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.
What is the best balm for a ruffled mind, one with a little bit on it? There may be many solutions to this oft-repeated query. There can be one useful answer though: the world of Wodehouse. Guaranteed a chuckle, much more of course than the wolly ba-lamb clearing its throat on a distant, misty hilltop. The idyllic world of Wodehouse, to quote Evelyn Waugh, has given humankind much joy. Salut maitre!
All this courtesy a weekend raid at the local British Library (yes, that same old snob-story) yielded for a change, some readable fare, quite suited for the old curl-up-in-bed-during-a-rainy-day. The usual suspects were unearthed: a Wodehouse compilation, quite aptly titled Weekend Wodehouse, a Marple omnibus of 4 novels (yippee!) and David Gower's autobio.
My attempts to up the tempo on my reading has led to an inundation of books to read: apart from the BCL haul, got Atlas Shrugged and two books related to Computer histories (not too technical thankfully).

Aug 16, 2002

Damn. Damn! Damn!! Damn!!!
No, I remembered: blogging is not boxing. Need to find a punching bag soon. Not even a shadow will do.

Aug 13, 2002

NSS's So Sick a.k.a NSS's So Silly
Navjot Sidhu is a kid.
One of those kids that give kids a bad name.
A kid who thinks he is, in appropriate terms, the cat's whiskers and the dog's tail, when actually his whiskers don't muffle his bombastic roar of his dog-eared tale.
A kid who likes to be on the winning side, even if it means changing the story in a jiffy.
A kid who thinks the world is laughing with him, though many times it laughs at him.
A kid who has the going good for him now.
A kid who makes the mute on my remote an attractive and much used button.
A kid who's taking valuable space on my blog.
-Non Stop Sufferer.
What a waste!
While we spend reams of paper and decibels of sound-bytes (sometimes validly) on many problems, ranging from the how bad the drought is to how small Parthiv Patel looks, they often get lost the next day; newer interests engulf the media minds. But sometimes outrageous things don't receive even half the attention that Kareena Kapoor's belly-button gets, and it is time, once again, to rail at the news-hounds.
The Lok Sabha was adjourned sine die yesterday, days before the scheduled close. Nine crores were spent, not a single law passed. Which means, our legislators came, exercised their vocal skills and improved their vocabulary, ate, stayed in MP hostels or guest houses at public expense, and were left a few days off before, and, this being the crux, did *NOT* produce anything to show for this "effort". If you or I were to lounge about at work, throw a tantrum because we didn't like the face of the guy who was proposing something, demanded days off just for behaving badly at work (because so did everyone else at work) and after all this, didn't do what we were paid to, bet you our bottoms would hurt: because we'd have got a good kick on it, and b'cos we'd have landed pretty hard on it when being hauled out by our collars.
And no outrage. B'cos we're getting used to it. Atleast we're spared from live telecast of a poor cousin of WWE wrestling.
Sine die ? Yes, Signs of Death indeed.

Aug 12, 2002

Children in this world?
Not to embarass or provoke, but just harking back to a little thought: is this world good enough to bring a child into? Today, a fellow colleague had a baby (and congratulations Ajay, while we are at it!). Was again reminded of the movie Seven, where Gywneth Paltrow finds an echo in Morgan Freeman's estimation of the world as a sometimes awful place: should she bring the child into this world or not, and so postpones telling husband Brad Pitt about it until the decision is made (made, ultimately by someone else of course, but go watch it yourself).
Can I put it this way? Would I invite another person to come and stay on this Earth in its present form, much like recommending a restaurant to someone else? Where things get worse each passing year, some things get better but cannot still make up for those that aren't (so it seems), and sometimes terribly, they remain the same. And yes, I have a pretty decent life, not as bad as some others, but is that incentive enough? Keeping the lineage going (and some of us do not carry the burden of keeping the "family name" going as we no longer carry common surnames :) ) or just hoping the kid will take care of you? Just a duty to the world to leave behind someone? Not trying to be pessimistic. Just a question.
Deep, pretty deep. Let me end by breaking into confused laughter here.
Banana skins and Computing
For some reason, the slipping-on-a-banana-skin equivalent of using computers, especially when using projectors, is when reboots or hangups occur in full view of an often hostile audience. It is extremely funny when it happens to any hapless individual with the sole exception of oneself. For some reason, the computer decides to play hooky and the audience (however dignified it may be considered to be) goes into peals of embarrassing laughter; accompanied by wild suggestions to press this key or that. The safest thing to do is to pull out any plugs from the comp to the projector; all that it will do is get the audience into intense speculations as to what wrong is being committed behind the scenes, but will save one from being humiliated further if they knew even half of what was happening.
Speaking from experience? yes, from the audience side. People just loooove to do some backseat driving!

Aug 9, 2002

Controlling email access
Just going to prove that it can sometimes be a small world, George's old classmate, Nidhi, who according to her blog (of which I'm an intermittent visitor), is now at India Today, in what must be her last article for Rediff, she writes about email practices in companies. And why a small world? Because she quotes Persistent Systems, which is where I work. And we come out quite decently out of it.

Aug 8, 2002

The rains came... finally
I'm no rain-lover usually, and hate getting drenched and don't usually sing-and-dance in the first showers with great deference to my propensity to be a good host to cold viruses, but even I have no complaints with the largesse that is being dished out the past few days. It has been raining normally and continuously as befits a decent Puneri monsoon. We had a glimpse of the possible effects if it didn't rain: drought, power cuts and all those spanners in works. So a good rain is not going to hurt anyone, least of all me.

Aug 7, 2002

Chaps from my class
One condition from Nikhil on being asked to read my blog was that I have good things to say about him. I thought I'll balance all the prevarication by some words about some others in my class.
  • Nikhil is a true-blue Sadashiv Pethi Konkanastha Brahmin, and one who lives upto it too. He has endured me during our BE project days. He loves to eat and experiment, often both at the same time. And to complete the bribe, he is very nice (wink, wink).
  • Ajit rounds off my BE project team. A great music addict, he was the first private radio broadcaster, with his continuous humming. He is off to Montreal for more studies, at which he has always been very diligent.
  • Vinay is the kind of guy who comes first in class and has a rather bad habit of being consistent at it. He is off to Stanford in a few weeks.
  • Rahul always seems to float around without anyone noticing what's going on. He is archetypically the guy in the white coat, researching stuff with being too fussy about it all. He is in Illinois at UIUC.
  • Akshay For some reason, Akshay reminds me of George Castanza from the sitcom Seinfeld (no offence meant!). He has had more than his share of bad luck, and going by my theory of luck, he will have a great time later in his life.
Mastermind TV date
Word from the Mastermind folks is that my episode will be aired on the 12th of September, with the usual bunch of repeats. One wonders how low the TRP will be that day. But logically speaking, the TRPs will dip from Sept 19, after they've endured the "Recipients of the Bharat Ratna".

Aug 6, 2002

Will keep up the conversation going later, when I have time to wax eloquent. Have some new commentators today.

Aug 5, 2002

The star and the actor
On Sun TV yesterday, one more film-centric programme. But this one promised to be the mother-of-all; with an impressive roster of names from the past and the present in a 4 hour extravaganza designed partly to show to the world what an united clan the Tamil film industry (or Kollywood if you like these -woody names) was. Which it obviously isn't, or they wouldn't need to demonstrate it; the very act paradoxically disproves it. But it did give an insight into the workings of a very intriguing industry that boasts of some of the most creative forces in Indian films (though this goes mostly unrecognized) with the huge undercurrent of politics that has distinguished from the other city-filmdoms for over half a century now. The show put together by the Actors association, has most of its office-bearers holding political office: there are various MPs, MLAs, who, true to tradition, are still in the acting business. And unlike their counterparts in the North, they are in the fray at getting-younger-each-generation ages, at the peak of their histrionic powers. Somehow, the DMK & AIADMK affiliates among the actors carry on together on stage, a feat not to be expected of their respective thalaivis & thalaivans.
And for some reason, Tamil cinema has always revolved around 2 complementary and often contradictory stars at the centre of their galaxy, two stars around which most attention spins, unlike the trios/singles of Bollywood. First, Shivaji Ganesan & MGR, then Kamalahassan & Rajanikant (just committed blasphemy - he is the Superstar). Now it probably is Ajit & Vijay, but they still have to go a long way - both in terms of talent and charisma that characterised their predecessor pairs. But the parallels are intriguing between Generation One & Two: Sivaji and Kamalhassan, characterised by their stunning natural ability, defining singlehandedly the paradigms of acting for their industry, attaching an almost bhakt-like reverence for their craft, and Kamal likes to call himself the natural heir to the Shivaji's throne (and for all his cockiness/confidence, one will grant him that, and probably pay him the compliment that he has gone more steps forward). And the parallels between MGR & Rajanikant are striking: not naturally talented, not classically hero-material, but thrust into the role of folk-hero, partly because of the roles they took (first by accident, then by carefully crafted design) and the inexplicable identification the masses seem to have for them, their adayen, their styles (though seemingly crude to the classes), and their espousal of the causes of the downtrodden. But Rajani is, IMHO, a much better actor and for some reason, hugely ambiguous about his political ambitions.
With personalities like these, naturally we are interested in learning how-and-why. Iruvar by Mani Ratnam was a pointer, albeit about another pairing, MGR & Karunanidhi. But more about the current badshahs of Tamil Cinema (now that Sivaji Ganesan is no more) tomorrow.