Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Party season

I am still recovering from the hangover from the most incredible party of my life that I went to last night. It's not that I haven't had more fun at a party before - I have, and in fact I sort of got bored and returned about two hours before the party got over by 4-4:30, but it was incredible because of the whole environment. I still can't believe we got away with a party like that, in the presence of families, and right in the middle of an educational institution. I am not sure of the legalities involved so, much as I would want to, I can not divulge more details. But, if for nothing else (and that assumption is in itself false) IIM Calcutta rocks because of this. Because no where else in India can I imagine a night like that. I love this place!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Fear and Loathing in Wonderland

Junky parents. An overimaginative daughter whose best friends are Barbie-heads. Mother addicted to chocolate, who does not let her daughter touch her chocolate bars. Daughter prepares heroin shots for her father. Mother dies, father and daughter go to his old home. Father farts in the bus and blames his daughter for it. Father dies of drug-overdose, and the daughter thinks he is on one of his trips. Father's one-eyed old flame lives nearby with her mentally challenged brother and the dead body of their mother. She services the grocery-boy for his favors. Which the daughter sees. Dead father's body is preserved by his old flame, and the four of them start living like a family.The brother and the daughter become close friends, at times kissing each other. When her stomach growls, they think she's pregnant. A squirrel in the attic. And an explosive climax.

Of course, there's much more to Tideland than just that.

We live in such antiseptic times that movies like Tideland, which show no regard for proprieties and conventions and which are almost delightful in their disgustedness, are rare gems worth treasuring. Terry Gilliam, after Brazil and the fantastic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, is in full-form again. This movie, labeled by critics (the few who didn't pan it) as a hybrid between Psycho and Alice in Wonderland, is definitely going to elicit a strong response from you. Disgust or Delight, depends on how successfully you have tamed your imagination.

At Your Service

With all considerations to the fact that a six-year stay in the middle of a city against a six-month one on the outskirts of another is very likely going to lead to a biased opinion, I would like to state that New Delhi kicks Kolkata's ass.

The one thing that bugs me the most about this place is the absolute disinterest Kolkatans in general apparently have in earning money. Used to being swamped by salesmen in Delhi and Mumbai, I was shocked when some time back I had gone to a nearby shop to buy shoes. Actually the first shop that I walked into had such pathetic service that I walked out in disgust. The next one was slightly better in that one of the sales-guys took time away from his adda-session to notice me. I had to buy a pair of formals for my interviews. I told him my shoe-size, chose a pair on display, tried them on, didn't like it and asked him for another. He showed me a couple of pairs, and then started getting irritated when I wanted to see more. I needed the shoes badly, so I chose the first decent pair I could and came away. And this is not a one-off incident. No wonder this city runs because of the Marwaris and the Biharis. If not for the Marwari businessmen and the Bihari laborers, Kolkata would have succumbed to Cholbe Na - Cholbe Na the day the British left.

But all's not rotten in the city. One thing I like are the pubs. I rarely get to go to the city, but when I do with my friends, for much less than what I would probably be spending in Delhi for the same stuff, I end up having a great time. I discovered this place called the OlyPub recently. Had heard about it from a lot of people, but remembered to visit it for the first time only a couple of weeks back. Took some of my friends there a week later. It looks really bad at first glance, but it 'grows on you'. There's no music, no TV, no frills at all. The service is just about OK, but mainly because it always seems to be full, and the waiters appear to be on a relay-race. The alcohol and the food, both are fairly cheap, or maybe the ambience, or the lack of it, makes it look that way. They serve very nice steak, ham and beef (which I ate in India for the first time here). But the best thing is the fact that the crowd's just right, not too flashy, but not too down-market either. And the atmosphere is just right for a good conversation with a group of friends over nice beer and great steak.

There's another nice restaurant that we discovered a couple of months back. Cinnamon Lounge and Restaurant (or something like that) is also on Park Street, and a huge contrast from OlyPub. It's fairly expensive, but the amazing food and the good service makes it worth it. Especially the good service, which stands like an oasis in the desert that Kolkata is in that department.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Some of the best movies that one comes across these days from the US are independent films, without the excess baggage that being associated with a Miramax or a Universal entails. One such soft, delighful movie is Heights.

I have over 80Gbs of movies on my hard-disk, most of which I haven't seen. Very often I pick up a book or a magazine because I am not able to decide on one. I picked Heights completely at random. So, it's a fascinating coincidence that the lead character is called Isabel, after Isabel Lee. Poe's poem on Isabel Lee was referred to by Humbert Humbert in Lolita while talking about his first love - Annabel Leigh.

There are so many movies these days that start off with different individuals leading seemingly unrelated lives, gradually moving towards a crescendo where everything comes together. Heights is based on a similar plot-structure. But, it is essentially a movie about love. As people who are familiar with my past blogs would vouch, I can speak for sometime on that topic now. But, that's for later.

Heights has a story that I have very often thought, and worried, that I would find myself in one day. Because the movie is not very easily available, and because there are quite a few interesting characters, it'll take some time for anyone to figure out what I mean, assuming anyone's interested. I did find myself in an analogous situation some months back, and came out hurting. And hurt others in turn.

That brings me, in another interesting turn of events, to explain why I chose the sobriquet that I am using. I heard the phrase for the first time in a classic comedy series called Coupling. Most of you must be fans too. I didn't notice the phrase, or at least any more than many other such phrases coined by Jeff, until it became a part of my life. The most interesting person I have known in my life made it that.

Talking Movies

Perhaps the thing that I have missed the most while I was away from blogging is talking about films. Initially, after moving here, it was difficult to get time to watch movies on any regular basis, but gradually, once I got the hang of managing my time, and the novelty of the place died out, I was back to watching movies frequently enough. I am averaging about 3-4 movies every week now, which is nothing compared to my prolific record in the past. But, this will do for now.

In the last two-three days, I have seen three good movies. Surprisingly, the one that I expected the most from, turned out to be the worst. But doesn't that happen all the time?

The first one, and the one that disappointed me, was Lolita. Kubrick brought some amazing books onto celluloid, and invariably spoilt them with his own interpretation. 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, and now Lolita. All of these movies are classics in their own right. But I feel very srongly that the film-maker's interpretation should not overshadow, or even worse, desecrate, the author's. It hurt even more in this case because Lolita is one of my favorite books, and I still remember being awe-struck when I first read it as part of a course on Modern Fiction. A Clockwork Orange, incidentally, was a part of the curriculum too.

A couple of years back, I had seen Adrian Lyne's version of the movie. I was not very happy with Jeremy Irons' Humbert. I thought he made it more lecherous than he was in the book. Quilty was pretty decent.

In Kubrick's version, Peter Sellers' Quilty is obnoxious. That is the single-most important reason why I felt the movie failed. James Mason is fine as Humbert. Though it would be unfair to the movie if I don't acknowledge that the period it was made in it must have been very difficult to be faithful to the book completely. A disadvantage that Lyne didn't have to work with.

Anyway, both of them are nice movies. And watch them both, whether you have read the book or not. I hope to get my hands on Nabokov's screenplay of the movie some day.

The second movie was The Queen. Starring Helen Mirren in the role of Queen Elizabeth II, this one's about the short period in 1997 following Princess Diana's death. I haven't seen all the movies in the awards fray this year, but this one's top-class. The quiet dignity that Mirren brings to the role is worth every award in my book. The restraint and polish that every scene shows has to be seen to be believed.

But the best of the trio was A Scanner Darkly. Now that's how a book should be made into a movie! The book by Philip K Dick is what one would probably call a mind-bending work. It's a fairly complicated plot, not helped at all by the weirdness of the characters. And the movie is completely faithful to it. It has been simplified a bit, and some parts have been removed to maintain bearable length. Robert Downey Jr, Woody Harrelson, and especially Rory Cochrane's characters overshadow the lead pair of Reeves-Ryder completely. The long wait for a DVD-print was worth it!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

There and Back Again

After a hiatus of about five months, I am back to blogging. This is my third enocunter with the ubiquitous art (fad?) of blogging, and my first with Blogger. Hope to see my past readers back here.

Also, hope to be a little more restrained on this blog.

A proper post would follow soon enough.

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