Oct 6, 2003

Notes from recent times

Put it down to a possible Goth or Visigoth or Vandal influence in one of my past births, but I have been a little bit of a defacer when it comes to all those grinning faces in newspapers. When I have access at arm's length to a pen or pencil, I like to add the small touches that can transform today's beauty contest winner into a ghoul at a witches' coven. My style has evolved from the childish extravagance when all of us used to draw large moustaches and moles on film star photos to a more subtle blackening of a tooth or two - the less grotesque it is, the better. I do, however, like to spice up things with Chinese-style beards or a pirate's eyepatch from time to time. My niece Tania is a huge fan of the notorious Khan, S. and has posters of all kinds of the dude in her house. Her brother Nikhil and cousin Sharad with all due brotherly affection (and perhaps sub-consciously as a protective gesture) unleashed their sketch-pens over many of the hapless Khan's poses, leading to the inevitable clash. I walked in without any inkling of these deep political divides, and surveying the output of art in front of me, promptly asked for a pen and set about showing these young men all the intracacies in this medium. All with a view to encourage and hone their precocious talents, of course. It was when Nikhil informed me it would probably be more fun to rat on me to his elder sister (she having been absent during my lessons) that it dawned on me that not all players in this drama would consider my tutorial with the same enthusiasm. Cursing the younger generation's tendency to rate the art of chuglii even higher than avuncular loyalty, it was all I could do to divert the attention of the nephews to video games and ice cream. My murals escaped attention from the otherwise docile niece - the abundance of variously hirsute Salman clips probably meant that my addition was just a drop in the ocean of vandalism. I should be safe considering that this confession will not be read by most. However, I couldn't help feeling a tinge of sympathy for Aunt Agatha - if this was what nephews did, then one had to seem to eat broken glass for dinner.


In some sort of MMI spinoff, I have been asked to talk to a group of people preparing for the next UPSC examinations on useful books, newspapers, periodicals, memorising facts etc. etc. that we quizzers are supposed to be an authority on. I fear, as in many other aspects to life, that I will finally be exposed as a fraud because rack as I might my brains, I cannot think of having done anything significantly different or having any special memory tricks up my sleeve. We just loved making and asking questions of all kinds at the BC where it didn't seem an effort. More than plain quizzing, I think setting quizzes makes a considerable difference. Add to this, the fact that every person I know who tried to mug his way through a general knowledge test hasn't succeeded, so I think the guys at Jnana Prabodhini's Competitive Exams Centre might be a touch disappointed with me. I need to think more about what I'm going to say to them.


The trailers for Tehzeeb are out and unfortunately, the couple of songs aired haven't been distinctive. Fans of Rahman may apportion a larger portion of the blame to Khalid Mohamed, but the fact remains both director and music-d are responsible. Will the much talked about ghazals be the saving grace?

I've usually noticed that in many cases, the first song aired is never the best in the pack - is this a strategic choice to whet the appetite (backfires if the song isn't good enough) or do the makers think the song is one that is likely to appeal to a majority?

The title song of Kal Ho Naa Ho (the trailers are giving me major fumes of Anand) is very Jatin-Lalit like (turned out to be Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy), and seemed pleasant enough. Though the repeated airings of the same pieces have now turned it a little monotonous and even maudlin.


After months of threatening to do so, I've finally started walking to work (2.5 kms in one direction). Partially enforced by the noisome Navratri mela at Chaturshringi, the early morning or evening walks have been quite pleasant. As Pune switches into Winter and out of the rains, there will be times in the day which are rather glorious. The trick would be to get out then.


Has there been any movie like Duet in which the saxophone has been so brilliantly used? The interludes in Naan Paadum Sandham are outstanding!


Israel has attacked terrorist camps in Syria. India is among the first countries to condemn this "unilateral action". As Denzel W. says in Philadelphia, explain this to me like I am a ten year old:

* The US and allies attacked an independent nation on the suspicion that it harbours and encourages terrorism. Israel, and indeed the whole world, knows that there are terrorist camps in Syria, and have chosen to describe the target as the camp, not the nation of Syria itself. In comparison, Israel had more justification.

* Many in the Government of India (especially after the Iraqi war) have made statements advocating a policy of hot pursuit to strike at terrorist camps in POK. Though all of us know this is isn't feasible (hence making it more worthy of idle conjecture). Syria doesn't have a nuclear capability.

Everyone knows that international politics cannot afford to let one nation attack another. Everyone also knows that some can get away with it and some cannot. Israel, unlike India, is in the former category.


Two instances of in-jokes that re-called themselves to my attention:

Andaaz Apna Apna: when Amar (Aamir K) tells Prem (Salman Khan) that yeah right, Prem's father wrote Sholay, which Salim Khan did of course.

In the song KuLichaa KutraaLam from Duet, in the course of giving what are the best examples and complements for different kinds of things (if I understand correctly :-) ) - Prabhu sings naDichaa engappa.n - a tribute shared by everyone to the late Sivaji.


My friend Vivek is reading the complete stories of Sherlock Holmes (I lent him the two volumes which have all novels and short stories in the Holmes canon) and it is interesting to note his first-timer's reaction, of wonderment and enjoyment. I myself read the different stories over a period of time, starting when I was quite small, so I don't remember my reactions to it, or if I was impressed or if I understood it completely. Whereas my friend's sense of discovery will last him a long while as it will be in his adult consciousness. I will never have that kind of joy with Holmes now, as many of plots and characters are now too familiar to me. In compensation, surely there will be other things to do for the first time.

On a tangential note, I've noticed this attempt or need to record, replay and hold on to first impressions - the kind of reactions when you discover the surprise ending (these days, suspense is never guaranteed, and experiencing something is always coloured and sullied by someone else's comments) or when you see some unusual natural object for the first time or perhaps even when you see someone interesting for the first time. Like Ricky Fitts in American Beauty, a camera to record items of beauty is in order.


I haven't seen Boys, but I think I will pass judgement on it anyway. Shankar's film making template is to construct the plot based around some social evil or theme. What I don't like is that to this he adds more than a dollop of what I consider crass and unnecessary dialogues and scenes. There are many examples from Gentleman and Indian (the two films I have seen completely) that don't impress me and which I feel as bordering on soft-p0rn). They are unnecessary because they don't add anything to the film's story, they pander to the baser instincts of the whistlers and no, I don't think the public asked for it - even if they did, you don't have to give it to them.

Given my opinions of Shankar's films, the whole brouhaha over Boys doesn't surprise me. I only consider it as Shankar pushing his luck a little too far this time. Call me a prude or narrow-minded person, but I find it difficult to reconcile a storyteller who tells his highly moral semi-autobiographical story of corruption in education (Gentleman) with low-minded jokes. I'm sure he has the intelligence and creativity to make a film without stooping so low. I cannot stop saying this - the big guns are the ones that have the opportunity to lead the way, and do influence film plots and commerce - why can't they take the risk. Unless of course, Shankar says such scenes are fundamentally necessary to the success of his films, in which case, no one can persuade him to do any different.

(For a differing view, read Lazygeek's review of Boys (Look for it in the middle of the page))


Oceans divide them, electrons unite them
Affection unseen but feelings keyed
Ice cream now gives way to IM
And emoticons quench the heart's need

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