Oct 31, 2011

Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige"

Manorama, six thumbs up - the sequel

Update (31 Oct 2011): WOGMA, the film review site is running "The Reel-Life Bloggers contest" on occasion of the site's 5th anniversary. Since the prizes are tempting and it gets me to pseudo-update my long-forgotten blog, I'm entering some of my reviews there. WOGMA is organising this with Reviewgang. Go visit them, and if you are the reviewing type, send in an entry.

This is about the time I went to see the desi noir Manorama 6 Feet Under the evening India was playing Pakistan in the inaugural World Twenty20 Cup. That meant a near-empty hall, an eerie suspense drama, and listening to an old couple discussing the movie. Read on.

Ho yaa Huu!

Update (31 Oct 2011): My last entry in WOGMA & Reviewgang's, two review sites who are organizing "The Reel-Life Bloggers contest" on occasion of the WOGMA's 5th anniversary. This is my last entry (for suffering readers' sake). Hope these posts do no harm to their Page Rank.

Khosla ka Ghosla is definitely a classic; if I may say so, in the Golmal league. Which is we will recommend it to the next generation and brush aside any objections they may provide as piffling trifles. A middle-class portrait of great quality.

Oct 30, 2011

Freshly "Pre-owned" stocks

First it was "pre-owned cars". Now its "pre-owned video games" (seen at Landmark, Pune). Further proof that the world of marketing is often in bed with the dictionary of euphemisms (this last phrase was a metaphor, by the way).

Suddenly, no one wants to say it like it is: the car is second-hand, the game was sold to us by someone else, that is just something the previous diner threw up. "Pre-owned" simply sounds corny. Before it was owned, it was manufactured, assembled, retailed, distributed, displayed, packed, thrown-away-at-never-before-seen-rates-at-export-material-reject-sales.

But before it was owned, it was never owned.

Try saying: "Oh, this is my post-owned car. I've had it for three years now. I'm thinking of selling it to a new post-owner and become a proud owner of a pre-owned car".

Soon everything will achieve new pre-ownership. The raddi-wallah, previously mistaken for a mere recycler, is actually an enabler of pre-owned items, a mobile purveyor of modern antiques. If information from 'trusted sources' is first-hand then grapevine data is no longer rumour, but 'pre-owned' gossip.

Try saying: "Oh, these undies are not second-hand, they are merely pre-worn".

We have an old car at home - we are its 3rd owner. That makes it a pre-pre-owned vehicle. It also sounds like a spiritual guru.

I suppose there is no point in continuing these rants; after all this is the land that also gave "prepone" to the world. I will wait to recycle them another day. Maybe the day I see matrimonial ads for "second marriages" claiming:

"Dynamic, fair, 42 (looks 30) /5"8', IIT-IIM. Innocent, issueless pre-married."

Till then, this is just pre-post-erous.

Oct 28, 2011

Say no, Rita (a review of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara ...)

(...with brief cameos by DCH and Aranyer Din Ratri)

Zoya Akhtar's Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, on the face of it, trades similarities with her younger brother's debut film Dil Chahta Hai. Both are about three friends finding insights about their life and their dreams. One of the many things that is common to both is the idea of a road-trip; while in DCH, it is just a pleasure trip, a great way to introduce a good song that lays out the attitudes of its characters, in ZNMD, it is the entire film (i.e. "the journey", lit. and fig.)

ZNMD is everything people initially accused of DCH of being. We took offence to DCH's nonchalant in-your-face affluence and its carefully coordinated blue-white hues. But as sense and time have prevailed over strangely moral indignation, we recognised in it something deeper: that life can often be complicated; it's not just the poor that have a monopoly on loss, sadness, and the obligations of relationships; and that poor little salad-eating rich slacker boys are human after all. (And it had *that* misdial scene.)

I doubt sense or time will be that kind to ZNMD.

ZNMD is like watching 3 hurdlers preparing to run a race, jostling for position, unsure of whether their legs would be up for the straddle. And then finding all the hurdles missing and the race reduced to a stroll through a lovely park.

ZNMD is a "for loop" of simple computations; where each character is allowed to iterate through his choice of lit. and fig. adventure, with a 100% guarantee of meaningful insight (or the storyteller will refund the money for the trip). In DCH, everyone loses something in their gain: Akash his pride and self-assurance, Sid his lady love, Sameer (presumably) his less complicated self. In contrast, here things unravel themselves in such technicolor hunky-dory-ness that you think that had they continued in Spain or gone to Greece for another week, the Eurozone debt crisis would have resolved itself with a shower of gold from the heavens.

Great plots demand conflict; they demand that its characters suffer. By all means, fling resolutions at them in the end, but put those hapless story puppets through the wringer. In ZNMD, even the potentially embarassing and revelatory meeting with a lost dad ends up being highly underwhelming. Hearts are purged of fear all too easily, love is discovered and conquered with ease, embarassments dissolve at the first sight of daylight. In short, the day is short and begging to be seized without a fight. So why should that interest me?

ZNMD is a visit to the nearest convenience store, where distress turns out to be the inability to find fresh Shiitake mushrooms, conveniently resolved (or your money back, remember) by finding it in the hands of a pretty girl in the neighbouring aisle, who decides she is willing to walk with you into the sunset (or out to the parking lot) forever.

And there's not even a queue at the payment counter. Cease the day.

Post Script: Earlier the same week, I saw Satyajit Ray's "Aranyer Din Ratri". Strange as it sounds, there are parallels to be drawn between these two films. In both, a set of friends decide to escape into less familiar, more natural environs. There they have experiences that change them fundamentally. Both sets find and lose love, and both are principally character-driven plots.

But see how, in the hands of a master, the characters are deeply revealed to us, how life is revealed to be complex but worth engaging with, where loss is balanced with insight. All this without, IMO, being any less entertaining.

All images from Wikipedia

Oct 25, 2011

The Tamil Diwali - a SiNi-matic experience

Many people ask me why is it that the Tamil Diwali (or Deepavali as it's more likely to be called in the land) starts at 4 am with an oil bath and ends at 6 am after some crackers. This is not the case and I will attempt to undefame this (possibly North Indian) defamy.

(image: Geetham.net)

The simple and practical purpose behind getting your Diwali chores out of the way is so that we can indulge in the Sun TV Deepavali 'sirappu nigazhchigal' (i.e. 'special programmes', as you unentangle your Northie tongue after an ill-advised attempt to pronounzh that). In fact, some dispassionate but misguided anthropologists have even been led to believe that this communal partaking of the dawn-to-dusk Sun TV feast is the true essence of the Tamil Diwali. (Some rascally fellow has also submitted a thesis saying Naragasuraa, was misheard on his deathbed: he wanted us to do 'videos', not 'vedis'. This is just more defamy.)

In reality, this is how things unfold. A week before Diwali, Sun TV will begin announcing its line-up of this year's SiNis (Ed.: carpal-friendly abbr.; its similarity to "Cine" is purely coincidental).To make sure each and every viewer of Sun TV is able to by-heart the schedule, the kind souls in charge of programming will show this lineup every 15 minutes. This often means that the 9 pm nightly soap will start the next day at 6 am, instead of 10 pm the same day.

One of Sun TV's core beliefs is eternal consistency ( which is why they only recently began accepting the helio-centric theory of the solar system), so each year, the SiNi line-up is the same:

  1. Nadaswaram (a.k.a. Nagaswaram) performance
  2. Devotional Carnatic song (preferably by siblings)
  3. Spiritual guidance (depending on judicial status of seer's police cases)
At this point, Sun TV will lean heavily on our rich (5000+n)1 year-old cultural heritage i.e. 21st century Kollywood. The schedule becomes:
  1. Interview with Tamil Music Director
  2. Interview with reigning Tamil comedy superstar (i.e. Vadivelu)
  3. Interview with the super-talented cast of a about-to-be-super-hit Tamil film releasing today

At this point, we will have one hour of the 'paTTi manDram'.

The 'paTTi maNDram' is literally 'the debate forum' in which several Tamil professors will humourously discuss serious topics such as:

  • Who watches more 9 pm nightly soaps: daughter-in-laws or mother-in-laws?
  • Is the use of soap by daughter-in-laws antithetical to our (5000+n) year-old heritage?
  • Mother-in-laws are more likely to break-up the home after watching the 9 pm soap: True or False? Comment with references to 9 pm soaps (one 8 pm soap rebuttal allowed)
  • What is the correct spelling: mother-in-laws or mothers-in-law?
One hour of lively debate by the professors with humorous interruptions by the Chair (a gentleman called Solomon Pappaiah) ends with victory for the mother-in-law or the daughter-in-law (ever since records were kept, the scoreline has been 37-32 in favour of the m-i-ls). Just how wildly popular these debates are can be judged by shots of wild laughter from the audience in the debate hall (even after an ad break) and that the speakers and the Chair often get to have wild cameos in Rajnikanth films. (See example paTTi maNDram video

After such cerebral sparring, the rest of SiNis are:

  • Afternoon Film (from two years ago, which was aired last year)
  • Interview with star (not superstar, mind you)
  • Recitation by superstar poet (i.e. Vairamuthu)
  • Interview with reigning heroine (who speaks one of Punjabi, Tulu, Gujarati, Marwadi, Czech, or Dogri)
  • Evening Superhit Film (that flopped last year)
  • Interview with editor/sound recordist/art director (the South takes its technicians very seriously)

    An important note about the film is that it is never just a film, but a <dramatic>"Film that is being telecast on TV for the first time in this universe or any of its parallel universes"</dramatic>

    And there are two in a day. It really must be Diwali.

    The great thing about Sun TV is, as we have already remarked, its remarkable and secular consistency. To ensure people aren't put off balance, it follows this same template for Pongal, for Vinayagar Chathurthi, for Christmas, and other festive days. For Tamil New Year day, it gets even special: by interviewing A.R.Rahman, Vijay, or Dhanush. Or if we are very, very lucky, Vadivelu twice.

    And people say the Tamil Diwali ends at 6 am.

    1. (the linguistic constant 'n' is introduced to ensure that Tamil remains older than Sanskrit or Proto-Aryan or Trans-Elvish).
  • Oct 13, 2011

    "A cricketing theory of Indian quiz groups"

    In which I make unwarranted comparisons between two domains of personal interest. At the BCQC blog.

    Might as well use the blank space on this blog to tell you that we at the BCQC quiz regularly at COEP (for whose Boat Club it is named). There are informal quizzes almost every weekend (such as this Saturday, at 1:30 pm) and formal quizzes once a month, to which there are no fees or major restrictions. We're on Twitter, on Facebook, on a blog, and are getting our site up back again from its Van Winkle slumber.

    It's a good place to learn new things, revive old memories, watch some silly people talk, and have a weirdly interesting time without illegal stimulants (at least during the quiz; what happens afterwards is not official).

    Oct 2, 2011

    The 1Z Quiz

    As some of you may know, I've been running a daily quiz blog called "Infinite Zounds". It's been exactly a year since the blog began, and so, to mark this milestone, I'm also running a trivia contest for about a week.

    If this sort of thing interests you, head here to know more.