Now and Then.

Who the...?

Harendra Kapur.
Kyra Mathews.
Tejas Menon.

Project Assemble!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I saw Cloverfield last night, and I don’t give about what reviews it may have received but, WOW. I was freaking amazed. It was awesomely filmed with a decently tight script that held my attention throughout, even though I watched it on HBO, with commercials and all. So I can’t imagine what it must have felt like in theatres.

Anyway that short intro was just to emphasize an idea I had thought of earlier last year, but didn’t know what to do with. What better than to post it on The Write Stuff for the entire world to see? (Still not copyrighted)

I have a dream. A dream that movie studios across the globe could come together in a project so awesomely huge in its scope that it could form the base for future such symbiosis of this nature. Take a major studio to helm: say Universal (seems apt) and take one global movie plot: ALIEN INVASION! Clichéd? Maybe, but bear with it. Now imagine if 10 studios from 10 different countries are fed or even develop 10 scripts built around the same theme of the above mentioned alien invasion. And so the contracts are signed and deals are negotiated. The movies are made. But what movies? Here are my ideas! America could do the big budget action flick dealing with the aliens. UK could do drama or even comedy. Euro Cinema could go complete art house. India could do romance or even a thriller (though that idea dies slowly everyday since Tasveer). You see the beauty of the project is really that there could be so many ways to tell the same story, so many perspectives of a common global event. It could even have intertwining plots and crossover moments not unlike what Marvel Studios is heading towards with the release of Avengers. Watch the strained relationship Batman and The Martian Manhunter share in Justice League: The New Frontier. Yes they are both fictional comic book characters, but their interaction is completely realistic and is dramatized intensely, which just shows that you can have pretty much any genre regarding a particular topic such as this, which is what producers should exploit.

And then, think of the MARKETING! The extent of this kind of operation has immense potential. Viral marketing to rival (Viral? Rival?) The Dark Knight and that on a global scale. It also boosts the comparatively smaller studios of other countries. Vital details regarding the plot could be spread over all the different movies which would encourage movie-goers like myself to see all the collaborative efforts.

Anyway. It’s just a really cool idea that I would love to see happen. I don’t really know if anyone else has thought of this, but if they can do Live 8 and crossover films, I’m sure someone will think this up too. Also I could not come up with a good name, so for now I dub it ‘PROJECT ASSEMBLE’.

P.S. We the Write Stuff strongly recommends ‘Shake it’ by Metro Station followed by a good ol’ fashioned hanging or bullet in the ‘ead! And Cloverfield rules.

Infinite Canvas

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ello all
Sorry for the slight hiatus (sliatus?) but we the writers have just come to Jaipur for a bit of a holiday and the recording of the new Civil Cats album. Incidentally, I must mention the super comfortable journey we had travelling by Indian Railways. I’m sure normal sleeper class would’ve been 18 hours of hell, but in air conditioning, it was quite the opposite. Props where they’re due.
Onto the post then, and today’s post is about an idea which has shattered my foundations of vision, reading and general decoding.
A few weeks ago a designer buddy of ours guided us to the absolutely superb TED stands for Tech, entertainment, design and was originally a conference which decided to upload it’s talks. They get the most incredible thinkers in just about every single analytical or creative profession there is to discuss cutting edge ideas and concepts, and the best part is, all of them are really funny.
Anyway, while scanning through the video archive, I found a talk by a comic artist and writer named Scott Mccloud (who seems to be thick pals with Neil Gaiman- the Chuck Norris of comic writers).
Anyway, in ’93 Mccloud buys himself a shiny new piece of technology called the computer. On it he discovers a bunch of stories called web comics and it strikes him, that web comics are really just normal comics in a computer screen. So he starts to wonder, and bear in mind this is 1993 we’re talking about, and he comes up with the idea of the Infinite Canvas.
See, a screen, unlike a piece of paper has no physical constraints. It has unlimited depth, width and height. You just have to move the vision. So Mccloud realizes, you can have a comic strip that isn’t left to right linear and you can have Manga that isn’t right to left linear. You can have anything. You can have parallel storylines which physically run parallel to each other. You can have characters going off in a tangent which actually stretches out of the actual strip’s flow.
The possibilities are endless and as one can see on the various sites, some of the work is just awesome. My personal favorite is this one, in particular, Mccloud’s own ‘Brad’s somber mood’ which is kick ass, it was started as a side project of Microsoft’s live labs project.
The amazing part is, anyone can do it, so if you’re proper inspired by the end of his video click on the create button and to quote our old friend from ‘ART ATTACK’ “Go on, try it y’self! We’ll be here again next week. Bye Bye”
OH! And before I leave, Tejas and Kyra finally watched Watchmen. Tejas was a heap of melted 'WOWZAH!' by the end and Kyra wished the second half had been halved.
So there you go.

Let’s forget the Jokers and the Anton Egos of this world and go way back. The modern agent of evil is not a straight forward nihilistic mastermind of death and power any longer (what a shame!). Nowadays the modern villain is more of an anti-hero, who probably has been pushed so far off over the edge by humanity that the audience has no other choice but to sympathise or even empathise with the character. You know what?
Screw that.
Bring on the violent and the merciless! Bring on the destruction of good for no rhyme or reason! Bring on the ruthlessness that only existed in 80’s villains! Bring on…MOGAMBO!

Yes, I just recently watch Mr. India for the nth time, and originally I was going to talk about the entirety of the brilliance of that movie, but I just thought that maybe I should just focus on what I think to be one of the greatest characters ever in film history. After all really what is Mr. India without Mogambo? He’s just another awesome guy fighting not-so-awesome villains. Throw Amrish Puri with a horrendous blonde wig into the fray, and NOW we’re talking. Because all heroes need to prove their heroism. The brilliance of Mr. India is that he is the aam aadmi (regular person) so to speak; he is the everyman who decides that his country is in shit and that it needs to be rectified. The over-quoted “with great power” line cannot be more appropriate. But like all good vs. evil scenarios there must be the anomaly. There must be the rogue. He is the Smith to Mr. India’s Neo, no! Smith is the Mogambo to Neo’s Mr. India.

Mogambo is the melodramatic epitome of evil albeit with what he thinks to be a noble cause. He is also tired of all the corruption in India and decides to take over in a dictatorial manner, thus making him more so an idealist, than anything else: “Mogambo ke irrade aasman se bhi unche hain!” (Mogambo’s aims/intentions go higher than the sky!) And the power he commands! Just see that opening scene when they first reveal the very Dr. No-like technological fortress and Mogambo himself appears for the first time. From the rings drumming upon the globe-armrest, to the soldiers he commands to jump into the lava pit just to confirm his authority, and finally to the soldiers themselves who offer themselves as sacrifice, there last words only being “Hail Mogambo!” That is respect you can’t freaking buy man. Also, Mogambo has the greatest dialogue delivery ever, man! That slight rise in pitch in the middle of each sentence? Classic. And the suit. Who doesn't love the suit?

And even his demise (as it comes about after a kickass fistfight with Mr.India), just shows the resilience this man has. After being pretty much electrocuted on the very destroyed controls of his missile silo, he still in typical fashion commands the scene, putting Mr. India in a catch-22: Either him and the gang explodes, or India itself!

Amrish Puri (May he rest in peace) created one of the most formidable and sadistic villains of all time in a movie that has become cult greatly because of his presence and sheer ability to be hated, and though Gabbar Singh and many others have come close (some may argue that Gabbar was still better) there is still an undeniable likability about the often hilarious but fundamental concept of villain in Mogambo. The debate I guess will go on and perhaps I don’t rate him as the best in history but man, he’s pretty high up there, and I hope that this character gets his due, and ki once more perhaps Mogambo probably khush hua.

Fun Fact: Mogambo means 'passion' in Swahili!

Movie Review: 8x10 Tasveer

Friday, April 3, 2009

Okay, I just saw the 9 AM show for 8x10 Tasveer. Before I begin I want to talk about Akshay Kumar’s character. There are several scenes in the movies that display his badass action qualities, but my favourite was this one: Akshay Kumar and Ayesha Takia have been almost run over by what looks like a 2 ½ Ton GMC Jeep. After they dodge that, the vehicle reverses and turns once again to face them. Akshay Kumar gets up and back onto the narrow path, pretty obviously pissed that the truck has tried to run him and his girl down. They both face each other, the car revving its engine furiously while the veins on AK’s head start throbbing, in a shot not unlike the Hulk VS. the Abomination. AK gets so damn pissed he screams loudly and starts to run towards the car, and I swear to God its so hilarious because after a lot of overheated engine-revving the car promptly reverses as fast as it can and pretty much runs away from Akshay Kumar. This action-quality, which includes the alpha-male smoldering and I-have-a-secret secrecy, remains displayed on his face through out the entire movie.

But man,
He’s just so cool.

Getting to the point. The movie is basically about Jai (Akshay Kumar) who is a sort of forest ranger-action guy in a reserve in Canada who lives with his girlfriend (A pretty bland Ayesha Takia) and is somewhat estranged from his rich-oil-company-owning father who is desperately trying to reconnect with him. In the mix are his father’s dubious friends which includes Girish Karnad (what the hell was he doing there?) and Jai's mother who is still close to him.

Jai has the powerto see the past!

Nobody really explains why though, and he keeps a stopwatch by his side, because for some unexplained reason if he stays in the photo-past for over a minute he goes into a kind of cardiac arrest, which also for some reason requires him to have a blood transfusion (but he doesn’t bleed, hello?). The watch is for the audience I guess, and goes thoroughly ignored in the film. Also for those who are interested, he looks into the past through the eyes of the person (which blinks by the way!) in a very Being John Malkovich-esque form.

The plot is as follows, that his father is killed after having a heart attack aboard his boat, and then proceeds to fall over the edge of the railing which gives way very mysteriously. Lucky for Jai that his mom takes a photo just before the accident! The photo has all four friends standing together in it and in a
rashomon style, Jai must find out what exactly happened and if there is murder involved (duh).
Now the movie is long at about 2 hours 15 mins and does tend to drag a lot during the middle. Along with some okay direction, the acting is nothing great and the action sequences are few and brief. Jaaved Jaffery’s character was annoying and unneccessary, and the character of BB (What the hell was that all about?) is just plain dumb. The editing is well done and apart from the rap song at the end, (which I quickly exited the cinema to avoid) the score was good including the groovy opening track. Nagesh Kukunoor's script needed a lot of doctoring, but had potential for a decent movie.

Now, heres the deal. This would have been another really big waste of time, if it had not been for the ending. There is a super genuine
WHAT THE F*CK?! moment, that is so unbelievable for a second, that the whole movie was worth my ticket money. I’m not saying it was well constructed or anything, but because and only because it was so bloody outrageous and despicable in nature, I laughed to myself in the theatre and thought “Shit man, this is just great bloody cinema”. It is so vile and wrong, but I just loved the director for saying ‘You know what? Screw everything, I’m going to make this so freaking weird that not even batman could see it coming’. Batman can see EVERYTHING coming.

But I know, I know. I asked for this. I wanted a Hindi action film, and I got it…bigtime. I guess my final word is if you do go for this film, just watch it for its hilarious ending. Oh and Akshay Kumar is so cool.

Coming Out of the Chick-Lit Closet

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Yes, I like my Arundhati Roy with a dash of Shopaholic and Judith Krantz on the side. And you’ll find very few of the female species who don’t. Being a closet chick-lit reader is nothing to be ashamed of. Women read chick-lit for the same reasons they’ve been reading Harlequins and Mills&Boon’s for decades. Not just for the taste of romance in their otherwise humdrum lives, but for that magic word : Escapism.

While writers like Arundhati Roy, Phillippa Gregory and Zadie Smith are all brilliant writers, there’s something about a glossily clad book that’s usually a bright color that tugs at your most stubborn and intellectual desires whenever you enter a bookstore.

And despite worldwide assumptions, not all chick lit is stupid.

Take the Jessica Darling series by Megan Mcafferty for example. The characters are deep and well carved. Both Jessica Darling and her complicated love interest Marcus Flutie are geniuses in their own right, who create haiku’s out of spam, and who write journal after journal of thoughts – profound, stupid, smart, lovable, hateful etc. There isn’t a single mention of a clothing line or designer, and New York isn’t portrayed as JUST being one of the fashion capitals of the world, where sex is an everyday word i.e Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar. Instead, it’s perceived as being a harsh, brutally honest and scarily smart city, which magnetically pulls in raw ambition on daily, if not hourly basis.

Another author who transcends the clichéd boundaries of chick-lit, is Judith Krantz. While its been years that shes written anything new, here’s an author whose characters have lives beyond sex, designers and husbands/boyfriends. All of her books target an industry that her heroine battles with : publishing, modeling, retail, advertising, painting, photography, aviation, acting etc. Characters like Maxi Amberville and Billy Ikehorn become icons, not just because their gloriously talented and marvelously beautiful (in that unfair way only fictional heroines can be), but because somehow, Krantz manages to make them breathlessly human. They have migraines, they make their kids do their homework, they have bags under their eyes, they wear dirty sneakers and groan at Customs, they down Bloody Mary’s to cure a hangover – they live, and oddly enough, despite their unfair beauty and talent, they become your friend. The same goes for the lovable goofball Bridget Jones, by Helen Fielding. Jones’s obsession with her weight, her desperate need to be anyone but herself, her friends, her Chardonnay and her smokes, her maniacal hair makes her blessedly alive – which also explains why over 71 million women have brought her into their homes.

The worst part about Chick Lit is that until the book becomes a movie or TV show (Gossip Girl, The Shopaholic Series, The Devil Wears Prada, Scruples), most women are ashamed to acknowledge that they read such “stupid books”. In reality, any book that gives you ANYTHING is not trash. If it offers you escapism, it’s not trash. If it makes you laugh, it’s not trash. If you connect to even one character, even if it’s the hostile cat or the gay friend, it’s not trash. Just because the cover may be emblazoned with high heels and martini glasses, doesn’t mean what’s inside is trash and by default that you are trash-worthy. Whatever happened to not judging a book by its cover? Sometimes it’s time to get OUT of the closet. Haven’t you learnt anything from the chick-lit you devour? Closets are meant for Blahnik’s and Barney’s. Not yourself.

Chick-lit that won’t disappoint:
1. The Devil wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
2. Anything by Judith Krantz
3. Faking it/Welcome to Temptation/Fast Women by Jennifer Crusie
4. Bridget Jones Diary/The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding
5. Lipstick Jungle by Candace Bushnell
6. Sloppy Firsts/Second Helpings/Charmed Thirds/Fourth Comings by Megan Mcafferty

Note: Next on the Chick-Lit debate: Chick Lit vs. Dick Lit. If books written about women by women are chick lit, why not “quick lit for short stories, sick lit for the horror genre and dick lit for books by men about men”?

The All of us.

The All of us.