Archive for March, 2009

Allegedly Speaking….

March 16, 2009

Warning: Short post! 🙂

I just noticed: The TOI (Mumbai edition), today, states that a lot of people have alleged a lot of things, most of them yesterday. These include: the police (from all over the country, in multiple stories. They do allege a lot!), the court, baby-swap victims, a security guard, a ragging victim, the Election Commission, CBI, the paper itself, and a witness in the 1998 blasts. All in italics.

[Imagine two paragraphs of fine prose lamenting the fall of freedom of expression, bane of political correctness, and so on; which I am not going to write. It’s a short post! Ha!]

Sensitivity is a good thing, but I wonder…legal team slogging away? New editor? Someone lit a candle of political correctness under their chairs? Wot?

The giant allegedly blurts: Bollocks to PC!

Quick, muddled review: Gulaal

March 14, 2009

Quicker review: *********! ***** *****! ****! ****! ****! (Insert your favourite cuss-word, four letters or otherwise, to appreciate the movie, and…) Go watch it!!!

[As usual, there is no movie synopsis below, just my thoughts. And I’ve tried to avoid spoilers. But. Watch the movie instead.]

“A patriot must be ready to defend his country from its Government.” This piece of rhetoric aptly describes the obsessed megalomaniac played by Kay Kay Menon. Admittedly, it also introduces the movie in quite a faadu beginning, which grabs you by the eyeballs, and refuses to let go.

“Jiska zindagi mein kuch nahi hota, who yahaan Law padne aa jaata hai.” Similarly introduces the abject loser that is Raja Chaudhary’s character. (I don’t think this is the exact dialogue, but it is close enough! 🙂 )

Each character, from the separatist senapati and his sidekick, to the dorky protagonist and his royal-blooded-who-gives-a-s***-s****-you-dad friend, the humiliated teacher, the illegitimate siblings, the Tabu-obsessed parlourwaali-mujrawaali, to even the lyrically insane royal start off really strong. Each such character, in turn, is played superbly by Kay Kay Menon, Raja Chaudhary, Abhimanyu Singh, Mahie Gill, Ayesha Mohan, Jesse Randhawa, Piyush Mishra, Deepak Dobriyal and Aditya Srivastav. (The actors mentioned, of course, are not in any particular order; not even in relation to the preceding sentence. Heh!). They develop, some lightening quick, some slow-cooked, into hugely engrossing fare. The movie, at times, becomes just an excuse to enjoy a particular ‘actor’s moment’.

The movie and the underlying story have lots of nuances, undercurrents and perspectives which the actors effortlessly portray on their faces (Gulaal, eh?). The clan mentality, the angst of betrayal in personal life as well as politics, lust, fear, greed, love, power, revolution (!), corruption, destruction, and death are so invisible, yet so naked, that they lend a few hundred layers of complexity to the movie. The movie, per se, is very well written, directed and shot (cinematograph-ed?). Anurag Kashyap is fast becoming a favourite, with Dev.D and Gulaal (I think he made a special appearance in this movie, but I’m not sure.). And it’s not even April yet! I’ve heard rumours of Paanch releasing (finally!!) sometime in the next two months, and I’m super-excited!

The music is outstanding. Piyush Mishra has used the local flavour to craft a genuinely delectable score. And the lyrics are, well, lyrical. If you have a taste for such fine music, please, please buy the CD!

Now, the problems:

  • Unlike in Dev.D (I really must watch it one more time!), the women in the movie, after starting out real strong, simply fade away. Forget Jesse Randhawa and Mahie Gill, even Ayesha Mohan, who is pivotal to the story, simply evaporates for no fault of hers.
  • The film tries to make a statement about the idea of India, divisive movements, college politics….but at heart it is a story, a chain of events, and ends up as just that. It’s not Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, not by a stretch.
  • The second half of the film begins to tear around the edges and the movie becomes more and more ragged. In fact, in the last few minutes, you may be tempted to walk out. (Don’t! Listen to the song(s)!!)
  • The climax. Well, it’s ok. Not very good. So, it joins Slumdog Millionaire, Dev.D and Delhi-6 (from what I’ve heard), where the climax is not as good as the movie! (Or, is it just me?)

    In conclusion, the movie can give you quite a kick if you dip in, but if you don’t, it will give you the unpleasant feeling of having wasted your time and money. My call: It’s not Anurag Kashyap’s best (Haven’t watched Black Friday yet, and am still trying to get a grip on No Smoking.), but it is a must-watch.

PS: I thought I wrote bad reviews, but you should see the Gulaal reviews in the papers. Yuck!

The Unbelievably Friendly Postman

March 2, 2009

This ‘twilight-zone’ incident happened in the first week of Feb. I had ordered a gift from pardes (not very far, actually). The postwallahs out there were very efficient, and tracked my poor parcel (no privacy, you see) every step of the way till it safely boarded the plane. I sat on my hands, marveling at this for a full four days, before my curiousity got the better of me. I tried tracing it through the India speed post website, and pfff, the parcel had vanished! Unable to take it any longer (the b’day was periliously close), I sent off a minion (friend, actually. Sorry!) to the GPO to enquire (inquire?), and expectedly: “We cannot trace it from here. Go to your local Post Office.” I trudged down to the nearest one (well after closing time, on a Saturday. The temerity of I. Sigh.). The postman only asked:”What’s your Pincode?”, and gladly pointed me further down the road. Surprisingly, it wasn’t shut!

Various postmen guided me through the miniscule maze to a place (ok,desk) which ‘handles’ my post (My post. Only. See, now that’s a status symbol.). The elderly post-man sitting there looks me up and down (I keep on wishing he doesn’t remember Diwali 2008. Raat gayi, baat gayi. Right? Right?) and motions to follow. Another miniscule maze later, he tip-taps on a computer and shakes sadly, his head. “Abhi nahi aaya. Kal aa jaayiye.”

My eyes pop out: “Kal Sunday hai!!!”

“Matlab Monday.”

Me, sourly: “Monday ko office hai. Possible nahi hai. Phir saturday aana padega.”

Suddenly, the room brightens, the post-man smiles: “Yeh lo. (Paper and pen.). Aapka full name, address likho. Phone number bhi. Aa jayega to call karenge. Registered hai na, time lagta hai.”

I do the needful. Leave, deciding he did that just to get rid of me. (Yes, i’m a cynic. So?)

Paranoid thought: will he sell my info??

Three days later (b’day’s come and gone.), I get a call from a mobile number: “Main aapka postman bol raha hoon. Aapka parcel aa gaya hai. Aaap ghar par rahenge to bata do, nahi to aa kar collect kar lo.” In my mind, I am jumping through the roof of the moving train, and running back to the Post Office. (First class. Can’t jump with joy. Damn.).

Amazing! Astounding! Incredible! Mind-blowing! Bharat Ratna!

Fortunately, I develop a stomach-ache the next morning, which gets cured by the time the post-office opens (No, I am not bunking school! I am not even in school! It was quite painful. Honest!). I float to the post-office, and am shocked to see a young fellow sitting at the desk. I tentatively start to mumble, when the parcel is gently shoved into my hands. The guy explains that since he was on leave on saturday, someone else was filling in. And he actually passed on the message!!!! Unreal!!! I have died and gone to Postal heaven!!!

I thank him profusely, in bilingual, and bounce out of the Postoffice with the precious cargo. I wondered if there was any other way to thank him which would not belittle his effort or worse, look like a bribe.

I checked out the India Post website. They have a complaint register, but no place for any positive feedback. Idiots! Hence the post.

PS: The friend loved the gift, and didn’t mind the delay. 🙂

PPS: With apologies, in part, to KM’s style of writing film reviews. Not that I miss them.

Review: Slumdog Millionaire

March 1, 2009

Ah, the much-loved, much-hated movie. I wanted to watch Delhi-6 (Dilli-6? no idea…) sunday morning, but half the movie was over (@ the singleplex) by the time I woke up (@ home). Short of money, and slightly groggy, I decided to watch Slumdog instead.

This is one of those strange movies (no movie synopsis here. If you don’t know what the movie is about, crawl back under your favourite rock and don’t come back.), which has so many elements from so many famous and forgettable films, coming together to form predictable cinema (if taken scene-by-scene), and yet, something clicks, and it becomes a very good, a very memorable movie.

The plot device of using the questions of the game show to tell the story of Jamal’s life, all the while showing how various experiences during his life give him many of the answers of the questions of the game show is quite innovative. It is a delightful play on the serendipity and coincidences in his life amalgamating with his will, wit and can-do, opportunistic spirit, and will definitely frustrate all those hyper-logical people out there! (personal beef, nya-nya-nya!)

Most of the acting is very ordinary, even wooden. What really lifts the movie is the acting of the kids and the adolescents. They are so natural, so effervescent, so refreshing that you feel every emotion they express, and a few they don’t. The music is not Rehman’s best, by far; I’d rather listen to Delhi-6 (Dilli-6?). The locations are well chosen, and shot beautifully. Bombay is anyway my favourite city, so there’s lots of bias here. 🙂

The controversy surrounding the movie seems needless; the scenes showing poverty, riots, exploitation, torture etc are quite believable, and quite possibly, a reflection of the lives of thousands of Bombay-ites; and a cold, hard look at the realities the rest of us desparately try to ignore. In fact, if anything, the director has tried to go as far as possible, and at the same time, handled the issues very sensitively. Maybe it makes one uncomfortable, makes one throw up the popcorn, but then, it makes one realize the thirst and hunger which exist outside our personal oases.

Other sundry issues:

  • The suspension of disbelief required to swallow that Jamal (adult) is Indian matches that of a Govinda movie.
  • The “Jai Ho!” video at the end is horrible. Neither of them can dance, or even emote to the lyrics, and the choreography is downright scary.
  • The climax! the climax! First Dev.D and then Slumdog! (and, I hear, Delhi-6 (Dilli-6?) too!) Pathetic! Still waiting for a good movie with a decent climax this year.

I know I have berated the movie more than praised it.* Yet, it is recommended viewing ‘cuz:

  • It is well-written, well-shot, and well-directed.
  • It takes a unflinching look at the underbelly of Bombay without getting all wail-y, preachy, arty on you.
  • The kids are superb.

Finally, congratulations to Slumdog Millionaire for winning all those Oscars.

*Disclaimer – I write pathetic reviews, mostly because I am a fault-finder at heart. So if the movie is good, I say so at the start, and spend the next few hours gleefully splitting hairs. Ha!

In Remembrance: The Bookseller of Bombay

March 1, 2009

Although I knew he was unwell for a long time, this still shocked the hell out of me. I have been an admirer of Mr. Shanbag since I first heard of the Strand Book Sale at Sunderbai Hall, back in school. For a bookworm like me, it was paradise! Rows upon rows of beautiful books at unbelievable prices! I made it a point to go to every one of them in Bombay, for the last ten years, save one. Even to the tiny ones near Kaifi Azmi.

Whatever I knew of the man, I read in newspapers and on the Internet. I am not going to repeat all that he has done for booklovers in Bombay, and elsewhere. If you dont know, well, you ought to. Even in absentia, he became one of the very few people I respect, admire, look up to. Only once did I see him; in his bookstore, wandering and talking to visitors. There was something about him, strong, confident, and gentle, which was so awe-inspiring I simply couldn’t go up to him. To this day, and forever, it shall remain something I regret.

I shall truly miss you, Mr. Shanbag; it feels like I lost someone real close.

May you rest in peace, Mr. Shanbag.

Mandatory First Post

March 1, 2009

Hello. This is the mandatory ‘first-post’ of a long-delayed blog. I’ve always wanted to, but kept stopping myself for one reason or another. The most recent being ‘Most blogs never get past the first post.’ Yup! This very one. But then, it is after a looong time that I feel like I really need to write, want to write, had to write. So write I will, and start with something that this is probably a reaction to.

Here goes nothing!

P.S.: My apologies for the atrocious grammar.