Sep 30, 2003

Either my eyes have completely lost it or I'm quite right in saying this: why do the actors and actresses (usually the younger ones) on Hindi TV soaps look so identical? To the point of being almost undistinguishable, No, I am not seeing the same actors everywhere (this was true a few years ago), I can barely tell them apart and I would think twice before swearing on oath. This is especially true of the ladies: impeccably made up with not a strand of hair out of place (if it looks like that, it's on purpose) even if the husband's affair with the vamp (you can tell her as the lady who looks like she also does part time kathakali complete with the heavy and bizarro makeup) has been revealed. With designer Prafful saris and jewellery as if each day was a wedding, our slim TV ladies add 3.5 kilos with just the makeup and wardrobe. Not that their husbands/brothers/devars/chachas are far behind: thirteen kurta-pyjamas or salwars are apparently the minimum amount, with matching angavastrams and kolhapuri chappals. Baby faced and all gelled up, our men are ready to ward off the advances of scheming business rivals and evil aunts.

Methinks there is only one actor and actress in all TV serials that play all the roles. Viewer myopia and CGI means that a lot of money can be saved. Never underestimate Indian TV.

Sep 29, 2003

A trip to Bhopal over the weekend meant touching down at Habibganj railway station (the Habibganj station is to Bhopal what Shivajinagar is to Pune station, if you know what I mean). This station recently became India's first ISO 900x certified station, and I was curious to see what this really meant. In the 10 minutes I spent there, I couldn't discern any notable differences from others. The station was neat and clean, but I assumed these guys would be following (consistently) some standard practices, but judging from the fact that no one bothered to check our tickets as we exited, I guess the processes cover other kinds of things.


I don't really like to travel: that applies to all kinds of travel, local or otherwise. Usually, it's got a lot to do with my fretting too much about things. I adjust pretty well to circumstances, but I wish I wouldn't. Rail travel still remains painful, and my recent to-and-fro had most of the accompanying irritants of a second class sleeper fare: untidy compartments, people occupying/sharing/trespassing berths, leaking and decripit accoutrements and messy passengers. I have always travelled 2nd class (except thrice last year), so I know the score. But should one always settle for a chronic ailment? Shouldn't I expect better facilities all round?

Rails in British India had an Intermediate class between Second and Third. Now we have a First Class (technically a Second A/C with 2 tiers & 3 tiers), a Second Sleeper and others. My experiences with the Second A/c have been equally unhappy: musty compartments and an A/C whose setting only has two options: OFF or TUNDRA, which means my health goes for a toss. I wish we had another Intermediate between the A/C and the Sleeper which basically provides an attendant to keep some order in the coach and which also guarantees that the facilities are tolerable. I'm sure that people wouldn't mind paying the extra costs as long as they don't differ as much from the Sleeper class as the A/C & Sleeper usually do. Or else people will continue to dread being allotted seats from 1-8 or 65-72, which are the seats closest to the stench.


When no one except a handful of elders know what is going on during a pujai, the occasion often slips quickly into a farce with even the vaadyaar growing increasingly irritated at the participants being wholly incapable of following his instructions of when, where and how to make the offerings to the religious representations. No one seemed too embarassed by this ignorance, and were quick to offer the usual "it doesn't make any sense these days". The question remains: why perform the religious function if we are so unwilling to do it with even a basic degree of interest, competence, propriety and belief? I ask this of myself every AavaNi Avittam (when we change our sacred threads) when I mumble the shlokas and want it to get over soon. If Hinduism is in any crisis at all as some claim, perhaps it is because of its leniency. But before we condemn or cast away these "anachronisms", shouldn't we first engage in a basic (if not deep) study of what it all means?


I'm one of the youngest in the collection of paternal first cousins, which means that right now most of my cousins have been married for a while and have kids of their own. I can get to be a chittappa or a mama depending on the relations, but as most of my cousins know me from my diaper days, they don't quite encourage their children to call me with any of those appellations. Nor do I mind it very much, I don't care if they call me by first name. So most of my nieces and nephews call me by name or by anna as they tend to be 6-10 years younger than me, which is lesser than the difference between my age and many of my cousins. I was pointed out to one of the latest entrants to the set of nieces as a chittappa, but then they all decided that I was too young to be one. I think I should remember this if ever I start feeling the passage of age on my next few birthdays.

Sep 26, 2003

Didn't think of these lines until I found myself thinking of a friend as follows:

If Life was a Farrelly Brothers movie, she would be Mary

Train of thought chugged its way to what I think could be a useful psychological tool :-), describe yourself as something/someone in a certain context. It doesn't have to be an exact fit, but a close appromixation. Objectivity and candour required too. And so...

* If life was the Australian cricket team, I'd be Damien Martyn

* If life was a Mani Ratnam movie, I'd either be Mohan in Mouna Raagam or Anandam in Iruvar

* If life was the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I'd be Ford Prefect

* If life was a Walt Disney cartoon, I'd be Hewey, Dewey or Louie

* If life was F.R.I.E.N.D.S, I'd be the Dermot Mulroney character

* If life was a Hrishikesh Mukherjee film, I'd easily be Dr. Banerjee

* If life was a Tintin comic, I'd be King Ottokar

* If life was the Indian cricket team, I'd want to be Rahul Dravid, but I don't really know who I would be

* If life was the Manchester United team, I'd be Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

* If life was the Oscar Awards, I'd be Richard Attenborough

* If life was the ATP tour, I might be Patrick Rafter

* If life was a nation, I'd be India

* If life was a vehicle, I'd have to be a Kinetic Honda

And now you can laugh! Until I think of more that is!

Sep 25, 2003

Coursing along the intranetwork, I found a large collection of Western classical music by most of the masters. I've always wanted to get acquainted with the fugues, C minors and D majors, symphonies and concertos, so here's my chance to hear what I call non-intrusive music.

Sep 22, 2003

Faux News bulletin

(You know it's time if it's faux pas nine!)

Newcomers impress, oldtimers consolidate

From our Sports correspondents in Bangalore and Chennai

The gains were there for all to see at the recently concluded high profile domestic cricket clashes in the Challenger and Irani Trophy. Designed as an opportunity for newcomers to showcase their talent and to give the seniors a run after a long break, these two contests showed the public the deep pool of talent that lies in the Doordarshan commentary panel.

Prominent among the youngsters making their debut on the airwaves were former Tamil Nadu opener W.V.Raman, while Venkatesh Prasad and Yashpal Sharma made their comebacks in an impressive fashion. Other voices that stood out were Delhi bi-glot Atul Wassan and L.Sivaramakrishnan who has a few Tests and numerous one-dayers under his belt. Speaking to Faux News, Narottam Puri, recently appointed the Chief Talent Scout for DD Sports, said he was quite satisfied with the form shown by the panel. "It makes selection for the upcoming series very difficult, but the selectors are happy to have this problem". According to Puri, though most of the team pick themselves, there were still a few places open.

Raman, joining the ranks of those who had exchanged one kind of box for another, namely the commentary box (also known as the "voice box" in DD Sports slang) said he was happy to be picked after languishing in retirement for a long time. Though there has been criticism about the young man. Critics point out that the former opener known for his lazy elegance on the field has carried this laziness to his new vocation. Sources confirm that the quietly potbellied Raman refused to walk down to the field to interview Siddharth Trivedi and Vinayak Mane, and then took umbrage at one of his North Indian colleagues mis-pronouncing his name as "Raman" (as in Raman Lamba) instead of the South Indian fashion of "Raaman". Puri dismissed the incidents saying that Raman was an asset to the team with his keen eyesight, following the direction of the ball even when the sophisticated DD camera was unable to do so. But Raman would find it difficult to break into the Test team, for fellow Tamil L.S (or L.S.Ramakrishnan as he was fondly referred to by Yashpal "Yash" Sharma), already occupies the Zonal berth, but can the selectors afford to ignore this exciting talent?

Wassan, on the other hand, returned fresh from a stint on Star News and NDTV 24x7 where the channels were reportedly bowled over by his all-round capabilities: he can speak fluently in both English and Hindi, sometimes opting to speak in both of them at the same time. He was given the responsibility of lead anchor and seems to have grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Sharma, on the other hand, had a horrendous start to his campaign by insisting that it was Sachin Tendulkar and not Anil Kumble who was captain of India A, but made up with his keen narration of historic Irani ties, including the one in 1984 where two umpires collided at midwicket while walking in opposite directions at tea.

Probably the most sensational comeback was by Venkatesh Prasad. Often lambasted for his halting style in his last appearance at the World Cup, the Karnataka pacer came back from his ten day training session with speech guru Sabira Merchant having lost his trademark long pause (his pause now measures 1.38 secs as against his World Cup average of 2.89 secs) and with an enriched vocabulary. So impressed has he been with Merchant that he has reportedly asked DD Sports to engage her services at the next camp. Prasad had also gone back to the drawing board, taking the mike at the U-19 Cooch Behar tournament to get some valuable match practice.

Overall, Indian commentary is looking up, a fact that makes Puri very happy. Puri also denied rumours that DD Sports was looking to get Ruby Bhatia on board, stating instead that veterans like Anju Mahendru or Neena Gupta with their historic cricketing ties would probably be approached, but only in the next year or so. As for the DD Sports commentary team, their next international assignment would be the Test series between the women cricket teams of India and New Zealand in November, which would further establish their claims to being a world-class outfit.

With inputs from PTI

Zohra and Zoya clash

by Zeenat Zia

The old lady is in a rage. Fuming red like a chilli appearing on Tandoori Nights, Zohra Sehgal, the grand old dame of Indian cinema (or "Bollywood" as Indian cinema is often known as) went public with her spat with Zoya Akhtar. In her interview on Zee TV's Zay Zomething!, the octogenarian Sehgal who once famously declared that it was s3x that was the secret of her life, spoke out on how she had been asked to play a "great-grandmother" in Akhtar's upcoming film, as yet untitled. "Am I that old that she asks me to play a par-daadi?" asked Sehgal, who has had tremendous success as a grandmother who usually turns up at reel-life weddings from Delhi to London to feature in ritual and celebratory dancing. The veteran of such films like Dil Se (in which she had an item number to a Rahman song) and Bend it like Beckham was also miffed at Zoya Akhtar deciding to drop a proposed solo dance number which had been the reason why Sehgal consented to reading the script in the first place.

Akhtar could not be reached for comment, but brother Farhan who is assisting her on the film did not deny the allegations by the senior artiste. Farhan claimed that Zoya had instead offered extensive and additional wedding scenes to placate Sehgal. Sehgal, however, has had enough. "I've taken their **** so far because of Javed, but no more", referring to her well-known affection for Zoya's father Javed whom she often helped to burp when he was a baby. So what will the two ladies do in this filmi catfight? Watch this space for more on this story and other spicy Bollywood gossip!

Jest like that!

Q: What would Sachin like his image to be like after the Ferrari controversy?

A: Squeaky Clean!
Contributed by Faux Muddler

Though the match turned out to be more than a fruitless selection exercise or practice session and had its exciting moments with a tighter finish than most expected after lunch on the fourth day, much about the Irani trophy re-inforced the following:

* Never underestimate a player called Rahul Dravid and his fighting qualities.

* Even more so, never ever underestimate a player called V.V.S Laxman when he is batting on Indian pitches, even in the last innings.

* Don't think lightly of the bowling capabilities of a team called Mumbai, even if you're tempted to think it can only bat.

The Irani trophy, to the pessimist, had a lot to moan about too: A team full of India's top batsmen were bowled out for 202, Yuvraj Singh thinks it's best to hit his way out of trouble (needs more five day games, I guess), Tendulkar had a problem with a left-armer angling it away, the wicketkeeping was ordinary, and even domestic bowlers can bowl it short and make the Indian captain look all tangled up.

Sep 20, 2003

Hail thee: The most serenest Sri Dhananjai Bikram—"I am the greatest monk of all time".
A set of links devoted to the one of the greatest (if not simply THE greatest as is the popular opinion), most complex (plot- and technique-wise) and easily pathbreaking films ever made:

*A Viewer's Companion to 'Citizen Kane' which explains among others, Deep Focus, Visible Ceilings and Matte Drawings

* The CITIZEN KANE Review by ROGER EBERT (spoilers present: watch it first!)

While you're at it, you might want to walk through Ebert's reviews of other great movies including The Apu Trilogy.

Sep 16, 2003


Subhash: Jay, can I speak to you for a while? In confidence?

Jay: Sure, why not. Go on.

Subhash: This is something that has been troubling me for a while, and I absolutely need to talk to someone about it, in fact you're the only one who'll probably understand best. It's about Mohan, actually, Mohan and you and me.

Jay: About Mohan? Mohanji? Ok.

Subhash: Well, have you noticed how he always seems to criticise me in the public meetings? I've always taken it as a blessing from my elder, that he actually pays me the compliment of complaint: for others, he wouldn't even bother. You know how we, especially you and me, have grown under his spiritual leadership. But of late, I can't understand this constant finger-pointing: he doesn't tell me anything in private, but I find it strenous to keep a devoted face when he is telling the audience what is wrong with my policies all the time.

Jay: Well Sub, you know how Mohan is. And you know how we've given him a special place in our minds, inspite of some others laughing at our supposed puppy-like devotion.

Subhash: I go about in each meeting, invoking his name, not to make capital out of it, but out of genuine affection. But I feel I deserve some respect in return too, I think I've earned it. I can't always sit through what sometimes seems to me as unjustified tirade, you know. Sometimes, in the heat of it all, I can only see his own foibles. I feel a strain is building between us, something I don't want to encourage, but is developing nevertheless. And... and there's you.

Jay: Me? You can tell me, I won't have any hard feelings. You know that.

Subhash: Well, you see, he never seems to run you down. I know he is much closer to you, and that your ideas and policies coincide much more than Mohanji's and mine do, so you're probably his heir in that sense. If not heir, then atleast his favourite son in the Party, the son who he turns to to first. Whereas I, who crave for his attention too and never get it and so try double harder to impress, look at you with envy. I'm being candid here, you know.

Jay: I've noticed his questioning remarks, but I really, really don't think Mohan has anything against you. But let's assume he has somehow developed a feeling against you. Now why would that happen? Would he think that you were some sort of rival to his legacy?

Subhash (smiling): Now, everyone knows that's not possible. You know it too, even if you're trying to play devil's advocate. No one can ever measure upto Mohan: we both can never believe that we're going to meet someone who influences us quite in the same way.

Jay: I know, so I feel you shouldn't think about this too much. You know how he is, he says what he thinks, also he can speak such things about people whom he knows can take it.

Subhash: But, and I'm not trying to be personal, he never does that to you! We all say things about Ali, because fundamentally Ali is a different creature in his thoughts, he respects Mohan, but nowhere in the same way as us. But between you and me, he obviously prefers you. I'm just Ekalavya at best, you are Arjuna. I don't want to seem bigheaded, but I think I have done more things, more novel and innovative things for the Party, and deserve to be acknowledged leader of it after Mohanji. What he did for us cannot be forgotten, but everyone, he included, know it is time for the next generation. I think I've been doing most things related to the job. You have obviously had other distractions, no one blames you for it, distractions that have taken you to Geneva and hence away from the centre of things here. I've willingly, inspite of my health, taken on the chores that no one else wants to do except talk about. But I think I don't get the recognition from many, but the one that hurts most is not being patted on the back by Mohan. I really find myself being alienated.

Jay: I really don't think he is doing this consciously: it is his style, and you know it. I personally think you've done a tremendous job and that your bold steps have sustained this Party through some difficult times especially when Mohan was unable to be in the thick of things. I honestly don't know how to assuage your feelings. Doesn't Mohan himself say that don't be dependent on others, but be your own master? Perhaps you shouldn't be so affected by what he says and does, if you believe in what you're doing. He may be a Great Soul, but he is still human.

Subhash: You don't know what I feel, simply because you get his affection without asking. I can only be envious about it, but I must take some solace from what you say. I don't want to be great, sometimes I feel that obtaining his grace is worth more to me than many other achievements that may come. But I will always carry the regret with me. I can only hope that this discontent will never blow up fully and cause me to oppose our mentor, but I cannot promise it. What I can promise, however, is to never forget how he, and you too in some measure, made a great difference to my life, and may I never do anything to whittle its importance.

During the course of a conversation with Harish, the thought of how one's interests can sustain one's life came into discussion. However boring or tumultous or insignificant or worthless or exciting or pathbreaking one's own life and each day in it may turn out to be, hobbies can really provide a welcome relief, with arms open always. If you like to read, or watch films, or listen to music or take up some activity that you can do by yourself with not too much investment, and also without needing too many people to perform, you can be reasonably assured of having enough to do in those 1 or 2 hours (or even lesser) each day that you may get to indulge. The point here is that there will always be good books that you haven't read or someone will (despite the general despondency concerning the opposite) make a good film now and then. Even our general cynicism concerning the general state of affairs of human existence cannot deflect from this: there are so many people attempting to progress art and science that some of them are bound to succeed. So even if my own life isn't one that is bound to make any significant contribution to mankind, I can still go back to the refuge of the things of beauty that others before me have left behind: an advantage having being born so many thousands of years since history started being recorded.
There lies white

They expect us to wear a sari. Nonsense. And if I may be allowed to sound more un-ladylike, <blip> and more blip a.k.a what a load of c ! and more.

The others might wish to conform to such stereotypes, which to my mind are nothing more than some ancient sod's drunken excesses splashed all over his excuse of a brain. You may say I'm overreacting, but listen, all my life I've rebelled against dress codes and cultural straitjackets: legendary are the stories of my tantrums, my hangers of unwashed jeans, my tee-shirt with the not-so-subtle admonition plastered all over the front for the world to see. And you expect me to wear a garment, of which the only way I know how to put on is to twirl myself holding it straight, rather than the other way around.

Ok, I wore it at times: the mytho play where I played Shakuntala (difficult to imagine, I know, but hey, I fancied myself as an actress, and the white folds tucked into my waist were very appropriate, not anything like now). Or when I went to meet his parents (this was for the second time; I had made it very clear I wouldn't change myself for the first impression: why go about jerking people, when all I would want to do in their house, when and if I got there of course, was to change from my heavy Kanchipuram with full jarigai into a cool white kurta and my trademark blue jeans). We all know how that turned out, don't we? Look at me and weep!

I don't know why, but all this has meant some sort of undecipherable ire when I see those voluminous things they call saris being paraded in ads, or people saying it is the most graceful and (this is the crux) the safest or honourable thing I can put on my body. Puh-leaase! Have you seen any of Saroj Khan's dance numbers? If someone wanted, they could make peeping Toms cringe with anything they wear, even if it had the surface area of Russia. Anyway, fat use is security to me now. I can't see anyone doing anything to me now!

Another thing that gets my goat is people simply assume I'm the type who loves the night out, just based on my wardrobe. Though I admit I may lead everyone to that conclusion, but hullo, have you heard of the term "beauty sleep"? The odd midnight caper is ok, but I can hardly have that every other day. Dark circles, dear. And do you get cucumbers here? Fat chance. I am not averse to letting my hair down though, something I've always had a reputation for.

I still think I'd not want to draw any attention and just want to go about my business for the rest of my time here. Most of the guys and gals around me seem to have suffered from some sort of attention-deficit disorder all their lives. What else will explain their willingness to dress up and go out there in the middle of all those people? I think I've had enough of being a rebel, I think I just want to sit back and rest my head on my tombstone instead of putting on a white sari, untying my not-so-long tresses just to give some poor soul (or am I the poor soul? ha! ha!) a good scare. Let sleeping dogs lie, I say. If you really want me to do it then, then no saris please. My jeans please, that would make it all normal, and so conversely more frightening. Though these guys would never get the idea of it all. Tells me that I must keep my choices open then, for isn't it a known fact that while here they think of brooms at the very thought, in England they pay money to see the likes of me?

Sep 13, 2003

Fields apart

One of the best ambassadors the game of cricket has seen in the last 10 years is quietly packing up his cricketing kit for ever: the fantastic Jonathan Neil Rhodes on life after cricket.
This year, I've been writing down all the movies I've watched for the first time (in the footsteps of Sammy sir): the total is 72 so far. In some sort of Heisenbergian sense, this under-the-microscope observation has coincided with the year in which I've easily seen more movies (breaking personal records for movies watched in theatres, on TV, on VCD) than ever before. But reading the review of the documentary Cinemania by Roger Ebert (Quite the year for documentaries in the U.S.) was an eye-opening experience. Excerpts:

"Cinemania" tells the story of five New Yorkers who spend as much of their life as possible going to the movies. ... These are not crazy people. Maladjusted and obsessed, yes, but who's to say what normal is? ... They have the screening times and subway schedules coordinated to maximize the number of movies they can see in a day, and Jack deliberately eats a constipating diet (no fruits or vegetables) to minimize trips to the restroom... "A commitment to cinema means one must have a technically deviant lifestyle," Jack acknowledges. That includes being able to avoid the tiresome necessity of earning a living...


Sep 8, 2003

Mu.ngDaa Mu.ngDaa...

Chaandii ki Daal par sone ka mor...

There's a good chance that if you were in Pune and found yourself in the midst of loudspeakers blaring the above songs that you were at the headquarters of the local brass band about to practise these paarty-shaarty songs at the next wedding. Even more likely, however, especially if the month was September, would be that you were at your neighbourhood Ganpati pandal.

The only time I stayed up all night and ventured into the vargaNi crowds in the City was three years ago, where I found, like everywhere else, the preponderance of the Lord being heralded by some incredibly awful and kitschy music. I know the time is also that of a social occasion, but it should also be spiritually uplifting, should it not? There is in my mind, no excuse for louts dancing crudely in misstep to the latest chartbuster. Thankfully Tilak isn't in a grave, left to turn. I'm sure he could make an exception for other places and let loose a thunderous tirade to express his anger, but his beloved Pune? It would break his heart too.

OK, I don't participate too much in the festival myself, so I don't know if it should preclude me from armchair criticism. But hopefully (and someone like my friend Nikhil who lives in the eye of the storm should be able to confirm this) they're not playing ChaDtii Jawanii and Kaa.nta lagaa this year. In these times, I think I'll take this much devotion.

A good day at the library

Last Sunday was one of those days when you walk into the library and there are so many good books which you can't all take at the same time. Quite a catch. R.K.Narayan's A Writerly Life was the prize catch, featuring selected non-fiction from the master essayist. I have a old copy of a collection of essays by Narayan called Next Sunday, which I absolutely treasure. I think he is the best writer of essays I have ever read. The Picador Book of Cricket, an anthology of cricket writing edited by Ramchandra Guha was Book 2. Another interesting read is titled Memories of Madness: Stories of 1947, containing Train to Pakistan, Tamas and stories by Sadat Hasan Manto including, I'm sure, Toba Tek Singh.

Sep 6, 2003

* Very, very interesting article (NY Times) on the (sometimes futile) quest for happiness.

* How to Talk About Israel (Needs registration)

Free ticket mil gaya ...

... is the only excuse I can trot up for having watched Koi Mil Gaya a few days ago. The movie is such a hit that I'm still smarting from the pain.

I really wonder how and why so many people liked the movie so much that it has become a moneyspinner. Most people who don't mind the movie were impressed by Hrithik Roshan's performance. Add the prefix "over" to this description and I will be mollified a little bit. My biggest grouse with KMG is that as I had suspected, it is comfortable in sticking to the stereotypical characterization of the mentally challenged child as a perpetual grinner. Only if I had been HR's orthodontist would I have been ecstatic at the display of his canines and molars. I find it difficult to be as tolerant as many other people on these matters: earlier, this wouldn't have bothered me so much, but why do these guys only copy aspects of the plot from E.T, Forrest Gump and (if you observed the similarities in the aliencraft's effects on the township) Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Why not take a leaf out of the acting dept. too? Once you've observed what Tom Hanks did in Forrest Gump, it is a little difficult to accept bad quality. Not that Indian cinema is hopelessly bad at this, evidence Naseeruddin Shah in Sparsh. But if the excuse is that Indian audiences will not accept underplayed and realistic portrayals, then it is a sad comment, isn't it?

Anyway, HR's attempt to alter his voice is commendable (shades of Kaho Naa... Pyar Hai), but I found the result grating. Preity Zinta shows no inclination to evolve as an actress. Because of what Karan Johan did to Bollywood with K2H2, every commercial film with a brood of kids must have a Sardar kid mouthing strange dialogues. Rekha is tolerable but why Johny Lever chose to play a Sindhi cop with one joke in a role that someone could've done anonymously is a mystery. The villains (led by Rajat Bedi) are reduced to objects of ridicule, especially their habit of turning up everywhere (even in a disco) with a basketball with which to bully the man-child Roshan. This manifestation cannot be over-emphasised, for they do turn up every 15 minutes with a basketball. Seeing is believing. Mukesh Rishi will have to keep playing the Muslim policeman after Sarfarosh, poor fellow.

If Hollywood aliens are green, our's are blue. These aliens have magical powers that they can transfer to others, but cannot use to save their own butts. These ecologically aware beings only work on solar power, and have an inbuilt indicator on their foreheads to show the charging process. Nevertheless, a decent attempt, unlike some earlier Bollywood sci-fi attempts (KMG is not the first) which only had dwarves with coloured makeup as aliens. (KMG also has a well known midget actor Chotu Dada (Indravadan Purohit) in a much better alien suit).

The scenes of the basketball match were hopelessly contrived, which is pretty representative of the whole screenplay which actually features four well known screen writers (Honey Irani, Robin Bhatt, Sachin Bhowmick and Rakesh Roshan). There was a brief flicker of redemption in the plot when HR knows he would lose his powers when the alien Jadoo returns, but helps him to escape anyway. This tyaag would have been a poignant way to end the movie, but just as we were getting out of our seats, the last frames show HR getting his powers back and a brief shot of the lighted spaceship is offered as explanation. Sad! And like most desi movies that feature computers in their plots, the result is often unintentionally hilarious (like Home, Joy, Jug-Dish). A huge plus is the photography and the splendid locales.

The songs were mostly awful (except for the title song) and why HR the child is considered to be a bad dancer in the pre-alien days is not clear, considering some of the steps he executes in some of his songs. Actually the only time I was enthused was when Rohit (this name joining the ranks of Raj, Prem and Vijay) the Restored goes into what I call his KNPH mode where HR can give vent to his amazing talents as a dancer and his attributes as a Bollywood hero.

I think HR is a talented performer, and liked his work in Mission Kashmir. But if only films like KMG are going to prosper, I won't be surprised to see him further shy away from doing better quality work. There weren't too many people (my first visit to the first multiplex in Pune, City Pride) in the hall, so might the distributor have said on spotting us: "Koi Mil Gaya!"? Not really, for the film has done well indicating that not many people agree with my views.

The World This Week was back in force immediately after its relaunch, featuring stories on Iraq, neo-cons shaping US Policy, the old segment on Newsmakers, all heralded of course by one of the most famous tunes on Indian TV, which IIRC, was composed by Louis Banks Loy Mendonsa (Thanks to Gopal for the correction).

The programme that catapulted NDTV to the forefront of quality Indian News programming had Prannoy Roy at the anchor's desk and ended with one interesting and hilarious piece featuring muppets of Dubya, Gen. Musharraf and a confused news anchor called I.M.Reddy. Poignant tributes were paid to Shivani (who used to produce TWTW) and of course Appan Menon, the bearded and curious correspondent who was the second most recognizable face from the TWTW team after Roy, and who died in his 50th year a few years ago. A very graceful re-start.

Quietly updated side-bar to add Anti, Deepali and LazyGeek to the list.

Sep 5, 2003

The World This Week airs today at 9.30 pm on NDTV 24x7.
Two days with Haribhai Magicwaalaa

Thanks to Samrat Sir's lending of book one in the series, I was able to read the first offering from KumbharwaDa. Or eschewing local lingo and BC-jokes, I finished reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (variously (and some would say "blasphemously") called Hari Kumbhar and Harry da Puttar: sorry if you're a Potter-fanatic).

I know I have been (by self-admission) unfair and uncharitable to the series without reading the book, but that was more targeted at some aspects of its commercialisation. I also know Rowling doesn't really need my approval, but I will unhesitatingly say that I found it quite readable and imaginative in its settings. IMO, there was more than a hint of traditional British children's literature as derived from Enid Blyton. Happily, Rowling doesn't patronise her readers, leaving them to unravel the wordplay behind The Mirror of Erised and its accompanying warning (or do I say: gninra wgniyna pmocc asti"). Also to her credit, she doesn't dwell on the differences between Muggle-dom and the wiz-folk, getting on to the plot without digression. It was always meant to be a big series, correct?

Another aspect is that the the visual creativity of the book readily lends itself to a movie adaptation, though as recorded here, I still feel the "Gryffindor (see? my orthography has improved!) have to win" requirement could have been handled differently. How about Principal D'dore awarding just enough points to tie scores with Sssslytherin and tying scores? Followed by a Quidditch match to settle the outcome? More Lagaan-esque perhaps, but then the occasion wouldn't be that of an end-of-term banquet, right? (sans wild-boar entrees (hog?) and singing bards).

Barbs apart, I will read the rest of the books as and when I get my hands on them. That is, if I haven't been vaporised or turned into a replacement pet for Neville by a fire-breathing Potter fan mad at my impertinence :-)

Sep 4, 2003

Impressive and Inspirational were two words that kept springing to mind after I watched this week's episode of Harsha Unplugged (which has moved to 8:00 p.m. on Wednesdays, allaying these fears). Featuring ace shooter and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardee Anjali Vedpathak Bhagwat, the episode highlighted once again the fact that there is more to Indian sport that we know.

The highly forthright, articulate and Marathi accented lady spoke on a lot of issues: how she started off in the sport, how the lack of infrastructure in India hurts sportspeople, what avenues exist to qualify for the Olympics (she has already qualified for next year's Games), what a rifle actually feels like, how heavy it is, how intensely technical the sport is (apparently, shooters try to eat very little before a match, otherwise the increased pulse rate affects how steady the shooter is), how close the competition is (differences are measured on the right hand side of the decimal point) internationally and so on. I knew she had been World No. 1 (right now she's Number 5), but didn't know that she's won a competition called Champion of Champions, which brings together both top men and women shooters for a mixed contest: quite an honour for the petite-looking but rather spirited achiever who began her career in the NCC.

I found her candour, her obvious desire to do well at the highest level, her attitude (she seemed very comfortable with her talent and pleased with her performances) very refreshing: she has done a lot to bring positive attention to this rather anonymous sport in India (along with Jaspal Rana). She obviously has a lot to offer and this highly talented lady is one of our best hopes at the Athens Games next year.

I've joined the ranks of her admirers and will follow her career more closely from now: wishing her a lot of luck and success.

More Mohanlal: Lots more on the 25 year old film career of one of India's best performers.

Sep 3, 2003

And now Jugraj

It's not a good time to be a successful Indian sportsman: Jugraj Singh was hurt badly in a car crash near Ludhiana, and was in a serious condition a while back. After Leander Paes and Baichung Bhutia, this is the third such event in recent days. India's penalty corner expert (in more ways than one: he not only takes the strike at the short corner but is also a vital defender when opponents have their penalty corner at the Indian goal) was highly praised at the recent Champions Trophy. Though still showing signs of immaturity (he scored off the penalty stroke in the bronze playoff vs. Pakistan, but rather stupidly gave away a corner that allowed Sohail Abbas to get Pakistan back in the game), he is a genuine star for India, and one can only hope he will back in time for some important matches next year on which depend our form and opportunities for the Olympics.

Having seen and enjoyed Snatch and having heard that writer-director Guy Ritchie's earlier film Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels was very similar to it, I was very keen to watch Lock.... I wasn't disappointed, though the two films are extremely close in plot ideas, storytelling, dialogues, settings, soundtrack and actors.

If you've seen either movie, then the other is easy to follow. Lock... has muskets, ganja and money instead of diamonds. There are enough guns and shooting raids to keep the American NRA happy for a long time. The dialogue is freewheeling, every kind of underworld rat appears in the movies, the course of events go the way of the protagonists (though Lock... is less kind than Snatch in this regard). You get a crash course in British accents, but none like the hilarious Brad Pitt version in Snatch. One will recognise some actors common to both casts, though Lock... boasts of an appearance by Sting. The story has the same kind of recipe: four guys (a little naive compared to the other "bounders") lose a game of cards due to a scam by a sleazy figure, and have to pay an obscene amount of money in a few days. Add to this, two other gangs pulling off different schemes, the usual crop of moronic thieves, one gangster and his young son (who is in training and who will be taking over the family profession). At one point their lives collide and, well, the fun begins. The soundtrack is engaging as usual.

The ending is a little more tantalising, but I still prefer Snatch. But Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is great too, so if you like Ritchie's no holds barred filmmaking, you'll like both movies.

If this news item is true, then I'll be happy and disappointed at the same time. Happy, because after years of threatening to do so, Mani Ratnam will be bold enough not to use songs (the music score in most of his films have been a big factor in his success, now Ram Gopal Varma will rightly be considered the pioneer in this regard in terms of contemporary commercial Indian cinema). Disappointed if they're going to call the Hindi version Yuva, which seems rather unimaginative, trite and pheeka, especially in contrast to the crisp sounding Ayudha Ezhuthu.
Top Ten Reasons for Tintin's Popularity around the World: wouldn't I like to be a Tintinologist too?
Since YACCS continues to be down for a few days now, no commenting appears on these pages. If anyone had anything to say, well, why not wait till the javascript is back in action?

Sep 2, 2003

This happened a few months ago, and though there's nothing earth-shattering about it, it wasn't very trivial too, and is something I will always remember for a long while.

Having had a late night at work on Friday, I came back home ready to hit the sack at the earliest opportunity. Before I nodded off, there was just enough time for my father to remind me that an agent would be coming over for some paperwork to do with some investments, and that she would in all likelihood be coming at about 4 pm on that Saturday evening. Immediately after which, I had one of the moments which Enid Blyton would've described as "he dozed off the moment his head hit the pillow".
And then came the dream.

I remember being woken up, probably by my mother. I look around, but nothing registers fully; there's a mass of fuzziness around the sides. Somehow I manage to look at the clock: I think it says 1:00. The next thing I remember is I'm walking, I think the agent has come and is sitting in the living room. I know I'm groggy, as if drugged, but I somehow walk to the living room, footsteps following an instinct for a familiar route rather than being guided by any vision (which seems to be malfunctioning). I nod at the person with the papers: she points to two that I need to put my signature on. I scrawl the signature on the first, it has just about come out decently. I know I have to sign again, and in a moment of clarity, I wonder if I would be able to scrawl it exactly the same way. It took all the miniscule amounts of concentration at my disposal to put the strokes and dots that constitute my signature. The fuzziness is now complete, having drained all my conscious energy.

I wake up, I have overslept and the time is 11:00. While brushing, the dream that I had slowly filters in. I can remember three basic aspects: the walking, the signing and the time. Obviously, the 1:00 had to be p.m. rather than a.m., further strengthening the fact that it was really a dream, and how I managed to make two signatures consistent with each other was the highlight of the dream for me. Other stuff happens and drives the dream out of my immediate thoughts.

It's 4:30 pm and the agent hasn't arrived. I'm impatient because I have to go out. I complain to my parents and ask how long it will be. They take one look at me and say: "Well, don't you remember? She's already come and gone in the morning at 9.00 am". Phooey! So it wasn't all a dream, it really did happen.

Thus for the first time in my life that I can remember, I wasn't able to differentiate between a dream and real life. The time on the clock that I thought I had read was what put me off: I must've misread it when I got up in that snookered state. The scary thing was: I could've sworn it was a dream. There was only a little element of doubt, so if you'd put me on the witness dock and ask to swear on it, I might've dithered. That too involving a question of signing something. That's probably how those guys who get drunk do bizarre stuff (like getting hitched in Las Vegas ;-) ) Rather wierd, for it will always pose a question: if I can't distinguish between a dream and reality, how can I be absolutely sure what's happening right now?

Probably, my very own Matrix-like moment.

Hope RKL gets better soon... not the best news to hear.