Saturday, February 28, 2009

And oh ...

Did I mention that I loved “Luck by Chance”? No? Well let me tell you I loved “Luck by Chance”. Like just about every other person On The Blogs.

(Is there a distinct Blogger Sensibility? Is it a Mutant Gene? Perhaps one day the Alien Power that Rules The Universe from its Haunt in A Far Galaxy will trip a ginormous switch, and the Blogger Hordes will Emerge From Their Lairs, eyes glazed with fixity of purpose, laptops fraught with menace, perhaps even uniformed in pink chaddis. And some of them will be singing Joan Baez – you know the one I mean? Come from the shadows? – and of course there will be ONE who thinks she’s SUPER at Don’t cry for me Argentina and she’s sulking because she can’t get to sing it with all the grand gestures. Only it will not be a Dangerous Movement, because like all Blogger Movements, it will be peaceful and law-abiding and maybe even Libertarian, so after they have Saved the World in Five Easy Steps, all the bloggers will go home and tap out long earnest posts about the Importance of Participation.

And the next day they will find that all this Never Really Happened, because the Main-Stream Media will have Ignored It Completely.)

LbC isn’t the only recent movie I liked. Delhi 6 is pretty good too. In fact, I loved it. All but the last 20 minutes or so, which was … well, crappy. Sad. So few Hindi films can wrap it up nicely (LbC being an exception – nice wrap-up, no incredible happy ending that throws the film off-kilter). A review here doesn’t make much sense because both Baradwaj R and Pratim DG have reviewed it (and after ages, BR has a review I agree with! Jai ho!). Like they both said, the music and the screenplay and dialogues are superb, Abhishek Bacchan does a (surprisingly) good job, Sonam Kapoor sheds her blues, but a couple of points they missed. A “dream sequence” in a Hindi film that really has the almost-there, almost-rational quality of a dream. Great graphics, too, with Times Square in comic-book colour. And the other sequence I loved was the parkour interlude across the rooftops of Chandni Chowk. Fun came. But (spoiler alert here) they really should have killed off Roshan (Abhishek’s character). Would have driven home the “Message” much more forcefully.

In other film news, I was on a 1960s desert trip. Andalusian. Sergio Leone and the Dollar series. Some interesting sidelights. That the man who possibly made the most money from the first – A Fistful of Dollars (the ‘A’ isn’t there in the opening titles) – was one A. Kurosawa. Because Fistful is obviously based on Yojimbo, and he sued the pants off Sergio Leone. Which might seem like justice well served, except that Yojimbo itself was based on Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest without any acknowledgement. Reminded me of the time when Vishwa Bharati sued Rajesh Roshan for lifting the tune of ChhNoo kar mere man ko (Yaarana) from Tomaar holo shuru (music and lyrics, R. Tagore). They were chuffing along all self-righteous and indignant, guardians of Bangali kaalchaar, until one Burman, R.D., pointed out that Mr. Tagore himself had appropriated the tune from a Scottish folk song. Exit Kaalchaar Brigade, stage left, as if pursued by a bear.

Reading up on the Dollar series also threw up an interesting trivium about Roger Ebert. Back in 1966, when he reviewed The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on its release, he only gave it 3 stars because he was young and pretentious. Later, when he had become, he saw it again and gave it 4 stars. Quentin Tarantino, bless his determinedly unpretentious low-culture soul, said in 2002 that it was the greatest film ever made. I can’t entirely agree, but Yay all the same.

So then I went looking for More Sergio Stuff and found a little gem (thank you, Dhaka). Not so little either, it runs for close to 4 hours. But just think, Sergio Leone directing Robert de Niro in a gang epic. With Elizabeth McGovern looking lovely. And an appearance by a young(er) Joe Pesci, who has always been a personal favourite (if he could only have pulled in Jean Reno as well - what a waste of a casting coup with both of them in Home Alone). The usual lavish visual delight one associates with Leone. Dry-eyed hard-nosed depiction of the way morals are a dispensable luxury when one is poor. De Niro must have felt a bit of déjà vu, there are parallels to Godfather-II (so far the only sequel that equalled the original by winning the Oscar for Best Motion Picture) in the way it traces the back story of the hoods from childhood. I love it. And I’m rationing myself to half an hour at a time. In fact, time to get back to it now.

Once upon a time in America (1984). If you haven’t seen it already, go get it. now.

Monday, February 16, 2009

There but for the grace of ...

This is a totally chilling interview. (Link from Thejaswi Udupa)

Not because of the picture of Guantanamo. Not because of what it says of the subversion of justice by the US Govt. and army, not because at one time we still thought of the USA as a supporter of fair play.

But because the kind of torture mentioned here is child’s play compared to standard practice all over India. It makes us realise how inured we are to the reality in our own country.

Some of my colleagues used to make gentle fun of me because, on the occasions when I got involved in the process, I used to stop the “interrogation” from getting violent. On two occasions within my first few months of field service, I was able to get information by scaring the person/s being interrogated. Play-acting, hard-man-soft-man stuff that probably would invite censure in some countries, but at least the person on the other side of the table was not beaten up. I compare that to the stories from a man who used to be a very good friend. “F***er, do you have any idea how difficult it is to break a human bone?!” He broke his hand during one such interrogation. “That’s why the lathi is indispensable.” This from the man who used to lecture me on ethics in the days when we were mugging for the exams together.

Pvt. Neely in his interview speaks of slipping into alcoholism because he couldn’t cope with the guilt of what he had done. And I think of the reality in India. Of the 8 year old girl who was brutally beaten by a UP cop on suspicion of theft. Of a man who is now mentally and physically crippled because he was suspected of rape. And I wonder, do these people never think of how the man at the other end of the lathi feels as it swings into his stomach? Does it take a special kind of insensitivity to be able to hurt another human being in cold blood? And if it is so common, perhaps the insensitivity is the norm rather than the exception?

And I am very afraid.

Update: Another Kafkaesque story of persecution (link from Sanjay Anandram). This was posted on the Tehelka web-site, so I’d like to see some cross-checking. But I don’t remember any of the a-v media following up this story. If true, this is terrorism too. Are we going to do anything about it?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Like a blessing come from Heaven ...

"... for something like a second / I was healed / and my heart was at ease." An epiphany? The menu proudly states that the steaks are made “specially in our modern Electric Griller” (said menu having been largely unchanged in form or content for the last 45 years). The fish meuniere melts in the mouth at the precise moment one reads that line, the two stimulii catalysing a smile that must surely fit the popular concept of “beatific”. So I knelt there at the delta / at the alpha, at the omega / I knelt there like one who believes.

Suddenly, all the niggling irritations dwindle. The parts of the world that were out of focus fit together with a discreet click (imagine a Rolls Royce door shutting. Imagine, furthermore, that the man shutting it is Reginald Jeeves).The brow, suddenly realising that Life is Not Half Bad, that in fact it would be not entirely incorrect to claim that Life is (taking it by and large, seeing it unalloyed and seeing it whole) Quite a Good Thing, becomes rapidly unfurrowed. The wolf at the door and the ghoul on the shoulder slink away to pack their bags and consult their Bradshaws.

Good my ladies and gentles, for some months now I have been sore beset by life in general and by one Nazgul in particular. I have been foolish enough to let aforesaid Nazgul and his Dire Machinations prey upon my mind. But I have now triumphed over my woes (and foe) in much the same way that Truman won over his critics, to wit, by outliving them (outliving professionally, that is). It may be premature to say that I shall now step high, wide and plentiful, but my general outlook is now far closer to that of Frederick Altamont Cornwallis ( the Earl of Twistleton to the adoring populace Uncle Fred to his favourites) than to that of Marvin the Paranoid Android. My hat is quite distinctly cocked on the back of my head and I would, if I could, Scatter Largesse to the Multitude. Right. Time to cast the eye (now more measuring than beady) over what the world has been doing while we were not around to console it.


Roger certainly needs consolation. Poor mutt, he cried when he lost. Not Done, in my book, but I can see how Rafael Nadal-Parera can have that effect. Poetic justice in a way. FedEx now knows how Andrew Stephen Roddick must have felt for all those years when only one man stood between him and the title of best tennis player on Planet Earth. The sad part is that despite Nadal’s incredible athleticism and accuracy under pressure, Federer didn’t lose on the court. He lost in the mind. This was most evident at the French Open last year. It happened again in the fifth set at Melbourne. Federer cried out of frustration, not disappointment. Sweet Kerrist on a fibreglass kerrutch, how many times does one have to beat this man before he admits he’s beat? The problem is that Rafa never accepts that he’s beat. Not for a single point, dammit, not for a single shot. In the second set, he ran past his backhand corner to retrieve a Federer forehand that would have been a winner against any other tennis player in the world. Then he ran back to his forehand AND RETURNED the put-away from Federer. Fed had to play a third shot to win that point. That sums it up. Ole, Rafa!


In other news, I have narrowly escaped death or at least dismemberment by the simple expedient of never having been to Mangalore. I’m normally peace-loving, discreet and prudent to the point of cowardice. One thing that really irritates me, however, is women being hassled. If this gets to the point where they are physically assaulted, this mouse will roar. Fat lot of good that would do anybody, of course. I’m not the kind of chap who looks good wearing his undies outside (spandex) pants, so if I reacted in that kind of situation, all I’d achieve would be my own rapid spifflication. Still and all … I sadly fear that if Mangalorisation becomes a widespread phenomenon, Pureed Babu might be on the menu of some not-too-finicky canine. (I’d like to think I could take a couple of them down with me, but life rarely follows my story-lines)

(Update: apparently Mangalorisation happened today in Gangotri Bar in Madiwala, Bombay. The sweet smell of progress. Maybe in a few decades we’ll even grow to like it.)

(Data point: There’s a blog purportedly by Dr. V.S. Acharya, Home Minister of the State of Karnataka in the Union of India. This is the gentleman who reportedly said that the parents of the girls attacked should have been more careful. We could all express our regard and appreciation on his blog, but I fear his innate modesty might cause him to "moderate" our comments)


Some Indian bloggers have their knickers in a twist over a legal action that didn’t happen. (Does that make it a legal inaction or an illegal action?) Quite pointless, like a number of televised debates. So you think the TV channels shouldn’t have shown the security operations during the Bombay attacks? What were the security bosses doing, then? As I see it, with the possible exception of the NSG, EVERYbody - and this, let's face it, includes most of US - had their heads up their rectums to some extent (perhaps because the shit had hit the fan?) I think we all agree that some of our elected representatives were well past their own (presumably, respective) colons and may even have crossed their oesophagii. It’s not fair to single out Du-h Dutt for special criticism.

When all the channels were culpable to some extent, why do so many people love to hate Ms. Duh-tt? (When I last checked, there was no Facebook group titled “Can u please get Rajdeep Sardesai / Arnab Goswami / Srinivasan Iyer off air?”) Could it be because she was the only Managing Editor who rushed to the spot, planted herself in front of the camera and shoved her mike in the most places? Do they not realise that she leads from the front and cannot allow her juniors to go to dangerous places (like In Front of Guns or In Front of the Camera)? Could it be that, despite her acumen and her objectivity and her succinct analysis (“As you can see, there’s a person in white at that window on the 9th floor” – would we ever have worked that out for ourselves?), despite her (gasp!) Padma Shri, there are some Indian television viewers who just don’t like her? Strange concept that, well-nigh unbelievable, of course EVERYbody loves her, but perhaps it’s worth investigating, psychos are everywhere, they could even be dangerous, one might be well-advised to get gag orders against them, it’s all in the interests of a free press and we know how much we need THAT.

One school of thought holds that the central character is more about the gag reflex than about gagging free speech, but what do I know. In any case, how many people in this country READ blogs anyway, let alone any single specific blog? You think it would make an iota of difference if ALL of us spewed venom about her? Get a life! What I can’t figure out is why she bothered. She should be serene in her superiority, knowing that her Padma Shri places her in the exalted company of Hans Raj Hans, Sania Mirza and of course Pa’s Favourite Girl.