Saturday, January 30, 2010


Mawidge...Mawidge is what brings us together
-- the impressive clergyman (The Princess Bride)

[January 07, 2007] One could think of a few reasons why Sooraj Barjatya would want to unleash upon the modern masses a film like Vivah that lives in a sandbox of the yesteryears, of the innocence of the family dramas of the 70s and the early 80s, of the simple events that formed the foundation of Hrishikesh Mukherjee's canon. The most important one is to ensure that Alok Nath continued to receive a welfare cheque (this was before Rajshri took over the idiot box and sent Alok Nath back to where he came from, plumper, older, slower and donned in garbs so ornate as to put Sanjay Leela Bhansali's costume designer to shame). A minor reason is the warped sense of the world that Barjatya nurses. It's a world without shades; there is only good and evil (which can be counted upon to repent and come over to the good side in less than 3 hours). It's a world where emotions are thicker than the pancake syrup in Waffle House or IHOP, sweeter than the most generously glazed doughnut from Krispy Kreme. It's a world that should simply cease to exist. It's a regressive nightmare that purports to offer a form of optimism that is more dangerous than the darkness nihilistic cynical view of the world you might find.

The film has very little to hold your attention. The script is a poor blend of Satyam Shivam Sundaram, tired dross of love without event and Rajshri tropes. The songs are terrible (Ravindra Jain, who delivered many a memorable song for Rajshsri products in the past, does his reputation a great disservice), the sets are a tribute to unsubtle artifice, there is nothing you can call "acting" (although there's a lot of blah-blah, posing, glaring and gesticulation) and there are musical cues added to underscore moments of "comedy." The events, as they are, occur in fictional places named Madhupur (if only someone had renamed it Sweetwater in the subtitles) and Somasarovar (Lake Luna, people).

If you care about subtitles, watch out for (sister:sister) (sister-in-law:sister-in-law), soiree (for संगीत). If you care for lazy background scores, keep your ears perked up for the Doom fireball sound as the camera tracks the fire.

Just in case your dropping jaw made you forget who was responsible for this Clockwork Orange Cocktail, the protagonist is called Prem, there's a wedding at the heart of it all and there's a wedding band playing दीदी तेरा देवर दीवाना. If you missed the presence of his lucky mascot, watch out for a poster of Salman Khan in a phone booth as well as two posters of Saawan ... The Love Season (yes, that film with the crazy song).

Mercifully, neither Herr Nath nor Herr Barjatya have dared another big-screen venture. Unfortunately, they decided to take their terror to the glass teat. Luckily, I don't watch TV.

no objections to disclosure

there is no such thing as [sic] free lunch
-- Raj Malhotra (Akshay Kumar)

[May 29, 2006] Known for giving Priyanka Chopra the role that earned her a Filmfare Award for Best Villain (and becoming only the second woman to do so), Aitraaz also offered several songs from the Nasalite that became hits, characteristic Bollywood hamming, extremely poor scripting and dialogue. With producer Subhash Ghai's blessings, the Burmawalla brothers took Disclosure, stripped (no pun intended) it of anything that might prevent their copy from getting the U certificate (they settled for U/A). The background score from Salim-Sulaiman evokes memories of Enigma, while the subtitles department goes gaga turning "ladies room" into "living room," तलातुम into "quagmire" and 987 into 973. A variation on Carmina Burana plays every time Priyanka Chopra's character, Sonia, is seducing her next victim. The songs are silly enough: गेला गेला features Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor on the beach doing a stupid dance while four babes of varying dimensions are wearing bikinis and sashaying on a boat in the background; I wanna be with you (ये दिल तुम पे आ गया) features Akshay Kumar and Priyanka Chopra taking a family-friendly shower together, having a jacuzzi moment and then ending up in bed (curtains please); I wanna make love to you is shot in one take (interesting) with Priyanka Chopra delivering an act of seduction and shooting playing cards from a deck into Akshay Kumar's face just as the song goes into जुआ जुआ प्यार का.

Every film I remember by the Brothers Ripoff has boasted a sign with an egregious spelling mistake; this one butchers इत्तेफ़ाक़ (it becomes इत्तफाक).

There's as much "sensitive" content in this film as can be expected from a Bollywood bowl hoping to reel in the moolah without offending the prudes, the housewives and the "innocent" youngsters. Consider the scene where a groups of guys at a restaurant go drooling over a picture of Sonia on the cover of a magazine before one of them takes the magazine (to a private place, no doubt).

Consider also the following lines from an exchange between Sonia and Raj (Akshay Kumar):

sonia: show me you're an animal raj; show me you're an animal

raj : तुम s*x के लिए मुझ पर मेहरबान हो ...

sonia: what do you think eh? i'm a bitch; i'm a slut; a bloody prostitute?
raj : do you think i'm a male prostitute जो तुम मुझे अपने दिए हुए post और पैसे के बदले में इस्तेमाल करो? no!

Things take a turn for the worst as the film hurtles slowly to the inevitable climactic courtroom drama. Bollywood's continued ineptitude with this rather common setpiece is obvious when Paresh Rawal calls Akshay Kumar to the stand during his opening statement. Annu Kapoor's character (named राम चौतरानी, the most interesting name in the film) gets a line of dialogue laced with different synonyms in Hindi for tush. He also gets to make sweeping pronouncements like समाज में दो किस्म के लोग रहते हैं: औरत ज़ात, मर्द ज़ात. He tops this all with the immortal line खरबूजा खुद चाकू को मजबूर कर रहा था कि आ ... काट! come and slice me!. There's a nice shot of Priyanka Chopra sitting in the witness box; it's a silhouette with a decent use of light. It's the only saving grace of a film that largely seems to have been made in the absence of a technical crew of any kind.

The moral of the film is two-fold: it is extremely convenient to have a lawyer as your neighbour; it is really convenient to have a wife who has an LLB.

This film also contained, for those of you who were not busy ogling at Kakista Kapoor and Ms. Ooh-La-La, a reference to next year's Bewafaa, which Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor starred in; what else can one make of Akshay Kumar turning to Kareena Kapoor just after uttering और ये वो वफ़ा है जो आदमी को बेवफा होने नहीं देती? I leave you with Kareena Kapoor's immortal axiom.

mrs sonia, bitch वो होती है जिसको अपने बच्चे के बाप का पता नहीं होता

the dangers of surveys

Sudarshan has a new post up in which he gives it (Tehelka's survey of Indian readers of English writing) those ones (justifiable barbs and objections). The post only goes to show us the familiar danger of any kind of survey. Your two problems are the sample set (the people you survey) and the questions you ask (if you ask questions like all those moronic reporters on India's numerous channels, the respondent often just has a boolean reply for you). Tehelka's survey seems to have suffered from both problems.

There are a few interesting things in the result. The appearance of Chetan Bhagat is not surprising, but the absence of Shobha Dé (whose ouevre clogged several rows of shelves in places like Crossword) is strange. "Indians" supposedly spend 360 post-colonial rupees on books every month. This means that Penguin is probably not doing so well, because you'd only get a book and a sixth from their catalogue. Most readers, according to the survey, read for learning; the most popular books are those with action and adventure, the thrillers and mysteries. Combine these two and you have to wonder what people learn. I sign off by remaining stumped at how frequently the Bard figures in this survey. Do you really expect me to believe that the unabridged Shakespeare is so popular? This is the stuff that dreams are made on. Oh, and please get a new keyboard and someone who understands why turning on CAPS LOCK IS SUCH A BAD IDEA!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


were people clapping so often and indulging in standing ovations for President Obama's State of the Union address? Perhaps I'm too jaded from all those pep talks from corporate executives laced with crapspeak, loaded with words of familial encouragement in the aftermath of layoffs (oh, sorry, "reductions in force"). He trounced DADT, delivered the familiar litany of "healthcare reform" and "immigration reform." The sense of déjà vu was strong. Some people probably need and welcome this motivational stream, but I'd like to see some exhibits. I'll wait. (Someone should have put a cushion on the podium ... the thump of his hands was ominous).

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

liberty gets a memo

On January 11, 2010 at EWR, many H-1B holders aboard Continental Airlines flight CO 49 found themselves at the mercy of the CBP. All this thanks to a new memo from Donald Neufeld, Associate Director, Service Center Operations, USCIS. The memo tried to explain what a valid "employer-employee relationship" meant when one considered H-1B petitions. I found just one post online that talked about the memo and had more details about the incident itself. I was unable to find more about the people who were deported. The actions of the CBP clearly qualified as a "means to the end" -- authorities have been trying to crack down on the consulting firms of questionable repute that have long given the H-1B a bad name. The measures taken at EWR probably achieved this to some extent. It is quite likely that some of these people were lax with the documents they had to carry on their person. It is also likely that some were taken by surprise and behaved in a manner that made them vulnerable to unfortunate coercion. The details of the actions invite a sense of discomfort -- can someone really get away with "hunting for Indian H-1B workers"? with "remarks about why these H-1B workers earned more than U.S. workers and that they should not be paid so much"? The CBP and TSA have always been particular about noting their professionalism and courtesy in such matters. Then how did such events come to pass? The lack of sufficient coverage is also disturbing. Without such coverage, it is hard to get facts. Without facts, it is difficult to raise a voice in protest, to ask that power not be abused thus? Surely that is not too much to ask, is it?

what if someone pretending to be confucius used Eclipse

depecrated (deserves to be execrated); chinese internationalisation (whatever); this abstract class houses default and common implementation for some interfaces (very observant); all tranctional processing classes are responsible for calling this method and for providing what action is provided (schizoid indecision); used to identify newly instantiated instances (काला टीका?); later is to be (absolutely). This is a heck (what the hack!).

Someone would get paid for writing code that invoked the toString() method on an instance of java.lang.String. Meanwhile, in the woods, someone talks about methods consuming a lot of memory consumption (Borges would be proud, no doubt).

Monday, January 25, 2010

those dusty cans of nitrate

White Zombie [January 29, 2007]: It's hard to be interested in horror films and their history and not have heard of White Zombie. Besides, once you've seen Bela Lugosi as Murder Legendre sporting Jack Pierce's makeup, you can't quite forget that close-up. The film's a cheapie that reuses sets on the Universal lot, but has, to its credit, some moments rich in atmosphere. There's unfortunately not much to applaud in the acting department. Lugosi is himself and makes this perhaps his most memorable role after having sealed the fate of his career playing the sanguinary Count. The background score makes up for the film's limited use of dialogue and there's a chant you hear over the opening credits that sounds like the parent of the chant of initiation in Finding Nemo.

Chak De! India [October 06, 2007]: After directing the wonderful Ab Tak Chhappan (aah, the iTrans-friendly title), Shimit Amin quit RGV's Factory (something that a lot of the talented people there have been doing for the last few years). When he landed at Yash Raj Films, it was hard to contain the surprise and shock. The fear was that he had sold out. Talent had turned pragmatic. When he roped in Shah Rukh Khan (not surprising since SRK's the leading contract player of sorts there and over the fence at Dharma Productions), one could only fear the worst. Then we found out it was a sports film (now, how many of those do you have?). We then noticed that Jaideep Sahni (the man who wrote Jungle, Company Bunty aur Babli and Khosla ka Ghosla), another RGV expat, was handling the writing and the lyrics. All this set the stage for something that might satisfy both camps -- those who cared for films that looked like they were made by people who had their wits about them and those that cared merely for star vehicles. As it turned out, this engaging ensemble effort did. Shah Rukh Khan did another Swades, but with far less grandeur. There seemed to be no moments for the camera. Kabir Khan instead seemed like a man who had borne the religious bigotry and the bad luck of failure well and who had let it drive his rage to snag one last shot at glory, even though it would be from the shadows. The structure of the film was familiar to those used to watching all those sports films about underdogs that played on cable television here in the US and on Star Movies back home (The Miracle, Hoosiers). The film unfolded with one familiar flourish after another, but each was delivered with competence. What you got at the end was something that you could watch without adjusting your derriere on the couch or letting your mind drift to times better spent. There were great scenes (Bindiya Naik coming on to Kabir, the locker room speech that could have become a crowd-pulling rabble rouser but ended up being more of something else) seasoned with clichés both welcome and unwelcome. You got interesting characters (Kabir Khan, Bindiya Naik) who shared the screen with stock characters played well. All this still didn't acquit Amin. One had to wait for his next film to find out what turn he wanted to take.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

what songs can teach you about grammar

the good things: Get Together (made famous by The Youngbloods) boasts an understanding of the difference between each other and one another in its most famous line: come on people now, smile on your brother, try to love one another right now.

the bad things: In their third studio album Phantom, The Fixx cut a track, whose title became another of the many woeful examples of the failure to understand the difference between few and less. The track was called Less Cities, More Moving People.

a perspective standpoint

The froth from the rant about the egregious abuse of perspective was just beginning to dry when the cult of the evil twin surfaced. The name's standpoint and its exploitation has nothing to do with social science. The template remains the same: from a/an X standpoint. The chief culprits are overpaid bearers of corporate RIMjobs and under-educated code monkeys who climbed up the rungs of the corporate ladder to expound balderdash using Tufte's bête noire. There can be no more effective way to divest oneself of the faculty of simple English than to sit listening to one such wrongdoer confidently hurl inane vacuous phrases like from a management standpoint, from a maintenance standpoint, from a customer satisfaction standpoint (notice the return of the noun-as-adjective kludge of lazy speakers) and from an overall quality standpoint. The irony in it all is lost on such windbags. All you can do is gnash your teeth from a sitting standpoint.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

a (small) purseful of previews

The man who made the interesting Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon and the Hrishikesh Mukherjee film of 2005 (Main Meri Patni Aur Woh) returns with Striker. When was the last time you saw a trailer that opened with a carrom board? It might be a sports movie of a different kind but it looks like a familiar masala mix. One can only hope it's done reasonably well.

Ben Kingsley and Amitabh Bachchan appear on the same cast roster with Teen Patti. Kingsley supposedly plays a mathematician called Trachtenberg and it's a relief that his character's first name is not Jakow. The only rub is that the film's directed by a lady called Leena Yadav, who was responsible for that creatively misguided blotch of guano called Shabd.

The nicest thing about the trailer for Prakash Jha's next film Rajneeti is not the cast (The promise of Manoj Bajpai -- almost unrecognisable with the extra lard --, Nana Patekar and Naseeruddin Shah is offset by the presence of the likes of Katrina Kaif and Arjun Rampal). It's that voiceover that runs throughout in careful measured effective Hindi. This is not Hinglish. This is pure Hindi. It's disappointing to see the title surface at the end in English and a boring font (had it been in Hindi, we'd have remembered Govind Nihalani, who unflinchingly presented all the credits on his films in Hindi). Jha's recent efforts (Gangaajal and Apaharan) have been only moderately satisfying. One hopes that this supposed take on the Mahabharat (assignment: watch Benegal's Kalyug again) makes up for those.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

a handful of signs

During a recent visit to Chennai, the eyes spotted some interesting signs.

hoome appliances: blenders for रुदाली?

hotel ginger garlic: they named a hotel after a popular paste at Indian stores?

golden edelweiss: Am I alone in thinking that this is a euphemism for guano? There's also the surreal image the meaning conjures (golden noble white?)

baba pile foundation: A treatment clinic for haemorrhoids named after some godman or that famous star vehicle? Curious. Very curious.

balaji's hot spot: Possibly blasphemous. Great name for a fusion club or the first South Indian strip joint.

dutch betrayal

Some of the things movies teach you are funny. There I was watching Body of Lies (soon to be "remade" as जिस्म झूठ का), specifically the aftermath of a terrorist bomb in Amsterdam. That's when I found out what the abbreviation for the local police was. KLPD. I kid you not. Now, if you're Indian and you haven't been living a sheltered PG life or you haven't watched Monsoon Wedding, you know why I'm laughing.

Friday, January 08, 2010

my daddy cyborg

The Tamil Nadu state government, in a familiar political, pig-headed, jingoistic flourish, offers an exemption from Entertainment Tax to Tamil films bearing Tamil names. This is why Godfather hit the marquee as Varalaru. This is also why the next Rajinikanth/Shankar vehicle lost the name Robot and became Endhiran. (I must digress to note that I missed seeing the young old star when he showed up on Pune for a shooting stint for this flick). OscAR Rahman does the musical honours and Vairamuthu shares lyrical duties with Pa. Vijay. The former lyricist whips up a lyrical howl (go to slide 3) with Robovuku thaai mozhi kidaiyadhu, thandhai mozhidhan undu, which supposedly means A robot does not have a mother tongue; it only has a father tongue. Eh? Cyborg ain't got no lingua माता, but he sure got his daddy's licker. Eesh! Excuse me, while I get some Listerine.

word wrap

Seen on the menu in Chow Baby: Your first and only bowl we will wrap up for any additional bowl wrapped up will be 8.99

Were these messages outsourced to the land of IT rowdies or was the person writing it desperately trying to make it in time for a conference with Mother Nature? You were probably so in thrall of the wonderful stir fry on the table that you didn't notice.

Friday, January 01, 2010

kaalaa Tiikaa: DVD style

dear moser baer,
I would like to thank you for doing for DVDs what T-Series did for CDs. It feels much better to buy DVDs for prices like 99, 149 and the like (INR, of course) than 299, 399 and the like (INR, again). After all, Eagle Entertainment, Eagle, Eros, Adlabs, Sony/BMG, YashRaj Films and Shemaroo are also only giving me a DVD. There's nothing to speak of as far as cover and sleeve art are concerned. In fact, there's nothing at all to speak of in the manner of packaging. I will not mention special features, because that is something India does not understand (I must note that there are some exceptions, of course, but they are, after all, exceptions).

But I digress. I am sure I am not alone in finding watermarks tossed onto the film frame by DVD companies annoying. All of you companies insist on adding short unskippable films parading your logo on the DVDs; I have wondered why pressing the menu button on my DVD's remote control takes me to this loud movie instead of the menu; but I digress again.

Could you tell me why you insist on retaining your watermark on the entire film? Other DVD companies add their watermarks like screensavers -- they appear for a few several seconds at important moments in the film (songs for regular Bollywood far; random moments in "art" cinema). Knowing that these companies didn't care, I had almost made my peace with this annoying feature that destroyed the movie for me. I would like to just let you know that your decision to make this watermark (how can I call it a watermark when it's so plainly visible?) as permanent as a birthmark, a port-wine stain.

Thank you for not caring.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.