Wednesday, March 30, 2005


While Google celebrates Vincent Van Gogh, Eric Clapton turns 60. There's a BBC Radio 2 interview {more info} (caveat: available only for seven days after broadcast), but I'm dealing with an RTSP-unaware firewall.

Google Logo/Van Gogh 2005
autumn sonata [march 28, 2005]

Ingmar Bergman's richly coloured and photographed tale of the simmering rage and discord in the relationship between a successful mother and her daughter makes Khalid Mohammed's deplorable adaptation[sic] Tehzeeb look like fossilized dinosaur droppings seasoned with hippuric acid. That diatribe aside, this film that brought together the two Bergmans is a disturbing tale to watch. Everything transpires without too much ado or fuss, but you can sense the approaching crescendo (it's anti-dramatic edge only augments the brilliance of the film). I had never expected to understand the importance of Chopin in the film, but I am glad I did. It's a sign of progress. And the less said about people like KM who choose lofty films like these to butcher the better.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

remake raajaa priyadarshan is back {aka 2 for the price of 1}

Garam Masala with Akshaye Khanna is a remake of Boeing Boeing. [ref: rediff interview]

I am making another film with Om Puri, Paresh Rawal and Riteish Deshmukh, based on a new subject. I was supposed to make it in Malayalam, but now I will make it first in Hindi... The film is about a dead man winning a lottery, and the entire village tries to hide it and get that money.. Waking Ned Devine, anyone?

In his second interview, he even drops a note about Hungama being a remake of Poochakkoru Mookkuthi.

related: the other remakes

return of the living dead 3 [march 28, 2005]

Perfect random small-time horror flick. Haven't seen the two movies that preceded this tired tale of the ill consequences of trying to revive the dead for military purposes by exploiting the side-effects of Trioxin. The film has adequate amounts of detailed gore and unpleasantness, and everything is rendered with the "naaTak in generals" approach. Extraneous lines like "Damn it! It's a dead end" abound. There's an interesting poster bearing the tagline "Life, Sex and Death" that underscores one of the implicit equations of most horror flicks. People pronounce "route" as "root", which is not the American way of doing things. Brian Yuzna's directorial credit gets an unexpected once-more during the opening credits. Wonder what dialling 1-800-DRINK-UP will do for you. The word "exoskeleton" gets subtitled as "ecto-skeleton" throughout the movie. And if you're a movie history buff you should find the quote from Bride of Frankenstein amusing. Interestingly enough, Brian Yuzna was also associated with two other films that might have influenced this flick: Re-Animator and Bride of Re-Animator.

Monday, March 28, 2005

sutradhar [march 27, 2005]

Yet another Marathi-to-Hindi product, Sutradhar has a familiar theme at its core: power corrupts. The players are familiar faces: Nana Patekar, Smita Patil (in an ineffectual role), Girish Karnad, Ashalata, Nilu Phule. Apparently, this was a Marathi musical converted from the stage. The production values suffer from the budget constraints marring the potential of the material. The only thing that anyone might remember about this movie is the title song (ye suutradhaar kaun hai). Interesting bit of trivia: Shrabhani Deodhar (wife of cinematographer Debu Deodhar) was assistant to director Chandrakant Joshi. SD went on to make Lapandav, Sarkaarnama and Silsila Hai Pyar Ka. And her daughter Sai/Monika is doing television!
out of time [march 27, 2005]

In preparation for the latest Bhatt camp product Zeher, I thought I'd catch the original (Thanks to certain unforeseen events, I managed to snag the DVD earlier than expected). The film has the mood and music going for it ("Florida noir in colour" anyone?). The implausible turns in the script, and some really unexpected behaviour from some parties, unfortunately, serve to dampen its impact. It's a decent way to kill time, though. Despite all the familiar elements, the film boasts a good pace. And I have also prepared myself for the mapping in Zeher (which I contend will lack all the pace and merit of the source).

Sunday, March 27, 2005

jackie brown [march 26, 2005]

Can't say more about QT now that I've gushed about the Kill Bill saga at length [thoughts on Vol I, thoughts on Vol II]. But if there's one film in his canon that portends the KB double-bill, it's this one. There are the obvious elements (the tribute to a genre, the great mix tape on the soundtrack, the little graphic depicting a plane's journey) and the perhaps not-so-obvious ones (the patient pace, the measured dialogue, some excruciating detail on minutiae). There's also another great use of POV flashbacks as well as an interesting cutting of flashbacks during the pre-climactic moments of the film. And there's a nice bit of split-screen too. The end credits include special thanks to Peter Bogdanovich (apparently a tip of the hat to They All Laughed; also acknowledged in the end credits of both Kill Bill volumes for his voice [source]), Helmut Berger, Tony Curtis, Peter Fonda, Scott Spiegel, and Sam Fuller ("thanks for everything"). Also note that the copyright is held by Mighty Mighty Afrodite Productions Ltd.). The 2-DVD package is attractive, but the special song cue menu is screwed up. Makes it an unnecessary challenge to play "match-the-following" with a process of elimination and selection. Constraints of time prevented me from relishing the interesting enhanced trivia track (the subtitles comprise bits of trivia about the scene) (see also: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). Other goodies include the complete Chicks Who Love Guns video, and strange QT bits where he keeps looking elsewhere off-camera. The second DVD includes deleted and alternate scenes, my favourite of which is the opening sequence introducing Pam Grier modified to use Misirlou. Hilarious!! I wonder if Ray Nicolet's (Michael Keaton) number (310-915-9302) got anyone into trouble.

I still haven't managed to dig into Elmore Leonard's source novel, but friends have complained about the differences between the number of pages and the amount of footage that some characters have received. I wonder chiefly about the brevity of Robert De Niro's part. It's not that his character isn't well-defined (the script and his performance ensure that all is conveyed), but there seems to precious little for his character to do (besides providing a mostly passive participant in the events). But that minor quibble aside, I'd like to recommend this film. All the acclaim was well-deserved.

Esoteria: You can see a book called Short Blade as part of the packing for the shopping bag used in the switch. Turns out it's a book written by Peter Emshwiller. What's very Kill Bill-esque is that (according to his IMDB page) Peter Emshwiller works in other departments on films and was set dresser on Jackie Brown. Portends the Jasmine Yuen in-joke in Kill Bill Vol II that got me googlewhacked.

danav [march 25, 2005]

I wonder how many people have heard of Makrand Deshpande's Danav. There are people like me who follow Vishal Bhardwaj's work. There are those who know about MD's theatrical side, the plays he has written and staged. And perhaps there are those who follow adaptations of theatrical works steeped in mythology and old lore (remember Agni Varsha?). Some of us are lucky to transcend simply having heard of the film. We get to watch it. Surprise, surprise. It made it to DVD. The film stars Sonali Kulkarni (whose extremely Marathi demeanour still grates), Sayaji Shinde and Aryan Vaid. There's just one song (a.nga.Daa_ii) penned by Javed Akhtar and rendered with shrieky fervour by Asha Bhosle (spelled "Bhonsle"). A much better alternative comes from the background vocals featuring Aarti Anklikar Tikkekar. I failed to discern any allegories in the script, but the theatrical nature of the proceedings was unfortunately apparent. Despite the presence of Chandan Arora (RGV's assistant who made his directorial début with the mostly satisfying MMDBCH) on the editing front, the film remains jerky, uneven, and often hasty. Would have worked wonderfully as a play, but it doesn't quite work as a film. Bad subtitle alert: golden is the hay/and the company is gay. Alert viewers may note that the songs were recorded by Kay Jay (K J Singh, most probably).
when there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth [march 25, 2005]

Dawn of the Dead, George Romero's original second entry in the Dead trilogy, has a lot going for it to withstand comparisons with and to Zack Snyder's remake. The film is enriched with Tom Savini's exquisitely detailed make-up effects and boasts a great stock of PMPs (Poor Man's Process). Savini even manages two cameos: one as a zombie that the truck runs into at one point and also as Pasqual Buba. The commentary has fragments of interest (e.g. The blood that Tom Savini bought from the 3M company looked like "melted crayons" and helped with the comic book feel of the film; David Emge's zombie is based on Lon Chaney Jr.). Also interesting was the rating that the film received: There is no explicit sex in this picture, however there are scenes of violence, which may be considered shocking. No one under 17 will be admitted. I liked this entry more than the remake: this one has a more patient pace, it's not slap-dash Friday night entertainment, it's creepier, and earthier. And now to dig up the third edition in all its gory glory before the remake pops up. Wonder what would happen if Bollywood chose to adapt this film ... (all those haphazard Ramsay ventures notwithstanding).

Friday, March 25, 2005

I'm not a bad person. I'm a real good person [march 23, 2005/march 24, 2005]

Monster is a very disturbing film. It's disturbing, because it refuses to take sides. It refuses to make mush and melodrama of the events in the life of Aileen Wuornos, a Daytona Beach prostitute who became a serial killer. Charlize Theron delivers a very very convincing performance aided by some great makeup. All you have to do for a comparison is watch Reindeer Games. Christina Ricci lends great support as Aileen's "muse", a reason to strive for a better life. It is unfortunate that the struggle ends in a journey from the good side over to the bad. What I really liked about the film was that at the end of it I had mixed feelings about Aileen, about Selby, and about the goings-on. There was an equal mix of sympathy, horror and a strong sense of sadness. Given that this is a brief work of fiction based on a much larger more complex life, tradeoffs and representative composites may be expected. But the film gets points for not attempting to go the mainstream route of Thelma & Louise (the film I was strongly reminded of). The extra features on the DVD emphasize the salient aspects of BT's soundtrack: the importance of the 5.1 layout, and the different constituent elements (including a hurdy-gurdy).

Other elements that I liked include: the shot of Aileen by the freeway that appears twice in the film (once as the background for the sole opening credit of the title, and once later on); the mix of Aileen's voiceover about her past counterpointing her efforts to find a job; the opening which features a flashback that uses a growing rectangle sharing the aspect ratio of the film that grows (along with Aileen) to fit the frame; the motif of the ferris wheel (the "monster" from aileen's childhood). And yes, the songs on the soundtrack.

Grouse: The only subtitles on the DVD are in Spanish; the extras aren't plentiful. But, at least you have a DVD. Go grab a copy, watch it, and be warned: it's not pleasant.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

an augustine revival

From the ashes of this blog in 2004 rises a two-pronged phoenix bringing you old posts loaded with all the stuff you love to skip:

The first, horror, partition and pilferage, deals with horror (Cabin Fever), partition (Train to Pakistan) and pilferage (Aatank hi Aatank) [duh!]

The second, a rotten concert, and a pentateuch of viewings, deals with a rotten concert (the duh! crowd leaves at this point), Resident Evil, Gayab, Raghu Romeo, April Fool's Day, and Hollywood Homicide.
marketing your marketing

Rediff reports that 1857: The Rising (or whatever they want to call it officially) is going to have a different marketing strategy (read: haTake aka Nadeem about every Nadeem-Shravan soundtrack). Dudes, don't market your marketing strategy. Just do it. Jeez.

Fuels the growing fear that it might end up like Pearl Harbo(u)r (all smoke for a long long time, no fire).

the woes of /.

A post about new work related to Ramanujan's congruences on /. represents a new low for the forum. The text of the post refers to Ramanujan as a "self-taught math genius from India" and "the Indian math guy". The referenced New Scientist article has his name in the first sentence. A clear indication of sloppiness on the part of the poster. A lot of the retorts in the thread share my sentiment. Some even argue racism. And you can ignore the usual nonsense about outsourcing (which seems to come up every time India is mentioned ... there's a geographical cliché for you).

Monday, March 21, 2005

blues with buddy [march 19, 2005]

Buddy Guy, at The Tabernacle. Playing the blues. Being as salacious, leeringly playful, suggestive and impeccably brilliant "all across the board" -- his playing, his singing, the jokes, the tour about the place during an extremely extended middle-section laden with solos, the works. A great showman, a wonderful bluesman. The control he exercised on the volume and tone as he caressed each note in his delicately fine solos was enough for me to agree with Clapton's estimation of BG as one of the greatest living blues guitarists today. The little hommage to Cream and Hendrix was just icing on the cake. Time and money well spent.
the sounds of kaal

Salim-Sulaiman (occasionally "Suleiman") have been great background score providers for a while now (ab tak chhappan, teen deewarein, bhoot, darna mana hai). The new Dharma Productions release Kaal now gives them a way to be conventional music directors (setting lyrics to music; and then seeing these songs form the backdrop for family-friendly jhaTak-maTak). Given the threads of the plot (here there be tygers) and the setting (primarily the Jim Corbett National Park), the sampling of Survivor's Eye of the Tiger seems apt. A KJ move reminiscent of the official sampling of Pretty Woman for Kal Ho Naa Ho and the unofficial legally-murky sampling of It's raining Men in K3G. SS come up with a nice mix of voices, sounds and samples (toss in the maha mrityunjay mantra for good measure) and this seems like a surefire hit on the dance floor.

Karan Johar seems to be working into the mainstream equivalent of RGV, chiefly in the way he has been providing ramps for his assistants. First it was Nikhil Advani with Kal Ho Naa Ho. And now, it's Soham Shah.

I like a man who arrives before his printout [march 20, 2005]

I'm not sure what kind of film The Coca-Cola Kid was meant to be. This is the tale of a "genius" Coca Cola marketing exec who travels down under to improve market penetration and finds a formidable adversary in a valley owned by a rich man who makes his own soft drinks. With a basic premise of that kind you have the potential for a chick flick, a platform for commentary on the evils of capitalism (in different forms), an excuse to make jokes about Coca Cola and (hence?) corporate America, but get your share of laughs on the way. The film (well, most of it) manages to do all this and more. That alone makes for interesting viewing.

Loved that Coca Cola jingle, the chance to see a didjeridu, the nice overhead shot of a little mouse exploring the hero's boots, and the presence of The Americans Baby by Frank Moorhouse (which served as one of the two collections of short stories that this film derived its screenplay from).

And since The Big Red gets referenced so heavily, the film opens with a set of disclaimers that can only serve as instructional templates for anyone attempting to parody another big corporation:

  • the film is a work of fiction. neither the film nor its makers have any connection with the CocaCola company or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates. the CocaCola company has not licensed, sponsored or approved of this film in any way.

  • all persons, events and characters in this film are entirely fictional. the film in no way purports to present an accurate account of the activities of the CocaCola company, its subsidiaries or affiliates in australia -- past, present or future

  • CocaCola and Coke are registered trademarks which identify the same product of the CocaCola company. the dynamic ribbon device is also a trademark of the CocaCola company.

the singularge experience of Swades [march 18, 2005/march 20, 2005]

story and direction: Gowariker has his heart in the right place. As a screenwriter he needs to change his hat. With Swades he betrays an alarming inability to trim the fat off a film before shipping it to the theatres. Gowariker, in many ways, is like Karan Johar. They both work off templates of favourite ideas. While Johar converts clichéd elements of North Indian culture into a marketable packaged product, Gowariker chooses to appeal to the brain a bit, while hoping to make his work more widely accessible. Johar's efforts have met with success, but Gowariker still needs to work at it. Like Vishal and Farhan Akhtar he is imbued with a refusal to let the brain-dead needs of mainstream cinema govern the kind of stories he wants to tell. But unlike these two, he still faces problems with tightening his narrative and letting the heart drive the length of the film.
the music: All the songs are extraneous. Some of ARR's arrangements are rather irksome given the context of the songs (case in point, the percussive elements of saa.Nwariyaa saa.Nwariyaa). yuu.N hii chalaa chal is marred by length, the lukewarm execution (something that mars the film as a whole), the clumsy use of visuals directly complementing the lyrics (e.g. jaise ko_ii ga.ngaa me.n nahaaye), and an unsuccessful attempt to mix a diegetic track and real-time singing. One of the big losses to the narrative comes from the irritating ye taaraa vo taaraa. A crucial moment arrives near the tail end of the song (the projection screen is dropped and a first step is taken to unite two communities), and I have heard enough about this having gone unnoticed. The film deserved just one song, the wonderfully evocative yo jo des hai teraa, rendered with trademark élan by ARR himself. The accompanying visuals receive better treatment from the editing department to complement the song and its message effectively. aahistaa aahistaa did not make the final cut, and I must breathe a heavy sigh of relief on that note. I wasn't too happy with ARR's Filmfare-winning background score. A lot of it reworked the songs on the soundtrack, and there was just one cue that functioned like a background score should: when Mohan talks about his kaaverii ammaa and his neglect. The rest of it suffers from the unfortunate tendency of Hindi film background scores to compete with the narrative for attention.
the performances: Shah Rukh Khan easily grabs top honours with a restrained performance as Mohan Bhargava. There are the familiar elements seen in other performances of his, but there are moments that receive due restraint and care. The iconography of Shah Rukh Khan as a star helps the commercial angle of the film. But since I didn't see a cohesive push to make it commercially appealing, this aspect of SRK wasn't as important for me. The only downside came from inconsistencies in his character (accent, speech patterns) given the time he has spent in the USA. Gayatri Joshi scores over previous Gowariker find Gracy Singh in the looks department. She doesn't have much to do, and as the film progresses, she only makes her shortcomings (or the shortcomings of the role itself) more evident. No great shakes (no pun intended) in the dance department. Her contribution amounts to tons of Colgate smiles in the second half of the film. That's acceptable in a modelling stint or an ad film, but not in a film where you'd expect to know more about the character. Only subsequent films will tell us if she will prove to be as ineffectual an actress as Gracy Singh. The supporting cast features some Lagaan familiars, but everything suffers from the general tendency of the proceedings to be lukewarm.
the fat: Things that deserved to be trimmed were the exterior shots of the Air India flight, the song sequences (bar one), the whole raam liilaa sequence (thanks to Joshi's uninterested moves, and absolutely no effective soaring moments). And did we need two Will Smith-style bathing expositions of SRK?
the nice sequences: The argument over dinner about the Indian government and responsibilities of Indians; The sequence at Haridas's house; The sequence at the train station where Melaa Raam provides the fee for Mohan's first glass of local unbottled water (must note the attention to tiny elements like these about how Mohan's life has been altered in the USA). The film boasts another interesting expression of love (see also: Lakshya) when Giitaa tells Mohan that she has begun to love him. It is only destroyed by the introduction of yet another song (and that it featured my favourite hates Udit and Alka didn't help matters much).
the trivia: Gowariker manages to squeeze in lucky mascot Aamir Khan by employing the famous clip from Yaadon ki Baaraat.
the message: I will argue strongly that this is not a film encouraging expats to pack their bags and return to India. This is not a film about a 'reverse brain drain'. All it does is present the decision of one Indian who arrives at a very important decision and backs it up with some cogent thought. The case of Mohan Bhargava cannot possibly attempt to present a generic template for the lives of Indian professionals in the USA. The only message, if you are one who believes that a film without the customary naach-gaanaa and dishum-dishum must have a message, is that we need to be clear on the issues that trouble us. Mohan Bhargava is transformed in the film from being someone who has potentially escaped the issues that affect him dearly to being someone who finds a way to deal with them and tackle them head-on. There is no guarantee of success, but there is the consolation of having tried.
other pluses: the posters; the promos. Simple, elegant, and very becoming.
DVD boo!: Some sick mind responsible for the subtitling chose to use the King's English. Be warned: you will see a lot of thee, thou, thine, wouldst, and the like. Quite irritating really. And why can't these subtitlers get the English right? The English subtitles never match the English spoken on screen.

In summary, I can see why this movie would become fodder for middle-class conversations in the dentist's waiting room. I can see why this movie could not have worked in the cinema halls. I can only hope that Gowariker manages to marry his vision and execution in his next venture and give us a film that feels more strongly about its core issues, and makes sure we understand them.

Friday, March 18, 2005

notes in black

Caught the Sarkar preview on Slick. What you've come to expect from RGV. Caught the cast list elsewhere, and apart from the possibilities of the two Bs fighting it out (or will they?), there's Kay Kay Menon again, and two returns of familiar faces: Supriya Pathak, and Rukhsar (famous for playing doomed characters in Yaad Rakhegi Duniya -- an unsung adaptation of Mani Ratnam's Geetanjali [does anyone remember TuuTii khi.Dakii maka.De kaa ja.ngalaa/ja.ngale ke piichhe bhuut ba.ngalaa?] -- and Inteha Pyar Ki). Nice touch on the colour invading the evil B&W frames.

And thus we segue to some more black soup. While his latest film Black Friday {elsewhere: my notes on the soundtrack} seems doomed just like Paanch, Anurag Kashyap did not hold back in his thoughts on Bhansali's widely hailed Black.

shabd: at no loss for words

[march 14, 2005/march 16, 2005]

the performances: In her directorial début Leena Yadav brings together a cast that offers to establish a new high value for the incompetence coefficient. The primary trio Sanjay Dutt, Aishwarya Rai and Zayed Khan compete for being the most prime ham on the block. Dutt's only skills only lay in the muscles department, and attempting the cerebral role of a writer consumed by his work and driven to insanity, he succeeds in defining a new threshold of pain for the audience. Rai continues to cover new milestones in looking pretty, laughing stupid, wearing ghastly attire, mouthing ridiculous lines of dialogue with the worst timing and most imbalanced accent and completely ignoring the attributes of the role in question. Zayed Khan achieves a new low and I predict that he will be one of the most successful stars in the coming years simply because he possesses all the attributes of being a star and none for being an actor of substance. And there's Kamini Khanna revising her patented act from the Dharma productions and as the puurNa\-viraam grand lady of prostitution in Julie for the role of Mrs. Kapadia The only creditable performances come from the supporting cast comprising Brijendra Kala as Ramaakaa.nt, the accomplished Sadia Siddiqui as Rajanii, and Lalit Parasher who deserved more screen time as the whacky Mr. Bhargav.
the story: Leena Yadav goes all out on her directorial début by handling writing and editing credits as well. From the looks of the film these two departments did not talk to each other. There's this irritating motif (and it's a heavy-motif) of letters cascading all over the screenscape (a tharraa-induced hangover from A Beautiful Mind) no doubt. I got the impression several times as the film plodded on that this would have been a nice starting point for an experimental play (Perhaps, it was even lifted from one?). Quite a few scenes fit better in that context than on screen (e.g. the pre-interval scene where A.ntaraa questions Shaukat's indifference and increasingly twisted view of fiction and reality; the first post-interval scene where the characters review their actions). The problem I had with the scene where A.ntaraa accuses Shaukat of living a convoluted world of fiction out of touch with reality is: this is a man who has written two books, one of which won the Booker prize; she's his wife; she should know him well enough to have seen this coming a long time ago; there is no progression from a regular writer's existence to this obsessed avataar in the film that can excuse the lack of any explanation for this showdown. Also, the nice touch of her referring to him as 'tum' instead of 'aap' is ruined by bad exposition.

unanswered questions: Don't women change from their working clothes to something more comfortable before they begin cooking? Why the hell is Sanjay Dutt dressed up in a suit while working on his novel? Is Velocity the club where sholo.n sii takes place? -- noticed a B B King poster on the walls ...

(mis)direction: Who thought that long (watch Sanjay Dutt's wristwatch carefully) lovemaking scene was erotic? A case of "all fart no sh**" IMHO. I kept thinking of a comment Kamal Hassan had made in an interview a long time ago about Hindi film songs ("like animals trying to discover sex"). The climactic sequence is a classic example of how things can go screaming to auteurial hell. It's a complete waste of time featuring people running towards each other, embraces in slow motion, and edit dissolves.

camera work: Jarring and obtrusive -- betraying a fetish for a faux-documentary-style approach.

sholay reference:tumhaaraa naam basa.ntii kyo.n nahii.n hai?

the music and songs: Vishal and Shekhar choose the Latin-American vibe for their songs, but I fail to see how that fits with the vision of the film (or was there never any intention of achieving a unity of visions?). Perhaps the choice of Goa for a bulk of the shooting had something to do with it ... As a stand-alone set, they represent a decent effort from this talented duo, but I'd recommend a dose of Buena Vista Social Club or one of Gilberto's CDs to set your perspective straight. And their efforts on the background score only give just cause to reiterate the golden rule of background scoring: never compete for foreground attention. Listen carefully and you can catch the cog from Allegro con fuoco from Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 in E minor (aka "From the New World").

the cornfields of dialogue: The dialogues department comes up with more shlocky lines in addition to providing a new example of a loathsome mix of Hindi and English. A few samples of the inanity that pervades the system follow: ha.Nsii ... kaisii? crystal-clear. jharane kii tarah(Shaukat); lekin kyaa ghar pahu.nchate hii dimaag see bhii ##exit## karavaa detii ho? (Yash); apanii a.ntaraa ko ek shabd banaa diyaa? (A.ntaraa's voiceover, providing us with the crux of the film -- as if we really cared at this point)

trends?: Should we consider the use of Sonu Nigam instead of Kumar Sanu to provide "he he he"s to the background to be a sign of progress?

trivia: Shaukat Vashisht wins the Booker Prize (see also: The Big B winning the Bookers Prize in Baghban) for a book called Mindscape. His critically panned follow-up novel is called And Time Stood Still. Interestingly, both books have the same cover design. And Walrus Publications has to be a reference to Penguin Books.

DVD quirks: Surely the subtitle ("why? 53 15") for "kyo.n" deserves mention. "Nobody understands the human mind better than Shaukat Vashisht" becomes "Nobody understands the human mind better than Shaukat wishes".

summary: The promise of the film lay in the attempts to present the process of creation, the process of a novelist working on the characters in his novel. What we get is hen-coop detritus that marks a fusion of bad acting, bad camerawork, bad editing and bad dialogue. And yes, a lot of wasteful yap-yap-yap. Since the final novel is going to be in English, why are all the proceedings in half-baked Hindi? Make a movie in English, people. You couldn't have captured the mainstream with this bucket of bull dung. Boring blabber-fest this. Rent My Dinner with André and then watch your brains blow up. In slow motion.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

bombay beats: a year later

Can't believe that it has been a year since I last explored eBay for offerings from Bombay Beats. WARNING: All URLs to the eBay pages will turn invalid once the auctions are done.

HADSAA Bollywood BOMBAY FUNK OST: HADSAA!! (An Incident). For a title like that we'll do anything!! A Wicked Kalyandi/Anandji score from the 80's. You would almost believe it's a Bappi, so many samples here. Disco, also heavy funk. First Top Track is "Disco Cammata," a Wild Men's Instrumental with a tribal beat, screaming savages. Ultra weird Moog effects all over the place that are designed to fry your brain. Then there is the title song song with a splendid beat, with bells & locomotivs. Absolute hilarious Climax is the Disco Hit Track from the album. Y.O.G.A. !!! Yo! Now do the Y.O.G.A. with this Indian Film Hero. Cheesy Bombay Disco Bombast. Obligatory material for every serious, internationally oriented aerobics collection. The hero informs us about all styles of yoga: "Karam Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Tantra Yoga, Karo Yoga, Yoga Yoga Yoga!!" Keeps you perfectly fit !!India 1982 [
I caught this flick again when back home in December 2004 and I can attest to two things: (a) it's a bizarre movie; (b) the YOGA song is a veritable certifiable classic

Muqaddar ka Sikkandar KILLER BOMBAY FUNK: If you're planning a Bombay funk dance night, this record will do all the work! The song "Pyar zindagi hai" is so damn hard and sleazy! It doesn't get funkier in Bombay for sure. Composers Kalyandji Anandji ripped Lalo Schifrin's version of "Jaws" for the hypnotic groove and it is far superior with dangerously funky drumming. First, in the middle of soundeffects, a sexy female voice invites us: "Hey, you dig this sort of music he? You like it! So why don't you come join in lovers paradise!" and there we go on a crazy, hypnotic, ecstatic, sexy funk ride. And this is the unabridged version and lasts over 6 minutes, with several great breaks, beats and strange mysterious intermezzi in which the beat goes on. The best Bombay floor filler! Singing is very aluring and hypnotic as well, with giggles and "ah and ooh". And, remarkable: Lata going sleazy here. The track is sung by both Lata Mangeshkar & Asha Boshle.
Rest of the songs are funny, beautiful or boring, but there are plenty strange and funky passages to be used. "Rote Hue" is also funky with very beat oriented passages. O saathi Re is a very beautiful song. And what a blood filled cover. India 1978

teesri manzil 60s DetectiveFilmNoir RD Burman BOLLYWOOD: Legendaric, very rare soundtrack to the 1966 Detective Film Noir Teesri Manzil aka "The Third Floor". Burman had done some films before but this was his first score that hit the right spot HARD. He introduced his typical sound, a new mix between Hindi filmmusic and Western Beat & Surf & Rock & Roll music played on Western instruments & Indian percussion. Young India was stirred alive and went massively to the cinemas.
Listen to the the opening track, a completely DEVASTATING Title Music, with nerve breaking detective suspense and heavy secret agent horns. Berserk Organ, violins and strange effects.Absolutely unheard of, absolutely cool. There is even a tape recorder effect! Absolute top in the Indian detective genre, which means, as it often does: absolute top worldwide!!! And the rest of this score is filled to the brim with groovy surf, mod & R&R! India 1966

Hum Kisise Kum Naheen bollywood MOOG FUNK INDIAN OST: Classic funky soundtrack by Rahul Dev Burman with a great colourfull gatefull cover that folds open in the middle. 'Bachna ae Haseeno' has the funkiest intro ever, and is a whole instrumental in itself. Groovy brass section and a spacey Miles Davis Solo.
'Chand Mera Dil' is introduced by weird weird keyboards and equally weird trumpet, which sets pace for a psychedelic Indian tuned percussion beat. Again an instrumental in itself! R.D. Burman's Moog goes wild in the intro of 'Mil Gaya Ham Ko Saathi. Many psychedelic things going on.
This album has loads of samples & breaks and an incredible fat sound too!! India 1977, EMI PEALP 2005 original cover with 2 doors

wild INDIAN SOUNDTRACK EP: Purab aur Pachhim: Soundtrack to the 1971 movie 'Purab Aur Pachhim' which means 'East or West'. It is entirely devoted to the in Indian Cinema central theme Western Modernity versus Indian Tradition. Read: Whiskey, Smoking & Free Sex vs. Good Family Life.
On this EP uou find an incredible groover! In the song, the westernized hip chick Priti tries to teach the hero Bharat English songs like 'Twinkle Twinkle little star'. The guy turns the songs immedeatily into an incredible raw, steaming Hindu party, blending it fluently with oriental hindi song lines. Savage drums, loud percussion. The singing has very uncommon timing, incredibly groovy and infectious. Now and then the rhythm halts:
Priti: 'You Fool!'
Bharat: (rhythm starts again) 'every- bo-dy is a fool, ba-by!'
Priti: 'Oof!! What do you want?!?'
Bharat: (rhythm starts again) 'I ....want is a chan -ce, ba -by!'
Your audience will jump & sing along to this oriental macho version of 'Twinkle Little Star' & 'Jack & Jill' rough-style, dancing like madmen. If that's beyond good taste, you might find yourself in front your own stereo, going berserk (at least I do). Forget about modernity. Throw off your suit & join the tribal dancing. This is the best introduction into traditional Hindu wildness you'll ever get. India 1970

Upaasna Frantic Jazz beat BOLLYWOOD OST: Wow! One of the wildest OSTs of all times! Great cover with Helen & Mumtaz, which pictures the sleazy westernized nightclub life which seemed to obsess 1960&1970's India.
And the 10 minutes track 'Meri Jawani' lives up to the cover! The music is by Indian sleez-jazz masters Kalyanji/Anandji and this is one of their incredible highlights in the genre. A paralysing multitude of themes, melodies, genres and instruments pass by. It takes them 4 minutes and at least 12 diffenrent themes to come to the song itself, sung really beautiful & intoxicating by Asha Boshle on a relaxed jazzy groove. In between the track builds up with horns and percussion. It builds and it builds, hysteric flutes, strange noises & rattles, strings of whole piano's being hit and finally it explodes into a frantic bongo madness with bone squeeking screaming. This is so rich, and so weird. Beyond any category. Listen yourself.
Next to that: a very beautiful duet between Rafi & Lata, and a very long mad mad beat track by Asha full of screaming organs and a nice, sexy jazz intro. Very worthwhile. India 1975

DISCO DUNIYA BOLLYWOOD DISCO moog: Mad cheesy Non-stop Lp with DISCO versions of your favourite Hindi hits! Including Hare Rama hare Krishna, Rambo Ho Samba Ho, Don, Qurbani, The Train, Lawaaris, Karz, Sholay (Mehbooba Mehbooba), Teesri Manzil and many others. True, the vocals are often not too digestable, but many mad, cheesy and funky musical things going on in between. India 1982

DANCE DISCO DANCE Bollywood disco Bappi & Burman: Another Bollywood Disco exploitio album with disco tracks from different soundtracks. Contains the great funk lounge track from JOSH and the amazing horror funk intro to Burman's DAULAT, the disco trash track of ARMAAN ramb-ho, disco trash from YEH NAZDEEKIYAN, KARZ, MAUT KA SAYA, NAMAAK HALAAL and the spiritual disco from PYAAS om namae shiva. India 1982

CHAL DISCO CHAL bollywood disco stevie wonder: Another crazy Bolly-Exploito-Disco highlight by Bombay's own PETER MOSS, sung by Musarrat an Sharon. Contains the mad deep discotheque track CHAL DISCO CHAL and DEKHO DEHKO, a STEVIE WONDER COVER, and another disco cover DIWANA YE HE DIL of which I forgot the original

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

news ... or the lack thereof

If you're the US, and you've still got your marbles intact, you've probably figured out that the news channels are not exactly trustworthy unbiased sources of news. Here's something that happened yesterday/today that offers further proof of this. Yesterday, March 14, 2005, someone in Atlanta committed suicide (presumably) by jumping off a parking deck 7 floors high (all this is based on what I have been told). Since then, and until now, there's been nothing on the news (I am told) channels. Someone called Fox News and asked them why they hadn't reported it. The reply: We don't report suicides. Yeah! Time for the clocks to strike thirteen.

in death, there are no accidents, no mishaps, no coincidences and no escapes

{sunday, march 13, 2005}

James Wong, who makes his directorial début with Final Destination, is but one of several people on the team with connections to The X Files and/or Millennium. The phrase something about death (see also: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly?) is rather apt about all the devices employed in this above-average scare-flick. The quote from Con Air that is but one embellishment for the left pane of this blog only adds some ironic coincidence to the milieu. In addition to some interesting death sequences, there's also a deplorably brief cameo from Tony "Candyman" Todd. But I derived the most from all the references in the film (to famous people in the horror filmmaking business, and to death).

Filmmakers: Murnau (Nosferatu), George Waggner (The Wolf Man), Browning(Dracula, Freaks), Hitchcock, Lewton(produced Cat People and I Walked With A Zombie), Weine (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari), Chaney (need we say more about the Man of a Thousand Faces), [and two characters whose names are not mentioned on-screen: Whale(Frankenstein) and Arnold(The Creature from the Black Lagoon)]

Death references: John Denver (died in a plane crash) songs abound in the diegetic soundscape (including a French version of Rocky Mountain High!), a magazine featuring coverage of the crash that killed Princess Diana. The murals in the boarding area foretelling the different ways that our characters meet death later in the film. The number of the beast on the luggage cart.

What a coincidence to find another reference to John Denver's death in killing your users the following day.

Monday, March 14, 2005

exterminate all rational thought [march 13, 2005]

Finally, I manage to watch Naked Lunch, David Cronenberg's infamous adaptation of the nightmarish work by William Burroughs. And to boot, it's the Criterion Collection release boasting lavish design, detailed sleeve notes, and a second DVD chock-full of extras. Cronenberg is the perfect choice to adapt the material and the result is not something easily digestible. This is a very very visceral exploration of the surreal frontier of the human mind. Cronenberg fans will relish familiar motifs: the body, excrutiatingly gross detail in the visions, the doppelganger (Dead Ringers, Spider). There's a great score by Ornette Coleman, and some nice opening titles (for a recent similar effort, check out The Incredibles). Bizarre to the last minute, it's a Kafka high; you feel like a bug.
carlito's way [march 12/13, 2005]

DVD annoyance rant: People who make DVDs like this should be shot (or have their family jewels seasoned with hot crushed peppers). The DVD goes straight from the unskippable copyright notice to an unskippable preview for the digitally remastered edition of Scarface; and then to the digitally remastered edition of Animal House; then Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life (2 DVD) before giving us a glimpse of the main menu for Carlito's Way, the movie in question.

Brian de Palma visits familiar territory on several fronts with this tale of a Corsican gangster trying to go straight. There's the obvious echo of Scarface (aided in no small measure by the presence of Pacino in both films). But more importantly, we get a glimpse of vintage de Palma in the use of slow motion and the staging of long sequences of nail-biting suspense featuring railway stations (see also: The Untouchables). There's also some nice use of filters and long uninterrupted shots. Another device that peppers the film is the use of dissolves. Aside from being a well-acted, well-scripted tale of destiny in a downward spiral, this is a great source for wonderful examples of how the way you stage a sequence can elevate it above the ordinary.

Friday, March 11, 2005

snip snip snippets

Wallace and Gromit are back to tackle The Curse of the Wererabbit. Ismail Darbar earns a special place in rant heaven with twin takes on A R Rahman and Subhash Ghai ... as if we didn't have enough tormented souls subjecting us to their tormenting "works of art[sic]"[sic].

Meanwhile, back in India, the silent killer is finally put to good use ... to encourage tax defaulters to mend their ways. Rock on!

Monday, March 07, 2005

a quart of reels

And before he knew it, Saturday was upon him. He sat himself down on the couch and waited impatiently while the unskippable combination of federal warning/corporate logo/contents copyright/extras copyright screens had passed before the main menu for Once Upon a Time in the West came up. He had seen this film as well as the dollars trilogy quite a few times before. But this time, he had the benefit of a lot of reading and viewing about Sergio Leone and his style of filmmaking. The trademarks of this director's immensely rich sense of narrative style were obvious, as were his tendencies for excess and inconsistency. But right from the slow agonizing opening sequence to the last frame of a developing railway town, he agrees with every contention that this movie has an undeniable place in the list of greats. He smiled at the way Leone's directorial credit appeared: like the clapping block on a clapper board. He liked the use of silence in Cheyenne's theme on the soundtrack: (a) the abrupt stop as Cheyenne was dying, before a low whistle accompanies the thud of his body hitting the ground, and then the theme starts back up again (b) during the end credits before the frame fades to black. The special features on the DVD are rewarding sources of information (and it's nice to see what Sir Christopher Frayling, the author of Something to do with Death -- a biography that takes both its title and cover photograph from this epic -- looks like). It's nice to see how the massacre of Thakur Baldev Singh's family was inspired by the killing of the McBain family. It's nice to see and understand the importance of the presence of Monument Valley and also the influence of directors like Ford on Leone. And since Leone is clearly a post-modern director here, how would Tarantino be qualified given that Kill Bill Vol I and Kill Bill Vol II derived from movies like this (which already derived their content from other Westerns)? Touch of Evil represented a not-so-nostalgic coda to film noir. This movie is Leone's coda to the genre of the Western. It is imbued with the disdain and disillusionment that Ford faced in the last years of his career, and presented in his films like The Man who shot Liberty Valance. This is not to say that Leone's opus is pessimistic. Far from it. It conveys all the hope of the new (final?) frontier, but with a strict adherence to the harshness of hate, greed and death. And by using actors in parts that challenge their established persona and iconography ("good guy" Henry Fonda, Ford's good cop Woody Strode).

The problem with Taking Lives is the complete lack of any surprise or mystery. You will never really have a doubt about the true identity of Martin Asher, who has been "taking lives" -- killing people and assuming their identities and lives, because he cannot have a life of his own (thanks to his mother having showered all her affections on a now-deceased sibling). This is not to undermine the sincerity of Angelina Jolie playing a troubled FBI profiler with moody gusto. Ethan Hawke doesn't deliver all the goods. And Kiefer Sutherland's part suffers from the fact that we've seen him do parts like this before (the perceived suspect). There's definitely a section of the audience that will probably remember this film for the display of skin. There is no denying that it is a valid piece of trivia. But I really wish the film could transcend the oh-too-obvious similarities in mood to much more effective mood pieces like Se7en (what can you do? The serial killer genre is saturated). The score by Philip Glass is effective, as are some examples of the marriage of interesting camera angles and editing. And I must confess a macabre liking for the last time we see the head of Gene Rowlands (followed by a nice almost-vertigo-zoom moment for Angelina Jolie).It would seem, in the grand summation, that the denouement is not the purpose of the film. It seems most rewarding when you are in it for the journey. And it's a slickly made, decently executed journey. And yes, it's nice to see something that's officially set in Canada, instead of getting that place to pass off any any random American landscape.

ham hai.n is pal yahaa.N

That Subhash Ghai has no talent as a filmmaker is evident. That he is on the verge of being a worthy successor to Dev Anand is undeniable. And the fact that his latest film Kisna: The Warrior Poet was compared to Yaadein shows that there are still some people in the audience who haven't switched their brains off. How does one begin to outline the demerits of a venture that is DOA? Vivek Oberoi almost betters his overtly-in-love-with-myself gig in Kyon!... Ho Gaya Na(dude, you have a long way to go before you can challenge Shah Rukh Khan). Subhash Ghai made the news for roping Ustad Rashid Khan in to sing a couple of songs on the soundtrack. If the way they were used in the film (or even arranged, to begin with) are any indication, Vishal's efforts with Sanjeev Abhyankar will continue to find no challenger for several years hence.

rahegii sadaa yahaa.N

Debutante Antonia Bernath grates like there is no tomorrow. And debutante Isha Sharvani does mostly nothing but dance in this film. Someone clearly handed her the wrong idea on how to make it big in Bollywood. What's the point of all those strange poses, all that rope mallakhaamb, and all those weird facial expressions? Ghai's posturing as an artistically sensitive filmmaker reeks thanks to this sample.

ham hai.n is pal yahaa.N (piano/flute interplay)

And there's so much hamming in this film, it should have received a adults-only certificate for non-vegetarianism. Om Puri's medium rare hamming is a big big disappointment (and a blow for people who thought that he could do no wrong). Sushmita Sen's cameo is only another addition to the list of bland uninteresting characters. In her case, her part suffers from brevity. Most others, like the badly under-cooked villain Prince Raghuraj, suffer from unimaginative writing (or the complete lack thereof). To see Rajat Kapoor in this role mouthing dead parrot lines like "that's just the reassurance I wanted".

ham hai.n is pal yahaa.N (plaintively bland keyboard arrangement)
The problem with sitting through this sorry affair is that in addition to nothing being any good, there's nothing that's any bad, in a manner of speaking. The bad stuff does not even pass the simplest litmus test for putridity. You can barely chuckle at predictably bad lines like "kisnaa, ##this politics##, matalab, hamaarii dostii, ##friendship## samaapt ?" or "jiivanalaal ##katherine## ko Dhuu.NDho waranaa tumhaaraa jiivan nahii.n rahegaa" or the Om Puri-mouthed inanity "for us, love is a love is a love is a love". Om Puri does get a bearable mouthful with "chamakatii taqadiir tumhaare saamane kha.Dii hai aur tuu us pe ba.nduuk taanakar kaale dhabbe lagaa riyaa hai .. aur vo bhii ardh\-na.ngaa?". To Vivek Oberoi belongs another competent earache: "zi.ndagii me.n kabhii ... kabhii\-kabhii ham ardh\-viraam ko puurN\-viraa samajhane lagate hai.n ... lekin vo puurN\-viraam nahii.n hotaa ... puurN\-viraam to sirph jiivan ke a.ntim saa.Ns ke saath hotaa hai".

ham hai.n is pal yahaa.N (slow version)

Ghai was never someone who could present patriotism in an intelligent way, and this film has a couple of examples of people extolling the virtues of India with varying degrees of imbecility. And we also have some stupid exchanges like the following:

kisnaa: arre! ab to tum achchhii hi.ndii bhii bol letii ho
katherine: avashya
kisnaa: su.ndar
katherine: atii[sic] su.ndar (giggles)

Every Ghai film has been notorious for featuring Ghai indulging one of his many wannabe whims -- trying to equate himself to great directors and filmmakers. In particular, his desire to stick in a cameo (echoing Hitchcock, most famously). Almost all of them stick out as being self-indulgent (One would have to try really hard to make such a convincing argument against Hitchcock). I couldn't spot him in this film, but he appears prominently in the end, standing (at the left end of the screen) on the same ledge as the protagonists in the film, pointing to the right, where the words "a film by subhash ghai" (as if we had to be reminded!!!) appear. Ghai wrote, produced, edited and directed this reeking opus. And feels proudly shameless enough to announce it. I submit this to the JaDe project {what is the JaDe project?}

ham hai.n is pal yahaa.N (nostalgic version)

All that exposition (Katherine's assumed name is Gangotri, Shankar (Yashpal Sharma) notes, for the benefit of the clueless in the audience, that Kisna has become truly like Lord Krishna after he kills his maternal uncle (Amrish Puri). Another pet itch of his falls off in this film too -- his penchant of giving his new heroines names that begin with an M (or choosing heroines who already had this taken care of). Didn't really work before. And it's probably just as well that he didn't do it this time. At least he has something he can blame the fate of this film on. After all, that stupid astrological excuse about his cameo in Yaadein wasn't very convincing. The subtitles (incompetent as ever) were probably written in Microsoft Word, because every new line is capitalized (a familiar annoyance).

ham hai.n is pal yahaa.N (pipe version)

The background score by A R Rahman seems to cog from James Cameron's TITANIC. And it seems to make a strange kind of sense -- this film uses a narrative structure (old woman goes into flashback mode to reveal the central story of ill-fated love with her younger self as one of the key players) just like that one. Alert listeners will recognize familiar phrases of raag kedaar at the Nawab's palace. And B-fashion connoisseurs will note the window shades (literally!) that Vivek Oberoi wears as part of his disguise there. And as I conclude, I can't shake off the fact that Farrukh Dhondy is listed as a fellow screenwriter...And, if you haven't already figured it out, my biggest grouse is the melody from A R Rahman that spreads like gangrene throughout the proceedings.

You could argue about the need for the violent nudity in The General's Daughter. And I might be inclined to agree, except that I can appreciate an even stronger argument for it being there -- if only to provide a suitably unsettling counterpoint to the motivations of people involved in the narrative. The plot elements are familiar, and I thought of A Few Good Men. Didn't like that one much, probably because of the presence of Tom Cruise, Demi Moore, and the undeniable aura that is Jack Nicholson. This film works well on most counts. Some of the writing is exceptionally engaging -- my favourites would be the scenes involving James Woods and John Travolta. James Cromwell lends able support, but Madeline Stowe is relegated to being a sidekick. Loved the soundtrack. Nice shots of Savannah. And the names of army bases were familiar, thanks to my day job. From a movie-monger's POV, there's John Frankenheimer's sole appearance before the camera (as General Sonnenberg) to cherish (and all of it, save the last line, done in one take). There seemed to be an oblique reference to Lethal Weapon 3 in the "I'll show you mine, you show me yours" exchange about grotesque wounds. Then there's the Casablanca dig with "We'll always have Brussels". And then there's Nietzsche ("that which does not destroy me makes me stronger"). Trivia-mongers may recall its use to open Conan the Barbarian. Two things worried me, though. That bumper sticker which said "killing for recreation". And "there are three ways of doing things: the right way, the wrong way, and the army way". Personal peeves aside, this is a decent thriller, which only fails at the denouement -- things just drop into stinkville in a most pathetic exhibition of the domino effect.

Which brings us (assume a suitable segue) to a B-grader from the personal collection, Scared to Death. The USP of this flick, according to the packaging, is that everything is told through flashback by a corpse (and this came before Sunset Boulevard!!!). The real USP is more movie-trivia-monger-friendly. This was apparently the only colour film that Bela Lugosi starred in. If you want laughs you can take comfort in some of the loud hamming that people indulge in, and the extreme theatrics (complete with Lugosi's steady standard take on the role). And you can also note the "photographed in natural colour" tagline in the opening credits. And just in case you forgot the name of the film, the final line tells you all: "she was literally scared to death".

in which we do restaurants instead of movies!

[march 04, 2005]

It began with a visit to the new Indian restaurant (unimaginatively called Desi Spice) in Midtown. Safely housed atop Après Diem in the Midtown Promenade along with Midtown Art Cinema a ton of other restaurants including Royal Orchid. Cramped but yet promising, the place then proceeded to go to hell. The menu, despite this being an Indian restaurant, was strictly 99% non-vegetarian. On any other day, I might not have been so affected. But this was Lent. And I had chosen to skip meat altogether. NOTE: It is only in the US of A that a resolution like this (which may be implemented without much ado or grief back home in India) can prove to be a challenge. The sizzler menu looked like something promising. ASIDE: As always, the percentage of Americans frequenting a desii restaurant is always useful when determining how "good" the place might be. This was a more-American-fewer-Indian place. We asked the manager about their vegetarian selection. "We have many vegetables here" (or something similar) was his response. There was a growing desire to see his head turn into a rotting cabbage. Muttering silent pardons and suppressing laughter, we noted that the selections were actually rather limited, making it difficult for us to want to stick around. We asked about the sizzlers (NOTE: everyone shared the reluctance to just walk out -- I think it's rude to walk out of a restaurant on any whim, but YMMV). We asked if they could convert one of their sizzlers to a vegetarian one (the "closest-match/least-effort" approach). He vigorously shook his head, and began uttering words to the effect that this was un-doable and implying that walking out was the only option we had. As we arose, he even added an afterthought "have you ever heard of a vegetarian sizzler?" At this point, as we walked out, I began to fantasize him as a despoiled wrinkled flaccid overgrown eggplant being attacked by an army of maggots who had just walked through the city sewage line. The smile on my face was inevitable. Returning to this dump is almost out of the question (if only for service and a complete lack of awareness of the domain).

The hungry stomach accepts no other respite but food. Despite this failure, the enthusiasm to try out a new place was still alive. So the next stop was Chowpatty (I disagree with this spelling, as with the spelling of the name of another Indian eatery Chat Patti, but that's of little consequence). There used to be another mini eatery where this place now sits -- in a strip in Decatur along with Mirch Masala and Sona Imports (among others). The gujaraatii thaalii was a well-priced option, but every order was cold, uninviting and (even if you made the leap of faith) hardly great shakes. Another thumbs down. For a similar setup, try Daabha over a year ago (sadly, they've moved to a restaurant mode of operation instead of the pay-and-collect cafeteria mode).

The final stop for the evening, if only to guarantee familiarity-based satisfaction and relief, was the over-hyped crowded Madras Sarvana Bhavan. Desserts were in order, but my chickoo milkshake looked more like the slime that put paid to the sorry lonely life of Jordy Verrill, and tasted like aspirated sandpaper. The replacement was on the house but not an adequate emollient. With three strikes, it was time to call it quits.

Friday, March 04, 2005

welcome to america, please shake a leg

the department of homeland security[sic] is experimenting with a great new way to track aliens in the US of A. Doggy style. Well, kinda. Anklet bracelets. Nice, ain't it? {NPR story}

Since this is supposed to improve their operations, I am reminded of a few relatively related incidents about how streamlined these operations already are.

When you switch from an F-1 to an H-1B and you are about to travel back to India to get your visa stamped, you will have two I-94s (the first one is the one you had on your passport from the last time you re-entered this country, and the second is the one you received after your H-1B application was approved). Before you board the plane, the airline officers are supposed to collect both from you ("Legally" they will argue that you are supposed to hand both of them over). Apparently, if you don't do this, it may adversely impact your re-entry into the country. Well, guess what, there are people who have ended up accidentally retaining the H-1B I-94. And guess what, they're doing fine (although they do feel bad that it's still with them).

And then there's the case of someone who had shifted to an H-1B and worked for a year and a half before making a trip back. When faced with this person (who had all the mandatory documentation and as much support documentation as could be considered) who worked for an American company whose name rang no bells, the consular officer decided, driven more by self-preservation than regulation, to delay processing until a security check was performed. The person availed of the option (offered not requested) of letting the passport stay at the consulate so that once the visa was processed, the passport could just be sent back via courier, thus saving the person a second trip to make a consular appearance. Several idle cycles later, this person (who had now missed the flight back to the USA) received a phone call from the consulate and all it amounted to was that a return trip was necessary. This trip had a longer wait inside the consulate and eventually it was a mu.Nh\-dikhaa_ii of sorts. The person chose to welcome the extra vacation days rather than ponder better workflow solutions for this process.

Flash forward. Same consulate. Different person. This person worked for a very famous American company. Ended up at the consulate without even the basic mandatory documentation. This person walked out minutes later smiling with the H-1B visa stamp.

The moral of this rant: Isolated cases of success abound in the majority. Human error is omnipresent: it's excusable if it's bureaucratic; if it's the common man, forget about forgiveness. Run for your life.

mithun does naach

[thanks to Aditya for the heads-up]

Oh yeah! B-mongers rejoice. With a title like Classic-Dance of Love, there's definitely hope. And the film marks the reunion of B. Subhash, ze Bengal Tiger himself, and Bappi Lahiri. The soundtrack boasts a lot of funk and samples from A R Rahman, Harry Anand and South Indian movies, strains of tere mere biich me.n. I kinda liked the soundtrack, but YMMV. Trivia-mongers will note the importance of Sukhwinder Singh's appearance on the soundtrack. Remember Naachnewale Gaanewale? If you don't, stop reading at this point. B. Subhash gave Sukhwinder a break with that movie, and it looks like SS has returned to pay his debt -- with the title track for the film. So while you wait for the film itself, take a break and fall off your couch with the synopsis of the film. A series of extracts follows verbatim:

Doli (Meghna Naidu) is a bar dancer, a beauty in full bloom, dances to entertain her customer, drawing false vision of lust and arousing passion in men through her sensual body movements.

Nature had begun to audit Doli's account with a red pencil.

A victorious smile cures his lips, as Acharya cannot resist the lure, the forbidden joy of passion, which he always condemned -- SEX.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

error message hall of shame

[Seen at the end of a series of messages at the end of a stalled boot-up of a Dell Dimension 4300]

Error 8602 Auxiliary Device Failure
Keyboard failure
Strike the F1 key to continue, F2 to run the setup utility

Someone just got really ticked off with the kind of ad that AdSense's algorithm popped up to accompany a Tabloid Of India newsitem about Pakistani actress Meera. Why the surprise? I'd give Adsense a thumbs-up for statistically matching the mental threads that represent the content engineering of the TOI.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005


You're fixing bugs in a language that was only academically interesting (also you still can't think of a commercial-grade product written in it)

The bug reports make no sense to you. You have never used the application before, so this aspect makes sense to you). On further investigation, it doesn't make sense to (a) the person who submitted it (b) the people who reviewed it (c) the people who distilled the essence of it in the notes.

You know what needs to be done to fix a bug, but at a macroscopic level. Even managerial presentations have less fluff than this. You stare at the code for long moments of time. The syntax makes sense. The IDE causes programs around it to tank. Navigability is an attribute the code never intended to boast. Modularity and separation of concerns are distant dreams. Utopia, even.

You refresh your slashdot tab and the newest article bears the title When Should You Quit Your Job?.

The most successful comedians had extremely unfunny private lives. You could take consolation in that except that you can't even fake happiness.

what obsolete skill are you? [one in a series of several topical questions that the self is plagued with]

QBASIC screenshot

You are 'programming in QBASIC'. This programming language (of which the acronym stands for 'Quick Beginners' All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code'), which is so primitive that it cannot easily be used for any purpose involving the Internet nor even sound, was current more than a decade ago.

You are independent, in a good way. When something which you need cannot be found, you make it yourself. In writing and in talking with people, you value clarity and precision; your friends may not realize how important that is. When necessary, you are prepared to be a mediator in conflicts between your friends. You are very rational, and you think of things in terms of logic and common sense. Unfortunately, your emotionally unstable friends may be put off by your devotion to logic; they may even accuse you of pedantry and insensitivity. Your problem is that programming in QBASIC has been obsolete for a long time.

What obsolete skill are you?
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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

a bilefull of laughs ... with a strong ring of truth

For any developer (being in the Java/J2EE space will guarantee better results) in the know about TheServerSide, Hani Suleiman's BileBlog should offer excellent reading, in general. Hani transcends new heights today with a worst-of-TSS-posts entry. And while you're rolling down the aisle hurting your rollicking gluteus, take a look an older post that hurls boulders at developers who seem to represent the worst of the lot that has lost all respect for their primary language of communication. I stand by him on this one: I've seen way too many examples of people suffering from unableToTranslateThoughtsToCoherentSentences-itis.
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