Evolution - IINikhil has an interesting (and not so farfetched) theory that the paunch will become part of the physique of the human race (atleast the males) given the way the belly has been slowly stretching out like horizontally each passing generation. (This inspired thought was no doubt developed when he looked down occasionally). A laugh apart, it seems quite likely. This post from Ramnath has a picture in much the same vein (incidentally Nikhil also has one of those tee-shirts that have the evolution of man from ape to programmer as its last image).
Dec 30, 2003
Forgettable?I didn't want to spend too much time on this not-so-special film, but just happened to read Rediff's review of L.O.C. which made me wonder if I was watching another version of the film (here are my not-so-cosy thoughts on the same) - this is clearly one of those reviews that believes in taking a maternal and sympathetic view of Bollywoodian profligacy.
What was even funnier (and awful at the same time) were the comments left behind - no cogent expressions as usual and even featured a gem from a "dude" called "P1nk3sh" who had this profound statement to make: "Thier s is a grat movie. No on can beat feel the life .". The comment immediately after that was more in consonance with mine, but in keeping with the jingoism that accompanies the minds of most fans, he got flamed. Quite sad.
Though the review is titled Why we can never forget Kargil, I don't think it quite applies to the film.
Dec 29, 2003
Spheres of InfluenceNot until I read that LazyGeek was rated the Best Media Blog by Indibloggers did I realize there was such an effort. What struck me was that most of the nominees and eventual winners were unknown to me. I visited some of them out of curiosity, and slowly realized that whatever awards were given out, I would never really develop a serious interest in most of them. Primarily (at least in my case) this would be caused by the fact that I didn't know them at all, or their areas of blog-interests didn't intersect heavily with mine. Also, subjectively speaking, it is not always possible to see what differentiates them so much from other blogmates of mine, so I would always prefer knowing the views and thoughts of those closer to me than these total strangers. In that sense, the blog community seems to be divided into groups that feed off each other (of course, the whole phenomenon of "I-scratch-your-back-you-reciprocate" is quite prevalent here), but on the whole, there are communities within the blog world similar to social spheres in the real world where my links i.e. my friends, relatives, neighbours, colleagues and fellow-hobbyists are emphasised. I want to hear what my friends feel about an issue of mutual interest rather than what some highly rated blogger has to offer. I also get a lot of news that I would tend to be interested in from them (these would otherwise slip through the cracks of more universal media like newspapers and television). Also, I would rate their choices in films, books etc. very highly which would directly shape my mind on the same : word-of-mouth has a remote avatar of text-of-blog. Of course, these are from the same circles that defined my life from a few years ago, so there is little loss in our communicative regions that distance would otherwise have caused. I suspect the same is true of my co-webloggers and it isn't such a bad thing to be aware of the responsibilities of opinion-expressions that could prevent a lot of the sometimes incontinent outpouring of useless pseudo-superior egotistical commentary that is presented on some weblogs most of the times. Of course, webloggers have the democratic liberty of choosing what to say, and it is their right to have a bad blog as much as it is our right to say so.
Dec 28, 2003
Rushdie & TarantinoIt struck me that there were quite a few similarities in the artistic outputs of Salman Rushdie and Quentin Tarantino. For starters, both have boldly broken quite a few of the rules of the arts of storytelling, emphasising the visual elements to a large degree. They have experimented with, twisted, re-defined, revitalised the syntactical structures of their respective media. In doing so, they've shown a devil-may-care attitude as to whether audiences will be able to fully comprehend the manic visions that are embedded in the novels and films they produce. Both are highly conscious of the history of their art forms and are also aware of the condition of the human race. The novels and movies are extremely referential, with direct (and sometimes roundabout) homage being paid to their personal inspirations. Tarantino and Rushdie have a preoccupation with words - dialogues and expressed thoughts are extensive and purposeful, though it is not always easy to get their drift. Incidentally, both have used non-linear narratives with great dexterity and the multitude of characters dotting the artistic landscapes have been a key feature that differentiates them from their peers. Also contributing to their USPs is the fact that they are often not very politically correct and cover the most basest human actions and tendencies.
My personal reactions to their respective ouevres has been coincidentally similar (which raised my interest in putting them side by side for similarities). I read The Moor's Last Sigh and couldn't quite come to terms with the wringing of conventional fictional frameworks, and the fantastic sequence of events coupled with references to reality. Reservoir Dogs evoked a reaction in which I couldn't see past the copious volumes of violence and the minds of people far-removed from the kinds that I'd experienced so far. Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses, Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill Vol I. changed my outlook towards them - I wouldn't pretend to having understood all they have created, but atleast this time, I could see a little of what they were trying to pull off in terms of the actual art forms. My admiration for their radical methods employed in their creations has consequently increased leading to an interest in read what others have to say on them. Their personalities are such that their films and books always evoke reactions, positive or negative, so there is no dearth of commentary. Most of all, I admire them for their courage, in daring to invest their lives in doing the things they want in the way they want, not being overly concerned if those would make sense to the public (and the critics). That alone in my mind makes them geniuses - for the willingness to hack out a new path is not possessed by the talented but frail-hearted practitioner.
I recently read a full analysis on Rushdie where the author D.C.R.A. Goonetilleke suggest various reasons why Rushdie is a practitioner of post-modernism. If that is true, Tarantino must be a post-modernist artist, though the timescale of cinema is not the same as that of the written novel.
"Win" wins - for nowWhen I first moved into a Windows desktop environment after spending 18 months on RH Linux and the sweet and customizable KDE widgets, I cursed and ranted some of the interface features, principally the lack of desktop workspaces that helped me group my windows (and helping my mental focus) effectively. After 9 months now on Windows, I now had a choice again between the two environments since it didn't matter which one I used - I didn't think I'd have so much trouble getting set up back on RH. Sadly I failed to make the transition after trying hard for a few days, essentially because I was unable to install stuff that I needed and then get them to behave the way I wanted to. It needed a lot more time that I didn't have and so feeling the prickles of frustration creeping up, I moved back to the Win 2K env and ended up setting up things in a jiffy. So I'm going to be there for a while till I can slowly get things in RH going. A lesson for me in the challenges that the Linux guys are going to have in persuading people to leave the much more comfortable lifestyle of the Windows ambience.
LOC - Lots Of CribbingI pride myself on the fact that I usually don't go to theatres, spend money and find the movie is not to my liking. I may be an enemy of the cinema theatre folks because of this, but I prefer to try all my experiments on TV telecasts (paying the price of intrusive ad spaces/chasms), especially given that most movies end up on the small screen withing 10 months. I agree that most movies are best watched on the large screen, but that is a debate for another day. So when I ended up watching L.O.C. - Kargil yesterday despite knowing fully well I wasn't going to like it (some of my other cribfests have usually been courtesy screenings that are gratis), it was a novel experience for me.
The blame could be put on us goofing on the time for Sea Biscuit and concluding in those weak moments that seize mankind that we'd watch anything possible ("we" being a group of my classmates meeting after a while) - this inspite of knowing that LOC was getting knocked all around by critics (who usually like to give the benefit of doubt to their friends in Bollywood) and was a whopping 4 hours. The problem was compounded by bad seats. Still, there was a lot of potential cribbing in prospect which would see us through.
Though not an avant garde corny movie like Jaani Dushman (which I fear George, Harish me and some others are making a cult film of), it has its bright moments for the conscientious cribber. It is of course extremely sad that J.P.Dutta wasted all the potential the subject of this magnitude had and worse that the audience was reduced to laughing at the portrayal of the army heroes (no disrespect meant for the actual Kargil war heroes, only at their screen counterparts). There was so much awful about the film - amateurish photography, camerawork and lighting, repetitive dialogues and flawed screenwriting, and most annoying of all, a refusal to believe that Indian film audiences have no powers of imagination. If someone mentions a father, the director thinks he has to cut to a shot of the father and it cannot be implied. Battle scenes were uni-dimensional and followed a standard template: the men would scale the slopes, be fired upon in a sequence consisting of:
- Pak. sentry announces "dushman uupar chad raha hai".
- Pak. leader decides it is time for action and orders sentry no. 2 to commence firing.
- Pak. sentry no. 2 speaks into telephone and says "... firing karo".
- Firing begins.
The Indian response usually is:
- Scale slopes by firing.
- Soldier with mortar is first to go down, but no one else attempts to pick it up.
- Officer (read: well-known face, usually out-of-work actor) is hit.
- Brother officers gather around and ask: "Are you OK?".
- Injured officer: "I think I am hit".
- Brother officer yelling: "Ek stretcher laao, jaldi".
- I.O.: "No! Mujhe stretcher pe le jaane ke liye 8 aadmiyo.n ki zaruurat hogi. Isse hamara attack weak ho jaayega!"
- The B.Os pay no attention anyway, and the I.O. is stretchered off.
- One of the big names notices the mortar lying unattended and starts to fire it off.
Another feature was that though the attacks were carried out in night, they were always bathed in white light and the troops (who just exchanged more of the above mentioned gaaliya.n with the enemy) shout their secret plans to each other. The Pakistanis have apparently gone back to listening to Metallica at full vol., what else would explain their lack of reaction? But then the enemy is shown to be quite dumb, mostly looking away from the point of attack. The affected use of expletives comes off very badly, not least because they are half-expurgated. So you see "Behn..." and lips moving - the user does the requisite tab completion.
The main problem with the film is what the director thinks is its strength - the excessive scenes involving the families of the army men. Not since Hum Aapke Hain Kaun have we seen so many relatives in one film. Assorted wives, fiancees, girlfriends, female neighbours, children, maa-bapus and townspeople blot the storyline. It gets extremely difficult to remember who is paired up with whom and I must commend the director on recalling the right pairs- quite a memory feat. I saw someone on TV saying that how wonderfully the maker had managed to show the emotions of the relatives - I cannot believe he was talking about the same film. If all that they show is a true depiction, then the female populations of Army cantonments are well stocked with made up and are impeccably dressed, even in times of need (most of our Miss Indias come out of Army installations, so this may be true) and the families have no identities of their own apart from those defined from their husbands/sons.
We may be a spoilt population, having watched Western movies on war - but no one dares tell me that this was even anywhere near other excellent depictions such as Haqeeqat, Vijeta et al. Some idiots have conjectured this is India's Saving Private Ryan - please. Kannathil Mutthamittal still, in my opinion, has the most authentic war scenes I've witnessed from an Indian film. And it is way below Border, which had its flaws but still had a mix of characters and conflicts.
I shouldn't be wasting time on this dud, but it is also an education to see bad films. I wish the money spent had been used in a better way. I'm sure my friends in the defence forces would be the most vehement critics of the depictions. I also wish J.P.Dutta understood that the pronunciation of "Jalaja" is not "Jalaajaa". I wish night wouldn't follow day in a splitsecond. I wish Ajay Devgan hadn't moved his eyeball after he was "dead". I wish J.P.D had ended the films by mentioning the names of those who won medals for their unparalleled services, atleast the Param Vir Chakra recipients. I wish he hadn't passed off this 120 minute film as a 4 hour mega-bore. I hope Lakshya will be a better army film.
A raw dealSo that's what he gets for all his efforts. I cannot for my all my life understand why some people love to belittle Sachin Tendulkar, but that is a fact. He is only a cricket player, not some politician, not a corrupt businessman. He was the only hope, the sole Atlas carrying the burden of Indian cricket till a few years ago. He has not woken up and lost any of his talents, nor has he lost any iota of his unique brand of enthusiasm for the game. He has never thrown any tantrums, never been a prima donna, nor is he in the team because he is selfishly nearing some milestone. Still people love to pillory him. When he got out in the 1st innings, so many people said "Hah! Sachin has failed! Who are those idiots who think he is any good? He should be packed off". The tone and demeanour of these critics are not those emanating from frustrated supporters - rather they're from wells of spite and founts of enmity.
Why would such a guy attract such foul reactions? Can these people claim Sachin is a spent force? Is he holding up someone's place? Is he not contributing in other ways possible? Has he not had more than his share of ill-luck? Has he lost the captain's faith? So why can't we continue to support the one person who has made us proud consistently over the last 14 years?
It's a shame, a disgrace. I can accept well-informed criticisms: that he made a couple of errors of judgement, that he is playing too defensively than necessary, that he needs to take control of his batting again. Not stupid remarks that are suggestive and reek of pleasure at his discomfiture. These people don't deserve any team success in the future if they are so fickle-minded and have forgotten the laurels of the recent past (as recent as 10 months ago). Make no mistake - I will gloat in your collective faces when SRT re-emerges out of his shell to reclaim his place at the top. Fate has paid him a dirty trick or two, but eventually she will give him his rightful due. That times are at their blackest now are an indication now that the clouds are about to give way for pure brightness to seep through. I don't want to seem as a gushing and blind fan, but that genius has more expressions left of it. I don't care if SRT isn't considered one of the greatest, but atleast he deserves more support from the same people whom he represents with so much distinction. Instead of feeling proud, they taunt him from the back, knowing that he doesn't usually respond in kind.
S-cap-tainsWith Waugh's (unfortunate) stumbling Farewell Series coming to an end, I recalled that one great ambition will not have come to fruition during his tenure as an Australian batsman. Glenn McGrath will not have got that Test Fifty that he trained under the older Waugh for.
Saurav Ganguly's praiseworthy decision of coming in at Number 4 (will earn much symbolic value) in the 2nd innings of the Melbourne Test is not the first time that he has tried to show he is a captain of the team rather than merely a player - he came out to open with M.S.K Prasad in Toronto during the Sahara one-dayers there in much worse batting conditions.
evolutionSilly theory for the month
"Cellular phones are apparently a major cause of brain tumours. Which just goes to show that Nature's mechanisms of keeping a species that is multiplying seemingly out of control are still capable of some firepower. For the anthros first become intelligent enough to lord over other species, and then delude themselves into believing they have the unprecedented success of putting Nature out of business by a momentary (but significant to them) decrease in their death rate. They also believe war and traffic accidents are "manmade" tragedies. At this, the oceans ripple echoing the sounds of Nature's quiet chuckling."
An extract from this month's edition of "What Outer Space Was Upto during the last 56 Rotations", published in the twin planetary system of the Star Deuse XMachina.
mis-matchIt's not that I'm a misanthrope, but I hate all those people who are purposely myopic in their actions, make no attempts to learn from their own and others' mistakes, and have traded common sense for selfishness. What can I do if most of the human race is filled with these kinds of people?
- From the canon of Blatherskite Wisenheimer
quiz blogI'll be starting a quiz related blog next Sunday, on which I hope to gather stuff related to matters re setting questions and organizing quizzes in addition to debating and dissecting matters related to understanding what constitutes the fundamental nature of questions that like-minded people have liked. Also plan to get some of the other guys to contribute pieces to it. Right now, I'm thinking of a good name for the registration.
Dec 16, 2003
Lessons from AdelaideReversal of roles: since most people are rejoicing and waxing eloquent on the famous victory later today, I thought I'd strike the jarring note and spend some time on looking at the negatives and the challenges ahead. (I would have loved to drool over the win in large fonts, but considering that Gaurav has written a post on the happier side, Anti has said quite a bit from the not-so-sure cricket fan's pov and BHVK has been saying a lot during our intermittent IM rendezvous, so I thought I'd apply what mgmt folks call the differentiating factor. A small thanks to these guys - because of them, I have been keenly watching the proceedings of the last few days with a view to analyze and understand, rather than simply ride the rodeo of emotions.)
Having achieved a tough goal, I hope the Indians will promptly revise their goals after taking a small amount of their time to rejoice of course. Dissatisfaction and reordering of goals is to my mind, quite important, instead of wading in the present-soon-to-be-past, one must criticise the performance, if the stated long-term aim is to improve and build on the gains.
My biggest grouse is that India's cricket team has played generally two kinds of Tests so far in the last 4 years: one in which they underperform (we assume they're underperforming as we have seen them do better on more occasions than can be attributed to luck) and either lose the Test to general disgruntlement of all, or scrappily manage to draw (this happens usually at home). The other is when someone plays the role of hero who does unbelievable feats of almost Bollywoodian proportions. My problem is with the need for heroism. When we can win test matches with solid performances from the majority of the players and lose only when the opposition does something extraordinary is when we can claim to have matured as a side. This is something I haven't seen all my life - I also want to witness Test match wins where India win with ruthless efficiency. I'm not complaining about the entertainment they have provided, but can sometimes do without losing all my nails. Whatever people have to say against Australia (everyone has happily and in some ways deservedly gone in for a lot of Aussie-bashing - from commentators to fellow bloggers), I still don't think it can be refuted that whatever team they put on a field, it plays to a certain minimum level and don't fluctuate madly. They make the other team play beyond that level for victory. This kind of performance doesn't have to come at the expense of flair - flair is reserved to pull that extra-special feat when it is needed, much like a hidden weapon that must only be unsheathed on thoe special occasions when the team is in trouble. For me, Australia always had only two extraordinary bombs in recent times - Gilchrist in batting and Warne in bowling (I have my reservations as to McGrath's flair quotient - he is ultra-efficient and that is enough to be successful on most occasions), Damien Fleming had the spark on some occasions as did Waugh Junior. Although Gilchrist is almost a uni-mode player, he always bats like a bomb and can't produce the restraint that is sometimes needed. Here Warne was even more extra-special as he could do containment and taking wickets out of nothing. Ponting can also do both modes, but I'm yet to be convinced of his rescuing abilities - I don' think any of his much vaunted ten recent centuries came in situations different from following a 50-100 run opening stand.
India, admittedly has some TNT of its own - Sehwag is a small bomb, SRT & Laxman have done it before. Dravid is showing that he can play in all modes whichever necessary. Sachin & VVS haven't had much success switching modes actually. Dravid was playing anchor to SRT & VVS today and was also able to snap into the leader's position when required - that is pretty awesome. The question is: if we can play extraordinary cricket when required, why can't we play standard, efficient cricket? Efficiency wins over flair on most occasions - flair must be judiciously used. I'm sure these players have the unique gift of combining both. When commentators describe Indians as boundary-batsmen, they're summing the problem up pretty well. The team has to suss out what they must do to raise the predictibility of their performances, or else this will be another short-lived spark.
India not only blew the lead in the Windies series, if I remember correctly, we also blew the lead in Zimbabwe. I was quite thrilled to hear Dravid say in his interview with Espn-star that he had been in quite a few losses (esp. 4th inngs losses) and didn't want to experience that pain again. Attaboy! Spoken like a true champion. Any professional who makes the same kinds of mistakes repeatedly either doesn't care or doesn't have the mental capacity to understand that. We see that happening repeatedly with Indian performances - no-balls out of laxity (and not out of an attempt for pace), not grounding the bat and being run-out, overthrows etc. and more. Mistakes directly lead to failure on most occasions. Most test matches are not lost due to someone pulling off a special effort, I can bet on this. Otherwise, every match would be as memorable as Calcutta. That doesn't happen all the time. After feeling before the last day, that whatever happens in the rest of the series, this victory is good enough, I now feel that (having revised my expectations) we should make the effort to win the series. There are enough indications that the team will attempt that - we shall see.
Another goal revision was: it doesn't matter how they win, as long as they do it. I hope they do sit and revisit this to see why they couldn't win it any better. It could have been much better than a four wicket win. Remember and let not the victory wash over these:
* Australia scored 400 in a day - no excuse, however good the pitch was. * India failed to take Ponting out early, despite all the chances * India let Simon Katich make 75 - wholly avoidable * India was 80-odd for 4 - Sachin & Saurav/Rahul didn't play/run too smartly * Ponting dropped Laxman early * Bichel (despite all criticisms, if he's that bad, how can we lose wickets to him) picked up 4 wickets * Pathan & Agarkar got out poorly * Sehwag caused an unnecessary overthrow * Patel missed another crucial stumping * We had to rely on Tendulkar to pick up wickets * Sehwag stumped himself * Tendulkar made one of the worst errors of judgement I have seen - he is good enough to play with his bat, why does he fear MacGill of all people * Laxman threw away his wicket * The rough outside the leftie's off and MacGill caused a lot of problems. * Australia couldn't use Gillespie much
I don't intend the above as unrestrained criticisms, but more as a list to see what can be easily improved - they are quite obvious.
On team composition: I heard that Sanjay Bangar has been called to replace Harbhajan. I don't understand why. Is he going to play any Test match? Kumble having done well makes it difficult. Should we go in with Kartik who can turn the ball more? Zaheer will be back, and I think Agarkar will droop again - anyway, it's a matter of conjecture as to whether he can be as effective again. If he can work on getting his economy rate down - for he bleeds - it would be a start (no point in saying he is a wicket-taking bowler and he will give runs away, he can't take more than 3 normally, and they can't come at the cost of 150 runs). Should they play Nehra or Pathan? Will India need two spinners at Sydney - do they have the guts to do it?
It helps that Australia have a similar problem. Big-mouth Williams hasn't done much, in fact he's caused a lot of harm by removing Bracken. Even though fellow bloggers have heaped scorn on Bichel and MacGill, I think they're as good as the Indian bowlers. MacGill bowls three decent balls, then gives a full-toss or loose ball - Agarkar tends to do the same. Bichel doesn't do anything special, but occasionally does something - Nehra isn't too far off. Remember Lee will be back in the next Test (almost 99% sure). We also haven't batted first yet - we don't know how that will go. Genuine pace has always hurt us (it hurts everyone) and Lee is pretty good, plus he is a useful bat - it won't get easy. What kind of strategy to use against him? I feel somewhat bad for MacGill - he isn't that bad a bowler, but each time anyone talks about him, they compare him to Warne and then say, oh but Warne is in a different class, but the damage has been done anyway. India shouldn't complain about that.
Steve Waugh has definitely very little faith in his current crop of bowlers. Packing the side with 7 batsmen (is this what Harish will tackle in his thesis on Aussie selection policy?) - an unnecessary ploy. I was always quite surprised to hear Buchanan say that Aus would have declared at lunch on the 5th day. Astounding! Either they have so much faith that their bowlers could take 10 wkts (which everyone knows can't happen with this combination in 4 hours) or that they had to make the match secure. This meant that when the Aussies started their 2nd inngs, there were only 2 results possible : either India wins or a draw. Only by polishing off Australia early, did India open the possibility of Aus having a faint sniff at a victory for themselves - something they themselves didn't plan for. This admission is a huge plus - India must prey on this lack of faith in the bowling.
Well, I think I've a lot to say, but luckily for all, memory failure and the first waves of sleep (having got up quite early) are washing over me causing me to stop this incontinent thought-stream. Please feel free to ridicule or rubbish or point out inconsistencies or misinterpretations (Pardon all typos and factual errors - not checking this one bit). Did someone say something about a cricket consultancy? The last few weeks have brought a new angle to my cricket viewing - I'm enjoying it, but it's claiming a lot of my brainwaves...
Dec 14, 2003
Taking leave of...When one comes to the end of a long vacation, one wonders if the time was well-spent, if more could've been done with it and if some more activities or events could've been packed in. Invariably the answer is yes, which points to the fact that most humans are incorrigible. Anyway, 9 days of doing lots of alternative things will come to an end and I'm happy I've evolved mentally such that I'm not looking back and bemoaning the completion of the vacation. What was surprising (some might believe scary) was the fact that I didn't miss doing my regular work at all.
Yeh Dosti..."Karan Johar is the best screenplay and dialogue writer in India today."
- Shah Rukh Khan, The Sunday Times of India, 14 Dec 2003
Friendship is such a funny thing, it seems to transport a person into a different universe.
Bolo Q?Most people don't realise it, but setting a quiz can be one of the most creatively satisfying things a person can do. Of course, here we aren't talking about the slam-bang, pea-shooter, quickie versions of questions, but the carefully crafted, well-thought of breed of questions that are deducible. It's a little difficult to explain the whole process of making these kinds of questions for one has to understand the philosophy or the spirit that must permeate what some of us think are the best kinds of quizzing questions. Guys at the BC have spent a lot of time poring over the nature of questions and have never hesitated from experimenting with the very structure and syntax of question-forming. I recently found myself in the position of having to explain what some of us call the BC way of making questions and had to spend a lot of time in quoting examples. This is something we regularly do at each FE inauguration of the BC, and I was happy to give Niranjan company in doing so at this year's inauguration. The best way to demonstrate this philosophy is to continuously set questions in that style, get it critiqued and learn from past efforts. Each time I set out to make questions in this vein, I find it more and more compelling - and worth all the time I need to spend on it. Some of the best stuff I have ever heard of in quizzes have come from this motley group of people and has in many ways contributed to whatever mental development I have had in areas of lateral thinking, knowledge association and recollection.
I'm not trying to layout the entire charter of what goes on into making a great question, but Niranjan attempted to do that sometime ago and many of us still use that as a basic guideline to test our own creations.
Dec 10, 2003
Benaud turns 500It is difficult for current generations to think of Richie Benaud as anything else but cricket's greatest television broadcaster, but he was one of the best allrounders the game has seen, especially as a spinning allrounder, and was to boot, one of the best captains of Australia. I read a report that Richie Benaud will take on the mike in his 500th Test as commentator in this week's Adelaide Test between Australia and India, which came close on the heels of my reading of his autobiography, actually titled Anything but an autobiography.
Among his other achievements, Benaud was also the first Test cricketer to pick up the double of 200 wickets and 2000 runs and had a well-known part to play in the first ever Tied Test where he was the opposite number to Sir Frank Worrell. Considered to be one of (if not just "the") the elder statesmen currently in the game, he is also considered to have influenced such changes as the 15-over fielding restrictions in limited-over internationals and drop-in pitches, though his rain rule method in the '92 World Cup came a cropper.
Benaud has been the face of Channel Nine's cricket coverage and also a well-known figure on British TV and his distinctive voice has let loose a pack of mimics for whom he is a great item to imitate in their ouevre. His memoirs were pretty interesting, describing how in conjunction with the then chairman of selectors, Sir Don Bradman, he laid great emphasis on playing entertaining cricket, the business of chuckers, the Packer series, his own career as a reporter covering crime & sport and how he missed out laying a bet on England at odds of 2000-1 in 1981 at Headingley because Godfrey Evans (ex-England and working for Ladbrokes) didn't come by that day.
Mia.n ki ToDii (on Maqbool)In continuation of my PIFF Experiences
When I finished watching Makdee,Vishal Bharadwaj's debut film as director on Sunday, little did I know that I would, in 24 hours time, be watching his second venture, Maqbool. Based entirely on Shakespeare's Macbeth (incidentally, which I'm reading), one of its major attractions was the cast which featured such top names such as Irrfan, Tabu and the trio that has defined acting in Hindi Cinema over the last 25 years: Pankaj Kapur, Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri. I also happen to be biased in favour of Vishal himself, and find it fascinating that he is probably the only director-music composer in films today that I know of, atleast in Hindi cinema.
Adding a sparkle to this PIFF screening was the presence of Vishal himself, who was accompanied by Pankaj Kapur (despite PTOI who would have us believe in today's report that "Tabu and Irrfan were sorely missed"). Also proving that George isn't the only blogger to keep seeing him, old Vishal favourite and local boy Sanjeev Abhyankar was there too. Vishal said this was just the second screening of the film (after Delhi), so he was pretty nervous as to what the audience thought of it. Pankaj Kapur asked everyone to make their reactions known, while Abhyankar mentioned he'd sung a song in the film a little differently than usual, in a higher pitch, and hopefully people would like it. Also present was movie critic Taran Adarsh.
This is easily one of the best films I've seen in recent times. I wonder what training Vishal has had, because he's got so much right in the film. Being an interpretation of Macbeth, the basic plot wasn't in question. The main points of interest were what variations would come up in the script and how much would the spirit be adhered to. I must confess I haven't seen any performance of Macbeth on theatre or screen, but the reading of the play was fresh in my mind and helped me derive my conclusions. Vishal has neatly adapted the plot in the setting of the Mumbai underworld. There were no loose threads and no wasting of screen time on trifles - every moment has a direct bearing on the unravelling of the plot.
Pankaj Kapur is Jahangir Khan a.k.a Abbaji, the aging and seemingly doddering don who is, in reality, firmly in charge. He is King Duncan from the original, and unlike the play, has a greater presence and impact. He plays it wonderfully - if I hadn't seen him in the flesh that day, I'd believe that Pankaj Kapur had become very old physically & infirm. I've been trying to think who apart from Irrfan could've played Maqbool or Macbeth as sketched out in this film. I've come up short repeatedly. No one else could've brought the degree of intensity required, the depiction of a tortured soul who becomes increasingly desperate. Tabu as Nimmi, the don's mistress, is great as usual, quietly and psychologically pushing Maqbool over the edge, and then slowly begins to lose her senses. Piyush Mishra is Banquo, one of the most trusted confidants to the don and turns in a memorable performance as Kaka. Masumi Makhija & Ajay Gehi along with the other members of the excellent supporting cast do their work competently.
I've saved the best for last: Naseeruddin Shan & Om Puri are truly brilliant as the soothsayers and general inciters of trouble - a cross between Narada and the three witches. They play two policemen in the pay of the mafia, where Om Puri can predict what is going to happen - a black tongue as Shah keeps saying and they end up influencing the turn of events. The scenes with them are extremely well-written. I don't want to give too much away here, so watch out for when they appear on screen.
At risk of overhyping, I would like to point to the first scene of the movie, indeed the opening shot and the closing scenes and the last shot as being very well-executed. There are many good moments, cinematically speaking, all through the film and my attention never sagged. This is one of those films where the conclusion is pretty obvious - the journey is what holds our minds. Some may gripe at the constant portrayal of Muslims as underworld characters, but the story doesn't dwell on that aspect - it is quite a cosmopolitan crowd there. It gives the dialogue writers to indulge in some mellifluous Urdu lending greater depth to the film which a more Bambaiyya version wouldn't have been able to provide. The word pool is very appropriate and not incongruous. Some of the scenes had flavours from other gangster flicks such as The Godfather, Pulp Fiction and Company, but I daresay these were mostly unintentional.
The songs were all topical, so no item numbers here. Credits include Daler Mehndi (has sung this song called "Tu mujhse Ru-ba-ruu hai"), Rekha (Vishal's wife?), Ustad Sultan Khan and Sanjeev Abhyankar among others. More listening required. Lyrics were by mentor Gulzar. Special thanks went to among others, Anurag Kashyap and Mani Ratnam (interestingly in the inevitable Bollywood reference, a la Ram Gopal Varma, names of Subhash Ghai, Mani Ratnam and Karan Johar are mentioned). And can Macbeth be staged without blood? The blood isn't in the same volumes as in Kill Bill, but whatever is seen is there for a purpose and makes an impact.
I'm probably waxing a little too lyrical because I'm favourably biased, but a second look and opinions from others would tell me if my first impression is here to stay. Vishal has got this great cast together and they do not let him down. Kudos to Bobby Bedi for producing the film and to Vishal for making great strides since Makdee (which was a very honest effort). I only hope Vishal will get more resources to make the kinds of films he wants to - I'm betting we'd like those films too.
PIFF and powStill a toddler
The 2nd annual Pune International Film Festival has been in progress since last Friday and has a couple of days left. Having been unable to participate in the inaugural year, I could right that imbalance this year. PIFF still has a few teething troubles, but has managed to present a few sparkles too. More than a modest collection of cinema has meant enough attractions each day, but these have been offset with a few logistical goofs which were caused primarily because of the increase in numbers from last year; the organisers seem not to have expected such an increase.
PIFF is still a very minor speck on the Indian Film Fest scene, let alone the world stage. It is still in search for its own USP to differentiate it from Mumbai's MAMI or IFFI among others, the latter in its Goa avatar should pose a new set of challenges to the other cities. Pune is the home of the memories of Prabhat theatre and is both a cradle and resting-place for the Indian filmscape in the shape of FTII & NFAI. Each year's PIFF should therefore be seen as another small step in a difficult environment, and instead of railing at the organizers for the problems, people would do well to provide constructive criticisms. This however doesn't let PIFF off the hook - some of the decisions need a good hard look. Still, the organisers of PIFF and Dr. Jabbar Patel, acclaimed film maker and Festival Director need a few pats on the back for all the things they got right.
I didn't get to see anything on Friday because of the inevitable clash between work and play. No Man's Land was the opening film and it annoyed me that they had two shows, both at 5.30 pm at the same venue, thereby ensuring there wasn't much chance of me catching a film that many Indians want to catch because of the Lagaan connection. Luckily, poring through the catalogue showed that another show on Saturday at 7.00 pm was there for the taking.
I must say I was a bit fortunate in that two of the venues, E-Square & the NFAI were pretty close by, with only City Pride being the venue on the edge of the world. Most of the films I wanted to catch were in the first two venues, and I had decided not to venture to CP unless I had no other option. The scheduling came in for some flak - there were many changes along the way even of the popular films, and there were quite a few conflicts that provided one with tough decisions to make. I had to sit with the festival catalogue & schedule to chart out all my options, spreadsheet style. PIFF had issued two brochures for each delegate (who had purchased a pass worth Rs. 400/- covering the entire 7 days) - one the catalogue and one accompanying the "Westerns" section of the festival. The catalogue though comprehensive was also not without a collection of bloopers. Evidently the editor was busy with something more pressing, for the synopsis for On the Waterfront had an underlined word with "367k" in brackets clearly suggesting a hyperlink, thus evidence of a Ctrl-C::Ctrl-V. The first film listed actually had a negative review! The grouping of movies was a little unstructured and difficult to navigate, so if you wanted to find one name, it tended to become linear searching.
On a positive note, the different sections of the PIFF were made apparent: there were a heavy representations from Europe and Mexico. The "Westerns" section had some classic names under it. Tributes to Ray, Kazan, Tun-Tun, Johnny Walker, Dev Anand and Lata Mangeshkar were also in order with a selection of one or more of their films. The "Western" brochure was much more professional, with Deepa Gahlot in the editorial chair. It had a polished air about it with a discussion on the different variants of the genre: the classic, spaghetti, curry and Japanese versions and reviews of the classics to be screened.
This was the day I launched my campaign, so to speak. A long walk in the morning, with prospect of India's splendid cricket performances, had cheered me up for the rest of the day. Pather Panchali had been on my mental list for a while, and I finally cleared that hole in my viewing CV. The Ray debut was all that it was made out to be : simplistic and well-made. The performances from the actors, young and old alike make all the difference. The screening was also the first indication that the PIFF guys hadn't got the right arrangements for over 2000 delegates. The 180/190 seater at E-Square was full in no time with people sitting/standing on the aisles, with many rumblings from the people inside - an inevitable result of the FCFS arrangment being misused by all the idiots who reserved seats in bulk for their companions. The worst offenders were the many students from the FTII, media courses in the city etc. who would plonk themselves in the middle of a row and annex all seats in sight. Matters would come to a head later in the week.
Feeling the effects of that inordinately long walk in the early morning chill and the parliament-like competition for seats in the morning, I was a little exhausted on my way to City Pride to take in No Man's Land. The long trip couldn't be helped for there were no more screenings of that Oscar winner. The problem with the journey is not that it is for about 30 mins each way from my house, but the route : through some of the most busiest (and hassle-prone) roads in Pune. At the theatre, there was the now routine scrum at the doors, which turned out to be unnecessary as it could take in considerably many more. It is really sad to see grown-up, educated people behaving the way they do in these circumstances - common sense and courtesy aren't in the curriculum, you see. The film itself made up for all these irritants - a more detailed discussion later (which in the blogworld's sorting order means it must be above this post somewhere). At the end, I found myself to be double-parked to a disadvantage, followed by much cursing, powerlifting, gymnastics, moto-cross riding and a slalom-inspired obstacle course before I got home.
Sunday had two major attractions: Manish Jha's Mathrubhoomi (which had garnered a lot of press of late) and the stylish gore-fest homage Kill Bill Vol. I by Quentin Tarantino. It was also the first day where I had to make a tough choice. Seeing that I had some work on the day, was feeling a little feverish after the exertions of the earlier day and had woken up to the news that Langer was out for a duck, I made a decision to go for Kill Bill. I had already seen the Tarantino flick, but wanted to catch it on the big screen where it ought to be seen. I knew that I needed a good afternoon's sleep to shrug off the malaise that had come over me. So Mathrubhoomi would have to be sadly missed.
Kill Bill had two simultaneous screenings at 8:30 pm and so I reached E^2 at 7:00 pm expecting a large rush, being a Sunday. I couldn't have underestimated it more. The place was teeming, with people walking in and curiously there were many onlookers from the street, with a large posse of policemen about. I wasn't sure what was afoot, but I plunged in anyway. Heard cheers to my right and caught an outstretched hand waving about, unmistakably the gesture of Dev Anand saab. I knew Lata Mangeshkar and he were being saluted by the PIFF for their lifetime achievements, but the obvious implication hadn't knocked on the my mind's door quite yet. Thinking this would be a good time to stake my claim for a seat while everyone gaped at the star, I rushed ahead to the appropriate theatre. A few people were moving in, so did I. And was promptly rewarded with my next mini-surprise. The place was full and a screening was in progress. My reflexes were probably on vacation, so I struggled to make sense of what I was seeing. The earlier film should have been completed by now, as per my calculations. Wait a minute - wasn't that film supposed to be in Chinese? And what was Preity Zinta doing on the screen? Perhaps someone glimpsed the light-bulbs going on behind my head as I sheepishly asked the attendant where the Festival screenings were. Directed to the largest audi in the place, I walked in time to see the dignitaries filing in. Apparently, there had been a massive change in plans with the awards being given out "right here, right now". Which meant that some other "normal" shows had been cancelled or moved. Which explained why one elder gent was trying to sell me a ticket to Out of Control as I was coming in, he had probably surveyed the incoming crowd for the innocent bumpkin and apparently zeroed in on me. The cunningness of the plan is derived from the fact that the Out of Control show had been cancelled. Being one of those who were not planning to watch Vashu Bhagnani productions even if he turned Cashu Bucknani and was offering financial incentives to attend the screenings, I had to politely decline. Determined to make a game of it, the powers-that-rule the world sent another guy who wanted to know if I could take another person on my pass, and when I said that couldn't happen, wanted me to sneak him in anyway. "Let's try", he says. Must be my face.
Back to the ceremony, the security contingent was explained by the presence of Sharad Pawar, Kalmadi and, I suspect, also because of Sanjay Dutt. Kiran Shantaram, son of the illustrious V.S was there too. Kalmadi showed why he is such a bad orator but still managed to unveil plans of including a competitive section at PIFF from next year. Dev saab and Lata Mangeshkar received their awards to standing ovations and spoke rather well too. The venerable Anand mused on his days in Pune as a fledgling actor and on his future projects which seem to be not too different from all his ventures since Hare Rama Hare Krishna with the well-proven unsuccessful formula. I wonder where he gets his funding from! Lata on the other hand took a dig at Punekars after recounting that Pune was where she won her first singing competition in 1941 and also lost her father here (she has commemorated Pt. Deenanath Mangeshkar with a hospital in this city) which led to her having to enter (grudgingly) the film business, thereby hinting at some of the bad experiences she's had here. She then wondered (half-tongue-in-cheek) why Pune had taken so long to felicitate her. Sharad Pawar then showed some of the skills that make him a successful politician by matching her in wit and panache. In response, he said she must be familiar with the ways of suspicious Punekars, who do not easily believe even in the purity of gold unless they have tested it in umpteen ways. Perhaps it was when she won the Bharat Ratna that they were finally convinced! Pawar also took a small dig at Dev saab who had said he was making a film called Beauty Queen and would personally search for the actress! Pawar said he had thought life after 60 was for being quiet and sedate, Dev Anand had given him lots of inspiration for a little bit of frolicking.
Having done the star-gazing on offer, I was expecting the shows for Kill Bill to get underway soon. Next surprise: all the shows that night had been cancelled summarily. Worse, the only other show was at City Pride, for which I needed the services of a teleport. No shows for the day therefore, and had missed Mathrubhoomi as well. I heard later on that it was quite "hardhitting" and "excellent".
This was the day for the direct conflict. NFAI had High Noon while E^2, after a routine reshuffle, was showing a film I was awaiting with great anticipation: Maqbool. There was also the chance to see it in the company of some of the Maqbool team. High Noon had to take the dive. More on Maqbool in a separate post. Later in the day was a Mel Brooks' spoof called Blazing Saddles. Utterly timepass, this spoof Western is as politically incorrect as it gets and takes a swipe at everyone from Cecil B. De Mille to the Oscars. I found the scene where the cast has to emerge from filming to get into a scrap with a rival production (of a musical) and then goes back to the main story especially funny. Though I'm quite surprised how it got the few Oscar nominations that came its way.
Maqbool was preceded by some awful scraps. Despite getting there 1 hr 15 mins earlier, found many people outside the closed doors. As soon as they opened, there was a rough push as usual. Inside, we found that about 25-30 seats had been reserved, ostensibly for the cast (of which there were only 3 later one) and as it later turned out, for members of the E^2 top brass, which lead to a great deal of consternation. There were a lot of verbal exchanges too - one idiotic lady had strewn her dupatta across no less than 5 seats, whereas those moronic students had captured atleast one seat each, which led to the strange situation of about half the place being empty but people coming in couldn't get a seat. FCFS doesn't mean that a person coming in can also reserve seats for people coming in later. Some of the E^2 crew intervened to stop all this nonsense, but since they themselves were keeping seats for their bosses, their position was rather weak. It was pretty disgraceful all around.
Clearly the day where I would be spoiled for choices. Seven as it turned out. I watched three (Stagecoach, On the Waterfront and surprise, surprise, Kill Bill Vol. I). Which meant I missed out on The Killing Fields, Devi Ahilya, Wagon Master and most of all Rajat Kapoor's Raghu Romeo. Raghu Romeo was again one of those "meet-the-cast" dos, but it meant I would miss Brando in a role I had wanted to view for a while. Raghu Romeo would probably present further opportunities in the months ahead, so I don't feel too bad missing it now. I would also avoid the rucks-and-mauls that had accompanied the entry to Maqbool.
Stagecoach was the classic Western, with the noble outlaw (my first full glimpse of John Wayne) and an assortment of characters complete with Apaches and righteous law-enforcers - a typical John Ford offering. On the Waterfront is dominated by the deeply brooding Brando in his Oscar winning role as Terry Malloy. The ultimate one-man-reformed-by-the-love-of-a-girl-versus-the-mob story.
Kill Bill Vol. I was one instance where the reshuffle of the programme worked in my favour. Apparently done because of all the demand, there were now two simultaneous shows at 8:30 pm which I caught. Not without generating another post, so it'll be there somewhere above. Can however mention that I helped start a queue outside the doors in light of all that had happened before on earlier days. Also heard that things had taken a turn for the worse earlier that day when a girl was caught in a mini-stampede (must've been the Raghu Romeo screening) and sustained minor injuries. The E^2 people should be blamed for allowing things to get this way and by displaying a curious lack of common sense. The queues were allowed to get menacingly large before the doors were opened, instead of doing so earlier and having a smaller queue to manage with a steady flow. Crowd management is getting to be a serious issue at all these kinds of places and I wonder if that's something which people are concerned about. I couldn't help thinking that how devastating a fire would be in such a circumstance - these aspects must be soundly criticised. No one here seems to have learnt much after the events at Delhi's international film fest a few months ago, for the parking arrangements were such that there was near-total darkness in the allotted areas. Such incidents are rare in Pune, alright, but it takes one occurrence to shake that confidence. Add to it the recent upsurge in small robberies and chain-snatching, even murders of the elderly in the city and it can be quite a worrying factor in the organization of such events.
The Kill Bill Vol. I entry was more amicably resolved, but that didn't mean a cessation of hostilities in the Reservations struggle. Couple of nuts had reserved a seat for a guy who never looked like turning up. There was another empty seat next to this one. One elderly chap strode in like a Patton tank, flung the sweater kept to save the seat away, and sat down, getting his wife a place too. The nuts who had kept the seat got into an argument, in which they were out-shouted by Patton, who despite his wife's obvious embarrassment, didn't mind using a few coarser synonyms for the micturation process (coarser than he would've done in public) when those morons offered it as an excuse to explain no bum on the seat. "Jiski seat hai, woh uspe baiTha hota hai" was another volley from the infantry. I felt like leaning over and saying three cheers for The General, and couldn't help feeling it was setting the stage nicely for the Fourth offering by Quentin Tarantino.
Another interesting anecdote (of which there have been so many already): Jabbar Patel came down before the Kill Bill Vol. I screening to announce that Dev Anand saab had won the Dadasaheb Phalke award. Apparently, in a press conference on Monday, the octogenarian had been asked if he regretted not getting the same, to which he said he was happy that atleast Pune remembered him (he's a smart man, in his speech on Sunday, he tugged at the Pune strings again by saying he would film a movie in Pune if he got "a dynamic script" to direct). Interestingly, at the NFAI on Monday, I had seen the gallery of portraits of previous Phalke award winners - there were exactly 32 spots and all were taken. I was wondering then when the next Phalke winner would be announced and what they would do then in terms of space for the portrait. I think I'll be able to find out sooner than I thought. It all nicely ties up. (Update: Just read George's post on the topic and realised Yash Chopra's shot is missing too. No government funds I suppose. Dev saab won't be too lucky - a portrait in a place on Prabhat Road would've been somewhat appropriate. I agree with GT on his opinions on the choices made in the past, present and future.)
A day of rest, as I had already seen the biggie on offer: Seven Samurai. Also looking back at the last few days. One of the aims of a film fest is to provide a platform for lesser known directors and countries without the publicity machines to show their talents. Sadly, I haven't been able to participate in encouraging them, having opted to go for the big names instead. Principally, this was because I hadn't seen some of the classics and was getting a chance to look at them. Also, the schedule was such that some of these smaller films whose synopses I had liked clashed with others I wanted to see - films by Jacques Tati and Jiri Menzel were in this category - though this is a less acceptable excuse. Considering this is my first time at a film festival, I wouldn't feel too upset about this - perhaps next time. The main attractions for me for the last day of the event, i.e. Thursday, are Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne and Warriors of the Heaven and Earth. I have seen the Ray children's classic suitably as a child (during a series on DD that had landmark films by Raj Kapoor, Ray, S.S.Vasan & Guru Dutt) and would love to renew my acquaintance with it, having forgotten much of it. The Chinese film, on the other hand, is mainly because of the ARR connection.
Dec 7, 2003
In the debate roomsThe following was written by me in a discussion when people were wondering (quite pejoratively at times) what it would take for India to win at cricket vs. the Aussies. Harish's comments(of which I am in partial agreement) helped me write my views.
Everyone seems to be having this kind of conversation - I have one going on with my friend too.
Any team, including the Australians, can be beaten - no one is invincible and facts have proven this - so it's not merely wishful thinking or bravado when someone says this. Having established that, one needs to cast an eye on what the circumstances where like when other teams scored victories against the Aussies. The Aussies may not be invincible, but they play their own game very consistently, and at a level that other teams can match but haven't been able to sustain continuously. This means that the Aussies are going to be successful on most occasions. It still does leave some room for a Test nation to beat the Aussies. Looking at recent Aussie losses ("recent" as in the Steve Waugh captaincy era), they have lost to the West Indies, England, South Africa, India. The Aussies do crack under pressure - notice the disintegration in the losses to the West Indies during the record run chase and the earlier occasion when Lara cracked a 153*. (A visible sign of that breakdown was the last-ditch sledging attempt.)
To take the Indian victories: In Calcutta, India had to play out of their skin to win that one. A more representative match was the one in Chennai - one batsman & one bowler played exceedingly well (Sachin & Harbhajan) and the others chipped in - inspite of a Hayden double ton. Some luck was needed, which they got when Gilchrist was wrongly given out LBW to be the middle stick in Harbhajan's 'trick. At most points in the match, the Aussies continued to play at a high level. To beat them, India had to play as well as they did and match them performance for performance.
Now this Indian team, we know, isn't capable of playing too consistently But that doesn't preclude them from getting it all together for one Test. That happened at Headingley. That can happen again. People are right when they say, there is very little doubt that India will lose the series. But when they say India doesn't have much of a chance in even one Test, they're being unfair and as we're prone to be, over-critical. We overreact when they win, we overreact when they lose.
To win therefore, it is pretty simple (in theory): play at a reasonably high (Test?) level (the Aussies are not supermen, they only do their stuff regularly - they're more predictable). A team has to put them under pressure to have a chance - the Aussie plan in recent times has been to ensure they don't get themselves into such spots, and usually revolves around batting a team out of the match. For that, India need to do the basics right first, then we can talk about their chances - there is no foundation if the reverse happens as it does each time. The bowlers must stop trying to bowl grenades each ball and follow the Benaud/O'Reilly dictum of first using a stock ball to build pressure. The batsmen must run hard, not lose wickets by fishing outside the off-stump or forgetting to ground their bats or some such silly method. The fielders simply have to hold their catches. Every respected commentator on air has these and only these points to say when asked "What do India have to do to win?". It is that simple, or perhaps, that complex. Still, I'll say this again and again, the Aussies can't make the Indians play badly if they wanted. The Indians bowl no-balls - no amount of sledging makes a bowler do that. It's our problem. What successful professional outfit forgets the basics and hopes for a miracle? None. Any team can play well in one Test, and that's what teams (including India) that have beaten the champs before have done. There is no reason why it can't happen again - once atleast? And that's not saying it'll be a fluke.
Teams that have learnt to win once haven't been able to summon the consistency to do it again in quick time - hence they lose again and the Aussie invincibility myth gains more credibility.
One way of looking at it is a team that can win (agreed, just one Test each) in the alien conditions of West Indies, England, Zimbabwe can win in Australia too. Another way of looking at it is that a team that struggles to win at home has not much chance abroad.
One more fact: however good/bad they play, I'll be getting up at 5:00 am to watch (I suspect like most of us). That's the bottomline - whatever these guys do, we'll be there. Perhaps each time we all secretly believe India's going to win this time... That defines our (unreasonable?) optimism.
Wah-longabba!Finally one of those days when it pays to be an Indian cricket fan. Instead of a comprehensive review, here are some of the moments that made it quite memorable, atleast for a while:
- Though I still believe Ramesh should've played instead of one of the openers (following the principle of "if you select a guy in the first place and he plays well, you must pick him"), the team management will get away with that decision for the next few matches. I'm not a fan of Ramesh (as ( have noted before), but either they shouldn't bring him on tour or they should stop pandering to reputation. Still, good to wake up late and find no wickets down.
- SRT got the by now routine unfortunate dismissal - that leaves him even more hungry and furious for the rest of the tour, just the way he should be.
- The faces of Bucknor, Dizzy & SRT during and after the LBW were photographic moments of a lifetime.
- Bucknor gave the by now routine incredibly poor decision - he does it almost everytime. No wonder he switched to officiating cricket instead of the more rowdy football where players don't always accept decisions without a word or ten.
- Ganguly taking off in the air and having a rough landing was very symbolic of his career - incredible highs and painful stutters. The fact that he managed to regain his balance and then do an encore should hopefully be a symbol for his future.
- Agarkar raising his bat on getting off the mark was one of the most priceless memories of cricket for me.
- Got to see the rare sights of a short cover, short mid-on, & short mid-off. And the even better sight of Laxman stroking on either side of the short mid-on as if Invisible Man was in that position.
- Harsha Bhogle pulling out the curious fact that Steve Waugh made his debut the same year that Parthiv "I'm not 14" Patel was born.
- The extremely fair and instructive commentary of Greg Chappell and a great moment when temporary pupil Saurav thanked Chappell for all the advice he received.
- And the happy sight of ACG congratulating SCG on his century.
Dec 1, 2003
Thane, thy book is hard to readI have been labouring in my first-ever reading of a full-length, unabridged Shakespearan play. After I finally mustered up the guts to read one and selected the complete annotated version of Macbeth, I found myself being caught up in the notes below each page instead of going with the flow. Many of the word usages can be self-deduced, but knowing that all the abstruse and archaic words are explained below tempt me to ensure I've decoded all of them, with the result that I've got a little exhausted by the constant to-and-fro between the ancient and the modern English ages. I need to pick myself up and finish the book. I always thought I must take a shot at the Bard, but wasn't sure if I was ready to do so.
Sidenote: If time travel was an option, travellers back and forth would find the language problem hard to solve more than anything else. Like the Americans and English are reputed to have been divided by a common language, we would be divided by our ancient ancestors by our own languages, and the changing meaning of words over the times. For instance, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie makes liberal use of the word "g a y" which modern authors wouldn't dare to in the same way. And the venerable ThiruvaLLuvar wouldn't have enough cotton plugs to put in his ears if he heard the slangy Madras Tamil of today.
Kangalal Kaithu Sai - First impressionsTwo days into listening Kangalal Kaithu Sei, the latest offering from Panchatan (quite a burst of albums these last few months), and I'm a little pleased that the first vibes are much more positive than what I had with the earlier ones - Boysdidn't make the best impressions on me (though on repeated hearings I think quite well of this), nor did Tehzeeb (except for Meherbaan, it didn't catch on for me) and Enakku 20 Unakku 18 was decent, but not special (except for the melodious Santhippomaa). Well, Kangalal Kaithu Sei has a few good ones with the potential to be quite memorable, though still not in the topmost league, I think. Bharatiraja has had quite a good success rate in partnership with Rahman. This combination may not be well known outside the Tamil landscape unlike the ones with Mani Ratnam or Shankar, but has produced such gems like the folk-enriched Karuthamma and the unreleased Anthimanthaarai. Taj Mahal may not have been so good, but had its bright moments.
Kangalal Kaithu Sei is a departure from other Rahman offerings of late and (as has been remarked in many circles) falls in the category of albums like En Swaasa Kaatre or even Jeans where the score isn't rhythm-based but what seems to me to constitute proper "light music". Light on the ears and not brimming with instruments. Three of the five had rather melodious openings, which was the highlight of the collection for me.
Tamizhamma is one of those that don't instantly endear, but those that aren't intolerable either. It easily grows on you, for the beats and meter are such that they hook into the mind easily. The rapping (if it can be called that) towards the end seems rather pointless, even if it is the Tamil alphabet (I don't see how this really adds anything to the song). The insertion of an electronic version of an old and legendary song Senthamil NaaDu (I could recognize the tune as something I'd heard before, but couldn't place it - apparently because the Srinivas-Chitra version that airs on Jaya TV has erased the memory somewhat) adds a touch of novelty to the song.
Anarkali makes you sit up and notice - primarily because of the wonderful use of the bandish Ja Jaa Re Apne Mandarava and the tabla. The rest of the song in comparison is a bit of a letdown. I'd say the jury is still pondering over this one. Azhagiya Cinderella (by Hariharan, being heard in a Rahman song after a long hiatus) is alright, nothing remarkable to me.
And then come the sweet beginnings of En uyir thozhiye, which is quite in the league of Sakhiye Nee thaan thunaye. One of the top points of this score, Unni Menon (if I'm right) does very well here. This was followed by Theekuruvil which is again great - the opening is quite unconventional with (two?) male voices uttering (how else does one describe it) words in Tamil. A curiously semi-staccato and unexpectedly fast-paced singing by Harini ensues and leads into a complex song structure that I found enthralling.
I found myself coming back for Theekuruvil, En uyir thozhiye and even Tamizhamma, with a quick stop to sample Anarkali. Let's see if this estimation rises with the inevitable encores. Will also be curious to know what the music blog-guru has to say.
Nov 27, 2003
Thanks SteveI cannot help breaking my self-imposed moratorium to make note of this. Read An era has come to an end by Harish and read words from the man himself.
Motivation must come from within and as soon as that inner flame is doused, the will to succeed and carry on has only one conclusion. For me it may be as simple as reading an inspirational story, hearing a favourite song, watching some cricket highlights or just having a game of backyard cricket with my son Austin, to get the juices flowing.I know the above is a redundant copy, but absolutely needed to relish it again.
The thought of being able to achieve something new everyday, to believe you can improve and to test yourself, have always drawn me to the challenges that lie ahead.
My first emotion upon hearing my selection was panic - am I good enough? Will I be scared and intimidated by the press and notoriety? Can I really be successful?
When I pushed that single through the covers, it was just the greatest sensation, an overwhelming surge of satisfaction, contentment, tranquility and excitement all rolled into one.
When you come through adversity it seems to magnify the sense of accomplishment and heighten the celebrations.
I believe in many ways you can judge a player's worth to the side by how they overcome adversity. Attitude will always be the companion to this trait and without it there will be no longevity in the sport.
Throughout my career I have never needed any extra motivation to do well, because quite simply, all I ever aspired to was to make the most of my ability and never give in no matter the situation. If anything was ever needed to really get me going, it was someone writing me off, or telling me that I couldn't do it. Perhaps this is why I performed so well in Sydney, because the stakes were high and the pressure pretty intense, and as such I was on the edge, nervous but focused, just how I like it.
Sydney to me is the perfect place to retire for many reasons. It's one of the best venues in the world; it's been my home ground throughout my career; all my family and friends will be there; I will be playing against India, a team and country for which I have great admiration; my Indian friends will be able to be part of the occasion through the TV coverage; I am very fit and I am very much on top of my game. I've always wanted to finish on my own terms and right now I feel as if I'm in the best form of my career, and I can't think of a better word for anyone to say about me when I finish other than. "Why?"
Nov 26, 2003
Master of the Seinfeld DomainI'm currently reading the teachings of the last 20th century philosophical cult, a.k.a Seinfeld and Co. (beware the fact that the famed title score starts to play when you get to this site). I am absolutely shocked that I missed seeing what I think is probably the best of them all - The Betrayal's script has some fantastic writing - it is told in reverse chronological order and is partly set in India. How-could-I-miss-this-among-the-countless-reruns....
While, on the subject, there's even a Seinfeld blog by someone who claims to be Stan the caddy... He's got some wonderful stuff there, including all the episode videos. I don't want to be seen encouraging bootlegging, but if some kind soul out there (note: that means you, my dear B-school friends) wants to use bandwidth in a noble cause, he can download and lovingly burn all of them onto cds - he would only be emulating the master, who found out in The Little Kicks that he did it pretty well. And yes, let me know too.
And to think I felt Seinfeld was overrated and too American to be comprehensible when I first saw it! Woe betide me!
Nov 25, 2003
The Best World Cup Final everEasily the best ever - England beat Australia in a thriller that couldn't have been scripted better. Any final that has the match tied in the last minute of full-time, then a lead taken in the 1st half of extra time, then the hosts coming back to tie the match once again in the second-last minute of extra-time only to be followed immediately in the last-minute by the winner, (scored by the best players in the world) to give the top seeds (and most deserving team) a win over the hosts - it seemed a little too perfect. Even better was the fact that things were decided in extra-time instead of the lottery of sudden-death or a shootout.
The only baffling thing was Australia failed to mark Jonny Wilkinson well enough, especially in the closing moments of the match when it was extremely obvious that a drop goal attempt was imminent. But then it was just meant to be.
The Reloading of Sherlock HolmesI wonder if the great Sherlock Holmes would have been as successful and as magical in the modern age. Much of the Holmes deduction, for instance, being able to tell to a T, the profession and mental state of a person based on the impressions they left on his apparel or telling exactly what kind of cigar was smoked, or marks left on the muddy ground - things that in the stale homogeneity and unimpressionable plastic would probably not record for the piercing eyes of the sleuth. Everyone wears the same kinds of clothes, some people are wearing even lesser clothes than before. Roads are tarred, and it's not easy to decipher a road from the slush in its pothole.
Would the great Holmes have been equally triumphant in the modern world, where crime is more overt than ever before? Perhaps, for geniuses would know how to adjust to changing conditions. Maybe I, like the good Doctor, would have been able to spot the differences between my fellowmen, if only I observed instead of merely seeing...
Nov 24, 2003
On inertia and procrastinationI seem to be getting closer to the source of what causes procrastination. I believe it can be explained by the simple laws that govern much of physical activity. Many people have always kept telling us that we're made up both of matter and energy - and that we don't control our energy very well. Assuming that mental activity is subject to many of the laws that lord over the so-called material events, inertia is probably the culprit for procrastination.
Seriously! What else would explain the lack of motivation to do something, to postpone to another day that which can be done today? Mind you, though physical inertia works both ways, i.e. a body at rest continues to do so and a body in motion likes to keep going on its way, mental inertia usually prefers option A which translates to lying on the sofa or resting in the armchair. Or perhaps it is the same way as physical bodies in the real world - too much friction eventually causes the go-getter to grind to a halt. This mental friction is possibly the amount of effort one has to expend on an activity, which to the procrastinator is something that should be pickled and preserved, hopefully for that rainy day when the remote isn't to be found and a massive manhunt must be called in. The procrastinator is a calculating man, who carefully (and intuitively) measures the amount of effort to do something, and unless the effort is the same as that to be spent on saving the world, or atleast a minor county, he would like to give it a miss.
The procrastinator's idea of heaven is a place where everything can be controlled by thought and nothing else. He is willing to pay big bucks to finance such research. The procrastinator who is no longer alive must not be mourned - he has merely done his sums and found that it takes too much effort to go on living and it is contrary to his principles. After all, he practically invented the phrase - "Let sleeping dogs lie". All he asks for is the same treatment.
The Beast is here, where is the first party?I am informed by my sources that the small garage/office/room in the ground floor of my apartment is to become a Beauty Parlour in its latest avatar. Whether this will lead to a general improvement in the milliHelen count of the local air is yet to be seen. Having never been fortunate enough to reside in the same vicinity as the latest moisturisers and assorted skin creams, I will, in the spirit of scientific enquiry, also observe if the combined mH values of the incoming and outgoing traffic shows any trends that can be captured in an equation.
I have read my last sentence above twice, and yes, it is now starting to look like a good excuse in case my increased lingering in the balcony comes in for comment.
Nov 23, 2003
CoincidencesNot everyone may like to believe in coincidences, but it can prove to be useful - not the actual coincidence but a belief in them. Otherwise those prone to suspicion and even paranoia would have an even tougher time. If you saw your son walk out into the street (apparently heading to his friend's house) at the same time as the neighbour's pretty young thing (that you detest), you might feel a stab of suspicion. Or when the street urchin starts to walk behind you and makes no obvious attempt to overtake you though you purposely lower your pace of walking, alarm bells would start to toll quietly. These could be coincidences - the girl has to go to her tuition classes and isn't interested in hooking up a romance and the urchin has no designs on your wallet. But to the conspiracy theorist, nothing ever happens by chance. Every action and event is triggered off by a definite interlinked purpose. He even has a law - "If two events can be connected and can lead to a cataclysmic super-evil-event, they will". Only he can't prove it.
Nov 21, 2003
Re-solutionIn the season of "Re" words and breaking a long resolution to never make any more resolutions, I hereby resolve to Refrain from posting on films or cricket for the next week (the last few posts point to a further stunting of my mental growth). Whether that means a complete lack of posts is something to see.
Everything that has a beginning has an end...... and this is true of movies too, long or interminable as they may seem sometimes. Functioning as brackets on either end of the feature are the credits which brings me to a grouse that Re-manifested itself yesterday after another shot at the Matrix Revolutions.
Most cinema-viewers don't have a high credit-rating, which in the movie theatre translates to being unfriendly towards end-credits. No sooner than the sun has set on the horizon (in the Matrix climax, the sun actually rises again) that the audience and makes a mad rush to the Exit. And pity you if you want to watch the credits - it's a very difficult experience. For one, people are blocking your line of sight. If you are still sitting, they're staring at you wondering if you're going to sneak under a seat and catch the next show for free. Or you're simply blocking their way. I'm still not a hard-nosed movie fan who can brush off these social castoffs, so I usually stand and read - it has the double advantage of assuring people I can walk and will make it to the egress point without aid, and also helps me peer over the head of the slow moving gorilla-family in the seats ahead.
More peer pressure from the people you watched the film with. Unless you have understanding companions (who understand that you're a nut and should be entertained and humoured lest you throw a tantrum) who are willing to twiddle their thumbs till you pore over the list of wire-artists and musicians. Some thumb-twiddlers are not as sensitive as them - they're more vocal about their Resentment. They may even hiss: "Don't you know the movie has ended?". No sir, that's where you make your error - no movie is truly over until the big Dolby sign flashes in.
This gross insensitivity towards credits must be quite disheartening for the unknown technicians and "extras" as there's often a great side-story in the credits themselves. Yesterday, as I was soaking in the long end credit sequences to the sounds of Navras, the theatre-guys threatened to vacuum me in, and then, horror of horrors, stopped the projection. Now I don't read each and every department and name, but I like to look at most of them. Like yesterday, there seemed to be no credit for Juno Reactor, only Don Davis. I can understand that stuff like that isn't appreciated by all, but pliss to humour me, saar.
So is the moral of the story "if you want to be noticed, put your name in the opening credit sequence"?. We dissolve into flashback as...
Ten Years Ago. INT-EXT (How else do you slot an open-air auditorium under a shamiana?)Though I firmly believe that the credits should come at the end (which was one of the causes of the afore-mentioned 8th standard personal lesson), preferably with <role> : <person> kind of template, the be-dard audience doesn't care a hoot beyond the starry names. Nor do they pay any heed to some of the innovative/funny credit sequences that filmmakers provide. All those comedy films in Hindi and Tamil films that had titles with faces of the principal actors with cartoon bodies (Pandiaraajan films in particular) or like Chasm-e-Baddoor, or in films like Almost Famous, Sleepy Hollow, or Seven or English,August (with dialogues from the films peppering the names). For that matter, The Simpsons on most days, especially the Halloween specials. Probably my most favourite credit sequences are the one for the Pink Panther movies accompanied by those legendary pieces of music by Henry Mancini.
A bunch of kids from the 8th standard (from Section A, I may add, for these things mattered then) have just finished putting up their (Children's Day?) play in the allotted 15 minutes. They were naive enough to keep their credits-sequence at the end, when they thought all would come in front of the unruly school crowd to be introduced - no encores please. A big school-marm waves her hand: "No time, we're running late!". Disappointment.
Ten Minutes Later. INT-EXT. DAY.
A bunch of kids from the 8th standard (from the rival Section B) have just started putting up their (Children's Day?) play. Shame-o-shame! They start by introducing their cast-members and then go through the play. Evidently they had their priorities right. More disappointment for the 'A' guys.
Matrix Revolutions ReloadedThe title of this post could be the next name Warner & Village Roadshow are looking for, but this is not about Re-incarnation. After my initial thoughts (in which I hinted at a possible Revisitation), had a double take at the last installment yesterday. I must say that my template held out a little with step 7 receiving a tiny vote of confidence. The Agyaan ke parde were lifting a little, and some of the stuff (especially the dialogues at the end) made a little more sense. I still have a few unanswered questions, but they can wait.
Nov 17, 2003
Sens, and Sensibility?Amazing how many R* Sen actresses are these days, in fact most of them Ri* Sens. The set seems to be Ria, Rima, Rimi and Raima. Of which Raima is considered to be the one with the acting potential. Other Sens that I can think off the top of my head: Suchitra and Sushmita. (Have purposely left out Selene-Selena Sen).
Disclaimer: Only two puns on the words "Sen"/"Sens" were harmed during the making of this post. The large majority were left unmolested. Ask "sensitivity", "censure", "censor", "incense" (both common meanings), "presence", "absence" and other "-cences".
The Wisdom Tree Film FestivalThe Film and Television Institute of India was in the news again - this time for all the right reasons instead of the usual negative reports of strikes and resignations. The current lot of students with the Graduates Association of the FTII, GRAFTII, organized a film festival over the last few days. It gave many of the alumni, including many illustrious names, a chance to come back and reminisce about their student days. The organizers in concert with a nearby multiplex also had screened a bunch of films that all seemed to have an FTII connection. These films were a mix of commercial and art features and documentaries. I couldn't attend except for Sunday, where I caught a few films.
An amusing sidelight accompanied this screening: there are atleast two language versions of The Terroristthat I know of, the original Tamil and a dubbed Hindi version. The lady selling the passes (a student of FTII) had no idea the film had a Tamil version when I asked her which one they were showing. She said it might be in Hindi, dubbed perhaps - which was disappointing as I could see that version on Zee Cinema but then the 100 minute movie would take 200 minutes to air! So I was better off watching whatever they screened. In the theatre, I sensed most of the audience didn't question that the film would be in Hindi (the theatre was about 45% full - most of them being from the film school - this wasn't a big name commercial film, remember) - though one or two were wondering if the English or Hindi version would be telecast! I could hardly stifle my chuckle at the anguished sighs being let out when the first dialogues were spoken - in Tamil - and at the consternation when we realised there were no sub-titles! Half the hall emptied - they would probably watch Godmother - so much that I, who by now had settled back in happiness, started to half-worry if the screening would be cancelled! Still, the remaining people in the hall too had started to watch the film intently. I heard one Tamilian guy translate much of the sparse dialogue (true to his leanings, the cinematographer-director chose to speak out more with images) to his friend while another said "Forget the story - let's watch the photography, maan" - perhaps he was a cinematography student which would've made Sivan (himself a student in that subject in the early 80s) quite happy.
Trivia alerts: Harish mentions that Salim Khan and
Javed Akhtar contributed to the climax but were uncredited (IIRC). Careful perusal of the credits
showed the name Salim Khan under Additional Dialogues but no Javed Akhtar. Whoever
wrote the dialogues for AB's speech at the end - hats off.
This film (and not Hungama which released earlier is Rimi Sen's debut film (according to the opening credits).
Filmi Typo: AB the author is said to have won the "Booker's Prize".
The Holi song sequence gives rise to a small question: are the songs in Silsila (with AB) and Sholay (with Hema Malini) the two most yaadgaar Holi songs in Bollywood history?
Nov 15, 2003
Top spin Down UnderESPN-Star in their buildup to the upcoming Indian Test series in Australia have these promos where one of the voices that can be heard is of Ian Chappell saying (paraphrased) "Probably the only team that has a chance of beating Australia is India". Which may sound extremely flattering and even downright un-Chappell-like given his recent hardhitting articles that have touched the topic, including this full-length piece on the subject.
Assuming that Chappell senior does not usually bet on the weaker side, the quote used by ESPN-Star must be probably be (a) Out of context (b) Made during the days when India was doing rather well in some of the previous one-day series (c) Because he grossly underestimates his own national side. ESPN-Star, fine channels that they may be, cannot help but add sentiment and spin to one of the biggest sporting series from the Indian point of view with the juicy prospects from the business angle. They did this last time too, and perhaps contributed in some measure to the great feeling of disgruntlement that emerged when we failed to win anything and ended up proving Mr. Lele right. Let's hope people have more realistic expectations this time. But the good news will be that though the team may not come through with victories except for a small miracle, there will be the prospect of some great commentary involving the Aussies, the Indians, perhaps even some Englishmen and if we're really lucky - No Sidhu!
It's not The Matrix Resolutions, dummy!I've watched all three episodes in the definitive mainstream movie trilogy of recent cinema in the theatre (where they should be watched, btw) and each time I seem to have followed the following template:
1. Go in with great wonderment after being dazzled by the trailers.
2. Be spectacularly assaulted by the combination of SFX and ultra-metaphysical dialogue.
3. At the end of the movie, share with everyone the sense of trying to make some personal justifications for the movie.
4. Pretend to put on a grave face that suggests I may have comprehended what I just saw, while all the time asking myself "do I think I understood all that?"
5. Read a whole lot of stuff on the Internet, from the movie scripts to myriad interpretations of the plots and sub-threads.
6. Watch the film again, obtaining a better understanding of the tangle.
7. Come out with only some of my questions answered and with a feeling of having some control over the film.
I haven't done step 6 yet for The Matrix Revolutions, so I will be honest enough in saying that I'm still not sure I understood what the implications of the ending really are. I'm one of those who are always inclined to give the benefit of doubt to some filmmakers and believe that they're not trying to rip us out of our money without having a purpose in their story, but despite that, after my first pass, I felt the Bros. W finally ran out of steam with the plot. Even if they may have actually answered all the infinite question marks, the discontent prevailing among some viewers at least charges them of not making the end less abstruse. At the same time, I would like to think the makers did have a definite idea to their ending, perhaps I don't have the intellect to comprehend it. In their defence, spiritual texts themselves are nothing "but words", to echo a character from the third film, open to interpretation and obfuscations, and don't always yield simple explanations of life as known by a human - so one needs to put in the requisite intellectual homework to comprehend any philosophical (m)utterings before refuting or disparaging them - be it God or a couple of filmmakers.
Anyway, too much was expected of the film's philosophical content - the trilogy no doubt provided a lot of fodder for thought and debate, but people had no right to expect grand revelations at the end : a pop explanation of our lives in a total of about 8 hours isn't easy to achieve. People may have liked a complete set of answers at the end of the film like we had in our maths textbooks, but that wouldn't have been in keeping with the internal filmmaking logic of the series.Still, there was enough to take home from Revolutions, though some of the loose threads are still tripping everyone up.
Moviewise, I found the grandiloquent exercise in the effects quite exciting, the watching-a-video-game-played-by-someone-else effect notwithstanding, though the extensive Zion bang-bang battle was overstretched, IMO. All the while, we couldn't wait to get back to Neo and Trinity in the parallel thread, for wasn't it clearly established that that's where the key to the battle would lie? Also, the final denouement with Agent Smith (so clearly established by the rain-soaked trailers) also beckoned once the film got into its last hour. They could've spent more time further embellishing the ultimate question-of-questions: of Neo's purpose.
The soundtrack with all the Hindu shlokas and chants (I thought the Asatoma Sadhgamaya (a.k.a Navras) piece was quite appropriate given the final sequences) was quite unexpected - with credits to Don Davis and Juno Reactor.
Still, the trilogy has come a long way - a great exercise in a complex plot that may have bombed without a trace if it wasn't for the now legendary visual sequences. So my favourite episode? Visually speaking, it would be the First - it will be remembered as truly pathbreaking. And surprisingly, in terms of content, I really liked Reloaded. I didn't think the plot would develop further after the first movie as in four years, for the tough concept would have finally sunk in and I didn't believe anyone would try to crank the esoteric plot any deeper. But that's exactly what they did. And probably paid the price too for it too - as it led to an uncontrollable and unsustainable tangle of ideas, concepts and questions that may prove to be the doom of the Revolutions.
Maybe my opinion will change after steps 6 & 7.