Sep 17, 2002

Now where have I heard that?
Now, it's no big deal when it becomes apparent that a new song is stolen. lifted, inspired, remixed (depending on what side of the musical divide you stand) from an earlier tune. People shrug their shoulders and move on to enjoying the next song (till they discover its origins). Things have come to such a pass that Bappi Lahiri wakes up one fine day and receives a mighty jolt: somebody has replicated his tune (I use the word "his" hesitatingly). This actually happened if you think I'm joking (George had this post on that topic). But what nobody has seen fit to spotlight is the state of the poor playback singer putting to audio, notes from a paper which a 30-paise kerosene xerox just spat out.
I got to thinking of this on hearing the title song from Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam & Dil Laga Liya from Kundan Shah's Dil Hai Tumhara (BTW, is this the same man who made the cult Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron or has he been replaced by some evil twin from the eight planet of Masalawood?). The reason for their being as dissimilar as two round, green peas in a pod for two, is the fact that the music directors of the 2 films were listening to the same Pakistani radio show, and drew unflinchingly from the same well. Now having digressed enough, what I'm interested in is: are the music directors considerate enough not to invite the same singers?
Consider this: a poor playback artiste does 6 songs each day. Having finished one recording, she rushes to studio B to record her next hit (everyone is agreed on this: the song that is being recorded will be the next most popular jingle since "Happy Birthday to you"). Going through the mandatory antaras & mukhdas, a vague sense of déjà vu knocks the door. She bravely fights it off, only to be kayoed back when she hears the music gushing through her ears via the headphones: the tune is identical to the one she just finished doing in studio A. Here, if the playback singer had a degree in Computer Science with an inclination towards Optimizing Theory, she'd pull out a cassette with the earlier recording and ask the techs. at this studio to make a copy. Everyone goes home early that day.

But seriously, can't these "creative persons" take the pain to atleast alter the tunes?
Their motto in life? 'Ditto!'
Frasier more often
The sitcom Frasier is like this little gem that brightens up the dark night: atleast those nights that I can watch it (Competition for the remote is fierce but civilized at home). It now airs each weeknight and the lives of the Cranes entertains quite unlike others. For me, it is the wittiest show on air for there hardly are any creative compromises, no "the-majority-will-not-get-this-gag-lets-water-it-down" tricks, no loud attention-attracting devices. The acting is of the highest calibre with Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde-Pierce & John Mahoney leading the pack (They deserve every cent of their reputedly rooftop-breaking salaries). The comedic timing is good, so much so that even Moose, the spunky dog that plays Eddie can only be called "gifted". But most of all, it is a writer's triumph. A recent news item noted that Frasier now has the most Emmies, each of them richly deserved. Interestingly, the character Dr. Frasier Crane (created by Glen & Les Charles as a glance at the credits will tell you) appears in an earlier show called Cheers that you might catch on Star World in the afternoons. It is played by Kelsey Grammer himself, and seemingly like Robin Williams' Mork from Happy Days was turned into the series Mork & Mindy, Grammer seems to have forked a path out in the tube-world. For trivia-mongers, Woody Harrelson also appears in Cheers.

Sep 15, 2002

And the movies on TV that caught the eye
  • Groundhog Day is one of those movies that don't boast of Oscar glory or aren't hyped in roaring Saturday Mega Movie!!! trailers, but are a good advert for movies. No viewing hassles. Featuring Bill Murray & Andie MacDowell, Groundhog Day has a very interesting story line, and is a feel-good movie that will make you feel exactly that way: good. Do remember to look up the meaning of déjà vu if you watch the film.

  • Annie Hall is typically Woody Allen and is arguably his most famous film. It scooped four Oscars (most unusual for a comedy, can't think of any such occurence after that until Shakespeare in Love), notably Best Picture, Best Director for Allen, Best Actress for Diane Keaton and Best Writing (shared by Allen). The tale is of a romance with Annie Hall, told through the eyes of Alyy Singer, and features the usual gamut of Allen's neurotic concerns with being Jewish, the women in his life, New York and depression. George had a post on Zelig, another Allen film . A peeve with Allen is that the plots of his films tend to revolve around the same themes, marked by the now-classic Woody Allen hesitant dialogue delivery.
    I also read the script. There are some interesting narrative methods: Actors break off to address the audience, and often characters go back in the past, observing themselves or others in innovative flashback sequences. But for most, it probably is a film most likely to be appreciated by Americans themselves, and I don't think I can get everything in it. It thus wouldn't go down in my all-time list, but I'll cross one more out out of my top-films-to-watch list.
    A George-like observation on an in-joke: Allen & Keaton refer to The Godfather (I forget exactly where, I think outside a movie theatre). Keaton, of course, starred in a brace of Godfather movies made before Annie Hall as Kay, wife of Michael Corleone.

  • Sense And Sensibility aired today. Ang Lee's film version of the Jane Austen novel was also an Oscar success, mostly for Emma Thompson, who was Best Supporting Actress and won Best Adapted Screenplay. The film also features British actors, Hugh Grant (who also had a tiny role in another old-world British film, The Remains of the Day) & Kate Winslet. Interestingly, as I type this, I'm listening to a few songs from A.R. Rahman's score for Kandukondain Kandukondain, which is Rajeev Menon's Tamil adaptation of Sense & Sensibility (Another multistarrer, which had non-Tamilians heading most of its lead cast with Mamootty, Tabu, Aishwarya Rai & Abbas. Ajith was the odd Tamil out.). Rahman had another hit that same year, Mani Ratnam's Alai Payuthey. Kandukondain... was also released in select non-Tamilian centres like Mumbai, in the original Tamil with subtitles, an experiment born out of the debacle of Sapnay, the dubbed version of Minsara Kanavu, Menon's debut. It did surprisingly well and enjoyed good reviews. I have yet to see both Alai Payuthey & Kandukondain Kandukondain. Alai Payuthey is being made into Hindi as Saathiya which marks the directorial debut of Shaad Ali, son of Muzaffar Ali (of Umrao Jaan fame) & Subhashini Ali. He's been assisting Ratnam for a while now (He also appears somewhere in Dil Se). Will also be the full romantic debut of Vivek Oberoi. In the original, counterpart R. Madhavan shot to superstardom with Alai Payuthey.

  • And finally, Sun TV had two of Mani Ratnam's most successful films, Agni Nakshatram & Nayakan on consecutive Sundays. The former is his, AFAIK, first multistarrer and the latter is one more Kamalhaasan singlehanded acting lesson.
Music that's catching
Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy have a Hindi film music release in Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai (rumoured to be a dési American Pie). The music seems reminiscent of their biggest hit, Dil Chahta Hai, and so were the visuals of the aspiring actors & actresses who seem to have done their share of acting classes and modelling assignments, in short nothing strikingly new. I liked one song bit though, Yeh Sama has Shantanu Mukherjee (a.k.a Shaan) crooning. Sadly, I couldn't identify the female voice. The other songs that I caught didn't strike a chord for me, not yet.
The Iraqi Bombshell
Hanging about BBC World for the last couple of days gave me a chance to see a very interesting group discussion Question Time New York. Nothing new in the format which would be familiar to Indians as Question Time India with the NDTV faces. I had given up watching such "TV Debates" such as the Big Fight on Star News, the action is repetitive and so are the issues and there is no fun in seeing antics and hearing noises that would shame any self-respecting Ganesh Mandal loudspeaker. Indian politicians do not have any graces, and the ones that do have nothing new to offer. So what got QTNY my sticky eyeballs was not the topic (The usual range of UN speeches last week with the Iraqi Bombing threat), but the rather animated audience and the sight of Michael Moore (author & filmmaker) taking on two Republican Hawks.
The point was this: is Dubya justified in making plans to bomb Bad Boy Saddam, possibly unilaterally? (as his rather open threat further demolished any pieces of respect the UN had: bomb with me or I bomb alone.) The arguments were fascinating, especially when one British member of the audience invoked the ghost of the Chamberlain fiasco of 1938. Another question brought the house down: Does the UK have its so called "special relationship" with the US solely to hang on its historic notions of greatness? The British Secy. of Defence, on the panel, was clearly discomfited. (As an aside, I sometimes feel Churchill, statesman as he was, was somewhat responsible in the US ascendancy by his wooing of the Americans to play a super-role in WW2.) Moore kept reminding the GOP panelists (clearly annoyed) how the US equipped the villains with all the weapons they now brandished against the Yanks. Their response: it's a question of self-defence. But their clear reluctance to make crucial admissions (remember that out of the last 6 White House administrations, 4 have been Republican, and most of the supposed arms transfers happened in the period when George Bush Sr. was the head of the CIA or was Veep or President. Clearly a point of potential embarassment.)
Can the cop bust the baddy with the bad record on the suspicion that he's going to commit a crime? Precogs, anyone? Can the UN blacklist the US for murdering the environment in full view of the world?
I've started...
...and it's not finished yet. My Mastermind episode aired finally last Thursday, the 12th of September and I'm glad 9-12 passed without incident. And for those with no access to television with BBC India feeds, or for those who got plain lucky and were nowhere near Channel 13 or whichever number, I did win my preliminary round. I'm not sure if you've had the experience, but I have. I'm referring to the curious trick by which the telly conks off, or cable decides to take the rest of the day off, or the electricity folks play with the Off button when you want to watch something desperately. It has happened to me quite a number of times, most recently when I contrived to spend my time making out the England v Argentina grudge encounter in lines of gloriously grey static, that time MSEB doing the honours. I've become a bit of a stoic sage in such matters, and so I would've probably shrugged the shoulders if Thursday was another addition to the list. But all the publicity to friends and relatives would've been in vain, and so it was a relief that they did get to watch a known face do well.
Mass mobilisation of the above kind did take a bit out of me, and was vaguely reminiscent of handing out invites to weddings, where forgetting someone could cause a mini-butterfly effect. I think I did get to everyone. I now have a unabashed salute to wave to the organisers of political rallies : mass mobilisation, as I note above, is tough!
I am aware of the common cliché in interviews: the phone kept ringing continuously, the occasion being some achievement, minor & major, or yet another scandal. I got a few calls after the episode aired, actually immediately after, causing my parents to believe I was in one long call where I was switching with four. My advice to Mastermind participants: keep the phone instrument in working order, as you'll probably be requiring it to do overtime. Preferably, strike a deal with the telephone dept, as you could be generating some valuable revenue.

Sep 4, 2002

All about Sachin
Keep the encomiums coming! The maestro plays test match no. 100 and Rediff has a special tribute.
The Times of India will have theirs tomorrow, on the first day of the Oval test.