Now and Then.

Who the...?

Harendra Kapur.
Kyra Mathews.
Tejas Menon.

Happy Holidays

Sunday, December 27, 2009

We the would just like to wish you the.
And a Happy New Year.
Thank you for making this year a particularly special one for us.

Avatar: A Review

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ello All,

This post is a bit overdue but after watching it for a second time today, I realised James Cameron's Avatar did not deserve to go un-reviewed any longer.

For months now Tejas has been banging on about the movie and it's revolutionary technology and how it had the potential to change the landscape of film making. Personally, I was sceptical. Mostly because watching films like Ninja Assassin made me think that there was little left to revolutionise in modern cinematography and motion capturing. Specially not something worth a 12 year wait.

And then I saw it.

We don't usually swear on this blog but $#%&.

You know how Roald Dahl can take the simplest of stories and enchant them with wit and irony? Well, James Cameron's done the same damn thing only he's used unbelievable CGI and an overwhelming attention to detail.

The story line is simple and some could even say cliche. But no film, that has ever used any of the plot elements here before, be it aliens, romance, action, nature or the future, has ever told a story as beautifully as Cameron's team has done here.

The twin analogies of 'making' war for profit and the destruction of our ecosystem are put across in, till now, the most effective way I've ever seen. The idea behind "Tsahelu" a physical bond through energy (in the film through fat nerves coming out of your pony tail) to the planet and world that one lives in is possibly my favorite idea for the next few years.

But it's the attention to detail that makes this movie so immense. The tools and materials used by the "Na'vi" tribe, the language they came up with, the almost infinite inhabitants and elements in that incredible forest (The glowing had me gaping...) the little things about the aliens, such as the fact that all their animals have six legs (I suspect that has something to do with lower gravity...) and the fact that the real aliens have three fingers while the Avatars have four, all come together and make this film so incredibly HUGE I don't feel even slightly bad saying it's one of the defining movies of this decade.

In terms of acting I must say Sam Worthington doesn't make me cringe anymore. In fact he was quite freaking awesome in his 'Avatar'. The stand out performance for me though was that of Zoe Saldana who has quite swiftly become one of my favorite actresses. I suggest we all look out for her. From the looks of it she's one of the few raw, ballsy actors out there.

For now, go and have yourself a thorougly fulfilling 3-D experience. And a Happy New Year!

Ps. Long time no post. Apologies but you know how it is- you're trying to get into a big new course so you start arbitrarily checking people for hypertension and revolutionise Indian Radio. Good times.

French Women Don't Get Fat

Sunday, December 6, 2009

It’s true. French women have always been unfairly slender, with unfairly perfect skin, and even the sloppiest of French women are born with an inherent grace that most of us can’t even begin to fake. We can buy Chanel clutch purses , use Crème de la Mer, and even master the art of rolling our “R’s”, but there’s something about the French that we can never achieve.

Which is why, when I read a review about Mireille Guiliano’s “French Women Don’t Get Fat”, my attention was immediately aroused. It was an extremely funny article, about how the French are the only ones not overly affected by the scary “R” word. They drink as much wine as ever, and take longer lunch hours than they ever did. In fact, this particular journalist, pointed out that the reason the French aren’t so hit by Recession is BECAUSE of their long lunch breaks. It makes sense. The French will wake up as late as they like, they’ll have a leisurely breakfast, and get to work. But, when they reach office, they are so relaxed and rejuvenated, they give work their 200%. While in the US and the UK, people will scramble out of bed, battle with ties and pantyhose, and drink at least 5 venti lattes by the time they reach work. Then they’ll proceed to update their Facebook/Twitter, play Solitaire, meet colleagues at the coffee machine and productivity is basically nil. The article was so brilliantly written, with such marveilleuse insights, that when the journalist briefly mentioned “French Women Don’t Get Fat”, I knew I HAD to get my hands on it.

The logic that Guiliano presented to the world appealed to me because Ive been following it all my life : Eat whatever you want, whenever you want. Eat butter, white bread, chocolate, drink wine - just do it in moderation. If you feel like eating chocolate, and you immediately get your hands on it, you’ll end up eating a few squares. Your body’s demands have been instantly satisfied. However, if you try fighting your desire for chocolate, your body not only gets cranky, there comes a point when you stop fighting and youre cramming bars and bars of chocolate into your mouth like a crazy person. Never let yourself get hungry. Then you will never let yourself get stuffed. It is sound logic, and it seemed refreshing after all the calorie counting and banning of foods that other diets have strutted out.

Unfortunately, when Harry hunted it (and its sequel) down for me and it became my “Welcome home!” present, the book didn’t live upto my expectations, its review or its status as a present. While it’s a more entertaining read than most diet books, and its underlying logic is extremely sound, theres that certain something lacking that leaves the reader untouched. Its sequel on the other hand, “French Women for all Seasons” is a beautiful book, and one of my many books with a broken spine and many folded down pages. Guiliano seems to have put more of her heart into her sequel, with more personal histories, beautifully told with the occasional French phrase thrown in for poetic measure. While her first book tells you what to do and how to eat (including weekly menus!) her second book tells it like it is, which makes it even more a pleasure to read.

However, despite my criticism of “French Women Don’t Get Fat”, I hail her moot point as genius. It is a relief to finally have the ultimate non-diet book that dictates “the secret of eating for pleasure” One of my favourite chapters in the book, is one dedicated entirely to chocolate. Apparently, many French women say “Je deprime donc je chocolate” or “When I’m down, I chocolate”

It was a refreshing chapter to read in a so-called diet book, and so, as a tribute to the chapter and my father, I decided to try one of the recipes : Chocolate-Espresso Faux Souffles. A very simple recipe, I think Guiliano has made it so many times, she forgot that most people attempting are doing so for the first time. I followed her recipe perfectly the first time round, and had to discard it and start from scratch, switching around steps. And while I spent the night cursing her and her book, this morning I got up and actually tried the soufflé. I died, and went to heaven. Unlike my parents who gobbled their unset soufflés last night, I decided that all my exertions deserved to let it set properly. It was good that I did, because its perfect. Firm on the outside and molten chocolate inside. The kind of chocolate that makes you want to open chocolate museums (which apparently, the French have already done, thanks to recipes like this)

To quote Guiliano, who quoted Colette, a table of food should be seen as un rendez-vous d’amour et d’amitie (a date with love and friendship) Enjoy your food, savour it, eat for pleasure, and you may never have to worry about getting fat again.

KT Tunstall's New Material

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hello everybody. I realise this may come off as a really geeky, stalk-ery post, but know that I do this for all the KT fans worldwide. I realised that since She had not updated her website in a long time, but sparks and rumours began to fly around summer time about a new album, that possibly they was something coming around maybe towards the end of this year(now). So let me at the very outset say that this is a comprehensive-ish post about all the information I have gathered about KT's new work, by scouring the internet and finding bits and bobs of news. Also the album is in all probability coming out sometime in the first half of 2010. Though she also mentioned somewhere that she wanted to record her new album in a solar power studio, but I haven't heard any news of her recording any new material anywhere so far. Personally I hope she's on it but also since she was touring during her first year of marriage, I hope she has time to chill as well.

No name has been released for an album, and I have not yet heard of any pre-production yet, but here are some of her new tracks that she's being playing at live gigs.

1. Poison in Your Cup: This one's about George Bush I heard, still proving to be the inspiration for many songs, articles, etc. She performed this one solo with her 'wee bastard' loop pedal at the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship 2009. Very dramatic, very powerful slow number.

2. Fireworker: One of my favourites right now, typical drastic fantastic KT, almost like a major version of 'Hold On' and catchy chorus.

3. Madame Trudeau: Going back the 'Black Horse' style here, about a former Canadian president's wife who apparently ran off to be with the Rolling Stones.

4. The Hidden Part: This one is actually from a fundraising compilation album called 'Songs for Survival' in aid of endangered Amazon tribes, which explains the track's very early american-red-indian-river-valley type, but again with her mellow vocals, proves to be quite surreal. Good quality recording in the link.

Other songs are 'Turn Into You' (probably destined to become a B-Side) and Scarlet Tulip, a slowish standard expected from her in almost all her albums (like 'Paper Aeroplane' or 'Silent Sea') and these new songs should sound even better in studio quality.
Anyway the point of all this that KT will always have great songs, because A: she has a great band to back up her vocals and melodies, and that B she's an experienced live artist touring for almost 10 years before she was discovered, thus making her a goldmine of yet unreleased-but-supremely-awesome songs. Also this was therapeutic for me in a way, finally I could devise a way to re-listen to all her new stuff, from links on a single page.
If there are any updates or otherwise, that I have missed, please inform me.

Also KT, if there's any chance in hell you are reading this, please just come to India and to like Mumbai this time. I know you were in the Rajasthani desert! She jammed with Rajasthani percussionists! She and Luke Bullen (Her husband) played a Dhol-type drum (A much bigger one)!
Can't believe I didn't know about that. I would have gone to Tilonia.

For Technorati

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Had to do this for stats!


Thats for you, baby.

Unlikely Musicians

Friday, November 27, 2009

Music as you may know is a big part of my life. In the past few years especially I have consciously/sub-consciously tried/failed/succeeded many/very few times to create/understand/replicate/modify/manipulate/control/innovate classic/contemporary forms of music. The results of which have been disastrous/astounding/enriching.
I would be inclined to think now, that music is an integral bit of everyone’s lives, whether they know it or not. Whether they try and incorporate some element of it into their lives. I can see an image of a corporate head going for a jam with friends after work. Or perhaps and a woman who finally buys herself the piano that she’s being putting of for so long, just to finally immerse herself into this new world of melody. Or maybe it’s the countless number of people putting their headphones on every time they step out of the house. Whatever it is, people are doing it, and if you’re not, you’ve got to try.

As I was aimlessly driving through the internet in my Powerbook G4 (Something I seem to be doing too much of lately* ) I stumbled upon a certain group of unlikely musicians, The Rock-Bottom Remainders; who were doing exactly what I thought people were doing. Random men and women who strum guitar and play music in general at a very basic level, had come together to jam-up and enjoy each others company and just play some simple songs to break away from their regular lives. More and more people like the afore-mentioned are finding music to be that one thing that they can use to colour their lives. The band I’m talking about have taken regular jamming to another level and has sort of an elite membership: Dave Barry, Stephen King, Amy Tan, Maya Angelou, Mitch Albom and Matt Groening to name a few. These very successful and powerful writers put down their pens and meet once a year to jam up for charity and the really cool thing is that they really know that they aren’t good at music so there’s always an endless supply of witty jokes about how bad they are:

"We play music as well as Metallic writes novels." -Dave Barry

"People are throwing panties at you. They certainly never do that at my book-signings." -Matt Groening

The point is that while this rock n’ roll band of published authors aren’t very good, they still go at it and have been at it since 1992. And also they are a hilarious bunch of people, so you should check them out for sure.
Music is for everyone and only you. You should first and foremost, feel the effects of the guitar in your hands while you strum it. You should get the feel of what John Mayer is saying when you buy his CD. Another super example of what I’m talking about is how my friend and I formed a band way back in 2008. We’re not too good, but I can speak for both of us when I say, I think we RULE. I enjoy cause I can experiment with new ideas in this relatively pure acoustic-one-woman-managed band but mostly I enjoy cause I get to watch a not that great singer pull out all stops and just sing his heart out. And I realized that much later until we were too busy to meet up let alone jam up. He may very well be the funniest guy I know and we connect on some kind of supreme level, and for that I miss him, and hope he accepts my heartfelt apology for bumming him out all too recently.
Please do yourself a favour and get out there. Buy a Karaoke machine. Or a violin. You’ve got to try.

*Lately = the last 3 years.

2012: The Review

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ello All,
So yes it happened. It came and I saw it and MAN!
What an excellent, excellent film. For several reasons and before I get into them I must say- it most certainly was not perfect. A lot of the times it was melodramatic, a lot of the times it was unrealistic, and for the most part, the family's story that leads the entire plot is far fetched to say the least.
Possibly a hundred close calls, near misses, 'aaaaaaaAAAAAAH! Phew' moments and other such wonderful things a script can give us. The more cynical would possibly use it as a reason to beat the film up though I must say, while it did grate on me a bit, it certainly kept the film thrilling THROUGHOUT, something not many films can accomplish. I can only think of one moment when my eyes weren't on the screen and my heart wasn't racing. At the same time, especially considering the kind of cameras they've used, I expected a bit more reality in the script (ironically a criticism levied against the lead character's book.)
Now for the good parts-
The Graphics were excellent. The solar flares, the tidal waves, the disintegrating crust of the earth and even the exposed core, were all STUNNING and quite an experience. There were a couple of places where I felt the green screen was a bit too evident, but overall, the mammoth task the filmmakers accomplished certainly deserves the capital G in graphics!
The acting was perfect for this kind of a film. More significantly though, the casting was just about spotless. Oliver Platt, Woody Harrelson and John Cusack stood out and all played their parts so very naturally and so non stereotypically, there wasn't a single place I wanted to cringe. Even the fringe characters (barring the Indian SATNAM who to be fair did decently enough, it's just that for Indians it's quite blatant how rough his accent and mannerisms were) were superb in their bits, though casting Amanda Peet for her role was ingenius. It was a mature, well restrained performance and certainly one worth lauding.
The direction too was near flawless, though as I mentioned earlier, there's extensive creative license.
Finally, and for me, the reason this movie has outdone past apocalyptic films, the script. I did not expect to come out of this movie, so in awe of the thoroughly detailed writing for this movie. First of all, science wise, it seemed pretty flawless to me, though I'm sure there are gaffs, the film's ending is perhaps the most well thought of doomsday solution I've ever come across.
Second of all, some of the dialogues are just inspired, especially towards the end. The plot elements, like Woody Harrelson's blog, John Cusack's book and the comedic lines are PERFECT. While the brief comedy could easily have been trite and gotten by, the writers have made sure it's pushed the plot forward in terms of revealing important character facets and plot elements. Also, the intrinsic details like how the Cistine Chapel cracks (check out which painting it is, even if the symbolism isn't clear, it looks quite freaking cool) add so much depth to the movie it sucks you right in.
Third of all, the writers have broken so many typically apocalytpic moments, the Statue of Liberty gaff, the 'I'll have a dramatic pause now and it's all good' was broken a couple of times (though abused a few times too) and most importantly for me- NO PUNCH LINES!
It could have been the director, the actors or the script writers themselves who slipped in these little things, frankly I don't give a crap.
This is easily the biggest film of the year and rightly so, though as I've mentioned, it isn't going to change your life, only give you one hell of an experience.
Let me just say one last thing:
Do not make the mistake of missing this one on the big screen- YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!

Of Kindred Spirits and Anne Shirley

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I have wanted to do a post of Anne of Green Gables for the longest time, but the timing was never right. To do proper justice to Anne-with-an-e Shirley and everything she represented, there had to a proper time, place and feeling.

I discovered Anne of Green Gables when I was 10. I had borrowed an abridged illustrated copy from a friend and I felt hopelessly in love. An orphan who was sent by accident to a brother-and-sister, she managed to transform their lives as well as the pretty Canadian town she lived in. Between the ages of 10 - 15, I managed to track down all 8 of her books - dating from her childhood, to the lives and loves of her own children. My collection of Anne Shirley's life has and always will be one of my most prized possession. She was and is one of my best friends. Her colorful imagination, her lyrical flights of fancy, and her all encompassing sense of love makes her far more than a mere fictional character. The fact that she was far from perfect helped too - a perfect person would never manage to dye her hair green, her nose blue, get her 11-year old friend drunk, bake a cake with anodyne liniment etc. Anne Shirley creeps her way into your heart because she is so...human.

One of Anne's pet theories, is one of kindred spirits. A kindred spirit is much more than just a friend. A kindred spirit, is someone who understands unconditionally, without even trying. Someone who becomes a part of your life without even trying, whether you like it or not, because somehow or the other, she/he just knows what you're saying/thinking/feeling. That someone will not only tolerate your incessant ramblings but will manage to acquire the underlying sense behind it. That someone gives you far more than love or friendship - that someone "gets" you, which is much harder to find than love/friendship.

Since Anne Shirley explained the concept of kindred spirits to me, a decade ago, I have been on the lookout for them. And I have found them, perhaps not as much I'd like, but I love the ones I have with a deep deep devotion. My kindred spirits shared a flaw however. They never understood the concept of kindred spirits. I could explain till I was hoarse, I could attempt to shove poor Anne down their throats, and they never really got it. They liked the way it sounded, and thought it amusing that it meant so much to me, but never really understood the significance of a kindred spirit the way Anne did.

But recently, I found a new kindred spirit, one I have never even met. It is surreal in the nicest possible way knowing that you and someone can "get" each other, without ever having met. But this someone, when told she was my kindred spirit, knew enough to exclaim"Anne of Green Gables!" This someone knew what being a kindred spirit meant, and understood enough of Anne-with-an-e's own spirit to know how yay it is to find one. This particular kindred spirit excites me more than the others I have, because if we can "get" each other when we have never met, I would love to know what it'll be like when we DO meet.

At age 10, Anne Shirley became a kindred spirit for life. One of the few fictional characters in my bookshelf to hold that title. But more than that, she paved the way for me to find kindred spirits of my own, apart from her. She taught me that once you find someone like that, you keep them. She taught me that an imagination can be the greatest comfort when you are "in the depths of despair" and she taught me it doesnt hurt to dream, even if you have freckles and red hair.

And most importantly, she taught me to always look at the bottle before you attempt to dye your hair. Green hair is not...becoming.

“Kindred Spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. Its splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world" - Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables

Countdown to 2012

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ello All,
It's hard to know why, but for some reason, we LOVE ourselves a good apocalypse!
As you all will know, in a few days one of the most widely anticipated movies of this year is going to be released. The film ofcourse, is 2012. It's centered around the theory that the Mayan calendar ends in 2012 and as the saying goes:
"Shit goin' down!"
As far as I can tell, the film is following the same formula that most apocalyptic films follow.
-There's some huge freaking climate change on a global scale.
-Everyone is scared crazy.
-America's at the brunt of it.
-The Statue of Liberty is going to get MESSED UP!
-There is one man who took his job too seriously and lost his family (who still totally dig him, they just don't know it yet)
-The governments are clueless and have no clue how to fix a damn thing.
-Shit goin' down!
What's interesting though, is that until the eighties when the likes of George Lucas started developing CGI and film techniques, there weren't a whole lot of these films, because they just cost too much.
With the kind of technology film makers have at their disposal today though, these films are almost commonplace now. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, we can't seem to get enough of them. Maybe it's the thrill of global destruction. Maybe it's the preachy monologue at the end. Maybe it's the return of slightly older actors in hardcore cool roles. Maybe it's the return of slightly older actors acting as the President of the United States. Maybe it's just the sheer event the film marketers make it out to be.
But one thing is for sure. We love to see how they portray the planet in their messed up futures. We LOVE to see how things change, we LOVE to see where the Statue of Liberty's going to be next. And quite clearly, we love to see big ass tidal waves!
So as a mild warm up for the big event that is 2012, I'd like to run through five films in the past couple of years that have stood out in their own little apocalyptic ways for differing reasons. They are in no order of preference or release date.
1) The Day the Earth Stood Still: I hated it. The film was stupid, one dimensional, preachy, downright silly at times, and quite honestly, Keanu Reeves was acting as Neo all over again. Only this time, he wasn't cool. What the film DID do well though, was it's special effects. The disintegration of everything around Reeves, the atmospheric changes and the monster sized robot were all stunningly done. In fact, it's this kind of film that makes me wonder just how incredible Avatar is going to have to be to live up to it's 'revolutionary' tag.
2) Terminator: Salvation: Another film which let down as far as acting, plot and script were concerned. The environment and machinery shown in the film was freaking unbelievable. The bikes popping out of giant robot shins, the guns, the capsules, the under water machines, were all so perfectly designed and placed, it made the whole film feel SO much better than it really was.
In particular the set design stood out as one of the best I've seen in a while.
3) Babylon AD: You know, in spite of it being a Vin Diesel film, I honestly expected great things from this film. That is until they gave Vin Diesel the chance to speak for more than two sentences. Fact remains though, the graphics and visuals in this film were HUGE. But more than anything else, it was the little things I loved about the movie.
In particular there's the map Vin Diesel uses to navigate. What looks like a peice of paper, gets pinched and stroked much like your iPhone does right now, and the best part is, it actually behaved like one. Only, when he was done, he just folded it right back into his backpack and made way. The other thing worth mentioning about the film is that it doesn't bore us with a pointless explanation about HOW the world's in the state it is, it just kind of moves on to the action at hand.
4) Wall- E: One of the best films made. One of the best sets animated. One of the best detail to characters. One of the most original takes on how we need to litter less. Tough freaking act to follow, though it doesn't compete with any of the films in this genre.
5) The Day After Tomorrow: True, it's from 2004 and doesn't count as 'last couple of years' but let's face it, this is the movie 2012 is going to have to out do if anyone's going to remember it. Super actors, super plot, super graphics and Dennis freaking Quaid!
A cinematic experience to say the least, and I'm one of the chumps who saw it on a laptop!
Needless to say I won't be missing 2012 in a theatre.
And I would hope none of you do either.
Till the day- ADDALAY!

Michael Jackson's This Is It: A Review

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ello All,

Due to some miscommunication between us, I ended up watching This is it before him, and so, quite humbly, I'll go through with the review for it.
The film, as most of you will know, is a filmed record of what was happening behind the scenes of "One last curtain call" as Michael put it himself.
Unfortunately, as you will also know, a few days before the final dress rehearsals, The King of Pop, passed away- thus making the whole shabang only what would have been the greatest concert he ever put together. And compared to some of the things he's put on stage, that's one hell of a show we're talking about.
The film starts with some testimonials from the supporting dance troupe, about how honoured they are to be dancing alongside their hero. The testimonials continue throughout the film and we see, essentially how awesome his crew, his band and his dancers all thought he was, or at the time, 'is.'
Essentially it's a collection of videos showing the rehearsals and creative process of Jackson and Ortega (The director, and his choreographer). I won't describe or point out what stood out as stunning to me, in too much detail. I will say, however, the preparation, the planning and the way all the performances come together is thrilling. The music, the dancing, the stage set up, the background videos, all merge to form one hugely inspiring, moving and simply stunning performance after the other.
What struck me most though, and I think will strike you most as well, is not only how Michael treats the whole thing, but how everyone treats Michael.
There are many times when the band continues on cue, or the dancers continue as choreographed, and MJ stops them to make them do it the way he thinks it ought to be. What's incredible about this, is not his eye and ear for detail, but the way he feels so instinctively, when to let things 'simmer' and when to let things 'pop'. I've always felt, that one of his greatest stage moves was his mastery of the stance. Of holding, pausing or abruptly halting the whole thing to grip you with expectation. To let the audience cheer and scream and hope for the imminent powerful BURST back into groove.
The powerful dancing, the 'oomph' choreography, the music would all mean nothing, if it weren't given to us viewers with the expert timing and precision that MJ commands. It's like the right full stop in the middle. Of a sentence.
A command, further elucidated by the fact that MJ asks for what he does, not in technical terms, but ALWAYS in metaphor. "Play with love." "No. Do it like you're dragging yourself out of bed." (A fact Ishaan, my roommate and a bassist in several bands, found very very irritating, saying that it was very childish and very annoying when people expect other people to technically respond to emotive commands. He did agree though, after seeing MJ do his thing in a rehearsal of Billie Jean, that it was the smallest price to pay to be a part of something that awesome happening.)
And that's the amazing thing. How very much like a child MJ seems throughout. Not in being exuberant, but in being reserved to the point of seeming shy. His polite requests always come off, more as encouraging someone to do better, rather than discouraging them from doing worse- if that makes sense at all.
Even the stage technicians and choreographers- always polite, always patient, as if they were dealing with a 4 year old. Careful not to push him too much, at the same time making sure they don't misunderstand him and incite a tantrum. A tantrum, which incredibly, never seemed to come, as one would perhaps expect from a 'genius' like Jackson.
What we end up getting with this film, is a real sense of HOW he functioned and what motivated him to do what he does. At times it feels a bit corny but his innate fragility makes you wonder why you'd ever doubt it at all.
When I came out of this movie, I felt the need to MOVE! To groove and to express like I'd die doing it. To PANG and BOOM, the way most of the performances do. To stand tall, chest out and yell as loud and clear as I freaking can.
The thing about Michael Jackson is not that he could dance well and sing nice notes. It's not that he wrote beautiful songs and made excellent concerts- it's that above all else, he FELT it, man. He felt every time he pumped his crotch, he FELT every time he clenched his fist and sang out loud, he FELT every time he looked at the audience and said 'I love you and God Bless you.'
To love what you're doing, to feel in your gut, everything that you convey, if there is one thing I have learnt from Michael Jackson- This is it.
Rest in peace, dear Michael. For never growing up, for never losing heart and for ALWAYS loving, rest in peace.

The Michael Sheen trilogy: A Review

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ello All,
I love movies. I Love Football. And like most of you, dear readers, I like British people.
So when I find a young, talented Welsh actor, who chose drama over sport, and still regrets that choice, it makes me jump up and down in little happy fits. That's happy. Not gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
The title of this post would suggest Michael Sheen has only three films to his name. That's just not true. He's done several other little performances, most notably in the Underworld series and the excellent Kingdom of Heaven.
But the fact remains, that his largely Theatre centric career, is most famous for three films- The Queen, Frost/Nixon and recently, The Damned United. I've seen all three now, in that order, and anyone who's seen them will agree they are excellent films.
All three represent real life characters, and as is the case with most depictions of real life characters, all are said to be flawed representations.
In the Queen, he plays a young, enthusiastic Tony Blair. His wide smile and charming demeanour immediately convince you he looks exactly like Tony Blair. He's impassioned, he's witty and above all else he's very very confused.
He then plays David Frost, the journalist who yanked out of Nixon what an entire American public failed to. His wide smile and charming demeanour immediately convince you he's some kind of awesome. He's impassioned, he's witty and he's also very very confused.
He then plays Brian Clough, the brilliant manager who led several shitty teams to great things. His wry smile, and self serving charm lead you to believe he IS 'Cloughie.' He's impassioned, he's witty, and above all else, he's very very stubborn.
Now it's clear that in all three cases there are many similarities, and in fact, a lazy watcher could say, he plays the same person over and over again.
To them, I would offer this quote from the man himself:
"It's interesting that in searching for monsters to play you often end up playing leaders."
The thing is, unlike Tom Cruise, who almost ALWAYS does play the same guy with a different name, Sheen tends to play, as he puts himself- himself.
Most great actors tend to put themselves into their part. In fact, our very own Tejas used it as a means to play his last, comparatively smaller part.
What amazes me about Sheen though, is that unlike Cruise, I am excited to see his next film, not because he is bad ass- but simply because I know how thoroughly flawed and innately big headed his characters(and he) can be.
In The Damned United, a film criticised, as always, for being untrue he changes his accent, his mannerisms and even the very core of his personality. The characters all have very different motivations, yet there is something about all of them, something in the way they all smile through their own personal problems and fight on to a greater clarity.
At this point, I think the best way I can describe my opinion of Michael Sheen is in one word- Intrigue.
I am thoroughly psyched to see him in Alice in Wonderland where he'll be playing the White Rabbit.
I have a feeling I know how he'll approach the role, and I have a feeling it will feel a little familiar again, but just like the last 2 films of his I saw, I cannot wait to see what happens with it.
To anyone who is yet to experience a Michael Sheen performance, I suggest you find yourself a copy of any of the three films mentioned here.
It will be a thoroughly intriguing watch, especially after you read this.

Street Thief: A Review...sort of

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Ello All

A few months ago I saw a movie called 'Smokin' Aces'. I loved it. I rate it as one of the best action films I have ever seen. As soon as it was done, I did my usual web analysis of it and like several films before- it partly ruined the film for me. Everyone hated it. Everyone mocked it and just about no one agreed with me.

Tonight I have watched a film called Street Thief. The movie is shot documentary style and is probably one of the best documentaries you'll see. Problem is it's not a freaking documentary.

After watching the film, I was stunned. It's slick and edgy and thoroughly real, in a very very raw way. I won't say it changed how I feel about the subject matter (Film makers follow a 'professional' burglar as he stakes out, plans and steals from several different places.) I won't say it's made some huge impact on my life, but the film really is quite amazing. It's thrilling, it's entertaining, and contains one of the best scores I've heard in a while.

The end of the film makes you doubt how real, or actually just 'how' the entire film amounts to what it does.

The weird part is the widespread debate about whether or not the film is real. I'd just like to clarify, to anyone else who was as confused as me, that the film itself is NOT real. The director plays the main 'subject', the 'director' in the film is played by an actor and the only other character of note is also played by an actor.

Clearly then, the film is not real. It IS entertaining, it IS gripping, and it IS a superb new way of showing burglars and the truth about professional robbery (let's just say, George Clooney may have misled us a teensy bit.) but the fact of the matter is, no matter how great a film is and no matter how many truths it can convey, if you're pretending to be a documentary, to the point that you do not mention your actual cast in the end credits, and you depict timelines and factual indicators throughout your film, then you're just a big fat steaming stinking Blair Witch ripping liar.

I love documentaries and I love fiction. Michael Moore does documentaries to seem as entertaining as fiction. The other way around just feels scummy. (To be fair, to many people, Michael Moore is just plain scummy for his own little lies.) Frankly, I believe that if these guys, had a superior script and better actors, we would have possibly one of the best fiction films of 2006.

Instead, and this is not to put down the exceptional performance of Malik Bader as the lead character, or in fact Ken Seng's exceptional cinematography, we have a film which entertains and excites, only to let you down hard and leave you with a very sour after taste.

While this post may have moved you a long way towards disliking the film even before you've seen it, I strongly recommend you watch the film and BELIEVE it for the 1 and a half hours it plays. It really is excellent viewing, just don't fall for it the way the Bader Brothers would like you to.
Till later, Gators.

FIFA vs Pro Evolution Soccer

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ello All,
We don't usually do gaming posts though, I feel that's mostly an oversight more than it is some sort of policy.
So the first FIFA I ever played properly was FIFA 07. When I say properly of course I mean Manager Mode, where you play as the manager of a team for several seasons, scouting, making formations, trading, etc.
Within the football video game segment there are two main players- FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer. FIFA is the undisputed market leader and Pro Evo is the nuanced underdog which people sort of treat like it's an acquired taste.
I've always seen it as chocolate and bitter chocolate. Everyone loves their dairy milk chocolate, but very few will incur the extra costs to stick loyally to bitter chocolate. You can't say either is better, you can only have an over bearing feeling that one is better.
I'd just like to break down what I feel are the real differences between the two, in light of the imminent releases of their latest versions.
Alright, so I'm going to break it down using four main criteria which I feel are very important to playing a football video game. I should point out though, that this involves the Manager Mode specifically. The exhibitions and tournaments are all well and good, but in my experience people spend most of their time in the Manager Mode.
I should of course point out, FIFA's exceptional developments in making the BeAPro and Live Season modes where you can play as one player and as your favorite(or not) team in the real conditions of real time.
1) Gameplay:
Now until, FIFA 09 the PES gameplay was far more realistic and far less flawed than FIFA's. Come 2008 and FIFA fixed the problem making the movement far less candy, and far harder to thrive in. Movements must be exact, headers and crosses timed perfectly and defences in perfect precision.
On this front, I'd have to say FIFA nips it because not only is it as nuanced as PES, I found that on their last versions, the FIFA gameplay required far more focus that the PES game did.
2) Transfers:
Alright, anyone who enjoys playing the matches or not, will agree that the greatest skill one requires to thrive in these games is one's activity in the transfer market.
FIFA has used the same model for years now and frankly it's quite rubbish. There are no swaps allowed, and most importantly you can very often get a completely misguided portrayal of a player from the stats they offer. PES on the other hand, allows for swaps, negotiations involve SEVERAL factors in that, Gerrard will NOT leave Liverpool just like that. In FIFA though you make one single bid and more often than not it works.
PES wins this round hands down.
3) Player treatment:
In PES, I've found, that generally players are better representations of their real life selves. PES sticks solely to a collection of stats while FIFA chooses to generalise using an 'overall' value. Fair enough, except that the players in FIFA, barring an elite few, do not perform the way they do in real life. Perhaps, it's just that they care more, perhaps it's their valuation systems, but for me PES depicts and creates 'lesser players like David Odonkor and even bigger players like Frank Lampard, far more realistically than FIFA does.
Furthermore, I find that in teams you aren't managing yourself, and are up against, the restrictive positional titles FIFA has given, tend to see important players playing unimportant roles, more often than not, nothing like the way they play in real life. Something that unless you're particularly obsessive about, you cannot rectify. It always bothers me that because Gerrard is a CAM, and liverpool's 4-4-2 involves only CMs, he does not fit in. Similarly, even Mascherano as a CDM, does not feature. Initially you relish the unfair advantage you have but after a while, it's just annoying that you cannot play against what you KNOW is Liverpool's best side in the Champions League final.
Suffice it to say, when Gerrard makes a run in PES, his movement, pace and reactions to commands are what I'd expect from the REAL Steven Gerrard.
PES with another one.
4) Details:
In PES, at the end of each season, there is a little image with the top scorer in a suit. There is then a little image with the best player in a little image. I like that. It matters to me that it matters to them.
In FIFA, I can verify the teams and players in more countries and more leagues. When I say more, I mean of course, just about all. The overwhelming number of rights accumulated is incredible and adds a depth and dimension that makes PES feel like a video game, while FIFA feels like a world.
Round 4 to FIFA.
As I said earlier, you cannot decide which is better, only which you prefer. For me PES is an amazing experience, but FIFA offers a greater longevity in that you can't get bored knowing how far down the league system goes in England. And Germany. And Spain. And Italy. And Portugal.

In my little experience with video games however, I must say it's in every player's best interests to just screw it and buy both.
For a much better review though, check these guys out.

Till later.
Sorry for the lack of posts lately. Hectic days lately. For Tejas. I'm just Lazy. And well you know Kyra posts are worth the wait. Do expect more in the near future. I'm going to capitalise on my vacation time.

Let the Wild Rumpus Start.

Friday, October 2, 2009

I have suddenly realized, that before going off to do my Masters in Children's Literature, I should actually KNOW something about Children's Literature. This epiphany led to the discovery, reading, understanding of Maurice Sendak's 1963 classic picturebook, "Where The Wild Things Are" which on the 16th of October 2009, will make its appearance as a full-length feature film.

I must admit, I couldn’t stand the book when I first read it some months ago. I prodded it in disgust and told Harry loudly, "I can't believe THIS is considered one of the greatest examples of children's literature in the world" and he agreed with me, just as loudly.

Then we read it again, and again, and again, and before we knew it, I was saying "That's a beautiful idea", and Harry was saying "That’s one of the most beautiful lines I’ve ever read", and somehow, without us knowing, we had fallen in love with the book - with the way Sendak wrote, with the way Sendak drew his Wild Things, with everything Max and his imagination represented.

The story is of a naughty little boy called Max, who is sent to bed without his dinner, because as his mother says, he is a wild thing. An angry Max, stuck in his room with only his anger to keep him company, imagines a forest, a vast ocean, and he finally reaches "The Wild Things" who "roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws" Obviously, Max tames these wild things, and they make him "King of all Wild Things" Max then leads his wild things into a wild rumpus, and they all revel in glorious rumpus-like revels, until Max's anger begins to fade, and loneliness sets in. From far far away, he smells his dinner, and realises that while rumpus-ing with wild things is fun, a place with dinner and "where someone loved him most of all" was the place he wanted to be. And so, he says goodbye to the wild things, and returns home. Where his dinner is waiting for him..."and it was still hot"

It's a story a 6 year old as well as an adult can relate to. How many us, when angry and unable to express that angry, fall back on fantasy and think of what we would do if we ruled the world, before we calm down and return the real world? All of us. Giving rein to anger through imagination is something we have done as children, and continue to do today.

While I have my misgivings about a children's picturebook being transformed into a feature film (especially a book comprising of 10 sentences) there are a few reasons this is a must-watch film
1) The trailer is most beautiful, and when I watched it in the theatre three months ago, I could hear people around me sniffling (in a good "Oh what a beautiful movie, must want to watch" kind of way) and I was a little goosepimply myself.
2) The movie is a product of the combined efforts of the director and Sendak, who spent around a decade perfecting it.
3) The most important reason of all: Its a Spike Jonze film, of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation fame. Jonze was handpicked by Sendak to bring his 10-sentence masterpiece to celluloid, and Sendak after seeing the completed cut said "I’ve never seen a movie that looked or felt like this. And it’s [Spike Jonze's] personal ‘this.’ And he’s not afraid of himself. He’s a real artist that lets it come through in the work. So he’s touched me. He’s touched me very much"

So while Im fortunate enough to have the wild things in my bookshelf (and in the most furious of my imaginings), I will on the 16th of October, "sail off through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost a year to where the wild things are"

A verb called Jazz.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

We all have our indulgences. They’re hard to hide from at the best of times. And at the worst of times, they can cripple you. When you’re depressed you’ll consume pints and gallons of chocolate – at it doesn’t matter if you’ve been on the Atkins Diet (or the South Beach Diet or whatever is in these days). Indulgences have a way of creeping up on you when you least expect it. And before you know it, the indulgence has become an obsession – and kaboom! You’re shoveling chocolate in the bathroom/kitchen/trial room like a crazy person.

I used to listen to jazz once in a while. When I felt quiet, when I felt in need of inspiration, when I felt like dancing up and down just to forget. It was a monthly fix, and I was instantly cured. But, before I realized it, I was spending all the money I had buying jazz as fast as I could. I forgot about buying shoes, going for movies or even buying books. All I could think about was feeling Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong etc over and over again.

Jazz isn’t easy to understand. You can’t sing along to it. You can’t quote it. You can just listen and feel whatever you feel at that moment. The first time I heard “In a Sentimental Mood” by John Coltrane, I felt well, sentimental. The second time I felt like skimming stones Amelie-style. The third time I felt like owning a Polaroid camera and taking sepiatone photographs. And listening to it right now, for the n-th time, I feel like taking a very long walk – despite the fact that it is now 3:35am. You never know what you’re going to feel next. First you think it’s a happy song, and then it’s a sad song. Then it’s an angry song, and next, it’s a love song. And on it goes. Like Beiderbecke once said, “One thing I like about jazz, kid, is that I don't know what's going to happen next. Do you?”

On the album cover of “Kind of Blue”, it is written : If this is your first encounter with Kind of Blue, be forewarned that it is likely to become an indispensable part of your life. This is true. It took me 4-5 years to track down the album and hold it in my hands. It is most definitely, an indispensable part of my life. Kind of Blue has been described as something you just have to own. Something you never knew you had clicks into place and makes perfect sense once it belongs to you, and you hear it over and over again and you know, that every meaning and every feeling you get each and every time you hear a song, is yours alone.

You can’t study jazz. Or define it. Or categorize it. It’s a feeling that you cant explain. Like your first kiss, or rain after a heat wave, or seeing twinkly lights on a cranky day, or finding that book you’d always wanted in a rickety secondhand bookshop, or seeing live the artist/band you’ve loved and understood half or most of your life. It’s not a theorem to be understood, or a subject to be studied. It’s an inherent feeling, and you just…know. Louis Armstrong summed up my struggling prose perfectly : If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.

I can’t explain jazz, but I CAN recommend albums that are guaranteed to stir or evoke some emotion:
Miles Davis: Kind of Blue (a must, but not the easiest to find, especially the remastered version, with all the songs perfectly on key) and Milestones ( a more aggressive sound, just as perfect)
John Coltrane: The Paris Concert (if you find this, please get it. Its some of the most beautifully energetic and intense music you will ever hear) and Coltrane for Lovers (This isn’t mushy or sappy, it just flows and before you know it, the album’s over and you’re playing it all over again)
If you don’t have the patience for the Davis, Coltrane, Parker or Monk, I suggest you ease into it by starting off with Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday etc, who are easier to understand but encapsulate the beauty of jazz to the T.
Don't threaten me with love, baby; let's just go walking in the rain.
Billie Holiday

Disney buys Marvel for reported $4bn

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ello All

So today while I was hunting around the net for football transfer stories I came across the news that someone had bought someone but neither of them had anything to do with football.

Incredibly enough Disney has bought Marvel and everything it owns. The deal is said to take about a year to complete but the fact remains that two of our favorite childhood companies have come together.

As Tejas and I gasped when we heard, the truth is, we have no idea what this means.

Undoubtedly Disney have some mega strategy in line, the concern is about what that strategy entails.

Will all Marvel movies start with the Walt Disney castle?

Will Steve Rogers now actually come back?

Will Hannah Montana be the new Ms. Marvel?

Will The Punisher stop killing and leave pretty flowers of change and affirmation instead?

Commercially, it's fairly clear what this means. Marvel related theme parks/rides, Marvel toys, Marvel stationery, Marvel clothing will be bigger than ever. Perhaps, dare I dream, we may even see a few Marvel TV shows.

More significantly though Marvel can now challenge DC with a new improved studio's backing (DC has been able to spread out a lot more with Warner Bros' millions). Alternately ofcourse, Disney can challenge Warner Bros. with a whole new stable of characters to add to their list.

What worries me though, is how much more Marvel will commercialise. It's brief work with Sony gave us some of the least true representations of awesome moments. To be fair Wolverine was all them so maybe it's not always an outside studio's fault.

More than anything else though I'm scared. Disney's work has always been with a very different target group. Marvel's target group isn't nearly as specific as disney's is so I just hope they have the chops to run a place like Marvel without diluting it too much.

I suppose the main concern will be whether Quesada and his team have the same creative control they formerly had. With hands tied, and a new focus, it may not bode well for what is, so much more than just a comic book company to so many people.

Marvel's about imagining in the real world. About having problems and being a complete geek about it. About being super but always, under all circumstances, being harshly real. I just hope we don't lose that. Again, in all fairness, the imminent return of Captain America may very well have ended that without Disney's intervention.

Anyway, here's to the entire Civil War Arc performed by dancers for a bunch of kids. On ice.

Ps. Special thanks to Tejas for manning this ship all by himself for so damn long. He really, undoutedly, truly and deeply is the.

The Wonderful Mohit Chauhan

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

This post was originally going to be about the quantum leap that Hindi music has made over the last 5-10 years or so; but instead I decided I'd focus on one singer who is at the top of the charts and is in much demand by the premier music directors of the Indian Film Industry.

Working in a Hindi radio station WILL get you addicted to Hindi songs and music. Even if you are not a fan of it, you will be whether you like it or not. I always used to dig it. I love AR Rahman and Shankar Ehsaan Loy's music and recently have come to appreciating other musicians work as well. Also I'll agree that popular Hindi music hasn't had the best rep, with hosts of musicians copying tunes from the west (and east as it turns out!) and I can say personally that the 90's worked itself into a rut, with repititive chords and melodic patterns, (a trait in most Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar films, I've noticed) that annoyed the shit out of me many a time.
But as the aughts rolled out, more composers broke away from that norm, favouring a more western style of chord progressions and more musicality and less percussion. And it is also strange that even though we opt for this change, it still cannot be dubbed as anything else but popular hindi music or Bollywood music; mainly because it still retains that distinct touch of Indian, like vocals from Raahat Fateh Ali Khan*, or Kailash Kher. Or perhaps even because of the inclusion of a pakhawaj or tabla to a drum set. Whatever it may be, I know that Mohit Chauhan is also one of those reasons.
Few may remember the erstwhile Silk Route; a 'rock' band at the time when we had few. It was from here we heard of Mohit Chauhan, the lead singer/guitarist at the time singing the popular 'Dooba Dooba' which has actually aged quite well since then. Mohit moved on from then and released a few solo albums before getting signed to sing as playback. It is at this point in his career that I feel he has peaked, by being the proud owner of the vocals that can be heard on this summer's two biggest releases: Love Aaj Kal and Kaminey.
After his short success with AR Rahman's 'Khoon Chala' he recorded for Imtiaz Ali's breakthrough 'Jab We Met', in the slow but beautiful Tum Se Hi. He became recognizable to me from that point and just went on to wow the hell outta me. He came out with the much under-appreciated 'Kuch Khaas' from Fashion as well as the strangely insipid 'Is This Love' from Kismat Konnection. But it was 'Masakali' from Delhi-6 that has showed the range of this singer. I always imagine that it must be a pleasure for the playback to record to excellent music, AR Rahman's to say the least, theres not much to be salvaged by a singer from crap music, but just by listening to the song you can clearly understand how he must have enjoyed recording it.
Two songs I am listening back to back at the moment are both romantic numbers from the movies Love Aaj Kal and Kaminey, with Mohit Chauhan returning to what he does best.

'Dooriyan' from LAK is clearly possesing the more Rom-Com-Comercial feel to it, with Imtiaz Ali trying to recreate the same effect from Tum Se Hi, and trying to force out the emotions, with the string section and music I have decided to dub CRM or Cry-by-Reverb Music (as opposed to HRM). However we can all agree that it is probably Mohit Chauhan's soothing voice that will probably get the girls crying.

'Pehli Baar Mohabbat Ki Hai' composed by Vishal Bhardwaj himself for his own film Kaminey, is my personal winner of the two, clearly the more tender song, with interesting vocal moments and moving piano moments. Equally great vocals from Mohit Chauhan makes this all the more intense, and I'm interested how this song will come off on screen.

I hope he goes on to release tracks like these, and hope he has the oppurtunity too, because you know how unreasonably far one can be from the other. Now if Lucky Ali would just get off his lazy ass and accept Rahman's offer to work with him...

* The inspiration and reason why I started writing this post. Unbelievable vocals on 'Ajj Din Chadheya' from Love Aaj Kal.

The Swine Flu Special?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

As you may know by now, the pigs have conquered Pune. That is where I live, and I am most annoyed, obviously because the possibility of it lurks at every turn, or else hidden inadequately behind a 20 rupee surgical mask. My friends have canceled their trip to Pune to visit me due to this reason and while the decision is the responsible one, it is still disappointing. The schools and colleges are closed as are their counterparts; malls and theatres, and people are either staying put at home, or working in their offices with a reasonably high degree of alarm.

Last night my cousin and I had a short chat about the current situation regarding the release of movies. Kaminey has delayed its release in Pune and Mumbai, and everyone hates that, however it seems that none of the television channels have capitalized on the current scenario.
A swine flu special perhaps? for all those who are either recuperating at home, or even just plain bored. The only thing close I saw to something of the aforementioned idea, was in the Pune Mirror a couple of days back. Listed in their "Books and Movies to watch" section, were movies like Outbreak and the Andromeda Strain. The tv channels should be playing their A List movies back-to-back or as we call the top priority songs here at the station- 'N1' category movies. Take advantage of the fact that people are going to be at home! Same for home-deliveries! Special offer on pork or whatever.
You want to get back at em swines?
Burn that thing with our new buy 2 get 2 free non-veg offer!*

Alternatively, my cousin also stated that more people die in road accidents in Pune everyday than the number of swine flu victims per day, yet the rider and pillion will sit contently with surgical masks on and no helmets. He went on to propose that since there is no real news to talk about, swine flu may be taking the helm by default, since politics, IPL, ICC and everything else has gone cold, and that the best solution was probably to go ahead and release Kaminey. But it is not, so this leaves us with another empty weekend to spend with the family. Not that I have any issues with that, but lets just hope Rush Hour is playing on HBO and not The Relic**.

*Conditions apply.

**Has anyone really seen this? The monster was pretty bad ass, chewing that guy in half.

The Directors are/have losing/lost it.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

This post was sparked after watching Love Aaj Kal twice in the theatre. But it was set into motion, after hearing some excellent news this morning, which I shall get to later.
My cousin and I have lengthy discussions about how Directors in the Indian Film Industry(IFI) have a slight curse or disease whichever/whatever, that after making one excellent film, the follow can prove to be so disappointing that we agree that he had pretty much one good idea in his little idea locker or that it was a stroke of luck. I have a theory that no Indian director of current times and of mainstream cinema has been able to complete the 3-awesome-movie(s) streak: cause thats what it takes to be considered real freakin' good and among the top. Consistency. Consistency is how I have based this post, and please note that this means these directors are not capable (God I wish they were) but it seems that after making a big grossing hit, their heads go up into clouds until, inevitably, their next effort flops- actually flop is a bad word to use, mainly because sometimes their next movie may be excellently recieved and may go on to win multiple awards at multiple ceremonies(As we have no dearth of them) and be a high grosser; but it still also may suck. Bad.
Jodhaa Akbar, I'm looking at you, man.

Aditya Chopra. Some may remember him as the writer/director of DDLJ. An excellent movie with lots of great songs and funny dialogues and special moments; with high degree of quotability (I made up that word). He then made Mohabattein and Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. Nuff' said.

Farhan Akthar. Man, I love this guy, for the sole reason that he could write/direct Dil Chahta Hai; which was the movie every Indian youth could finally be proud of, and then promptly make the less successful but equally important Lakshya, which was completely different in style and story. I loved it.
Then came Don, which just didn't cut it.

Ashutosh Gowarikar. He made movie freakin' history, with Lagaan, which was such a unique tale in fusing the two great passions that all Indians possess: Cricket and Movies. Needless to say I was bowled over (pun intended). Then came Swades, equally moving tale of the return of the NRI to the I. Beautiful music, great direction and excellent performances.
And then there was Jodhaa Akbar...

Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The only man who can make Salman Khan act (he should be given an award just for that!), made the wonderfully tragic Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, then the award winning Black. But then came Devdas which was gaudy to behold. He also made Saawariya, which is still to date the most beautifully-stylized Hindi movie I've seen, however the little or lack of story pretty much killed the entire effort, so it doesn't count.

Again, I have complete faith in these directors to accomplish (well, except for Aditya Chopra) but the news that made me write this post in the first place was about Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra (Rang De Basanti, Delhi-6). This bit of news is significant proof that some directors still have their heads screwed on the right way. Though Delhi-6 bombed at the box-office, I really liked the movie; that is right up till the last 20 minute sequence which kind of bummed me out since I felt the script did itself in by having a happy ending to what should have been a grim one to maintain the message displayed throughout the movie. I also remember discussing with my cousins the moment we left the theatre that the director probably succumbed to the wishes of the producers/distributors. However the news yesterday was that RO Mehra had decided to restore the original ending for film festival audiences, as he was never happy with it, and subsequently the film was accepted into the Venice film festival. Apparently he wouldn't have died in peace if the movie was not brought back to its original script.
Huh. Who'da thunk?
I can't even imagine how often directors across India are caving to the pressures of the distributors these days. Maybe even Ram Gopal Varma's Aag wasn't too shabby. But jokes aside, at least we've still got Anurag Kashyap.

The Amul Girl: The Taste of India

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ello All,
My most honest, most tangible dream is to help create (be) India's version of Jon Stewart. He's clever, he's funny and most importantly, you'll always agree with him.
Here in India, sadly there is no one comic to challenge the system. What we do have, is a little girl. A little girl with chubby rosy cheeks, a pony tail and no visible nose. For the past 32 years, she's been such a large part of this nation's middle class.
Mocking movies, politics or just about anything in the news, every friday people will peer out of their cars or homes for the nearest Amul billboard to see what she has to say.
When Cheeni Kum came out, she said 'Butter Zyaada', when stocks were dropping she called it the 'Nonsensex', and more recently, when the Bandra Worli Sealink came up, she said:
'Early To Worli: No Jam, only Butter.'
A while back, I'd bitched and cribbed about how for some reason, India doesn't have any good Mascots it can lay claim to, but the truth is, we may very well have the greatest Mascot of all.
The Guinness book of world records may acknowledge it as the world's longest ad campaign but the truth is, Sylvester DaCunha's creation has become far more than that.
The plan was to make a mascot who could 'worm her way into the heart of every housewife' and the cute little girl in a polka dot dress did just that. Presently, no brand comes close to the sales of Amul butter and quite frankly, no brand ever will.
It's not that the butter is any better. It's just that for 32 years we've giggled with the same girl and we don't intend on ever changing that.
The Air India man keeps losing weight, the Boomer man doesn't seem to stay for very long at all, and the young doctor who fed his cows chewing gum disappeared. The Amul Baby stuck around.
From an advertising point of view, it's incredible. Every ad man worth his salt will use Amul as an example of a brand's staying value.
From a political cartoonist's point of view, it's the toughest possible competition. With the greatest of respect to RK Laxman, 7 out of 10 times, the Amul Girl's the one I'll tell my friends about.
From a business point of view, it's a 2500% sales increase.
Most importantly though, from an Indian's point of view, I get a free joke every week, and the best part is, there's a cute little girl smiling at me while I get it.
My other dream is to have a Wikipedia page about me. But I'd be totally psyched if I'm big enough to be mentioned in an Amul ad.
To the Amul girl, thank you for all the years of being so very Utterly Butterly Delicious. To the readers here's a few hours worth of some of the things she said.

Ello All
This review is brought to you from a bus heading to Pune (It’s a We The Conference of drunken ramblings thing…very hush hush) and my net has just enough juice to post this.
The bright side is I didn’t want to do this post loaded with research the way we usually do. I want it to be just my experience listening to and loving this album. I’d just like to make clear that this album will probably not achieve much commercially but anyone who loves Paolo enough to hear it out is going to have themselves a few very cheerful days.
Kyra dropped this off with me with a disclaimer: ‘It’s no These Streets, but it’s great’ I suppose it’s true, but let me just say, for whatever reason I did not have such love for These Streets as I do for this one.
Every album leaves a sort of a movie in your mind. This album’s movie, for me, is a whole lot of chilling in rooms made of wood, sitting by a small pond in a damp patch of grass and smoking a cigarette. Only to run back into a bigger room made of wood where you sit around in old clothes laughing your guts out and following your every whim. Oh and every actor has a strong Scotch accent.
I’ve always envied artistes for whom lyrics and melodies are just natural translations of shit that’s happened, and every note that he strums or crones feels like he’s effortlessly just singing out loud. ‘People want to speed it up, but I just want ta slow it down’
These may not be some of the greatest love songs ever, but man, Terry Brogen (his girlfriend) is one of the luckiest women alive. The love, the passion the freaking heart that this guy throws into his songs are so incredibly moving they don’t make you want to cry, they make your chest swell because you want to lift a glass up to him and sing right along.
The music is simple, and kind of old, lots of upstrums, trumpets and rumble drums. Perfect for someone enjoying the hell out of life who needs a platform to just spurt out the awesomeness of it all.
Every time I hear this album I want to be in Scotland chilling with Paolo, watching him Romba with ‘his baby’ while he coos and caws excitedly! Then I realize, I kind of freaking am. Right from the album art (Which I must point out Kyra has expertly deciphered. Let’s hope she offers a detailed decryption for us all) the overriding feeling of this album is a warm, cosy welcome to a whole bunch of stories and a pint with them all.
A big hug to Paolo Nutini, if ever he reads this, Thanks for showing us how to live life with the Sunny Side up.
It would seem unprofessional, but for a more coherent analysis of the album, do check out John Hurst's site.

The Iglesian Influence!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A few days ago I was in Landmark buying a gift for one of my friends, and just like all music stores they had a CD playing. I could almost instantly recognize it as an Enrique Iglesias song, and as I continued shopping, I vaguely hummed along with the melody. I got home and realized I couldn't get the song out of my head! It was there all the time, the lyrics moving me, the melody slowly lifting and subsiding in my mind! What was this song? And more importantly, why was it buzzing around in my mind?
Because thats what he does.

As any musically inclined/blogger would do, I researched! First off I went and I got the name of the song. I sat wondering for a long time, though the answer seemed almost simple enough, is that like everyone knows already, I am a major pop-fan. I sing pop, write pop, and I enjoy it. But why was someone like Enrique Iglesias, who I've liked in general but was mostly whatever about, affecting me like something viral?
Enrique's Dad is Julio Iglesias, one of the most successful and best selling artists of all time, selling over 300 albums, and man has he released a lot of albums! Barring that, when you see the man, you can clearly make-out that he has the class of the yesteryear, that seems lacking today or that has been made hybrid by people like Michael Bublè or Alicia Keys. He can definitely sing well; one of my dad's friends who is a huge fan of his once said "Ahh that Julio Iglesias; he could make love to a woman just by his voice". So that settles that.
I asked myself, really, what does Enrique have going for him? He can sing alright I guess, his voice is nothing spectacular. Neither are his performances. He had his father's shadow to crawl out of (to which I might add he has done an admirable job) and well, he had Ricky Martin to deal with. What he does have is that he is goodlooking, and that could very well account for the much adoration from his female fandom. But its still not that.
I went back to the store looking for that one song*, and I realized that they were playing it off his greatest hits album. I was a little wowed. While I knew that he had released a greatest hits album sometime ago, it just struck me that this guy had still been around for so long and has done so much work he could produce a greatest hits collection. The other funny thing was that when I turned the CD around to look at the songs on it, I realized I knew every single one. So this post if not anything else, is to celebrate the achievement of Enrique and his trusty songwriters, cause man if you can produce catchy-song after the next for 10 years, your doing a pretty kickass job.
And let's face it, everyone really digs the songs, right?

God, I am such a sucker for pop.

*The song was 'Maybe' from his 2001 album 'Escape'.

A Month of Action

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ello all
It's been exactly 10 days since any of us posted last and I think you'd agree, that's ten days too many. I could say it was a religious thing, I could say we were introspective and hence mute and I could even say we were all struck by a 9 day terminal illness which was cured by a batch of happy cookies. I could all say, 'quit whining and read on for the next damn post!'
SO last month, this summer's action movies all descended on India over the course of four very very hardcore weeks. I had the pleasure of watching all of them and instead of doing reviews for each I felt, the four films in question deserved nothing more than a comparative analysis.
Which means- ANOTHER LIST! Woohoo!
4. Wolverine:
All of last summer played a video game called Ultimate Alliance. At every level, witout fail, the stand out beat down character was Wolverine. Catchphrases, cool moments and an amazing array of powers. We were freaking psyched. Most of you know how that turned out.
The action was lame, the storyline was lamer, the delivery of catchphrases worse. The acting was ordinary at best and the only thing that really surprised me about the movie was that it wasn't directed by McG. Shameful waste of a character. Shameful waste of our time.
2/10 (For the two minutes of Ryan Reynolds)
3. Terminator: Salvation
As soon as this movie was done, and indeed for a good few hours after it, I hated it. Barely any plotline, barely any notable acting, and loopholes all over the place. But since then, I've started thinking about it, and perhaps it's the fact that I have Wolverine for reference, but you know what? Terminator was a pretty bad ass movie. Screw the plotline and screw the loopholes. I haven't seen action like that since the Matrix trilogy (Remember the third one and you'll see where I'm coming from). Ruthless, non stop, create-and-destroy-the-elaborate-set-leaving-a-mess action. Punching someone's heart out, robot bikes coming out of robot shins- that is freaking sweet. In fact given a choice, I'd do it all over again.
2. Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen
This one just barely pips Terminator and that's only because any kid with a TV in the 90s grew up loving and admiring Optimus Prime and to see him become as hardcore ass whopping as he was in this movie was a total freaking treat. I think the best description (only) for this movie would be as a Hindi Movie. Michael Bay probably won't be allowed any more sequels but that's alright. He was upto his usual sweeping shots-acoustic strumming-emotional send off self. The non fight scenes were long and dreary and after a while really quite irritating. Megan Fox is officially the first Hollywood Item girl. All she needed was a dance troupe and we'd have the greatest ever Hindi Movie.
Shia LeBouf was decent enough and the mum was pretty funny, but the two nigga-bots stole the show. There was a line from them which really summed up this movie experience for me:
-"Ah MAN! That Hurt!"
-"It's supposed to! it's an Ass Whooping!"
7/10 (If I was single perhaps Megan Fox could've earned two more points.)
1. Star Trek
I've been petrified to review this one. I wanted to, but man. Suffice it to say, for the uninitiated, JJ Abrams has a new sign outside his office- 'THE MAN'.
A watertight plotline, flawless casting, super duper send me to Pluter special effects, and more than anything else one of the most perfect scripts I've ever noticed. By far the movie of the year so far (And we've even had freaking Hangover).
If I go any further with this review it'll turn into a puff peice so I won't. Let me just say this- when I have kids, I will proudly, even smugly tell them, that I was there when JJ Abrams gave the world Star Trek.
9/10 (1 point of for ending. Not the ending, just the movie ever ending. Like the end of an Ice Cream cone- Yea yea enjoy what you had but I WANT FREAKING MORE!!)

So a month of very 80s very hard hitting action. And the best part is, GI Joe isn't out yet!
I just got goosebumps.

Dum dum Duh duh dum!

Let's just hope these Kaminey...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I have a problem. Let me just state for the record that over the past couple of years and since coming to India, I have been converted into a big Hindi movie fan. I am completely loyal to the industry, I believe in them and I know they have the capacity to make excellent films- they have proved it in the past on many occasions. However, they have also proved to be quite unreliable based on the frequency of how often a decent movie is released. Now, my problem is that every time I watch a good Hindi film trailer(and boy are there many) I am faced with a dilemma- do I invest in these movies emotionally by looking forward to it, and hope that it will be the next Dil Chahta Hai or Swades? Or do I cautiously and safely curb my enthusiasm till I see the final product? Hindi films let me down- most of the time. Sometimes there is a pleasant surprise, like the awesome DevD but lets face facts- Ghajini, Chandni Chowk to China and 8x10 Tasveer have all been thoroughly disappointing even though they had the potential to be super kickass. I went for all of these movies first-day-first-show and came back dejected with the Indian Film Industry. But then slowly I forget about their mistakes and get roped right back into the game with the next big release. I have, however seen the error in my ways and been able to see the good ones from the bad, and believe me it is not hard to spot. 'Kambhakkt Ishq' was the single greatest waste of money on film. Like Rajeev Masand said, Rs 60 crores could have gone to so many better causes, and it would have been just one less film for Akshay Kumar* to ruin his career with.
But still got to love that guy!

This season has been filled the most big-budget films from hollywood, and the barrage has not yet ended. So with the IPL and ICC T20 well out of the way, the movies have been streaming in and with Transformers 2 in theatres and HP6 on the way, I really want to see where our Indian mainstream cinema is standing. We had New York (and a fairly healthy discussion about it too!), Khambakkht Ishq and soon to release is Luck pairing Sanjay Dutt and Imran Khan again (You remember how that last one turned out- Kidnap...the scriptwriter).
Ever since I saw the trailer at the Delhi-6 premiere, there is one movie that is grabbing my attention and that I must see on opening day. Vishal Bhardwaj's Kaminey.

This is not a heavily disguised puff-piece but man this shit looks good. I have been thoroughly impressed with his adaptations of Macbeth(Maqbool) and Othello(Omkara), which I still maintain is one of the greatest dramas that the Industry has ever produced. He has openly stated that the lack of good scripts and scriptwriters is the primary reason why he turns to Shakespeare for a decent story. For me personally, that directors can recognise the fact that their are not good scripts being written for screen currently, is an achievement. I don't care, take your time, don't make a movie for like a year or two, but don't produce until you've got the goods, man.
Kaminey comes off as a very Guy Ritchie-esque dramedy, with an array of wonderfully wierd characters, like Shahid Kapur's two characters in the film(Yes, it's a double role) Charlie and Guddu with their speech defects and the completely uncouth don played by Amole Gupte.
The soundtrack is awesome with 'Dhan Te Nan' that blew my mind when I heard it. A kickass track reminding me just enough of the pulp fiction theme, to get me completely psyched for this.
But yes I know, this could be another run-of-the-mill flicks that is produced so often that can get my hopes screwed once again. But really, who knows man? That is the prospect that excites me sometimes even more than the movie itself: What if. What if this is the movie that really steps it up? What if this is the movie I was looking for in Ghajini, or in Tasveer? What if this is the awesome Hindi movie? What if.
Whatever it is, I hope its not regular. That should be the norm; either you completely freak out the audience by wierding it out, or just be shit. Don't give me normal. The cast is capable. The director is more than capable. Please, let this be the one.

*He is seriously the only thing good about that movie.

The All of us.

The All of us.