Dec 27, 2008

Ghajini - the anti-review

Where am I? Who am I? More importantly, why am I wearing a purple jacket?

The last thing I remember is going into that indie theatre. This shifty-eyed bloke from Bradford gave me a ticket to this movie that he recommended. Have a look, curry-breath said. See if it reminds you of something.

It must have seared my memory, because all I feel now is this bloodcurdling intestinal rage. I felt a sticky something on my forehead. A Post-It. "jacket your Beneath." I wasn't in the mood for a prat's idea of a joke, so I crushed it into a ball and flung it outside the window. Which is when I looked at the ceiling. It read: "read everything in reverse, you eejit." There was even a footnote: ".above the except". I ran down and rushed past a bored looking receptionist.

After an hour's search, I found the crumpled note. Then, I thumped my head (made the throbbing worse) and opened my purple jacket. Tattoos all over. Garamond, 40 pt. This must have been serious enough to bear the cost and pain of the serifs.

(Where am I? It doesn't look like London outside. We don't have yellow taxis and hot weather.)

I have looked at all the words. Except the ones on the back. I now also have a sprained neck trying to get a look at my back. What I know so far is this: a severe trauma has left me leaking memory like a RAM chip made in China. I am tracking someone. To kill. Or at least to demand a lengthy explanation. Thanks to the spread needed for the large font size, all I can read of the people who left me in this state is: "...i of Mahmud" and "killed was meme..." I need a mirror.

After two hours of intense confusion, I realise I need two mirrors.

Update: my feet say the cryptic words IMDB and nm0634240. Also, I seem to be wearing lots of white make-up and a clown's lipstick.

From the newspaper, I have realised this is Bombay. Under the bed, I notice several polaroids of a short, dark, moustachioed man. He is always behind another short, fair man clutching several moustaches and scissors in his hand. My hotel is opposite a hairdressers'. Do these guys work there? Disturbingly, an arrow on one polaroid points to the dark bloke and says: "They complete me".

Who the heck am I? Like some strange bug, I've been following two people using a memory like a full-sized golf course. I have a framed postcard of a big mountain on the table that reads "remember?". I keep tossing and turning at night. Nor can I sleep in the day - my head hurts from the roars of a cricket match on the telly that has just begun. I feel like a canary in a magic trick - will I die or will I be revealed to the audience's cheers? It is day but I'm still in the dark.

I remember something. It wasn't an indie theatre, but an Indi-theatre. And songs were playing. One thing is for sure. I'm taking no prisoners.

The short men have walked out into the open. Time to go.

Dec 26, 2008

26th December 2008

As promised, a short post on some of the items regarding the November attacks on Bombay that caught my eye in the last couple of weeks:

I got a lot of forwards and text messages asking me to light candles, show solidarity, and the like. That misinforming email about "article 49-O" got a renewed lease of life. Given this, Shekhar Gupta's essay on what he calls the chatteranti, for me, hit several nails on their heads. But since it advocates sober systemic changes in a time of raw anger, this article is unlike to do the rounds of mailboxes.
Our lives have changed, at least visibly. Security guards give you and your bags the once-over. I hope it's not just another aimless tick on the checklist. An example of how impractical this can get was in evidence at the Sawai Gandharva music festival a few days ago. Proposed security arrangements meant mobile phones and bags were initially disallowed, but on subsequent days, no one bothered. A very cursory check took place instead.
Intensely annoyed that:
a. An insignificant and faded public figure could easily hijack Parliamentary discourse, and that the rest of our politicians prefer to walk out rather that register protest and get back to discussing measures such as the anti-terror law.
b. I don't mind that lawyers object to representing the captured terrorist if they do so independently and conscientiously. But the Shiv Sena has no right to impose its morality on others. Well, just another black tick on a massive canvas of tar.
c. There still is an atmosphere of turf battles and blame assignments.
Are we close to war? I feel it's a lot of public posturing. Been trying to not buy into the hysteria. Conventional wisdom says sucking the Pakistani army to the Eastern border strengthens the Taliban in Afghanistan. A new line of thought says that's not such a bad thing - either Obama, as stated, goes after that side, or Pakistani society is in such grave danger of Talibanisation that it gets its act together. Hard for me to tell which one is likelier.
Apart from the anti-terror bill, I couldn't tell if any concrete steps have been taken. For instance, what about modernising arms and equipment for the police? When are the various NSG hubs going to be established?
Looking for information is like standing in front of a fireman's hose. I find the news media continues to be shrill, taking easy potshots at politicians and purporting to be on the side of the common person. However, to their credit, some media men discussed some troubling aspects from the highly criticised coverage during the operations (Storyboard, CNBC-TV18), identifying areas such as: 1. the callowness of some of the on-field reporters 2. a lack of commonly accepted standards 3. the easy access of information from various govt. and military sources 4. the pressing need for training politicos and others in positions of authority in handling the media
Last link: read an interesting discussion between a pair of Indian (Nitin Pai) and Pakistani (Ahsan Butt) bloggers (link via DesiPundit)
And finally: how many of us can do simple things in an emergency such as using fire extinguishers or administering first aid for burns? What does one do if caught near a potential bomb situation (not stand and gape, hopefully)? What is the ideal response to these kinds of situations? Most of us would have no clue.

Dec 12, 2008

All that glitters and some free gifts

It's been quite a year for A.R.Rahman (and with two weeks to go, there still seems to be more left!). 7 film albums released this year (Jodhaa-Akbar, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, the already forgotten Ada, Sakarakatti, Yuvvraaj, the much feted Slumdog Millionaire and Ghajini) and now Connections, his latest non-film album.

Not to mention awards: the LA Critics Association chose him for their pick for Best Score (the Slumdog again), and he has just been nominated for his first ever Golden Globe, in the august company of Hans Zimmer, James Howard, Alexandre Desplat, and (surprise!) Clint Eastwood. That's a trivia question prediction (until perhaps the Oscars list :-)). The Oscar march has truly begun.

Back to Connections. Karthik on his Milliblog points out how anyone not buying a Nokia phone with a certain kind of music service will just have to wait a while to hear the songs (in the legal way, at least). For now, you can check out the video for Jiya Se Jiya on Rahman's official site (warning: all flash content).

Which is where our friend Arnold, a.ka. Hugger-the-(not-so)-Horrible, should take note: the song features the concept of "Free Hugs" (read Arnold's first (zeroth?) hand report on the same). I wonder if I actually saw him in the video?

news courtesy the arrahmanfans yahoogroup

Dec 7, 2008

woh to bahut hii mahaan aadmi hai.n

kuch din pahale samaachar patr me.n paDhaa avashya calcutta me.n tiis-chaalis hazaar paagal unkaa darshan karne aadhi raat #Dum Dum airport# pahunch gaye thé.
::R.P. Ramprasad Dasharathprasad Sharma
About 30 years later, nothing has changed.

Dec 4, 2008

Wolpertian Elegance

In this article, the online magazine Salon describes Lewis Wolpert thus:
Like fellow British scientist Richard Dawkins, he's an outspoken atheist with a knack for saying outrageous things.
Like Dawkins, Wolpertis one of the leading biologists of the 21st century (not bad for a man who first studied civil engineering). But unlike the hawkish Dawkins, Wolpert seems to look more kindly at the nature of 'belief', which is summarised in a very interesting book that I'm reading right now.

This post is not about the contents of that book, but how its author's books have great titles. This book has a wonderful name: Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast, referring to the exchange in Alice in Wonderland where the White Queen reveals that to be her secret regimen in order to believe in impossible things.

Wolpert's previous book studied depression, of which Wolpert was himself a sufferer. Its title, in astonishing crispness, captures the essence of the ailment. It's called Malignant Sadness.

Dec 3, 2008

Memento, but not so mori

It's fading again. Refresh.

I'm not from Bombay. I belong to a place to its south-east, a place known (and sometimes ridiculed) for its smallness (of its size, of its ambition), its insipid rains, its lack of drive (and drive-ability), its surfeit of action-less opinions, and its cynicism. In short, its un-Bombay-ness. But it suits my temperament.

I've lived in Bombay for a total of 9 years. I don't understand the people there very well, the things they do to live in a place like that. But neither did I understand why my step quickened as soon as I set foot on its roads, why I never worried about how I would get to place B from A at any time of the day, or how friends there seemed a lot more willing to take on everyday grit. I don't know anything about the city's phantoms that get invoked each time something goes wrong, but how about something called 'the idea of Bombay'? That exists for sure. Anything that's been around for that long develops an all-permeating idea that its citizens buy into.

That idea is worth protecting, just as other good ideas are.

Set a reminder? An entry in your diary? A big X on your tear-off calendar?

There's a lot of anger. Distress. Finger-wagging. I'd like to blame people too. But I'd like to start with myself.

I do not participate in society's affairs beyond the usual limits. But is that such a bad thing? I'd like to lead my life the way I want to. All I ask for is the security and freedom to do so. I pay my taxes by means of earning an honest income. I have voted in every election since I turned 18. I am aware of traffic rules. I even sign online petitions when the urge takes me. Sure, I don't stand for elections or participate in rallies. I don't know what it would take for me to become more 'activist' - perhaps I never will. But I'm making a reasonable contribution to the land I happened to be born in.

But I do forget easily. Leave aside doing something about them, I don't even know what the progress has been in previous cases of distress to affect India. It fades away from memory. Who do you blame? Life is perennially news-worthy, so the news-men have to write about those things. My own life demands my attention like an impatient child. So who is awarded the contract to keep track? We think those faceless bureaucrats and in-your-face politicos ought to. But I can't tell if they are doing a good job or not - perhaps they foiled 99 major attacks, perhaps they were incompetent enough to let through the only attack ever attempted. I simply don't have all the information.

A tattoo! That's the answer. (Stop it now - don't be flippant).

So I ask myself: how will you not forget? How can you blame the others if you don't even remember to finger-point? It's quite possible people 'out there' are keeping an eye out, on my behalf. As a member of the un-involved masses, I'm going to try and change my own state of ignorance.

People have been saying: "we will not forget", "We will be there every week". I hope they do. But I find it hard to believe they will, and cross a certain critical threshold. Unless their lives change fundamentally in order to accomodate this zeal. It's hard to be that possessive about anger. So all I, inert participant with the limited means at my disposal, will try to do is this: each month's 26th, I will write a short post on this blog, summarising all that I will have read and tracked about in that month about what is happening re: the November attacks. I'll also try to note what the others, who have promised to remember, have done. I have no idea where I'll begin, for I have no capacity for primary research here. Perhaps on most occasions, I will only announce, yet again, my failure to do even this simple task. But I will try. If this menial task is beyond me, why speak of loftier goals?

The day in 1949 the Constitution of India was passed? Nope.

For me, 'terrorism' could be anything that scares me out of conducting my life in a reasonably independent manner. In essence, rioters, dangerous traffic conditions, gun-toting extremists, do all this. Of course, one is unlike another, and for most people, an external threat is more dangerous, with a bigger outcry. If the people of Bombay could show us how to tackle big demons, perhaps we little cousins might summon up the initiative to take on our lesser evils.

Back to the idea of Bombay. Cities change over a period of time, but Bombay's ideas have been steadfast. Others in the country seem to be (regrettably) leaving behind their own ideas and copying some of Bombay's. But all the more reason to nurture the original, for who knows what will take its place if that idea goes missing.

Finally, I'm not from Bombay. But there must be some traces of it in me. I was born in Bombay. On the 26th of November. The latest entrant to a list of dates that will live in infamy. But forever? Hopefully, some day we won't need to rememeber.

Dec 2, 2008

H. Sridhar's sound fades out

The credits of every A.R.Rahman album are extensive: featuring every significant contributor, from the voice on the backing vocals to that guitarist to the sound technicians. In course of time, this made names such as flautist Naveen and singers Dominique and Clinton Cerejo well known to Rahman fans. One such name was H. Sridhar, Rahman's sound engineer, who passed away on the 1st of Dec.

The men behind the mixers are easy to miss in the glories of the music director. Think of the crisp and crystal soundscapes that you associate with the music of A.R.Rahman and one of the people you are silently tipping your hat to is his designer H.Sridhar.

Here's an obit from The Hindu of the multiple National Award winner.