Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I have been visiting the blogs I gave links to in the previous post on-and-off since then. They don't feel like my blogs. For many of the posts, I don't even feel like I ever had, or could have had, those thoughts. And I am not talking about those that I wrote in an inebriated condition.

One interesting aspect of revisiting these old blogs has been to also revisit the links in the blogroll. Many blogs, as expected, have not been updated in 2-3 years. But more interesting are the ones that continued to be written on during the extended period I hadn't visited them, and how the person writing at these blogs seems like a different person now from what I perceived him or her to be the last time I was there.

One such blog is now in the blogroll on the left. It is by a classmate from school. We were in the same class from Class V to Class XII, after which we went on to different streams. She got married about a year or so back, and though I visit her Orkut profile once in a while and exchange scraps with even less frequency, I have not really known much about her after school. Not that I claim to have known much when we were in the same class. I was reading some recent posts from her blog in the morning before leaving for office today and, as I said, I found a person different from what I had imagined.

What also made me feel strange - and I don't even know if it's good strange or bad strange - is that she is one of the rare people from my school who write really well. Here is another one, but she was in my school for just two years, so does not count.

The thing is that most people I know from my school really suck at writing in English, and not completely unexpectedly. Our school was a really small place, where we rarely, if ever, conversed with each other in English. Maybe with the English teachers and the Principal, but that was it. The size of a school does not necessarily have to to do anything with that, but it was like that at our place. Most of the students were from our own small colony, and the culture of speaking and writing properly in English never developed. In fact, even though I had always been confident of being able to write decently in English, I used to be extremely conscious of speaking in English, almost petrified of it. It gradually improved only after I joined college in Delhi.

Recently, my parents got posted again at the place I went to school at. During my visit home at New Year's, I visited the school too. Not much had changed. It just felt really small. Again, the person who had been to this place for 8 long, and at times painful, years, seemed like a different person from me. I used to wonder very often what I would be doing 10 years from then. I could never have guessed.

I also met three teachers teaching there now, who had been there during my time too. It's very rare for people to stay in that school that long. We had gotten used to teachers leaving in the middle of the session and we coping on our own for a few weeks. Used to hurt particularly bad in Board classes.

So, it was nice seeing them after such a long time. Since my father has stayed in the same firm all along, they surely kept hearing of my movement after graduating from the school. They didn't seem exactly enthused by the fact that I was working in an investment bank, especially one that they hadn't even heard the name of, but the names of the colleges I have been to should have been enough to make them understand that I haven't exactly sucked since I left school. One of them showed me around the school excitedly, including the honour boards. Another enlisted names of other (illustrious) alumni, many of whom I didn't remember.

I also had this thought then - does a teacher actually feel happy when he sees his student doing better in life, at least monetarily, than him? I have read stories and come across adages that suggest that the greatest proof of a teacher's success is when the disciple surpasses him. I wonder if that's actually true. Doesn't a tinge of envy color that supposed feeling of selflessness? Doesn't the teacher feel cheated for the opportunities he might have had to forgo because of the times, the conditions he was born in?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Skeletons From The Past

I spent almost the entire 3-day weekend at home, watching films and reading. Had a lot of catching up to do, and I am happy I am slightly more up to speed with all the stuff I had been accumulating.

I was watching the 1st season of The Wonder Years, and it somehow made me think of my recent life. I mean, it's been quite a while since I crossed the age group that Kevin Arnold belonged to, but nostalgia is a bitch.

I have been blogging since end-2003. December 3rd, 2003, to be exact. Yep, a little over five years now. I was here to begin with.

Then some shit happened, and I felt like moving here. Well, not exactly at the same url, but the old one has been taken over by some perv. I wrote some crazy stuff at this one. I had way too much time on my hands those days.

I was here for a short while too. I had completely forgotten about it actually.

And, finally, in 2006, I moved here. It's been over 2 years at Blogger now. And I can't predict how long this will last. But, it's been fun.

I am a bit of a narcissist when it comes to my writing. And one of my guilty pleasures is to read stuff I have/had written. And, often, read it out loud. If only I didn't have a job to go to tomorrow morning, I would have spent the night reading all these posts from my past.

But even a casual glance at the last posts made at each of the blogs tells me how things have changed, and how they have remained the same. A lot of stuff that was planned did not happen. A lot of things that looked unbearable once, were minor roadblocks, eventually leading to greater, better things. Some people I knew then have been forgotten. Some have remained close friends all through. And some, whose existence I had no clue of, have become incredibly important.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


I saw two movies today (I saw another one last night, which I would want to write about, but maybe later) that have a lot in common.

Both 2008 movies, made by directors, who have made some of the most well-known American movies in the last decade or so, who are very highly respected, but also ones who tend to go overboard at times - Ron Howard and Oliver Stone.

Both movies are about US Presidents, both Republicans - without doubt, the two most unpopular people the world has seen holding that position - Richard Nixon and George W. Bush.

And both movies make us realize that even the Leader of the Free World is, all said and done, a human being.

The similarities pretty much end there.

While Howard's Frost/Nixon is a taut, thriller-like, period drama, concentrating almost completely on the run-up to and recording of the famous David Frost interviews of Richard Nixon, Stone's W. is more of a spoof, a comic retelling of the life of George, Jr.

Frost/Nixon is one of the finest movies I have seen this year, and even though my vote goes to Milk (I haven't seen The Reader yet), I think F/N could be a very strong contender for the Best Motion Picture Oscar. I don't know much about Nixon, and his entire legacy seems to be overshadowed by Watergate, but I got a pretty good idea of how painful it must have been for someone with as high an opinion of oneself as Nixon did, to the extent of almost believing that the President's chair brought him divine powers, to be the most reviled person in the country.

No one had a doubt that Nixon had committed a crime in abetting the burglars who had broken into the Watergate hotel, except maybe Nixon himself. And the interview was meant to give him a chance to confess, to apologize for letting the people of USA down. While his plan was to make use of the fact that the person interviewing him was just a talk-show host, known more for talking to starlets, and make one last attempt to revive his dead political career by coming across as a misunderstood statesman. Did he succeed?

We all know that he did not. But the movie tells us that he almost managed to. And the pain on Frank Langella's Nixon's face when he realizes that his apparently unworthy adversary has dealt a body blow, from which there is no recovery, in the last round of the sparring match that he had been winning almost by a knockout is killing. It shows that behind that smiling face, impressive built and clever conversationalist lied a somewhat delusional, weak, old man all too aware of the mistakes he had committed.

Aided by an amazing support cast including Sam Rockwell, Kevin Bacon and Oliver Platt, not to forget Michael Sheen (seen earlier very memorably as Tony Blair in The Queen), the film is a fairly unbiased, slightly fictionalized, account of the end of the fall of a successful politician and the beginning of the rise of an unsuccessful performer.

W., as I said, is a comedy, filled with, or at least I hope it is filled with, hyperbole. Because if all of it were true, this would be more a horror film than a comic one.

The film starts with the Oval Office meeting in the early 2000s, which gave birth to the term Axis of Evil. And 5 minutes into the meeting, you realize that this is a bunch of over-confident nincompoops, who have dangerously little concern for anything outside the US, or maybe even outside Texas.

The film keeps going back and forth between earlier instances from Bush's life - like his hazing at college, his occasional conflicts with his dad and the barbeque lunch where he met Laura - and the series of mishaps that his presidency was.

We all have heard and lived to see in gory detail everything that was wrong with the Bush years. So, instead of making me feel angry or pained at how casually they treated war (Bush's advisors were discussing the merits of the pie they were eating, at the dinner meeting to discuss the absence of any WMDs in Eye-rak, after hundreds of people on both sides had been killed) or how their policy in the Mid-East is dictated solely by their love for oil, it just made me realize how unsuited a person Bush was to handle the entire post-9/11 situation. An overgrown kid, who just wanted to run a baseball club, drink beer and eat pretzels, and who contested the Texas gubernatorial elections mainly because he was tired of his dad favoring Jeb, who was running for Florida, ended up spending 8 long years in the White House.

I have a feeling it was infinitely more painful for him than it was for any of us.


The two cities that I love the most might end up being very similar soon. That is, Bangalore might catch up with Delhi in a number of ways, if it hasn't so already.

Old people being brutally killed for money in posh areas. Check.

VIP cars running over pedestrians. Check.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Worshipping Gods

I do a fair bit of wikipedia-hyperlink-navigation at work, on occasions when I don't have too much work at hand. So, today I was reading up on the Latter Day Saint movement, the one started by Joseph Smith Jr.

Reading it, I was reminded of the South Park episode (Season 7 Episode 12), where they explain 'All About Mormons'. And it made me think of something that I hadn't when I saw the episode a couple of years back.

According to Wikipedia, 'The Book of Mormon is a sacred text of the churches of the Latter-Day Saint movement. It was first published in March 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr. as The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi. According to Smith, the book was originally written in otherwise unknown characters referred to as "Reformed Egyptian" on golden plates that he discovered in 1823 and then translated. The plates, Smith said, had been buried in a hill near his home in Manchester, New York, where he found them by the guidance of an angel named Moroni'.

In the South Park episode, there's this part:

Blacksmith: There goes that kooky Joseph Smith
Customer: You know, he claims he spoke with God and Jesus.
Woman: Well, how do you know he didn't?

Well, how do we know he did and wasn't just high on some quality weed when he came across some weird chap in the forest who might have introduced himself as," Moron...I".

And the thought that I was talking of was this - how do we know a frustrated chap in his forties living in Mecca in 610 CE actually received a revelation from God, and did not just think up the entire thing as a final shot at doing something worthwhile and achieving fame.

Or, for that matter, how do we know if, several years before this, a shepherd from Egypt actually did receive two stone tablets authored by God (if only there was a Booker then!) on the top of Mount Sinai, and did not just come up with the theory to control the unruly crowd he had decided to lead but had given up on pretty soon.

The three stories are fairly similar, and appear equally fantastic. As much as Area 52 or a stone idol drinking milk. It's just that the first one I spoke about was the most recent, less than 200 years old, and so appears more unbelievable than the other two.

And, well, I picked the 2nd and 3rd examples because they are similar to the first. In general, all religion, not the kind where one paints his face red and shouts Go ManU! at his TV, but the one where you start believing that there is some cool dude sitting up there or flowing all around you, taking the fall for all your dumb acts (you know stupid stuff we keep doing time and time again - wars, disturbing nature's balance, marriage, etc), is based on such humongous leaps of faith.

Why make fun of Mormons then? At least the Mormon men have more (legal) fun than those from any other religion. Hey, I just realized that there is another similarity between the first example and the second one. The former does not have a limit as far as I know, while the latter has a limit of 4.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Worshipping False Gods

A lot of supposedly great actors have this habit of adopting a tick, a certain mannerism, in order to portray a character on stage or in front of the camera. Particularly in those cases when the character is significantly different in terms of age or background from the actor in real life.

I am not sure how difficult it is to play such characters as I am no authority on acting, considering that my last major outing as an actor was in an inter-house mono-acting competition in Class XII (I did win the 3rd prize though). Well, I did play a bush (a bush, not The Bush) in engineering college in an inter-hostel event called Music Manoranjan and then a bar dancer in the same event the subsequent year, both of which had major age and background difference from the real me, but let's ignore my stellar achievements for the moment.

I find these ticks really irritating and rather unnecessary. And, unless I am grossly mistaken, these are more common in Indian and other Asian films compared to American or European ones.

The other night I was watching Ek Ruka Hua Faisla (ERHF) and got really pained by Pankaj Kapoor's lip-licking affectation and Annu Kapoor's general over-acting. Pankaj Kapoor is arguably one of India's best actors (even though there are several of his performances that I find irritatingly ordinary, and just a handful that deserve the credit he seems to get all the time), and I wonder why he could not have played the character in a normal manner. Annu Kapoor, on the other hand, is not all that good an actor to begin with, but then some other actor could surely have done a better job. Or did Basu Chatterjee owe him a role?

I watched ERHF and 12 Angry Men back-to-back actually and their performances are strikingly bad when compared with those by Lee J Cobb (Pankaj Kapoor's counterpart) and Joseph Sweeney (Annu Kapoor's).

What is even more striking is that I hadn't realized in my earlier viewings of the two movies, how close a copy of the original ERHF is. To the extent that just as Jack Warden offers a chewing gum stick to another juror in 12 Angry Men towards the start of the film, M K Raina does it in ERHF. Of course, while Jack Warden wants to leave for a baseball game, Raina has to leave for a show of the movie Mashaal.

So, even though ERHF is a great Hindi movie and one that has found a major 'cult' following in these times, I was made to wonder how much credit should really go to the director, or even most of the actors. Performances by people like K K Raina or S M Zaheer, which I really liked earlier, paled when I realized that they probably just had to watch the original a couple of times and copy it for the Indian version.

One major difference, where the Indian makers showed some original thought, was to not make Pankaj Kapoor declare right at the beginning his reasons for his unreasonable behavior. The revelation hits home harder at the end, unlike in 12 Angry Men, where Cobb takes out his son's photo right at the beginning and spills everything out.

Nonetheless, if you haven't seen Ek Ruka Hua Faisla, please do give it a try. Even if a frame to frame copy of a Hollywood classic, it deserves credit for being a rare, tautly made Hindi film.And it was made when foreign DVDs weren't so easy to come by either, thus requiring greater effort to copy. Here's the Google Video link.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Happy New Year and all that...

And, well, keeping up the tradition:

Damn, I am slowing down!

Template Designed by Douglas Bowman - Updated to Beta by: Blogger Team
Modified for 3-Column Layout by Hoctro