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.

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