Monday, December 31, 2007

In case anyone was interested...


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Taare Zameen Par

I rave about so many movies, and lesser ones at that, so it is only fair that I rave about this one too. But chances are, you have already seen it or will be seeing it pretty soon.

Taare Zameen Par is easily the best Hindi movie this year, and one of the best in the last several years. If one overlooks the simplified symbolism or some cliched characterization, this is a masterpiece of a debut (if one discounts allegations of Aamir Khan's interference in the direction of his movies as far back as 1992 with Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar). The cast, especially Darsheel Safary and Tisca Chopra, is amazing. I had appreciated the fairly realistic small-town portrayal in Aaja Nachle a few weeks back. But the authentic manner in which an upper middle-class family from Mumbai is portrayed here is quite rare for a mainstream Indian film. Makes one think how one of Indian cinema's most successful (and hence one of the more affluent ones) film personalities can do such a good job in doing that. And Prasoon Joshi's lyrics reach heights maybe even Gulzar's could not in a movie like this!

I haven't met one person till now who hasn't loved the movie. Another rarity for a Hindi film. And more people confess to have cried while watching this than any other movie till now.

In recent times, and in fact, coincidentally, thanks in no small measure to a film made by the same production house that has made this film, any good Hindi film has been touted as an Oscar potential. I don't think this movie should be sent for the Oscars, even though it is the best of the year, because this is a very Indian movie and should not be insulted by making it try hard to be appreciated by a predominantly American jury.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Movie Heaven

I am always on the lookout for that perfect horror/thriller that is truly scary. Which, as most of you would understand, is different from being just bloody. I think I found one of those.

I can't think of any other Josh Hartnett movie that I have liked so much. Directed by David Slade, who made another classic thriller Hard Candy before this. Produced by Sam Raimi. Written by Steve Niles (the graphic novel).

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Violent Film that I Hated

I have seen many fucked up movies (pardon my French, but I couldn't think of a more polite-yet-effective word). Movies that have gratuitous violence, lots of gore, bucket-fuls of blood - hell, I even enjoy exploitation movies most of the times. But, I hate it when the entire movie tries to do everything it can, building up gradually through every single scene, for that one final scene of gut-wrenching violence, only to make people sorry for the victim. I hate, as I had said about Saawariya in a different context, movies where the manipulation shows. You might feel what the director wants you to feel probably, but you also feel, for want of a better word, dirty.

I hadn't seen Alpha Dog for a long time, because I don't think very highly of the director (Nick Cassavetes). He actually reminds me a bit of Bhansali in that he does not know when to stop. And he does not even have the aesthetic sense of the latter. The plot line didn't seem very ineteresting either. And the one criterion that might have made me ineterested was also not fulfilled - I couldn't find an Ebert review of the movie. But at a recent quiz I got to know that it has one of the highest number of 'fuck's uttered, much in the same league as Scarface or Goodfellas. I thought it can't be that bad in that case. We all love to hear profanities, don't we?

And I didn't hate the movie all that much either. It could have been made into a much better film by so many other directors. I think I missed a conversation early on because of my habit of chatting with people while watching a non-engaging movie and I got an inkling of what was going to happen quite late. I knew that the movie is about the youngest person to be on the America's Most Wanted FBI list, so it had some relation to reality. And so when the thing happened, I was saddened by it. But that was because of the horror of the incident itself, the fact that something like this could have happened this easily. Where I felt irritated was that the director had been showcasing the victim's innocence and goodness the whole way through. In fact the innocence of the victim and the perpetrators, through the very first sequence during the credits. That's lame. Respect the intelligence of your viewers. Don't read their stories out to them.

I am probably more pissed off because I hate it when a director does not know what his movie wants to be, and Alpha Dog is a bastardisation of way too many different divergent styles.

Having cribbed so much though, I would still recommend this movie, because some of the actors still end up doing a nice job and salvaging the movie. And I am sure the incident would pay off for a lot of people.
Someone should give Sharon Stone better roles though. I hated her in this.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Blown away - part 2

The first paper went much better than what I had expected. For a few hours last night, I was getting the feeling that after Chemical Engineering, I was going to suck at the other stream that I was trying to specialize in. Not that low on self-confidence now. The worst is over. The next exam, which starts in about an hour, should be easier. And so I decided to write a little more about Aaja Nachle.

I really don't get what the critics, or most of them at least, are cribbing about. Was there ever any doubt that we were going to watch this movie for any other reason. And the one reason we saw the movie for delivers. And how. This is what a Star is. The elan with which She makes a comeback would make one believe that She never went away at all. I remember when I first heard about Her marriage (I was in school then), I had this really sad feeling in my stomach (or it could have been something I ate the previous night) that we'll never see Her again doing what She does better than anyone else - the equivalent of a Kapil Dev maybe, the perfect all-rounder. Then Devdas gave hope that She'll be around. But that wasn't to be. Finally. more than five years after Her last outing as Parvati, we have Diya. And one feels happy that there are some things that one can always rely on to come good.

Coming to the movie, even if you take Her away (how can you seriously, though!), it's still a pretty enjoyable film. OK, I am kidding. I can't imagine this film without Her. But the film does not let Her down really. We have an interesting story - a retelling of Lagaan in some ways - shouldered by a very competent cast. People like Vinay Pathak, Ranvir Shorey, Raghuvir Yadav, Akhilendra Mishra, Yashpal Sharma, Sushmita Mukherjee are some of the most reliable actors you can ask for in a supporting cast. Then there's Irrfan Khan, who can't get even one expression wrong. Divya Dutta is prone to overacting on occasions, but thankfully manages to avoid that here. Kunal Kapoor is meant to look rigid for most of the movie, and he is good at that, isn't he? I would have preferred someone more 'glamorous' in the role of Anokhi, but she's pretty much Irrfan Khan's female counterpart in Hindi cinema today. Jugal Hansraj isn't all that noticeable in this crowd, with all due respects. And the best thing is that all these characters, for most parts, aren't cardboard figures. They have cliched characteristics, but one misses these cliches in A-grade movies of our times, where the only people you see are super-affluent, English-spouting, metrosexual unreal characters. Even the odd gaali is such music to one's ears when it's shown in an authentic manner.

Not that the movie's setting is completely authentic. The village is too good to be true. The final show couldn't really have been staged by any village/town in a month. Politicians, even if they are Laloo Yadav, do not join a dance show. Even royalty-turned-MPs are possibly not that benevolent. But, it's less unbelievable than Amitabh Bachchan living in a Tudor castle close to Delhi's Chandni Chowk in K3G. And much less incredible than the fact that a 40-plus woman can still manage to take your breath away in in the title track of the be to leave for the exam.

Forgot completely after the exam about this thing. Came back to write about another movie I just saw, and found it incomplete. I won't go on more about how much I liked Aaja Nachle...just notice the absolute glee on Vinay Pathak's face when he is dancing (and dancing well) in the Jawaani sequence of the final extended performance. The song's great too (with lines like 'Ghar ki murgi nahin yeh chhutta saand jawaani').

Blown away

I don't think I'll write about it again, but I really am too short of time right now to put in more than a few words. I am stuck with two of the toughest courses' exams on the same day tomorrow...oh ****, it's already today! I found this earlier today on the LAN and had to watch it in bits and pieces. And I do LOVE her.

Read this, which is anyway much better than what I can dream of writing. I might be falling in love with him too. Now that's a statement you won't hear too often.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Where have all the great blogs gone?

Or maybe they are still there and I am just not interested in reading them anymore.

I don't visit The Delhi Walla blog very often, maybe once in a fortnight or so. But each visit is always rewarded with some interesting account of a not-so-well-known aspect of Delhi. The one that I found really interesting on today's visit, not the least because I am really hungry as I write this, was Mayank Austen Soofi's description of a breakfast of paya and nihari in Old Delhi.

I have been to the area surrounding Jama Masjid a few times, but was never adventurous enough to try out one of the many dhabas spread in its vicinity. I never realized what I was missing. My first, and only as of now, taste of what Old Delhi has to offer by way of culinary deligths was outside Delhi in fact. Lahori cuisine in many ways is a purer form of what one could probably have got more easily in Delhi before partition. While visiting Lahore, our host had taken us out for a breakfast of tandoori roti (much much softer than any I have seen anywhere else) and nihari and halwa. I can still recall those amazing flavors, and could very well kill for another taste of that breakfast. This post at The Delhi Walla brings back those memories in a rush. I am drooling all over my laptop right now.

This, and continuing upto early March, is the best time, if you are in Delhi, to try out this food. It's too rich for our modern tastes and you might want to avoid any physical engagements right after the meal. Starting off with a heavy breakfast at one of these dhabas, following it up with a walk around the area, similar to one I took a couple of years back (unfortunately alone) that started from Safdarjung's tomb, went through Lodhi Garden, touched upon several landmarks (some not found in tourist brochures like the tomb of Abdurraheem Khankhana), went upto Humayun's Tomb and then also covered some parts around Nizamuddin, and then a late afternoon meal at another one of the eateries in the area - that sounds like a good day.

The best time I have spent in this part of Delhi was almost two years back when three other guys from my college and I went food-stall hopping near Chandni Chowk after a fantastic morning spent at the Book Fair in Pragati Maidan. The night before that I had seen Rang De Basanti - which made it one of the best 24 hours periods of my life.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

There and Back Again

Returned yesterday around noon from what was easily the worst trip of my life. A day's trip to Mumbai for a quiz turned into my worst nightmare of cancelled tickets, delayed landings, missed flights, cash shortage, credit card bounce and more. The only thing that could have made it worse would have been a terrorist attack at the airport or a plane crash, or maybe both together.

All said and done, I am a more knowledgable person now though, as far as plane travel goes. For all its hype, Kingfisher Airlines came across as pretty ordinary in this trip. It feels like, instead of working the other way around, buying a low-cost airlines has started showing signs of laggardness on the main carrier. The one airlines that stood out in the helpfulness of the ground crew, and later the on-flight crew, was Jet Airways. The worst ground crew, by far, is of course that of Indian. My opinion is based on two days' experiences only, but I am sure I have had enough to last a few years.

The quiz was pretty good though. Unfortuantely, we ran into a road-roller called Shamanth M. People who attended any quiz in the IITD Nihilanth, or have seen him quiz on any other occasion, would understand what I mean. If not for him, my team-mate and I, who I think make a pretty strong team, could have made some really good cash. The hospitality of the Axis Bank organizers, the champagne and the food, the conversations over dinner with senior executives and the Chairman, Mr Nayak, himself, and the nice hotel that we stayed at (all for four hours though) made up to an extent. Hopefully we'll have more rewarding trips to Mumbai in the near future.

It's really fun attending Harsha's quizzes. I love the man's humour (though my team-mate cribs a lot about the Derek O'Brien-ish nature of it) and, thanks to Quizician, he has managed to find the fine balance between a quiz that manages to hold the audience's interests as well as doesn't insult the intelligence of the participants on the stage. He has been seeing a lot of us too, and if not by our names at least recognises us (and remembers threads from old jokes from previous meetings) by our faces. At least one meeting is scheduled for this weekend as well.

Our Night Canteen has come up with a new recipe for Maggi (or maybe it had always been there and I discovered it only now) in which they fry it with onions and tomatoes, and some additional masala. Apart from the low nutritional value of Maggi, it's got oil now too. But do I really care? Plus, they stock Amul Srikhand now, which, even though is not as good as the unbranded version one gets in Maharashtra and Gujarat, is good enough for this part of the country. I am the only person in my family who can tolerate more than a spoonful of this gooey, extremely sweet (and a little sour) paste. Only if exams and submissions were not at hand my movie watching hours would be so much fun.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


That is what I would apparently look like if I were living in Springfield (give or take a few hair strands).

You can try with your pic here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gets me everytime!

Oh blobit of dribble
Oozing from the upturned corner of my mouth
You look to me,
Like you should be,
The thing that dropeth from the cloud
A tiny bit of thee is stuck upon my lip
A little more is stuck up my nose
Some has adhered to my hip
My eyes are open and glassy
My snot is thick and green
And from my ears,
Something obscene appears,
And I think it might be me.
------ Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz

Just felt like treating my regular visitor(s) to some exquisite poetry.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Living It Up

Am posting this from a cosy room at ITC Sonar. Had to mention that. Love the food, the service and the general ambience of the hotel here.

Saw Om Shanti Om, with my parents again, last night. I really enjoyed the movie. The multi-starrer song itself is paisa-vasool, and the rest of the movie is good fun too. There are several issues with the movie that I could enumerate, not the least is the cheap humor at some occasions, but hell, I went in expecting a full-blown commercial caper. And I got that yessiree. This might actually end up being only the third movie, after HAHK and DDLJ, that I go to watch on a big screen the second time. The very expensive multiplex tickets and the distance I need to travel from my campus everytime I come to the city are two reasons that could keep me from it though.

The night before that I saw the 2004 Best Foreign Language Oscar winner Les Invasions Barbares (The Barbarian Invasions), which is a huge contrast, and equally enjoyable. It's a very simple and intelligent movie, a little similar to Bergman's Wild Strawberries. I won't say it's very difficult to make me cry, but I normally don't do that watching a movie. The last time I think that happened was when I had seen It's A Wonderful Life almost two years back. Almost 500 or so movies after that, this is one where I did.

And before that I saw Jaan-E-Mann, OSO's director's husband's directorial debut. I had missed it when it came out last year because a good print wasn't available, and I can't risk paying multiplex ticket money for a movie that has Akshay Kumar and Salman Khan. I had heard good things about it though. Finally found a DVD rip last week on the LAN and stayed up late to see it, along with playing this. The game sucked badly, the movie was good. Both Shirish Kunder and his wife have a very similar style of film-making, but I found Kunder's more refined, and to an extent more intelligent as well. Very rarely do you see Hindi movies today that make you laugh and not cringe at their jokes. This one had lots of the former kind.

Quite a few quizzes lined up. Please wish that I make some moolah in all of these. OK Bye (yikes, that reminds me of Saawariya), I have to get back to deciding what to order for dinner.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Happy Diwali

I saw Saawariya this Saturday. Spent my first Diwali at home in several years, and it was also the first time in several months when all four of us were at home at the same time. But it was spoiled, as much as an occasion like this can be by a dumb movie, by a family trip to the nearest multiplex (which is about 2 hours away) to watch Sanjay Leela Bhansali's latest extravagance.

I really don't want to waste words on this excuse for a film. It definitely is beautiful and the songs sound and look amazing, but that's just about it. I really did not like either of the lead actors. I actually felt like slapping Ranbir Kapoor, and he seemed to be on drugs, especially in the much-spoken-about towel song. It's too painfully boring. This is one of the few occasions where I have seen the director ham. I have never believed Bhansali to be a great film-maker. Black would have been a master-piece in the hands of many directors, but he reduced it to melodramatic garbage with Bachchan hamming thousand times more than he normally does these days. He (Bhansali) has this very very bad habit of not knowing when to stop. Great screenplays are about stretching an emotional scene just to the right extent to extract the perfect response from the audience. Bhansali, obviously, does not know that. One has to watch one of the last scenes, where Sakina is leaving Ranbir Raj for Imaan, to understand what I am saying. The scene goes on way longer than it should. The whole point of manipulating the audience is lost when it knows all too well that it is being manipulated. I am surprised that the film is doing well commercially because the hall that I went to was less than half-filled and almost everyone I heard while coming out was cursing the director. If he had been in Durgapur that afternoon, he would surely have been lynched.

I also watched Hairspray. Which is also a musical. And such a welcome contrast. It's a perfect feel-good film and the viewing time of about 2 hours just flies away, thanks to the delightful cast, the delightful songs and the delightful dances. Travolta has to get Best Supporting Actress Oscar for this one.

And I read A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian. It's slightly boring in the initial parts. It seems to stop moving forward and keeps talking in detail about idiotic people, whom I didn't care about. But gradually, and especially in the last 25-30 pages, it really finds its soul. It's about a lot of things, but mainly about how our past shapes what we are now. It doesn't get preachy anywhere though, even when it covers some of the darkest moments in recent human history. Highly recommended.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Up to here with pseuds

I visited this site recently, referred to me by a friend of mine, where Anurag Kashyap (I am assuming it was really him and not someone posing as him) had written about this reverse snobbishness that many 'educated' Hindi film viewers are wont to, when they claim that they watch Hindi movies only for the 'entertainment'. These guys go ga-ga over a Tarkovsky or, if you are less pseud, over Tarantino, but find a remotely cerebral Hindi film too 'arty-farty'.

I am not sure I had completely understood what Kashyap was saying, but now, after having read what many people have to say about No Smoking, I think I have begun to get an idea. Though I understand that there is a chance of people honestly not liking the film, in most cases, the person seems to come up with the most laughable reasons for it.

A friend, for instance, was cribbing about missing good ol' fluffy Hindi flicks while talking about the disenchanting seriousness of No Smoking. Some people revel in the idea that Hindi flicks are supposed to be these no-brainer song-and-dance melodramatic features, where one can take some refuge after having watched a little too much of Nouvelle Vague or some other such chic sounding cinema.

I can't even begin to laugh at these people. What is unfortunate is that many of these people claim to be authorities on cinema. Having watched more movies than your peers, or managing to think of bigger words when writing a stupid blog-post does not make you one, unfortunately.


It has to be a crime to be as beautiful as this!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Thank You for No Smoking, Mr Kashyap

I saw Jab We Met and No Smoking back to back before leaving for Bhubaneshwar. Liked both of them.

Jab We Met has Kareena Kapoor in a role that I cannot imagine anyone among the present crop of actresses doing justice to. Sridevi or Juhi Chawla would have done well though. Preity Zinta would come the closest, but she would just pout and mispronounce her way through the role. Right from her first scene, in which she climbs on to the train to the interval, Kareena Kapoor is just so delightful in her whackiness! Post interval the movie seems like a drag and pointless to most extent. One of the best things about Imtiaz Ali's movies (Socha Na Tha and now this) is that the dialogues and situations are very un-filmy. Characters don't spout Urdu poetry at the drop of a hat, but speak in normal Hinglish as most ordinary people are wont to.

And then there was No Smoking. Most critics have panned the movie badly, but I still had high expectations from it going in. Which were met mostly. This is so unlike anything made before in Hindi (and maybe to be made in the near future, considering the bad reception it's got) that I can only compare it with a Lynchian drama or some other Western film-maker's creation. It is flawed definitely, but the originality and the absolute disregard for conventions of Hindi cinema made me overlook them. David Lynch is among my favorite film makers and I try not to describe his movies because they sound trite on paper. His movies are meant to be experienced visually and aurally. I could say pretty much the same thing about Anurag Kashyap's latest offering. The 'story' is really not that important. The whole package is.

While watching both these movies, I was feeling really happy for the fact that there are filmmakers like these in Hindi cinema today, whose films I eagerly await. Irrespective of whether they experiment completely or remain within the regular plot-lines, they do end up leaving an imprint on whatever they touch. And the ilk is growing. The future's not all that dark for Hindi movies then.

Monday, November 5, 2007


Just returned from a college fest at Bhubaneshwar and am about to crash (it's 6:30 am here), but decided to mention it here lest laziness takes over me again (the reason why I haven't been writing about a whole lot of other stuff I keep thinking about).

Even though 11 men lost to the sole lady in the fray for Rs 60K prize money and a week's stay in Singapore, this was definitely one of the most enjoyable weekends of my life. And hectic. Met some nice people along with that. And did extremely well, belying my faith in my abilities, in a few of the sub-events. Which bodes well for the upcoming competitions.

And, of course, the cash flows remained positive. We did well enough in the quizzes to make the defeat in the bigger event palatable. Quizzing hasn't been this much fun (and this profitable) for me ever before.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Above Average

I am reading Amitabha Bagchi's Above Average these days, in between parts of Tezuka's Buddha. I didn't like Above Average the first time I tried to read it. The narration moved in time way too much for a book in this genre. But I am liking it now and have moved well beyond the first few pages.

After my previous failed attempt I had dismissed it by saying that it is a novel that only Comp Science students (or Compguys as one of the characters in the book says) at IITD who did their schooling in Delhi would understand. I missed that chance by about a 1000 ranks a few years back. But, now I feel that most IITD guys, irrespective of their departments, would identify with a good part of it. Maybe in time I would start believing that any reader could probably appreciate the 'story'.

One reason why I didn't appreciate it all that much was because I was treating it like another Five Point Someone. I didn't have time and was just speed-reading through it. Now, I do have time. And it's no FPS. There are some lines in the book that I find particularly interesting and insightful.

It's even more interesting because it's written by someone who teaches at IITD now. It took me a long time to realise that Professors are human beings too, who have a life beyond the classrooms, labs and their offices. I still tend to forget that at times. We don't have labs at my present college though.

Here are a couple of extracts that I underlined in the book (I never do that).

Unshakeable self-confidence was key to winning the battles we fought. The battle for grades and academic achievement was just one small part of the larger war, the others being the battles to appear unconcerned, in control, well rounded, cultured, self-confident. Accustomed all our lives to being lauded as exceptional, we were all scared that the true measure of ourselves, our unremarkable selves, would emerge one day.


It was Neeraj who taught me that friendship between two men can have all the ferocity of a love affair. Of the many things I was forced to realize in reflecting on the time I spent with him, perhaps the most sobering and terrifying was the understanding that the strongest and deepest bonds we form in our lives are with people who know how to hurt us in the most devastating ways.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Johnny Gaddaar Redux

I am not a great fan of Raja Sen (of Rediff film-reviewer fame), but I am not joining his hate community on Orkut anytime soon either. Especially after his fantastic review for Johnny Gaddaar. It's come a little late in the day, but every bit helps. This is the closest that any of the better known reviewers has come to what I felt about the movie. Go watch it, if you haven't yet. Hell, watch it again even if you have.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Random thoughts

Right now I sort of have an inkling of what multiple orgasms must feel like. I got private access to the movie collection of this batchmate of mine, who I didn't even know had such an amazing collection. He has tons of movies that I have been trying to get my hands on for the longest time. I will have to somehow balance watching all these movies (have stopped writing DVDs, which creates a problem with the limited hard disk space) and attending the few classes I have to attend.


The coming days are going to be good fun for the quizzer in me.

A few moments after we (my two teammates and I) won an annual Jadavpur University quiz this weekend, I was saddended by the thought that this is the last year I'll get to participate in inter-college quizzes. Once I start working (and I am fairly sure I'll be working a year from now), I'll have to wait for the rare open quizzes to participate. Anyway, my sort-of-regular-partner and I are making good use of the last year we have.


Was going through the last couple of posts from my previous blog. I had written about my initial experiences in IIM Calcutta there. Things haven't lived up to the initial expectations. I have sort-of got disillusioned by the kind of 'business leaders' that B-schools seem to create. But there have been great moments too. And all said and done, even though this is a little early, I am glad I came to IIM Calcutta.

I am watching Raakh, one of Aamir Khan's first movies, even as I write this. It's fascinating how raw movies like these used to be in the late 80s - early 90s. It's a very nice movie - another one of those I had been looking for for some time now. It's difficult to imagine that we have come out of those out-of-the-world times called the 1980s.


I realized a few days back that I have gotten this habit of saying 'sort-of' too often.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Johnny Gaddaar, Bravo!

How often does it happen that an impulsive decision of yours to buy something or eat at some new restaurant or watch some movie that you don't know much about ends up in a positive payoff? Not all that often, at least in my case. And when it does, it feels great!

Something like that happened earlier in the evening today. A couple of friends and I decided to go to the city to watch Loins of Punjab Presents, a movie we had been hearing interesting things about. Manorama - Six Feet Under was removed today from the nearest multiplex. The catch was that the only show at the multiplex began at 8:20pm - a tad late for my friends, who had to be back at the campus a little early. We reached the place and the earliest show was for this new flick called Johnny Gaddaar - an admittedly curious name - which at least I knew very little about, except that it was made by the man who directed Ek Hasina Thi and 'starred' Dharmendra and Rimi Sen. While the first fact was a small positive for the movie, the second one was a huge huge negative. It took some amount of fortitude to decide to buy the tickets for the show.

There were two things that helped me decide in favor of watching it - one, the very different posters I have seen for the movie, which are more Sin City than Dus or Kaante in their appearance, and two, this really nice article that Sriram Raghavan, the director, had written for Rediff the other day. In the article he came across as a pretty intelligent guy with a passion for all sorts of movies.

So we went in.

The movie begins in black-and-white on a rainy night with a group of policemen in a van in Mumbai cracking crude jokes at the expense of one of their friends. It felt like the start of another of those unbearable B-grade movies that are not much good and not even as bad as a Kanti Shah masterpiece. But, things started to look up a moment later, when the camera casually shifted from the van to a car moving perpendicular to it. This, and an important plot point, was soon followed by one of the best credit sequences I have seen in any Hindi movie till date. And I was so relieved.

The basic plot of the movie revolves around this gang of five criminals - Dharmendra (Seshadri), Vinay Pathak (Prakash), Zakir Hussain (Shardul), Daya Shetty (Shiva), known mainly for the TV series CID, and Neil Nitin Mukesh (Vikram) - the 'hero' of the film. The gang plans, with the help of Govind Namdeo, an inspector and a friend of Seshadri's, some deal where they need an initial investment of Rs 2.5 crore (50 lakhs each - Rimi Sen, surprisingly enough, gets that division right). Things go wrong as they are wont to, the huge suitcase filled with the booty is stolen, and the rest of the movie is about the characters finding out who stole it and getting killed in the bargain. It is one of those suspense crime capers where the audience knows all along who the culprit is, but still sits on the edge of their seats trying to guess whether he'll be caught and how.

First, the negatives. The dialogue could have used a whole lot of better effort. It gets unintentionally corny on occasions, and Dharmendra has more than half of these. Of course, he doesn't do a great job in other scenes either. For some reason he is made to spout way too many English lines, and that is one of paaji's great weak-spots, maybe right next to dancing. At least one supporting cast member (Prakash's beautician wife) could have been replaced, in this case by someone less raucous. But the biggest spoil-sport was the ending. Will talk about it in a while.

Neil Nitin Mukesh, whose launch vehicle the film essentially is, and whom the camera lovingly takes into close focus several times, is a decent actor. He lacks terribly in terms of facial expressions or screen presence, but still manages his job well enough. Which points towards some degree of charisma somewhere in there. Rimi Sen, as usual, does not have much to do, and we should be thankful for that.

The best thing about the film is that it's uninhibitedly stylish. Some of the camera angles are to die for (and even though he hails from RGV's factory, stylish camera angles for him do not mean hand-held camera being rotated to induce nausea). There are a lot of references to great old films, both Hindi and American, as well as James Hadley Chase. The director is also an obvious fan of Tarantino and the Coens. The references do get a bit tiresome at times, but I am not complaining. And the style is not at the cost of the substance. It is a fairly taut thriller, rarely letting go of the pace. Based on the kind of conversations we got to listen to around us, I can say that the twists and turns of the story might not be easily comprehensible to every member of the audience. And how often does that happen in our times of simplified spoon-fed story lines?

The background score is interesting. But could have done with so much more.

Which brings me to the climax. The film does so many things right, has so many subtly delicious moments, that the ending was a huge disappointment to me and my friends. We were almost hoping for something to happen to make the film close to perfect, but that didn't happen and the film took the simpler way out. It almost looks like the director had a choice between a stylish ending and a simpler, easier ending, and he chose (or was forced to choose?) the latter.

But do not let that dissuade you from watching this film, if possible on the big screen. In our audi there were just three rows filled with people, and not completely, and I am expecting the case would be the same all over India. Which is a real shame, because so many lesser movies make so much more money simply because they have the right names. This is one of those films I would have surely given a miss had it come to our LAN, but I know better now. This is a director I'll be on the lookout for in the future, and I hope he does not give in to the baser demands of the business he is in.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"Dil ko bana de jo patang saasein yeh teri woh hawaayein hain..."

What a line man! Most of the new Hindi film music that has come out lately has been a disappointment. The rest of Om Shanti Om is pretty average. Which is still better than the music for Laaga Chunari Mein Daag, from which I had high hopes. Saawariya, another film I expected to live up to Bhansali's past in terms of music, has failed so far. Though I have listened to it only once.


So India won the 'World Cup'. This is probably the first time I felt nothing at all on a big Indian victory. I couldn't care less if India lost. It's either because I still think of 20-20 as an illegitimate form of the game, not that I retain much interest in the game itself anymore, or because my entire contact with the tournament was through Rediff's score page. Another of my asocial characteristics - I hate watching a match in a hostel TV room, with all sorts of idiots passing expert comments and clapping at every stupid instance. A lot of my friends enjoy it for precisely the same reasons.

One of the things I look forward to when I start earning is to watch matches on my own TV, sitting on my own couch, in my own house, with just a few friends. And yes of course, with beer and pizza.

A good thing about this particular victory is that I won't have difficulty ever in my life in recalling the exact date India won the first 20-20 World Cup.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

In which I put my foot in my mouth

I shocked quite a few people, who normally seemed to respect my opinion on films, when I told them some time back that I liked Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna, and think that Karan Johar is a good film-maker. But, that is nothing compared to what I am going to say now.

Call it my penchant for inflicting pain on myself or momentary lapse of reason (the two are pretty much the same, aren't they), but I decided to watch Ram Gopla Varma Ki Aag night before the last. The first few minutes, starting with Mohanlal speaking in Hindi (all great acting is lost when you can't pronounce words properly, man!), seemed to live up to the expectation I had from the film. Which was zero essentially. I gave up, went down to have dinner, went to my friend's room after that and preferred studying than watching it (now how often does that happen!).

But, I decided to give it another try last night. And I was quite hooked. Brace yourself for this - The Film Is Not As Bad As It Has Been Made Out To Be. Actually I should have realized this before watching the film. If the entire world population is so unanimous in condemning something it can't be all that bad.

I think the mistake most people have committed in watching the film is to constantly keep comparing it with Sholay. It would have taken a miracle for anyone, including Ramesh Sippy, to make another Sholay. See Shaan if you need any proof. Sholay was the result of the fortuitous coming together of all heavenly bodies that control such things, when everything fell together just right and that can never happen again.

But if you look at it as an independent film, or even in comparison with most Ram Gopal Verma films, it comes across as a pretty decent attempt. In fact, apart from the nausea-inducing camera angles, Mohanlal's horrendous pronunciation and Amitabh Bachchan's hamming, everything else makes it a nice film. Both Nisha Kothari and her butt - sharing equal screen time, almost like Siamese twins - do a good job. She is not hot, and is too loud on occasions, but not bad for the role. Devgan is no where as idiotic as the reviews made him out to be. Sushmita Sen takes herself more seriously than anyone else does, which she can't help really. And Prashant Raj is really good. If he takes care to have a proper hairstyle in his subsequent roles and if he chooses those roles smartly, he can be a big star. Mohanlal, despite the pronunciation and some funny expressions (which Sanjeev Kumar was guilty of to a greater degree), is eminently watchable.

Which brings us to Mr Bachchan. He is pretty much the worst thing in the film. He is among the worst hammers in the industry. And that is why I hate it when people criticise Shah Rukh Khan on the pretext that "he hams a lot". Probably all great actors ham on some occasions. I think another reason why Bachchan fails to generate the same fear is because Gabbar Singh was played by a rank newcomer. Hardly anyone knew Amjad Khan then, and no matter what role he played after that, he never got over the shadow of that character. Things are obviously different in this case. It's not that Bachchan does not do a great job in unconventional roles. One of his most interesting performances according to me was in Boom, which was delightful for the sheer irreverence of it. I respect the man for having done a role as interestingly disgusting as that. And he tries hard here too. Too hard at times. But, that is the price one pays for being the biggest star ever in Hindi films. One can't not see Amitabh Bachchan in Babban Singh. Which doesn't mean that there are no scenes where he does great.

The music is passable. The background score is actually good, especially when you realise that Amar Mohile is the same man who gave that jarring score for Sarkar. The supporting cast is competent. And again, do not compare it with Sholay for heaven's sake. You can't have Soorma Bhopali and the Jailer and the Mausi and the Imam Sahab and Hariram again. Learn to live with that.

Ram Gopal Varma is a very over-rated film maker anyway. Apart from Satya and Shiva (which worked mainly because of Nagarjuna and the time it was made in), he hasn't done a great job with any of his films. No, I don't think Rangeela or Kaun or Bhoot or any of his other films are all that great. They have great plots, which is a fraction of what a good movie ought to be. Sarkar, which many claim to be his last great outing wasn't all that great if you compare it with The Godfather.

So do the film and Varma some justice. Watch it. And enjoy for all the subtle (ok, not so subtle) references filled in the movie. It is a lot better than what we churn out normally.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

15 Minutes

It's interesting how, thanks to TV shows, people, who were living in obscurity till a few weeks back, become the toast of a city, state or even the entire country. Saw this feature on rediff today. Amit Paul is definitely a better singer than the last two winners of Indian Idol. Even Prashant, the other finalist, is a very good singer.

This news story is more interesting because we rarely find anything in popular culture that would indicate that the Northeast is a part of India. Of course, we have several rock bands from the region. But I know more about life in half the world than about life beyond Guwahati. So, when Meghalaya gets a chance to fawn over someone who has done well, I feel great too. Look at how the entire state, including the government is going crazy over Paul.

Of course, most such people from the recent past have gone back to obscurity after a brief tryst with fame. I can't recall the name of the man who won last year's Indian Idol. Abijit Sawant is rarely seen these days. Most people have forgotten Qazi Tauqeer from Fame Gurukul's inaugural edition (My family used to vote for him, despite the fact that he was the worst singer among all the contestants, mainly because he came from a poor family in Kashmir). And I don't even know about the people who win the countless other such shows on Indian TV.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fasten Your Seat-belts

Anne Baxter, Bette Davis and Marilyn Monroe in one frame. Electrifying.

Where did all those writers who could pen razor-sharp dialogues go?

B&W movies won hands down the day this movie was made.

Shawshank Redemption, meet All About Eve.

Elvis Lives

I had given up on films till about a few days back. Apart from an occasional great movie, almost everything that I could find on the LAN or on my hard disk seemed utterly boring. But trying to finish off the IMDb 250 (which is still some movies away) has made me a believer again. And it's got only better with some of the new movies on our LAN.

One such absolutely whacky (I am running out of adjectives) movie is Bubba Ho-tep. It's supposed to be one of those rare cult classics that are hard to find. The plot is, as a reviewer at IMDb said, too weird to be described in words. It might only put you off if I tell you that it's got two old men in an asylum - one is supposed to be Elvis Presley and the other is a black guy who believes he is John F Kennedy - in Texas, fighting an Egyptian mummy trying to feed on human souls. Comedy and Horror make for a potent mix.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The funniest, bloodiest movie you'll see this year

One of the most interesting movies I have seen in recent times, and I have seen quite a few, is this film from New Zealand called Black Sheep. A veritable gem of a movie, it's a twist on the conventional zombie movie. And what a twist it is.

The basic plot is about how thanks to a couple of over-zealous members of an anti-animal testing group some toxic genetic material from a test facility at a farm is accidentally spilled, leading to the normally docile, positively dumb sheep turning into cunning carnivores. And there's a fair bit of comedy too. It's not quite in the same league as Shawn of the Dead - not that it tries to be - but the mixture of gore and comedy is still refreshing. Mix a man who has a morbid fear of sheep, his brother who is a singularly money-minded selfish bastard, a woman who has a solution in feng shui for every problem and a whole lot of fluffy, evil sheep bent on eating up every human being around, and you can't go wrong with your movie, can you?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Movies, Masti, Magic

I mentioned in my previous post that I have been on a movie watching spree since my last term got over. I am doing five courses this term, out of which three are by visiting professors. This means that I'll have short bursts of hectic schedules, mainly on weekends, while for the rest of the week I'll essentially be doing just two courses. Plus most of the courses have very little group work, which was my main criterion for choosing courses this term. This directly translates into a whole lot of free time.

There was this guy I knew in Delhi, a batchmate of mine and a member of the quiz club there, who used to say that the only Hollywood movies worth watching were black and white ones. I always thought he was saying it just for the effct, considering that he usd to do a lot of other things for the same reason. But after having seen classics like The Ox Bow Incident, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Out of the Past, Brief Encounter, Kind Hearts and Coronets and The Big Sleep over the last few days, I am beginning to see the truth in the statement. I am not sure about the 'only' bit, as I have also seen The Conversation, Rosemary's Baby, Bonnie and Clyde, Sleuth and several others, but I definitely respect B&W movies much much more now (and yes, I have had my fair share of Ford, Capra and Wilder). Before you point out, I know that not all of these movies are Hollywood products. New found respect for Brit flicks too.

Of course, I do not always agree with the IMDb 250. Even though you discount the presence of new releases like Ratatouille and Superbad on the list (which are really good movies, but certainly not worthy of being up there), there are others like Out Of The Past or Life of Brian that do not come across as all that great. I liked the former, but not all that much again, and found the latter rather painful.

Then there are movies like Bonnie and Clyde or Easy Rider, which you appreciate more when you learn about the context they were made in. I am reading this brilliant book by Peter Biskind called Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood and a few chapters into it I am fascinated by the turbulence Hollywood had gone through in the late 60s and early 70s. And how big a name Dennis Hopper, whom I mainly know for his delicious villany in Blue Velvet, and not so delicious one in Speed, was for a brief period. The combination of drugs, promiscuity, nudity, anti-war protests and the general hippie culture is, to repeat the word again, extremely fascinating. I know where I would want to go to if I had a time machine.

To round up a really wholesome diet of movies, we were visited by Mani Ratnam today as part of these talks we keep having organized by one club or the other. The man is really shy and so normal that making movies actually looks like just another simple career option.

To make things perfect, the weather's just amazing, the courses are generally interesting and life's good.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Yet Another Quiz

For all practical purposes, my MBA is supposed to be over, even though I am doing more worthwhile courses this term than I have in the last four. But still, the sudden availability of time on my hands, coupled with most of the people I can bear talking to leaving the campus on exchange, has left me with too few choices to engage myself completely. I am finally trying to finish off the IMDb 250, or getting as close to it as I can, before work gets to me.

One great thing about this endeavor is that I have seen some amazing movies in the last week or so. Will make posts about them later. Or maybe not.

There are so many blogs on the net, and so few worth reading. I probably wouldn't be reading my blog if it wasn't mine. There's this one blog that I probably am the most regular reader of, not necessarily because the author writes well.

So I found this quiz he had taken about political philosophies. I really enjoy these quizzes, unless they are too long and take themselves too seriously, and very often the results do manage to capture some aspect of your beliefs. Of course, most people are so schizophrenic in their beliefs and viewpoints that any result in any quiz will be true to some extent. This one branded me a left-liberal, which is surprisingly accurate. I am not so sure about the economic part of this quiz though. The few questions asked aren't enough. The personal ones do seem to hit the mark better. (

According to the website:

LIBERALS usually embrace freedom of choice in personal matters, but tend to support significant government control of the economy. They generally support a government-funded "safety net" to help the disadvantaged, and advocate strict regulation of business. Liberals tend to favor environmental regulations, defend civil liberties and free expression, support government action to promote equality, and tolerate diverse lifestyles.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Heavenly Creatures

Some of the most haunting movies I have seen, not very surprisingly, have been about groups of young women. As women grow old, they probably become more world-weary and resigned to their fates, or just slightly easier to understand. But, young women are something else. It's just too difficult to decipher what they think and how they react. Men, of all ages, on the other hand, are really boring because they have no imagination at all.

Sofia Coppola's Virgin Suicides is one such movie. I don't find Kirsten Dunst all that beautiful, but her eyes are to kill for. She is the best-suited in her generation to play a person with hidden pain. She looks like there's something eating away at her even at the happiest occasions. She is amazing in Mona Lisa Smile as well. Or for that matter in every single movie.

Another movie of this ilk is Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures. Starring Kate Winslet as one of the lead female pair, this is as great a love story as ever I have seen on the screen.

And then there's Picnic At Hanging Rock. I watched it yesterday, as part of the movie marathon I am having after my exams. It's a spooky movie by Peter Weir, and is based on a best-selling novel that claims to be based on real-life incidents.

It's curious how all these movies are about young women subjected to strict rules of propriety and conduct. Especially in PAHR, the sexual undertones are overwhelming. It's about a group of girls, studying at a finishing school near a village in Australia at the turn of the 20th century, who go on a picnic with a couple of their teachers on St Valentine's Day. Three of the girls and a teacher disappear without any trace. The teacher and two girls are never found. The 3rd girl, who is found after a week's search, can't recall what happened to her. She was barefoot but despite having got lost in an area filled with sharp rocks and thorns there are no marks on her legs. This was the first international hit, supposedly from Australia, and Peter Weir, of course, went on to make greater movies later.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

An Affair to Remember

B Rangan has made a very interesting post on 15 Years of Rahman at his blog. I don't remember my reaction completely when I first heard Roja's music, and I am sure I didn't face conflict the way he did. Hindi film music only had the occasional brilliance of Nadeeem-Shravan and Jatin-Lalit at that point of time and we couldn't wait to embrace Rahman.

I do remember that I was in a hotel in Ranchi with my family, just done with my dinner, and watching Surabhi. And they did a feature on this new music-director who was doing something to music down south. I don't know if I had heard him before that. But I was blown away that night. Getting blown away has become a regularity with Rahman after that.

I don't think I can pick my favorite Rahman number, or favorite 5 or even 20. And yes, I do agree with many of my friends from Tamil Nadu that his best is in Tamil. Maybe it's because when I am hearing his songs in Tamil, I can't make sense of the lyrics and it's just the music. In Hindi, Javed Akhtar and Gulzar, at times, take my attention away.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Bloody Diamonds

For most of my life I have believed that I don't have a favorite genre of movies. Just as it is with books, food, places and most other experiences, except maybe with people, I am open to experimentation. And I actually do enjoy all sorts of movies. But in recent times I have realized that if there's one genre that I can watch no matter what mood I am in, it's the Horror/Thriller genre.

There are various kinds of horror movies. There are out-and-out ghost capers like House on the Haunted Hill, which are probably the least horrifying.

There are zombie movies, which are fun to watch, but not when you are having your food. Those zombies could use a little make-up.

There are slasher flicks, like Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, which I like mainly because of the guessing game of who drops dead next, and in what manner.

A slight variation of these is the Final Destination series, which is even more innovative as far as ticking people off is concerned, and I loved all three. My favorite scene from the series, in fact one of the all-time favorite ones across my lifetime movie watching experience, is the pile-up in Final Destination 2.

Then there are the ones like The Hills Have Eyes, which is a mix-and-match of a zombie/deranged killer movie and a slasher movie. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the older one of course, is a classic.

My third most favorite sub-genre is of the kind made by Ruggero Deodato, Cannibal Holocaust being a prime example. The absolute gruesomeness of the whole thing, the disregard for human or, even worse, animal life is intriguing and extremely satisfying.

My second most favorite sub-genre includes movies like Saw or Hostel, where people are killed without any apparent reason. And in much more gory manner in each sequel. I absolutely loved Hostel 2 for the inanity of torturing young people to death for the fun of it. That's what killing should be all about!

But my favorite genre, by far, is the psychological horror flick. The Shining. Identity. 1408. I just finished watching 1408, and I was blown away. By John Cusack's acting. And the effectiveness of the whole thing. It does not scare you as much as unnerve you. 1408 even does a twist on the whole movie being a nightmare or imagination thingie.

Wes Craven, Dario Argento, Roman Polanski, Eli Roth are some of the members of the pantheon of great horror film makers. Argento's contributions to the Masters of Horror TV series have made me a huge fan of his, despite the dated movies he has made in the past.

I haven't seen any of the Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street movies, unfortunately. And I am sure I'd love most of them. I wonder if we'll have movies like these in India any time soon. They did remake Identity into a C-grade trash of a movie starring Juhi Chawla and Shilpa Shetty along with lots of has-beens and never-had-beens. Of course, even Shilpa Shetty was a has-been then.

Friday, August 24, 2007

... Haal-e-Gulistaan Kya Hoga

Recently IBN had interviewed an American student at IIM Calcutta, and they put up the video yesterday on their website. After reading some of the comments there, I realized that without me 'dissing' my college, there are enough frustrated people out there with no lives and lots of inferiority complexes, who can do the job better. I should probably be a little more responsible and maybe even overlook some of the shadier aspects, which any way are outnumbered by the good ones.

This realization was also borne out of a discussion with the External Relations Secretary who had 'urged' people on our internal board to not make irresponsible posts on their blogs. I think I do exercise better restraint while making my posts (and I believe that!), but since I really do respect his opinions (yep, I believe that too!) I would at least not spice up the stuff I mention, if and when I do mention them. I am convinced that it was urging and not 'urging', btw.

By another way, this guy from the US, Travis, is a nice person. Not that I have interacted much with him, even though I am his mentor. He has a peculiar resume, and has moved around doing quaint things the way I have seen only Americans being able to afford to. There's an exchange student from the US too, who has done some weird things herself. But let's not get into that.

One very easy way to impress me is to talk about people like Descartes and Thoreau and Voltaire and Nietzsche as if you were born reading their theories. And Travis seems to have done his fair share of reading of the Waldens and the Thus Spake Zarathustras. After conquering Joyce and Woolf (Virginia, not Naomi), and even Hesse, though Pynchon still eludes me, I tried my hand at this Zarathustra book during my last year in Delhi. I gave up after the first few pages. Though I would like to believe (I do believe a lot of things without any basis, you might think - I believe you think wrong) that that's more because of the fact that I picked up the book after a nightout rather than it being a statement on my ability to grasp the nuances of philosophy.

I did make a brilliant presentation on rational thought and empiricism as part of a course in IITD.

Anyway, ignoring me, myself and I for a moment, it's interesting to see Travis trying to adjust to life in an educational institution in India. He does crib a lot, but takes a lot in his stride too, and has a higher opinion of our college than many superficially proud people I have known here. The red tape, which is still not as red as it could be for a red state, and definitely not as red as it gets in Delhi, gets to him at times. A good part of my opinion of Americans was based on their pop culture before I interacted with him and this exchange student, and in some ways it has been an eye-opener. A normal American student is probably as close to a typical US TV series student as a normal Indian saas-bahu relationship is to the stuff shown in the K-serials. My sample space is still too small though to pass a final judgment.

My fixation with movies, especially American movies, has got so strong it seems that every time someone mentions Travis, I think of a taxi.

Nothing like rambling pointlessly on the morning of an Open Book exam.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Coito Ergo Cum*

First of all, my mood swings scare me. Actually the fact that they still manage to scare me is probably scarier.

Second of all, nothing like one screwed up exam to make you really happy. Either way, it's one step closer to that golden week free of submissions, assignments, project works, quizzes, case analyses, extra classes and every other form of torture B-schools have devised.

Third of all, venting my irritation with some of the not-so-fantastic characteristics of my fantastic college in the previous post felt good. Most people here are paranoid about letting out anything that might remotely give a hint to the media that we are perfectly normal (and hence, flawed) human beings, and not money making machines (ok, except some of my batchmates) as the media genreally portrays us to be. Look forward to some more tid-bits of life at IIM Calcutta - the rosy ones, and definitely the not-so-rosy ones.

My most immediate concern is deciding whether I stay back in the campus next week (50% chance), go home for a short while (45% chance) or go out somewhere else (do the maths!).

* Absolutely no connection with the post. I saw it as a friend's GTalk status message.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Heil Joka

Studying in an IIM teaches you a lot of things. Some of them you are thankful for. Others, you would rather have not been privy to. One of the things that being at IIM Calcutta (and, based on my interaction with students from other B-schools, things aren't particularly different elsewhere) has taught me is that all the shebang about a management school being the place to develop leaders, who can think independently, is hogwash. An IIM is as great a place to churn out leaders and original thinkers as an IIT is to churn out a great technocrat. The only thing that an IIM gives its students is the basic tools for a successful career, at times being limited to a good placement.

Don't get me wrong. This is not some vindictive outburst or anything. I have liked this place a fair bit, maybe more than I expected to coming here. But there are occasions when the sheer idiocy of the people that I live with gets to me. The only respite is to shut yourself up in your room, maybe drink some beer or chat with some friend who has not been to a B-school. This might actually be worst at IIM Calcutta, which is the most engineering-college-ish amongst the top 3 IIMs. This gives it a unique culture they say. I am not sure how practical a 'unique culture' like this is.

This particular post was borne out of this debate among 1st year students that is ongoing at our internal message board even as I write this. It started off with the External Relations Secretaries, who head the External Relations Cell, a body that I happen to be a part of, posting a message 'urging' students to not write about certain aspects of this really idiotic thing we have as an annual event in our campus, called the World War. Even in normal circumstances the WW, which is an inter-hostel event (yes, we do manage to divide ourselves into three groups even in a campus as small as this), is about the most idiotic series of activities you would expect grown-ups to indulge in. It'll take more words than I care to expend on it to explain. So, just imagine around 50 men rolling in mud, with garbage and fluids, from undisclosed sources, being thrown on them, with the choicest abuses from men and women accompanying the whole orgy. And that's just one part of it.

But this year it got really bad. As part of the first event of the WW, where each hostel takes up a theme and first year students dress up based on the theme, one of the hostels, in all intelligence and concern for political correctness, chose the Nazis as their theme. They actually dressed up as Nazis, with the whole swastika and raised arms, and paraded in the campus. We are supposedly an institute of international repute, and we had two US and at least two European students on campus during the whole farce. Not much was done to stop these guys then. Some people raised their voice on the message board and, as happens very often here, were shushed with the argument that we don't actually conform to Nazism and this is just an event. If only things were that simple. Now that people have blogged about it, many people, including members of the Students' Council, many of whom were enjoying themselves that night, and in fact cheering these idiots on, are worried that media will lap up the images and sully IIM Calcutta's image.

If that is what will take to drill some sense into my esteemed collegemates, it's not that bad a bargain, is it?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

India Retires

I coined that phrase. I am not sure what I mean by it, but I claim copyright. Please pay me some royalty before you use it.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Of books and Bookers. And a film critic.

It's nice when you see good things being appreciated. It sort of makes you feel that not everything's wrong with the world. My favorite Indian film critic - Baradwaj Rangan - won the National Award for Best Film Critic this year. If you haven't read his reviews, go read a few. The link's there in my blogroll. What I like the most about his reviews, apart from the depth of knowledge this man has, encompassing the universe of Hindi, English and South Indian movies, is that in almost all cases he manages to find some redeeming feature in the movie. Critics aren't necessarily supposed to criticise. Very few of them realise that though.

And this book - the only one that has made me think and not speed-read in recent times - called The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid has been long-listed for the Booker. I haven't read any of the other books, so can't make any predictions, but it's a book powerful enough to win. OK, considering that I have liked almost all the books ever short/long listed for Booker, that does not hold much weight. It was selling for a substantial discount at one of the bigger bookstores here. The book-shop owners would be cursing themselves if it happens to get short-listed.

Mohsin Hamid's previous novel - Moth Smoke - was also a nice work. Not in the same league as this one, but special for me nevertheless because I bought it in Lahore. I didn't bring back much from Pakistan, at least not in tangible terms, and I treasure this book a lot.

Thursday, August 2, 2007


I just watched All About My Mother by Pedro Almodovar. Loved the movie. I really like movies by Almodovar because the characters in his movies are truly beautiful. They are unusual, even abnormal, characters - not the kind of people one meets regularly - who inhabit the fringes of the society. This one is better than Bad Education.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Laut Ke Buddhu...

I had forgotten how brutal an assault visiting Kolkata after a long break can be, compounded by the fact that's it's the peak of summer here. The mismanagement and chaos is nightmarish. The campus feels like paradise in comparison, though one with a lot more humidity than I would prefer. Coming back to my engineering college campus was never as looked-forward to an experience as this one was.


I am absolutely in love with David Mitchell's writing right now. After Nabokov and Rushdie, Mitchell is one author whose writing I like simply because the way he plays with words. It's very stylish, fairly original (at least according to my very limited knowledge of literature) and deceptively clever. This is part of a paragraph I found towards the end of Number 9 Dream, which, though not the best specimen, is definitely a decent example. If you don't find anything special here, don't waste your time reading his books:

Rented-by-the-square-meter Tokyo has turned into zones of rice fields, houses, industrial units. The landscape itself looks like its map. "On a fine day," says Ogre, "you can see Mount Fuji over there, you can." Rain stars go nova on the glass, and Ogre speeds up the wipers. They squelch. The radio burbles away. Tires hiss on the wet Tomei Expressway. A minibus of kids from a school for the disabled passes on the inside. A pair in the back row wave. Ogre flashes his headlights and the whole bus goes wild. I wave too. I still cannot say why I feel so at peace with the world. I am suspicious of this feeling - when it leaves you feel hollower than before. Ogre is chuckling. "Who knows what makes kids tick? Not me. Alien species, kids are nowadays, if you ask me." Row upon row of polyethylene hothouses troop past. I feel I should stoke the conversation to pay for my fare, but when I begin a sentence a yawn splits my face in two. So I ask Ogre if he has any kids himself.


I saw a hoarding with an ad for Tween Times while coming to the campus in the morning. I don't know if this supplement by TOI is limited to Kolkata or available in other cities as well. It is definitely refreshing to see someone identify this huge untapped market, something that I had written about once at my previous blog. I sincerely believe that there is scope for something like Target to do well in India even now, despite what most people might think of the short attention span of young individuals and their greater affinity for films and fashion compared to reading.

I have realised that I am compulsively non-committal. If I tell a friend that I am going to keep writing to him regularly, even if I actually intended to do that earlier, because I let him know, I start getting this urge to not write to him ever again, or at least for a long time. There are several other instances, many of them in the recent past, which have convinced me. I hate letting any one else be able to predict what I am going to do. That's a good enough excuse to avoid marriage, right?

Thursday, June 7, 2007


Am back in India. Departing from Singapore at the mind-blowing Changi Airport for a week's stay in one of India's least developed regions, with a pit-stop at Delhi that has probably one of the worst international airports in the world, is a substantial come-down. Of course, what is 2 months in comparison to almost 25 years? But the first night, travelling by road in Gurgaon, which people seem to compare too often with Singapore, was a disconcerting mixture of despair, disappointment and outright depression. I actually prefer the climate in Delhi to Singapore's though.

Thankfully the stay at home is short, and just about right to enjoy 'no work' without getting too bored. If my disdain for watching movies on my comp, which started a few weeks into my internship, continues for one more term, it'll help me quite a bit in getting my GPA up.

Am really happy that my long-dormant hunger for books has reared its head again. David Mitchell - have read Ghostwritten and am half-way through Number 9 Dream - is a really great author. Not that I have been in touch, but I am not sure I have seen someone as adept at playing with words, styles and situations as he is in recent times.

I am so fed up with TV journalists that I am sure I am going to shoot, or at the very least spit on, any member of that ilk I come across in the near future. I hope neither of the ER Secys from my college reads this. These guys are so utterly dumb and so full of themselves. The journalists, not the ER Secys.

I saw the last KSBKBT episode that had Smriti Irani as Tulsi Virani. How do people not get confused between these two surnames? I managed to watch the entire episode, despite the close-ups with jarring background music. These serials are so much funnier than the Great Indian Comedy Challenge or whatever it is called.

I am enjoying the Indian Idol 1.5 hour shows though. But we do need our own Simon Cowell and no, Anu Malik is not good enough. Some of these singers are pathetic. Of course some others like Chang, Prashant, Pooja and Emon (is that the right spelling?) are really good too. Udit Narayan is making such a fool of himself. One expects Alisha Chinai to root for the most good looking contestants, which she faithfully does. Javed Akhtar is a lot more observant and knowledgable than the other two chumps, but I'd still prefer a singer or a music-director.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My thoughts on baking.

I heard someone say recently that he is afraid of failure. And he made it sound like one of those answers we prepare for 'State three weaknesses' type questions for HR interviews - something that might be a negative on the surface, but might actually be a positive in spirit and substance.

From my own experience, and from lots of other persons' I have known, and one does come across a disproportionately high number if one studies/has studied at the 'premier' institutions of the country, I have come to believe that anyone who truly believes this is blinded by narcissism. There is an inherent assumption in the statement that you have been really successful in most of the things in your life, whatever success means, or at least have failed less than your lesser peers. Or that everyone else enjoys failure and looks forward to it. What it truly means, whatever truth means, is that you are just too hung up on living up to the commonly held notions of success; in fact, scared of not living up to people's expectations. And the higher you move up on this invisible ladder propped up by your eagerness to fulfill everyone's expectations, the more difficult it gets to let go. You have managed to convince yourself that living your life, doing things that you might actually want to do, and enjoying your work, is a set completely exclusive to the set that defines success. That not 'putting fight' is the same thing as stagnation or failure. That you are too much of a coward to even accept that you can't bear the idea of people not fawning over your superficial 'success'.

I don't exactly feel very confident about discussing what one should do with his work and how much fight one needs to put to 'succeed', and would probably never feel confident doing that for a long time with people who have been in touch with me over the last two-three years, but my faith in the notion of anything not being worth it if one has to force oneself to do it, whatever 'it' means, has, surprisingly enough, only got strengthened over these last few years.

Giving up is not as evil a thing as we make it out to be. Even giving up on life. And fighting, over and over again, is probably not as virtuous as we have been brought up to believe.

But even when you don't give up, and honestly this world would be so much worse if it weren't for the fighters amongst us, and even the worst of us give-up-ers do fight at some level, it is, frankly, very funny if you cite excuses like fear of failure to hide a much bigger issue. ‘Success’ and ‘failure’ are ascribed to certain things, almost always, based on what the majority believes. The majority, let’s accept it, isn’t exactly very intelligent. And if you, despite your supposed infinite brilliance, have been forced to kowtow to the majority’s notions, even when you yourself do not subscribe to them, I am not sure how successful you actually are.

This might sound like the much abused quote by some management guru (Shiv Khera, is it?) but one doesn’t necessarily need to do different things - leave everything and become an ascetic or choose a completely unconventional career - but one can at least try and do things differently from an average rich or professionally successful idiot who rues at the end of his 35-40 year stellar career that he didn’t enjoy life’s little pleasures when he could.

One can, most definitely, have the cake and eat it too.

Monday, May 21, 2007

If Books Could Kill

Gradual wrapping up of the internship has begun. After the first couple of weeks, time flew by really fast. There are a few, albeit not particularly interesting, places left to visit, which will remain unvisited, unless we don't sleep at all next weekend. The trips to Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand didn't materialise. So lots of stuff to do when I return again, in better company.

We had a one-day training session last week. The stuff taught was fairly pointless, but was a good break from work, and the highlight of the day was working in groups for a session on consulting (don't ask why a bank did a session on consulting, especially when it lost all its IIM interns from last year to consulting firms). There are several interns from other countries too - both MBA and undergrad - and working in mixed groups, making fun of the instructor, cracking jokes, or generally flirting (with the female interns), was great fun. This was pretty much my first interaction here, and, in fact, one of the few in my life, with people my age from other countries in a non-office environment. Over the slightly difficult-to-understand accents and brief conversations in native tongues with interns from one's own country, we realised that we are amazingly similar, bred on the same pop culture elements, with similar interests and aspirations. And similar weird sense of humor too. We'll meet over lunch again this week.

I think I have been to at least one branch of all major bookstore-chains in Singapore now. Have forbidden myself from going into a book or a DVD shop any more. At last count, I had bought 11 books here. I intended to buy books as gifts for some of my friends and cousins, but I really don't think I am going to part with any of these. I also found the book I had been looking for a long time - Great Movies by Roger Ebert. And considering the speed with which I have been reading books over the last year, I am sure it'll take me more than a year to finish these off. The more immediate worry is how I am going to carry this extra load back home.

Bought a couple of DVD sets as well. And am feeling really stupid now, because I would have easily found something like that, at a much cheaper price in Delhi. But my single biggest extravagance so far, and one I am definitely not feeling stupid for, has been the 5th generation model of an electronic device. It's a fantastic thing, saw a movie on it yesterday. But, to use a quote from a recent (boring) ad (for some other product) - it's not one thing, it's MANY!

My worst moments of splurging are still better than what my co-intern did this weekend. He bought a Mont Blanc wallet and a Mont Blanc pen for a total of SGD 1100. That's Rs 33,000 on a damn wallet and a stupid pen. I didn't smirk then because I didn't want to ruin his enthusiasm, and the wallet does look really nice, but it's still way too much money on such stuff. I don't think I'll ever spend so much money on over-priced designer labels. At least not for myself.

But things change. If you had told me a year back I would be spending my khoon-paseene ki kamaai on first-hand books, I would have taken you for crazy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Some more of the old stuff

I stopped posting (I wrote several drafts but didn't publish them) because I was getting bored with my own writing. It's become a series of sentences filled with adjectives, describing every minute detail of what I am doing here. I have stopped thinking. Which is not a bad thing actually for an incurable, compulsive, thinker (not in the same sense as great thinkers like, say, Vivekanand or Mayawati) like me, but absolute blankness and just hurtling down life's alleys is not good either.

Though I am not sure I am going to write anything profound, or even worth two cents of thought, even now.

Since my last post I have visited the Singapore zoo (alone, in sweltering heat, but it was still worth it) and Snow City (with friends, sliding down icy slopes at tempertaures of -8deg C), rode on the DHL balloon (10 min in the air at a height of over 40-storeys to convince oneself how astonishingly small this city is), attended a cocktail party given by the Singapore governement for all IIM interns (great food, free alcohol, inane conversation, the government trying to convince us to settle down here, which is not all that bad an idea), partied at pubs (including a great evening at Hard Rock Cafe), partied at friends' places, bought some stuff, and worked a bit.

Last night I tasted some sushi, some caviar and some octopus. It was a damp affair (quite literally so) because I had hoped to do it with friends, but I realised there are very few people as foolishly adventurous as I am, and none of them is interning here from my college. I don't think I'll have a sushi again. I can imagine people liking it (unlike a durian), but I am so sick of the smell of fish (I almost puked when an Indonesian senior at work took me to have Korean food that was drenched with the flavor of fish) that I am afraid I'll not eat it back home either. The caviar was nice, but a very cheap variety and I would like to taste slightly better ones sometime later. The octopus was garnished with lots of spicy stuff, so I didn't even feel the rawness. Though I am really not interested in having it again.

I also tried some sake (pronounced 'saa-kay', give or take a few vowels, for those who aren't pseud enough to know). Have got three-fourths of the bottle still left in my room. It's got almost no taste at all but gives a nice high (13% alcohol only). But I think I'll stick to Tiger Beer.

I could see so much more of Singapore and the neighboring places if my co-interns weren't so damn lazy and so damn gay. They spent the entire weekend shopping!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

M'aidez m'aidez

I had never known I would care for Labor Day so much. A non-weekend break is heavenly. We are celebrating the day by watching a first-day show of Spiderman 3.

Last night was spent having a nice dinner at one of the restaurants adjoining Boat Quay and then spending time drinking and listening to some good music at one of those posh pubs at Clarke Quay. The crowd's amazing, but also one that I would always feel like an outsider in. Drinking beer, talking on the phone, walking along the river, at 1:00am, in an area teeming with some very beautiful people - one can get used to this place.


The result of buying all those books last weekend has been that I have got back to the habit of reading. I finally managed to finish Manticore's Secret. The book gets really tiresome at times and feels as if Samit Basu is only trying to increase the number of pages. Characters indulging in inane conversations is not funny if done too often. Ditto for killing off characters all of a sudden. But it's still one of the more enjoyable books to come out of India in a long long time.

Have moved on to a very interesting read called Out, by Natsuo Kirino. Am one-third into it, and the pace is building up, moving towards, what feels like, an interesting climax. The book is a winner of Japan's Grand Prix for Crime Fiction. Honestly speaking, I have no idea how prestigious that is, but it sounds grand. And had read some great reviews on the net. She's just come out with a new novel and I might buy it with my next month's salary if this book delivers what it has promised so far.


After staring at a computer screen for long hours everyday, watching a movie when I am back in my room is not a very exciting proposition. So I haven't really been watching movies with the frequency I am used to. The last movie I saw on my laptop was more than two weeks back. I finally saw a movie, chosen quite at random, Sunday afternoon.

The movie was slightly scary for me because it resonates with the kind of thoughts I have been having once I started off on this internship. I don't want to end up like Warren Schmidt. I want to find my Ndugu(s) without having to wait for retirement.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Turistas. And some bad experiences with food.

The long-planned and much-awaited trip to Sentosa finally materialised this Saturday. There were seven of us, including one guy from WIMWI. I had heard many conflicting opinions about the place, but I liked the island more than the best review I had heard. I am probably easy to please.

There's lots of stuff to see. And being first-timers, and being one of those groups where everyone expresses his viewpoint without bothering to listen to others, after spending the entire day there we ended up missing out on quite a few nice places. For the same reasons, we also ended up wasting a few dollars on bad planning. The place is fairly expensive if you don't plan things out properly.

But whatever we did see was full paisa-vasool for me. Probably because I saw many things that I had seen only on TV before this. The magnificent Underwater Kingdom, where apart from seeing some brilliant creatures from up close like sharks, dugongs, eels and many others, I also got to touch baby stingrays and baby sharks. The insect kingdom, where the intial few moments moving around in an enclosure filled with butterflies that are available dime a million in India felt like a damp squib but where I also got to see some huge and beautiful insects later. The dolphin lagoon, where I saw three really cute pink dolphins enthrall the audience with their antics. The luge, the sky-ride, the (juvenile) 4-D show, the southernmost tip of continental Asia. The tame beach, having beer on the beach, the music by the beach, the lighting across the beach, THE BEACH! And of course the cable car ride to and from the island. I missed not having my family here again, because these places would probably be more enjoyable (except the beach part maybe) with one's family.

I finally tasted durian (not at Sentosa). Spent SGD 5 (that's Rs 150!) on something that's nightmarishly bad. No human being should eat something that disgusting. It smells bad. It tastes even worse. Actually, I can't decide. The pulp inside the shell feels like touching a dead reptile. The taste is the worst mixture you can imagine when you mix asafoetida, a rotten onion, a rotten melon and a potato. I might have got the combination wrong because I took two small bites, and the discomfort was too strong for me to ponder over the intricacies of its unique taste. And now that I know for sure how it smells, I'll be able to figure out it's presence in my vicinity very easily in the future. Which will bring back the bad memories of tasting it all over again.

I also tasted sea-weed in the morning before leaving. I can't believe I am saying this, but I'll choose a sea-weed anyday over a durian. Sea-weeds are sold under different flavors packed in bags similar to Kurkure in India here. I decided to try out one flavor. I could manage to consume a few strips (they feel like strips of paper) but then the feeling that I was eating spoilt fish was too overpowering and I had to cook myself some tomato-flavored noodles to mask the smell. The packet's still kept in my room if you are interested in trying it out too.

Random observation: Singapore's tourism industry is supported to a great extent by auntyjis (and their broods) from India.

Monday, April 23, 2007

My Own Kitab Festival

So I visited this place Sunday afternoon, after reading a post here. It's the largest bookstore I have ever been to. I spent close to 4 hours there, and was still quite far from covering everything I wanted to. And this when more than half of the bookstore was not even in my itinerary. Bought a few books, even though I had decided in my first week here that I won't buy books here as they are terribly expensive compared to India. But in my defence, most of these books are difficult to find in India. Also in my defence, IT'S MY MONEY.

The reason I got to spend such a long time at a bookstore was because my neighbour was at a staging of Phantom of the Opera. My employers have sponsored the opera going on right now in the city, and the desk that this guy is working on has organized a seminar for its clients coinciding with it. Part of the recreational plan for the clients was a visit to the opera, followed by a cocktail party. Being an intern, my friend was responsible for a lot of mindless work like filing papers, checking name-tags, stapling documents, carrying boxes, and more. He apparently did a decent job of it as he was finally given a SGD200 ticket to the opera with the rest of the desk, along with an invitation to the party. The chap had no idea what this opera is all about, and was happy mainly because of the worth of the ticket. I, on the other hand, who knows all about the opera, didn't get a ticket because my desk is one of the larger desks at my firm and, thanks to some bureaucratic oversight, the same number of tickets were allotted to all desks, because of which there was a shortage at mine.

So, I was all set to get bored for the evening, when I thought of visiting the bookstore. And I am not sure I would have had more fun at the opera.

After the bookstore, I went to another mall here to wait for a friend, who was returning from work, to have dinner together. While moving about there I came across this store called the Comics Mart, a shop dedicated completely to comics. Now I might not be as great a fan of comics as this guy is, but I do get goosebumps when I see a whole store filled with rare comic-books and graphic novels. Add to this salesmen who know their comics well, and it's almost as good as it gets. I would have spent more time there had it not been for the dinner, but I did buy this, at a price that I believe is a lot less compared to what I might have had to pay in India.

So my pocket was fairly lighter by the time I got back to my room. But I sure was a lot happier than I had been at the start of the weekend. And I have got lots of interesting work at office for the time-being.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Writeous Brothers

One thing that having to go to office does is make you a regular blog-reader, and, if you have the enthusiasm, a regular blogger too. So many of the young professionals, whose blogs that I have been to over the last few days, started blogging, or at least returned to blogging after a brief fling in their college-days, because they had substantial periods of no work at their jobs.

And I am not sure this happens with new recruits only. The way things are at the trading floor I am working at right now, everyone in the desk, right from the MD through the VP, associate, analyst to the worthless intern (that would be me), sits around the same table. And even the VPs, especially the ones not involved in day-to-day trading, get ample time to read and talk about a range of things not connected remotely to credit derivatives, including, but not limited to, the TV series Heroes, the media event of the year - the Abhiwarya marriage, the World Cup matches (along with baffling scrutiny of past records), and other things that I try to listen into but am not able to. They probably don't blog, though even if they did I wouldn't know, because, based on their handling of Powerpoint, it's too complicated for them.

Anyway, I was talking about these blogs that I have been visiting. Irrespective of whether the blogger is involved with coding, or consulting, or banking, the general dissatisfaction that arises out of having nothing to do at work is eerily similar and extremely frightening. But as I said earlier in a post, it probably comes with the territory and one just has to get used to it. I realised while talking to a friend a few days back that the reason I dread the periods when I have no work is because I feel guilty of not working enough for the money these guys are spending on me. I think I am digressing again by making this post about me.

So coming back, again, to these blogs that I have been reading, I was fairly amazed at how well many of these people write. I knew some of these people personally at college, and I had never realised they had such amazing writers hidden somewhere inside. I mean writing decently is one of the, very few, things I think I can do without too much effort. People have been more or less complimentary of my writing skills all through my life. And, again as I wrote to a friend in a letter just yesterday, I am almost narcissistic, and slightly protective, about my writing. I reread several times almost everything that I write - even letters. It's probably because I am so infatuated with what I write that I use ten words to say something that could be done using two. When I was younger, whenever I came across something written very well, I would try to find out the age of the person who wrote it and feel satisfied if it turned out that the person was older than me, which in most cases he/she would be, because I knew that I had time to improve and reach the high standards of that particular piece. That's why I was very unhappy when I read a story written by someone close to my age in an issue of Target - it was about some WWII thing where a retired soldier is visited by someone from the past - as part of a story-writing competition. It was a mind-blowing story, and though I have always been too laidback to get envious of anyone, I envied the writer of that story his writing skills.

And now, when I see so many people writing so well, how do you think I feel?

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