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.

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