Friday, July 30, 2010

kashyap and koechlin return

Despite numerous notes about Bombay Velvet and an adaptation of Doga, the newest finished film of Anurag Kashyap turns out to be The Girl in Yellow Boots announced in October last year. Thanks to a new note over at PFC, we now have a trailer for the film (warning: NSFW) from TIFF 2010 in September. It's also going to be screened at the Venice Film Festival (also in September) along with Mani Ratnam's unwitting tribute to Tropic Thunder, Raavan. Ratnam's being honoured at the festival because he is, among other things, One of the great innovators in contemporary Indian cinema, he helped introduce the auteur concept to contemporary Bollywood. Jeez. Bollywood? They got their woods mixed up again. Auteur? You have got to be kidding me. Oh! Wait! They said contemporary. Never mind.

On a more optimistic note, Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie (still unavailable on DVD) is also on the list at Venice.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

derek does it again

I'm several months late in catching Nine Lives, Steve Winwood's 2008 album, his first in several years. The album opens with a faint echo of Blind Faith, but that could just be a feeling I got because, frankly, that's the only album featuring Steve Winwood that I remember (this, needless to say, is quite unfair to the immensely talented musician). This collection of nine tracks is an overflowing pot of influences (funk, jazz, soul, R&B, Latin), but the track that prompted me to ignore (unfairly, again) the rest of the music was Dirty City. It's a long track and features a catchy groove and a nice riff on the electric guitar. The fun starts near the last minute when a guitar solo takes the fore, while Winwood continues to sing. The solo thus takes the place of a second voice and flourishes of emotionally engaging licks are traded with vocal lines. It took me back to a song several years ago that featured a similar solo, except that solo was a "solo" in the true sense, taking centre stage from an introspective lyric and melody and transporting a good song into a great one. Not surprisingly, it was the same guitarist on both these songs. Good old Slowhand, who had made While My Guitar Gently Weeps all those years ago, returns to produce in a precious few seconds what he hasn't done on his longer recent albums. The guitarist -- nay artist -- seemed to have ceded to the creative aspirations of the singer, collaborator, musical explorer and producer of harmless pop on Back Home or Road to Escondido. But this short burst on Winwood's song puts paid to any fear that Derek had lost it or given it up. That it makes you yearn for more is a testament to its effectiveness. The sting ain't gone.

Friday, July 23, 2010

bobby: not directed by raj kapoor

Here's how you can avoid being confused when you read the title Bobby: Love and Lust. Raj Kapoor would never give things away in his titles. His films broke new ground in family-rated salaciousness but they never had suggestive titles (except perhaps Ram Teri Ganga Maili). But there is no denying producer Hyder Kazmi's desire to exploit the titular confusion. After all, a lot of VHS tapes will probably stick to the simpler version of the title and a lot of families will walk home expecting to see Dimple Kapadia only to see some lass named Mona Lisa (born Antara Biswas) playing a girl named Bobby. She's from Porbandar and ends up eloping to Bombay with a boy named Uday (hint: symbolic name). Unfortunately, it turns out that Uday is a pimp (working for a madam who has a fetish for breaking glasses and whose voice sounds like Perizad Zorabian with a cold) and a wimp (he can't bring himself to surrender her to madam).

Do you know why parents oppose children? So that they can take a decision themselves. It is because of such pronouncements that Uday eventually winds up dead (not too long after the credits and a messy flashback or two) and Bobby ends up in madam's clutches.

image courtesy: You know what kind of film this is as soon as you see Milind Gunaji (who plays a corrupt policeman on madam's payroll). It's one of those films that purports to deliver a social message under the garb of B-grade titillation. Madam supposedly runs a business for the elite but neither the girls in her care nor her clients will ever convince you that this is the case. We also have another herring in the form of Vishwajeet Pradhan, who has journeyed from films like Prahaar to films like Sangharsh, Aanch and Ek Aur Visphot. And you really can't go wrong with Mohan Joshi (although some of his lines sound like someone looped them in post-production).

You might remember producer Hyder Kazmi (who is also credited with the idea that the film's screenplay was based on) from Patth. He makes sure you don't forget him by playing KK, an intellectual who works for Madam, protecting her girls and ferrying them to and from clients. To underscore his importance in the film, the scene introducing him has him delivering a bucket of dialogue as a bird lies dying on the floor. He also gets to delivering lines of wisdom in a grave voice that sounds like Irrfan had something to do with it to various people in the film: जो कुत्ता भौंकता है (pause) काटता नहीं to Gunaji's corrupt cop, जो बोलते ज़्यादा हैं, वो सोचते कम हैं to Bobby.

The film has, of course, all the requisite song and dance interludes. There's the romantic song for Uday and Bobby on the beach (along with a bathtub full of roses) with sweeping camera moves and a female voice going आँ while Sonu Nigam belts out आँखों की ज़ुबां. There's not one but three item songs set in the same dance bar with McDowell's logos featured prominently: to ensure variety, one of the songs has an Arabian vibe while the other gets African on your senses. There's also a sad song (Sonu Nigam again, of course) with a dream sequence, an over-enthusiastic smoke machine and plenty of romantic sniffing of the armpits. Most of the film has Bobby dealing expressionistically with her loss and situation and with KK turning out to be her saviour as he manages to save her cherry from each client that Madam sends her out to. Eventually the time comes for Madam to meet her end and for KK to free the birds (both from a large cage and from the brothel in slow motion -- never has symbolism been so overtly unsubtle). He then sends Bobby off on a train (of course it's raining -- don't you know how these films work?). It is at this point that we are treated to a temporal leap forward and we see that this was a book called ... Bobby (bingo!). The writer, Krishna Kant (aka KK), ends up winning a Booker prize (it happens only in Bollywood; see also: Baghban, Shabd). We also see that his wife looks familiar (hint: it's Bobby). Of course, he smiles when the journalist asks him if the book is based on fact and who Bobby was. We cut to the brothel under new management (a nice touch) and end credits accompanied by a nice oomph-laden funky instrumental piece that deserved better than this flick.

It would be unfair to depart from this B-treat without acknowledging the background score that was probably designed to represent the equivalent of novocaine in muzak along with piano riffs that tip their hat to Walking in Memphis, the sweeping shots of the Bombay skyline that were probably inspired by a late-night viewing of Blade Runner, a really competent scene between two girls at a hotel when one, a hooker, thinks the other is a hooker as well (it turns out she works in TV serials), a scene featuring the girls of the elite brothel watching a commercial for a breast enhancer and, finally, the subtitles.

The subtitles are quite sublime and represent a fine effort in all departments: Worli becomes volly, Divya becomes बिंदिया, झगड़ने की आवाज़ becomes someone lighting and bloody b*tch becomes rascal. The pièce de résistance, however, is a case when the subtitles enhance the silliness of the dialogue. Here is the sample of dialogue between two girls at the brothel without the subtitles:

A: you are a jealous b*tch
B: you mean ईर्षालू कुतिया?

And here is the sample with subtitles:

A: you are a jealous b*tch
(you are a jealous girl)
B: you mean ईर्षालू कुतिया?
(you mean a dog?)

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what Rakesh Parmaar's directorial effort has to offer. Don't forget, that's Rakesh Parmaar and not Raj Kapoor. [april 17, 2010]

remakes remakes

After James Cameron appropriated the thunder of a Rajesh Khanna starrer with his 3D blockbuster, Philip Noyce has helmed a film that, thanks to its English title, will not be mistaken for that Kawal Sharma dud starring Sanjay Dutt

Meanwhile, back home, Robbing Hood Priyadarshan has returned to his own stash once again after regurgitating Vettam as De Dana Dan and the brief sojourn into foreign territory with Bumm Bumm Bhole. This time he drives his Chinkara Roadster back into 1988 to excavate his own Vellanakalude Nadu and try and pass it off under the moniker of a Basu Chatterjee film from the 70s (which in turn was an "adaptation" of Yours, Mine and Ours). Remember थोड़ा है थोड़े की ज़रूरत है? Interestingly, the 70s also saw another "adaptation" of Yours, Mine and Ours in the Sanjeev Kumar starrer Hamaare Tumhare (with music by the late R. D. Burman and an early appearance by Anil Kapoor). But we must return to Priyadarshan's flick that hit the marquee today. This is the flick that got its share of notoriety thanks to Akshay Kumar's character being linked to R. K. Laxman's most famous creation. It's also Trisha Krishnan's first Hindi flick. One wonders if Trisha's fate will be alike Daisy Bopanna's with Garam Masala. Time to catch the original flick and see why Mohanlal was not compared to the Common Man.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

the paralysing effect of rebranding

Since having acquired Sun Microsystems, Oracle has gone about with a bottomless pail of red paint on all the solar panels rendering pages ugly but consistent with its crimson facade. As a next step forward, Oracle took a leaf out of the book of Indian politicians called "Several ways to assert authority while occasionally causing havoc": rename everything you see. Asserting geekish credentials, this extended to changing strings within the JVM DLL. This "fix" released in update 21 of Java 6.0 brought Eclipse to its knees. Oracle was admirably swift in taking care of bug 6969236. It is admittedly a bad idea to depend on such internal values, but such rebranding is also a rather wasteful exercise. It's what results in wiki pages like this to be modified with directions like The best way to really eliminate PermGen problems is to run Eclipse against non-Sun JVM, e.g. IBM J9 and BEA WebRockit. It's a sad day when an IDE for a language that came from SunOracle won't run on a JVM that came from the same place. Welcome to Larry Ellison's wonderland.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Mithun Chakraborty might well be following the lead of Raj Kumar Kohli as his son Mimoh tries his luck at the marquee in Vikram Bhatt's film Haunted (nothing to do with the character he plays or the prospective audience of the film) with a new name. It's Mahakshay. Neither Armaan nor Munish helped the Kohli scion. Only time will tell if the Chakraborty चिरंजीव will surive the aliasing.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

buzzword blizzard

The world of management has always, for me, been a rich source of crapspeak. Some of it makes it to those screens in elevators powered by the Captivate Network. The most recent example comprised pieces from a series called 25 Stretch Goals for Management; in compliance with the need for inarticulate brevity the caption became 25 Management Stretch Goals. As I read these I found myself wondering what they really meant:

15. Create a democracy of information. Companies need holographic information systems that equip every employee to act in the interests of the entire enterprise.

All information will now presumably have the right to vote.

18. Create internal markets for ideas, talent, and resources. Markets are better than hierarchies at allocating resources, and companies' resource allocation processes need to reflect this fact.

Baba Sehgal had joked that rap stood for रहें आप परेशान. The world of business came up with its own version, which was completely shorn of all humour and sense: resource allocation processes.

22. Enable communities of passion. To maximize employee engagement, management systems must facilitate the formation of self-defining communities of passion

Employees are encouraged to adopt the spirit of free love from the sixties. All expenditure for substances of pleasure will be eligible for reimbursement.

24. Humanize the language and practice of business. Tomorrow's management systems must give as much credence to such timeless human ideals as beauty, justice and community as they do to the traditional goals of efficiency, advantage, and profit.

Hire beautiful shapely lasses to serve as secretaries and sales associates and enjoy several quarters of profit.

Friday, July 16, 2010

the indian government latest remedy for poverty: a new symbol

Unable to shake off the baggage of colonial servitude, the Indian government selected a blend of devanaagarii (the obvious choice, since the national language is Hindi and devanaagarii's the script thereof) and roman (we served under the yoke of the British several years ago, thank you very much) as the new symbol for the Indian rupee from five suspiciously similar finalists. This is expected to be as recognisable all around the world as the symbol for the Euro. I hope someone has started taking the necessary steps to get some representation in the Unicode character set. Expect some upgrades to various software toolkits supporting i18n and l10n. All this will keep some people busy and employed and keep the fire burning in their houses. The Indian government surely anticipates this new symbol to have a curative effect on the problems of poverty, illiteracy, drastic economic disparity and corruption. I proud to be Indian. RRRR!

Friday, July 09, 2010

get some bollyDVDs over to dvdtalk

A review over at DVDTalk of a Roger Corman compilation includes the following in the section skewering the video transfer:

Even worse, each transfer is WATERMARKED!!! That's right, a nice little transparent bug sits in the corner of the frame, never going away and announcing the current ownership of the product you are watching. How very proprietary circa 1995. If these were pristine remasters, that would be one thing. But with the shoddy presentation here, such copyright histrionics are ridiculous.

It's time the makers of DVDs in India got their share of such barbs.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

the most expensive film ever?

James Cameron's Avatar did not quite make the record books as the most expensive film ever made thanks to the mystical ways of Hollywood's creative accounting and also the need to adjust the figures of previous record holders for inflation. Herr Cameron and 20th Century Fox have decided to try again by resorting to a trick familiar from the world of DVDs: a special edition. This one will reportedly be released only in 3D. It has 8 extra minutes of Pandoran footage (and possibly a few extra seconds of end credits, if these sequences happen to feature some more extras). This means that hapless consumers, who will venture forth again to the theatres after having already seen the original version, will get to purchase yet another pair of Real3D glasses. Even if they had chosen wisely not to toss the glasses into that collecting bin outside the hall at the end of the screening, they will probably see some opposition at the ticket counter, since, I am told, theatre chains often do not allow you to use your own pair of glasses. Unless you prudently choose a cheaper show (like AMC's AM Cinema), you can expect to spend at least $13 for 8 minutes. That's clearly a record. The only people who are better off in this mess are those precious few who, perhaps wisely in hindsight, did not watch the original release.

Monday, July 05, 2010


Rediff gets away with inventing garbage just for the sake of silly features once again. This time it's a waste of Internet space called The hottest Bollywood exports. The first slide is dedicated to Freida Pinto. Anyone reasonably familiar with this lass knows that her first feature was Danny Boyle's smash hit Slumdog Millionaire and some song-and-dance gobble of guano produced by Dharma/Chopra/Taurani/Tito/Kohli/Rao/Ghai.

Next up is Ayesha Dharker. There's nothing in her filmography that qualifies as Bollywood, except, perhaps, Saaz and that was not her first film.

Despite making a Bollysplash with Kasoor, Lisa Ray had already tested the waters with a Tamil film. The same holds true for Aishwarya Rai.

The rest of the entrants in the feature appear to qualify for the was first seen in a Bollyflick before she tried her luck elsewhere.

the continuing tale of strange names

The South Indian film industry has been known to import belles (buxom and otherwise) to cavort around leading men. The leading men usually look uncouth and unshaven and seem to suffer from a lack of sleep, short tempers and fewer vocal variations than a cow (or bull, if you like to be precise about that sort of thing). Occasionally, a shave is effected and the grungy persona is replaced with a certain walk that mixes rejected moves by Michael Jackson with a tribute to shuffling skeletons. The lassies, meanwhile, dress in leather, casuals or seductive minimals and try to get their lips around the inflections of the native language (all actual utterances come thanks to another famous star of the area or a dubbing artist).

That said, the industry seems to have moved from merely importing Bollywood familiars (Sonali Bendre) or has-beens (Nagma, Manisha Koirala) to tapping the tree that Bollywood already has an account with: the modelling world. In the past, the likes of the Misses India, Misses World and Misses Universe first made their way into Bollyreels before trying the Southern waters (sometimes after their Bollystock went down the Mariana trench). Nowadays, the other Woods are equally attractive. Consider Ileana D'Cruz, who went straight from modelling to Tollywood and has only recently started exploring Kollywood and Kanada films. There were rumours of a move to Bollywood opposite Shah Rukh Khan in a remake of Athadu (much like Asin's move with Aamir Khan in the remake of Ghajini), but since Ek: The Power of One (duh! no chance of a sequel called 4: A Power of 2) made it to the marquee without either name, one wonders what Ms. D'Cruz's Bollysplash will be.

Then there's the case of Parvati Melton, the daughter of a German father and a Punjabi mother, whose modelling stint in the USA caught the eyes of a producer back home and that set the stage of a career in Tollywood (and a occasional film in Malayalam). Frälein Melton is reputed to combine "the beauty of Aishwarya Rai, the looks and charm of Sushmita Sen, the physique of Shilpa Shetty, and the smile of Shriya"; if that is indeed the case, this was a great deal for investors and represnted a much lower cost than hiring those four.

And this brings us to Taapsee Pannu (anagram: Peanut Paens). The wikipedia page tells us that she is an ethnic Punjabi (if anyone knows what that means, please drop a comment here) and the obligatory rediff profile notes that she is a qualified engineer in computer science (again, enlightening comment please). The ambiguity of these attributes notwithstanding she seems to have credentials for the job: epidermal accolades (Miss India winner for Best Skin), an adequate score in the departments of height (tall), pulchritude (beautiful) and performance (a number of modelling assignments, both print and television, under her belt). She also has very clear reasons for choosing to take the cinematic dive:

Initially, I wanted to be a full-time model and never thought I could act. As time went by, modelling became not that exciting or enjoyable, as posing in front of the camera became monotonous.

Also, I felt my name was not being highlighted. The name gets highlighted only in films. One gets to do something new, meet new people every day and travel while doing films. Every day is a challenge and something new happens too. So I wanted to act.

She also has great things to say about her experience shooting for Jhumandi Naadam and other things that were asked of her:

the language: The South Indian and North Indian languages are different; the sound is different, the meaning is different.
her co-star Manoj Mancha: Manoj is full of energy. Even on a bad day, he is on top. His energy level is tremendous.
diet: I make sure I eat a balanced diet -- fruits and vegetables. I eat only when I'm hungry. One shouldn't restrict oneself by overeating or eating less.
fitness: I have a dancing background, so my fitness is taken care of. Even now as and when I get time, I dance.
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