Saturday, July 30, 2005

%-) [july 28/29, 2005]

If there's one thing memorable about a David Mamet film, it's the dialogue. And he chooses his performers admirably (although his wife Rebecca Pidgeon occasionally makes for a sore thumb). And you get the pleasure of seeing regulars like Joe Mantegna, William H Macy and Ricky Jay peg roles of varying size gloriously -- it's almost like the way people figure in RGV productions (it's not about how big a star or actor you are; it's all about how much you fit the part and make it your own). What Val Kilmer does in Spartan deserves plaudits solely for this. Kilmer's had a strange ouevre -- it makes it difficult to slot him (shouldn't that be a welcome characteristic, though? Has mainstream cinema dulled me enough that I feel uncomfortable when I can't succinctly file an actor away in a slot on the genre shelf? but I digress ...). Kilmer imbues his "man who follows order" character with a sense of calm and confidence that is understated and yet noticeably ruffled (down-played again) when things aren't what they appear to be.

The film begins with no credits except the title, and yet, it showcases Mamet's abilities from the first words spoken. Most movies in this genre (a political thriller laced with intrigue and deception) rely on hi-falutin action, flashy chases, whiz-bang dialogue and a lot of exposition (which only dumbs down every character on screen to a predictable piece of putty). Mamet refuses to do that. Not once in the film are we told explicitly that the President's daughter has been kidnapped. Our intelligence is not insulted for a bit. Mamet presents all the characters doing their jobs, knowing each other, without any need for a formal introduction for "everyone who's here with a big bag of popcorn eager to have a good time". You can expect the twists, and, perhaps it's the film's only failing that they aren't earth-shattering (but then, since the tone of the film has been an understated one, why should the puzzle not unfold in a similar fashion?). The shocks/surprises that work best are the deaths -- they are quick, realistic, and don't linger on the screen too long (and hence the impact is heightened by the after-shock).

The first few scenes can throw you off with the wonderful combination of words and cadences. Mamet's work with dialogue is like the output of a fruitful collaboration between lyricist and music director in a Hindi film song: Each brings something to the table, and stringing the words with a tune and embellishing them with arrangements gives them a new character that neither party could provide by itself.

It's nice to watch a film that doesn't treat you like an idiot. Mark Isham's score passes muster, managing an interesting motif but nothing else as interesting throughout the film. There are some nice frames too: the introduction of the location that Kilmer walks Laura's ex-boyfriend to so that he can tell him more; the use of mirrors at the Black Light. There's the "cock-eyed like Picasso emoticon". There's the title itself [more about the reference in the film and the meanings we may imply may be found in another review]. Then there's a nugget of completion: Val Kilmer notes in the city, always a reflection; in the woods, always a sound; when Derek Luke asks him what about the desert?, Kilmer responds You don't want to go to the desert. Later on in the film, we find out why. Also noted: a poster of Soldier outside the Black Light, and a clip of Killer Bait [recently seen] playing at the beach house. The name of the book that Professor Gerald Sloane (IMDB lists this as "Sloan"; I wonder if I read that wrong) wrote is Le Roman Noir. The name of his boat is The Colophon. And the end credits note a copyright for 2003, even though everything on IMDB screams 2004. The DVD has commentary by Val Kilmer, but it didn't seem particularly interesting. If you want to take a stab at reading the screenplay, take your browser here.

Other Mamet movies: Homicide, Heist, The Spanish Prisoner. Also recommended (for his writing): Glengarry Glen Ross, Wag the Dog, The Edge, The Verdict (an old Star Movies cookie), The Untouchables

Friday, July 29, 2005


[SPOILER ALERT] [july 23, 2005]

sarkar RGV
JR's eloquent take on Sarkar makes it easier for me to jot down my thoughts.

* Necessary disclaimer: If the nicely done opening sequence has anyone else going "oy! he's copying The Godfather", do yourself and that person a favour by offering them a piece of your mind ("Where were you during the opening acknowledgement?") and a tight whack to destroy all their dental work

* If any doubts linger about Kay Kay Menon as an actor, this film should put them to rest. Regardless of the Big B's presence (RGV making wonderful understated use of Amitabh Bachchan the icon and star, and thus offering the Big B what is easily his best most understated performance -- perhaps closer to his Saudagar days), despite the competent effort from Little B, despite the short yet perfectly-fitting-the-jigsaw puzzle turns from Supriya Pathak (welcome back, ma'am) and Rukhsar (seen earlier in D), despite the show-stealing performance from Telugu film-familiar Kota Srinivasa Rao as selvaramaNii (kudos to the subtitlers -- the spellings suggest that this was done in India -- who decided to use "Silver Mani" towards the latter portion of the film, thus giving us subtitle-mongers some cheap laughs), despite the great turn from Jeeva (soon becoming an RGV staple) as pa.nDitajii (kutte! is now legend), it's KKM as Vishnu, the wayward hot-headed elder son who walks away with the acting honours.

* KKM's Vishnu is admittedly a composite of Sonny and Fredo Corleone (the former is obvious; the latter is obvious (from a key plot point) to all who have seen both this film and the second entry in the Godfather trilogy)

* Those worried about Anupam Kher's ephemerally ephemeral turn must remember Paresh Rawal as Amod Shukla in Satya

* The Bal Thackeray angle holds very little water (although the echoes of real life in art are reminiscent of similar echoes in both Company and D)

* Virendra Saxena does the Indian Bonasera and gets more to say than for his appearance in insert suitable title here (was it Satya or WBH2P2? I typed this out, and now all I have is this isolated fragment in memory ... some water tankers, Virendra as the head goon, some subtle maaraa-maarii, all in a long shot ... someone help!)

* The departures RGV makes from his inspiration are laudable. He leaves you with a sense of knowing (kinda, really) what will happen next, and yet manages to keep alive that expectation, which keeps your interest as the film goes by

* I share the Agneepath déjà vu with JR, although here the villains are less broad-stroked than in Mukul S Anand's towering epic

* Loved the scene where Sarkar meets Rashid (Zakir Hussain) for the first time. Rashid sips tea out of his cup, almost bursting with the calm confidence that this is a no-brainer, while Sarkar sips his tea out of the saucer (thus also reflecting his closeness to the underdog and his people). That gentle counterpoint cannot be a coincidence, can it?

* And speaking of epic, it's now time to come to the most disturbing element in the film. I didn't mind the earthy (note: can't call it sepia -- that's the patent-pending devil-child of Sanjay Gupta) tone of the film. I didn't mind the gentle dream-like approach in the flow of the film. The choice of having a background score on for most of the film seemed to fit in with what seems like a desire to be more operatic than subtle and harsh (call it "quiet spectacle"; perhaps because of RGV's love for the material and his admiration of the Big B). However, what is often troublesome is the volume of the background score. Despite the presence of a key motif, the score threatens to trounce the dialogue and the proceedings (and even manages to do so a couple of times -- a worst-case estimate). Perhaps JR has a point in hoping that Amar Mohile gets a break.

All things considered, this is a strong entry in the Godfather-influenced canon, and for my money's worth, I'd put it up there with movies like Nayagan [if only for artistic ambition, not for plot points and nit-picking] (aah, to see once-collaborators achieve similar goals at different points in their career) than with tripe like Dharmaatma or Zulm ki Hukumat (let's not even think about Aatank hi Aatank, shall we?). And yes, hats off to RGV and the Factory for the uncanny knack of either snagging great people for memorable roles of varying lengths or for imbuing pieces of wood with some acting smarts (if only for the duration of the flick).

Monday, July 25, 2005

a massive haul of material worthy of a month off (being a visit to the public library)

Nothing unusual. Just the weekly visit. Favoured branches have changed based on commute times and destinations. But what hasn't changed is the potential that one day (like today), I'd look like I was walking out of a grocery store of books and movies. Here's what I have now: on the movies front, we have Bowfinger (some preliminary thoughts noted elsewhere) and a David Mamet nugget called Spartan. As for the books, we have for ourselves what you would refer to as an overdose:

* Being a Chuck Palahniuk fan, I've begun to trace his influences. A key influence has been another minimalist writer Tom Spanbauer. So I've already begun his début novel Faraway Places and now I also have his most famous work The Man who fell in love with the Moon.

* Another influence that Palahniuk cites a lot (an influence that was also a prominent feature in Spanbauer's writing workshop that Palahniuk attended) is Amy Hempel. The directly referenced story The Harvest is available online, but also part of At the gates of the animal kingdom, which I snagged today. I also picked up Reasons to Live.

* I picked up Salman Rushdie's Fury on a whim. It was either this or the fatter The Ground beneath her Feet. Besides this one seemed like an angrier book ;)

* Make-believe town: essays and remembrances marks another edition in my David Mamet reading

* And then there's Neil Gaiman's American gods : a novel (after a wonderful introduction to Sandman from Sudarshan, I couldn't resist gobbling this up)

* And from a trivia-mongering perspective, there's Fountain Society, the only novel (AFAIR) that horror-meister Wes Craven ever wrote ...

* Continuing my Harlan Ellison trip, I picked up Deathbird stories

* And for no particular reason (perhaps to read "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman again?) I picked up Masterpieces: the best science fiction of the century edited by Orson Scott card.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

meet the avenger: zakhmo ka hisaab

[june 18/19/23, 2005]

Meet aadarsh kumaar (Vikram Gokhale in an ill-fated role in flashback). An honest man of values, ideals and principles (VIP). A widower, who marries na.ndinii (Aruna Irani chomping away at the scenery in dolby). Alas, she turns out to be a whining, avaricious, selfish, ... you get the idea. Of course, AK must die. And the man bumping him off for reasons that don't seem terribly important is dhaneshwar "dhanii" seth (Kiran Kumar sleepwalking through a by-the-numbers part with porcine gusto). This sets the stage for AK's son suuraj (Govinda) to grow up, entertain people, fall in love, and exact revenge. His love interest comes in the form of bi.ndiyaa (Farha trying to get her name in the growing list of hams), a street-wise, smart-talking con and pickpocket (Yes, the good old Bollywood rule of falling in love with the person who picked your pocket). Meanwhile, one of several unexplained plot turns comes about -- suuraj is now a surrogate member of a family of four (excluding him, of course): kailaash naath, a school teacher (yep, Alok Nath, providing the standard dash of grief-tinged happiness), his wife (Seema Deo), and daughter puujaa (Vaishali Dandekar). The fourth member is the son and bread-earner amar. Amar serves as a strong presence in the film for a while, before finally appearing on screen, breathing his last. Here's why. KK indulges in some nasty drug smuggling as well, and manages to sneak in some powder as part of amar's baggage when amar is on his way back home for a visit. In a combination of ill-fated events that happen off-screen, amar is wounded and comes home to breathe his last (why he wouldn't go to a hospital is a question you shouldn't really ask). There's a strange sequence later on where amar's employer (a sheikh, clearly) arrives at the house to hand them a large sum of money (amar's earnings and savings). This is where things get even more interesting. With the coincidence meter running high, there is just one family that is involved in all the crime that our favourite family has to deal with: the dhaneshwar family. When suuraj takes the money to the bank to make a deposit, dhaneshwar's son (Mahavir Shah, who's done this a million times before) and his goons stage a robbery and despite his efforts, suuraj is unable to prevent his kitty from being part of the loot. Now, he can't tell the family for fear of sorrow and heart failure. So he launches his own inefficient private investigation (assisted by filmic luck) to find the culprits. The quest is on a timeline, because in a critical moment, a certain large sum of money is required as dowry for his sister's marriage. Somewhere along the way, in all the hardship, thanks to a couple of obligatory songs, bi.ndiyaa ends pregnant up with their child (no suuraj is not God; this is not a case of immaculate conception; just some bad editing).

It's quite clear that this is a Govinda vehicle. His introductory sequence has him (presumably a stunt actor in a film) appearing to rescue a damsel in distress and then beginning the dhulaaii of the goons while indulging in some voice imitations (in this case Raj Kumar; although later you hear some decent takes on Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, good old Mithun Chakraborty, and Raj Kapoor): cha.nduu aaj terii zi.ndagii ke aaka.De khatam ho gaye lalluu .

Farha gets her share of lines that portend the stuff that Govinda pelted out with more comic abandon in Deewana Mastana: abe o kauwe ke sa.De hu_e a.nDe, are o gariibii kii khaaT ke khaTamalo.n, are o haraamii baap kii laawaaris aulaado.n.

Kader Khan gets to do another serio-comic take as gyaanii, aadarsh's lawyer friend, who later succumbs to drink after aadarsh is bumped off, and becomes a low-quality private eye with Rakesh Bedi playing his sidekick. Consider this exchange of twisted dialogue (all credit to Kader Khan):

KK: jisako maukaa naa mile aur binaa mauke ke mauke me.n se maukaa nikaal le use asalii maukaa bolate hai.n
RB: kaise sir?
KK: haa_e mai.n tere se bahut ##bore## ho gayaa; chal yahaa.N se nikal chalate hai.n

Somewhere in this mix, KK also has a daughter, who loves an inspector (but this angle is rarely explored, except when all loose ends need to be tied up).

KK also gets to indulge in several kaafiyaa-laced conversations with Govinda (yes, these are a common feature in a lot of our Bollywood films). To top it all, he manages to challenge physics by displaying the ability to throw remote punches at people. Of course, Govinda being the hero gets to challenge physics again by issuing kicks that send people flying across several tables. Which is part of this bank robbery thwarting sequence. After the said event, he exchanges a snatch of maraaThii with a bank patron, twirls his hat onto his head, and as a goon escapes, turns to the guard and says "open the curtain". As the goon passes by, he issues a new instruction ("open the door"), fires through the door at the passing car, and then as the crash occurs off-screen, he accepts applause.

Rajesh Roshan manages a collaboration between his mellow simple-with-occasional-bongo compositions and the softer simpler melodies of Bappi Lahiri. So you have the motif of the film (aka the song that exists in happy, hopeful, and despondent versions) in jiine ke liye zi.ndagii ko / duniyaa me.n har aadamii ko / kabhii ha.Nsanaa pa.Dataa hai / kabhii ronaa pa.Dataa hai / kuchh paane ke liye / kuchh khonaa pa.Dataa hai. Then there's the our-hero-with-the-kids song in sar pe Topii aa.Nkh pe chashmaa gale me ##muffler## Daal ke / aayaa huu.N mai.n tumhe ghumaane bachcho.n chalo sa.Nbhaal ke (##hero## chaachaa ##hero## chaachaa) . Then the dress-up-as-performers-to-infiltrate-the-evil-lair number (referred to in the film as "grand variety entertainment") tin tin tinak tin tin daanaa ... ik raaz hai mere siine me.n, a mix of Arabian riffs and pa.njaabii refrains.

As it all draws to a predictable close, we might wonder (should our brains still be intact) about the title. Well, in addition to spouting the menacing-vengeance-laced naa mai.n ko_ii mujarim huu.N aur naa hii ko_ii qaatil; magar aaj mai.n tujhe is baat kaa ahasaas dilaa_uu.Ngaa ki zaKm kise kahate hai.n aur dard kyaa hotaa hai, Govinda enlightens us in the end. With the reward of Rs. 25 lakh (only) for nailing dhaneshwar, suuraj intends to make a movie called ha.Nste ha.Nste lag gaye raste (I wonder if the echo of the Rajesh Roshan song in Khoon Bhari Maang is pure coincidence) with the motto zi.ndagii vahii jo auro.n ke kaam aa_e, zi.ndaa\-dil vahii jo auro.n ko ha.Nsaa paa_e, aur jigarawaalaa vahii jo apane zaKmo.n kaa hisaab chukaa_e.

That made sense.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

flicking snatches...

[july 16/17, 2005]

Bowfinger just jumped up a couple of slots on my list of pending movies. On a good day, Steve Martin writes some of the nicest inoffensive humour on film. And this seems like the result of a fairly good week. Eddie Murphy shines as the Ramsey twins. The soundtrack is groovy, and James Brown never fit in the groove better. There are a few false notes when the tone tends to get vicious and the film threatens to turn into the kind it mocks, but you can ignore all that and get a fair share of laughs. Be sure to wait till the end for a belly-splitting preview of Bowfinger's next venture. Lovers of movies, schlock-fests, B-movies and bad dubbed action flicks will not be disappointed.

Watching A Fistful of Dollars yet again made me wish Leone had some more money to indulge in his love for spectacle, and also a good editor to curb his excesses. People unfamiliar with Leone usually approach this movie as an entry in some list of classics. Unfortunately, the attributes that make Leone such a great filmmaker (and consequently make this one a strong entry in his ouevre) are not what most viewers would associate with "classics". Leone's forte lies in his nail-biting patient handling of otherwise innocuous trivial scenes. If the word "western" gets you thinking of slam-bang action, and chases, you might be in for a disappointment. When Leone tackles the western, he turns it on its head, subverting all the expectations of people used to watching the films that (ironically, perhaps) inspired him in the first place. But if you reel out a line of patience, you'll be rewarded. And if you like good lines, the film has one for you: When a man's got money in his pocket he begins to appreciate peace.

Robert Zemeckis had something going with Contact. The film benefits most from the refusal to attempt to explain the goings-on. It's a parable of faith. Aside from Jodie Foster's sincere performance, there's the rich opening sequence to savour. And yes, it would be a waste if this large universe just had a lot of us.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom just doesn't work. It feels so DOA. I'm not too much of a fan of the franchise, really, but the first part's clearly better. And the third one had Sean Connery (and a pre-Dan Brown version of the Holy Grail). Kate Capshaw is absolutely irritating. This one was banned for a while in India thanks to the sub-plots involving kaalii (although the Thuggee lore has a grain of truth) and the presentation of the mahaaraajaa (which also meant that Spielberg and Co.'s desire to shoot in India got nixed). With the way things go as far as India is concerned in the film, I'm inclined to support the ouster. Consider that feast with a gross-out menu (bugs, eyeball soup, monkey brains?). And then consider that after crash-landing in the Himalayas, they end up (thanks to shooting restrictions) in Sri Lanka, which is supposed to pass of as North India. And then the natives blabber in Sinhalese (clearly!), and unsuspecting non-Indians get the impression that this is India. The first Indian element surfaces during the court dance (the language of the song, V tells me, was Dogarii). Roshan Seth adds some clipped sanity to the proceedings. There's a British officer from the 11th Poona Rifles. The mahaaraajaa is a blubbering embarassment. The only person who lends this sub-plot any respectability is Amrish Puri (apparently, he shaved his head for the role, and that was the last he saw of his hair! what a tragedy). A lot of the Hindi lines are familiar to viewers of countless villain-heavy revenge/action sagas, and some of them are downright ridiculous in context (mere saathiyo.n isake uupar tiir chalaao). There's an inscription at one point (meaning: follow in the footsteps of shiva) which looks like devanaagarii gobbledygook. The most hilarious moment comes right before molaa raam (Puri) falls to his death: Ford's Jones screams to him (as verbatim as possible) "tum shiivaa ke (pause) vishwasaghaatii ho"; then some more of that, a splash of "tum ghaatii" and then a chant of "vishwaasaghaatii". Worth preserving for schlock.

yathharth: the truth -- a folk tale on film

[june 21/25, 2005]

This is a simple tale of the vagaries of fate and destiny set in a village called pipa.Diyaa on the banks of the gomatii river. We have budha_ii (Raghubeer Yadav), a chaa.nDaal (cremates the dead), who lives on the outskirts of the village. He's a widower and must care for his daughter bijuriyaa (TV familiar Shraddha Nigam). Thanks to the issues of segregation and exclusion due to caste and profession, they have to rely on death for life -- every dead body means that they'll have food to eat. This manifests in a dance that bijuriyaa breaks into spontaneously and unwittingly every time a death procession approaches. In the mix is a kind truck driver jiite (Milind Gunaji). The film has no trappings or pretensions. There is no art either, but there are, unfortunately, the irksome song breaks (saawan kii pa.Dii re puhaar being the most pleasant of the lot). Aside from that, this is a decent effort at telling the kind of tale that seems to have vanished from the mainstream. If only the filmmakers had employed some more technical smarts ... we'd have had a more engaging tale on our hands. Oh well, we'll have to make do with this (as the final credit goes "and life goes on..."). As a side-note, this is one of the few films with the Hindi-English name (Yathharth - the Beginning) that actually mentions the tagline in its credits ... Strangely, the credit is flipped: The Truth ... YATHHARTH [and then in devanaagarii: dii Truth ... yathaarth].

Personal high: There's an excerpt from a Mithun flick:) The weep-and-wail-fest called Prem Pratigya with Madhuri Dixit as his co-star. There's a funeral procession in the film, and as this plays out on the screen set up for the villagers, bijuriyaa, who is also watching, breaks into her "happy" death dance. Her friend raghuu drags her away, at which point the camera tracks back to the screen for an XCU of Mithun's face as he holds one end of the stretcher.

Curious, curious. The end credits include one for censor script writer (Madhav Asegaonkar). Wonder what he had to do ... If you're interested, the background score and song compositions were done by someone called Muralidhar with lyrics supplied by Jalees-Rashid.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

what's the point of owning a mace, if you don't use it? [june 25, 2005]

I've read Ira Levin's play that forms the foundation of Deathtrap, as well as the stage play with the record run. I even remember this Marathi play called Sadist that has similar plot elements (except it lasted only for about 30 to 45 minutes from 8pm onwards on some weekday on Doordarshan). So, I didn't the benefit of relishing the suspense and the twists that Levin seems to be a master of. Great performances from the cast made the viewing useful. And it's nice to spot all the allusions Levin makes to the works that have been inspirational for his work on thrillers (including Schaffer's Sleuth [references noted before]). Shaffer was also behind The Wicker Man. There are also two complete phone numbers mentioned in the film (516-324-3049 and 516-324-5457) [see also: Sneakers].

At one point in the film Caine gets a line that goes "You two thought that i was going to take that mace and do a Vincent Price?". I wonder if that's a reference to another play that inspired Levin, Patrick Hamilton's Angel Street, which had Vincent Price on the cast roster (the play was the source for the classic film Gaslight).
arya: some equations have no solution [june 28, 2005]

The only reason I picked up this tape at the Indian store was the tagline "some equations have no solutions". Now, that takes taglines to a new level (especially since that line appears nowhere in the film's credits!). This is a venture funded and encouraged by the NRI TV Film Club (a venture that aims to "promote Indian and multicultural talent worldwide in the areas of television, film, music and theatre"). I can't wish them the best after having watched this slipshod enterprise.

So what's the film about? That tagline gives away the mathematical vibe of the twist. At the very core is the most interesting angle: an effect of the tragedy of 9/11 -- the loss of identity in several survivors, thanks to the loss of supporting documents. One such person is Arya, a genius who, completely overwhelmed by greed and nefarious purpose, exploits his mathematical smarts to find a way to crash the Indian stock market and get a large bag of cash for himself and his gal. They decide to move to NYC and then 9/11 happens. Arya survives, and then becomes an amnesiac. He has a girlfriend (and their interactions provide us with the necessary clichéd skin display). And then his memories begin to flood back. And eventually, the truth comes out. The problem with the film was the complete lack of quality in the performances, the rather jumpy uneven nature of the film (editing, anyone?), the bad sound, the terribly sickening levels of the background score, and the refusal to exploit the little nugget that I mentioned earlier. Sigh!

As for that super-cool tagline, it doesn't appear anywhere in the movie. The only place you'll see it is on the DVD menu (and presumably on the DVD jacket). Looks like these taglines are now officially a marketing gimmick.

agar tere haath me.n pistaul hai to mere haath me.n ##remote## (being my thoughts on the unfulfilled promise[sic] of vaada)[april 03, 2005]

Years later, this Satish Kaushik-directed love triangle/murder non-mystery starring Teak Wood (Arjun Rampal as Rahul), Sandal Wood (Zayed Khan as Karan) and Red Wood (Amisha "look at my new hairdo that was not required at all" Patel as Pooja) will be remembered

not for its references to Sangam (try Teak Wood singing dost dost naa rahaa)

not for the obligatory Sholay reference (Rahul singing ye dosatii ham nahii.n to.De.nge)

not for the Gustav Klimt painting on the wall in Rahul's house

not for the tendency of calling conventions to skip surnames (what's with Mrs. Rahul or Mr. Alex?)

not for brilliant symbols like choosing the number 13 for the box holding Pooja's dead body

not for dumb songs like terii kurtii ##sexy## lagatii hai

not for Achyut Potdar as the judge telling Mr. Saxena (Rakesh Bedi -- no first name was provided) ##mr. saxena## aap vakiil hai.n; aap ko ye to pataa honaa chaahiye ki kisii apaahij evam laachaar kaa mazaaq u.Daanaa amaanaviiya evam asamvaidhaanik hai

not Zayed Khan throwing a childish tantrum in court with Give us the god-damned truth!

but for a journey through some of the dumbest most original ways that Karan adopts to prove that Rahul is not blind: get him to sign blank stamp papers | get him to consume a poison (actually, laxative)-laced drink | get a gang of goons to attack him | lower the flowerpots adorning the top of a doorway | ask Alex (Rahul's caretaker) | get him to walk the tracks as a train approaches ... and then Rahul sees a kid ahead and runs to save him (guess what? we find out later in the court that the kid's deaf!!)

I will now leave you to roll down the laughter pit ...

Friday, July 15, 2005

the curious incident of the dog in the doldrums

[july 04, 2005] (in which another damp squib called Mulaqaat gets those ones)

Flashback: Vishal Bhardwaj gets signed on for the songs of a film called Mulaqaat (don't ask me why that 'a' ended up where it is ... the Hindi spelling [iTrans: mulaakaat] doesn't make the same jump). After he gets a few interesting songs (for some more background information and a brief review check out Subhash K Jha's notes), the plug got pulled.

Flash-forward: The soundtrack was not the only relic to get excavated (I'm still trying to find it); the movie made it too. I'm not sure if this ever went to the cinema hall, but I was pleasantly (honestly, I had to catch this at least once) surprised to see a tape sitting on a shelf in the video store.

The Plot: Think of Kasme Vaade and shred a lot of the excess baggage and the second Bachchan. So we have Javed Khan (son of Karim Siddiqui, played by Jackie Shroff), a calm, peaceful, amiable (you know the type) poet and his ardent fan Archana Vithalrao Patkar (Madhoo), who loves to sing his poems/ghazals (segue one of Vishal's compositions, the exquisite tum mile to nahii.n). Javed has a close friend and benefactor in Jas (Govinda's nephew Vinay Anand providing ample evidence that bad ham cannot sing, dance, or act for nuts). Love happens (Javed and Archana, just in case you were wondering), and the marriage is registered. Javed's father, younger brother and little sister are awaited before the marriage can take place. A night of celebration ensues (where Javed and Jas cavort about to another effective Vishal strictly-for-the-sequence song whisky risky where Roop Kumar Rathod's capable vocals get butchered by the egregiously aggravating intrusion of Vinay Anand, who insists on singing for himself). Thence, in a fight with some ruffians who attempt the obvious with Madhoo, Jas ends up impaling Javed (see also: Muqaddar ka Sikandar). The film then decides to go to sleep at this point. Javed's calm father (Kulbhushan Kharbanda, depressed and world-weary as ever), opinionated hot-headed brother Akhtar (Milind Gunaji in training for "ham of the year"), and innocuous cherubic little sister Shabnam (debutante Shivani Rathod?) arrive; Jas hosts them; and everyone keeps up the act that Javed is "out of town"; Jas and Shabnam fall for each other; all the concerned parties are obviously offended by all this (especially when the truth comes to light). Nothing really makes sense, yet this domestic drama plods to the finish line at which point Akhtar ends up killing Archana (thus providing an antidote to Javed's death).

Redemption: The Vishal compositions are the only blessing in this mess-fest. His third composition, the ethereal Suresh Wadkar song ye meraa giit doesn't make it to the screen. Pat yourself on the back for spotting quotes from the whistle melody at the core of Rajesh Roshan's 500 miles lift jab ko_ii baat biga.D jaa_e, as well as from Pancham's famous jalaparii theme (remember Saagar?). How about Children by Robert Miles?

Surreal: (and meaningless) -- every scene involving Jas and his secretary

Howlarious: The usual presence of a dude playing the electric guitar during a song when an acoustic guitar is being played on the soundtrack; Milind Gunaji's shock and breakdown after having shot Madhoo

Dedications: This film has not one but three. Special thanks are also extended to Mahendra Kapoor (presumably for allowing his son Rohan Kapoor to provide us a rankling qawwaalii in the film). On to the dedications. There's one that goes "we miss you priya rajvansh (brother and friends)". Then there's this tricolour-inspired opening note from Jankidas (probably the same late character actor who was also the only Indian to have broken the world record in cycling between 1934 to 1942 and the only Indian member of International Olympic Committee at the Olympic Games in 1936 at Berlin):

promise to mahatma gandhi

fulfilled by jankidass

by making mulaqaat

    meeting of two religions

The last one is the best: in loving memory of our beloved SOFTIE (dec. 30, 1994 - march 3, 2000) (in the background is the photograph of the canine in question). Softie even tail-ends the opening starring credits (and can be seen for barely a minute in the film).

Familiar faces: Aroon Bakshi and Reeta Bhaduri as Madhoo's unnamed brother (an obsessive cricket fan) and sister-in-law.

Mystery: The music is credited to Vishal and Suman-Sudeep (also responsible for the background score [see above for the real sources]). Jha's review doesn't mention them at all. Which underscores my question: Who the hell are they?

Lest you forget, this was an unusual love story by Sagar Sarhadi (the man behind Bazaar, Doosra Aadmi, Kabhi Kabhie, Noorie and Pankaj Berry).

If you want more current guaniferous ventures, check out the notes on Revati that appeared a little later down below ...

pesti-soda [link courtesy: Aditya]


Indian farmers have come up with what they think is the real thing to keep crops free of bugs.
Instead of paying hefty fees to international chemical companies for patented pesticides, they are reportedly spraying their cotton and chilli fields with Coca-Cola.
One litre of highly concentrated Avant, Tracer and Nuvocron, three popular Indian pesticides, costs around 10,000 rupees (�120), but one-and-a-half litres of locally made Coca-Cola is 30 rupees. To spray an acre would be a mere 270 rupees.
The farmers also swear by Pepsi, Thums Up, and other local soft drinks.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

it's only a joke ... it must be

Thanks to Aditya for the heads-up. The National Film Awards (India) have been announced for the year 2004 (if you want eye candy-laden mush-floss try the Rediff subset and the Rediff photo-rama. You have the usual hullabaloo about "fixing". But fundamentally, this is so screwed up it has to be a joke. It's time to name them the Hindi Popular Film Awards (or optimise everything by combining them with the Filmfare Awards). Let's have a concerto in E-flat while this dishrag squeeze swirls down the drain ...

Friday, July 08, 2005

HKA revisited [june 24, 2005] {previous viewing}

Thanks to all those questions about cameos, my second viewing of the film, and a recent Swanand Kirkire interview with Screen, I now have some more thoughts and some more trivia for the uninterested reader.

* Cameos (credited ones, strictly) galore: from Sudhir Mishra as Justice Tyebji's departing guest (when Vikram gives Geeta a ride to Siddharth's house) (the other guest is executive producer Sushil Dutta, btw); there's Mishra's assistant Ruchi Narain [here's an interesting article featuring a photograph] as a woman politician, Swanand Kirkire as the head of the singing troupe that passes Siddharth and Geeta as they bid goodbye (and e sajanii plays in the background) -- the photograph in the Screen interview confirms my guess (as his answer to a question further down), Choreographer Gilles Cheun is credited with an appearance as a dancing party guest, but I don't know what she looks like.

* At the party, when Geeta wants to leave, Arun begs to attend the "Narain" party for a bit (in joke?)

* Nice quote: "the violence of the opressed is right and the violence of the opressor is wrong"

* Can anyone shed light on the chronological accuracy of the photographs of Indira Gandhi that show up at a few points in the film?

* A few words get muted on the soundtrack; what really sucks is that the subtitles never use the F-word (which features liberally on the soundtrack), yet later take liberties on other fronts by inserting words that don't figure in the on-screen speech track (e.g. a**h**e, farting)

* {just for you, JR} The book that Geeta is reading at Siddharth's place is (I'm quite sure) "Hard Labor" by Cesare Pavese.

* Guess who is credited with arranging the music? Daniel B George, who just made his own soundtrack composing splash with the Arshad Warsi starrer Sehar.

* Satyajeet Sharma is credited for playing both sons of the maharaja with whom Vikram's negotiating a deal. Watch carefully and you can appreciate the power of editing (unless this was a copy-paste error and I'm reading too much into all this)

* The Gulzar angle: Reportedly, Chitrangda figured in the video for the song kachche from the Gulzar-Vishal collaboration Sunset Point.

* And despite some disagreements, I also think Chitrangda looks a lot like Smita Patil in profile (and seems to exude a similar liberated spirit). However, referring to her as the "new" Smita Patil seems a bit premature and slaps on a label that threatens to override her uniqueness.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

if you're reading this and you're in Pune (or some suburb thereof)... [taking a cue from JR]

There's an Open Quiz happening this Saturday July 09, 2005 (and if you're in Pune, you can't really make it for the Rashid Khan concert here, can you?). There's more information on this Interrobang post.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

coming soon to atlanta: ustad rashid khan

The details first.

Berkmar High School
405 Pleasant Hill Rd NW,
Lilburn, GA 30047
Date: Saturday, July 9, 2005
Time: 7:30 pm

Tickets are $15 for students, $25, $35, $50 and VIP. And that price also gets you snacks.
He's accompanied by Ananda Gopal Bandhopadhay (Tabla) and Jyothi Goho (Harmonium).

Additional information may be found on the front page of ICMS, Atlanta, co-sponsors of this event. Some more background information about URK may be obtained on his official site.

The "who the hell is he" section: Mainstream audiences as well as people who follow news more avidly than Hindustani classical music might remember URK from his recent appearance on the soundtrack of the latest Subhash Ghai dung-fest Kisna. It goes without saying that URK's mastery was underused and stuck out like an elephant's sore thumb on the soundtrack (and merely appeared on the backing track while the events in the foreground forced audiences to retch into their popcorn bags). That parichay does not do URK justice at all. If you're a moderately serious afficionado of Hindustani Classical Music, you don't even need this introduction (in fact, you should probably have quit after reading the details at the opening of this post). 'Nuff said. After having missed a chance to see him in Pune in January, I can't miss this opportunity.
'tis the survey season...

Take the MIT Weblog Survey
Read about this general social survey of the greater weblog community by Cameron Marlow (if the name doesn't sound familiar, how about blogdex?)from the MIT Media Laboratory to help understand how weblogs are affecting the way we communicate with each other.
Pretty straightforward, and a good destination for some idle clicks and keystrokes. Clearly, the larger the sample of responses, the better (and more interesting) the picture of the blogging community will be. Go ahead, become a statistic. Make Cameron's day.

Monday, July 04, 2005

being a giraffe: the convoluted case of Birthday Girl [july 04, 2005]

John identifies most problems within appropriate time frames; he usually resolves or minimizes most problems before they grow into larger problems. Thus goes part of the annual report describing John Buckingham. Yet, John seems strangely at sea when presented with the strange case of Nadia, the mail order bride from russia with love (literally). Things don't quite work out the way he had imagined them to. But then things also don't seem to work out well for director Jez Butterworth. He seems unsure whether to take the proceedings down dark territory like Something Wild or down candy-floss romantic comedy alley. The result is a mixed bag of mundane or sagging moments. Which is a pity, really, because Kidman turns in a rocking performance as Nadia. Don't know about the Russian spoken, but her body language is remarkably researched. Ben Chaplin provides an interesting reading of John Buckingham, but unfortunately, the character is rather dull. It's almost as if Joaquim Phoenix were cavorting about for us on screen.

On the flip side there are a few interesting nuggets: there's a version of Somethin' Stupid where Kidman accompanies Robbie Williams (the DVD even has the video for the song). Then there are French actors Kassovitz and Cassel sinking into their parts like chameleons. Twisted all this is.

today is independence day, USA

so I freed a few old posts from the historical ignominy of being drafts: pointers to some of the hidden gems in Jo Bole So Nihaal, thoughts about Final Destination, notes on Rose Red and a take on Paycheck.
the salacious vibes of a rag-picker [july 03, 2005]

Welcome to Revati, a film written and directed by Faroogh A. Siddiqui (what a nutcase! his credit appears smack near the middle of the film -- probably at the intermission) -- this dude even has a credit for "story, screenplay and lyrics". The bulk of online articles (few that may be) devoted to this film focus on the controversy arising from producer Vikas Kate's inclusion of "revealing" scenes featuring Kashmira Shah. She shouldn't have really bothered objecting. If she thought this was an acting vehicle, she was clearly suffering from a case of disillusioned dementia. There's nothing in this film worth remembering except a host of bad lines and dumb acting[sic]. But more about that in a little while.

This is the story of Revati (Shah), a naïve rag-picker living in Shanti Nagar ("the biggest slum in Bombay") and spouting filth and clichéd uneducated verbiage tinged with familiar Hyderbadi inflections. One rainy night, she is the recipient of the kindness of one Ravindra Nagpal (Kiran Kumar), and this innocuous act that reassures your faith in humanity has far-reaching consequences, including the eventual murder of Nagpal and a general shattering of Revati's faith in living like the "ba.De log".

All of you interested in cheap thrills like ogling at Kashmira Shah might be interested in some moments in the film. There is a richer treasure trove in store for all of us interested in bad dialogue and bad moments.

The most hilarious scenes appear during the sequence where a drenched Revati squats in the corner of Nagpal's room as he works on something in Microsoft Word. At one point he smells the rag heap that revatii has dragged in with her (as she sits in a corner to escape the rain outside); and he can't figure out where it's coming from; cut to the computer monitor and the last line typed out is flashing ... it's LOOK AROUND. Later, another piece of blinking text ('REMOVE IT') determines his response to her question about what to do with her wet clothes ...

[Pause while reader recovers from floor-hugging fit of laughter]

During the trial in the penultimate act of the film, there is a strange shot of the judge nodding and saying "O.. K.." after the defence attorney presents a counter-argument.

And now the dialogues.

Samples from the kaTTaa crowd that ends up teasing Revati: kaise kuttaa banaa diyaa thaa ##john## ko bipaashaa ne jism me.n; dum hilaa\-hilaa ke mar gayaa saalaa, apun bhii kisii ##hero## se kam hai kyaa? / kam nahii.n, ##bomb## hai ##bomb##, kyaa ##piece## hai? / ##piece## nahii.n ##cut-piece## hai

Samples from the hija.Daas: biichaawaalaa biich me.n nahii.n bolegaa to kyaa ##side## me.n bolegaa?, he uuparawaale; inako hamaarii tarah-ch banaa de; inakaa ##power supply## kaaT de; naa rahegaa ##plug## naa lagegaa ##jhaTakaa##
(and let's not forget the random phrases like ##beautiful## thoba.Daa, prem chopa.Daa, e! chho.D re meraa kapa.Daa that inundate the end of the hija.Daa song)

Revati: vahii ##fixed deposit## jo bhagawaan ne apun ko diyaa hai

Javed Khan (as Revati's father): dekh beTii, kacharaa phe.nkane kii thailiyaa.N badalatii hai.n; kacharaa kachare kii peTiyaa.N badalatii hai.n; kacharaa phe.nkane kii jagah badalatii hai.n; lekin kacharaa vo_ich rahataa; kacharaa kabhii nahii.n badalataa; is liye tuu bhii badalane kaa khayaal chho.D de

Hired goon: ham tilakadhaarii, sab pe bhaarii (the only memorable tilakadhaarii was Goga Kapoor in Shiva, incidentally)

Dialogue exchange sans meaning (or "with deep meaning", YMMV): daughter: kyaa fark hotaa hai beTaa aur beTii me.n?; mother: bahut fark hotaa hai; beTaa beTaa hotaa hai aur beTii beTii

Axiom: (Kiran Kumar) buzurgo.n ne Thiik hii kahaa hai: saaph sutharaa ghar aur sajii\-sa.Nwarii aurat dono.n achchhe lagate hai.n

Trivia: Ayub Khan is credited (end credits) as Ayub M. Khan; the background score (shriek-o-rama) was provided by music director duo Nikhil-Vinay (the songs were composed by Jatin-Lalit and Nazakat Shujat [nice name, bad songs]).

Check out the official website for more alternative spellings (a clear candidate for "how many different ways can you spell names in movie credits?")

Saturday, July 02, 2005

bellyfuls and belly dances: a visit to nicola's

[previous post in the Weekend Dinner Club]

The nice thing about Nicola's for me was the nature of the service. The vibes were more personable. My reactions of the food were undermined by the recent overdose of Mediterranean restaurants. So I wasn't surprised to see the grape leaves (even though they do merit a thumbs-up). The hummus (spelled "hommos" on their menu; which leads me to ask: how exactly do you spell it??) was lower on the lemon than Mezza's was. That last experience made us wiser and we chose the "Family Style Dinner", which gave us a sampling of four appetizers, plus a chef's choice of two salads, three entrees and the special of the day. The biggest downer was the presence of two things one might associate with a few restaurants like this: belly dancing and loud music. Was prepared for neither, and although I have nothing against belly dancing, the repetitive rhythms, the aggravating thump of the bass elements, and the generally high volume preventing any useful conversation gave this place a few minuses. The main attraction of this place (the lamb shank) may or may not have made it in eventually (the server was very gracious to substitute one of the items on the platter with that). Didn't care for too many helpings of the lamb dish that lay there. What really rocked were the shawarma and the eggplant. And despite appearances, this was a very very filling meal. It's probably a good idea to take a break from this strain of cuisine for a while, lest it affect my opinions. And I'd like to come back when there's no belly dancing. If I ever wanted to catch belly dancing, I'd prefer to make that a full-time event in its own respect with nothing else to clutter the programme.
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