Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sarkar Raj: SIGKILL, baby

If Sarkar had RGV blending ideas from the first two editions of Coppola's Mafia trilogy, Sarkar Raj represents an impassioned gung-ho exploration of a motif in The Godfather Part III that a friend had noted. There's a scene in the film that seems to have been the source of this friend's interpretation: there's a meeting of the bosses in an Atlantic City hotel room that takes a violent turn when machine gun fire from a helicopter litters the conference room. It's a massacre. My friend contended that the third edition seemed to punish any time and consideration invested in any characters introduced or revisited in the film. In simple words, "Let me introduce a new character; let me get you interested in the character; now that you're interested, let me bump that character off." This motif was explored in greater clarity and rather unsubtle delight in X3: The Final Stand. You were introduced to a host of new mutants, most of which didn't make it past the final conflict (the final stand, duh). You also had to bid farewell to some characters who had gained your attention over the first two editions in the series.

It is this horse that RGV rides into the ground and he does it with aplomb. By now, one has grown accustomed to his patent-pending MeanderCam, the canted camera angles (straight shots seem limited to indoor sequences) and the loud background score. The campy expressionism of villainy is given a shot in the arm with the rest of the usual suspects (Sayaji Shinde, Upendra Limaye (who spends time singing Hindi film ditties and correcting the pronunication -- "woraa not voraa" -- of his character's last name) and Govind Namdeo. Aside from Ms. World-now-Bachchan, the most prominent addition to the roster is Dilip Prabhawalkar. No time is spent in attempting to get the audience to invest in any character. As with his existing ouevre, this film digs into the sordid bag of real life for some shards of inspiration (Enron, in this case, but just barely). A lot of what happens is strictly a setup of dominos stacked for the final cascade. RGV even returns to The Godfather for one of several turning points in the film. The good get corrupted, the innocent get eliminated, the upright end up being downright heinous. Never showing us the face of a contract shooter must rank as an under-sung achievement. The spoken word is sparse and uttered with grave seriousness. Cool is underplayed even for great punchlines like jaan lenaa jurm hai; sahii samay par jaan lenaa ... raajaniiti. Grief fuels retribution and it all ends with ek chaay laao, perhaps the most outstanding final line in Bollywood cinema for a long time to come.

It would be interesting to see another sequel emerge from the rubble of this pogrom. That possibility notwithstanding, the sequel's more fun if you watch it not as a piece of moderately serious gangster cinema, but for what it's worth: a darkly funny parody of serious gangster cinema and everything that Sarkar took the pain to found.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

they actually call them bugs

Or DOGs (Digital On-screen Graphic) in the UK. David Bordwell has a fascinating post on diegetic bugs. These, you must agree, are pretty cool. For those of us, who also foam at the mouth at the words "formatted to fit your screen," however, the TV channel logos, tickers and the auto-fellating ego stamps of DVD manufacturers (especially those churning out DVDs of Indian films) represent something that's anything but. The likes of Eros, Shemaroo, Ultra, Time, Sony/BMG, Adlabs (oh, how can I forget them?) are worthy of the most heinous punishment possible for every time the logo fades in during the credits or signalling the beginning of a song (and dance, if applicable) interlude. It's hopeless to argue the importance of the integrity of a cinematic work (whatever be its perceived value -- for the purposes of this rant, Race is just as good as L'avventura) with these DVD-burning baboons.

I for one would really relish spraying the nethers of each participant from each of these companies with ice cold water while they stand, tied against posts like Thaakur baladev si.nh in Sholay, with the Forrest Gump feather running an infinite loop around their arms, brushing their armpits ah-so delicately as they are forced to listen to a mix tape of Lata Mangeshkar's youthful songs from the 21st century. After a suitable interval, I propose to spank their tender derierres with electric fly swatters as they are forced to watch (with eyes taped wide like those of Alex the Clockwork Orange) a mash-up of all the scenes of Alok Nath from all the Rajshri films he ever starred in.

The floor is now open for bids.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

soap for the censors

[link courtesy: Siddhartha]

The Bhatts are back and with swords drawn in a battle with the censors. All this is for Mohit "original" Suri's next film Raaz: The Mystery Continues (aka Raaz 2). The issues at hand are expletives uttered by Kangana Ranaut (who cares? even with an A certificate, the censor board insists that all cussing be replaced by shards of silence) and her nude scene. Any promise of skin in Bollywood is empty and is only a device used in marketing to tantalise the gullible secretly horny audience. Red: The Dark Side (directed by Vikram Bhatt), Girlfriend and Paap (directed by Pooja Bhatt) are just a few examples of such deception. The promise of cleavage remained unfulfilled. And yet audiences fail to learn. It's a Pavlovian success. This brings us to the latest source of brouhaha. Do you really expect me to believe that you're going to pull off a nude scene of substance in a film starring the World's most depressing peon and an overrated femme known for playing personalities with lives laced with despair, grief and trauma? But our interest in the matter lies in the quotes, the priceless utterances that grace such occasions -- utterances citing moral victories, victories of creative expression and evidence of silly arguments:

If someone is in a bath tub, she has to be nude. You don't bathe with your clothes on, right? Moreover, when you would see the film, you would realise that Kangna's nude scene has also a lot to do with audience's imagination.

Ignore, if you can, the inexplicable Indian tendency to use would instead of will. Concentrate instead on the argument made. The defendants seem to have decided that if a film features someone taking a bath in a bath tub, it behooves the camera to present a complete tour of that person's anatomy. What ever happened to the power of the suggested? What ever happened to the legacy of Cat People? Does anyone really care?

Apparently this film was inspired by a Kabir couplet. That's definitely a record. Now it's time to find out what the real source was.

Incidentally, the scariest part of this film is that it features Ranaut's current beau, Shekhar Suman's son Adhyayan Suman; this might well be another Love Story 2050 (unless the Baweja/Chopra thing was a marketing ploy).

Saturday, January 17, 2009

nasheman nation and egregious tautology

Typos are such a great source of humour once you get past gnashing your teeth and uttering unkind curses dedicated to the writer. Consider two samples, documenation and defination. The former seems a victim of the syndrome of the disenfranchised letter. The latter is one of the products of an inability to get out of school with the right spelling. In either case, one feels like paraphrasing the late Pancham: ye documenation/defination kaun saa desh hai bhaaii?

The pervasive progress of redundancy in spoken and written English is astounding. Blame it on crapspeak (also known as office jargon, corporate-speak). Blame it on people who don't let the speakers and writers of vacuous phrases just how painful it is to read what they have written or to listen to their bombastic nothingness. Being on the same page, going forward (shudder!), having a full plate, keeping something on your radar, having the bandwidth (wince!), hitting the ground running. All these are obvious stinkers. But what of the minor subtle killers like fellow colleagues (are there any of another kind?), serious danger (talk about undermining a perfectly capable word), mutual cooperation, original source (this packet actually came here from there), local resident (remember the days of 1040NRs?), continue on (the roof? the floor?), chief protagonist, general public (with specific privates, no doubt), on a regular/daily/weekly/monthly basis (what happened to "regularly/every day/week/month"?)? Why not just meet instead of meeting up? Why not just visit instead of visiting with?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Gulaal gets a release date

poster courtesy:

and a poster.

The date, March 11, will most likely take advantage of the festival of colours, although this clearly isn't a film that will sit too comfortably with Khal-Naikaa or Silsila. Those who'd like to know more about what was meant to the smokin' Jesse Randhawa's first Hindi film need look no further than AK's posts on PFC. The immersion into the adventurous aural confections of Dev.D has just begun; one awaits the immensely talented Piyush Mishra's first offering as a music director. 2009 looks like Anurag Kashyap's year. जी जी जी जी जी.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

announcing: RMIM Puraskaar 2008

That's the second time in a row that I have delayed my post. Time to go listen to tandoori nights. Vinay is back with the third edition of RMIM Puraskaar. Voting closes tentatively by the middle of this month (not many days left).

The announcement's also posted on the giitaayan blog.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

hop and skip

It all started with a Velocity template error on a page in my bookmarks that I decided to visit again. The Wayback Machine couldn't help out of respect for and adherence to the robots exclusion protocol. Googling got me to DZone and thence to an old InfoQ article about changes in the Java Collections API made in Mustang. Two things caught my eye: "skip lists" and "William Pugh"; The former was a data structure that a colleague in one of my previous jobs had introduced me to (not that I learnt more about this data structure later, but I was quite fascinated with what I had heard). The latter is the father of one of my favourite software code quality tools, FindBugs. As it turned out, William Pugh invented skip lists. You would think that I would've got wind of this at some point given that Pugh was not an unknown name thanks to the tool. Yet, today was when the dots presented themselves to me, connected in glee. The final surprise lay in store for me over at the inevitable Wikipedia page for skip lists. The second reference listed on the page is a paper, whose co-author is a good friend.

Then again, not all coincidences are meaningful.

nominal irony

Satyam is such a nice name for the firm that represents India's contribution to the kind of newsmaking last dominated by the hubris of Enron. I really wish someone would write something about Satyam's firm in the vein of Malcolm Gladwell's article in The New Yorker titled Open Secrets. As with most such fallouts consequent of corporate socialism and executive greed, the employees down below earning pay for putting in hours of work are going to suffer most. The timing's rotten too. Those in favour of reeling in the lines hurled out to cheap herds of code monkeys across the seas have a great exhibit. The other biggies in Indian IT service providers are probably rallying to DEFCON 1 with each passing day fearing that a pair of smart eyes might just notice the creativity in their accounting (should such creativity exist). Indian filmmakers, meanwhile, are probably balancing their stack of news reports and oft-played scratched DVDs of Wall Street, Antitrust and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room as they attempt to find ways to squeeze an item song featuring Shilpa Shetty and Amrita Rao making out in family-friendly fashion in the Gobi Desert into a Mahesh Babu starrer based on the whole deal. Ram Gopal Varma could play Ramalinga Raju, but it could add an edge of the surreal and the darkly comic to a film that, minus the song and dance and weepy drama and synthesised sympathetic violin motifs, probably aimed to offer a "serious" family entertainer. Oh! We could even call his sons Shivam and Sundaram. We can then all join in to sing along with a remixed version of that Lata classic laced with transitivity:

ईश्वर सत्य है
सत्य ही शिव है
शिव ही सुंदर है

And hence, ईश्वर is शिव and also सुंदर. Quadrupled equality or triple beauty. Take your pick.

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