Wednesday, 12 September 2012


On an average I get about 50 – 60 calls a day, of which, several are from unknown numbers. One such call from an unknown number flashed on my screen at about 5:30 pm today. I should say that the phone call left me feeling very uneasy about myself. The 4 minute conversation has left me thinking if I’m indeed the “forward thinking” guy living in a metropolitan city.
The caller was a guy called Abu who was interested in my renting my apartment in Mira road. Due to the housing society rules and fear of unknown on my part, I ended up telling him that the flat is let out only to Hindus. He promptly apologized for having “wasted my time”

What is in a name? You may ask. Well, if you are a Muslim, try getting a house on rent in Mumbai, The city that never sleeps, the financial capital of India is divided over religion and cast behind the veneer of glamour. It is a daunting task for a non-Hindu, especially a Muslim, to go about looking for a house on rent. While there are enough and more flats available, they are out of bounds for Muslims due to a multitude of reasons.

 In the forward-looking India, secularism has become a slave of religious lobbies. Religious open-mindedness is measured in economic and cultural terms. Ironically, the Muslims who are aired as examples of the ‘good’ ones are not in a position to speak on behalf of a large community  who live lives of abject poverty and fear.

They are also dehumanized by the media. The media creates the larger part of most people’s reality here and they look to it as almost the sole source of their information and reality and wait to be told what to think  The world media has portrayed minority communities as being opposed to modernity, women, and world peace. Such ideas have percolated deeply everywhere, including India, and destroyed the centuries-old bonds of friendship and tolerance. The state should make efforts through the media and educational programmes to change this scenario. Political parties should ask their cadres to propagate Hindu-Muslim unity.  Only persistent and organized effort with a considerable measure of internal order and purposeful orientation, maintaining group solidarity, a successful political activism can yield results.

Just to let whoever is reading this blog, I’m yet to find a tenant L

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The Female Sports Fan!!??

Men have historically drawn the lines around sports as male territory. Female encroachment is viewed with suspicion by some. For these gatekeepers, fandom is not measured by affection or loyalty toward a team, but by knowledge of its statistics, plays and history.
It is one thing to be home with a bunch of friends and debate and discuss about the latest in Bollywood, party circuit, office gossip, but completely another to be discussing the latest in sports. The weirdness is thrown to an altogether new level when you realize that the girls are not only involved in these debates but also holds on to their own.
Over the course of 3 years, I’ve overseen debates with women arguing about the Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians, Kolkata Knight Riders, and more. When I say debate, it’s exactly that. They know exactly who’s playing for whom, where the games are being held, the personalities of their team, the whole thing. It truly is a sight to sit back and stare at watching a female vent and erupt at the sight of her favorite team’s batsman is giving up, or a bowler not bowling well , or anything that suggests he isn’t doing his job. I’d go so far to say there aren’t too many feelings better than that.
Cricket will always be my first love, and for any man who has a particular sport as their first love, you can ask that same man how he feels when he sees an woman share a similar passion for the game and can break it down to a T. During the last IPL season, you had female cricket fans who were just as invested into the games as the guys were. They’d cheer on their team, cuss out a player, motivate them, and anything else it took to be a part of the game, and do so in an authentic way.
So, why is it that this still small group of female fans looked in a different light? Why do they have to prove their interest in the game each time they want to be involved in the game? Why are they subjected to questions about their knowledge each time they speak of their love for the game / sports? Why is it acceptable for a guy to have an opinion on soaps & reality shows and not acceptable for a woman to have an opinion on why Raina should be picked over Rohit??
As a heavy cricket season is around the corner, I’m sure there are going to be loads of friends turning up at my place or vice-versa. I, for one would like the female participation to go up during these meets. Let us create our own fantasy leagues, let us have your perspective on why Dale Styn should play for CSK, discuss why is SA a better cricket team than England etc etc.
Go ahead, make the hardest guy smile, make a grown man cry. We will not insult your intelligence by asking you to name the playing eleven. Let us leave the name game for the college kids. Let us enjoy the sports season together and derive equal pleasure out of it. Let us enjoy cricket the same way we enjoy the 9 am show on a Sunday. Let us discuss the game just the way we discuss Rahman Sir’s music.

Thanks in advance for all female sports fans (my wife, in particular) for enhancing the sports experience of everyone involved.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Mr. Smith goes to Washington – A 79 year old classic

If there is a better movie about human ideals, I’m yet to see it.
The 1930’s were a tumultuous time for the world, more so for America. The great depression had forced millions into poverty. The democracy of America was falling apart and communism and Fascism were on the rise. Just before the official breakout of World War 2 in 1939, Frank Capra’s “Mr. Smith goes to Washington” released in theatres. The movie was a instant hit and provided people with a sense of hope in regard to the past, present and future of the United States and the ideologies for which it stood.
Frank Capra and James Stewart combined to take on the Washington elite with this dramatic comedy about a naïve Washington outsider who gets appointed to the senate and stands alone against corruption and graft.
A classic David v/s Goliath tale, the story is the struggle between good and evil. In typical Capra (And maybe, 1930’s) style, the protagonist and antagonists are exaggerated so that there is no confusion as who is who. A timid and idealistic Mr. Smith takes on the mighty senators. This was probably one of the earliest movies to suggest the government as corrupt.
In this “once in a lifetime” role, he plays the perfectly homespun, intelligent, boyishly good-looking, nervous, senate elect who is thrown into the mix of power and corruption. Stewart is brilliant as the idealistic and awestruck kid from the backwoods who is overwhelmed by the glory of Washington, with its monuments and history. He also brings along a whole treasure chest of bumbling comedic sight gags that make him all the more lovable in the part. The look of absolute awe on his face upon first witnessing the Capitol Dome appears truly genuine, despite the fact that he was merely acting against a projection. As the story gets more complicated, and his character is developed further, Stewart is even better.There has only ever been one human being alive who could play Jefferson Smith, and that is of course James Stewart.
Not to go unrecognized are Jean Arthur and Claude Rains performances, in which they were also nominated for an Academy Award. Both of these actors were incredible and so well suited for their roles. Rains’ performance in the final scene of this film was memorable, as the pressure of Mr. Smith’s honesty and integrity start to wear on his conscience.
The real achievement of the film, though, is to portray a political system that immediately echoes the ones we’re familiar with. Through the antagonist characters: the corrupted Senator Payne (Claude Rains) and Edward Arnold as Jim Taylor, the ruthless tycoon who owns the media and controls the power, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” allows us to revisit the intricacies that still exist today within the political system and how some of the branches involved can lead to spheres that have nothing do with values and ideals. The all-time complicity between the media and politics is highlighted with such boldness that makes us wish we’d had more Jefferson Smiths today. But we don’t, because to be elected, one must pledge allegiance to these driving forces. In the name of progress, of economy, the big guys take the biggest share of the pie and leave the crumbs for people.
Capra’s direction is flawless, capturing the feel of tradition in Washington and producing the best acting from his lead. He had an uncanny ability to tug at our base human emotions and elicit direct responses.Nominated for an Academy Award, Capra lost out to Victor Fleming and Gone with the Wind.7 years later, he would go on to direct James Stewart in another wonderful movie, It’s a wonderful life.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a lovely movie. Age will always remove the realistic qualities of such films, but this remains a worthwhile film to watch, both for the entertainment value, as well as the political aspects of it. Although made over 70 years ago the story is still relevant and maybe even more so today, than it was then.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Remembering Tony Scott

I was 13, when I saw Enemy of the state (EOTS). It was the same year I saw Kuch kuch hota hai and Pyaar to hona hi tha and I remember thinking what would it take to make a movie like EOTS in India. Back then, I did not know about  the concept of editing, cinematography, screenplay etc. No movie had given me the sense of thrill, adrenalin, like EOTS. It was the first film that got me thinking about the aesthetics of film making. I was blown by the pace of the movie. I rushed to the nearest Crossword (It was 1998 and I had not even heard of Google) to seek more information on the movie.
It was then, that I came across the name, Tony Scott.

There is a popular line in Top Gun, "I feel the need, ... the need for speed!" this line alone sums up what people / admirers like me loved about his movies. Top Gun, made Tony's career and also defined and set a tone for commercial hits in the late 1980s. 
Scott was one of the first to extensively use flash cut editing, slow motion action sequences, extreme close-ups, and super - saturation and / or high contrast grainy visuals - techniques that would come to be employed by many subsequent filmmakers including Micheal Bay, Peter Berg and Oliver Stone.
His spinning camera shots and tight snickery-snack approach to editing were derived directly from two of his biggest influences : his years working in TV advertising and MTV.
A lover of fast cars on and off the screen, Tony was adept at injecting thrills into his slick films. This was hugely loved by his fans and hugely hated by his critics. All the slickness and technical wizardry rarely brought him critical acclaim and his movies were always unfairly and unfavorably compared with the more ambitious, deep and sentimental works of his older brother- Sir Ridley Scott. 
Unlike Ridley, Tony was never nominated for an Oscar. Nonetheless, several of Tony's films were rewarded with huge commercial success. 

Top Gun immediately  opened the doors to huge funding and big proposals.He then went on to direct Beverly Hills Cop 2, Revenge, Last boy scout and Days of thunder which paired him with Cruise again.
Just when people thought that he was content making actioners with Jerry Bruchiemer, he popped a surprise in 1993. He adapted the script of  a certain young man, called Quantin Tarentino. He scottified it and showed the world that his movies are not only about technical glitz. that even he can direct a movie with sharp and witty dialogues, handle an ensemble cast with panache.
He then settled into directing a sequence of highly entertaining, star powered thrillers like Crimson Tide, The Fan and Enemy of the state, each with convincing performances from Denzil Washington, Robert de Niro and Will Smith respectively.

Over a period of time, as he directed movies like Spy Game, Man on fire, deja Vu, Taking of Phelham 123, he not only concentrated on style but these films also gained subtlety and sophestication. His charecters became more complex and darker, dealing with complex emotions. 
His movies gave simple pleasure. There was a musicality to everything. he made complex scripts seem beautiful and engaging.

I have always felt that critics took his skills for granted and did not appreciate the artistry he brought to the table. To call him as just an "action filmmaker" would be huge injustice to him. Few people combine talent and artistry the way Tony Scott did.

 Deep down, I know that this is not the best eulogy written in your name, but I also know that words wont do justice to your work.
I shall miss your movies Mr.Scott. May your soul rest in peace.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Why is Nolan's Batman trilogy important?

I do not want to be Christopher Nolan this week. No way!!  My fragile shoulder would wilt under the impossible, insane, humongous expectations around The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR).
The yearning for the return of the caped crusader started right after the brilliant and cerebral, The Dark Knight. It has been four years (8 years in TDKR) since Batman vanished into the night.

It is probably safe to say that, TDKR, is the most anticipated Hollywood release of the year. Yes, there were The Avengers, then there was Prometheus and then came the spidey reboot. These movies only acted as appetizers to the splendid meal awaiting us.

Whether or not the movie lives up to all possible expectations, Chris Nolan and the movie shall go down in history as one of the most cerebral, celebrated, successful and influential works ever in cinematic history. The trilogy shall be remembered for the technical brilliance, the sheer musical genius of Hans Zimmer, Heath Ledger's immoratalisation (If such a word exists) of Joker the audacity of Nolan is not bowing down to studio pressures and presenting our fav superhero in 2D.

We all know about all this, and appreciate the facts and the trivia, but why I really love this man is because of the way he injected sociopolitical themes with amazing clarity into a superhero movie. While, all the other comic book  superheros dealt with their foes, their struggles were one dimensional. their struggles were limited by the strength (or the lack of it) of the foe. What Nolan bought to the table was refreshing. He did something very special. He seeped in social sentiments like crime, law, pain, fear, oppression, ideals, hope and yearning for an Utopian world into a superhero movie script.
While Batman might fight his battles in Gotham, Nolan showcased the landscape of modern America. It was, as if, he was taking potshots at people in power. He insists that this is a world we live in.It is Nolan's way of asking us to choose between the the man without a face (Bruce) or the symbol of change, Batman. He creates Batman out of anger, the fury of a world gone wrong.

What began as a stark reflection of the times we live in, got reaffirmed in The Dark Knight. Batman believes that Gotham is not the best city to stay in, not the safest place to live in, but has certainly got better. He realizes that this is not only his doing. People who have rallied behind him, against crime are also responsible for the state of the city. Hence, the importance given to Harvey Dent, the white Knight of the city, the crusader without a mask.

Nolan's Gotham is not very different than the Mumbai we live in. we too need the dark and the white knights. We too need to be taken care of. People suffer from pain, anxiety, crime and fear. Ras Al Ghul, Scarecrow, Joker and Bane (TDKR villian) embody the above mentioned plight of our city. Nolan makes us believe that a knight will come, when the night is darkest to lead us to the dawn.

With just 2 days to go for the IMAX premier in India, I can hardly wait to watch the most badass superhero take on his most intimidating enemy. Will he prevail or will he falter and pass on the baton to a younger ideal?? Questions and more questions.
Move on Avengers. Move on Spidey, The Dark Knight is here. And a new dawn for cinema is imminent.
Cannot wait to write the movie review.

Hail Batman, Hail Nolan!!!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Jaago re... against shitty cinema.

Ever heard of this guy called Gus Van Sant? Those who have seen the Matt Damon & Robin William starrer, Good Will Hunting, might have. Why did he take 11 long years after 2000, to come out of hiding and make the universally acclaimed film, Milk??
Maybe or  I'm almost sure that he was ashamed to rub shoulders with his Hollywood mates after having made the ultimate mistake of remaking Mr. Alfred Hitchcock's classic, Psycho!! Yes, people make SUCH mistakes in life.

Why am I writing about some obscure Hollywood directer?? Because, our very own Rohit Shetty has committed a similar crime by remaking Hrishida's (Hrishikesh Mukherjee) timeless classic, Golmaal. It is bad enough that he thought of Golmaal as source material, but , it is whole different game to make such a despicable movie and attach Hrishida's name to it.
No, I have not seen the movie,will not watch it, and will try and stop others from watching it. The promos are enough to repel me.
This worrying trend started with the famous Ram Gopal Verma Ki Aag and it was just the tip of the iceberg. Then came Don, then Agnipath. Now we will have remakes, reboots, rehashes, rethinks and re-inventions of Zanzeer, Abhimaan, Aaradhana, Seeta aur Geeta, Chasme badoor.

It is easy to blame a "creative Vacuum" in the Hindi movie Industry, but ultimately it is the demand that shapes the commercial realities. Directors may innovate , but producers need to feel confident that public will welcome and like the product. It is just wishful thinking on my part, because, what I have mentioned above is only about the classics being remade, but, the other worrying, and more irksome trend is remaking  southern movies to make big monies in Bollywood.
Rowdy Rathore might have earned zillions in the box office,but help me find 3 people who have liked it. I do not think many people would like to take up that challenge. 

Okay, I may think that remakes should be banned. Obviously, Mr. Shetty and gang think otherwise. What about origininality, you ask? Well, let me refresh your memory. Take out Kahani, Ek mein aur ek tu, Paan Singh Tomar, Vicky Donner, Shanghai and Gangs of Wasseypur and what do you have? You have had an  absolutely delicious list of movies this year like Ghost (remember the Shiney Ahuja film?), Ek Diwana tha (Yet another south remake), Jodi Breakers (no one saw it) , Agent Vinod (Haha, some spy movie), Housefull 2 (Shut-up), Hate Story ( oh come on), Tezz ( Shit, it gets worse).... Hold on, let me present the big three... PLAYERS ( the godawful attempt at remaking a decent remake of a classic, yess), DEPARTMENT ( Ramu's latest headache - inducing take on the Mumbai underworld) and DANGEROUS ISHQ ( shitty storytelling, 3 times over)...

What is wrong with our industry? Where are we going wrong? where is the problem? Are we, the viewers, responsible? Are we somehow propagating these rank bad movies by paying up upwards of Rs. 200 /- per ticket? As I said, demand fuels everything.... 

I'm sad , very sad, as I write this, but the year ahead does not look bright either.
Just like The Dark Knight rises to save Gotham, we collectively need to rise and stop this phenomenon of propagating mind numbing cinema. Let us boycott movies made in bad taste, movies that are made purely to zillions at the box office, let us stop "keep your brains at home" argument. 
It is your hard earned money. Stop wasting it. If you have to spend 3 hours, get yourself a hobby instead.
We, the multiplex class should bring about this revolution.

An angry guy who is disappointed most of the Fridays. 

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Some know him as God, You may call him Marty

In a world where the superstars or actors pull-in the crowd, how many directors manage to do the same?  How many directors command a bigger pedestal than the cast of the movie? Not many, I guess.

During the Academy awards, one name was invoked more often than anybody else’s name. Martin Scorsese.
After giving us 22 movies, 13 documentaries, many commercials and  just 1 Oscar, the 70 year old Marty, as he is fondly called, gave us HUGO.
Whether it is gritty and violent like MEAN STREETS, TAXI DRIVER or poignantly romantic like ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE, or satirical like THE KING OF COMEDY, AFTER HOURS or just plain stylish like AVIATOR, GOODFELLAS, Marty‘s uniquely versatile vision has made him one of cinema’s most acclaimed directors.

As a young kid, bought up in the little Italy section of Manhattan, he decided to “Make movies about what really happens”. In hindsight, you will know that Marty does not only make movies, but also is a great movie fan with a insatiable appetite to watch, discuss and enjoy cinema. His inspiration for making movies can from came from his own childhood spent in the Bronx. By his own admission, he said that the biggest research he did for making Mean Streets, his first major release, was his life. He would watch people in the gritty neighborhood go about their life and business and just poured his experiences in the movies that have made him the man he is today.

40 years after he made his first major Hollywood movie, his balance sheet looks balanced. He is one of the few directors today who have received both critical and box office acclaim. Of course, like anybody, he did go through a lean patch in the late 70s and early 80s when none of the studios supported him after box office disasters like New York, New York and The King of comedy. His professional life dipped further when studios did not accept The last temptation of Christ, as it was deemed too radical.  All the while, he lived in Los Angeles, he learnt the mechanics of how large cities function. It was this knowledge that he put to use to bounce back. He moved back to New York to set his professional career on track.

The second part of his career is the part where-in he came into his own. He belted out movies like The last temptation of the Christ (he made Universal studios to produce the movie), Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Cape Fear, Casino and Kundan before ending the millennium on a high. Post 2000, having juiced DeNiro with some fine performances his association with Leonardo Dicaprio began. The noughties saw Scorsese shed his Mafia fixation and dabble into big budget set piece movies. Scorsese and Dicaprio would collaborate to give us movies like Gangs of New York (a script that he had been wanting to make for 20 years, with DeNiro in the lead), Aviator, Departed (the movie that won him the most coveted Oscar, finally), and finally Shutter Island.

While all of us love the overall feel of his films, he should be credited for all the factors and innovations that he bought to cinema.
 Known as the “king of tracking shot”, he is known for his lengthy takes. Most of his movies start and end with 2-3 minute scenes, which is a mean feet.  Other contributions like bring the “New York vernacular” talk in movies like Mean Street, Goodfellas, color treatment in movies like Aviator, Gangs of New York, and now re-interpretation of how 3D can bolster a film’s beauty without intruding on the story  only add to his folklore.
Having been fed on movies by Howard Hawks, Billy Wilder, Sidney Lumet, he was adamant about learning from them and developing his own unique style of film making. He was mainly influenced by these greats, because, they did not bend down in front of the Hollywood studio system and got their creative vision on screen.

When not giving in to the big studios or simply battling it out with them, he vented out his creative genius into making documentaries , music videos (the Rolling Stones concert and Micheal Jackson shows were legendry)  and restoration of old-movies.

His style of movie-making combined a rough and gritty attention to the everyday life of the urban jungle with a monumental visual sensibility. In one of his most acclaimed films, Taxi Driver 91976), he focused on the particulars of an individual and his obsessions. Starring Robert DeNiro (with whom Scorsese has had one of the most celebrated collaborative relationships in American cinema), Taxi Driver elevates the obscure specifics of a disturbed life with greatest drama.
Through movies like Mean Streets, Goodfellas, Casino, Departed, he has shown us the engaging world and power structure of Mafia. He bought together and style and theoretical content with great flair. Scorsese often focused on a theme that has permeated nearly everyone of his movies – the plight of the desperate and out-of-control individual. Often unsympathetic, his characters display a crazed violence that mimics the repressive social structures in which they live. Almost all his movies are engaging and social commentaries.

Martin Scorsese is the most important living American filmmaker – one whose relentless search for the furthest emotional reaches of his genre have led him to the center of the American ( and global) psyche.
In an era where careers are measured in months rather than years, Marty has served us for close to 45 years. In Hollywood, that is no lesser than a battlefield, he has battled it out with studios, stars and himself.
But all this has not resulted in a burn-out. At the age of 68, he set out to make a 3D movie. For a man who has always believed in old-school film making, and who has never tasted massive box office success (his most successful film was Shutter Island, that grossed $ 300 million worldwide), he adapted to the rigors of a new technique of film making. He has achieved three things that very, very few filmmakers achieve in life – (1) Enough money to make movies and documentaries that interest him, (2) enough freedom to make the movies in the way he wants to make them, (3) Enough acclaim and appreciation (not in the way of awards , though) from his peers and fans.
His lack of recognition from the Academy awards actually adds to rather than detracts from his reputation: after all, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Cubrick were also all denied Oscars.

Just like a 3 minute show reel of a lifetime’s work cannot do justice to a man or his body of work, this is just a sincerely written piece of tribute to a man who has worked his lifetime to entertain us. I raise a toast to Marty, the movie fan, who also makes movies. 

( This post was first published on - )

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Why do I prefer Agent Bob Biswas over Agent Vinod?

With the Hindi film industry churning out over 800 films each year, films that really matter are few and far between. Yet, I find myself seated in the nearest multiplex, every weekend to catch the latest motion picture.
This year has been fascinating. Without getting ahead of myself, I would say that most of the movies have been worth the ticket, pop-corn and petrol.
Then came Agent Vinod!!!

My expectation soared when I heard that Mr. Shriram Raghavan was at the helm of things. In our country obsessed with STARS (not actors), how many would go to watch a movie because of the director, and not because of the star? Afterall, how could a guy, who gave us gems like Ek Hasina Thi & Johnny Gaddar go horribily wrong, you may ask? Well, he did go wrong. So badly, that he lost a fan in me. I'm not ready to give him a second chance, just yet.

The movie was not THAT bad, but I do not buy the "Production valueas were superb" line anymore. Thanks to production houses like Excel Entertainment, Dharma productions, most movies are well shot, superbly produced.

Now, why dont I like our own James Bond? Surely, the movie screams style. That is it. It is like one of those glossy expensive men's magazine (No, I'm not talking about GQ) that have loads of pics, but suck when it comes to content. What makes you averse of the wannabe, super / hyperstylised superhero is that, within a span of a month we have seen two more superheros who are original, non-wannabe, completely desi and loads of charecter. I'am talking about Irfan Khan in Paan Singh Tomar and Vidya Balan in Kahani. These two gave us a temporary sense of happiness and made us believe & hope that all is not last.
This post is not about story of Paan Singh Tomar or Kahani or Vidya Balan though. Enough said and discussed about it!!

This is about Agent Vinod pitted against Agent Bob Biswas and Mr Tomar.  

An LIC agent outshot and a Chambal decoit has outrun the smart,sauve RAW agent. 
The popularity of Bob Biswas and Pan Singh over Vinod throws up a few points.

1) You do not have be dressed in tuxedos to impress the audience.

2) You do not have to be a globe trotter. (A friend of mine posted this on Facebook - Considering the movie covers 8 locations and our does not do much any way, the movie should have been called TRAVEL AGENT VINOD.) While Agent Vinod goes out and apes James Bond and Bourne films, Bob & Pan Singh just do the opposite.

3) You do not need angrezi with accent. Irfan spoke so convincingly in HIndi with the chambal accent that forced us to rely on subtitles and Bob Biswas did it with a simple "Nomoshkar...ek minute"...

4) You do not need to be in every scene of the movie to get noticed - OK this one does not apply for Mr. Paan Singh. But, Bob Biswas, with barely 10 minutes of screen presence, has become a household name and a social media rage.

5) You do not have to dance to  silly and stupid item numers like Pungi, just incase, the audience does not like you in the first place.

6) You do not need silly mannerisms, punch dialogues and a swagger to get the audience hooked. Again, just a simple Namoshkar works...

While, I have already undermined Agent Vinod, I would say it was entertaining in parts at best. Cannot take away the sheer gineus of a way in which Shriram has shot the RAABTA song. Splendid. Cannot take away the "always on it's toes" background score. Cannot take away the frentic camera work. But that is it. Game over. It is not Max Payne. It is a movie.

What makes us fall for Bob & Paan Singh? Well, in Bob's case, it was simple. While, we are use to see burly, tough men play out the charecter of a hitman, Bob surprised us with his commonman and unasumming looks. He could be the most unlikely guy to play a hitman. Yet, he doid it with elan. And Pan Singh? Hehe, It was Irfan Khan. Enough said.

Now, it is not Saif's mistake that he is being pitted against these splendid guys. Just that , we expected better.

I guess, I will just have to accept Agent Vinod as a film that belongs to Saif the producer, than a film that belong to Shriram, the director.
Last heard, they are planning to make a sequel. 

Let's hope, sense prevails and we get to watch and cheer a truly well etched, detailed, desi, non-wannabe spy movie.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Kahani - A story we want to believe in

By the time you read this, I’m sure you would have seen Kahani. Some of you would have seen it twice, maybe.
I can safely say that sensible cinema makes a comeback to the Hindi film industry.

Seldom do we, the people in the Hindi film industry tell stories of our cities. Forget telling stories about them, we do not even use them as good backdrops. Once in a while we may see Dibakar Banerjee use Delhi as a splendid backdrop (Khosla ka Ghosla and Oye lucky lucky oye) to tell his stories or Kiran Rao shoot Mumbai in such a way that it re-introduces us to the city we live in.
Kahani opens with a shot of Kolkata, and you immediately you warm up to the prospect of something different and new. Sujoy makes passionate love with Kolkata the way we have seen Woody Allen make love to Manhattan or Paris through his films. Mind you, this is not a stupid placement or government funded / aided tour, but pure, unadulterated love for the city. What you see in Kahani is nothing short of a treat.The lazy trams, the cramped alleys, the crowded markets, Durga Pujo is shot with splendid detail and care.
Sujoy lets his cinematographer, Setu, bite into Kolkata and give us a heady cocktail of cacophonous city. The dust, grime, color and the air of the city come alive in each frame of the movie.

The second lead of the film (Kolkata is the lead character) Vidya Balan is just as outstanding as the city itself. She is one women whose body of work might one day end up mirroring that of Meryl Streep. It is getting REALLY difficult choose the best amongst her performances. Vidya’s performance as a heavily pregnant woman is so damn convincing that just 10 minutes into the movie, you are rooting for her and you let her enthrall you. She gets you to do what most superstars (I’m not saying actors) do not. She gets you to root for her, go through  the roller coaster ride with her instead of just sit and watch her go through her lines. Your feelings / emotions for Vidya Bagchi only gets more sensitive as the movie progresses.

It has been a week since I saw the movie and I have probably read zillions of tweets and Facebook updates that spoke about how Vidya Balan has rocked the show. Agree. No two ways about it. But, spare a thought for the guy who made this whole movie possible, the guy who conceived this movie, and left no stone unturned to get this movie to screen.
(Pls go through the link at the end of this post. Once you are done reading the whole post, that is).

While most us know that he is more than a capable director, what clicks for him in Kahani is his writing. This movie does come across as his most passionate, most loved and most cherished work. This is one of the most smartly written work in the recent past. First of all, kudos to him for resting a very tricky genre on the shoulder of a woman, a pregnant one, no less.
The movie is like a puzzle where-in the viewer does not watch characters unfold the twists and turns. Here Sujoy sucks you into the vortex immediately. The viewer is taken trough a highly fulfilling roller coaster ride. It has all the elements of a classic whodunit. The story grabs your attention almost immediately, keeps you enthralled, teases you along the way, makes you hold on to your breath, throws little tit-bits at you and in the end gives you the high of a 12 year old seasoned scotch whisky. This is beautiful blend of Hitchcock and Satyajit Ray in equal measure.

While it would be criminal to give away any of the plot details it would be in the scope of permissible praise to say the writing is clearly not meant to strew red herrings in our way. As we go back to the film, at the end we see every detail, every twist and turn in the plot was meant to be a coherent pointer to the complete picture 
Though, it feels longer than 115 minutes, there is never a dull moment, as every character keeps throwing something at you to keep you guessing, wanting you to crack the code.
The experience is heightened by some razor sharp editing and a rousing background score by Clinton Cerejo. In fact, the score is largely responsible for the tight pace of the movie.

At the end of it all, you come away as a happy person, because, here is a movie, that satisfies the thirst for good cinema. It makes you believe that Hindi movies can indeed entertain and rewarding.  

As promised, here is a link to Sujoy Gosh’s blog on Kahani :

See you at the movie :)

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Artist - A splendid ode to a bygone era

For all of you who are reading this and  have not yet seen the modern classic yet, please do.

Calling it an experiment , like a lot many people did, would be a great disservice to the makers of this splendid movie. 'The Artist' is sure to go down in history as a must-watch. For those who want to study films, for those who pursue cinema relentlessly, and also for those who just watch movies because they just like to. If you're wondering why a silent film, the movie not only answers it, but makes you fall in love with the medium. it's clearly a product of a thinking director, where everything in the scene has a story to tell.
To be fair there is little of substance happening in 'The Artist'. It tells a fairly conventional and frankly kind of cliché story about rags to riches to rags. 'The Artist' isn't really about anything other than pure emotion. It's a sentimental film designed to really invoke a response in it's audience and it does it beautifully.

The film tells the story of George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a silent film actor megastar who withers away into obscurity when the introduction of "talkies" meets monumental popularity. Movie extra Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) is a star on the rise who's admiration for George's work runs much deeper than the film's they share.

Jean Dujardin, largely unknown to the world, looks like a cross between Clarke Gable, Rock Hudson and Cary Grant.  Armed with a very charming smile and towering presence, he nails it as a megastar of the bygone era. He does such a splendid job, that it is almost impossible to think of this movie without him.   He is superbly supported by Bérénice Bejo, who plays a sprightly extra who goes on to become a Hollywood pin-up girl.
Both of them bring wonderful works, reaching that exact point of theatrical exaggeration and intimate detail the best actors from that period possessed. We tend to watch old films almost like involuntary comedies, full of apparatus expressions and excessive melodrama, but the actors were testing the limits of the new medium, and their best exponents (such as Buster Keaton, Lillian Gish and Lon Chaney) discovered the balance which was perfectly captured by Dujardin and Bejo.
Then, there is Uggie, who is Jean’s dog. If only the Academy had an award for an animal, he would have been the first choice.

Director and screenwriter Michel Hazanavicius made a brilliant work at capturing the atmosphere, rhythm and texture of mute cinema. He deserves more than a pat on his back for crafting a movie which is deeply reverential of the world of movie making, in addition to stimulating the sense of joy in all of us, making it irresistibly charming and appealing to the modern audience.  In this era of slam bang actioners, cacophonous explosions, VFX laden spectacles, remakes and sequels and of course the ubiquitous 3D, it takes extreme gumption to make a silent film that celebrates the old magic of movies.

Three aspects (amongst many others) that stand-out are:

Music score - The movie may not have dialogues, but it has a rousing soundtrack. After Jean, the music lends itself as the most important character in the movie. Every scene, each emotion is amplified beautifully by Ludovic Bource’s Oscar worthy score.

Cinematography - Hitchcock used to say that the silent movies were the most perfect state of the cinematographic art. The cinematography is gorgeous. Guillaume Schiffman makes love to the beautiful production design through his camera. The movie was shot in the 1.33:1 "Academy ratio," just as in silent-film days, since director-writer Michel Hazanavicius considered it 'perfect for actors' because it gives them 'a presence, a power, a strength. They occupy all the space of the screen.' 

Subtle placements / plot-points  - The titles shown on posters and outside cinemas often mirror the plot - for example, "The Thief of His Heart" is visible as Peppy tries on George's coat, "The Lonely Star" when George sadly crosses a street and "Guardian Angel" is the Peppy Miller film visible just after the auction. The 3 wise monkeys George's desk are a constant reminder of his aversion for all things sound. The staircase scene symbolizing George’s downfall and Peppy’s raise is worth it’s weight in gold.

This movies sets a precedent and creates a strong example for aspiring film-makers. This amazingly detailed, nuanced, visually brilliant film was shot is 35 days flat!!!

Some very interesting trivia about the movie. (Those who are yet to experience it, please skip this as it may contain spoilers)

# The movie was originally shot in color, then converted to black and white.

# There is not a single “Zoom shot” in the entire movie because zoom technology did not exist in the movie’s time period.

# The first spoken word of the film is 'cut', while the last spoken word is 'action'.

# All the dance sequences were performed by the actors themselves through heavy rehearsals.

# Peppy Miller does not have a single audible spoken line - despite being a talking superstar.

# The role of Jack the dog was actually played by three matching Jack Russell Terriers: Uggie, Dash and Dude.

 Go ahead, treat yourself to this classic. It is highly recommended.

Was it worthy enough to win the Best picture oscar? YES

Is it worth watching? YES. TWICE :)

Monday, 13 February 2012

The problem with Rom-coms

I have a problem  with rom-coms. I have consumed whatever Hollywood and the Indian film industry has churned out in the past, including the current favorite “Ek mein aur ekk tu". 
I do not call myself a discerning critic, but I have my own reservation towards most of these films.

Maybe, I have enjoyed these movies because I have successfully separated these movies from reality. What do I mean, you may ask?
 I mean, I do not know or have come across guys who have won over a women with a grand romantic gesture or have confessed their love at the altar when the girl is getting married to somebody else.
I also do not know of a guy and a girl who keep hating each other for 5 years then get married in the most absurd way.
Not all guys are cute like Imran khan and have abs like Bradley Cooper nor do all women look like Katherine Heigl or Meg Ryan…..

Before I go any further, I ask myself a basic question…… Do romance and comedy go together ? Food for thought.

These rom-coms are adult versions of fairy tales that follow a simple formula – boy meets girl, girl hates boy, they are together, something gets in the way – interval – more things get in the way, boy starts liking girl, boom, and they live happily ever after. Rom – com is probably the most predictable genre of movies one can watch. One look at the 30 sec promo, we know the pot and how the movies gonna end!! This has remained true forever.
Funny thing is that this works. Script-writers across the globe know about the golden rules of coming up with a successful rom–com. The main character must be relatable and appealing, there must be obstacles to their union, and these obstacles must be overcome so that they can get together at the end.

THERE… I have repeated myself in the same paragraph. I feel, all rom-coms have the same plot with maybe a dozen variations that have been around since the invention of motion pictures.

Ok. Let us move over the “plot / story”.  Let us come to the biggest pitfall of this genre. The idea of finding “The one”. “The one” is always presented to be someone who complements the other person, someone who has what they lack and, therefore, can offer it to them. So, you have movies which feature a women who is free spirited, bold and fun while the man is shy and quiet or the man is a Casanova, not willing to settle down, and the women has her mind set on marriage more than anything else. All these variations have shaped all the films that were to come, and are still coming.
It’s the idea that love is about finding “the one,” that it’s all about that chance meeting that happens through that hook up in just the right way and if you could just find the right person, that love would just happen.
Love is everywhere. Love is a mouse-click away or a glass of whisky away. The day our genius script-writers get this right, the sun shall rise from the west.

For years, men have been complaining about their wives and girlfriends forcing them to sit through romantic comedies. If you throw in a couple of fart jokes or make the leading guy a stoner, guys will lap it up. The there is also a new sub-genre that people have come to love these. The BROMANCE genre. I largely hold Farhan Akthar responsible for this. He has smartly got the male audiences in on the romance fest. But is that it? Nope. I do not  spend exorbitant amount of money to watch two people doing the same thing that they have been doing for ages.

Here are some myths that these movies propagate :

Not having number / address is ok. True love shall rule.
You just know he / she is the one.
Change yourself (read cosmetic surgery), he / she will fall head over heels over you.
Love changes him.
Waiting till the girl is almost married and gate-crashing into her wedding works

The rom-coms that I like are the Woody Allen type movies (read Manhattan / Midnight in Paris) or Ek mein aur ekk tu or 500 days of summer. The relationships are complex, exciting, and, most importantly, do not involve only two people who are, somehow, meant to be together. Instead, people break-up, or come together not because they change in some significant way but because they find someone who can stand their  flaws and can live with them. And the ending does not imply that “this is it” for the two characters.
Instead, life goes on as it did when the film started and the protagonists may have been lucky enough to have experienced glimpses of true romance, with its flaws and all, and keep going. That sounds, and seems on film, much more romantic to me than formulaic and predictable plots based on impossible expectations.

It’s bad enough for people to hold up romantic comedies in general as models for their own lives, whether they do it consciously or not. But if they’re basing their romantic expectations on current rom-coms, I fear for the future of our society.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

What is it with men & porn??

As if watching people fight and throw slippers at each other in the Parliament house were not enough, 2 Karnataka ministers have upped the  ante by watching porn on their handheld devices when a session was going on!!!
Holy S#$& !!! Some people voted for these guys. Scary. It would have been scary even if they would have been reading Chacha Chowdhary or Archies, but watching porn in an assembly house is carrying things way too far.

Long before the .xxx websites and playboy magazines existed, men were trying to sneak peeks of nude women. Men have always been driven by visual sexual stimulation. I think, as far back as art is found, we find porn. So why is it that men are so driven to see women in the buff??
Why does all of this pain women so much? Because women want to be loved and cherished for who they are as persons, not for the sexual release they offer men. The opposite of love is not hatred. The opposite of love is to use someone merely as a means to an end. This is what lust leads men to do and use women rather than love them.

Never in Human history has pornography been so readily available and on demand that it is today. This is largely due to internet. Nobody remains untouched by it.
Pornography is not only bigger business than ever before, it is also more acceptable, more fashionable, more of a statement of cool.

At it’s most basic level, pornography answers natural human curiosity. 
Adolescent boys (mostly) want to know what sex is about, and porn actually demonstrates the mechanics.
It begins like a rehearsal for the real thing. Lost in a world of pornographic fantasy, men can become less inclined, as well as increasingly less able, to form lasting relationships.

The reason why men ( after a lot of deliberation, I write only men and not people) like pornography is almost as varied as the men who like it. Here are a few reasons I could think of....

Reason 1 # - POWER

Pornography allows men to escape into an alternate universe where there are endless beautiful (debatable) women who want them and wish to gratify their every sexual need. While invoved in this type of fantasy, men are no longer vulnerable to women they love and NEED - they can get their needs met with any of the many women available. Men are simple in a way - if a women is ready to use the power she has over men in a sexually generous way, she can very easily make him feel loved. Men may not like to admit it, but they ARE dependent on women.
However, when watching porn, they are independent and at that moment, that is what they get.
Of course, independence is not real, but at times fantasy must do!!

Reason 2 # - IT IS A QUASI DRUG

Do not think most men are aware but, when they do watch porn they do not feel anxious. The brain goes into an altered state.  Men get anxious about a lot of things - women, money, work. Men, often come to rely on porn to escape anxiety. Porn is just like Archies or Dennis. Always young, always new, always beautiful and it's free. Just like substance abuse, men do not know why they use porn. They just know they cannot stop, and end up feeling depressed and shameful. But whether porn is used addictively or recreation ally, it acts as a powerful anti - anxiety drug.


Visual stimulation works for men in a way it does not seem to work for women. Clearly men are turned on by visuals of women than women. Pornography industry takes special efforts in making porn look awesome and attractive. High resolution photography and internet has resulted in some fine quality porn that gets sampled across the globe. The latest tech does not only make life simple but also makes porn look great. Visuals  / videos of people indulging in sexual acts has a far more powerful effect on men than reading. Some men are not affected by porn but some become compulsive about it.

Today, we live in an increasingly sexually tolerant culture. A generation ago, things were radically different. Today, we are comfortable with almost any kind of sexual arrangement people can think of. Porn is as close as your computer or handheld device. 

There are pros and cons to this. For the lack of a better line, i say that I cannot think of any particular advantage, the negatives exist. Just like any other freedom, pornography, if not used in discretion or properly, may wreck one's life. When it affects person's ability to function in a relationship r affects their productivity & happiness, they should seek help!!

More on politicians surfing porn -


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Anxiety strikes again

Disclaimer : Most of you who have read my earlier blogs Noise in my head and Affair with insomnia,  would find this post on similar lines. Yeah, I know, it is dark and negative, but this is a state of mind!!

The noise in my head refuses to cease
Lying awake in the middle of the night,
I wonder what is wrong with me?
What is it that the Doc did not spot?
She said “You are fine”,
But I keep worrying all the time……

Could someone explain,
Because I just do not know..
Why is it always at night that my thoughts run a riot?
Anxiety creeps into my head and strangles my throat,
I try to fight, I fight to control it,
But it will just not go…

It was not supposed to be like this,
My mom did not warn me about this,
Hands under my head, I look at the darkened ceiling,
Wondering what is the truth and what is the lie,
What? Who? Why? So many questions,
High and dry, I gasp for breath,
my own shadow is strangling me,
I wish this anxiety wave will die…

I’m holding on to my past I can do nothing about,
I count my sins, drown in guilt and hide in fear,
I shut my eyes only to stare at the abyss,
My mind is confused wondering where to go,
just want to get out of this horror show..

I see the clock ticking away,
I think my mind is playing games inside,
I’m like this inside me, but look normal on the outside.

Thursday, 2 February 2012


I woke up in the middle of the night
I saw myself sleeping,away to glory,
dreaming, oblious to the world.

I felt endlessly free,
I felt no pain,
There was no despair,
for I was not down there.

I was no longer burdned by life,
from the constant fear
of loosing my near and dear,
from the all the noise and pollution,
free from seeking endless solution.

There is no darkness here,
only light..
I can feel peace here,
as there is nobody to fight.
There are endless valleys,
full of flowers and trees,
As i walk by these alleys,
I feel weightless.
I smile to myself, as I'm fateless.

I walk down and tell myself,
Hey there, do not just survive,
Live, otherwise, you are not alive.
I saw myself smile in sleep.

I smiled,
I love my  afterlife…..

Friday, 27 January 2012

Decoding the Oscar nominations - Part 1

The Academy award nominations are out. In a long time, maybe after 2005, the fight for Oscars will be a closely contested one. Not since the year when Million Dollar Baby, which was pitted against The Aviator, Ray, Finding Neverland, Ray, Sideways, won the Oscars, the clutch of nominations  have been so rich.
Just like 2005, this year too, films with a strong emotional core have made it to the shortlist. These films may be set in various times and countires, but, they all have one thing in common. All the movies revolve around simple, believable and relatable human emotions.

In this post (which is the first in the 2 part series) , I shall write about Midnight in Paris , The descendents, The Help , The ides of March, and Moneyball.

Midnight in Paris –

This surprise selection is my favorite of the lot. This romantic comedy is set in Paris and is about a family that goes there because of business, and two  young people who are engaged to be married in the fall have experiences that change their lives. It’s about a young man’s great love for a city, Paris and the illusion that people have that a life different from theirs would be much better.
Certainly there‘s no better place on earth that Woody Allen could have chosen for his new romantic comedy than Paris. The past endures and shines brightly in Paris, which makes it well- suited for a story of a man reinvigorating his feelings and finding inspiration to reflect on his life.

While there are always dark themes underneath all of Woody Allen‘s comedies, the tone of MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is more upbeat. The movie is hopeful in that Gil comes to that conclusion that it‘s better not to delude yourself—even though it‘s more pleasant and less painful, it‘s still better not to.

As is typical for a Woody Allen film, a group of superlative actors fill out the supporting cast. The film‘s locations include some of Paris‘s most cherished sites, including: the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, the grounds and Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, Monet‘s Gardens at Giverny, Musée Rodin, Musée des Arts Forains, Marché Paul Bert (flea market), Rue Montagne St. Genevieve (where Gil goes at midnight).

The descendents –

Having won the Golden Globe award for the best picture, this is a front runner in the Oscar race. This is not a movie that is easily defined.
This movie celebrates the flaws and imperfections of human beings. Alexander Payne directs George Clooney and a bunch of others in this delightful family movie which takes you on  a ride.

 I chose to use the word ride, because, Matt King (Played by Clooney) goes through great turmoil, dealing with the sudden situation  he is not prepared to handle. When his wife meets with an accident, he is suddenly required to take care of his 2 daughters apart from handling the issue of selling off his ancestral property. This story is about the coming –together and the falling-in –love story of the dysfunctional family.

Payne sets his story with a simple premise in Hawaii. The city lends the movie a beautiful character. Complemented by some breezy performances by Clooney and the rest of the cast and equally breezy soundtrack, Payne deftly handles  a protagonist who is put in a dilemma with monumental tasks to handle.
Not the finest, but certainly one of the best of 2011.

The Help –

As far as performances go, this is the best I have seen this year. Set in 1960s, this movie tracks the stories of black women who served as maids / helps to white women. This is an incredible film that not only pays justice to the bestseller on which it's based (according to those who have read the book AND seen the film), but is phenomenally cast. Without any major star, this movie manages to stand –out on the sheer strength of the performances by it’s leading ladies.

This movie delves deep into the lives of maids who give up their lives in order to raise white kids who grow up to become like their uppity mothers. This thoroughly nuanced and detailed movie is both heartwarming and heart wrenching at the same time. While the basic premise may sound very simple, the story unwinds leisurely and  addresses issues like domestic violence, race discrimination, education and love.

The costumes, homes, settings, accents  give you a very 1960’s feel.

Ides of March –

How does George Clooney get it right all the time? Is there a higher hand, a divine intervention that helps him choose these scripts? I’m sure there is.

This is the story of a young hot-shot election campaigner who is sucked into the vortex of politics. Ryan Gosling, who impressed the critics earlier this year with a silent but powerful performance in Drive, goes on to show why is he billed a the next big-thing in Hollywood. George Clooney gives plenty of screen-time to his younger co-star, while he helps himself to a very under-stated role himself. He looks every bit the senator , running for the post of the “most powerful man in the world”.

As if these two were not enough, there is Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Gamiati  who light up the screen. Watch it to get a ringside view of what unfolds behind the screens during a Presidential election campaign, what do people do to make the President-elect look good in front of people. Clooney treats the film like a pseudo – thriller and throws in some smart dialogues which escalate the film to a different level.
Little known fact – Leo Di Caprio was suppose to play Goslings character, but ended up producing the movie.

Moneyball -

Brad Pitt and Oscars? Now, I have seen it all. Well, it is a sports film (something that the Academy jury loves) with eye-candy Brad Pitt as the lead star.

On a serious note, this is one of the finest sports films in the recent years. I do not know a thing about Baseball, but I thought this is a beautifully crafted film and it is a wonderful representative of the game.

Based on a true story, Moneyball is a movie for anybody who has ever dreamed of taking on the system. The premise is the real story of how, with an extremely small budget for a professional sports team, he managed to win a surprising number of games, including setting an all-time major league record of 20 consecutive wins. Pitt is the top of his game. As an everyman—or at least one that isn't played up as wealthy, a man struggling to keep his job—frustration is clearly seen in Pitt's face. Pitt brings humanity to the ominous job of a general manager.

Writer Aaron Sorkin knows how to write, and as evidenced by "The Social Network" (2010), he also knows how to turn computer-programming into riveting cinema. We find humor in the least-expected of places, we find heart in the least-expected of people, and 'Moneyball" gives us a completely enjoyable movie that becomes so much more than numbers.

All these films talk about the triumph of human emotions and take us through a joyful ride.
Yet to see the rest of the movies that have been nominated. Cannot wait to experience the rest of the movies.
Long live, show business.