Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Yearend Post

Reflecting upon the last year, I find that it has been quite a tumultuous one. Things happened. Shit happened. Learnt a lot. Gained a lot. Lost a lot. Made new good friends. Broke up with a very good old friend too. Handled huge responsibilities. Failed at a few. Rose again. Fell again. But then that is life. That happens all the time, but we don't stop and think about them unless it is the turn of the year. We tend to account a lot of things for this largest unit of time. Things and shit keep happening throughout, we never list them otherwise. This fact irks me the same way it irks Dhirendra Kumar of when everybody celebrates the Sensex passing the 13000 or the 16000 mark, or any other thousand. And that is why I was reluctant to write a year-end post.

Come year end and you have all sorts of lists being compiled up from all directions and on all media. As the clock ticks away to the last few moments of 2008, I am thinking about my lists. I had wanted to blog about my favourite movies, my top-ten songs, my most memorable moments, best blogposts I read, coolest photographs I clicked, my resolutions, things I want to improve next year, basically tens of top-ten lists of the departing year and lists of resolutions for the new year in gestation. But I was either short on time or deprived of genuine inclination. Or maybe I could not decide where to begin, what to pick first from amongst the plethora of ideas I had in mind.

Anyway, however hard I might try not to, I cannot stop myself from considering the new year as a fresh start in life. Have many things in mind, haven't listed them though. Listing them and not being able to fulfil them hurts. But sometime or the other, I need to list them down, else I'd forget them. And I'll have to fulfil what I list. Oops...I already listed down the first and the most important resolution. Before I end up listing a few more of my (dark) secrets, let me wish you all a Happy New Year and bid 2008 adieu!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

As I drove back from work last Friday, I was sort of worried seeing the traffic from Windsor Manor onwards, and dreaded another Kumaraswamy rally like last month when I had got stranded for five hours on the road. As I inched ahead towards Cauvery Circle, I realised it was not Kumaraswamy but Shahrukh Khan who was holding the traffic. At the Cauvery Theatre. No, the King Khan had not descended there incarnate, it was only his new Aditya Chopra flick. I drive the same road everyday at almost the same time, but have never encountered such congestion due to a release. This was despite the fact that RNBDJ was the only Hindi film released that weekend and Cauvery is a rather mediocre theatre.

This huge turnout can be attributed to intelligent marketing, good promos, and of course the banner's and actor's reputations, a year-long wait for a Shahrukh movie, who appeared only in a cameo in Bhootnath this whole year. Despite dozens of idiotic poor jokes, scores of plot loopholes, and hundreds of irritating jis, the movie still made a whopping Rs 60 crores worldwide on the opening weekend, per YRF. “I have become like an ISI mark on a product, so people think, ‘dekh toh le, kuch toh hoga, since it is SRK and Adi together’,” is how Shahrukh reacts on Economic Times, and for once I see a slightly modest SRK.

The movie begins with a situationally forced wedding between the blander than common-man Punjab-Power-lighting-up-your-life employee and his teacher's commoner than the girl-next-door daughter Anushka Sharma. Following which, they inhabit, but do not cohabit, in the mansion the small-town average man lived all alone. The moustached, oil-haired, bespectacled, white-full-sleeved-baggy-shirt-clad cartoon transforms into another spike-haired joker donning red/yellow/orange/peach/lavender/plum/violet tees and sporting large fashionable shades, in an attempt to win his wife's love. And the wife does not recognize the new guy as her husband, because she abhors him so much she never even saw him properly, and falls for the outspoken blabbermouth who emerges from the shy introvert every evening. There is another toon who provides all the paraphernalia required for this double life. And I still wonder what part did poor Rab play in all this.

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi goes an as SRK shifts hamming from one character to the other, going through several emotions and changes of minds. The simple Simon character keeps smiling secretly and mischeivously, as if he is the forged one, or is playing a prank. The good-for-nothing Anushka prepares lunch boxes for one (and asks them back in the evening without fail) and teaches choreographic steps to the other. She doesn't have any charm or appeal whatsoever, and an extra would have looked better. Vinay Pathak disappointed immensely. Sirji, you are not made for this kind of crappy shadowy roles when you can run an entire film on your own.

The only good part lays exactly at the end of the first hour, when Kajol/ Bipasha/ Lara/ Preity/ Rani appear on screen for less than a minute each, and SRK mimics Raj Kapoor/ Devanand/ Shammi Kapoor/ Rajesh Khanna/ Rishi Kapoor, to the tunes of an intelligently written and choreographed song even with stupid lyrics: Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke, Fir Milenge Chalte Chalte. You can listen to Haule Haule too.

Shahrukh's last venture, the year-old Om Shanti Om is closely paralleled in Rab Ne.... SRK in two characters, one introvert, timid and sincere (an underdog there), the other flamboyant, smart and vivacious (a successful superstar there), one new girl in the lead role, one good actor screwing up his reputation being a sidekick to SRK, a star-studded light-hearted song, even the release timing at the end of year, coinciding with another actor's who allegedly has a dog named after him.

How much ever money RNBDJ would have made, SRK-Adi's third project together is nowhere compared to their first (DDLJ). The second one, Mohabbatein, was likeable too, maybe because of AB and Aish. But I would nevertheless agree with Shahrukh, SRK and Adi ek saath hain, kuchh to hoga, dekh to lo ek baar, though I'd rate it only 5 on 10.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Monday Blues and Shopping

Come Monday and you get the blues. I look for excuses of not going to work on almost all Mondays, and more often than not, end up working from home. Actually it starts sprouting up Sunday afternoon, latest by the evening. Add some greys from the skies on Monday morning, and you have a dirty, gloomy concoction of blue-grey tinges that keeps you troubled throughout the day. And a bad start to the week tends to create a bad taste.

With my contrarian style of working and the flexibility at work I generally sit with the code late nights on weekdays and afternoons on weekends, becoming the object of suspicion of colleagues with my short hours at work (Hope my manager doesn't read this...), getting up as late on a weekday as on the weekends, there is no reason I should get depression-filled Monday mornings. But I still get them. Monday is like getting up for the week. A parallel can be drawn between nights and weekends, between dawns and Mondays, between being night owls and flexi-workers.

So anyway, come Monday and you get the blues. There are several remedies to it, the one I usually follow is going out on Sunday evenings also. Well, the popular idea of staying indoors Sundays helps me because I find lesser traffic on roads and lesser congestions at restaurants and theatres. And going out on Sunday evenings leaves lesser time to worry about the next morning.

Another cure I discovered this Monday, though it was practised by female colleagues from my first job and I never realised it, was to go out shopping on weekends and wear the loot to work on Monday. Okay that can be a girly thing to do but I really felt lesser impact this and the previous Monday. I could beat the blues by donning new pairs of denim blues (and new shirts too) to office, and receiving compliments. However, this leaves me in a lurch for the next 50 weeks; two pairs of jeans is almost the upper limit I buy in year.

Going out for lunch on Mondays can be of help too. This is inspired by another friend; she doesn't eat out on the weekends, but makes sure she doesn't have dinner cooked at home on Mondays. For me, good food anyway serves as an anti-depressant at all times. And the best part is that unlike clothes, I do not have a quota on eating out.

Talking of melancholy and food, I am already feeling sad about not being able to finish this piece on Monday, and about getting up five hours later and going to work. Let me visit the kitchen and eat something before I retire. By then, you let me know how do you deal with your Monday blues.

[Photo courtesy: Vicky Walsh]

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Cognitive Dissonance

To be or not to be, that is the question;
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing, end them. To die, to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to — 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
The Shakespearean Prince Hamlet in his soliloquy above talks about his indecisiveness. There are conflicting views among the literary intelligentsia on which one is the to be option and which is the not to be. I feel facing the highs and lows of life seems the more difficult to be option, and the braver option of taking up arms and fighting against and dying is the not to be. Hamlet continues in his monologue and observes that death is not an absolute annihilation and end of problems, you might still dream and God knows what you'll dream about and what dilemmas you might face therein. So the decision-making might never end.

Thoughts flutter. They make you fall in situations you need to make a decision. You have both the choices equally viable, both of them seem right, you have a tough time deciding which way to choose. You have a fight within yourself. You try to logically eliminate one of the options available, but you always have the fear of thoughts quivering and you regretting on The Road Not Taken at a later point in life.

There is another kind of situation you tend to fall in, which is more difficult than to-be-or-not-to-be. That is one after you have made a decision. Thoughts still flutter. You've made a decision but are unable to stick to it. It is not necessarily between the good and the bad, the two options available may be equally right or equally wrong. Correctness is anyway a relative concept. You choose one from the two roads equally travelled, and since there is no one less traveled by, there is nothing that has made all the difference. But two things cannot be the same, and you end up struggling with yourself.

Or, you know you've made a wrong move, but you tend to find excuses to yourself trying to justify your decision. Thoughts flutter again and you have a battle within yourself. Usually it is a tussle between the heart and the head. Invariably the heart wins, and the head ends up helping the heart win by providing excuses to you. A case of induced compliance without sufficient justification. The cognizance of your acts being against your own (and that of others') wellbeing makes you fall to abysmal depths and think very low of you. The moment you try to get up and stand against, something comes up that forces you to give in yet again. The more you give in, the more troubled you feel, the deeper you fall, and more difficult it becomes to emerge from the recesses of depression and self-criticism, and the more prone you become to giving in. A vicious circle follows, the exit from which is visible to you but you are not strong enough to follow the path. All this could have been avoided had you nipped it in the bud. Had you not let the uncomfortable feeling of dissonance come in the first place.




Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sorry Bhai! Say Dasvidaniya to Dostana of EMI and Karzzz

This month's edition showcases more Hindi movies than English, more new than old, and covers all seven Bollywood movies released in November, and the remaining six out of 10 in October, four of which I wrote about last month. I have tried not to have any spoilers in any one, and I think I've succedded. Let me know if you feel otherwise.

[Parenthesis after the release date contains the country it was first released, if the movie was/is not released in India. Mentioned alongside the title in brackets is the IMDB rating at the time of writing this post, if the movie features in the top 250 list. The last column contains a rating I would give them on a scale of 10.]

Title (IMDB Rank)Release(Country)Rating /10  

Sorry Bhai!28-Nov-086  
Sorry Bhai is an interesting concept, a bit bold for the Indian audience, perhaps the reason it is shot entirely in Mauritius. Director Onir defied stereotypes again after My Brother Nikhil, but he could have treated it better. One, the movie begins slow and dull, where everyone is cracking jokes with a long face, as if they've been tortured to produce humour. As the movie progresses, the heaviness reduces and characters open up, giving out some light moments. The interesting ensemble of cast had mixed performances. Sharman Joshi was wasted. He simply cannot look and act serious at all, doesn't have that talent. Boman Irani was the star here. These are the kinds of roles he does well, where he does witty one-liners acknowledged with a self-smile. Chitrangada Sen looked hotter than in Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisin. Shabana looked fatter but acted the usual. Sanjay Suri was sidelined after the interval. A short movie that could have been made better by using good timing of humour, lesser of melodrama, and more natural acting. There are quite some scenes that look very artificial, though some other look real good, like the one where Sharman-Chitrangada slide down the staircase railing. The ending could have been improved. Despite those shortcomings, Sorry Bhai can (and should) be watched once for the freshness and boldness of the subject.

Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!28-Nov-088  
A hilarious drama that takes you through the streets of Delhi and through the life of an intelligent thief. Quite an interesting one, a detailed review can be read here.

A drama shot in opulent sets, pretty European locales, and presented with rich music. Poor script, bad direction, insignificant acting; only the music steals the show. I wrote a detailed review earlier, which can be read here.

Do you have a checklist of things to do before you die? Because that is what Vinay Pathak does before he says Dasvidaniya to the world. Now this is no spoiler; this is revealed by the time you settle in your seats, after which the timid protagonist starts fulfilling all he had wanted to do in life. Following his uncanny habit of preparing a mundande TO-DO list every morning, he does a list that he carries along as the clock ticks. Vinay Pathak, in a brilliant performance that can be said as his career best, above even Bheja Fry, makes you smile, feel sorry, evoke pity at different times. The scene where he enacts out the Dumb-C way his love to childhood sweetheart Neha Dhupia is stunning and quite moving. Debutante producer-director Shashant Shah treated the subject quite sensitively, though there were influences from Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Anand (on a similar subject, where the protagonist lives his life to the fullest in the event of impending death of the same cancer) and Raj Kapoor's Mera Naam Joker. The movie has sad and poignant undertones with quite some light moments also, but it does not depress, rather makes you think about finding out your ambitions and wishes and ways of fulfilling them. The music is meaningful and melodious. A must watch, one of the best Hindi movies this year.

I had dismissed this one as a Karan Johar movie but then came to know that KJo had only produced it, the director was Tarun Mansukhani, and therefore it could have been watchable. I was very wrong though, little did I know Mansukhani was the assistant director for KKHH, K3G, and KANK. Not much different from a regular KJo movie, Dostana carries on a tale of two strangers who pretend to be gay to get a place to live. The third flatmate is the gorgeous female and the three develop bonds of friendship. What follows is the very predictable plot adorned with poor, cliched jokes, cheap gimmicks, a few tear-sheds, innumerable references to Karan Johar movies, and the declaration of the guys' fake sexual inclination every five minutes that gets you in the head. The good part is obviously Priyanka Chopra who, like in all her other flops earlier this year, gets you interested. The songs are good and catchy, The school-skit-like drama is watchable once.

Another new face Saurabh Kabra could not live up to other debut writer-directors who have been bringing up fresh ideas and delivering great movies. EMI-Liya hai to chukana hi padega has a funny tagline, and has its moments at places though they are far and few, and the storyline was novel too, but somewhere it lacked the fizz. EMI is about four parallel tales of people who've taken loans in some form or the other default, and a recovery agency is employed by the bank to--well--recover money. Four stories become a bit too much and do not flow in tandem. Some of them like Kulbhooshan Kharbanda acted well, a few others sucked. Sanjay Dutt was good, and his character seemed inspired by Munnabhai. The movie comes with a message, but fails to convey it properly. Nothing remarkable about EMI, not even the music.

Ek Vivah Aisa Bhi7-Nov-085  
Another product from the Rajshri Production house which is no different from the earlier ventures. The opening scene was exactly like an Indian wedding video, and the storyline revolves around a wedding. But this is a different one, and that is what the movie about. The plot gets too goody-goody as it moves ahead, and both the lead actors Esha Kopikar and Sonu Sood are ever-smiling and so composed it almost looks they are stoical. Esha Kopikar does look pretty and innocent even in this non-glamourous role, and has the biggest role which is powerful and determinant. Sonu Sood's love for her is extremely selfless and idealistic. Alok Nath, the signature Rajshri father, thankfully got a smaller role. One good thing about Rajshri movies is that the families are getting smaller, but that also means smaller houses and less of grandeur. And also less of music, which again uesd to be a plus point of Rajshri movies; the music of Ek Vivah Aisa Bhi is inconspicuous. For all the above reasons, this would not be a hit even with uncle-aunty audience..And no, this is not a sequel of Vivah.

Another movie from another renowned director that disappointed me. I feel the newcomers perform much better than the seasoned directors these days. So Mr Bhandarkar picks up another issue, that in the modelling industry and the hardships faced by models and the means used to reach the top. However, the treatment of the subject was rather weak this time. After delivering great works like Chandni Bar and Satta, he was a let down in Fashion. And then he uses exaggeration to prove his point. Six gay fashion designers in the movie? Depicting gaydom was fashion in today's movies but following fashion just for the heck of it? I mean, every designer cannot be gay! And there is one who changes his sexual preferences! All the girls looked good, but Kangana was in the typecasted role of a drunkard and druggie. Priyanka was good, and the new girl Mugdha Godse acted well too. The plot has many loopholes, and the ending unsatisfactory, though he tried to make it a happy one this time. Perhaps that is where Fashion sucked big time. With a happy end in mind, a well-built plot was screwed in the last half hour. Bhandarkarji, are you following Subhash Ghai and leading a downward graph?

Golmaal Returns29-Oct-085  
Sequels are not generally as good as the original in Hollywood (with the exception of a few like Terminator), how can they be in Bollywood, though I was not a very big fan of Golmaal anyway. But it was definitely better than the Returns. The sequel manages to get some laughter, but most of it is corny, cliched, and cheap, revolving around homosexuality or Ekta Kapoor's K-series. Too many people and too many subplots that fail to flow into each other. And then there is this irritating mute Tusssshhhhar (I am sorry if I missed an 's' or an 'h' there) Kapoor, who can utter almost all syllables, and repeatedly keeps appending "Uck" whenever someone says "What the". Sister Kareena cannot get over his real-life-sister's serials and tries to draw similarities between real life and soaps every instant. Arshad Warsi keeps on laughing, while Ajay Devgan's character keeps on trying to look smart. Shreyas Talpade was underutilized, and Vrajesh Hirjee was a joker as always. The other actors are okay, and the Cadbury girl Anjana Sukhani looked hot. And yes, the music is catchy and foot-tapping. The end was a mockery where Tusshar is speaking and the others mention him not being in the third. Somebody please save us from a Golmaal Returns Again.

Roadside Romeo24-Oct-085  
Disney's debut into Bollywood. Yash Raj's entry into animation. Jugal Hansraj's first direction and script. Tata Elxsi's expanse into animation from special effects (Dhoom, Spiderman 3, Iron Man). Saif and Kareena's first voice-overs. India's first animation movie not based on mythology. So many firsts and the movie garnered high expectations, but sadly enough did not live up to it. First, the animation is good but does not appeal because all the dogs are naked except for a neckwear, and they walk oddily enough on two legs. The backdrop is not given attention and is not very good. Second, the story is predictable and not gripping enough. It is about a polished pet dog abandoned by its owners into the dark streets of Mumbai occupied by unkempt, dirty strays. After initial bullying, they are taken into the smooth talks and start a business. Then comes the hafta-vasooli and the villains. Third, the dialogue-delivery is poor, and the only humour that is attempted is by using mimickry of Bollywood dialogues, which sucks. The love-story between the lead couple is fantastical, and is depicted by means of music and dance, which is okay. Not much, but can be watched once as the first non-mythological Indian animation.

You get put off at the opening parallel scenes that have been directly picked up from Five Point Someone and Friends. What follows is a cheap comedy sequence that could have done away with in this otherwise serious movie with a subject as earnest as depicting war heroes. Two film academy students choose to make a documentary on "Indian Defence Forces kyon nahi join karni chahiye", in the course of which they deliver three letters from slain soldiers to their families. So you get to see Preity-Salman, Sunny-Bobby Deols, and Mithun-Dino Morea in three different subplots that change the mindsets of filmmakers Sohail Khan and Vatsal Shah. The idea is novel, seemingly inspired from Che Guevera's The Motorcycle Diaries, but the frivolous inital half hour was needless and lessened the effect. Sunny Paaji could not help show his antics even on a wheelchair, when he kicks of an entire team of firangi goondas, and ends up making a mockery of our heroes in war. Disappointing scripting and direction, and loud, tasteless humour spoit the idea that could have done wonders had it been treated the RDB way, but writer-director Samir Karnik chose to make a masala movie and ended up making a mishmash.

Subash Ghai commented in an interview somewhere that he had wished Karzzz to be a hit. That was really generous of him. I had expected it to be crap and Karzzz lived up to my expectations. A perfect example of how an excellent script can be ruined by incompetent direction and poor acting. Karz had a haunting music and an intriguing narrative but despite being the same story, Karzzz had a rather idiotic plot movement, laced with stupid unnecesary jokes only director Satish Kaushik can crack on screen. Farhan Akhtar's Don at least had a classy treatment of the original Don, interesting shooting locales and sets and a new twist in the end, but Karzzz had Himesh's silky mane and nasal twangs. He can neither act nor sing but takes on the role of a supposedly charismatic rock star flanked by girls. The part after the revelation of renaissance finishes off instantly and ridiculously. Urmila looked older and fitted the role, and perhaps she was the only charm, otherwise the movie is a burden to finish once you start it.

Cheenti Cheenti Bang Bang17-Oct-085  
I had heard the movie was an animation, and had assumed it would have been in some way related to the 1964 book (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) by Ian Flaming. To my utter horror, it was about two kingdoms of the industrious Cheentis banging against each other. The movie is about a war that had sparked because the royal daughter-in-law of red ants was teased by the prince of the black ants (or vice-versa wrt the colour). Both the sides have larger reptiles as accomplices, a chameleon that never changes colour, a frog that never stops croaking, and a wheat eelworm Ghunn who crosses sides, instigating the war. The voice-overs by stars like Mahesh Manjarekar and Asrani turned into creaky dialogues, and did not grab any interest either. The story is dimwitted, and the animation crude 2-D. Having said that, I am glad that animation movies are increasingly being made in India, and are getting creative and out of the realm of mythology. Cheenti Cheenti Bang Bang was a small movie, targetted only at kids; the Indian still believes animation is meant for kids. However, a few dialogues like woh hamare badan par toot pada cannot be really in a movie for children. Cheenti Cheenti Bang Bang went on completely unnoticed, I don't know whether it was screened even in multiplexes. There is still a long way to go before we can start seeing jewels like Ice Age and Wall-E in India.

Babylon A.D.10-Oct-085  
Hollywood seems to never get bored of plots set in the dystopian future, where survivors are fighting for--what else but survival. Babylon A D, adapted from French novel Babylon Babies, tells us the story of a veteran-turned-mercenary transporting a young woman from Eastern Europe to America. What follows is an intercontinental drama-action-drama-action series that fails to flow smoothly. The movie, set a mere decade into the future, demontrates sleek advancements in technologies that cannot be imagined in such a near future. There is an interesting technology shown that seems to get lost in all the commotion. The French director Mathieu Kassovitz was unhappy with his own creation a week before release, and admitted "It's pure violence and stupidity", and that he had wanted to communicate a message which it couldn't; he didn't get to do a scene the way it was written or the way he wanted it to be. Producers 20th Century Fox instead cut 70 minutes to make the running time to 93. That explains the incoherence. Vin Diesel acts the plastic messenger, and Michelle Yeoh looks old, but the movie can be watched only if you enjoy action scenes, some of which shot on ice-covered mountains on sledges.

Flashbacks of a Fool3-Oct-087  
A ageing Hollywood star who leads a narcissistic lifestyle of sex, drugs and celebrity status in his plush house by the sea, caretaken by a laconic personal assistant, learns about the demise of his childhood friend at a time when his own life is getting lonely, and he is no longer the charm of moviemakers. The next hour-long flashback takes us to the lazy English hamlet in the seventies when the adolescent protagonist goes through a lot of emotions, good and bad, set to the beats of Roxy Music and Bowie. The movie switches back to the present when the young boy leaves home in search of a new life. At present the actor visits his friend's funeral and learns new things about his past. Though slow-paced, the movie holds attention throughout through a emotion-filled poignant drama, the kinds I find rare in Hollywood. The stark contrast between the east coast America and the countryside in Britain, the present and past lifestyles, is beautifully shot. Daniel Craig did not have to do much in a non-Bond role but the younger Harry Eden who occupied more screen time as the protagonist was superb. Overall, a nice watch.

Wall-E (# 32)29-Aug-0810  
This is what is called a modern classic. A cute story set up in a futiristic era. Intense feelings depicted through lifeless machines. Great direction, script and soundwork. Superb chemistry between the lead couple. Amazing animation by Pixar. Huge attention to detail would have been a key point in the extreme hardwork in designing the animation and everything else. The movie begins with the eponymous solar-powered protagonist doing about his chores on a lifeless earth 800 years hence. All the other WALL-E (Waste Allocation Load Lifter- Earth-Class) robots have perished but this one, who over seven centuries, has developed a personality and a sense of curiosity, including his fascination for the old musical Hello Dolly! that he watches every evening after returning from work. The small but rought-tough tank-like robot is joined by the cute and svelte egg-shaped Apple-product-like EVE (Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator), who is sent by humans living in a space liner to evaluate the possibility of life on the devastated earth. It clicks in at the first meeting, and an unrequited romance develops which takes him after her to the space liner where the story becomes all the more interesting. The dance in the space where WALL-E uses a fire-extinguisher to move is terrific. A cool score, some from the classic Hello Dolly add to the sentiment. The movie ends in a very feel-good way. A must watch, I would rate this much above Kungfu Panda earlier this year.

This French movie in English is an action-packed, fast-paced thriller with a simple plot that does not have too many twists and suspenses. The end is predictable from the beginning but that does not reduce the excitement. The daughter of Liam Neeson, the ex-CIA 'preventer', is abducted on her arrival in Paris by Albanians who deal in trafficking of women. The sharp, poised, courageous, trigger-happy dad who has 'a very particular set of skills acquired over a very long career' travels from the US to Paris. The one-man army is fast, agile and resourceful, and 'makes a mess' in Paris, killing anyone who comes in the way. The movie starts with a slow pace but gains momentum the moment she is kidnapped. The prologue had resemblance to Kidnap closer home where a powerful father goes out to hunt for her teen daughter who used to live with his ex-wife. The plot is rather unbelieving but you enjoy the confidence with which Bryan moves among the criminals in a foreign land. This was almost like James Bond sans the gadgets and the babes. The movie was a one-man-show; the other actors were rather unknown, except the X-Men star Famke Jannsen, who looked rather haggard. The dialogues were crisp and powerful. Overall, an exciting watch when you are feeling lazy and want some thrill.

Had wanted to watch this movie because of the hype about Jiah Khan and her legs. When I finally saw Nishabd, I was wordless at the ostentatious publicity it had garnered. The hypes and the promos would have told that it is the story of an older man falling in for a younger woman. If that rings a bell, yes, you are right about Lolita, American Beauty, and Joggers' Park. The last one is quite close because that's the theme with an Indian ethical angle; the plot here has nothing new to offer, the screenplay and direction poor, and the movie as a whole much worse, even though the older man is a much better actor here. Actually Amitabh Bachchan did a very good job as one more Vijay, his only shortcoming was that he signed this movie. Jiah Khan looks like a malnutritioned nympho brat, and the camera always finds her below the belt, or between her stick-like legs, with AB's face in the backdrop. RGV needs to learn, among many other things, the concept of subtlety. The concept of older man-younger woman is preposterous with the traditional Indian, and the way Nishabd is made shows that RGV is one of those Indians that find it wrong. That is why he should not have made this picture. I had initially rated it a 4, but as I write this, I recap AB's acting, and raise it to 5.

Æon Flux2-Dec-05(USA)7  
A scifi that takes you to life 400 years hence in a walled city that houses the last bunch of human survivors on earth. True to the name, the movie belongs to Æon Flux, the long-legged assassin who is hired to kill the ruler of the ruling Goodchild dynasty of scientists. What follows is a series of action sequences in the futiristic city with the assassin and her partner fighting an entire army. What strikes throughout is oscar-winning Charlize Theron in a very sexy and the very same leotard almost throughout the movie, open in a weird but sensuous manner under the shoulders and above the cleavage, and shows her 5'10" figure from every angle you would like to see. The martial arts fights are good, but there is a lot of unbelievable stuff that looks magical, wrapped under the realm of science. The story does have an interesting revelation towards the end, that makes you go wow. An interesting watch, if not for anything else, for Charlize Theron.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!

After last Sunday's burns caused by Yuvvraaj, I was not willing to go out for a movie this weekend. Anyway there were not many releases this Friday, and I had almost seen all the previous ones. PP had wanted to watch one, and had suggested Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!. But to her sheer disbelief, I had not bought tickets in advance and had half expected we wouldn't get them over the counter. I knew this was only wishful thinking because all theatres were less than half-booked even by late afternoon, I guess due to a sense of mourning for (or fear of?) the Mumbai Massacre.

So we still had seats available after the bloke ahead in queue had wanted 9 tickets and took 9 months deciding between Gold and Silver. As we settled in our seats and went through promos, I prayed for Abhay Deol, Paresh Rawal and Khosla Ka Ghosla director Dibakar Banerjee. None of them disappointed me in the comical drama that takes us first through the adolescent life of Lucky, and then his excursions in his profession, giving us a detailed tour through residential areas of Delhi from Tilak Nagar to Rajouri Garden and Rohini to Defence Colony.

The narrative keeps you bound and you don't feel bored for a minute. Intelligent use of still photographs has been used more than once to fast forward the movie. The screenplay is great, and the humour is good, non-cheesy, and light without much of other emotions, though you feel a bit sorry for the parents. Otherwise the movie is strewn with laughter throughout, both during the present Lucky and the past. Money is shown as the biggest power. The music is all Punjabi but not that good, except the title track. But since most of the songs play in the background, they did not seem to be needlessly inserted and did not obstruct the flow.

Abhay Deol seems to have developed a knack for signing up the most hat-ke low-budget movies that are all different from each other and are critically acclaimed. OLLO is no exception. The dimpled actor keeps his innocent smile even when he is wanted by the police. Paresh Rawal was not his usual timid, mindless comedian but played three powerful, intelligent characters, as Lucky's father (not as strong as the other two), and the other two characters who patronize Lucky at different times. Some good serious acting on his part. Neetu Chandra was sweet but did not have much screen time.

Though it might be too early but Dibakar Banerjee's second venture shows a trend here. Quite a few similarities can be drawn between national-award winning Khosla Ka Ghosla and this one, the most prominent being being shot in Delhi and the use of local Delhi language, a mix of Hindi, Punjabi and Haryanwi. The movie might not qualify for the national award this year, nor the director, but he has nevertheless done a very good job in writing and directing a script so well.

To sum it up, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! was full paisa-vasool, though I would have loved it on the small screen too. My verdict: 8 on 10.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Grey Skies and Glooms

I have been trying to start writing since the past two hours but it is not easy. I had originally started yesterday evening mentioning an overcast Bangalore the whole day and the gloominess it brought upon me, adding to my melancholy of the past few days. I would have ranted about the new grey template on my blog that sort of counteracted the grey skies by totally engrossing me in the various widgets where I got deep into css, javascript, and HTML to tweak the widgets according to my taste.

But things are quite different now. Today was overcast again and was dripping the entire day, the only thing that reminds of the 64 lives claimed (till the time of writing) in Tamil Nadu by Cyclone Nisha, a news subdued by the live coverage of terrorism in Mumbai since the past 24 hours. The war going on between creators of terror and NSG, RAF, Black Cats, and Mumbai Police at three sites in Mumbai has made the entire nation edgy. The grey moods and my kvetches are not even a drop against the oceans of depression and gloom brought in by the largest-ever terrorist attack on India and her populace.

The use of AK-47s and other automatic weapons did really create more mayhem and terror than bombs, which have anyways kept blowing intermittently. Firings could be heard throughout. The Indian financial capital has come to a standstill. Friends in Mumbai told me every Mumbaikar was afraid to go out today, nobody was sure whether they would come back. At times like these you feel very vulnerable and helpless. You don't know whether to cry over it or to blame the authorities for not having taken enough measures to foresee and prevent such acts of terror.

The entire sequence of events looks straight out from a Hollywood action movie, but the entire world is shaken. But that also depicts how cheap a human life is, an Indian's all the more. One 9/11 happened, and the US screwed up the entire world. Let us see what the Indian offices of power do. By evening the number of miscreants was decreasing, and various ministers could be seen on TV. Hostages who were spared the gun were being evacuated to safer places. The war is still on, and I know the armies and the forces will win; not reaching back alive would sure have been a part of the intricate plan the terrorists would have drafted.

The media has been sickening and overkilling, with all news channels removing everything else off the screens; even the tickers that keep shouting of Breaking News are all occupied by this horrendous incident. However, the media is the reason we know the exact picture out there and have so strong sentiments against both the terrorists and the lawmakers. Switching off news streams and delegating to the corrupt ministers won’t help. We need to do something proactive, starting from the root level. We need drastic reforms in our society and constitution and law and order. Don’t ask me where to begin; I don’t have an answer, we’ll have to find one.

PS: Rediff has a live commentary here on the ongoing war.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Yuvvraaj the Musical

Hire the prettiest face in the industry, the best music director and the best lyricist, and shoot in picturesque European locales and grand, opulent sets. Take an Oscar-winning script, beat the shit out of it, and add a shallow direction to it. Insert an extra 'v' in the family name, and you have Yuvvraaj. And yes, I forgot, add some jokers and crappy acting according to taste, and you have the full recipe.

Even though you have the recipe, it is not easy to waste big names like Allah Rakha Rehman and Sampoorna Singh Gulzar on the pretext of creating a musical movie. Music did they create, and quite good one at that, but using it inappropriately at the wrong places, with gaudy and tawdry costumes and portly female side dancers spoilt the fun. Yuvvraaj does not look like a musical at all, only the Manmohini track seemed to fit, and to some extent Zindagi. The others could have been not in the movie at all.

The storyline has no meat at all; I was trying at interval to recap and realised to my utter disbelief that the plot hadn't moved. The second half brought no surprise. Katrina Kaif had nothing to do but look pretty as always, and beau Salman Khan couldn't stop hamming. Anil Kapoor tried to copy Dustin 'Rain Man' Hoffman, but he was not even close. The only good part was Mithun, and the three new faces, who were hot, especially Aimee Maghera. Even Boman Irani sucked.

One mystery I was unable to solve was how does everyone in Prague, London, and Austria speak Hindi? And those who spoke English were vexingly subtitled in Devanagiri. Now who does that and why? And who translates 'sexy' as 'jaaneman'?

Subhash Ghai said in an interview he has more competition than Subhash Ghai (whatever that means); he has competition with Khalnayak and Ram Lakhan. You are partially right Mr Ghai, but you have competition with Kisna and Yaadein. And congratulations, Yuvvraaj wins. Your golden period was the 80's where you gave memorable hits. The 90's have been an advent of your downfall. Except Black & White earlier this year. Now that was a movie that had an interesting plot and did not call for unnecessary display of grandeur. That is why I liked it, and perhaps that is why it did not do well at the box office. But yes, movies like Aitraaz and Iqbal were good. Good that you only produced them. You are getting older and senile, why don't you sit back and sign cheques and hire someone else for the director's chair?

Overall, a huge let down. Watch it at your own risk. You might want to walk out after the Tu Hi Meri Dost Hai track. I'd suggest buy the music CD instead.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Ok, like the last time I participated in Cuckoo's Le Titre in an eleventh-hour-rush, here is my entry for this month's topic: Conspiracy.

Four people conspiring under shadows

Sifting through my photographs, I had found two photos that I sent to someone to help me decide one from, and soon I saw this third one which both of us felt was more appropriate for conspiracy. The reason: four people conspiring in shadows.

This time's participation is better than the last one because I am writing this before the deadline and shall upload the photograph too before the contest closes, unlike last time when I had simply created a blank post and posted the url on the participation, and finished up later.

And this takes me back to the state of mind I was in sitting at that beach in Pondicherry, and though the sea was calm, I had tides within. I was wondering at the effect the sea had on my mind, and was thanking someone (To Whoever it may concern types) that I lived far from the sea.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tu Hi To Meri Dost Hai

Listened to this number on FM a few days ago, and before I knew it was from Yuvraaj, written by Gulzar and composed and sung (in part) by A R Rehman, I was humming it all the time. I simply can't get it off my head. Everytime I listen to it, I find myself in a different world.

Gulzar is superb, much better than Akhtar, who disappointed me with his kale-neele-peele songs in Rock On. Plus the refrain by Rehman. You have to listen to it to feel it. One more reason this track is particularly intriguing is because it talks about a 'dost' rather than the hundreds of synonyms for a beloved. There are a lot of songs on dosti but not often do you listen to 'meri' dost.

I could probably put it as my most favourite song of 2008. A very close contender would be Teri Ore from Singh is King, which, though quite soothing to the ears, lacks in the emotional content in this one.

There were a few more ear-friendly songs this year, not listed in any particular order:

  • Teri Ore (Singh Is King)
  • Bakhuda Tumhi Ho (Kismat Konnection)
  • Khuda Jaane (Bachan Ae Haseeno)
  • Kabhi Kabhi Aditi (Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na)
  • Zara Zara Touch Me (Race)
  • Chaar Dino Ka Pyaar (Jannat)
  • Pichhle Saat Dino Mein (Rock On)
  • Pehli Nazar Mein (Race)
What do you think? Do you feel this is the best song of the year or am I getting too emotional?

Aaja main hawaon mein bitha ke le chaloon/ Tu hi to/ Tu hi to meri dost hai...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Drona Kidnapped by Hari Puttar?

Okay, the title of the post would have been of relevance a month ago, but those were the latest movies I could write a review upon. So, like the last month, the movies are listed in reverse chronological order of their release dates except where there is a series or movies based on the same book and like.

Parenthesis after the release date contains the country it was first released, if the movie was/is not released in India. Mentioned alongside the title in brackets is the IMDB rating at the time of writing this post, if the movie features in the top 250 list. The last column contains a rating I would give them on a scale of 10.

Title (IMDB Rank) Release (Country) Rating /10  

Hello 10-Oct-08 6 /10  
Good treatment of the book. The movie adds or subtracts nothing. If you liked One Night at Call Centre, you would like Hello. If you didn't, you wouldn't. I found Five Point Someone quite gripping but Chetan Bhagat's second venture was rather mediocre. If you thought the first one was far-fetched, which I believe was not, this one is much more. If you haven't read the book, you might like this short movie based on a few friends in a rather empty call centre office. Acting wise it is okay with Arbaaz, Sharman Joshi and Sharat Saxena playing their usual roles, and Gul Panag, for a change, a slightly glamorous character.

Drona 2-Oct-08 3 /10  
Drona, for me, was shattered expectations. The starcast, the promos, the publicity, all seemed promising. But it turned out to be a superhero who is slow and dumb, portly and bearded, stoic and expressionless. The movie is slow paced, almost as if shot entirely in slow-motion, everyone takes ages to understand and react. The plot has one bit from Indian mythology, the treatment of the yet-to-become-superhero from Harry Porter, action sequences from Mummy and Torque, and has almost no substance. The only bit of attempted comedy is clichéd and boring. Abhishek and mommy's jobs were done easy by director Goldie; they had to carry the same stupefied expression throughout. Kay Kay is more comical and stupid than terrifying, this is perhaps his worst ever performance. The only good thing was the great locales, and the sexy, smoke-eyed bodyguard in Priyanka Chopra, whose character was a bit nimbler. The open end hints at a sequel, and I shudder at the thought of it.

Kidnap 2-Oct-08 4 /10  
The promos show you the nouveau physiques of the kidnapper and the kidnapee. And the kidnapee's bikini in which she gets kidnapped underwater. That is it to this Kidnap. The recently-turned-adult Minissha is kidnapped, and the über-rich father Sanjay Dutt is asked for odd errands in return. What follows is a series of phone calls and some supposedly confusing clues that fail to scintillate, and changes of one-after-other mini-dresses for Minissha in captivity. Irfan looks better in this non-chocolaty-role, but cannot act and deliver dialogues properly; his pout comes in the way. The storyline is rather bleak and predictable and music short-lived.

Hari Puttar 26-Sep-08 3 /10  
Home Alone the Indian way. Even the title is not original. Saurabh Shukla's getup had glimpses of the great Rubeus Hagrid. I love kid movies but I doubt if children would like this. The movie had no substance at all. The jokes are poor and at times improper for a younger audience the movies targets. Swini Khera looked quite dumb after her remarkable performance in Cheeni Kum, the other two kids are hopeless, and the elders didn't have much on-screen time.

Journey to the Center of the Earth 12-Sep-08 7 /10  
Also known as Journey 3-D, this would definitely have looked amazing on 3-D. True to the name, the movie is about a journey, a weekend trip to the centre of the earth by a volcanologist, his nephew, and a beautiful mountain guide. The movie is more of special effects and thrills and striking visuals, and is like an amusement park more than an adaptation of the serious eponymous 1864 classic by Jules Verne. The book and notes on it by the scientist's late brother are used for the journey, similar to the notes by Arne Saknussem in the book. The major incidents are picked up from the book, though very little care is paid to explain the scientific facts as there. The cast is only three people for the entire movie except the first and the last 5 minutes; the Icelandic beauty Anita Briem looked gorgeous though she did not have much else to do. The roller coaster and other rides do not let you feel time passing by. The witty one-liners add a welcome lace of humour. Overall, a good watch, but do not expect the science and math that were an integral part of the Jules Verne novel.

Journey to the Center of the Earth 16-Dec-59 (USA) 7 /10  
This one is the original movie based on the book by Jules Verne, and is quite a good adaptation. There are a few changes of course, but the movie stays close to the idea. The movie has quite a depth compared to the contemporary Brendan Fraser counterpart, and tries to explain things and make sense rather than being just a visual treat. The interior of the earth is depicted in quite a detail, and the special effects are commendable for a movie of the 50's. The journey takes them almost a year, and that is the core part of the movie, as opposed to the three minutes of free fall in the younger movie. Excellent use of imagery and light gives an eerie and frightening touch. The performances are good but you easily notice the differences between two movies half a century apart. Overall, an interesting watch if you haven't read the book.

Death Race 22-Aug-08 (USA) 8 /10  
2012. The US economy has crippled, unemployment and crime are on the rise, and private corporations run prisons for profit. Terminal Island is one such prison, and Death Race is broadcasted live on the internet and viewership charged. The cars are highly modified, the drivers are convicts, and the rules are simple: there are no rules; win and win your freedom, or die trying. Such a plot calls for high action and thrill, scheming and conspiracy, courage and intelligence in a fight against the authorities. The movie is like a modern Gladiator, the heavy metal armours replaced by tank-like cars, and swords and maces by machine guns and force fields, but slaves fight and kill each other to entertain the masses. At times it looks like a video game. A few killings are quite violent and gory. Jason Statham's abs would make the Shahrukhs shy. His role was energetic and powerful like the one in Transporter. The Mustangs and the Dodge Rams and the Jaguars and the Porsches are amazing, and the 18-wheeler Dreadnought breathtaking. Overall, a fast-paced adrenalin-pumping thriller that keeps you at the edge of your seat throughout.

Tropic Thunder 13-Aug-08 (USA) 3 /10  
Tropic Thunder is the story of filming of a war movie Tropic Thunder wherein pampered lead actors are dropped in the middle of the jungle with hidden cameras so that the movie can be shot guerrilla-style. Very soon the director dies in a landmine, and the cast are caught by a heroin-producer-gang and it is quite some while before they realise they are in the real and not the reel world. The movie failed to humour me at all, the action scenes are quite realistic and grand, and therefore, again, do not create humour. Some of the comedy attempted is by means of people getting killed or their limbs getting cut off, disgusting things like eating bats. Probably the producer-director-writer-actor Ben Stiller could never make up his mind whether he wanted to make a satire or a mockery of war movies or a slapstick comedy or simply a drama. I fail to understand how could this comedy lacking totally in wit be on the top of box office for three weekends.

Hancock 11-Jul-08 9 /10  
Superheroes are smart, fast, attired in sleek dresses and masks, and generally live under cover. Hancock is just the opposite: dirty, unkempt, smelly, and lazy, dressed in baggies, and sleeps on a roadside bench. But he helps innocent people and fights crime, is disliked by police and authorities. Extremely powerful, completely scratch-resistant, doesn't even budge when a locomotive hits him at full speed. Flies without wings or webs. Blows up a house when sneezes. Leaving apart all these superhero traits, what is most exciting about Hancock is his history and the chemistry of his existence. The last third becomes all the more interesting, also because of a bigger surprise, and the end is satisfying. The movie is proper masala: emotion, comedy, drama, and obviously action, perhaps the reason for such a high rating from my Indian palate.

Ramchand Pakistani 10-Jul-08 6 /10  
My first Pakistani film. Didn't seem any different than Indian movies. Not even the language. So, the movie is a good adaptation of a true story, that of a seven-year-old and his father who accidentally venture into the Indian side of the border and are held prisoners, and the wife-mother fights for survival. Provides a counter-view of the oft-used topic in Indian cinema. Good screenplay, realistic acting, rich emotion and drama, is what Ramchand Pakistani offers. Though it gets a bit slow at times, and the only Indian actress Nandita Das did not live up to the expectations. The kid who played the young Ramchand did an appreciable job. The movie was showcased in India in the CINEFAN festival in India even before it was released in Pakistan.

Ek Chalees ki Last Local 18-May-07 8 /10  
The movie begins with a romantic angle but turns out into a dark, quirky, slapstick comedy with quite some gore, unnecessary violence, crude and cheap jokes and expletives, sick characters and a somewhat incredulous storyline. I still give an 8 to the debutante writer-director Sanjay Khanduri for giving Bollywood a pulp fiction in the true sense. Bollywood has grown up in time, and while this one will not be taken well with the family knd of audience, it is good that people are trying out things. Another thing Khanduri should be commended is the real-time narrative, set in a night between the last local train in the night at 1:40 am to the first in the morning at 4:10 am, 150 minutes packed in 143. So much happens in that short period, and it still does not drag at any point. Watch it for crude humour, shooting-without-talking, and a few interesting plot twists, and of course good acting by Abhay Deol.

28 days Later 1-Nov-02 (UK) 8 /10  
The London metropolis. Silent. Devastated. Empty. Nary a soul. These are the most intriguing and brilliantly shot scenes when the protagonist wakes up after his coma 28 days hence his road accident, and discovers Britain is evacuated. Perplexed at the vacant city, he soon realises he is not alone. His company is zombie-like people who are infected with a 'Rage' virus and are out to infect anyone who doesn't have it. This interesting but unimaginable idea is not the only thing that makes this movie good. The entire treatment of the savage zombies and the rage, the escape and fight by the uninfected few, the always crowded London locales completely empty, the ever-suspenseful ascending background score, all make up this one an interesting watch.

28 Weeks Later 6-May-07 (UK) 7 /10  
I like it when the sequels are named so intelligently, and are made just because they have an original movie and an interesting name for the sequel, but the sequel still does well. 28 Weeks Later follows the sequel-can-never-be-as-good-as-the-original axiom, but it is only slightly below, even though the idea was no longer novel. This was gorier, had less of logic, and was predictable at times, even though it was the story of a family rather than an entire populace in general. The best part of the movie is the very good background score that sort of intensifies the suspense and thrill. The epilogue hints at another sequel.

Julie 23-Jul-04 5 /10  
I did not quite get whether Julie was intended to be a hot movie like Jism or a thought-provoking one like Chandni Bar. Perhaps it was tried to have the best of both. And there is where it failed. Julie is a prostitute falling in love with a business czar and standing against the society, in a wide and reaching-the-masses fashion. No doubt a bold movie but a decent plot is lacking. The story of she becoming a prostitute is what we've heard and seen many times, and the latter part of the story goes almost in fast forward. The motive of her daring act to feature on live TV was inexplicable. Neha Dhupia showed more skin than she acted, and Priyanshu Chatterjee was dumb as ever. Some bold dialogues are added that are aimed to hit hard but they fail to, because of the way they are delivered. Some changes to the plot and a decent direction and concentration less on skin-show could have improved the movie considerably.

The Animal 21-Mar-01 (USA) 6 /10  
Okay flick. A weird, inexplicable, incredulous concept that gives the cop Rob Schneider animal powers. He outruns horses, beats dogs in chasing Frisbees, chases cats, and dances like dolphins. His animal powers help him in his duties as a policeman at times. Whether his newfound celebrity continues can be found by watching the film. The antics are good, the 'animal's' girlfriend Colleen Haskell beautiful and mature enough for her only movie, and the storyline comical though nonsensical. The combination of so many animal powers in one human is good for a thought-experiment, but the movie has simply too much of it. Enjoyable without the brains. I missed Jim Carrey and his facial expressions for the role of Marvin.

Cube 9-Sep-97 (Canada) 8 /10  
This Canadian film is all about cubes. Seven people caught in a huge labyrinth of cubes try to figure their way out. I had disposed off the film after the first scene where an inmate reaches a particular cubical room and is cut into small cubes that fall apart one by one by a huge dicer that swings from the ceiling. When I later took up the film 7 years later, I found it interesting, puzzle-like, where the prisoners use a lot of mathematics and logic to understand the mechanism of the cubes and save themselves from deadly traps set up in some of the cubes. And not gory apart from that first scene. The film appeals because of its Kafkaesque settings, not much is explained about the cubes; how did those people reach there, and nothing about the outside world. The people discover there are 17,576 such cubes, and, with the help of numbers at each door on each side of the cube and colour of the cube, and some more interesting observations, they try to reach out, following power struggles and clashes among themselves. Overall, a gripping, horrifying watch puzzled with riddles and logic and math. Interesting.

Hypercube 29-Jul-02 (Canada) 7 /10  
What else could the sequel have been called? Add another dimension to the 3-D cube, and make a movie out of it. The extra dimension makes things more complicated, abstract, and somewhat weird. The tagline says it as a new dimension in fear, though I did not feel so. While the Cube gave a surreal feel, and was based on logic, science and mathematics, the Hypercube gives a perplexing feel, and anything defying laws of science is added as a part of the fourth-dimension: horizontal gravity, slower and faster passing of times for different people, parallel universes and moving of people and objects between them, an expanding tesseract that cuts anything like blades that occupies the same space/time as it. There was a single cube this time, which existed in multiple times and parallel universes and kept interacting with itself. Also, this cube is brightly lit, and the characters have colourful dresses compared to the dark cubes and prison robes in the first one. This reduces the terror but overall the movie is too complex to watch and comprehend even for someone who studied science at college.

Cube Zero 15-Oct-04 (Canada) 5 /10  
Since a cube in five dimensions was impossible to create even on the computer, a prequel of the original Cube was made, in an attempt to explain some mechanisms of the working of the Cubes and the life of people controlling them. A lot of detail is given on how people enter the cube, why do they not remember anything, how the traps operate, how are people killed inside, and what happens to their remains. This film is more gruesome than both of the others in the series, has deadlier traps, and gives faces and names to unknowns that control it all, or was supposed to be an experiment gone wrong. While this aspect is more horrifying, it sort of makes the first one diminutive in effect. Cube Zero does not explain everything clearly though, and does not give any explanation for the Hypercube. Perhaps that was too surreal, else you could have expected a Cube One-Point-Five sometime soon.

Twelve Monkeys (# 183) 27-Dec-95 (USA) 10 /10  
The best time travel movie I've seen so far. I generally find Bruce Willis a better actor but Brad Pitt overdid him in this one, not that Willis did not act well. The plot is intriguing, oscillating between past, present and future, and has quite an element of abstractness in the storyline that keeps you glued. A new paradox or rather, a new form of time travel paradox is depicted: an attempt to find the cause is the actual cause. No sooner than this is realised than every piece of the jigsaw falls into place. The various small subplots make quite sense and no single shot seems unnecessary or out of place. No next-century gadgets or computers working with sounds at animations. I could not help getting amused at a news channel covering the story of a child fallen into and stuck halfway in a borewell, a la Prince and several other children who've followed him in India. Anyways, a movie worth spending two hours of complete attention. The movie ranks # 183 on IMDB; I would place it in the top 20 in my list.

La Jetée 1962 (France) 8 /10  
La Jetée is credited in Twelve Monkeys as the inspiration. While the adaptation is a real good one, the original is almost a piece of art. Constructed entirely through black and white still photography, this 26-minute French film has a post-World War III plot, and one of the earliest time-travel movies. The movie has no dialogues, only a French narration and therefore still photos with English subtitles was like reading a comic book with a background score. The plot becomes quite abstract due to the brevity, and is elaborated much better in Twelve Monkeys. Quite a few things are left unexplained and to the imagination of the audience. This is where Twelve Monkeys scores over this; the plot is still very intriguing and abstract though elaborate, and of course a motion picture is more expressive against a still-photo-film.

Vertigo (# 41) 9-May-58 (USA) 9 /10  
This quinquagenarian Hitchcock classic is a delight to watch. The intriguing thriller revolves around a retired detective afflicted with acrophobia, who falls in love with the woman he is hired to tail. That this is just a part of a very large scheme is revealed towards the last third in a shocking twist. And the way the mystery unfurls and the protagonist goes into and comes out of his shell again at the revelation. The black and white winter scenes in high winds give an eerie feel, and the crisp dialogues and the long silent scenes add to the mystery. Oscar winner James Stewart looks almost like Sherlock Holmes in his investigation, and the gorgeous Kim Novak looks beautiful in all her getups.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

21st Century Healthcare

"The storm is now over. Me back to blogging makes me feel things are falling back in place. I shall be back in full action very soon."

These were the closing lines of my last blogpost. I stand corrected. If anything, it was the calm before the storm. The very next morning (of writing that post) I woke up with quite a pain in the arm. An hour later, it had started bleeding profusely and I had to be rushed to the hospital. I was glad I had changed to Columbia Asia from Ramaiah a week ago. The doctors in the casualty could stop bleeding by the evening but I had to spend a few days in the hospital.

The first couple of days were painful but the next two turned out as an extended weekend where I rested well, watched a lot of TV, read, and enjoyed hotel-like facilities while under good medical care. I haven't visited Apollo but this was far better than Manipal, which is regarded the best in Bangalore by people living close to it. But Manipal isn't half as sleek, efficient, and clean.

Columbia Asia looks like a corporate office more than a hospital. A huge reception where reps help you in the queue and then escort you till the respective department/doctor, a spacious lobby sided with a CCD outlet and a bookshop, and a smart decor and lighting take you in surprise. The wards look like hotel rooms with Sony Bravia TVs and Italian couches for attendants, and wifi internet. I, however, stayed away from my laptop else I'd have been blogging this from my bed or would have been w-f-h (hospital). The bathroom had Biotique toiletries. Good-looking bellgirls serve food to the patients' rooms from a choice of menu; I had delicious pasta one day, noodles another day, and different soups everyday. The normal thalis were tasty and filling too. I was put directly on line with the chef when I had wanted to have a variation in a side-dish.

The doctors and nurses were patient and quite dedicated. I had a surgeon, a haemotologist, and a physiotherapist visiting me frequently and following my case keenly in an almost VIP-treatment. The finance guys visited me at my bed to help me when I wanted to file a claim. You are known through your MRN and your entire case is accessible from any computer on the hospital network. Your prescriptions are ready at the pharmacy even before you reach there to collect them. Ok, it is a bit expensive (my room was twice as expensive as a room in Ginger Hotels, and everything followed suit), but the comfort is worth it.

Constructed in a 130,000 sqft campus by Brigade group adjacent to their upcoming 30-storey state-of-the-art office space with a helipad, this was the Seattle-based consortium's second center in Bangalore. There are 12 more Columbia Asia facilities in operation in India, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia, and 26 projects under construction/design.

The cool facility rose my spirits instead of dampening them as it generally happens when you have to stay in a hospital. Good care was taken of my arm, and though it will still take some time to heal completely, here I am, exactly one-week later, all praises. There is another facility near Hebbal, and one coming up in Bangalore South (Jayanagar?) and one in Whitefield, by 2010. I would not wish any of you visiting a hospital, but if need be, I'd definitely recommend Columbia Asia.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Glass Wall

This Saint-Gobain advertisement always used to make me smile. This and this are more amusing Saint Gobain ads that end up embarrassing people. Yours truly had a similar experience with such a clear glass last fortnight. However, it was more than just embarrassment I had to endure because I failed to see a glass wall. I had wanted to write this since the incident but typing with just three fingers of the left hand is much more pain than I had imagined. Here is how it happened:

Saturday Night Fever. It was one of the those Saturdays when I keep sleeping the entire day and spend most of the conscious time with my beloved I am typing on right now. 18th October 2008 was one such lazy Saturday when at 8:11 in the evening popped up an IM window titled Kushagra, asking me to come to the paani-batashe-waala exactly midway our apartment complexes. Now I am not a big fan of gol-gappe but my sister definitely is, and we decided to go out. After all it was Saturday night.

We teleported there in a minute, and after sis and Kush had their fill and Pawan and I tasted a few paani-puris, the question of what next on Saturday eve arose again. I suggested tea and junta readily agreed. There were numerous options thrown at me: the Day Fresh bakery behind where we were standing, the tea stall beside Spencer's, mom-made tea at my and self-made at Pawan and Kush's house, MSRIT Canteens, Freska, CCD, and Barista.

Final Destination. The two smaller joints were ruled out because they do not have good tea. Going back home was out of question. We wanted good tea and not coffee hence CCD and Barista were eliminated. Pawan and Kush had been to Freska the day before and had good basil tea, so we narrowed upon the MSRIT canteen. Kush picked up his car and we went out in an expedition to the Engineering College canteen I had been to once, five years ago when I had visited Bangalore on a college project. Despite walking around half an hour, and thanks to some really helpful and knowledgeable security guards, and my brilliant memory, we could not locate the canteen. Almost giving in, we went to the Food Court, but they did not have tea. Similar was the answer at the doors of four other canteens in the campus we knocked.

Someone suggested we go back, but how could we accept defeat after wasting an hour in the quest of tea on a Saturday eve? We decided to (or were destined to) visit Freska, a small but nice Continental restaurant on 80-feet Road, Dollar's Colony.

The Happening. We park. Freska looks crowded. Now this place is like a boutique restaurant with different compartments. There is a huge table seating almost a dozen people in the front room. I, leading the group, see the passage to the other room beside the overcrowded table and move my rudder towards that vacant passway.

I had not even entered the place when I stopped in my tracks. For almost three seconds I did not know what happened. Ruhi later tells me I stood there in shock and exclaimed "Abe!" thrice. The door was in front of the table, and I had walked into the very clear glass wall beside it. The whole glass had come crashing down. I looked down and cursed aloud when I saw blood gushing out of a one-and-a-half inch deep and equally wide wedge in my right forearm.

Rush Hour. No sooner had I exclaimed than everyone realised the gravity of the situation. Kush swung the car into a quick U, and we headed back towards the Ramaiah Campus, which was luckily only 200 meters away. We were stopped by a gang of four cops in this small distance, but they easily let us go without even seeing my arm that soaked the car seat completely. Ruhi had started crying though I had absolutely no sensation of pain, maybe the shock was higher than pain.

Pawan and I were dropped at the hospital gate and Kush and Ruhi went to park. They later followed my blood trail on the tiled floor to locate us in the emergency. A team of three doctors greeted me and went to action on my arm. They asked me not to look but I rather took this photo. (Disclaimer: Click at your own risk.) I was xrayed and cleaned and administered local antihaemorrhagic agents, and later sutured.

The Others. There is a wound on the little finger of the left hand, and I refused taking a suture there. There are at least six scratches and bruises on the right wrist. And there is a huge slash on the dorsal side of the right forearm that I noticed when the doc was about to stitch the deep one, over an hour later. This slash led to a flap of the skin bent up, which was put back and required more stitches than the deep one. This flap has necrosed now, and a thick, hard clot has formed over and beneath it, and doctors and I are still worried about it.

Office Space. The ensuing two weeks saw turning my room into office and my bed into workstation. The crucial release made me work with three gauche fingers. Office was manageable, but everything else is hindered, from brushing the teeth to eating to bathing. Clumsily, gauche'ly in the literal sense, struggling like a toddler, I've been doing everything with the left hand till today, when I can move the mouse around and press backspace and delete with the right. Now the right hand is behaving like an infant and I'll have to teach it many things.

The Great Escape. I am really thankful the glass did not cut any tendons/veins/arteries. The glass did not hit my face/head/eyes. Or the chest or neck. The outcomes are unimaginable. Worse could have been had it fallen a few inches north and slit my wrist. I shudder to think how vulnerable I was during those few seconds.

The storm is now over. Me back to blogging makes me feel things are falling back in place. I shall be back in full action very soon.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Movie Time

Amid many other pending posts, this is one I have been wanting to publish since almost two weeks but could not complete it. Could not leave it either.

I watched a lot of movies in the month of September, some new, some old, and this post serves as small reviews. The movies are listed in reverse chronological order of their release dates, mentioned alongside the title, and a rating I would give them on a scale of 10.

Welcome to Sajjanpur 19-Sep-08 8 /10  
Nice comedy set up completely in the rural India, with jokes that make good sense in the local dialect which should not be difficult to comprehend. Ace director Shyam Benegal has made a perfect movie, albeit quite different from the serious classics he has directed in the past. Shreyas Talpade as the aspiring novelist ends up being a scribe, and therefore has a peek into everyone's lives in the village. Ends up manipulating people's lives through letters, especially his love interest's. Quite a number of funny sub plots follow, and the humor doesn't let you feel they are getting too many to remember. A few melodious numbers add to the movie.

1920 12-Sep-08 7 /10  
A typical horror movie composed of all the elements--eerie winds and big empty bungalows, darkness and candles, mirrors cracking and moaning sounds, possession and exorcism, love and lust, betrayal and revenge--you name it and you get it. Set in 1920, it has tremendous similarities to The Exorcist. Though it failed to scare me, it was an okay watch despite the rather funny ending, where both Christianity and Hinduism were used to exorcise the evil spirit. Adah Sharma acted well, though the completely non-glamorous white maxi gown she wore all the time actually became an eyesore.

The Last Lear 12-Sep-08 9 /10  
Rituparno Ghosh. Amitabh Bachchan. William Shakespeare. I had already started loving the movie when I knew these were the names involved. An intriguing movie in typical Ghosh style, where people quietly sit and talk and the narration is by means of flashbacks. The story is that of an ageing and ailing stage actor being persuaded to act in a movie, which happens to be his last, and has been left in a coma as the aftereffects of the shooting. Idiosyncratic, vain, impetuous he is, occasionally lashing out at the modern world, and using too much of Shakespearean verses in normal conversation. Though AB looks funny in the poster, he looks amazing in the movie, and has delivered an intense performance. Preity Zinta's role is her most un-bubbly one, and her English dialogues are only slightly better than the rest of the cast, in which case they sound like recitals. Out and out an AB film. Watch it for him.

Saas Bahu aur Sensex 12-Sep-08 6 /10  
Another interesting title. I had half expected Saas-Bahus fighting over PE ratios but was wondering how would the saas-bahu clashes blend with the stock market. I am still wondering after watching the movie. The movie had too much--a multi-cultural neighbourhood, call center classes and frolic, share market excitements, women empowerment, and even a love triangle, without which most movies seem incomplete these days. The sensex part was very little, so was the saas-bahu part. It was good to see Farooq Sheikh after long, and a slimmer Tanushree Dutta, but then the movie did not have enough substance, and also that I had expected something else.

A Wednesday 5-Sep-08 9 /10  
An interesting title. A very interesting and well-made movie too. The plot is simple but provokes thought: a bomb threat and a demand to release four terrorists is made by an anonymous caller perched at the terrace of a high-rise in Bombay. The alert police tries to locate him and foil his attempts. The climax has a totally unexpected twist that makes you go into the thought mode. Naseeruddin Shah was at his intimidating best and gave a power-packed performance, maintaining the thrill throughout. Overall a very good movie; the only out-of-place thing was the hacker's one-minute dialogue.

Hijack 5-Sep-08 5 /10  
Small films are in. Shot completely inside an aircraft, the movie, as the name suggests, is about a plane hijacked by 6 terrorists demanding release of their boss. Shiney Ahuja, the ground maintenance engineer, manages to sneak in when the aeroplane is forced to land at Chandigardh airport. Nothing other than the expected follows when he kills them one by one and frees the hostages, his daughter being one of them. Oh yes, the starcast has Esha Deol too, as an airhostess who doesn't have to do anything anyway. The movie failed to create any interest, the age-old formula used, with no thrill whatsoever.

Rock On 29-Aug-08 7 /10  
The movie failed to rock me as much as the hype. Farhan Akhtar chose not to direct but do everything else. Produce, sing, act. With a lisp that becomes irritating at times. Wonder why did he trust one-film-old Abhishek Kapoor to direct a somber, serious, 'grown-up-DCH', and made Papa Akhtar write some Kaale-Neele-Peele rock songs which became nonsensical and had to be somehow fitted in the drums and guitar. The soft ones like 'Tum ho to gaata yeh dil' and ''Kabhi khud pe hansa' are very good though. I did not like the basic premises of the plot that four very good friends don't interact for 10 long years just because of a stupid altercation. The pony-tailed Arjun Rampal and beautiful Prachi Desai provided some saving grace to the otherwise boring cast.

Chamku 29-Aug-08 6 /10  
Another one-film old writer-director Kabeer Kaushik presented Chamku the same Friday. However, it failed to match his earlier venture Sehar. Chamku is the story of an eponymous character played by Bobby Deol, whose parents were brutally murdered by naxalites when he was a kid. He later gets picked up under a covert Govt intelligence program to carry out political assassinations. The character is almost unbreakable as he survives several gun shots and multiple murder attempts. Though a female character was not required, Priyanka Chopra looks good in a perpetual blue chiffon saree with a stringed blouse in her kindergarten teacher role. An outdated revenge drama, Chamku failed to shine at all.

Wanted 29-Aug-08 6 /10  
The promos made me go wow over the action scenes and Angelina Jolie's new avatar with smoky eyes and tattoos visible. There was not much more in the movie than the trailer. The plot begins very well but ends up pathetically. A software engineer is kidnapped by Jolie and Morgan Freeman, who head a secret Fraternity, and is made believed of his 'elite' assassin lineage when he is able to shoot the wings off three houseflies when a gun is put to his head. The movie progresses with a boring and somewhat gory training in the Fraternity, and then he is ordered to kill people from the Loom of Fate, a loom that gives names of targets through binary code hidden in weaving errors of the fabric. A twist comes towards the end, and excellent Rajnikant-style bullets that can curve in mid air are used extensively. The end pisses you off and makes an otherwise good movie turn average. Watch it for the sexy Angelina and some good stunts in the first half, but keep your brains at home.

C Kkompany 29-Aug-08 4 /10  
Balaji Telefilms hired debutante director Sachin Yerdi to write and publicise a long advertisement for their soaps and their stars. Targetted to be a comedy, the movie failed to humor me. The jokes are bad and acting poor. The plot revolves around three losers who are troubled with their lives, and threaten the son of one of them under a fictitious underworld company called C Kompany. The prank turns serious and people start getting afraid of them. Don't know what is Anupam Kher doing among a bunch of jokers here. Mithun the don irritates with his patronizing soap stars, and tear-shedding at soaps. Tusshar Kapoor is repulsive as usual. A total crap. Watch it only if you want a reason to pull your hair out.

Phoonk 22-Aug-08 5 /10  
RGV and producer Azam Khan had promised a reward of 5 lacs to anyone who sees the movie alone in the theater. I wonder how can someone live in such a big misconception. Did they not watch the movie themselves? It is a below average movie where you feel like laughing in the first half at the strange camera angles and sounds and ear-piercing laughter Ramu used in a failed attempt to induce horror. The clichéd demonic possession, exorcism, and black magic remind you of Bhoot and Exorcist. The only good part was the kid Ahsaas Chhanna's acting.

Mumbai Meri Jaan 22-Aug-08 9 /10  
A brilliant movie that showcases few days before and after the Mumbai serial blasts of 2006 in the lives of five different, unrelated characters: Software Engineer Madhavan, constable Paresh Rawal, roadside coffee vendor Irfan Khan, TV reporter Soha Ali Khan, and a Hindu fanatic Kay Kay Menon, and everyone has lived to expectations. Each parallel plot is a story in itself that becomes interesting as the movie progresses. The movie touches many issues: Soha being interviewed by colleagues about her fiancé’s death, the loser constable reflecting on his idle police service at retirement, software engineer considering fleeing the country, Hindu extremist bridging the Hindu-Muslim divide. Light traces of humor can be found in Kay Kay's anger, Paresh Rawal's sadness, and Irfan's helplessness. The blast scene is a bit gory and painful to watch, but could be very close to reality. Amazing talent shown by director Nishikant Kamath in his first Hindi movie after just one Tamil and one Marathi movie. Though a bit heavy, a must watch. The end leaves you lighter with the evergreen song from CID that gave the movie its name.

Maan Gaye Mughal-e-Azam 22-Aug-08 7 /10  
A comedy on the lines of the classic Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, starring the hit Rahul Bose-Mallika Sherawat couple from Pyaar ke Side Effects. The sexy, naughty actress bored from her married life with Paresh Rawal wants to have fun, and Bose is on a secret mission to save the world from a disaster. The entire drama company joins hands to save the country from a bomb blast. Performing multiple roles in disguise, they make you go crazy. Paresh Rawal is as usual the best, even Kay Kay Menon acted well in comedy. The movie would be a good watch to kill time with friends.

Bachna Ae Haseeno 15-Aug-08 7 /10  
One guy, three girls, 12 years. Three heartbreaks, first two girls and then the boy. Realizing it now, the hero repents and goes back to make up for his deeds even after suffering humiliation, and gets pardoned. The story is okayish, the narrative swinging between past and present, and all the girls Deepika, Bipasha and Minnisha look gorgeous. The music is good. Light humor at times. Overall, a good one-time watch.

Prom Night 25-Jul-08 4 /10  
The expected fun at a prom night is ruined by a psychopath who turns out to be an obsessed lover. He had murdered the protagonist's parents some years ago and she had witnessed it. He stays in the same hotel as the prom night, and kills everyone including friends and the staff who cross his path. Nothing remarkable about the movie; ends a normal happy ending.

Via Darjeeling 27-Jun-08 6 /10  
Tried to make a Rashomon. Except it was a love triangle instead of a rape. Did not work well though. The different versions of the same story are told in an unreliable fashion; it looked more like fantasies or amateur creativities of the inebriated narrators. Even good actors like Vinay Pathak, Rajat Kapoor, Sandhya Mridul and Kaykay Menon could not make the movie interesting.

De Taali 20-Jun-08 7 /10  
Good timepass. A cheerful comedy with no toilet humor. Even the sad and emotional moments are laced with humor. The movie is about three childhood friends and a triangle, when the fourth character, Rimi Sen's arrives and makes matters interesting. Some scenes are really good; in one such scenes Rimi is tied to a chair and tortured by making her watch RGV ki Aag. Light movie with a happy ending. Innocent Ayesha Takia looks cute and the vampish Rimi looks sexy.

The Happening 13-Jun-08 6 /10  
As always, the Shyamlan dude had a very intriguing concept. Very gripping apart from the last half hour. The movie carries on throuhout the mystery factor typical of Shyamlan, and you keep expecting a very interesting end. However, this one has the crappiest ending ever. It was like he had an idea, and started making the film, but could not think of a decent way to end it, and abruptly ends it explaining totally incredulous things through 5-seconds TV news clippings. Mark "Departed" Wahlberg was underused, though he tried to overact at times.

Traffic Signal 2-Feb-07 8 /10  
A typical Madhur Bhandarkar flick with the lives of a small sect of professionals as the subject. The traffic signal includes a microcosm of people who derive their daily livelihoods from it. There are beggars, prostitutes, tricksters, eunuchs and others who sell clothes, flowers and trinkets who owe hafta to the Signal Manager, Silsila. Kunal Khemu, Ranveer Shourie and Konkana Sen perform as expected. Life goes on through ups and downs but the movie ends on a sad note, as expected from Bhandarkar. But the movie entertains you throughout, especially with the Bambaiyya lingo, at the same time makes you think about people you normally never do.

Final Destination 3 10-Feb-06 7 /10  
Very similar to the earlier two movies in the series, this involves a different accident (a roller coaster one) that is avoided as the result of a premonition. However, since all those people were on Death's list, they die one by one in freak accidents: you cannot cheat death. I liked watching this thriller even though it was an old concept. And I am already awaiting Final Destination 4, scheduled to release in Aug 2009.

If Only 11-Feb-05 8 /10  
Cute romantic movie with a nice concept. The protagonist gets a chance to relive a day, everything happens the same as the previous one, and he knows his girlfriend is going to die at the end of the day. He tries to avoid it, but realizing he can only slightly change it, tries to give her all the happiness in that one day. Though the movie ends with a twist, is one of those feel-good movies you like to watch when you are feeling down.

Sixth Sense 6-Aug-99 10 /10  
One of my all time favourites. The reason I love Manoj Night Shyamlan. An intriguing concept, and a drama directed and acted out well. Most of the movie revolves around the young boy seeing and talking to dead people and the child-psychologist trying to cure him. The last 10 minutes provide a drastic twist that jolts you along with the two main characters and makes you re-think the entire movie in a new light. Chilling and thrilling, serious and scary at times, Sixth Sense makes an interesting watch, a must for all movie goers.

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