Friday, October 21, 2005

the oracle of the bengal tiger

[right back at you, Gaurav]

Why didn't I think of this before? The general version of the Oracle of Kevin Bacon game (last mentioned in a birthday greetings post for IMDB) offers some solid results when applied to everyone's favourite sha.nkar. A few Erdös-ian samples follow {October 24, 2005: fixed an egregious and subtle manifestation of the Copy/Paste problem [merci Amogh]}:

Brad Pitt has a Mithun Chakraborty number of 2

Brad Pitt was in Seven Years in Tibet (1997) with Danny Denzongpa
Danny Denzongpa was in Shandaar (1990) with Mithun Chakraborty

Sylvia Kristel has a Mithun Chakraborty number of 3

Sylvia Kristel was in Mysteries (1978) with Rita Tushingham
Rita Tushingham was in Guru, The (1969) with Aparna Sen
Aparna Sen was in Titli (2002) with Mithun Chakraborty

Sonny Chiba has a Mithun Chakraborty number of 3

Sonny Chiba was in Bushido Blade, The (1981) with Mako (I)
Mako (I) was in Cages (2005) with Asrani
Asrani was in Heeralal Pannalal (1999) with Mithun Chakraborty

A few other candidates eliminated for similar links in the chain include Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese. And anything involving Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Gandhi

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


The Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) has a nice website (yes, yes, some spots are very graphic-intensive). This is where Vishal Bharadwaj's next children's film The Blue Umbrella based on Ruskin Bond's tale will see its world premiere. And while Korean cinema has also been getting some more plaudits (e.g. Chan-wook Park), the other PIFF, the Pune International Film Festival probably still has a long way to go as far as advertising and marketing (and perhaps even basic Event Management 101) are concerned.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Oct 17, 1990: 15 today

that's the way to go
Happy 15th Birthday IMDB. What would I do without you? And what about the Oracle of Bacon and their awesome variation to the Kevin Bacon game?
great job

Sunday, October 16, 2005

the failure to rise: the sisyphean dregs of mangal pandey (a plea for yeast)

Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!
Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!
Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!
[My City Of Ruins/The Rising/Bruce Springsteen]

It was sheer coincidence that I was listening to Bruce Springsteen's The Rising while typing out my thoughts about ARR's latest Hindi soundtrack -- the much-hyped, eagerly awaited The Rising: Ballad of Mangal Pandey. The reason I was listening to the Springsteen album was because it had The Fuse, which featured (in a rearranged-with-strings version) over the end credits of Spike Lee's 25th hour. Well, that review never got done -- probably because this was not the soundtrack to rekindle my faith in ARR. Unfortunately (and predictably), the thoughts held for the movie as well ...

The good: nice photography, great art and production design

The bad: the soundtrack; the opening song (ma.ngal ma.ngal) completely eliminates all diegetic sound, making it all feel fake right from the word 'go' (and that song becomes an irritating motif scattering aural torture throughout the film); the use of the narrator to translate the goings-on for people who ain't got a clue about English (thus indicating the desire to address the mass market instead of using the device of narration more imaginatively); the item song (heaving bosoms are not an essential part of a period film) [this goes for the faux item song meant to introduce Rani Mukherjee, as well as the second item song rasiyaa wherein jwaalaa and William Gordon surrender to the inevitable call of the flesh) [In Roja Bombay {thanks for the tip, NR: confused the two getting-it-on sequences (with no special appearance in Roja, of course)} we had Arvind Swamy and Manisha Koirala getting it on while Sonali Bendre cavorted for our viewing pleasure; here Sophiya Haque does the ji.ngaalaalaa honours]

The nice: Sohrab Ardeshir as Sorabji attempting to bribe Lockwood (nice writing; and a good turn from Ardeshir); the choice of Om Puri as the narrator (thank you very much for not choosing Amitabh Bachchan); the short sequence where Gordon comes to try and talk Mangal out of the mutinous path he has adopted

The predictable: the intermission point (we've seen enough Hindi movies in the cinema hall; so have the filmmakers; there's no getting around the fact that we 'know' when it's going to happen)

The cameos: Ravi Jhankal gets reduced to proxying as a singer (with Kailash Kher among others) peppering the filmscape with narrative-slowing songs. ghaaTs can cheer at the brief appearance of Varsha Usgaonkar as raaNii lakshmii baaii. And there's Habib Tanvir wasted as bahaadur shaah zafar.

The perpetuated ludicrousness: the holii song (rock on!) [time to get postmodern, people: try do me a favour, let's play holii from the badly named Waqt: The Race Against Time (it's not a chase movie or a thriller; it's a limpid drama about the relationship between a father and his son -- and no, they are not named waqt, time or time)]

The dismay: Ketan Mehta and Co. clearly channelled all their efforts into making a film from fragments catered to appeal to every section of the audience: there's a sop or two for the critics, meat for the general desii Bollywood audience (song n' dance, love and drama, all that blah), the foreign audience enamoured of "Bollywood" product, the foreign lovers of epics, the foreign critics. The result is something that cannot satisfy all of them. Which makes this a 34-crore sewer explosion.

raucus hallelujachorus: That mud wrestling scene and all its undertones comprise an unintentional source of merriment. Should this be considered this film's Sholay reference? (yet another requirement, it would seem, in almost every mainstream movie these days)

What's the point?: The actual "mutiny" is almost laughable. There's a general clamp on the proceedings, which gives you the benefit of nothing really going overboard, but the disadvantage of a strong sense of déjà vu. The presence of Aamir Khan does nothing (IMHO) for the film or the character (except offering a commercial advantage).

Truly, this was all about the moustache.

Screenplay collaborator Farrukh Dhondy's last screenwriting venture was called Kisna. That almost takes away all the brownie points he got for Split Wide Open and contributions to Maqbool.

Time to locate a copy of Mard (what high concept! The Big B against the British) and get some over-the-top jingoistic Desai drama (replete with Anu Malik songs, outrageous drama, and fierce entertainment).

customer service? {flashback across a few months}

Moving to a new apartment. Time to get utilities activated. I get the utility I've been dealing with other places before. Luck of the draw. But then, you deal better with the evils you've been accustomed to. Onward ho!

If you've dealt with utility companies in the US (who hasn't ... in the US, that is), you know about the fat sums of money they slap onto your bill for setting the connection up, for signing you on, for administrative hand-waving, along with the teensy-weensy special costs they tack on (and describe with admirable lack of clarity in the fine print at the bottom of your verbose multidimensional bill).

Scarred enough, I did my research by poring the pages on their website (yep, they had a useful one in this case). I found out the most advantageous of their plans. And then I called. The person at the other end was remarkably friendly and accomodating (probably having a good day). Everything checked out fine as far as a background check and collecting information about the apartment was concerned. The only hitch was that the previous tenant still had an outstanding balance. This would be (and was) resolved in a couple of days with a friendly fax from our leasing office.

The next time I called (to confirm that the fax had arrived; can't be too paranoid), things initially went as expected -- the fax was nowhere to be found. Mercifully, the person at the other end found it during the call. And I was all set. We had a start date for the service. And I didn't have to worry about the plan yet until they had started the service.

I call on the starting date to provide my choice of plan. Of course, they've already assigned me a default plan (stupid algorithm this, especially since I was ready with my plan when I first called). But the person at the other end put in the request for a change of plan. And I was told that I didn't need to call back to confirm this.

Flash-forward a few days. I receive a welcome packet, which includes a suspicious letter of disclosure that stated that I had called (on the day that I had called) and "had requested" that they place me on the default plan! Furious to no end, I called back to check the plan on my account. It turned out to be the one I had chosen and not the default plan. No cause for concern.

Yet. I get the first bill, and sure enough it's still the default plan. I call back, and they have strange call log dates, which, coupled with this strange algorithm they follow for determining the plan for a billing period: use the start date for the billing period and find out the existing plan then. Because of the dates involved in all my interactions with them, one segment of my bill would unavoidably fall into the default trap. But the other was clearly in error. But the problem was that they had the wrong call dates. And after talking to three representatives a few days apart, one thing was clear: these people didnt' care, they were not interested in finding out if I had a valid case, they were happy to send me running around blind in the forest.

My final call, however, went to a supervisor (this being the second one), and he was a revelation. He looked up the information, and made his decision in seconds flat. No arguments. No need for me to go into flashback mode again. The adjustment was made, and he even made a generous one, accomodating the previous cycle (a reward for all the bad times I had been through). And near the end he said "when considering the company and the customer, i tend to lean in favour of the customer"

Now, isn't that supposed to be the case in general? With such heavy emphasis on service, shouldn't everyone be doing what this gentleman just did?

Incidentally, why does the a.ntaraa of ishq kamiinaa sound like the a.ntaraa of SJ's title song for Love in Tokyo?

Friday, October 14, 2005

important news [according to the Tabloid of India]

* India is the world's second sexiest nation ...[more]

* The 10 flattest (um ... never mind) women in Bollywood [more]

* Get a global perspective with a similar list of 10; this one's devoted to Aries girls [more]

* Bollywood couples are available for movie sign-ups at "package rates" [more on this buy-one-get-one-at-half-price wannabe]

* IVF instead of the good old fashioned way of "getting your feet heavy" [more]

Thursday, October 13, 2005

websiteorg {context?} [thanks to Vivek for pointers to the meaty items]

Is a very illuminating title for the flashy website of a "new age Renaissance man" whose outstanding ability is his strength to integrate macro and micro economic concepts with both strategic management techniques as well as personnel management techniques employed in organizations. At a macro level, his thoughts focus on the growing degeneration of the American socio-economic setup, the dangers of mindless imitation of the free market system and the innate strength of the Indian society.

An extract from his book Count your chickens before they hatch (which, incidentally, may be found under the Humorous Section on Fabmall)provides but one example of 24 carat BS with the new concept of strokes and the three hungers than an individual experiences (see also: Amitabh Bachchan's drunken monologue in Hum about bugs)

Every individual, irrespective of whether he is working with a large organisation or with a small one, has three levels of hunger: status hunger, structure hunger and stroke hunger. These levels of hunger meet their psycho-social needs and hence provide the drive to put in efforts, extra efforts rather. Stroke hunger results from the need to be recognised, the need to feel that one exists, the need to feel that one is important. The reader by now must be wondering what strokes actually mean. A stroke, for simplicity, can be defined as an unit of existence. It tells somebody that he exists, that he is needed, that he is being noticed. Stroke is something that we all look forward to from others around us, especially from our leaders, our managers, our mentors.

I am Jack's colon. I get cancer, I kill Jack.

A surefire giveaway is when this father of Theory "I" management quotes Boy Zone

"It's only words. And words are all I have to take your heart away" Boy Zone thankfully reminds us of the power within us to be able to become the king of hearts.
more so by bringing in the humorous human touch [sic]

Make a movie guaranteed to succeed thanks to market research like Rok Sako To Rok Lo and you become an "iconoclastic filmmaker" ...

Enough to convince you that this guy would rock as a dialogue writer for Mithun movies. Or even as a representative for Amway or Quixtar (all that swooshing music on the website should be a strong hint for those who've been recipients of a folder and an introductory CD from these great projects whose participants will never tell you what they really do)

Addendum: The "media appreciation" section is "under construction"

of pride and planning: more in the Gaurav/IIPM saga {previous breadcrumb}

There's something on NDTV and the Indian Express has a short report on the events thus far. Predictably, the dean of one of the IIPM franchises denies knowledge of the notices sent to Gaurav or Varna (and forget about any of the threats to Rashmi Bansal). It's interesting to see that the amount in damages is going up steadily with each legal notice. It would be a useful[sic] exercise to find out how they arrived at the seed value and the value for increments in subsequent legal notices. Looks like something for The Generator Blog.

Gaurav also has an update on his blog. And the post for all the latest updates is on DesiPundit. In terms of a flashback, here's Rashmi Bansal's post inundated with responses from IIPM students[sic].

To add to the crazy mix, Rediff Movies has a special slide show (aka: HTML pages with Next/Prev/Start links inundated with salacious photographs and ephemeral text) on one of the greatest contributions to the institution of acting, Kareena Kapoor's figure. Stay tuned for a special series next month by Sonu Sood on method acting and another by Esha Deol on pumping iron.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

patellar tendon reflex: what's goin' on?

Shortly after having stumped me with his casting on Mr. Mehta and Mrs. Singh, Vishal Bhardwaj comes up with another knock to the ulnar nerve. He's revisiting Shakespeare territory. After the wonderful Maqbool, which adapted Macbeth to the Bombay underworld (and it seemed so appropriate you wondered why no one else had attempted this in ... um ... Bollywood), it's now the turn of Othello. The film's going to be produced by Devgan Entertainment, which means that Ajay Devgan is going to star as O___, the equivalent of Othello. The other names for casting being bandied about aren't all that encouraging either. I'm not as excited as I was when I heard the first newsbit about Maqbool.

I can look at this as (a) Vishal is making Shakespeare adaptations his equivalent to RGV's gangster flicks (b) Vishal is doing what Gulzar did in the 70s and later in 1999 -- getting non-actors to act. This is not to say that Ajay Devgan and Saif Ali Khan are necessarily bad actors. Saif's got a good sense of comedy, but that doesn't quite cut him some slack for the character of Iago (who wasn't joking about in the play anyway!). I'd have loved to see a gamble with Arshad Warsi instead ("not a star; not saleable, " screams the voice inside my head ... why would this voice speak up as far as Vishal was concerned?). And Devgan's managed to rake up a lot of acclaim for his "acting" simply by looking morose and serious, holding a cigarette in pretty much the same way and puffing galore, and leaving his former mainstream self behind (breaking into a sequence of bad dance steps, executing some fine action moves that his father taught him, mouthing bombast ... you know the drill). Both are better candidates than Suni(e)l Shetty [ref: Hu Tu Tu]. Which means that this might be watchable as an experiment, if not anything else. There's also the hope of a good soundtrack.

What troubles me is the ambiguity: Vishal and another writer have scripted the film. Who's the other guy? Gimme Abbas Tyrewala or even Anurag Kashyap.

And I'd love to get my hands on the abandoned screenplay for Barf.

Meanwhile, as Saurabh Usha Narang (he that helmed the RGV camp sleeper [literally!] Vaastu Shastra) works on a book about his mentor, RGV tosses another googly by announcing his intention to remake James (music notes may be found here). Wonder what Rohit Jugraj might think about all this. Mehboob Khan did it to himself with Aurat/Mother India. Hitchcock did it with The Man Who Knew Too Much. At least RGV has company (no pun intended).

[Update] [October 14, 2005] Admittedly, Rohit Jugraj, who helmed James, ain't too pleased with RGV's decision to remake the film. He then joined Randeep Hooda in the (hopefully not growing) exodus from RGV's camp after dropping the bomb: Shiv (the proposed RGV remake) is not a remake of James, but a remake of RGV's old film Shiva with Nagarjuna! {source}

rok sako to rok lo
The response to Gaurav's decision has been overwhelming and encouraging. A few pointers: Amit Varma (and Instapundit's got a pointer to this), a DesiPundit post that's steadily aggregating support.

Make sure you save your copies of Rok Sako To Rok Lo. They're going to become collector's items later when the entities at IIPM are punished to the point of shameful breakdown with repeated viewings of the movie. (Harish would approve).

and we also have: JR's taking a step back from the initial reactions; his thoughts are awaited. Abhishek notes some of the samples of misguided rage from the chhatargaN of IIPM.

Unrelated update: Just realised that RSTRL has an iTrans-friendly title just as salaam namaste did! In all ignorance, Arindam saar managed a subtle coup.
yet another case of step-children of the same parent ...

In true Agni Natchatram/Vansh tradition, the Dansh/Siskiyaan syndrome continues in a new strain. This time the source is Luc Besson's 1994 flick Léon [aka The Professional in the USA] (who can forget Gary Oldman and the style of the film?). Our Bollywood versions are separated by a few years, which would make it more a case of Uljhan/Yakeen. The first version was Guddu Dhanoa's 2000 Bobby Deol-Rani Mukherjee starrer Bichhoo featuring Ashish Vidyarthi doing his take on Gary Oldman's Stansfield. The second one is the second film (forthcoming) by Apurva Apoorva (Nov 21, 2005: that's how the credit reads on the soundtrack CD sleeve) Lakhia called Ek Ajnabee. His first film was a large anthill of vintage guano called Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost and featured chhoTaa B Abhishek. With his second film, Lakhia snags the services of the most common person in Bollywood releases today, the Big B. And of course a print of Luc Besson's movie. At least Bichhoo had something unique for itself -- the typical masalaaa-gore-grief-mayhem backstory for Bobby Deol's character. Wonder what this one will have? Yet another exposition of the Big B's acting skills?

As previously noted, early reports indicate that this film sources Man on Fire ... The premises of the potential sources overlap ... What remains to be seen is which source Lakhia will be more faithful to (probably the one he denies any influence of)

Monday, October 10, 2005

request for applause: a victory for free speech

Way to go, Gaurav! Tough decision to make. Reminds me of the time I took pride in dealing with an issue of integrity and need (minor in comparison)

Friday, October 07, 2005

acrimonious acronyms; please abbreviate

If you only went by headlines, this newsitem might give you the wrong idea that it was all about. Puffed rice kernels, sev, tomatoes, potatoes and the like? Yer ass! (as Harlan Ellison put it in his introduction to Slippage)

This is good reason to oppose and condemn the recent move by the CBSE ...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

w(h)ither education?

{from: india uncut}

The CBSE is going soft on spelling errors in exam papers (except when the subject presumably has something to do with inglish).

Pavnesh Kumar, CBSE's controller of examinations has several dregs of wisdom:

Kumar says today's children are "extremely weak" in spelling and he blames the "change in mode of teaching at schools" for this. Spelling and dictation classes are passe and the focus is on developing communication skills.

"It is, therefore, wrong to penalise kids for spelling goofups, if they have the right answers. Too much of computers is also causing this."

After that mouthful of meaningless nothing [emulating the pasha of peripatetic prose, SRK], he proceeds to offer some insight into how the board plans to design and implement this masterful stroke of pedagogical brilliance:

We've devised a scientific marking pattern for this.
bollywood blogs ...

The Aamir Khan/Mangal Pandey blog {more here} seems to have provided the mainstream push that Bollywood (I wonder if there are other Indian film personalities who already blog and just don't do it for publicity) filmmakers required. Prakash Jha decides to inaugurate his blog on a more serious note. The subject: A recent kidnapping (ignore the grammatical slips therein). The events act as a more surreal trailer to Jha's forthcoming film Apaharan featuring Ajay Devgan and Nana Patekar. Do the kidnappers read blogs? But that shouldn't discount the possibility that this might get the case some more visibility and perhaps public interest might encourage the efforts of the authorities.
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