Nov 27, 2002

Dunno who's stalking whom, but R.K.Laxman will be visiting PSPL tomorrow...

Nov 20, 2002

Poetic? Just is ... not
Chatting with Samrat over our routine afternoon coffee brought the conversation to poetry-writing. I have always been a dud at proper poetry, which I've considered a gaping hole in my writing abilities, whatever I possess of them :). I tried a couple of times, but the results were the products of a sputtering and painful process and like errant children, brought no joy to their progenitor. And I was happy to bury them.
Along the way, I've been getting confused what constitutes "proper poetry". Rhyme "skims" or blank "worse"? And the critical reviews of amateur poets in college of efforts by other amateur poets during the times in the college magazine served to keep the answer a confused one.
I've left all attempts right now, but maybe it will seek me later in life. And then I can claim to be a "legside" player too, in a manner of speaking.
But quite appropriately, Wordsmith's A Word A Day has been sending out words from poetry this week, and the quote in today's mail was:

A poem begins with a lump in the throat. -Robert Frost (1874-1963)

I'll take his word for it.

"Simply Romantical!"
No, I don't need the services of a spell-checker. I refer in the post-title to a dialogue from the delightful The Little Rascals. The cast is composed almost entirely of children, but the plot has all the masala aspects that would make any hard-boiled movie moghul see epic drama. Such as dosti, mohabbat, how a girl gets in the way of the aforementioned langotiya yaari (in this case because these are really little kids, the cliché is more appropriate) and the baap-of-all-climax-ideas, the pulsating race to the finish with a (literally, watch it to get it) hair-raising end.
It may sound terribly cliched, but it isn't that bad. Look at it from another world, a world from about 3 feet high where some of the citizens can't even read yet (At one point, one kid tells another while keenly inspecting a notice for a while ... holding it upside down: "We ought to learn how to read"). The treatment, my dear, is the difference and there are some very imaginative dialogues and situations.
At the heart of the plot is the "He-Man Womun Haters Club" (sic), a group of little boys whose sole motto in life is to be *men*, and one of the core commandments is to eschew all female companionship in all forms. So when Alfalfa decides he's lost his heart to Darla, there is conflict ... with his best pal Spanky who also happens to be club President. And when the clubhouse burns down and Darla is swept off by rich kid Waldo and the club's prize motorcar... but I'd ruin it for the others. Add to this smorgasbord, characters like Porky & Buckwheat, Uh-uh (so named because he's never been recorded as saying anything else, a misconception that he eloquently dismisses in the last scenes), Stymie, Froggy and the mandatory monkey & dog chipping in with a couple of misfit kid villains. If you're looking for big names in the cast, they only appear in guest roles: Whoopi Goldberg, Mel Brooks, Donald Trump & Darryl Hannah among others.
As the kids would say: O-Tay!

PostScript: Turns out that this film (made in 1994) is based on a 1954 TV series by the same name. Info as usual from IMDB.

This way, Beresfords
Mr. Thomas and Prudence Beresford, a.k.a Tommy & Tuppence, thank you for joining us. Please meet Mr. R.K.Laxman and The Recipients of India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna. They have been on this ride earlier.
Hope you enjoy the journey.

Nov 17, 2002

But whyyyyyy
... are there so many awful ads that don't direct any attention to the product?
... does Smriti Malhotra, evidently intelligent, continue to act a bahu-cum-almost-grandmom in Kyunki Saas... ?
... do people not give enough credit to John Wright ?
... is presentation king and not content ?
... can't I find one more quizzing topic ?
... is there nothing to watch on TV ?
... is there so much tripe on the radio ?
... do I even bother ?

Tu to nahin hai lekin,
teri muskurahatein hain.
Chehra nahin hai lekin,
teri ahatein hai.

Tu hai kahaan kahaan hai
Tera nishaan kahaan hai

-- Gulzar, Ae Ajnabi, Dil Se

Playing on the Radio right now. Gulzar got his fundas right there.
Seems that Urdu may be the language for, as Rishi Kapoor kitschily put it, Dard-é-Dil, Dard-é-Jigar, Dard-é-Kamar et al.
The Dargah of Moinuddeen Chisti at Ajmer is probably like any other religious place in India: the beggars, the knick-knack sellers, the religious paraphernalia that is esoteric and the special treatment for special visitors (which we were because we went with the Mastermind crew). It's a place with a reputation for wish-fulfilment, and so I simply prayed like at any other place: I'm happy that I didn't ask for ephemerals like winning my semifinal round or something like that.
Another thing I'm trying to do at the MMI is to achieve a non-nervous performance as much as possible. I was happy with that aspect too.
Where have they all gone? Many of my friends have been afflicted by the curse of my acquaintanceship. No sooner do they know me that they metamorphose into their long-distance versions. I liked to talk to them, they made sense on many occasions, and their company meant a lot at different times. Playing cricket or going to a quiz or scoring a goal or moaning over exams or riding in the same bus or cheering an Indian win: they put the spark in the moment.
To the ones that I haven't met in a while or heard from and so on : guys, I can conveniently blame myself for not "keeping in touch", so come back 'cos "I'm serious" :) out of laziness or craziness....
In the infinitesmal chance you're reading this (in which case your reading habits have definitely changed for the worse!) : salut, mon ami
Here's a toast to the guys I haven't seen in a while: Harish, Sujay, Kalyan, Sumeet, Varsha, Kavita, Jayaram, Shyam, Prashant, Nirmal, Anjani, Abhijeet, Smideep, Kunal and all the rest.
And Sir, this way please
Yet another Second AC Train Ride (this time to Ajmer), only my third ever (goes to firmly establish middle class status) and I had co-companions, albeit not very companionable. I'm not sure if it has anything to do with their reputed survival skills, but cockroaches seemed to travel Upper class strictly. There weren't any on the ride back, so I'm guessing it's that time of the year when the annual roach conventions are held, this time in Western India. Just following the humans, what with the Pushkar mela & Congress conclave at Mt. Abu being good pointers.
Kyun & Aye
Q: Hi.
A: Good morning.

Q: Er...actually it's afternoon.
A: Is it?

Q: Didn't you know?
A: I guess I'd have if I looked out. But I've sort of forgotten what the distinctions are, how it differs. I'm not sure it makes a big difference, especially when you're cooped inside most of the 24 hours that constitutes what they call a "day".

Q: Shall we begin?
A: Most certainly. I used to do a lot of talking, mostly in some sort of self mode. I'll be glad to have someone to converse with for a change. But I guess you'll be talking about the same things.

Q: Not if you don't want to. I'm sure there are other things we can talk about.
A: That too. But though I've been over the agenda personally a million times before, I still don't mind talking about them. I'm not sure if it involves a masochistic streak, but it's not too painful. Rather it might be cathartic.

Q: Good. So how do you feel? I mean right now.
A: The same. It's always like this, it seems. Whenever I have any time to think, it's probably this way all the time.

Q: So being occupied could be a solution?
A: Again, depends on what the occupation is. I'm sure it's more of a question of what the nature of the occupation is. Doesn't seem to happen in company that I like.

Q: Hmm. How difficult is it to have that kind of agreeable company?
A: Doesn't happen all the time. Especially, most of the new people I meet seem to have something about them that makes me detest them or just avoid them. And add to it the fact that I am the world's undisputed wooden spoon winner in the "smalltalk" category makes it difficult to hack at the ice. In most cases, luckily, I do know exactly whom I want to talk too, so that identification prevents instances where I'm fed up of the person and having encouraged him thus far, need to avoid conversation.

Q: But I've noticed you like a lot of undivided attention.
A: Depends. If I know all the members in the group, it's not much of a problem. If not, I'm not likely to be a runaway train in front of the odd man. But actually, you know, I have a special talent: I have this awesome knack of being the third person in a group of three.

Q: Explain that.
A: You know, I'm in a conversation with another, then comes a third that I am not acquainted, but my colleague is. I seem to exhibit camouflaging instincts, as I recede into the background and let the others hijack the talk. Conversely, when I happen to be the common link between two, I find myself to be much more courteous to both, and try to ensure the first can finish the conversation before letting the newcomer to yak on. I think that's being fair. Most others have no such scruples, and probably that helps them sleep well overall.
--to be contd.

Nov 5, 2002

Too much of a good thing can...
On one day (today): Primal Fear, The Sixth Sense, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Meet the Parents, JFK, Gladiator. I'm still catching up with my breath.
And yes, courtesy Sun TV, I have now added two more utterly timepass films to my viewed list: Kaadhala Kaadhala with Kamal and a lot of good actors excluding one Rambha( included one moment of brilliance in Crazy Mohan's story with the Guru AnandaVigadananda and his chela JuniorVigadananda bit (and for you suffering non-Tamil, Ananda Vigadan and it's for-kids Junior Vigadan are well-known Tamil magazines: the joke was that in the above fraud gurus' speeches, all Tamil magazine names were woven in) ) followed by the perfect-Rajni-phut-akha Padaiyappa, which Mithun might be best qualified to review. The special gesture ( if you've been following Baba's |..| ) was a whip-like salute and the byline was Yen Vazhi, Tanee Vazhi or <start_poor_translation> My way (insert dramatic pause) is a unique way <end_poor_translation> (not doing justice to the Superstar there).
All in all, Sama Dhool, da!
And it happened that...
However good or bad life is treating one, there are always interesting observations to make along the way. Like...
  • How important it is to have a sense of humour. Not the variety that is a fair-weather friend that disappears at the slightest thunder, but the one that sticks on in a Force-10 gale. My team has had a rough time for the last three weeks and it has been quite trying for all. Especially, when at 10 pm in the hungry and sleepy night, someone finds a bug that needs to be fixed right away that will keep us all for another couple of hours. Everyone probably realizes it could've happened to them, but they all have a decent sense of humour that keeps them going. Without it, we'd have been goners. To avoid inviting the evil eye on this, let me mention Chasm-é-Buddoor" and put a kaala full stop after this.
  • Or how I went to Crosswords today (to look at R.K.Narayan's biography) and ran into this guy promoting Mastermind India 2002 of all things. He waved a card with a couple of questions which also asked "Are You a Mastermind?". Assuming he did ask in reference to the show, I couldn't resist telling him that I was one already. He seemed suitably pleased and so was I when I found that little blot-on-the-record didn't prevent me from filling the card in to be eligible for a book voucher prize. When you're dealt these little cards, you swoop in.
  • Or like how on Diwali morning, channel surfing saw some V-J (More like Y-J, that's Why Jockey) say to her viewers (of which I was now a temporary addition):
    "And wish all you guys a happy Dipaa-wali... er ... happy Dipaali... er... whatever!"
    Hopefully, all had a happy whatever as wished by *that* whatever.
    Much to my delight, we didn't have any urgent issues to resolve, so till tomorrow, I have it placid.
And now for you, Mr. Tendulkar
This is something I've noticed quite often: many people tend to be great admirers of both Sachin Tendulkar and A.R.Rahman. Not something that I'd be able to put a percentage on, but I've observed this intersection to be a fairly large one. It probably is to do with their personalities (if you like one's, the other's is similar so it's an easy jump to make), their career spans, their past records, their obvious talent, and also of late, their perceived failings unearthed by microscopic scrutinies. For the last year, each's output has been dissected endlessly and consistency will no longer do for the average follower, it has to be extraordinary from now on. There are new claimants to the thrones, and the fans need the performances to defend.
Sidelight apart, Sachin dismissed a few theories with one ton: cannot score in the 2nd inngs, cannot play under pressure. But he couldn't rest one ghost: of leading his team to a win because of his batting. Surprisingly, the media has been kind to Sourav Ganguly, but I couldn't understand why India did not press on for a win by a clever declaration, say at lunch, or just after it giving the Windies 190-odd to get in 40 overs. It is in these matters that "aggression" should be displayed, not waving smelly and dirty shirts from a balcony. Also, captains have a larger duty to the game and crowd, and with the series sewn up and the Windies keen to go for a win, it was all nicely set up. These are the attitudes that separate pretenders from the good teams. If we don't have the bowlers that can win us matches in 2.5 sessions on the last day of a Test, then we ought to be more tempered in our optimism for this team's success.
OK, so Saathiya is out and is not making too much of an impact. I've always had a bad feeling about it right from the word go. Or rather from the word "Saathiya". I didn't quite like that, especially for a remake of something beautifully titled Alaipayuthé, which for many Tamilians is very familiar, being the name of a famous krithi composed by Oothukadu Venkata Subbier as a paean to Lord Krishna.
Alaipayuthé had some great songs, but hearing that most songs in Saathiya were to be remade from the original, I didn't think it was going to be a good idea, based purely on past experience. I can't think of too many songs that scored well in remakes, in either South to North or vice versa. It's usually because the lyrics don't gel at all. If the songs of Bombay, Roja did well, they were probably because the lyrics didn't at least take away from the music. But in Saathiya, that's exactly what seems to happen. And what's worse, it happens to the cult Pachai Niramé. Believe me, this is a great song! And to know why, one needs to watch the song along with hearing it. It is probably one of the best songs *ever* filmed, with Mani Ratnam's trademark slow-motion choreography, the amazing visual treat swaying in step to some stunningly creative lyrics by Vairamuthu embellishing the music. It simply makes you rave, really (and knowing what the lyrics mean makes a huge difference).
But the Gulzar-ShaadAli-SonuNigam replacement is a poor one, especially to one who has cherished the original. It sort of breaks one's heart and one never really recovers from then. Stumbling onto Adnan Sami's re-mess of Kaadhal Sadugudu and a few sputters here and there. Interestingly, a host of new singers will be seen in the credit lists, which always has been a commendable aspect of Rahman's work. Sadhana Sargam (whose Snehithané in the original Tamil is also quite remarkable for the good pronunciation she achieved) is the lead female singer in this album. But the lyrics, aah, they're as perfect as a square peg in a circular hole: what's more, they give one the prickly feeling.
And then from nowhere, you hear a saarangi play amidst Bhojpuri words sung by Sadhana Sargam and Madhushree. The first thought is that the wrong song landed onto the playlist, a copying error. It is a very conventional Hindi track, more fittingly something that makes one feel like Farooque Sheikh amidst the Umrao Jaan sets with the hookah bubbling while richly sequinned skirts twirl to Kathak moves. How can Naina Milaiké ever come out of the synth-saturated studios of Rahman? Well, it has. When you get used to listening to Rahman (at least in my case) you look out for the interesting interlude, the teasing but catching innovation. There is nothing novel about the orchestration of Naina Milaiké. But that is new for Rahman, and it went on to add weight to my remake-with-care thesis: this is not one from the original obviously, and hence it scores. I cannot for the world of me think where this fits in with the urban setting of the film, but this is the song I'd recommend. Saathiya is not the album to convert non-admirers with, but Naina Milaike may serve as a welcome sign to the fan that the magic and variety still exist.
What's neo?
Something around here's changed. Looking around but can't pin it down. What could it be...?

Nov 3, 2002

Most unchangeable cliché: Change is the only constant
Time to prove the cliché: wrong. My life has just stood still for the last three weeks (for documentary evidence, refer this post), boxed into compartments of strange hours of sleep, relentless typing, bizarre food times and a general feeling of bewilderment. So much so that I do not have time to indulge in my chronic thoughts of puzzlement.