Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Tale of Two Movies

After a very long time, I saw two films in a day today. And, even though I enjoyed both tremendously, it's very interesting how different the two films are - in treatment, in their setting, in terms of the people they depict.

Saw The Social Network in the morning. It's not out in India yet, which is a shame, and I also missed its screening at the MAMI festival's opening, so gave in and downloaded it last night.

It's one of those rare films of which I was skeptical about when I heard about it first a few months back and even after I saw the trailer, but turned out to be very very good finally. I should have known - one should have faith in David Fincher. And the screenplay by Aaron Sorkin is quite brilliant too. Instead of telling a linear story, the film suddenly jumps to the pre-hearing depositions involving Zuckerburg and his ex-friends. Doing this and then coming back to various points in the story makes one see every conversation in the past in perspective, and makes the Facebook story so much more thrilling.

The film is extremely tight, with some of the best dialogues I have seen since President Nixon was interviewed by a Brit TV anchor and the German Colonel hunted down Jews on screen all those months back. It's very refreshing to see such intelligent characters on screen, where even the Victoria's Secret models are Harvard undergrads, and where everyone speaks such sharp language. Which goes to show how good, realistic dialogues add so much to a film.

And, Zuckerberg comes across as not completely unsavory by the time the film ends. I understand that this is not exactly how things happened in real life, but I have a feeling how things happened in real life would not have made this into a front-runner for the Oscars (as per current run-up talk, things could change by Oscar season), and so the youngest billionaire in the world should not mind too much that he comes across only a bit sexist, selfish, disloyal and mostly childish. And a brilliant programmer.

The other film I saw a short while back was Rakht Charitra.

I generally like Ram Gopal Varma's films. I don't know anyone else who has enjoyed even RGV Ki Aag apart from me. And when on rare occasions he makes something classic like Satya and Company, it just makes it worth one's while to not give up on him. Even though I abhor some of his camera angles, and there's one here that pretty much made me puke - the camera makes two consecutive 360 degree turns when a character goes to meet a powerful politician (whose face is never shown) - and am not a big fan of the Govinda-Govinda-type constant chants, the overall effect is very unique.

I had been looking forward to this film mainly because of the gore-fest it promised to be from the trailers. And so was more than slightly horrified when I saw 2-3 parents walking into the audi at the start of the film with their kids in tow. School-going age kids. Does no one at all ensure that kids don't come to an Adult Only certified film? Sure enough all of these morons made a beeline for the exit half an hour into the film.

I despise generally am not too fond of kids, and I am all for fucking their minds up with scenes of rape and violence (how much more fucked up than today's kids can one get anyway, right?) but I would prefer it if their minds are fucked up in the privacy of people's homes rather than in the movie hall on one of those few occasions when I get to watch a movie children-free. It's bad enough that parents bring children to Pixar films, but it truly is irritating when they bring them to movies such as these.

Coming back to the film, it is really as gory (and more) as the trailer promised. And so the paisa was vasool-ed completely.

But I kept thinking how un-subtle this film was compared to the film I had seen in the morning. Here, the narrator, with an irritatingly nasal voice (oh, why in the world can't Ramu have an Om Puri or an Amitabh Bachchan doing the narration?), spells pretty much everything out. Varma seems to think that everyone in the audience is as dumb as Karan Johar. Or maybe he made the film for Johar.

And how un-gentlemanly the men were. In the earlier film, the (very large) Winklevoss brothers refuse to go and beat up Zuckerburg because it is not what Harvard gentlemen do, and hence end up getting just USD 65 mn from a multi-billion dollar company based on their original idea. In this film, people cut down each other for the flimsiest of reasons. And women are slapped and treated almost as badly as the men. Women's equality has finally reached us in a twisted way.

But, I have made a short trip to the place depicted in the film. And I have heard stories. And I have a very strong feeling the violence is still quite Karan Johar-ed in this film. I am not sure there was someone like Bukka Reddy (played with such relish by Abhimanyu Singh, and I wish the man gets more roles to act himself out - after Gulaal and this one, I am a big fan) but I am sure Paritala Ravi was not as white as he's shown to be either.

On a slight detour to the usual personal experience, I made a trip to Kadapa last Diwali because my dad was posted there for a few months, and I was shocked by the place. It is a part of the Rayalaseema region and even though many friends from IIMC had told me about it, I was quite unprepared for the trip. It's a place where the vegetation is desert-like, food is unimaginably spicy and people are inhumanly violent. In their main fest, whose name I fail to recall right now, animals are slaughtered openly and blood flows in the markets. I saw the pictures, so I am not bluffing. This is India's frontier country, not Western UP.

Since, being from Bihar, I know the cost of exaggerating things, let me also add that the people are generally nice. And most people from there are very nice. As from any other place in India. But, history, culture and climate have come together in such a deadly mix that life seems to count for a little less. Our very sober and pious driver used to drive so carelessly there that I was permanently tense while on the road there, and relaxed only after I crossed the hills into the relatively soothing Karnataka on my way to Bangalore airport.

The film depicts that heat well. And it should be a good lesson in culture for North Indians used to equating every one from down South to the rather (imaginatively conceptualized) non-violent and simple Maddu.

You should watch the film. Partly because you would not want to miss the sequel when the fiery Suriya makes his entry. This feels like an appetizer for the main course coming up in November.

And what a peppery appetizer it is.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

MnA Update

There hasn't been an update on MnA for some time now. So, I suppose a post on what we have been up to is in order.

We have been quite active lately, and if some of the current discussions bear fruit, should get even more busy in the coming weeks. It's great to get work, and get appreciated for that work, without pretty much any specific pitching or publicity till now.

And it's more heartening because we are not exactly quoting basement remuneration for our quizzes. We don't overcharge, but we put in sincere effort for every single quiz, and we ask for what we feel is reasonable for that effort, and we have been invited above people who quoted much lower than us in recent times.
We must be doing something right. To not have had a single experience till date where our quiz has not been appreciated adds all that much more to the effort.

Apart from the increase in number of cities our weekly Hindustan Times quiz goes to, we have done one corporate quiz and two college quizzes in the last few weeks.

We did three quizzes based on the Tata Crucible format for Ispat Industries. It was very enjoyable, and it's always nice to associate with a leading corporate house.

The next gig was for NIT Surat - a general quiz for their technical fest, on the 2nd of October. We have been trying to expand our presence to more colleges in Western India, and it was a pleasure doing a quiz for NIT Surat, a college which has had some of the country's best college quizzers in the not so distant past.

Of course, we have to mention that because of unavoidable circumstances both Menon and I could not be there for the quiz, but we did ensure that the event went smoothly by getting one of our friends - a well known figure in the quizzing circles - to do it on our behalf.

And, finally, I was in Lucknow over the weekend to conduct an open quiz at Varchasva, IIM Lucknow's sports-cum-cultural meet. I loved the experience - the campus is beautiful and reminded me of Joka - and the response from the participants was extremely encouraging too. I have known so many people from IIM Lucknow over the years, and it was awesome to be there finally.

So, it's been a very rewarding last few weeks, not only monetarily, but also in terms of being at new places, sharing the joys of quizzing. Hoping for tons of more interesting experiences in the near future.

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