Saturday, December 23, 2006

We the people...

These are words that many Indians will be familiar with. For those who are now, this are the first three words of the Indian Constitution (as it is of the US Constitution). This also happens to be the tagline of one of the decent movies with Shahrukh Khan -- "Swades."

But really that's hardly what I wanted to bore you with. If you ever doubt you are an Indian, there are some things that will give you a clue.

* Almost all Indians despise broccoli -- the (abominable) vegetable.
* Every other Indian knows who P.G. Wodehouse is, and if you know who Psmith is, you are almost definitely from India.
* All Indians have read Tintin, and many of them have even read Asterix. If you think you would have a good chance at "Who wants to be a millionaire" if the questions were all about Tintin -- I assure you, you must check your ancestory because you will find Indian blood there somewhere.
* If you have heard about Malgudi and you remember the fabulous Shankar Nag television serial on the book, you are decidedly an Indian, how much ever you may be ignoring it.

New Yorker recently had an article on R.K. Narayanan. I loved the article, because it was a pleasure to see an American magazine write about him. In India, I remember reading about him every once in a while in the Times of India.

My first experience with Malgudi was through the ever reliable Doordarshan in India -- the only television channel in the 80s. The other times were through occasional stories we had to read ("The Astrologer's Day" comes to mind) as a part of our school work. However as my interest in reading grew out of Alistair Macleans and Clive Cusslers, at some point I discovered R. K. Narayanan. His "Swami and Friends" remains one of my personal favorites ot this day. RKN had the singular ability to present several constrasting perspectives at the same time -- so much so that every thing he wrote felt real. Swami's experiences, somehow, never felt like fiction. His fears, his thoughts were incredibly genuine. Swamy to me in many ways was a more familiar answer to the other loveable character from literatur -- Tom Sawyer.

If you are ever looking for a literature from India written in English, I highly recommend you find yourself Swami and Friends by R.K. Narayanan. I also highly recommend the TV series Malgudi Days, but the DVD has only a small number of episodes. The episodes on Swamy's adventures are a lot more enjoyable, though.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

End of the year...

The year's ending with a blast! This Saturday I am off to New Zealand for two weeks, wife in tow. It's summer there -- which means no snowboarding, unfortunately. Nevertheless there are plans for surfing, scuba diving, rafting, "zorbing", kayaking, hiking and lots more! Needless to say I am hyper excited. :)

In case you are looking for a refresher course for Scuba diving in the bay area, I recommend the Wallins in San Carlos.

Rounding up some movies I saw recently... Volver is great, but it isn't the level of Almodovar's earlier movies. After so many people recommended The Departed, I finally saw it. Despite my low expectations, I didn't enjoy it that much. The cast does a splendid job though. Mark Wahlberg was a surprise. Dicaprio was good. Vera Farmiga reminded me too much of Sophie Marceau. The only thing that's different in the movie from the Hong Kong original is the ending, and I preferred the way the original ended. Casino Royale makes a good Bond movie. I like the humor, the mood and the lack of gizmos -- Bond becomes more Bond.

Among a little older movies, Syriana was very good. Eddie Izzard's Unrepeatable was good but it's from a time before he's mastered his art. I've found some of his early stuff online that's pretty good too. I'll post some of it here sometime.

Jambool continues to be my primary pre-occupation. The current version of the site -- however limited the interface -- continues to be stable and up. A new version's in the pipeline, but a couple months out.

Meanwhile, best wishes for Christmas and New Years to everyone.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Cricket: Sreesanth Swinging His Bat..... Dhoom Machale?!

I was in splits watching this video. And they say cricket is a gentleman's game. It's about to change -- Sreesanth is here to make sure of that!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Count your bullets

There are two kinds of guns in movies. The first kind have a finite number of bullets. Usually six. Sometimes more, but still finite. The second kind of guns have infinite bullets. They go on forever. Superguns, let's call them.

In India, everyone born after 1975 knows that revolvers have 6 bullets. This fact comes up in one of the most famous Hindi film dialogues ever. But then the 80s came. This was a time when directors had to choose one of the two: hero carries infinite guns, or hero's gun carries infinite bullets. Most chose the second. Some chose the first. Some chose both. So, every once in a while you will find yourself watching a Mithun Chakravorty or Jeetendra go about spewing bullets into the scenery faster than you munch on the popcorn. So much so that the Indian cinema ran out of bullets and there were practically no bullets in movies in all of the 90s. All the mushy lovers who had gone into hiding came out in this time of peace.

Occasionally, though, some movie would come out where they remind you that bullets and guns obey the simple laws of physics: specifically, a bullet takes volume and a gun has finite amounts of it. Russian roulette is usually a good way to bring this fact up. Like they did in Dhoom 2, the recent mindless junk -- the scene Ranjit refered to in the comments to the previous post.

Usually, the fact that there are limited bullets makes for some interesting climaxes. Do you remember Neo battling it out with Mr. Smith at the Subway station? They go flying at each other, bullets zooming past, till they are on the ground guns at each other's heads. "You're empty." "So are you." Finite space even when their minds, supposedly, control the world around them.

Die Hard is another case in point. This movie remains to day the best action movie ever. Nothing beats it. The hero runs out of just about everything and still comes out tops. The climax involves a gun with just one bullet for the bad guy, one bad guy and some tape.

Talking about guns that need refills, when I think of Pierce Brosnan in Bond movies, somehow I only remember him refilling guns, hardly ever shooting. The other Bonds seem to do the shooting, and he was left to refill the magazines.

One has to admit, working with the laws of Physics makes more interesting movies. What's the fun in watching a hero with superguns just mow everyone in their wake. Unless. Unless the hero you're watching happens to the whacky Steve Zissou, played by the always wonderful Bill Murray, in a movie that almost seems to match the whackiness of Michael Gondry's.

Do you know more scenes with superguns that are worth watching? Or the other way round -- guns that run out of bullets? Do tell.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Dhoom 2: A Review

I love motorcycles. That's why I went and watched this movie. That is the real reason and please do not ask me this question again.

Instead of a dull analysis of the movie, how about I walk you through the movie? Really -- scene by important scene, every dialogue (I remember all 5 of them). Ok, here goes.

Desert. Train. Queen. Wait. go back -- queen?? She looks like Hrithik Roshan's mother. Ah. Yes of course. Ok. Cut to long shot from sky. Sky diver. In funky clothes. Parachute. Robbery. Ridiculous stunts on moving train. Clap, clap. Song number 1, Hrithik's biceps dancing about. Women, close your mouths, please.

Lake. A run-down steamer. Looks like India. Loudmouth cop. Lands in trouble. Super cop shows up from under water. On a water scooter. Really. I-saw-it-with-my-own-eyes-so-believe-it-will-you? Scooter-diving-cop saves loudmouth cop. Audience regrets. They blow up some people. Audience shuts up.

Hot chick. Tight clothes. View: Neck down, waist up. From left. From right. Fires guns. Likes to makes holes in things. The best thing for a guy who ends up dying from her gun? Very precisely spaced holes on his torso. She walks. Hips swinging. Men drool -- on screen. "Inspector Bipasha, reporting, sir," she says. The older guy wipes off drool, stutters "Uh yeah, go sit in the room, put some handcuffs on, I need to visit the bathroom." She complies.

Everyone gets it on. Senior cop has pregnant wife. Seem to have junior cop for house clown. Senior cop gets it on with lady cop. Junior cop tries to. They use some mysterious robber for an excuse to get in a room and talk suggestively. Robbery happens. Another robbery happens. Lady cop resigns. "What no,Bipasha..?? what wil we look at" -- cry the audience. Enter Ms Rai. First scene, she's covered from head to toe. Don't worry -- not her eyes though. So she can walk, jump -- and most importantly, bat those pretty eyelids. Next scene, she takes the clothes off. Drool. Everywhere. Intermission. Theater needs to be cleaned.

Thank you for coming back. Theater's clean now. The movie? Eveyrone's partying in Rio. Carnival? Don't htey have the months wrong? Tsk, tsk. Can we just watch Bipasha in that bikini again? Hrithik's showing off. What's that? Someone's abs. Someone speaks. Oh, look, there's a face above the abs.

Eveyrone's partying. Looks like Abhishek's not invited. Sulks. Frowns. He's the only one clothed. He gets more facial hair. No saloons in Rio, I imagine. Only bikini wax shops.

Oh, the story. There's a robbery. A chase. You see a motorcyle. A helicopter that turns into two-bollywood-heroes-on-motorcycles. Cool invention, that. More sillyness ensues. Your head hurts from working so hard to make sense. Your eyes hurt -- from all the bulging muscles on the screen. You wish for some comic relief. How about Javed Jaffery bursting on to the screen with "Iggzaktly!" That would have been perfect.