you have had, and you stand a chance to win. Skip the contest and you get to the main page (incidentally, that montage introducing the main page is quite effective) of the film. Sushmita Sen deserves kudos for agreeing to play a character called Jhilmil(!!!). Liked the main motif. And hopefully, the Factory will begin churning out more movies. I'm getting sick of the unimaginative trashcan truffle that Bollywood continues to keep generating. Unfortunately that little tricycle gives me vibes of The Shining. In fact, the premise strongly echoes the King novel/Kubrick film. Here's hoping there's more beyond the initial similarities ... And with director Sourabh Usha Narang do we have another Sanjay Leela Bhansali (aka taking your mother's name for your middle name ...). Nice cello bit in the preview. Quite slick and effective overall (and JDC's new look is cool). And I love the tagline ("It won't save you"). Minor caveat: the previews say "This September", although the film is slated for an October release.

It's old news by now that in addition to being in RGV's Godfather homage Sarkar, the Big B will also figure in an RGV-directed segment for Darna Zaroori Hai

Pity that the controversy over the tagline for Madhyanam Hatya forced RGV to abort the release of Jaan Bujh Ke (both Galti Se and Jaan Bujh Ke shared similar elements with different motivations and consequences of a ghastly act of murder ...)

Thursday, October 07, 2004

here's mud in your eye, uninformed H-1B opponents

This is to all those politicians, douchebags, gormless gowks, and noddypeaks, who have decided to brainwash the media-fed American public with bags of mendacity on the H-1B visa. My pet peeve is echoed somewhere in the middle: People who come here on these visas pay every tax that U.S. citizens do, including Social Security and Medicare. But if they return to their homeland, then they will not get any benefits from these programs. The recent recession cost the United States more than half a million immigrant high-tech workers who had to return home -- after paying all these taxes. And what about the enormous expenses they incurred to settle down in the United States?. If this is incorrect, please correct me. I can appreciate "no representation despite taxation", but if there's a legal process to return the inaccessible OASDI/SS/Medicare $$$ to departing H-1B employees, I'd be more than willing to take note.

On a related note, the H-1B cap of 65000 visas closed on the first day of the fiscal year on October 01, 2004 (thanks, no doubt, to all those pending applications from the previous fiscal year)

fake gophers and oodles of eyecandy

Harold Ramis, who co-wrote and starred in Ghost Busters (remember Egon Spengler?) and responsible for analyzing this and that, is also the man pulling the strings for our film in question, Caddyshack. This is a comedy from 1980 that mixes slapstick, grossness, obnoxious irreverance, loud bombast, and (my favourite character in the film) a fake gopher to elicit laughs. Ostensibly starting off as a drama about golf caddies, the film finally ends up as a vehicle for the comic excursions of Chevy Chase and Rodney Dangerfield. Dangerfield is a cult icon, and this film is a great testament to his ability to go way over the top and get a bellyache-full of laughs. In the mix is Bill Murray (an almost always stoned and slow groundsman who has eyes for the female form and spouts self-aggrandizing drivel including an ad lib monologue about playing golf with the Dalai Lama). Guilty fans of 80s rock/pop cheese will relish the presence of Kenny Loggins on the soundtrack. And remember, when you die on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.

Shortly after news about the Linux port of Doom 3 and more about the upcoming movie (default reaction: 'tis a bad idea), may I now present a gallery of screenshots from the different levels in the game. Yum!

cute screenshot accompanying the announcement of the Linux port

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

adieu marion vargas

Janet Leigh passed on at the age of 77 on Sunday (October 03, 2004). Drop her name and the first film people think of is Psycho. But she was also in that film's unofficial precursor Touch of Evil as well as other landmarks like The Manchurian Candidate. Sired Jamie Lee Curtis who became a mini-icon with the prime inheritor of her mother's starring heritage Halloween. And then the two featured in another John Carpenter film, The Fog and in a splendid dash of almost-post-modern flourish, again in Halloween H20.

Monday, October 04, 2004

piffle psychobabble, before lakshya, and the onslaught of the mundane animation flick

Gothika: As far as premises and plot points go, Gothika refuses to subject itself to an examination in logic. Ebert's observation about Halle Berry's function in the film as a star is dead on. I don't think Halle Berry is capable of acting at all, except for perhaps Monster Ball, and I might tack this one on as a weak entry, simply because she doesn't evidently put her acting foot in her untalented mouth. But then again, she wasn't really meant to act. The film is rich in atmosphere, mood and effects and those things comprise its positive offering. If you're looking to find explanations for unimportant things like Miranda Grey's blackout, this ain't your movie. Incidentally, this appears to have been Dark Castle's first original film -- they were the guys responsible for the William Castle movie makeovers (13 Ghosts, House on Haunted Hill). Go watch The Snake Pit if you want better acting.

Vijeta: Imagine my surprise to see that the Vijeta video tape I picked up from the Indian store had been sourced from a DVD. Imagine my continued surprise to find that someone had actually managed to find and transfer a good print to DVD. The result (unprecedented for a non-mainstream movie like this -- or am I being overtly pessimistic?) is both a great nostalgic trip (to the time I first saw this film on DD as well as an example of some good honest filmmaking). This is a Film Valas production, and Shashi Kapoor gets to handle another non-mainstream role (something he did for Merchant-Ivory) with gusto: Nihal Singh is a kaTaa-sardaar who is scarred by nightmares of terrible Sikh massacres, pained by a fractured relationship with his wife Neelima (Rekha) (thanks in no part to an extra-marital fling), and unable to communicate with and express his love and care for his only son Angad (Kunal Kapoor). Aside from a cast that includes familiar faces like Om Puri, Dina Pathak, Keith Stevenson, Raja Bundela, Madan Jain, Amrish Puri, Supriya Pathak, Shafi Inamdar, Arvind Deshpande and K K Raina, there are other names that should ring bells: original story and script by Dilip Chitre and Satyadev Dubey (who also wrote the dialogues), costumes by Jennifer Kapoor (no surprise really). And there's Raj Kumar Santoshi notching a credit for chief assistant director. Little-sung music director Ajit Varman scores big with the ahir bhairav-based masterpiece man aanand aanand chhaayo (lyrics by vasant dev), and there are other fragments of classical music heard throughout the film as diegetic music contributed by LPs. The soundtrack, featuring Asha Bhosle, Manna Dey, Parveen Sultana and introducing Satyasheel Deshpande (the voice accompanying Asha on Lekin's jhuuThe nainaa bole) was released by CBS on record discs. I wonder if they ever transferred them to CD? Given the general lack of taste in matters of soundtracks like this, I would doubt that, but let's be optimistic, shall we?

This is very good example of great Govind Nihalani filmmaking. He even manages some great aerial photography (although the print quality doesn't bear good testimony to that).

Which brings us to the interesting secular pepper of the film. Remember all the jingoistic nonsense mainstream movies give us? Remember how there are token members of every community and faith (especially in disaster movies) who go through their clichéd behaviour? Well, this movie seems to have a fair deal of them, and gets by without even making one explicit announcement about it: there's Nihal Singh, a Sardar married to Neelima, a Maharashtrian. There's Nihal's associate D'Monto (hope I spelled that right), there are Angad's close colleagues (Venkat Raju from AP, Aslam Khan from UP, Wilson from MP), there's their chief instructor Verghese, and his daughter Anna (Angad's declaration of love for Anna must rate as one of the most interestingly written scenes on the subject).

I saw Sulabha Deshpande's name in the credits? Did I miss her in the movie?

The Road to El Dorado: I have to conclude that given an animation flick from Pixar/Disney and another from Dreamworks (Katzenberg used to be with Disney!), the odds are I'll like the one from Pixar/Disney. This film only serves to support this observation. Shrek was fine, but I preferred Monster's Inc., and now this movie only seems remarkable for the vocal collaboration between Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Kline. Aside from that, even Elton John's songs don't work as well as they did in The Lion King. My favourite character in this series of predictable happenings strung together would be the horse Altivo. This film deserved, to quote from its content, "the honour of a quick and painless death".

Friday, October 01, 2004

the raag numbering scheme

I have always wondered how students of the western/classical/insert_suitable_appellation school of music would react to the variegated schemes of indian (both hindustani and carnatic) classical systems. I learnt the guitar in the western mode -- minus staff reading and other fun stuff about counterpoint, syncopation, inversions and blah d'blah. I have always nursed the desire to go back in time and grab an opportunity to marry my ear-training with staff reading acumen (Mahler could probably finish his 10th while I read and played a single page of dancing men), and even learn classical guitar. Since that bridge has been vogonized, I only have my desire to learn (and the fact that the majority of my participation as a guitarist has been with Hindi and Marathi songs from films, private albums and the like, deriving in whole, part or not-at-all from classical sources) guiding my choices of chords for classical expositions, and my hunger for opportunities to sneak in musically interesting chord progressions and melodic fragments.

Which brings me to one of many questions that have plagued me. I love all things about percussion, and one of the things that struck me most about hi.ndustaanii taals was their nomenclature. After all, it's a big leap of faith from 4/4 and 3/4 to digest the fact that 'tiin taal' (tiin == '3' in Hindi/Marathi) refers to a beat cycle of 16 beats. One could attempt to use numerous mathematical formulae of varying complexity to derive a relation between these two numbers: (taal_number * 5) + 1 being a simple example). But they'd all break down with our next candidate: 'ek taal'(ek == '1' in Hindi/Marathi) which refers a cycle of 12 beats. Most other taals have names: ruupak (7), diipacha.ndii (14), jhap(5). And names are better than this deceptive numerical scheme. Having failed to receive any explanation that would set my mind at ease, I now propose one explanation.

Back in the good old days, when the creators of the rules of hi.ndustaanii music were discovering and formalizing beat cycles, they followed a very simple process: try out a certain taal, pick out a number of beats and create a cycle, evaluate the effect of this rhythmic ambience on the senses, select the taal for future generations, proceed to try new taal. Now these great entities decided to simply note the taals serially. They should have used the number of beats in a cycle instead, you scream. Pick up some Zakir Hussain or Vikku Vinayakram CDs and you'll see why that might not have been such a good idea (unless you wanted to use fractional numbers as taal names). Here's what happened. Day I: They liked a cycle that ended up having 12 beats. The diary entry was tagged as "ek taal". Some taals got lost in the sands of time as centuries passed. Somewhere along the way some smart individual decided to give posterity a thought and renamed a few of these taals -- giving us names like ruupak and jhap.

Apparently these guys took breaks as well. And the taal counter did not budge on these holidays. On one such bright and clear day, one of the more enthusiastic and passionate inventors received a package in the mail. Buried with numerous pieces of junk leaves and the latest issue of the Journal of Allography was a banana leaf with chads on Archimedes and his number. Yep, pi indeed. Well, the literature gives him an idea and he decides to create a pi taal. By doing this he violates the norm by actually naming the taal for the number of beats in the beat cycle. Unfortunately, he is still drumming away long after the sun has set, waiting for the sam. The reason shoule be very clear to all of us who stayed awake during those mathematics lectures. He was playing with an irrational number. Which meant that he would have achieved glory in history as the first percussionist to explore infinite convergence. However, sleep and basic human frustration caught up with him. His name was lost in history as were all records and rumours of his deeds. Pi lives on, but the taal doesn't.

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