Mar 31, 2008

Unpleasantries Exchanged

Having not followed any TV for the last week (I didn't miss anything!), I didn't catch any of the hullabaloo over the sordid saga of Messrs. Tanushree Dutta and Nana Patekar. But now that events have been shrilly joined by Rakhi Sawant and worryingly, Raj Thackeray, the item (pun unintended) has bubbled up the news streams. The facts of the matter depend on whose version you choose to believe, but turning this into a "pride of maharashtra" issue is convenient for the MNS to pick up.

Now, I do not wish to jump to conclusions about anybody's 'character' but it must be said that Nana Patekar doesn't always inspire a great deal of confidence in making value judgements about him. For one, this (perhaps cultivated) image of a ruffian, from some of his film roles and his general demeanour is at odds with his seemingly cultural side, seen in his deep involvement with the Vasantotsav programmes. In fact, his presence as anchor was extremely irritating during Vasantotsav this year (report by Aditya Gadre here) and overshadowed any kudos due to him for being a pillar of the organisation effort. His verbal arrows (he often 'sledged' his own side), his several bad jokes, his reclining on a sofa *on* stage during the performances by some very respected names (he was only a gajraa away from completing the ensemble) and the constant attention-seeking behaviour (he didn't know to leave the performers and the audience alone) drove me to distraction and was a blot on an otherwise fine set of musical events. So it's hard to be sympathetic.

Don't get me wrong: I don't want to mix his creative side in this. There have been several noteworthy moments in his career, not least of all, the heavily under-rewarded Ab Tak Chappan, which is among my most favourite films of all time. Perhaps we should take the easy way out and simply blame the guy who thought "Horn OK Pleassse" was a great name for a film.

The great Failure post

Previously on failing

I remember the day this post was composed (I'm merely writing it down today). I even remember the time, give or take a few minutes. I had just finished taking one of the hardest exams I had ever had the fortune to attempt. The trouble was that there still was an hour and thirty minutes to sit out. I knew I had done all I could and no amount of staring at the paper or cajoling my brain was going to help. It wasn't a question of giving up the battle. It had been a slaughter and the duty of the slain body is to lie still and let the other warriors save their heads. It was the 28th of November, 2005, and it was about 10:30 in the morning.

I did not want to leave. The simple reason was that the instructor and both TAs, having finished clarifying questions (people had questions!), had nothing to do. I did not want them to see my paper and trace it back immediately to me. It would take them one swift pass over the largely drought-hit answersheet, even before I could step out of the classroom. I resolved to stay put, to do whatever it took to pass the next excruciatingly lengthy passage of time.

Some time later, I had my own version of Edvard Munch's The Scream on my notebook. Appropriate. Stratagems evolved during concerts endured as a child bubbled up onto the surface. I counted desks, heads, books, perhaps even pixels. I drew some more. Finally, I went back to the question paper. I stared at some Gaussians. Metaphors plunged down either side of the normal curve. I realised once again that I was pretty bad at taking failure.

My classmates will tell you that I've never liked to discuss question papers at the end of an exam, sometimes vehemently so. Why spoil the rest of the day when the inevitable silly mistake bursts into view? I am not very good at participating in things that could be fun but I think I'd suck at. It crushes me to suck. That Monday, I realised I need to learn how to suck. I can't go on failing at failure.

Some two years later, I still haven't been able to fail properly. This prevents me from doing things. Being awkward, being laughed at (gently), being found out, kissing the dust. I hide away. I admire those who plunge forth and trip, but seem to get better at staying up. Most of all, I envy those who just have it; sometimes they have it all. There were times when I'd rail at the unfairness of the world that chose to hand it out to a few while we, sweat cascading out of every pore, hands on knees while we draw in long breaths, toes stuck in the mud, watch as they canter away pleasantly. It doesn't help that I find it hard to confront my failures. I look away. I cross the street and hurry into the smog. There are people and places and times that remind of battles lost, making it harder to die another day. I'm not good at amnesia either.

Still, here we are, in the bulge of the bell curve, among those claustrophobic crowds. But remember: we make the successful ones look good. If we weren't around, you couldn't make head or tail of the victory graph. Perhaps, on top of the bump, in the middle of the tracing, we can see farther than you. It's improbable that we'd get there before you, but it's not impossible, right?

There were so many ways to look at my distraught answersheet. I'm not going to say that I chose only the noble and brave option of the gallant acceptance of defeat, the resolve to fight till another sunset, to salve the scratches. The pendulum shifts from mood to mood; towels have been flung and retrieved. But one thing is clear: the game is as yet afoot. The fat lady is still a petite lass who hasn't discovered the pleasures of icecream with walnuts topped off with sinful chocolate and has just begun practising her solfege. It's only fair that we re-calculate the scores at the end of full-time.

Mar 26, 2008

Goin' quizzin'

This Sunday, we're organising two open quizzes: one Entertainment and the other General.

All the details here or here.

Ad Nauseam

The unnecessary knowledge of Cabbie, Cabbie

The title song from Kabhi Kabhi (the Mukesh version) is undoubtedly a classic. However, I don't quite like it all that much, simply because I don't like Mukesh's voice all that much. The repetitive refrain doesn't help matters. I give it its due respect and move on.

Until now. Whatever little admiration I had for the song is being swiftly eroded each time this new and extremely obnoxious Vodafone ad plays on the channels (it plays a lot. A lotttt.) Hearing the song through the voices of several generations of vocally challenged males has induced a reflex not unlike Pavlov's dogs, but for opposite reasons.

For when the song shall play in the future, do not be surprised if my fingers are seen pressing the air where the remote's channel switch buttons would be. The song has been ruined, totally ruined. In my frazzled opinion, this is worthy of a public interest litigation.

Mar 25, 2008

Obits: The Final Quarantine, The Talented Mr. Minghella, The Wronged Man

Last week was full of goodbyes, starting with cricketer Bill Brown. Here are some more.

The Final Quarantine

By the end of his life, Sir Arthur C. Clarke was reportedly losing his memory, finding comfort in the distant wisps of the past. Perhaps this was the last and most personal of all his prophecies, a prescience signalled by HAL, probably the most significant fictional character he ever created, the epitome of the anthropomorphized computer. At any rate, Arthur C. Clarke himself is in no danger of being forgotten in a hurry by the world. To me, his writings always seemed to echo the seaside that was never far away from a man who had called two islands home for 90 years - unrhurried, eternal, with visible depth, and with promises beyond the immediate horizon.

I don't have a good appetite for full length science fiction, but I immensely enjoyed both Odysseys 2010 and 2061. There still are several of his fiction novels that I haven't read. His Profiles of the Future, found in a book exhibition, lies at the back of the book cupboard, unread. For, like with other sci-fi writers, I mainly preferred Clarke's short stories, which were succint and clever. My personal favourite, one that illustrates all the collective power of Clarke's neurons and fingers, is called Quarantine. It was written as a challenge, to fit a story on a postcard. From such little acorns do mighty oaks grow, as The Sentinel may testify. Someday, the oaks fall too, but seldom before a grand life.

The Talented Mr. Minghella

Dying relatively young was film director Anthony Minghella. I didn't like his most feted work "The English Patient", but I really liked the slightly underrated "The Talented Mr. Ripley".

The Wronged Man

Whenever I saw (or see) Raghuvaran on film, I always got this feeling that the man was criminally underused as an actor, and that he knew it himself. Yes, being mostly used a 'villain', he had to make outrageous roles look believable, and had to develop menacing tones and tics to keep him in business. If Amjad Khan was the gigantic baddie, Raghuvaran would be on the other side of the body mass index see-saw, who, to be evil despite his lankiness, had to have several layers of dark. Layers that would never really be peeled back.

Raghuvaran made his debut in the 'arty' Ezhavathu Manithan (incidentally, made by a relative of mine) but soon segued into professional nastiness, especially in opposition to Rajnikanth. He was usually urban, ruffled, not shying away from underhand treachery, eyes heavy (some say this was the effect of a drug habit) and dark. The odd Anjali apart, it seemed Raghuvaran, shirt out and in tall trousers, always ended up on the wrong side of things in this unjust world, not giving in without a fight, and not without making the hero look good, just about.

Cloudy days and a Flem-matic end

Cloudy days

These are times of suspicion in international cricket, and another little thread in the dark passage of play is the attempt to ask Sunil Gavaskar to either shut up or get out of the ICC's cricket committee. Something that this blog welcomes whole-heartedly, having recommended such a separation after growing tired of the Little Master's chuntering off the pitch while being embedded in the establishment.

A Flem-matic end

Joining the rest of the mid-30s pack (a list that includes Shaun Pollock, whom I forgot last time!) is Stephen Fleming who faced his last Test match ball today. He got out in typical fashion, having similarly wafted outside the stumps a couple of times earlier in his innings. It's a regretful individual career, but a critically acclaimed and lengthy captaincy regime. Fleming didn't exactly endear himself to all with some of the nonsense he spouted from time to time, but then we must consider that this was a man, whose every word and action was towards some tactical or strategic end, intended to give his slim but fighting units every advantage he could squeeze. I can't help feeling that a more successful career as coach, in the all-encompassing Woolmer mould, beckons somewhere down the road.

Mar 18, 2008

RIP Bill Brown

RIP Bill Brown and Mankading

Mar 17, 2008

How late...

How late...

Down the Simpsons' Garden Path

Down the Simpsons' Garden Path

Mar 2, 2008

Google Spam back to Alpha?

Google Spam back to Alpha?

The cool of the Coens

The cool of the Coens