Dec 31, 2002

And goodbye to the longest six months of my life...!
I've been continually asked what the best moment of the Mastermind experience was, to which I would always say "None in particular". But the best moment just happened: I got a call from R.K.Laxman this morning telling me he watched the show!
I'll permit myself one "whoppee" for this :)

Dec 27, 2002

" "Hello. We're looking for someone who can make a fool of himself. Do you think you would be interested?" At which point the mysterious chemicals that bubble in my brain, having interpreted it as a good thing, something that would be fun to do, something that had to be done for social approval. relayed the message to the vocal chords: go forth and concur. And now it's time to go forth into the spotlight and proceed to complete the promise.I shall make a fool of myself, as advertised! But no martyr's badge for you, you volunteered..."
The not-so-secret canon of B. Wisenheimer
I have to learn to like all kinds of people more! One of the biggest problems is not being able to do that consistently. "And yes, don't get into something without assuring yourself who else will be in that activity" & "Go solo in creation,my boy! Freedom beckons. Else learn to get along." I forgot the lesson and shall pay for it.

Dec 25, 2002

"I know it's a random arrangement of muscles, skin, eyes, facial tissue (me no medical schoolboy, disregard the factual errors), nose, ears, curiously eddying points, clefts, arrangement of stuff made of keratin, melanin chromatics and other such stuff, but some of the faces are so interesting! Not necessarily stunning, but interesting! Not driving me mad, but distracting attention atleast for more than an instant. Worth the second glance, making me smile to myself. A look around at the refreshments table for those that do it, the moment of satisfaction, of the knowledge that beauty can be hidden, personal and in small enough packets to intrigue."
- The not-so-secret canon of B. Wisenheimer
Almost forgot: The semi final goes on air tomorrow on BBC at 10.00 pm with "repitt" (aah! woh pyaare din Workshop aur Fitting ke! COEPians will go into paroxysms of nostalgia) telecast on Sunday at dus, subah aur shyam. I enjoyed this round out of all the 3 best, mostly because my fellow contestants were such fine people to know. We got rather friendly and we were actually doing something that would approximate to a haka (within Mastermind decorum of course) just before the shoot. I wouldn't have minded losing to any one of them, they were that nice. So here's a toast to Meenakshi Ramesh of Mumbai, J. Krishnamurthi of Hyderabad and colleague Amit Garde of Pune (was representing Bangalore on MMI).
This definitely does not meet the Niranjan-Rule of blogworthiness, but it's a sorrow off my chest:
I'm so disappointed we didn't make the top two of the collage contest (PSPL's having a cultural week with a lot of different activities). This was the first time I'd done collage and I liked our effort. But let me be unfair and say that our shot must've gone over their heads. There was so much symbolism and arrangement. Damn!
Funnily, there has been a lot of "first time I've taken part in" in the last six months: turncoat debate, Antakshari (yep, never been there before), all with a good degree of success. So "law of averages" or "unprecedented luck" or "beginner's luck": one of you has got to take the blame...
How much I cry! Shame... Unsatisfied ingrate...
Where's the masala?
Ajit is an old COEP friend of mine. Almost all of my college-mates have very little interest in my blogging judging by their patronage of this blog (weep, weep) despite my many entreaties. So when Ajit seemed to have some free time (he hardly has any usually), it came as a surprise to me that he chose to check my blog out. Atleast that's what he told me. And what he further told me was interesting: that he was looking for something to start flaming on (he being an old warrior on the arson-friendly RMIM wastelands), but was disappointed by the lack of anything controversial worth his time. Some more background is that Ajit, Nikhil & I were project partners in our final year. We spent a lot of time (being rather of argumentative bents of mind with some very strident opinions in certain domains) arguing (at high decibel levels) about many points: the caste system, Tendulkar (i mean Vijay) & Nana Phadnavis, Lata Mangeshkar, Anuradha Paudwal, Amitabh & KBC are the ones that come to mind. (We did get the project done and still can stand the sight of each other, so we didn't come out it too bruised!) Interestingly, only two of us would spar, the third would somehow have a neutral view on that topic or simply refrain in the interest of refereeing. It was a most interesting phase. So I can understand Ajit's comment.
Which brings me to an aspect that I've tried to analyse: have I gone soft? Am I no longer defending my choices? Or are my choices too status quoist? Over the last few years, I've consciously done more "listen-to-the-other-side" empathy: did that affect me to the point where I'm only good enough to moderate, not to throw a punch? Or have I simply shrugged my shoulders and quit the controver-seat? Maybe that's what explains the lack of visitors :) Does that mean an Outlook-like makeover with exposés each day? Or let me take the snob-about-town approach: "you see, there aren't topics that *I* can be bothered about".
Ajit: NikhiI and I usually agree on a lot of things these days and I don't like to bring in the combative questions to the party, Maybe I will concoct an imaginary one for your benefit. Till then, it's back to spewing fire at RMIM for you...
The horror, the horror
I have no other words to describe these words, but as "haunting". For some reason, they seem very moving, maybe because they can be applied to so many occurences and experiences. If not a full-fledged horror, atleast several minor ones. In fact, the film Apocalypse Now somehow affects me indescribably. I'll confess I haven't really been able to comprehend it in its entirety, but somehow I feel drawn to watching the shadows of Brando's enormous appearance, the hunter visage of Sheen rising through the swirling smoke, the sacrificial buffalo, the claustrophobic and poisonous surroundings that can only come in a tropical jungle, the orange plumes in a collage of their own. It seems to have a mystical appeal I cannot explain. I still haven't got around to reading the original Conrad in Heart of Darkness. Maybe I just don't have the intellectual capacity to take it all in, chew it up and digest it. But it's worth the taste. And what is there in the Redux version remains to be seen.
Simply taken as a set of frames of scenes, it still appeals to me. I find it to be one of those films that just sock you with the power of the medium. Add to this heady mix one of the few Western music groups that have instantly appealed to me (ask anyone in the BC quizdom what a dud I am on the subject): The Doors. When the strains of This is the end appears in the background, it adds further dimension (Here's where the lack of any (semi-)formal training in the language of cinema hinders one: I find it difficult to use the correct expression of feeling) to the film. Well, it lost to Kramer vs. Kramer in the Oscar race, but no Hindi film-copier can really lift Apocalypse Now unlike the victor (Akele Hum Akele Tum), for these films have to arise out of something that has been felt and has affected the maker to be of any worth, one feels. When you watch it,it's an experience: maybe you don't get it, but that doesn't distract from the beauty of it. So an appropriate end to this post: The beauty. The beauty.

Dec 23, 2002

I think I better cash in on my 15 minutes: link here to a news article on this year's MasterMind contest (Thanks Gopal for the link!).
YACCS is experiencing some trouble. Pardon the side-effects of the commenting system

Dec 19, 2002

Lazy blogging:
I've heard of pyschological techniques like free association where you simply hold pen to paper and write the words that come into your head. There are a host of variants in that line of thought (I've seen one in an Agatha Christie novel too), all aiming to uncover the dark secrets of the subconscious.
I just found it to be an interesting excuse for a blog post, I've got all these things to say but they're not all crystallized yet. Also, random terms, thoughts and phrases swirl as the jetsam-flotsam of my mind. So here goes an attempt at a random swipe of a spoon in that chop-suey which yielded:
Blankness, writer's block, marriages, upper berths, colds, pulmonary is the lung word, lane regulators, matricide, memento, instant messenging, solitude, loneliness, sterling silver, excuses in success, Stephen Fleming, juvenile diabetes, betrayal, confusion, Hindu Rashtra, invasion, parties, psychological demons, tamil serials, sore losers, ignorance & indifference, stoicism, workability, the Ultimate answer, no feedback here, too much feedback there, new scooters, bugging relatives, Google searches, Mysore pak, family gossip, corpulence, yellow & orange, blatherskite wisenheimer, rain affection, code words, shortcut to my connection, pretty faces, convention-breaking, 10 o'clock shows, reunions, happy Saturday afternoons, atrophied muscles, organized religion, richard attenborough, prudence cowley, dubashi, film appreciation, mise-en-scene, turncoat debate, damn gentle reminders, breathing exercises, recalcitrant nieces & unconcerned nephews...
Uff! Enough for the day!

Dec 18, 2002

My visit to Madras was the more significant of my two visits: both in terms of time spent and in the mental department. And several items seemed to excite the now ever-sensitive blog-antennae.

M's the word
In the whole name-mangling that would've excited your avid C++ compiler that happened to some of our major cities in the late 90s, Madras became Chennai. I've never adjusted to the new names of Mumbai & Madras: that's the personal preference. But I'm not completely able to draw a parallel between these two of my foster-cities, for I find a great number of native Mumbaikars or Maharashtrians that did refer to Bombay by the un-Anglicised version even before the change. So in that respect, it was a more ambivalent change to make. Whereas, though Madras was always Chennai in the DD news bulletins when I was living there, to the common tongue, it remained Madras, the opening word in a childish joke that wedded Calcutta after it to produce 3 not-so-polite words. And the point is: it still is Madras for the folks there and can't claim to have been adopted by too many. And the lack of an Amman Sena organization to espouse this nomenclatural cause there means there is not much energy wasted on a non-issue. I have seen non-Madras people easily slipping the C-word into their tongues, but I haven't seen the Chennai-karan taking to be anything else than a Madrasi.

Triply-cane, anybody?
Triply, because three things seemed glaringly, and pleasantly, different on this trip: the water, the autos and the sweat. The first by its presence, the last by its absence and the middle by its willingness to adopt common sense.
Live in Madras for a while and you'll understand why 2 atoms of Hydrogen and 1 of Oxygen can provide a reason for strife, for fasting and can sustain governments. Madras must be the world's largest consumer of plastic buckets, all in iridiscent colours: all to provide the foulmouthed ladies with a colourful excuse to battle in the queue for the waterpump. The salt water may provide keen sociological insights into the bitterness of the local lingo. But this time around, a strange deluge of rain, as if all the water denied to the city in the last decade was let loose in one go, poured forth a new set of problems, much more pleasant in comparison. The sobering note in all this is that the mun. corp. don't think this is enough to keep the city from lapsing into dehydration once again, more needs to be done.

The autos in Madras are legendary for their curmudgeonity, you need to be a Rocky of the ghettoes to battle them. It all used to centre around the pottu kudunga (give more over) business model : they ask liberally after reaching a destination. Their meters probably only serve a lesson in geography: most of them are made in the peths of Pune. But the introduction of competitors in call-taxis that have meters that actually run (and in digital mode, which automatically makes them seem impressive) means that the auto-drivers are willing to meet you halfway. It would seem familiar to fellow-watchers of MTV's One Tight Slap promos: it is as if someone waved a giant paw across the collective windshields of the bristly auto-men.

The biggest surprise was the complete un-sweatiness of the weather. I've always thought it a cruel joke by Nature that people of the city produced such copious quantities of salt-water when surrounded by even more massive and unusable quantities in various degrees. I'm talking particularly about the sweat that used to pour off even in one's most inactive positions. Perhaps there is a well-to-do meteorological explanation for the current blissful state, but I was too scared to ask, lest I disturb some fragile balance in an act of Heisenbergian measurement. Everyone's probably wanting to enjoy it while it lasts. The only time I can remember that I sweated in the inert state was in the departing train stationed on the 3rd platform at Central. Just a warning to check the euphoria, probably.

All over, finally. No more topics to choose and no more train-timetables to scour for the most convenient timings. No more chunks of leave to ponder over and no dress combinations to prepare to defend. No ties, no suits, no demeaning of books by attempts to memorise their contents. Relief!
Many of you out there know the results of Mastermind India 2002. Some of you don't. Why not keep it that way, so that atleast you can watch it without the analytical dissection that seems to accompany perusals of anything whose outcome is known.
More MMI reflections later maybe?
Back and in search of a rest...

Dec 5, 2002

This blog may be silent for the next 2 weeks: a result of a couple of trips I'm taking southwards. Interestingly, in the last six months I've travelled (or am about to) to about 6 different cities, much more than I might've done in the 3-4 years before that. It can pour when you just think it's a drizzle.
Anyway, the new kids on the block should make for entertaining reading: Niranjan & Harish have entered the building. And the ever-dependable George & Gaurav will always have a lot to say. Maybe even Rahul & Samrat may translate their ever-ready tongues to html.
The odd line may come, but I'm expecting a read-only phase for some time now.
And him too
And they keep coming thick and fast: Harish steams in with his own new blog

Dec 3, 2002

Alert! Niranjan
Divine presence to be felt in blogsphere... More coming up...

Dec 1, 2002

And worth mentioning in a blog:
Movie: Kuruthi Punal, Kamalahassan's remake of Govind Nihalani's Drohkaal featuring some reliable actors attempting quasi-realistic portrayals of policework. The underrated Nasser (can't understand why he hasn't won major awards) is match for Kamal, who usually makes it a point to cast Nasser in his movies. A very riveting and unexpected climax.

Song: O Bhanwré from the Ram Gopal Varma super "D(a)ud" is sung by Asha Bhonsle (who had become Urmila Matondkar's voice courtesy the same pair of RGV & ARR) and what I consider the most unlikely combination I can think of: The great K.J. Yesudas singing for Sanjay Dutt. Very nice interludes with a variety of instruments featured. But the song picturization is another example of manic-movie-madness: with Urmila at the nadir of her baggage-lost-no-clothes-left phase and Sanjay Dutt violently shrugging one shoulder in a possible attempt to dislodge a roach somewhere in his sleeveless shirt!

Book: Stephen Hawking's Black Holes and Baby Universes and other essays is next on the reading list, another find in the bargain-bazaar.

Oh! Is that Pune's Own Laxman?
The Pune Times has this irritating byline to the legendary "You Said It": "By Pune's Own Laxman". It is in keeping with their general tone of writing which largely consists of appropriation, appeasement and advertisement of a whole gamut of people. For example, if some flutterby celebrity was to reveal her baby-powder was once bought in a Pune store, it would probably suffice for the PTOI to claim her one of Pune's. And fall all over themselves, when such flavours-of-the-week passed by.
But PTOI-bashing can wait, as I humbly wish to attend to Gaurav's request to tell-all about the RKL visit last week to PSPL which had made deliciousl fare, considering I had earlier in the month successfully mugged a lot about RKL and recalled many in Ajmer.
Before that, a history lesson: A story I wish to record here and probably will give to people who want to know "why RKL?". It's not really about him being a fellow Iyer or part-Punekar, which are incidental coincidences. So, the fade-in begins and we ...

Cut to self in Second Year of engg. engaged in wheedling (and ghostwriting) articles for the college mag (more of a "college rag" these days, did I start the slide?) Abhiyanta. The customary interview for the English section was afoot and a tapping of my uncle's resources resulted in a set of phone numbers being obtained from freelance Film Journo Deepa Gahlot, she being well-known to my uncle's family. This included RKL's number and a couple of calls resulted in the great man granting us a quick mulakaat at his TOI office. But alas, I was unable to go for it and could only supply some research material. The interview turned out to be mostly stuff that we couldn't directly use, for he had digressed and called a few leading politicians some uncomplimentary names. But he had granted us blanket approval to dig into his autobiography to fill the pages. I could atleast transcribe the tape and add the rest from The Tunnel of Time. But the missed opportunity rankled. <end_flashback_in_sepia_tone>

But the gods had a sense of humour. A year later and thankfully I had made it to T.E.! It turned out that RKL would be one of the chief guests at the college's social gathering and I was witness to RKL's trademark speech, with the barbs at the politicians and anecdotes. When the invitation arose to ask him questions, I reacted with unprecedented decisiveness and was on stage asking him questions. A handshake ensued too and a week later, I had a copy of my photo with the master cartoonist. <end_flashback_in_eastman_colour>

<And in 2002 A.D>
When the process began to choose a topic for my semi, it just struck me that I knew quite a bit about this man and it might be fun to do this topic. It had a happy ending. But I didn't know there would be an appropriate post-script around the corner. I mentioned this curious fact to the big-wigs at work, but I was cautious, since I'm not supposed to give too many details about the as-yet untelecasted semi in public.The saab-log at work thought it would be appropriate that I present the traditional memento to him (a silver Ganesha, BTW, something that would have pleased the Ganpati-loving cartoonist). RKL seemed a bit surprised when I materialized from behind the stage to do so, probably he was expecting the even more traditional girl-in-sari to do the honours. But Anand made the announcement about the reasons why as I walked down and RKL seemed suitably interested. Amit Garde suggested that even RKL would find it a teeny-bit flattering, something I didn't quite find out. So, Gaurav, there was no Peri Pauna namaskarams and I hardly exchanged a word with one of my subjects (I shouldn't say this myself, but that's a fun-pun!). I plan to send him a postcard asking him to watch the show on the 26th, though.
There remained two unanswered questions:
Was he getting bored of being asked to draw caricatures each time he was invited to speak? and the more important one: When was he born? (I found 2 different years of birth from 2 equally reliable sources, and was dreading this question, which never came in MMI). I refrained from asking this in the Q&A that had followed his speech: asking this would have seemed incredibly trivial, but it is the singlemost important fact I want to know!
His speech was on expected lines and I had heard most of the things before, so I was too familiar to be dazzled. He was a bit more nice than I have experienced earlier, though he did say he didn't like any of the other Indian cartoonists. I was most interested by one point: his cartoons do not go for editorial sanction at the TOI, "they", to paraphrase him, "read it in the next day's paper"!
Whatever he's like, very few people can claim to be at the top of their career for so long and with such widespread and unchallenged success.

If ever anyone should write an official biography of Rasipuram Krishnaswami Laxman, I think I should be the among the ones considered. Said in true Laxman-like immodesty!

The pice vice
We had cause to spend a little money last week. Perhaps the money plant was flowering.

The first involved further expense on the MMI account, which as one ex-participant warned one would probably end up losing money on. The reasoning is rather simple, though one is reimbursed for travel expenses, the books and clothes expenses do mean entries on the debit side. Since no one really gets any prize money, one can write it off financially. This last point often shocks, astounds and surprises (depending on how much TV they've watched and how little quizzing they've done) many people I know. Can't blame their KBC-ed minds. My mother told me of this one incident in which a guest was shown my MMI momento (every participant gets one) and eagerly wanted to know what/how much I got as prizes. This lady seemed most unimpressed at the lack of such reward, what kind of a TV quiz offers no money? Must be some low-budgeted B-grade workable quiz filled with KBC-rejects (I'm being unfair to that lady, I'm sure she didn't think these things). My quizzing life is littered with successes at contests that have an overall budget of Rs. 100 and managing to fail at quizzes where even the guy in 83rd place gets a Ferrari. I have a durable excuse: the good quizzes never have any good prizes and vice versa. But that's a thumb rule with some degree of success, I can only cite the "ESPN-Star School Sports quiz" as a decent example against that.
Anyway, digressing back t o the topic, the object of the MMI-intended purchase was to sew a suit for me. If any purchase was likely to yield less value-for-money, it would be this. Not because the material would be bad or the tailoring would be debatable (both of which were amply taken care of by a discerning father), but because the intended mannequin, viz. me can't think of any occasion beyond the MMI final where I would wear it. I wanted to think in the direction of some Indian-wear for this "momentous occasion" (and I'm laughing here) but the dictates of a long-term possibility tilted the scales to the suit. It will probably be kept handsome company by the mothballs after its début, so be it. Probably it won't mind serving as the scapegoat too.

The other, more massive, expense was a general upliftment of the home PC. It now seemingly runs faster, at the behest of the 1.7 GHz CPU (If I was Tim "The Toolman" Taylor, I would grunt in approval) and the generosity of the 128 MB R.A.M (note the stops in the earlier acronym - prevents an ugly nomenclatural confusion with self) and some 40-odd GB of hard disk. A more swanky cabinet does for its innards what the afore-mentioned suit would be expected to perform. But an upgrade means reinstalls, wallpaper re-instatements, font foraging and general tinkering with the up-settings. A work in progress to achieve the old familiarity, but alas, a piece of it will probably never come back.
Inaugurated the sounds with the RDB playlist and some very familiar songs play a comforting tune. And how could those butcher-remixers cut up a song as beautiful as "Yeh Vaada Raha"?

"You were right, it is golden"
PSPL has got a big building, one of three on the same road. This building called Bhageerath (the third in a series of interestingly named places, after Kapilavastu & Panini) boasts of a pretty nifty auditorium with gadgets befitting a tech. company, and more importantly, has decent acoustics too. But when the builders were dishing out the acoustic capabilities, they probably stole from the badminton court to feed the audi. Not to be ungrateful, but it is rather deafening in there. I play my badminton at the WIE complex and haven't used the company facilities too much, it being heavily patronised as one would expect. But when I do, I get the feeling someone, somewhere, somehow goofed and the court has become a collection of hill-station-echo-points, more what a colleague would call, "broad echo surfaces". The reverberations make one feel like Chuck Yeager was breaking the sound barrier in a while loop and one was caught right below it. All this has the effect of making one completely value the worth of silence. If the Sicilians had turned up demanding the imposition of omerta, they would receive my wholesome approval and aye-ballot. Christie, in her spoof of Thornley Colton the Blind Problemist in Partners in Crime, referred to the Keyboard of Silence. Tap away...
Couldn't refuse the offer
Mario Puzo's epic "The Godfather" finally found its way to my reading list and left an immutable effect on my vocabulary. Words like pezzonovante, caporegime, Moustachio Pete and Consigliere among others made a forceful entry.
While on the subject, it is so hard to believe that some of the books I'm reading from the Tommy & Tuppence series are set during the same period as "The Godfather", around the War years. While the former takes a roseate, cavalier adventure spirit and hardly gets its hands dirty, the latter comes from the other end of the realism scale, observing that crime and depravity have always existed, often underscored by lines of scarlet. No better reflection of the two authors' respective backgrounds: Christie from a staunch English household with dogs, buns and butlers for atmosphere, while Puzo roasted in New York's Hell's Kitchen and the inevitable futility of it all.

Nov 27, 2002

Dunno who's stalking whom, but R.K.Laxman will be visiting PSPL tomorrow...

Nov 20, 2002

Poetic? Just is ... not
Chatting with Samrat over our routine afternoon coffee brought the conversation to poetry-writing. I have always been a dud at proper poetry, which I've considered a gaping hole in my writing abilities, whatever I possess of them :). I tried a couple of times, but the results were the products of a sputtering and painful process and like errant children, brought no joy to their progenitor. And I was happy to bury them.
Along the way, I've been getting confused what constitutes "proper poetry". Rhyme "skims" or blank "worse"? And the critical reviews of amateur poets in college of efforts by other amateur poets during the times in the college magazine served to keep the answer a confused one.
I've left all attempts right now, but maybe it will seek me later in life. And then I can claim to be a "legside" player too, in a manner of speaking.
But quite appropriately, Wordsmith's A Word A Day has been sending out words from poetry this week, and the quote in today's mail was:

A poem begins with a lump in the throat. -Robert Frost (1874-1963)

I'll take his word for it.

"Simply Romantical!"
No, I don't need the services of a spell-checker. I refer in the post-title to a dialogue from the delightful The Little Rascals. The cast is composed almost entirely of children, but the plot has all the masala aspects that would make any hard-boiled movie moghul see epic drama. Such as dosti, mohabbat, how a girl gets in the way of the aforementioned langotiya yaari (in this case because these are really little kids, the cliché is more appropriate) and the baap-of-all-climax-ideas, the pulsating race to the finish with a (literally, watch it to get it) hair-raising end.
It may sound terribly cliched, but it isn't that bad. Look at it from another world, a world from about 3 feet high where some of the citizens can't even read yet (At one point, one kid tells another while keenly inspecting a notice for a while ... holding it upside down: "We ought to learn how to read"). The treatment, my dear, is the difference and there are some very imaginative dialogues and situations.
At the heart of the plot is the "He-Man Womun Haters Club" (sic), a group of little boys whose sole motto in life is to be *men*, and one of the core commandments is to eschew all female companionship in all forms. So when Alfalfa decides he's lost his heart to Darla, there is conflict ... with his best pal Spanky who also happens to be club President. And when the clubhouse burns down and Darla is swept off by rich kid Waldo and the club's prize motorcar... but I'd ruin it for the others. Add to this smorgasbord, characters like Porky & Buckwheat, Uh-uh (so named because he's never been recorded as saying anything else, a misconception that he eloquently dismisses in the last scenes), Stymie, Froggy and the mandatory monkey & dog chipping in with a couple of misfit kid villains. If you're looking for big names in the cast, they only appear in guest roles: Whoopi Goldberg, Mel Brooks, Donald Trump & Darryl Hannah among others.
As the kids would say: O-Tay!

PostScript: Turns out that this film (made in 1994) is based on a 1954 TV series by the same name. Info as usual from IMDB.

This way, Beresfords
Mr. Thomas and Prudence Beresford, a.k.a Tommy & Tuppence, thank you for joining us. Please meet Mr. R.K.Laxman and The Recipients of India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna. They have been on this ride earlier.
Hope you enjoy the journey.

Nov 17, 2002

But whyyyyyy
... are there so many awful ads that don't direct any attention to the product?
... does Smriti Malhotra, evidently intelligent, continue to act a bahu-cum-almost-grandmom in Kyunki Saas... ?
... do people not give enough credit to John Wright ?
... is presentation king and not content ?
... can't I find one more quizzing topic ?
... is there nothing to watch on TV ?
... is there so much tripe on the radio ?
... do I even bother ?

Tu to nahin hai lekin,
teri muskurahatein hain.
Chehra nahin hai lekin,
teri ahatein hai.

Tu hai kahaan kahaan hai
Tera nishaan kahaan hai

-- Gulzar, Ae Ajnabi, Dil Se

Playing on the Radio right now. Gulzar got his fundas right there.
Seems that Urdu may be the language for, as Rishi Kapoor kitschily put it, Dard-é-Dil, Dard-é-Jigar, Dard-é-Kamar et al.
The Dargah of Moinuddeen Chisti at Ajmer is probably like any other religious place in India: the beggars, the knick-knack sellers, the religious paraphernalia that is esoteric and the special treatment for special visitors (which we were because we went with the Mastermind crew). It's a place with a reputation for wish-fulfilment, and so I simply prayed like at any other place: I'm happy that I didn't ask for ephemerals like winning my semifinal round or something like that.
Another thing I'm trying to do at the MMI is to achieve a non-nervous performance as much as possible. I was happy with that aspect too.
Where have they all gone? Many of my friends have been afflicted by the curse of my acquaintanceship. No sooner do they know me that they metamorphose into their long-distance versions. I liked to talk to them, they made sense on many occasions, and their company meant a lot at different times. Playing cricket or going to a quiz or scoring a goal or moaning over exams or riding in the same bus or cheering an Indian win: they put the spark in the moment.
To the ones that I haven't met in a while or heard from and so on : guys, I can conveniently blame myself for not "keeping in touch", so come back 'cos "I'm serious" :) out of laziness or craziness....
In the infinitesmal chance you're reading this (in which case your reading habits have definitely changed for the worse!) : salut, mon ami
Here's a toast to the guys I haven't seen in a while: Harish, Sujay, Kalyan, Sumeet, Varsha, Kavita, Jayaram, Shyam, Prashant, Nirmal, Anjani, Abhijeet, Smideep, Kunal and all the rest.
And Sir, this way please
Yet another Second AC Train Ride (this time to Ajmer), only my third ever (goes to firmly establish middle class status) and I had co-companions, albeit not very companionable. I'm not sure if it has anything to do with their reputed survival skills, but cockroaches seemed to travel Upper class strictly. There weren't any on the ride back, so I'm guessing it's that time of the year when the annual roach conventions are held, this time in Western India. Just following the humans, what with the Pushkar mela & Congress conclave at Mt. Abu being good pointers.
Kyun & Aye
Q: Hi.
A: Good morning.

Q: Er...actually it's afternoon.
A: Is it?

Q: Didn't you know?
A: I guess I'd have if I looked out. But I've sort of forgotten what the distinctions are, how it differs. I'm not sure it makes a big difference, especially when you're cooped inside most of the 24 hours that constitutes what they call a "day".

Q: Shall we begin?
A: Most certainly. I used to do a lot of talking, mostly in some sort of self mode. I'll be glad to have someone to converse with for a change. But I guess you'll be talking about the same things.

Q: Not if you don't want to. I'm sure there are other things we can talk about.
A: That too. But though I've been over the agenda personally a million times before, I still don't mind talking about them. I'm not sure if it involves a masochistic streak, but it's not too painful. Rather it might be cathartic.

Q: Good. So how do you feel? I mean right now.
A: The same. It's always like this, it seems. Whenever I have any time to think, it's probably this way all the time.

Q: So being occupied could be a solution?
A: Again, depends on what the occupation is. I'm sure it's more of a question of what the nature of the occupation is. Doesn't seem to happen in company that I like.

Q: Hmm. How difficult is it to have that kind of agreeable company?
A: Doesn't happen all the time. Especially, most of the new people I meet seem to have something about them that makes me detest them or just avoid them. And add to it the fact that I am the world's undisputed wooden spoon winner in the "smalltalk" category makes it difficult to hack at the ice. In most cases, luckily, I do know exactly whom I want to talk too, so that identification prevents instances where I'm fed up of the person and having encouraged him thus far, need to avoid conversation.

Q: But I've noticed you like a lot of undivided attention.
A: Depends. If I know all the members in the group, it's not much of a problem. If not, I'm not likely to be a runaway train in front of the odd man. But actually, you know, I have a special talent: I have this awesome knack of being the third person in a group of three.

Q: Explain that.
A: You know, I'm in a conversation with another, then comes a third that I am not acquainted, but my colleague is. I seem to exhibit camouflaging instincts, as I recede into the background and let the others hijack the talk. Conversely, when I happen to be the common link between two, I find myself to be much more courteous to both, and try to ensure the first can finish the conversation before letting the newcomer to yak on. I think that's being fair. Most others have no such scruples, and probably that helps them sleep well overall.
--to be contd.

Nov 5, 2002

Too much of a good thing can...
On one day (today): Primal Fear, The Sixth Sense, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Meet the Parents, JFK, Gladiator. I'm still catching up with my breath.
And yes, courtesy Sun TV, I have now added two more utterly timepass films to my viewed list: Kaadhala Kaadhala with Kamal and a lot of good actors excluding one Rambha( included one moment of brilliance in Crazy Mohan's story with the Guru AnandaVigadananda and his chela JuniorVigadananda bit (and for you suffering non-Tamil, Ananda Vigadan and it's for-kids Junior Vigadan are well-known Tamil magazines: the joke was that in the above fraud gurus' speeches, all Tamil magazine names were woven in) ) followed by the perfect-Rajni-phut-akha Padaiyappa, which Mithun might be best qualified to review. The special gesture ( if you've been following Baba's |..| ) was a whip-like salute and the byline was Yen Vazhi, Tanee Vazhi or <start_poor_translation> My way (insert dramatic pause) is a unique way <end_poor_translation> (not doing justice to the Superstar there).
All in all, Sama Dhool, da!
And it happened that...
However good or bad life is treating one, there are always interesting observations to make along the way. Like...
  • How important it is to have a sense of humour. Not the variety that is a fair-weather friend that disappears at the slightest thunder, but the one that sticks on in a Force-10 gale. My team has had a rough time for the last three weeks and it has been quite trying for all. Especially, when at 10 pm in the hungry and sleepy night, someone finds a bug that needs to be fixed right away that will keep us all for another couple of hours. Everyone probably realizes it could've happened to them, but they all have a decent sense of humour that keeps them going. Without it, we'd have been goners. To avoid inviting the evil eye on this, let me mention Chasm-é-Buddoor" and put a kaala full stop after this.
  • Or how I went to Crosswords today (to look at R.K.Narayan's biography) and ran into this guy promoting Mastermind India 2002 of all things. He waved a card with a couple of questions which also asked "Are You a Mastermind?". Assuming he did ask in reference to the show, I couldn't resist telling him that I was one already. He seemed suitably pleased and so was I when I found that little blot-on-the-record didn't prevent me from filling the card in to be eligible for a book voucher prize. When you're dealt these little cards, you swoop in.
  • Or like how on Diwali morning, channel surfing saw some V-J (More like Y-J, that's Why Jockey) say to her viewers (of which I was now a temporary addition):
    "And wish all you guys a happy Dipaa-wali... er ... happy Dipaali... er... whatever!"
    Hopefully, all had a happy whatever as wished by *that* whatever.
    Much to my delight, we didn't have any urgent issues to resolve, so till tomorrow, I have it placid.
And now for you, Mr. Tendulkar
This is something I've noticed quite often: many people tend to be great admirers of both Sachin Tendulkar and A.R.Rahman. Not something that I'd be able to put a percentage on, but I've observed this intersection to be a fairly large one. It probably is to do with their personalities (if you like one's, the other's is similar so it's an easy jump to make), their career spans, their past records, their obvious talent, and also of late, their perceived failings unearthed by microscopic scrutinies. For the last year, each's output has been dissected endlessly and consistency will no longer do for the average follower, it has to be extraordinary from now on. There are new claimants to the thrones, and the fans need the performances to defend.
Sidelight apart, Sachin dismissed a few theories with one ton: cannot score in the 2nd inngs, cannot play under pressure. But he couldn't rest one ghost: of leading his team to a win because of his batting. Surprisingly, the media has been kind to Sourav Ganguly, but I couldn't understand why India did not press on for a win by a clever declaration, say at lunch, or just after it giving the Windies 190-odd to get in 40 overs. It is in these matters that "aggression" should be displayed, not waving smelly and dirty shirts from a balcony. Also, captains have a larger duty to the game and crowd, and with the series sewn up and the Windies keen to go for a win, it was all nicely set up. These are the attitudes that separate pretenders from the good teams. If we don't have the bowlers that can win us matches in 2.5 sessions on the last day of a Test, then we ought to be more tempered in our optimism for this team's success.
OK, so Saathiya is out and is not making too much of an impact. I've always had a bad feeling about it right from the word go. Or rather from the word "Saathiya". I didn't quite like that, especially for a remake of something beautifully titled Alaipayuthé, which for many Tamilians is very familiar, being the name of a famous krithi composed by Oothukadu Venkata Subbier as a paean to Lord Krishna.
Alaipayuthé had some great songs, but hearing that most songs in Saathiya were to be remade from the original, I didn't think it was going to be a good idea, based purely on past experience. I can't think of too many songs that scored well in remakes, in either South to North or vice versa. It's usually because the lyrics don't gel at all. If the songs of Bombay, Roja did well, they were probably because the lyrics didn't at least take away from the music. But in Saathiya, that's exactly what seems to happen. And what's worse, it happens to the cult Pachai Niramé. Believe me, this is a great song! And to know why, one needs to watch the song along with hearing it. It is probably one of the best songs *ever* filmed, with Mani Ratnam's trademark slow-motion choreography, the amazing visual treat swaying in step to some stunningly creative lyrics by Vairamuthu embellishing the music. It simply makes you rave, really (and knowing what the lyrics mean makes a huge difference).
But the Gulzar-ShaadAli-SonuNigam replacement is a poor one, especially to one who has cherished the original. It sort of breaks one's heart and one never really recovers from then. Stumbling onto Adnan Sami's re-mess of Kaadhal Sadugudu and a few sputters here and there. Interestingly, a host of new singers will be seen in the credit lists, which always has been a commendable aspect of Rahman's work. Sadhana Sargam (whose Snehithané in the original Tamil is also quite remarkable for the good pronunciation she achieved) is the lead female singer in this album. But the lyrics, aah, they're as perfect as a square peg in a circular hole: what's more, they give one the prickly feeling.
And then from nowhere, you hear a saarangi play amidst Bhojpuri words sung by Sadhana Sargam and Madhushree. The first thought is that the wrong song landed onto the playlist, a copying error. It is a very conventional Hindi track, more fittingly something that makes one feel like Farooque Sheikh amidst the Umrao Jaan sets with the hookah bubbling while richly sequinned skirts twirl to Kathak moves. How can Naina Milaiké ever come out of the synth-saturated studios of Rahman? Well, it has. When you get used to listening to Rahman (at least in my case) you look out for the interesting interlude, the teasing but catching innovation. There is nothing novel about the orchestration of Naina Milaiké. But that is new for Rahman, and it went on to add weight to my remake-with-care thesis: this is not one from the original obviously, and hence it scores. I cannot for the world of me think where this fits in with the urban setting of the film, but this is the song I'd recommend. Saathiya is not the album to convert non-admirers with, but Naina Milaike may serve as a welcome sign to the fan that the magic and variety still exist.
What's neo?
Something around here's changed. Looking around but can't pin it down. What could it be...?

Nov 3, 2002

Most unchangeable cliché: Change is the only constant
Time to prove the cliché: wrong. My life has just stood still for the last three weeks (for documentary evidence, refer this post), boxed into compartments of strange hours of sleep, relentless typing, bizarre food times and a general feeling of bewilderment. So much so that I do not have time to indulge in my chronic thoughts of puzzlement.

Oct 27, 2002

The emotions you feel and the judgements you make when you first watch a film are invariably not sound. The hype, atmosphere, possible twists render them so. The true test of a film (at least the enduring appeal for me) is decided on the second viewing. Can one sit through all of it again, with no suspense left, no surprises to spring? The great movies always have something more to offer on the second, third and even the nth viewing. One can always relish them.
I'll watch Lagaan for the second time today. In between the two viewings, I've read "The Making of Lagaan" by Satyajit Bhatkal for the supposed behind-the-scenes look. Let's see how that measures up now.

Oct 26, 2002

William Henry Davies 1871-1940
What is this life if, full of care
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

My sentiments exactly
At times like these, it often strikes one, with special emphasis, how much fun other people are having.
What does the phrase "confusion reigned supreme" mean? See a live demo: a peek into a day in my life. May be disturbing.

Oct 20, 2002

And quickly
Lagaan on Sony on the 27th of Oct, Chashm-é-Baddoor today (Rakesh Bedi's shairi and the brilliant Amitabh-Rekha cameo) and The Sixth Sense on November 1. Caught The Legend of Bhagat Singh and found the performances, esp. Ajay Devgan's good and the music good. Not entirely convinced by some of the jingo-lingo though.
I've started so I'll finish...
is not a catch-phrase restricted to Shree Magnusson or Mr. Basu. We all have decisions to make while terminating..., any missive that is. Good old school letters and school English ma'ams had their stock "Thanking you, yours ____" formats. But even with the abundance of emails with their inherent contractions and informality demand what a local Business English teacher called the "complimentary close" (No, I was forced to attend these business english sessions, before you ask). For a while, I was under the impression it was actually the "complementary close", meaning you closed what you began. Perhaps I was writing code for matching parentheses that day.
Anyway, I write "Thanks" before my name in emails, no matter if the recipients are clients or peers or others. There are a lot of guys who write "Thanks and Regards" to which there a great deal of in-jokes attached. I'm not a "and Regards" kind of guy, preferring to reserve my emotions in this matter. But it got so automatic, that a friend complained when I wrote "Thanks" in an email when it was felt that I was getting too formal. So now I have to remember to drop the "Thanks" in those kinds of mails. But I'm unable to keep the "close" to only my name, it seems half-baked and what if the recipient felt the same? So I take to writing the Angrezi schoolboy slang "Ta", or the uncouth "Tx". For variation I try prefixing the "~" to my name and drop the "Thanks". I've always got into trouble with the afore mentioned Biz Eng Teacher, for what I consider some pedantic advice. One of them concerned rules of using "yours sincerely" and "yours faithfully" which I have successfully forgotten. That's one good thing about emails, anything beyond the "Thanks and Regards" is a stuffed shirt in a three-piece suit.

On a related note, I would like to place on record the most interesting closures I have observed in the last few months from George (yes, this is his blog: free plug):
He started off by closing his emails to me with "Cheers". This soon morphed into "Chairs", followed by "Tables" and even "Sofas" a couple of days ago. There was also a "Charas" in between. No more samples required to understand his convoluted (and may I say funny, before I get struck off his address book) sense of humour.

Weaving a web
One film promo that stood out instantly had a little girl and a stocky (Jupiter Jones would have approved of the epithet) boy singing a quirky song. My first guess turned out to be right: it was a jhalak of Vishal Bharadwaj's Makdee. The song was typically Vishal, who's actually directing the movie too(First time I've known a music director to take on the role of the director too) and making his debut. Supposed to be a children's movie also featuring Shabana Azmi as a witch. Many good films are unnecessarily tagged "for kids" and don't get the deserved kudos. Case in point being Halo by Santosh Sivan. Makdee seemed quite interesting.
Delegated to the Round Table
Not harking back to wintry London in clothing unfit for Churchill's tastes. Actually, just to prove my luck was changing a bit, on Friday night, I found a letter confirming that I had qualified for Mensa. I took the test last Saturday and found it was full of visual-spatial ability questions, supposedly to eliminate cultural bias. Mensa, means "Round Table" in Latin, hence the title of this post. My associations with the local chapter of Mensa have been very memorable, because of the good results I've had at the four Mensa quizzes I attended in the past.
Limping back... (contd.)
It was a damn long week that passed by. Okay, I'm not the kind of guy who's known for enjoying a hectic workstyle, so such cribbing isn't out of character and means I have less credibility attached. But yet, this is a general protest, flung out to no one in particular.
My project group had to put in a lot of extra hours over the last seven days to provide a new piece of software code to our clients. We had to forgo a holiday (in my case, I regretted that my much needed rest that I look forward to was lost) too. I don't mind working hard, but doing so each day for over and beyond the required hours and finally ending up with a result that didn't come up to our expectations can be too much to swallow. Someone's shortsighted approach somewhere in the whole decision-making chain results in an unreasonably aggresive deadline. We get at the receiving end the equivalent of what my colleague called "producing nine babies in one month". Why? Quality suffers as a result, no surprises there. So why provide something which is pretty bad, just to spend time later in fixing the fires you helped start? The net result is that one spends roughly the same amount of time in that activity, but with the side-effect of leaving a bad taste in everyone's mouth.
I'm probably over-reacting, many people have to work really hard, and don't get half the amenities I do. But it just doesn't work out for me. I want to try and have a life outside my work (which admittedly isn't my first love, so all the more reasons to keep the times shackled).
Aggressive scheduling happens everywhere, especially during higher education, I am told. Why are management students or engg. students made to slog as if they were in a commando course? Is it to improve their performance under pressure? Does that mean they will have such a lifestyle for the rest of their working lives? Only to buy expensive self-help books and take in seminars in their frustrated forties which advise taking life lightly, to spend more time smelling the roses. What about all the missed time of the last few years? Damn the idiots who have no lives of their own and push the boundaries of work, cranking up the speed at the rat races. Probably, if I can't keep the pace, I should drop out of this spinning orbit. Makes my head hurt.
I don't see the point of it all. Anyway, the outcome was that I sort of lost all contact with the rest of the world. I could've been living in a submarine and not known the difference. And yes, I now know that I can go without eating for twelve hours (yes, not even cheating by having sabudana khichdi on the sly). Probably should've declared it for the cause of the Cauvery to give it some importance. Move over Rajini, hungry coding ape coming through.

Oct 19, 2002

Limping back to normal...
I'm back!!! Will refrain from adding "...with a bang", because I've mostly been in the middle of one the last 7 days.

Oct 11, 2002

Solved the whatizzit !
I finally know! It's been a source of curiosity for the last few days and I finally have an answer. Not to "what is the Supreme Question to which the answer is 42", but what "Yaara da tashan" means.
Aamir Khan's Coca Cola ad with him doing the Punjabi farmer signs off with that extremely vernacular line and it had been mystifying for a lot of us. But thanks to a guy called Kamlesh (no mean "Punjabbee" accenter himself), we found out that tashan is sort of slang for "style". So what Aamir Khan the farmer means to say in response to "Tussi great ho" is "Yeah baby! That's my cool style" (or words to that effect in Punjabi of course).
I can go back to worrying about the world now that that thread is tied up.

Oct 8, 2002

Fast-forward or super slo-mo?
Watching Saving Private Ryan the other night, I couldn't help but be affected by the scenes in which the Allied soldiers rush madly towards the Normandy beaches, splashing about the beachheads. Not as affected by the graphic scenes of bullets-human rendezvous' as by the randomness of it all. All one can do is rush wildly ahead, just hoping the next bullet doesn't have one's name on it. Completely and utterly random. Except for Tom Hanks of course, being the protagonist, you know he's going to make it. But when the camera pauses, even fleetingly, on some other not-so-famous actor, you are wincing in anticipation of the bullet finding its mark on him. In one scene, one soldier's helmet gets in the way of a sniper shot. As he removes it to wonder at his good-luck amidst cries of "You lucky b***", another bullet crashes into his now unshielded head. Dramatic, yes. But believable in every way. And we don't even know if we're the chosen Hanks for the current scenes. We rush through our lives each day, and who's to say we won't swallow our death-pill in whatever method that day? But all we can do, like those soldiers who made it to the safety of the embankments that July day in Normandy (in piece or pieces) is to keep running full tilt, just hoping it won't be us to fall next. Maybe later, but not now. Our lives are the same, only played out in a much slower motion than a soldier who's running in complete panic and meets his end that much more instantaneously.

Oct 7, 2002

Of Dulcimers
A Dulcimer is one of those interestingly named musical instruments that probably enjoy some sort of exotic status. It just caught my attention 'cos Rahman has (like Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and the trivially famous digderidoo) used a dulcimer in a song in his latest release Kaadhal Virus. It's credited to a guy called John Asher (on whom a Google Search seemed to indicate that he is a well-known exponent in that instrument). I'm not exactly sure what it sounds like, 'cos that song had a couple of quaint instruments alongside. Anyway, here are some links which at least tell one what a dulcimer looks like: this, some history, and this.

Oct 6, 2002

Next stop is...
Ajmer's Mayo College for the Mastermind Semi-Finals on the 9th & 10th of November. Ajmer is also the favourite location of leaders, especially for those across the border, Ajmer is home to the memory of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti. My topic this time is the Life & Works of R.K.Laxman. I have met him once (in COEP), and don't know if that will help along with the parochial Tamilian & Punekar connections.
A quote on a gift I received today:
No one can predict to what heights you can soar.
Even you will not know until you spread your wings.

Oct 3, 2002


What is blugging? Blugging is the emerging art of Blog Plugging. Yes, all copyright to the word vests with me. But what is blugging all about? Let's take what these management chaps call a case study.

<Cut to Educational Video Style Picture>
Walking down the street, I bump into someone quite intent on keeping his eyes firmly fixed on the pavement stones. Having interrupted this worthy occupation, I step back with apologies. So does he... But what is this? It's my old friend Sudhir Vinod, dressed in an ill-fitting white suit.
It took me a minute to inveigle the sob story. In his own words: "Well you know, everyone was talking about this new technological and social phenomenon called blogging. I've never been one to shy away from the popular trends (and he hadn't, his little moss-on-chin-masquerading-as-goatee was ample testimony), so I had to jump on to this blogging bandwagon ASAP." In response to a question, he shot back "Of course, I have an internet connection. What do you think I am? I almost went to the US, you know." What that had to do with his dialup was not so evident. "So I went to this site and started up my very own blog. It took me three days of hard labour while I set up my templates, but some fiend-in-friend's-disguise told me to use this comment box idea, which seemed to be in perpetual strike. But I persevered, and at the cost of not studying for my GRE, I got my own comment box. I have to pay 200 rupees every month to a guy for that, but atleast it works. Then I put up my first post". So what was the problem? "I didn't notice this at first, but after three days, I didn't see a single comment left by anyone. It just broke my heart. I even learnt HTML programming at that institute for 2 weeks for my blogging."
<Fade out Educational Video Style Picture>

<Start Friendly, Informative Voiceover>
As you saw, our friend did everything right except the final stage. He didn't practise the fine art of "blugging" or Plugging for your own Blog (The motto is: If you won't, who will?). What he should've done is plug, advertise, spread the word. Take every opportunity, every meeting, every passing hello, every 2 line email to solicit viewership. Let us see some of the popular strategies that will help YOU (And I'm pointing at the middle of the screen as I say this) become a popular blogger.

  • Make sure they get the message:
    When you start your conversation with anyone (I mean A-N-Y-O-N-E! Don't be shy to approach total strangers!), find a way to steer the conversation to blogging. Like:
    "Do you keep any pets?" "I used to have a dog as a kid. That reminds me, have you read my blog?".
    "I hate those boys, ya. They always keep passing comments on my hair, ya." "Is that so? Don't you wish you could pass a comment? I think you should visit my blog."
    See? Nothing obtrusive about that. Subtle hints will do for the usual targets.
  • Be a barnacle, Keep going after them:
    You've just run into someone you gave your blog url a month ago. You haven't seen his comment on the blog. Don't be shy and let him get away with that! (People love to be asked to visit sites. Perhaps many bloggers asked him to visit, and he just forgot to visit yours.) Remind him. Note his reaction. Some of the smart-alecs may say they've read your blog. You have two ways to nail the bugger (Note: no typo here, I don't mean "blogger"): Give him the test and ask him to name atleast one subject of a post from your blog over the last week. Or tell him the blogger's rule: Only the presence of comments proves he's been reading your post.
    Having done this, you can always give him a reminder call, preferably at night, when he'd have a lot of free surfing time. Will also keep him out of trouble (I'm giving you a dig in the side, as I wink and chuckle knowingly).
  • Use it to bookmark your speaking: Simple rule of thumb: mention your blog every 10 sentences you utter. You need practice here as you should get creative here to avoid boring yourself. Work into your conversation. Like:
    "You know the funniest thing happened to me today. The Shift key in my keyboard got stuck and I just couldn't type McDonald while posting on my blog, by the way, did you know I have a blog? No? Well, it's at...". That simple.
  • Try Quid Pro Quo
    The best way to ensure a regular commenting flow is to get into a self-locking, mutually circular blogging and commenting mechanism. Simply start commenting on a new blogger's blog. If he/she responds, you've just made significant progress towards ensuring comments. It's like courtship followed by a long relationship. For the blog-pal potentially brings newer viewers. But you too have to keep your end of the deal up (Darwin's rules apply, bloggers enter into strategic deals with those whose link columns are seen to be bulging. Size does matter).
    But remember: if you both get intimate (speaking blogwise) enough to link to each other's blog, you must do it in a "is-haath-lé-us-haath-dé" single handshake, to avoid wild recriminations. The laws concerning cyber-contracts are still hazy.
  • Content ain't king:
    Once you have a dedicated viewership that you have managed to get comments from, and you've got them using your blog as part of their daily reading, no one cares what you put on the blog. So you can devote your energies into exploring newer markets, such as the virgin Zambian and Assyrian cyberspaces. You do need to keep the comments on your quid-pro-quo-ed friends, where the odd "Oh dude! Way to go" or "Cannot believe that!" type vague notes should suffice on the days you couldn't be bothered to read another's tripe, especially moments after you did some tripe-typing of your own.

Keep plugging away!(the blogging will take care of itself) Or else you will end up as friend Sudhir Vinod, in ill fitting white suits, not quite sure why no one samples his wares, and why they flock to the blog across the street. As a famous man of our times said: "This is a work of sabotage!". Let's check on our friend, whom you will recall being despondent. Let's see if these tips have made a difference to his blog-life.
<End sociable, instructive Voiceover>

<Cut Back to Educational Video Style Picture>
I ran into Sudhir Vinod, who despite his little almost-chic goatee, was looking quite happy. It has worked! "So how's everything?" "Quite fine, quite well." "Get a lot of people in daily?" "Oh yeah! The mums love it!" That's a niche audience that I didn't think would be blog-friendly. But you always learn something new everyday in this business. "And how are the comments?" "I'm inundated! I keep aside my Saturday just to read all of them.". Wow! "Especially the last episode. That had the letters pouring in". Hang on. "You mean the last post , right?". "What post? Oh, you mean that whole blogging infatuation?. I've gotten over it man. Where are you? That's so passé. Move on man. I have my own television software company which makes these serials like "Gomti Ganga ki Gatha" and you must've seen my..."
<Frantic Dissolve from Educational Video Style Picture amidst calls for "Cut it, dammit">

All Jaané Bhi Do Yaaron references are intended to be an unnecessary plug for the movie. If you haven't seen it yet, perhaps your isolation by alien beings worked a shade too well.

Worth more than a blink
  • How much can you push the idea of a mirror site? Here's one extreme example, a mirror of Google. Try lateral vision...
  • More from Deepa Gahlot on woman-centric films here. She used to be a neighbour of my relative's a long time ago, and given her background, I'd give her views on this matter a good read.
  • And a note on *the* Scrabble contest. (link could have moved elsewhere)

Oct 2, 2002

Bombay Dreams revisited
Bombay Dreams (now officially a surprise hit on the London stage) will be going on Broadway (set to premiere in 2004). I got my first chance a few days ago to listen to all the songs together. There were a few interesting songs, but on a whole, it probably is nowhere near some of his other albums. Lots of orchestration (a trend towards which ARR has been leaning towards, not having what I call a lot of "silence", i.e songs which have very few but distinct instruments and hence a lot of scope for that instrument to break through, which marked some of his classics) is evident in the songs. Shakalaka Baby is surprisingly better than its original (it has been reworked). I can only think of one other instance where a Rahman remake has been better than the original : Que Sera from Pukar ,which was a whole lot better than the one from En Swaasa Kaatre. Like an Eagle (funny lyrics), Salaam Bombay & Wedding Qawaali (shades of his peti magic with Kannalanne or Kehna hi kya from Bombay). But Love's Never Easy a.k.a Taal's Ishq Bina doesn't quite work out for me.

In more Rahman news, Kaadhal Virus is his next Tamil release, which will be out this week. Supposedly Saathiya promos will be on in the middle of October. Wonder how Pachai Nirame is going to look and sound on le Oberoi & la Mukherjee.

Rahman has sometimes shown an inclination to using certain instruments more often or to more effect. I call them the violin songs (some from Taal, Puthiya Mugam), the Mridangam songs (a few from Sangamam, Indira), the train songs (Chikku Bukku from Gentleman, Chaiyya Chaiyya), the sea songs (Tu Hi Re, Nahin Saamne), the percussion scores (Rangeela, Thiruda Thiruda) and so on. I got hold of Anthimanthaarai, directed by Bharatiraja which had a couple of songs (the songs are not in the film) which are quite great. The santoor (I think) and mridangam in Sakhiye, sung by Unnikrishnan & Swarnalatha's rendition in Oru Naal are quite enchanting. The opening piece in Sakhiye is quite superb, IMO. Wish I had a better musical vocabulary to express better what these songs are like!
Legends of Cricket
It's the old game-within-the-game (Hamlet would've been proud) : Making lists of the "greatest" cricketers ever. ESPN indulges in it this time, but as always, there is a certain amount of dignity involved and some of us can't stop watching bio-shows on the great cricketers. The name is "Legends of Cricket" and the aim is to get 50 this time, and the show kicked off with the chaps in the 50-26 bracket (Lara was in it) accompanied by short notes from some very distinguished cricketers. The rest of the 25 get an episode each devoted to them. Surprisingly, it's a daily show (at 8.30 pm with no repeats observed so far). Sachin, Kapil & Gavaskar will definitely be the Indians in the list. Perhaps there may be Chandrasekar. My guesses for the top 3: 1. Gary Sobers 2. Don Bradman 3. Viv Richards. Warne would probably be the greatest bowler, or maybe Wasim Akram. It has been good so far.
The recent ICC Champions Trophy was a trailer in more ways than one, cricketing-wise and otherwise. In my opinion, it didn't help one bit in identifying potential World Cup winners, as the conditions were exactly the opposite to those in Zuid Afrika. There was probably a bit of careful mucking around with the umpiring and a chance for the ICC members to indulge in some quiet (and routine) backroom shenanigans.
But that ain't the subject of this post. The telecast of the Trophy gave us an idea as to potentially how bad the World Cup cricket presentation is going to be on the Sony Channels, the people who've bought the rights to the show. Quite clearly, their idea of a presentation is derivative from their primary business: that of soaps & films. Whoever had the incredible brainwave of hiring Ruby Bhatia (a Canadian Indian, Canada being a country that supposedly played the first big cricket match in the 19th century versus the US, and has ever since followed its Southern neighbour in thankfully keeping its paws out of the good game) has presented a good argument in favour of retaining the death penalty. Add to this such attractions such as Fardeen Khan, Ma Prem Rithambara (Tarot Card reader who would make all sorts of predictions - wonder if she swept the Predikta contest that was running alongside on Max?). And when you consider that the "experts" consisted of Srikkanth, Farokh Engineer, Mahanama & Kapil (all decent cricketers, but not so hot at the mike & the headphones), your stomach did the rescuing act each time Extraaaa (painful) Innings came on. Only Barry Richards held on to his honour. Srikkanth got into Arjuna Ranatunga's hair a lot (and I'm sure Arjuna Ranatunga would've swatted Krish Srikkanth if Srikkanth had just been an annoying member of Sri Lankan Parliament.) Tony Greig probably watches a lot of Zee News, nothing else would explain his "we were the first to tell you this tiny piece of rubbish" quotes. Charu Sharma should be banished to covering Kabaddi for all his "aiding-and-abetting" acts.
So what's the film going to be like in six months time? One can only shudder in answer. Rumours abound that News Corp will try and squeeze Sony in the rights game. Sony has a great chance to see their golden goose lay an egg : a stone one. Any solutions? Monopolies for Espn-Star perhaps? The last World Cup telecast was quite brilliant. And there was no Sidhu too then (But I'll take him as the pinch of salt, rather than watch Ms. Bhatia look at head-to-head comparisons and ask what they were. Lay off!)
It has been a while since my last real holiday, and so I'm pretty grateful for the off day today. Saturdays & Sundays don't really qualify in my case, because of all the stuff that I have to do on the weekends, and the last few weekday-leaves uncannily invited urgent work. I get the feeling I'm working 7 days a week: 5 days for someone else and 2 days for myself (there is an element of strain even here, pressure to enjoy every moment of the holiday). The occasion duly commemorated by catching a few winks in the middle of the day, something that doesn't come to me naturally. Very Churchillian.

Sep 17, 2002

Now where have I heard that?
Now, it's no big deal when it becomes apparent that a new song is stolen. lifted, inspired, remixed (depending on what side of the musical divide you stand) from an earlier tune. People shrug their shoulders and move on to enjoying the next song (till they discover its origins). Things have come to such a pass that Bappi Lahiri wakes up one fine day and receives a mighty jolt: somebody has replicated his tune (I use the word "his" hesitatingly). This actually happened if you think I'm joking (George had this post on that topic). But what nobody has seen fit to spotlight is the state of the poor playback singer putting to audio, notes from a paper which a 30-paise kerosene xerox just spat out.
I got to thinking of this on hearing the title song from Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam & Dil Laga Liya from Kundan Shah's Dil Hai Tumhara (BTW, is this the same man who made the cult Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron or has he been replaced by some evil twin from the eight planet of Masalawood?). The reason for their being as dissimilar as two round, green peas in a pod for two, is the fact that the music directors of the 2 films were listening to the same Pakistani radio show, and drew unflinchingly from the same well. Now having digressed enough, what I'm interested in is: are the music directors considerate enough not to invite the same singers?
Consider this: a poor playback artiste does 6 songs each day. Having finished one recording, she rushes to studio B to record her next hit (everyone is agreed on this: the song that is being recorded will be the next most popular jingle since "Happy Birthday to you"). Going through the mandatory antaras & mukhdas, a vague sense of déjà vu knocks the door. She bravely fights it off, only to be kayoed back when she hears the music gushing through her ears via the headphones: the tune is identical to the one she just finished doing in studio A. Here, if the playback singer had a degree in Computer Science with an inclination towards Optimizing Theory, she'd pull out a cassette with the earlier recording and ask the techs. at this studio to make a copy. Everyone goes home early that day.

But seriously, can't these "creative persons" take the pain to atleast alter the tunes?
Their motto in life? 'Ditto!'
Frasier more often
The sitcom Frasier is like this little gem that brightens up the dark night: atleast those nights that I can watch it (Competition for the remote is fierce but civilized at home). It now airs each weeknight and the lives of the Cranes entertains quite unlike others. For me, it is the wittiest show on air for there hardly are any creative compromises, no "the-majority-will-not-get-this-gag-lets-water-it-down" tricks, no loud attention-attracting devices. The acting is of the highest calibre with Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde-Pierce & John Mahoney leading the pack (They deserve every cent of their reputedly rooftop-breaking salaries). The comedic timing is good, so much so that even Moose, the spunky dog that plays Eddie can only be called "gifted". But most of all, it is a writer's triumph. A recent news item noted that Frasier now has the most Emmies, each of them richly deserved. Interestingly, the character Dr. Frasier Crane (created by Glen & Les Charles as a glance at the credits will tell you) appears in an earlier show called Cheers that you might catch on Star World in the afternoons. It is played by Kelsey Grammer himself, and seemingly like Robin Williams' Mork from Happy Days was turned into the series Mork & Mindy, Grammer seems to have forked a path out in the tube-world. For trivia-mongers, Woody Harrelson also appears in Cheers.

Sep 15, 2002

And the movies on TV that caught the eye
  • Groundhog Day is one of those movies that don't boast of Oscar glory or aren't hyped in roaring Saturday Mega Movie!!! trailers, but are a good advert for movies. No viewing hassles. Featuring Bill Murray & Andie MacDowell, Groundhog Day has a very interesting story line, and is a feel-good movie that will make you feel exactly that way: good. Do remember to look up the meaning of déjà vu if you watch the film.

  • Annie Hall is typically Woody Allen and is arguably his most famous film. It scooped four Oscars (most unusual for a comedy, can't think of any such occurence after that until Shakespeare in Love), notably Best Picture, Best Director for Allen, Best Actress for Diane Keaton and Best Writing (shared by Allen). The tale is of a romance with Annie Hall, told through the eyes of Alyy Singer, and features the usual gamut of Allen's neurotic concerns with being Jewish, the women in his life, New York and depression. George had a post on Zelig, another Allen film . A peeve with Allen is that the plots of his films tend to revolve around the same themes, marked by the now-classic Woody Allen hesitant dialogue delivery.
    I also read the script. There are some interesting narrative methods: Actors break off to address the audience, and often characters go back in the past, observing themselves or others in innovative flashback sequences. But for most, it probably is a film most likely to be appreciated by Americans themselves, and I don't think I can get everything in it. It thus wouldn't go down in my all-time list, but I'll cross one more out out of my top-films-to-watch list.
    A George-like observation on an in-joke: Allen & Keaton refer to The Godfather (I forget exactly where, I think outside a movie theatre). Keaton, of course, starred in a brace of Godfather movies made before Annie Hall as Kay, wife of Michael Corleone.

  • Sense And Sensibility aired today. Ang Lee's film version of the Jane Austen novel was also an Oscar success, mostly for Emma Thompson, who was Best Supporting Actress and won Best Adapted Screenplay. The film also features British actors, Hugh Grant (who also had a tiny role in another old-world British film, The Remains of the Day) & Kate Winslet. Interestingly, as I type this, I'm listening to a few songs from A.R. Rahman's score for Kandukondain Kandukondain, which is Rajeev Menon's Tamil adaptation of Sense & Sensibility (Another multistarrer, which had non-Tamilians heading most of its lead cast with Mamootty, Tabu, Aishwarya Rai & Abbas. Ajith was the odd Tamil out.). Rahman had another hit that same year, Mani Ratnam's Alai Payuthey. Kandukondain... was also released in select non-Tamilian centres like Mumbai, in the original Tamil with subtitles, an experiment born out of the debacle of Sapnay, the dubbed version of Minsara Kanavu, Menon's debut. It did surprisingly well and enjoyed good reviews. I have yet to see both Alai Payuthey & Kandukondain Kandukondain. Alai Payuthey is being made into Hindi as Saathiya which marks the directorial debut of Shaad Ali, son of Muzaffar Ali (of Umrao Jaan fame) & Subhashini Ali. He's been assisting Ratnam for a while now (He also appears somewhere in Dil Se). Will also be the full romantic debut of Vivek Oberoi. In the original, counterpart R. Madhavan shot to superstardom with Alai Payuthey.

  • And finally, Sun TV had two of Mani Ratnam's most successful films, Agni Nakshatram & Nayakan on consecutive Sundays. The former is his, AFAIK, first multistarrer and the latter is one more Kamalhaasan singlehanded acting lesson.
Music that's catching
Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy have a Hindi film music release in Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai (rumoured to be a dési American Pie). The music seems reminiscent of their biggest hit, Dil Chahta Hai, and so were the visuals of the aspiring actors & actresses who seem to have done their share of acting classes and modelling assignments, in short nothing strikingly new. I liked one song bit though, Yeh Sama has Shantanu Mukherjee (a.k.a Shaan) crooning. Sadly, I couldn't identify the female voice. The other songs that I caught didn't strike a chord for me, not yet.
The Iraqi Bombshell
Hanging about BBC World for the last couple of days gave me a chance to see a very interesting group discussion Question Time New York. Nothing new in the format which would be familiar to Indians as Question Time India with the NDTV faces. I had given up watching such "TV Debates" such as the Big Fight on Star News, the action is repetitive and so are the issues and there is no fun in seeing antics and hearing noises that would shame any self-respecting Ganesh Mandal loudspeaker. Indian politicians do not have any graces, and the ones that do have nothing new to offer. So what got QTNY my sticky eyeballs was not the topic (The usual range of UN speeches last week with the Iraqi Bombing threat), but the rather animated audience and the sight of Michael Moore (author & filmmaker) taking on two Republican Hawks.
The point was this: is Dubya justified in making plans to bomb Bad Boy Saddam, possibly unilaterally? (as his rather open threat further demolished any pieces of respect the UN had: bomb with me or I bomb alone.) The arguments were fascinating, especially when one British member of the audience invoked the ghost of the Chamberlain fiasco of 1938. Another question brought the house down: Does the UK have its so called "special relationship" with the US solely to hang on its historic notions of greatness? The British Secy. of Defence, on the panel, was clearly discomfited. (As an aside, I sometimes feel Churchill, statesman as he was, was somewhat responsible in the US ascendancy by his wooing of the Americans to play a super-role in WW2.) Moore kept reminding the GOP panelists (clearly annoyed) how the US equipped the villains with all the weapons they now brandished against the Yanks. Their response: it's a question of self-defence. But their clear reluctance to make crucial admissions (remember that out of the last 6 White House administrations, 4 have been Republican, and most of the supposed arms transfers happened in the period when George Bush Sr. was the head of the CIA or was Veep or President. Clearly a point of potential embarassment.)
Can the cop bust the baddy with the bad record on the suspicion that he's going to commit a crime? Precogs, anyone? Can the UN blacklist the US for murdering the environment in full view of the world?
I've started...
...and it's not finished yet. My Mastermind episode aired finally last Thursday, the 12th of September and I'm glad 9-12 passed without incident. And for those with no access to television with BBC India feeds, or for those who got plain lucky and were nowhere near Channel 13 or whichever number, I did win my preliminary round. I'm not sure if you've had the experience, but I have. I'm referring to the curious trick by which the telly conks off, or cable decides to take the rest of the day off, or the electricity folks play with the Off button when you want to watch something desperately. It has happened to me quite a number of times, most recently when I contrived to spend my time making out the England v Argentina grudge encounter in lines of gloriously grey static, that time MSEB doing the honours. I've become a bit of a stoic sage in such matters, and so I would've probably shrugged the shoulders if Thursday was another addition to the list. But all the publicity to friends and relatives would've been in vain, and so it was a relief that they did get to watch a known face do well.
Mass mobilisation of the above kind did take a bit out of me, and was vaguely reminiscent of handing out invites to weddings, where forgetting someone could cause a mini-butterfly effect. I think I did get to everyone. I now have a unabashed salute to wave to the organisers of political rallies : mass mobilisation, as I note above, is tough!
I am aware of the common cliché in interviews: the phone kept ringing continuously, the occasion being some achievement, minor & major, or yet another scandal. I got a few calls after the episode aired, actually immediately after, causing my parents to believe I was in one long call where I was switching with four. My advice to Mastermind participants: keep the phone instrument in working order, as you'll probably be requiring it to do overtime. Preferably, strike a deal with the telephone dept, as you could be generating some valuable revenue.

Sep 4, 2002

All about Sachin
Keep the encomiums coming! The maestro plays test match no. 100 and Rediff has a special tribute.
The Times of India will have theirs tomorrow, on the first day of the Oval test.

Aug 28, 2002

Cricket Reports
I took Gaurav's suggestion keenly (a comment somewhere below), and checked some British newspapers for news on the Indian win at Headingley. The Times had managed to hide the content somewhere, so I'll try and read the print version at BCL (one point for BCL here). But I did get through to The Guardian and was rewarded for my snooping with their set of articles during and after the Leeds test. Read these and enjoy the fine art of cricket writing, especially "Bharat come back with a bhangra", "England tumble to Kumble", "Little Master overhauls the Don" & "Little prodigy already a big hit". Also features an article by Mike Brearley.

Aug 27, 2002

The Bottomline...
... is the name of Hemant Morparia's cartoon column which appears in the city supplements of the Times of India, at least in Pune and Mumbai. It, according to me, is usually the only classy item in that daily rag.
Here's a Google query to some Morparia sketches that serve as a good sample of his work. He recently published a book, it seems. Interestingly, Morparia (who writes "Radiologist" in the "Occupation" column) is a Mastermind semi-finalist in the 2nd edition: He quizzed on "The Films of Woody Allen" and "The Life of Swami Vivekananda". Wonder if he knew that Swami Vivekananda reputedly was the first Indian to take a hatrick..

Aug 26, 2002

More Bappa yaar...
Signs that Ganesh Chathurthi is fast approaching:
  • Music shop owners are reporting shortages in the Mungda tapes and Hello Brother (yes, that same flatulent film) videos.
  • Batches of kids are being trained in ambush marketing at doorsteps. They ambush you while you leave, and market little paper tickets as a mark of their David-esque victory.
  • The bullish stock prices of wooden poles has given Dalal Street renewed hope for the next quarter.
  • For the first time in 3 months, volumes of sales of earplugs have outdone glycerine supplies to Balaji Telefilms.
Yaach Varshi Laukar Ya!
August is quite the season for birthdays, it seems. "Happy birthday to ..." is the common refrain, sometimes many times a day. Lots of proof in the company and class birthday lists, as also among friends. What is it about the cool days in November and December, I wonder...
Cricketing conversations
Obviously the hottest topic in Indian sport today was the awesome victory at Headingley. It's time when it pays off to be a staunch Indian cricket suppporter. Unlike the fair-weather fan that floats in and out depending how well the team does, the loyal sticks on from weathering a cold storm in Hove to beating the heat at Galle. And he has reason to exult and ask the doubters to line up in front of him and bend over: Who was that who said Dravid should be dropped? And who said Sachin scores tons only to lose? and will the Kumble-overseas-baiter stop hiding behind the Agarkar-criticizer, please? One by one, no jostling.
I don't support this team simply because they're Indians, but because many of them are so obviously talented. Yes, they don't always play to their potential, but when they do, they're a treat to watch and give the spectator quite a thrill. All i say is: savour the moments they give us, and think of those times when the team gets hammered. It would be a grave injustice to blast a team that has given us memorable days, days that we'd be telling our grandchildren about: how they chased 314 in Dhaka, how Sachin got Warney with a googly at Eden Gardens, how Harbhajan leaped in the air at Chennai, how special was Very Very Special, how Kaif rushed for a second at Lord's, how Akram was caught by Laxman to give Kumble a perfect score. How we won Tests in five different locations abroad (Yes, we didn't win series', but we did better than in the earlier decade). Be thankful that we've seen balls lost at Taunton and the ball disappearing over Warney's head at Sharjah.
Listening to commentary on Friday and Saturday, I was interested in noting how Sunil Gavaskar got stuck into the England team: pooh-poohing Hussain's "cerebral captaincy" in the Test, reminding viewers that Flintoff, was giving a man who now had 9 tons (and 2 scores of 99) a mouthful, had only 1 Test century, and was quite justifying Ganguly's lazy form for Lancs, a couple of years ago. And he also yelled at Laxman for walking, pointing out how three Englishmen had been let off by the inherently astigmatic third eye, when they refused to budge. The Indians are easily the gentlemen of world cricket, IMHO, despite efforts by Saurav to seem tough. They can be tough by performance, could be a lesson from Leeds. Let Sunny do the lambasting, from the safety of the commentary booth.
Fatguy has been bugging me on this subject, so I will attempt to post a few lines on a topic that has been up there in the staunch Tamil mind for the past couple of weeks, relegating Amma-bashing-Amma-worshipping to a lower spot. For the uninitiated, the typically titled Baba is Rajnikant's, nay The Superstar's latest offering: it comes after 3 years of hibernation, and freed the loyal fan from distress on Independence Day.
I haven't seen the film as it hasn't been released anywhere near me, but I'm unlikely to see it even if it were to be shown on Sun TV (that is quick to gobble up new releases): I have missed previous Rajini offerings like Baatsha & Muthu (Like Ramgopal Varma, Rajini seems to prefer the one-word title, add Padaiyappa & Baba to Annamalai, and you get the picture). But the hype is so overwhelming, on TV as well as forums infested with Tamils (me included), that any Tamilian worth his dosai has an opinion on the matter, or barring that, an undeniable curiosity to know what the fuss is all about. This post is my distillation of all the reviews, comments and features I have read/seen.
Baba straddles two topics that Rajni has closely entangled with for the last few years: politics and spirituality. And the plot reflects his own confused attitude to both, say reviewers. No wonder, since the film is scripted by the Superstar (not aware if he has done so earlier). In brief, Baba (played by Rajnikant) is a man, prophesied by sages to be destined for greatness, who lives with the dregs of society: some sort of hoodlum, do-gooder of course. He is atheistic too, BTW. All in preparation for an about-turn in the 2nd half. Battling various villains (politicians high on the list) takes him to meet a (incredible) 2000 year old Himalayan rishi who grants him 7 boons and a conversion to the spiritual method. And Baba promptly goes on to squander 4 before realising the awesome power vested in him. How he uses the remaining 3 boons to pulverise all the bad guys (played by almost all the office-bearers of the Bombay Film Villainy Association, the film has baddies ranging from Ashish Vidyarthi to Bharat Dabholkar to a guest villain a.k.a Amrish Puri) is the rest of the story.
The "2000 year old rishi" thing seems justified considering that the average age of the star cast is somewhere in the forties: Rajanikant, sidekick Goundamani, Sujata, M.N.Nambiar (supposedly wasted), Vijaykumar (ranting and heaving as usual) and stock god-fearing heroine in Manisha Koirala (she's now done movies with the big boys of Kollywood, Kamal, Mani Ratnam and now Rajni).The director is Suresh Krissna, who seems to be ideal cutout-driver to let the big stars do some backroom-driving (Aalavandan with Kamal, a few Rajni movies in the past). The score (or whatever I have heard of it so far) is terrible, IMHO. It is by A.R.Rahman. Yes, even the loyal fan needs to give dis-credit wherever due. Even if it will grow upon one later, it still will be a mediocre score in comparison, say for e.g to Muthu (to keep the Rajni-style jingoistic music in comparison).
But the movie will probably do well: two viewings by each Rajini fan should take it through to 50 days. But the hardcore fan (and we like to push the limits of being "hardcore" from where i come from) doesn't want a story: he wants Rajni to do his inimitable finger styles, sledgehammer dialogues (a purely Rajni phenomenon in which one figurative phrase is drawled, often to the accompaniment of finger movements and swooshing sounds, quite impressive). All of this and more is to be seen in Baba, so the trailers inform. "I may come late, but I'll be the latest" leads the pack in Baba. And a new style, comically represented here as "|..|" (bend your middle & ring fingers along with your thumb, you'll either say "Yo!" or "Vaazhga Superstar").
The features on Sun TV were very flattering and the special Sun TV feature on Sunday featured Rajnikant's wife talking about the movie, so Fatguy, you didn't miss much. Don't get me wrong, I like Rajnikant's acting, in patches. Pathinaru Vayithinile, Thillu Mullu (our own Golmaal) saw some fine talent, but his willingness to straitjacket himself in his image is benumbing to me. Either he grabs the mileage of his stardom for his political ambitions or do justice to acting. Right now he is doing neither. And he seems terribly weighed down doing neither.
In all this ICC contract spat, I wonder what John Wright must do? If the top Indian players don't go and a B team is sent in place, does he need to coach them too? My guess is yes, given he is at the mercy of the mai-baap, BCCI. Methinks he'll be happy to give it all up for a few weeks and rest in cosy New Zealand.

Aug 20, 2002

Good quote
Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste they hurry past it.
-Soren Kierkegaard, philosopher (1813-1855)

Seems to me that Kierkegaard makes a lot of sense.
Nice bonus for subscribing to Wordsmith's A Word A Day.

Aug 18, 2002

Had to include a word on this. Finally saw Dil Chahta Hai. I know that isn't a great testimonial on my film viewing abilities, but for some reason, I usually end up not watching very popular films: KKKG, Devdas, Aankhen, HAHK are convincing examples (but yes, I have watched Lagaan, thank you). In some cases, I avoid the movie, knowing fully well that the people unfortunate enough to accompany me would have to sit through 3 hours of extreme cribbing. In case of DCH, though, it just passed me by for a medley of reasons, thus causing me to miss out on some very intense discussions in some circles. Now I'm ready to rekindle old threads and reignite some smouldering remnants.
I liked the movie. Certain elements were very promising, such as the consistent styling, diction and performances. The "sync sound" is a good approach, but couldn't help wondering if it wouldn't attract attention to itself. (Being a non-audio-technicalspeak guy, I can't explain it any better, but I felt the sync-sound didn't come out as well as say in "Hey Ram!" or "Lagaan" for example.) Not since Sati Leelavati have I seen a movie that has no pretences to profundity or aims to be a "great". It just tells a story and is backed up with good characterizations. All in all, a good advertisement for the art of cinema.
Each day, audio-visual crimes classified under the headings "remix" are inflicted on the unsuspecting populace. For some reason, the Burmans come in for particularly harsh treatment. One didn't know popularity could kill this manner too. In a way, it's good they're not witness to this. Case in point: Hoton pe Aisi Baat from Jewel Thief is the latest to come under the butcher's knife. Interestingly, even the words aren't faithful, I distinctly recall the lady in the remix say: Hoton **mein** aisi baat .
And more of while on the subject...
... of the immortal Wodehouse, one reason for his success (and similarly for Pu La) is the choice of the most astonishing names for characters. Barmy Fotheringay-Phipps, Honoria Glossop, the Hon.Rev.Harold "Stinker" Pinker, Uncle Tom Portarlington Travers, the list is endless. The Butlers are an integral part of the Wodehousian plot: Jeeves heading an illustrious list composed of Beach, Biggleswade. I forget Aunt Dahlia's (not Agatha, the one who breathes fire!) butler, silent spectator to some of Bertram Wilberforce's most unspeakable antics.
The Wodehouse book I scooped up has "Gussie Presents the Prizes" from "Right-Ho Jeeves", probably a perfect Pelham prose.
And while on the subject...
... of BCL, I have seldom seen an organization that invites both derision and pathos, though it cops the former in greater quantities, IMHO. They have such a bloated sense of self-worth that they could give a corporate balloon an anorexia complex. What else explains their letter-bomb detector, metal detector and sullen female security guard (who doubles up as bag-watcher) after 9-11. I have a problem imagining someone would want to attack BCL of all places, as a symbol of Western presence in India. The only disgruntled visitors to the place are the members: the service that is dished out is as friendly as a POW camp. German Shepherds can take diploma courses there in snappy service (where you use your teeth to provide the snaps). And ironically, it is a centre for the BEC examination, which teaches Business communication. Don't buy the books for that for the BCL is a live example of the dont's. And the rates get hiked each year, the number of books you can borrow goes down. In what must be a grave loosening of morals, they have started stocking local authors in their IT & Management sections: Balguruswamy now rubs hardcover with Joyce. In the process, decent fiction shelves don't always make the cut.
I wonder if it is the fact that they've Brit affiliations makes the Indian employees do the things they do. But going by their "attract-the-desi" campaign, we'll soon have a board: "Only Indians allowed." Not sure that even the dogs would prefer the current standards of hospitality.