Saturday, November 29, 2008

Now what? Again sing 'Spirit of Mumbai'!?

Lauding the role of the security personnel who sacrificed their lives to save Parliament, he said it would have been a tragedy far worse than the September 11 attack in the United States had the terrorists entered Parliament House when top political leaders and 700 parliamentarians were in. - A news item referring to LK Advani and his comments on December 13, 2001 parliament attack

When i read this piece, just for a moment i wished they entered the parliament! Such is the overwhelming helplessness I feel seeing the unfolding events in Mumbai on TV. What a crap we have for our leaders.

Will we ever wake up? Before long, we will again see the dreaded cliché 'Spirit of Mumbai' across TVs and papers. We will proclaim we are not hurt, we get back to work, conveniently forget this whole thing. Its a routine by now, they come, they hit, go back. We sit, wait for them to come back and hit. And meantime, we entertain ourselves with iron-man Advani proclaiming he will 'clean-up' terror in country within 100 days of coming to power. Could he please share with us his magic-mantra? Such statements only show how lightly this issue is taken by him and his party. Of course, it was while he was at the helm, the parliament was attacked. I have always had a positive feel for Manmohan Singh despite his not-so-charismatic approach. This could be because he sounds very honest. But the other day, for the first time, watching him addressing the nation on TV, i felt he is woefully inadequate. No, Mr Singh, ur staid approach doesn’t reassure me, not anymore. Maybe we dont need a scholar for a leader anymore. Not an old man for sure. I am not even talking about a certain Shivraj Patil. If he is still keeping his job, i wonder what his job profile is. Shameless, he utterly is. Maybe we need a raw muscleman who loves his country more than anything else. Even if it means a Narender Modi, despite all his history. Not a single reassuring voice did i hear in the past 3 days.
The Mumbai attacks made a mockery of our borders, internal and external security. From the common man in CST to the honchos in MNCs, terror touched everyone. We lost brave officers from police and NSG not to terror, but primarily for our ineptitude in governance. Think about all those officers, politicians who compromised with corruption, greed for power to make the terrorists roll into our public spaces this easily, in blue jeans and designer T-shirts. I wonder if any of these brave officers wondered for a moment if its worth laying their lives for all our insensitivity and ineptitude. Oh yeah, we will pay our due respects lighting candles and stuff before going ahead and discussing Big Brother six-packs and eight-packs. Our government already came up with the same old excuse - the root of terror is in external countries. Are we supposed to believe foreigners simply walked in without any logistical support, went around and shot every living creature around even as they ate dry fruits. Why is our leadership reluctant to focus on the assistance the terrorists got from our fellow citizens? Simply because its easy to blame the whole thing on Pakistan and get away? Pakistan has of course failed. India is failing! They couldn’t themselves avoid the attack on Marriott in Islamabad in September this year. Whether or not the Pakistan's establishment is involved in this attack does not cloud the huge task we have now for us - to proactively approach terrorism and single-mindedly sustain our pursuit of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. Even if we have a percent of the commitment the officers who died showed, we would succeed in tackling these warped minds of terror. Quite a few times did we listen US saying Pakistan to 'do more' about tackling terror. I wonder, ironically, if that advice is more suited for our leadership!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Quantum of Solace: The Reluctant Bond

Quantum of Solace (QoS) not just sounds like an art-house movie but in parts is shot like one! What with Marc Forster of the art-house movies like The Kite Runner and Finding Neverland, the temptation is real. When the Bond is not involved in deafening episodes of action, all we get to see and hear are lengthy expositions (in typical British style Queen's English :)) of 'who-is-who' and 'who-is-spying-who'. The Bond is back and he is pissed! With his lover's death, he transforms into a killing machine and that is what all QoS is about.
With screenwriters like Paul Haggis (who has written the very famous Crash), the Bond franchise re-invented the Bond in Casino Royale two years ago with stupendous success. It was a masterstroke especially because the very suave Pierce Brosnan was giving way to a blond muscleman Daniel Craig. With the reinvention making him play a rookie yet to be promoted and trusted fully, Craig didnt have to carry all the baggage of his superstar predecessors. With the collaboration of Martin Campbell (Director of the Zorro series), Paul Haggis and an excellent casting inclusing the very beautiful and talented Eva Green Casino Royale turned out to be the best of the Bond series for many. The drama and the action built into this story of how the Bond transformed into a killer machine rejunevated the Bond series. Casino Royale has one of the best finales when in the climax Daniel Craig, all power-dressed, complete with a gun, looms over and kills one in revenge to Vesper's death. And that is where the problem started for QoS. Making a sequel to a herculean task, especially when the Bond franchise seems to be in a hurry to distance itself from typical elements of previous Bond movies.

Having broke up with his past through Casino.., the Bond cannot now return to his suave past (in this sequel of Casino... QoS is the first sequel in the Bond series. And for those with a mind for statistics, QoS is the shortest of the Bond series while Casino..was the longest). Having started the revenge saga in Casino,..the Bond goes on a killing spree in QoS. We are told he is 'blinded by inconsolable rage'. There are some mind-numbing action episodes lumped together for Bond fans. But otherwise the movie lacks a soul. The Bond is too serious to enjoy himself and his revenge drama doesnt excite because of a weakly characterized villain Dominic Greene. Nevertheless, the villain's henchmen chase the Bond across the sky in an aerial dogfight, across water in motor boat manoeuvres and on the cliffs in artillery-mounted cars. And to end this all, when the Bond actually gets hold of the villain, he drops him in middle of a desert to die on his own! This is one of the poetic art-house things done in this movie by Marc Forster and Paul Haggis. The other scenes include one initial chase scene where Bond chases his MI6 colleague. This chase was interspersed with a horse race scene. The climactic scene where the dictator gets killed in fire was poetic revenge for the Bond girl whose own family was similary put to death by the dictator. Alas, the plot and charcterizations ofcourse didnt get this kind of attention to detail. And that is why this bond enterprise in unexciting. This is a reluctant Bond. We miss his introduction 'My Name is..' and the tune (which plays only thru end-credits).

This Bond movie is filmed across Italy, UK, Bolivia, Austria, Haiti and Russia and is the costliest ever but this simply dosent measure up. But this does not seem to stop a sequel for this as well! The crime syndicate 'Quantum' discovered in this movie is not yet destroyed and the Bond is told that the villain is indeed shot by his colleagues in Quantum. Daniel Craig who has been signed for 3 more Bond movies may very well come back to destroy Quantum. And our solace, if the screenwriters are not up to the task.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Fashion has no passion

Well, I am no fan of Bhandarkar. And so it hardly should surprise my friends if i knit-pick on his latest offering 'Fashion', which most of them seem to like. Before anyone calls me a cynical critic let me tell you the simple reasons why i havent liked any of his movies.

He simply does not involve in story-telling! He simply dosent care. He bought to Hindi films what newspapers like Times of India bought to journalism - Gossip. And so it sells. Not surprisingly, he chooses subjects like Page3, Fashion and Corporate world. And yeah, the bar girls. The subjects in themselves are rarely explored in our movies and so his movies ride on the curiosity wave when they open. Well, maybe you need to appreciate his business acumen though for choosing these subjects (I mean we never saw the big boys like Yashraj try this for all the muscle they have). This is the only point i can concede to Bhandarkar.

And what does he do next. Goes and creates some characters and a plot thats too silly to bother about. His attitude is that of a perpetual outsider. He never owns the story or the characters and the result is we never get moved. All those front-benchers would cheer though for all the simplicistic approach. It simply dosent tax their brain! Its plain stupid to call his movies 'realistic'. They are a million miles away from realism.

Coming to 'Fashion', he named it so for all the attention it could get and he is right. The movie has almost nothing to do with 'Fashion' and is more about a lady's modelling career. The crux of the story, i understand, was supposed to be this lady's confident foray into the fashion world , her rise and her arrogance, her fall and her redemption. This subject requires sensitive handling to have the impact on the viewer to sympathize with the main character. And it fails here.

Many crucial sequences are lightly done. Some instances are -
When Priyanka aspires to become the 'supermodel', does she not know what professionalism is and what it means to mind her business? Especially so when she is doing the show for a leading hot-shot designer! She suggests the designer instead the best way to wear the dress and then obviously he makes her cry. Now, r we supposed to cry for her ignorance!?
Next comes the scene where she breaks up with her boyfriend. He is himself a model and still they end up fighting about the time she comes home,.The dialogue which Priyanka blurts out here about her boyfriend not seeing the kind of success she got looked forced and out of context. Bhandarkar must be desperate to pen a 'break-up scene' and this is the best he could come up with. This scene is supposed to shatter our heart for the two loving birds now done apart. I yawned.

Immediately next, we have the taxi scene where Priyanka smokes and asks the driver what is waiting for. This is lifted straight from 'The devil wears Prada (climax). Its just that it doesnt fit and make any sense here, ofcourse nor does the movie.

Yet another dumb scene in the film is when the 'supermodel' 'discovers' that she cant have children while on contract. So what was she thinking, she was being paid to carry and raise children!? The movie is filled with all these scenes which are neither logical nor emotionally touching. And so you dont feel sympathetic when she falls (after all it was ignorance, not arrogance that lead to her downfall!) and so we neither want her to come back and succeed again. So her redemtion exercise simply dosent take off and i wondered why was she forced back in modelling.

If there is anything that actually fires us for a moment, it got to be Kangana Ranaut. This movie works despite Madhur Bhandarkar. While the backdrop of the Ramp brings in the fire, it is Kangana who raises the quotient in the few scenes she does the cat-walk. The music adds up, especially in the scene when she fires on to the ramp after pouring in those drinks. Too bad, the movie dosent have more of those scenes. The background score was perfect. Probably Priyanka Chopra did her best playing this ill-sketched character. I cant really say.

The fact is that either Bhandarkar does little research or maybe he is simply incapable of it. For all the hype of realism, he could never think like an insider. All we get to see is superficial newpaper gossip kind of overview with gay designers and wardrobe malfunctions. But yes, we should thank him for not stooping too low with this subject! Think the horrible 'Traffic Signal' and the ridiculous 'Corporate'. While his 'Page 3' was a 100 years behind Govind Nihalani's 'Party', Production values and the backdrop of the Modelling world helps this movie stay put despite himself.

Friday, October 24, 2008

KEKA - The purest of trash!

Just when we saw a Kotha Bangaru Lokam and an Nenu Meeku Telusa from debutants and thought TeluguFilmIndustry (TFI) is indeed progressing briskly, we get to see KEKA which takes the craft of filmmaking back by a million years. Its amazing to see this masterpiece from PC Sriram, tEJA and sHAKEELA. u read it right, thats the 'spirit' of the film - directionless. Thank u Teja, i never laughed out my heart out the way i did today and if i do again, it cud only b again because of u, for, right now, we see no one else capable of such utter stupidity. I wonder if u can stop urself from laughing at ur film. Man,..wOw, wOw..what a film!!!

This is a fun film folks, seriously. ee cinemani andaru okasari choodali,..which film can have absolutely no story, no screenplay and no acting! Quite a feat indeed, no director, worth his salt, can make his actors look this dumb! Look at the trashy wig the hero is made to wear and we wonder on which planet Teja is living. Atleast the male leads looked eager to put their all, but this is such a point less exercise. The desert song, PC Sriram, 'different-looking' heroine and 'gattiga pattuko' scenes makes us wonder if Teja indeed (hold ur breath) ventured out to make a 'Geetanjali'. Instead the heroine looked wacko, the desert exercise loooks dumb, the 'pattuko' scenes brainless and PC Sriram clueless.
This is a milestone for not just TFI, but the whole indian cinema, albeit in the backward journey. Go see the movie and vote if this is the trashiest and dumbest ever movie u have seen.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Financial 9/11: The end of the American Dream?

America Then:

"The American Dream is a gay dream, that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. ..... It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position."

- James Truslow Adams in his 1931 book Epic of America

America Now:

"Where god parachutes us is a matter of luck. Nowhere is that more true than Wall Street. There are more mediocre people making more money on Wall Street than any other place on earth. Sure, there are some stars, and some earn every nickel they make. The crowd they carry along with them is something else. Wall Street might be the only place in the world where a $100,000 raise is considered a tip.

When you handed someone a check for $10 million, they'd look u in the eye and say, "Ten? The guy down the street just got 12!" "Thank you" was a rare expression"

- Jack Welch in 'JACK'

So what has made the Wall Street, the heart of world's capitalism, come down on it's knees? Why is that now banks go bankcrupt by the day and why is that big, almost $ trillion bail-out thrusted down the throat of the American tax payer?

It was in my school days, i first heard, this philosophy of free market. That the best way forward into faster (economic) development, we indians were counseled, was to let weak companies die, and endure the animal instincts of the market - laissez-faire. Eventually, we were told, this would work wonders. When governments in India, China, Japan and the developing world intervened time and again, using government largess to lift inefficient firms to safety, sparing jobs and containing the financial breakdown, every financial expert worth his name in Wall Street chided and threw up his hands in a you-will-never-learn kind of patronage. So, It is now an irony to see that US' treasury secretary Mr. Paulson (who of course made his name as chief executive of Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street investment giant) announces a $700 bn bailout proposal to rescue banckrupt companies. Why is he rejecting his own medicine and why is he keeping good money after the bad just to own the waste on the Wall Street?

The guy who has criticized China when it shovelled money into companies to limit joblessness and social instability is now ardently advocating to do the same back home. While he is putting almost a trillion dollars of American tax payers money with almost nothing in return for the tax payer, he sure looks like the one referred to when some one said 'A man with a briefcase can steal way more money than any man with a gun'!.
So what is happening in the land of the free market? If Senator Jim Bunning, Republican of Kentucky is to be believed, the free market for all intents and purposes is dead in America. He calls this an act of financial socialism. But then that is entirely misleading especially when the trillion dollars put to rescue are tax-payer dollars and public money and they are being used to rescue the wallstreet firms and not the working-class American families who are loosing their homes, jobs and their savings. In cases of India and China, intervention was done to save public investments in PSUs and to avoid loss of employment. Socialism, atleast, had good intentions for the society as a whole, when it started. What the senator said would make a good sound byte but does not reflect the truth that this crisis is a result of Americas' own failure to regulate its own financial system. Perhaps after smart-selling the developing world that governments can be dumb and that the markets are smart and risk non-existent, the Americans seriously started believing that themselves as foolproof! And that brings them to this hopeless downword spiral.

I am one of those who believe that America has a unique political system — one designed by geniuses so that it could be even run by idiots (I mean look at the many instances American lawmakers got nailed for the wrongs and compare what happens in the same cases in our country, the system there in obviously strong). But then which system can be smart enough to survive this kind of supreme incompetence and recklessness demonstrated by the people charged to run it, like the Bushies?

At the heart of this crisis lies, ironically, the American dream - a house with a yard. Once upon a time in America, building a home was more a work ethic that defined the great american dream. Now this is a product of lier-loans from the unregulated banks and the greed of the big corporations. All those forests of unsold houses across America vouch for this. To cash in on the home loan demand, the US banks which lent the loans continuosly sold their loans to Investment banks like Lehmann Brothers, which in turn broke up these loans into CDO (Collateralised Debt Obligations) packages, sort of funds with unit values called SIVs (Structured Investment Vehicles) to international investors like the central banks of China, Japan, Korea, Sweden etc. The loan-issuing banks were rewarded with upfront payment equivalent to the loan they issued. So they need not wait till the guys who actually took the home loans pay the loan. In addition, the banks also got to keep much of the interest on the loan issued. So they had all the incentive to give away as many loans as possible. It is common that most of them borrowed money from bigger banks and firms to give away loans. They generously lowered the qualification criteria for issuing a home loan so much so that even without income proof, any assets, credit history, sometimes even without a proper job it was possible to avail a home loan. These loans were called NINA — "no income no assets". So the mad scramble increased property rates continuosly for 3 years from late 2003. And what kept the investment banks greedy for more was the commision they earned when they sold their CDOs to international investors. They also got their CDOs insured and they always counted on seizing houses in cases of default and putting them on the market. The only way the property rates could go, they thought with bedrock confidence, was northwards! (talk about the 'brilliant' brains that run the Wall Street). So, even if they get defaults, they thought, they would only end up making more profit. That is what the insurance companies thought as well and so they extended their generous services calling them Credit Default Swaps for these seemingly risk-free premiums. So, if the guy who took the loan defaults, the investment bank wouldnt be able to pay the international investors and the insurance firms have to process the claims. As quality of issuing loans decreased and interest rates peaked, there were more and more defaults before the deluge triggered panic which started the downward spiral of property rates. Within no time, we saw more and more property on the market due to foreclosures and no one to buy them. In July, 2008 the US government had to come up with a bailout for the government-sponsored mortgage companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Together, they own or guarantee nearly half of the US' $12 trillion worth of home mortgages. If they collapsed, an already plummeting real estate would have gone bust and the many banks which put their capital in american homes would have slipped deeper into abyss. But then, that wouldnt stop the investment banks like Lehmann Brothers or insurance firms like A.I.G. from banckruptcy. Once the panic set in, all credit died up and no one wanted to issue any loan even for genuine enterprises, for fear of default. A crisis of trust brought everything to a halt and finance ministers from across the world whose national banks have bought american debt through CDOs calls up the US treasury secretary to do anything to keep the credit show going. After all, it is with the backing of US government that these international investors are invested in the US debt market. The US has been financing itself through treasury bonds by leaning heavily on foreigners, particularly China, Japan and the oil-rich nations of the Persian Gulf. To keep its growth engine going and make the international investors continue to trust it, it has to bail-out these corporations and so it did, Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, A.I.G. and gave sweeping powers to the treasury to buy bad property from banks and unclog the financial system and keep the credit cycle alive.

And how will the bail-out pan out? Either the US government will pull more money from citizens as taxes or it will allow the Fed to print more money, letting inflation escalate. Whatever be the way the American citizen will dish out the money now. With the trillion dollars spent by now, the american tax payer (and future american tax payers) got a debt of $ 2400 per head. It is a matter of time before Mr. Paulson goes back to congress and says the $ 700 bn isn't enough. There is just too much waste to buy and in not too many days from now this money may look like a pebble tossed into a churning sea.

All these bail-outs are ad-hoc solutions. We are not even sure they may work. Even if they do for now, sometime later when things get calm, all the excesses in policy, execution and Wall Street better be investigated and corrected. All the 'golden parachutes' need to be grounded and all the fat pay slips need to be accounted for.

The ramifications are already there to see in the rest of the world in stock markets of Russia, Brazil, Indonesia, India and the Middle East. The Russian stock market dropped 19.1 percent yesterday, the biggest decline since the fall of the Soviet Union and the return of capitalism. Bail-outs are being dished out in Europe for the banks exposed to the money market in US. The president of the World Bank, warned that the crisis could be a "tipping point" for the developing world. Most of the Asian banks may withstand the current problems because Asia generally saves more rather than lend in international money markets. However, this would also mean Asians spend less and so are heavily dependent on overseas demand. The American consumer has for decades served as the engine of world commerce, using borrowed cash to generate demand, from clothes and computers to cars. Most of these in turn are produced in factories in Asia and Latin America. If the demand dries up, the pain would swallow whole of some national economies! Developing nations simply cant grow if the Americans dont borrow from them and buy from them! We are facing one of the biggest ever global crisis, almost about to put all major economies in recession at once.

When i visited US the previous year,as an indian, i was amused to see how important a credit card is in American life. I wondered how can a national economy be based on credit cards. Credit initially started as a facilitation for entrepreneurship in the land of the free, to lung at their dream, to achieve. Now, thanks to reckless deregulation, it has become just a financial instrument for unbridled greed, but allowed to threaten stability worldwide.

How America reacts and handles this credit crisis would define its future standing as a world power and a great civilization. Is it the end of the American Dream?

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Wednesday! : What a Makeover!!

"We are resilient by force, not by choice"

Do not read this post if you have not yet seen the movie, 'A Wednesday!'. I suggest you read this after you watch the movie. This suggestion is to spare you the thrill you deserve :).

I could make sense of the exclamation in the title after watching the movie! 'A Wednesday' simply not just another movie, another day! This is one of those movies which are pushing the envelope for the hindi film industry and not surprisingly, we see this is yet another UTV collaboration. UTV is indeed going great guns.

Neeraj Pandey's debut hits the bull's eye right away. Very well written to convey the basic premise, the movie also takes enough care not to get into the so-called 'class film' mode. It's background score, romanticization of the 'honest cop', the angry young man characterization (of Jimmy Shergill and Naseeruddin Shah), the 'patriotic musilm' - all those which worked for mainstream movies earlier are very well borrowed here and that connects this movie to the masses and make it work like magic.
The movie towards the end connects so well with the audience that they may actually feel they didnt get enough (or more). But then that is how this movie is shaped up, without compromise, in tone and in structure - no songs, no jingoism, no super-hero stuff. It is plain angst plotted well. The veterans Shah and Kher put in superb performances in their usual underplayed tone. Shah, especially makes me, at last, get over his 'sarfarosh' character with a completely different character here. It is difficult to imagine someone else filling his shoe here. It wouldnt have worked. The characters played by Jimmy Shergill and Aamir Basheer are very well cast too. Neeraj Pandey couldnt have asked for more. This is the debut of the year.
As suggested above, watching this movie with a clean slate would give you a thrill that you rarely got in recent past. The premise of the movie explodes right in your face towards the end, like a blitzkreig. An undercurrent of public emotion has been tapped to the fullest and the climactic scenes involving Naseeruddin Shah and Anupam Kher takes the movie to another level after proceeding as a thriller for 90 minutes. I understand if the audience starts mouthing the dialogues even before Naseeruddin Shah does in the climax - they are in trance of the return of angry young man as a angry common man, only that he is older and more suave this time. But is he stupid as he claims to be?

Well, so the common man gets a makeover. From being the bespectacled, staid old man to the suave, articulate and unapolegetic one, he is the one the viewers clap for in the end. I guess even RK Laxman would approve.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mumbai Meri Jaan: Reflecting our times

'Daaru nahi peeyenge to inke andar spirit kahaase aayega… 'Mumbai spirit'!!'
The above line from Paresh Rawal's cop character is part of the undercurrent of sarcasm that runs all through Mumbai Meri Jaan, Nishikant Kamat's excellent follow-up to his brilliant directorial debut (Marathi) 'Dombvili Fast'. I know not a word of Marathi and still I was swayed by Dombvili Fast. Just like he did in his first film, Nishikant Kamat examines the psyche of regular citizens, living ordinary (non-Yashraj!) lives. It is just that this movie is set against the July 11th, 2006 bomb blasts in Mumbai and hence Mumbai forms the necessary backdrop. This movie is as good as the 2006 Oscar winner ‘Crash’. While ‘Crash’ was set up in the post 9/11 multi-cultural Los Angeles examining the xenophobia and bigotry involving whites, blacks, Persian, Latino, Korean and cop characters, Mumbai Meri Jaan does it in the Mumbai context. Just like ‘Crash’, this is raw and in-the-face, exploring the gray between black and white. It is hard-hitting when it shows the indifference and insensitiveness that are slowly getting rooted into people about others’ plights. This movie gives no messages, no discoveries, no solutions; Nishikant Kamat is just thinking aloud. The dialogue is crisp, tongue-in-cheek, infused with sarcastic, deadpan and wry humor with endless potshots at the print and television media, which the audience welcomes gleefully. This movie is neither about the maximum city nor its ‘spirit’ (I never quite understood what this is supposed to mean). There is no romanticized view of Mumbai as it would sound from the title. The movie focuses on the kind of people who make up the city and their daily struggles, their angst, social disconnect, sense of belonging and confusions. This is a social commentary on the different strata – a hot-shot corporate guy who in his love for the motherland overlooks the greener pastures of America before the blasts make him rethink, a young man from a Hindutva family consumed by suspicion of anything Muslim, a TV journo riding the ladder of success before she herself becomes a great ‘Saturday night story’ for her own channel, a ‘Madrasi’ tea-seller who drives the post-blasts phobic cops and crowds into frenzy as an act of revenge.

What is refreshing about Kamat's works is his originality of thought. The way he handles the track involving Kay Kay is excellent. The usual Hindu-Muslim 'we-they' syndrome is subtly handled. In this age of Islam-phobia, a character suspecting Muslims is not necessarily that of a fundamentalist (of other religions). And Kay Kay’s character reflected this reality quite well. In fact I know of atleast one guy (one of my friends, a Hindu) who in his adolescence was a staunch right-winger, high on RSS. Now, after 10 years, he is an atheist! Adolescence is the age when we easy to get swayed by these divisive and hate politics. Age brings in some mellowness as reality dawns in and introspections remove the hate and suspicions planted in the mind. Kay Kay’s character was one such, entangled in hate politics (one scene shows the atmosphere at his home – his family elder preaching a school kid about Akhand Bharat). He always sees a conspiracy theory involving Muslims. He says 'Yeh log sirf Mohammed Rafi ko sunenge, Kishore Kumar kabhi nahi sunenge' when he hears a patriotic song out of a radio while moving through a Muslim-dominated alley. He goes on to get a Swastik Tee to wear his heart on his shoulder, literally. This track is funny, thought-provoking at the same time. Other story tracks are equally good and engrossing.

All characters have their story-tracks running parallely, unrelated to each other and still we would be able relate all the stories to each other on a psychological level when all of them find their hope and redemption from their inner devils towards the end.
I will not spoil the fun and stimulation any thinking individual can get viewing this film. So I will stop here. With the best of casting, writing and performances, undoubtedly, this is one of the best movies for me. If there is one film that reflects our times as they are, it is this movie, Mumbai Meri Jaan. And I think Nishikant Kamat, with his unfailing thought, will only get better next time.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Musharaff: The General in his labyrinth

“Politics is a soldier’s curse” - Napolean

General Musharaff now fell ignominiously from grace and power after a chain of events triggered when his attempts to fire judges and quash political opponents' rights backfired. His disdain for democratic norms and civilian politicians does him in. He cuts a backroom deal for a face-saving exit from office. Too bad, he was nowhere near becoming the Kamal Ataturk of Pakistan (which he professed to be when he packed Nawazmia to Saudi) when he beat this retreat.

“I have confronted death and defied it several times in the past because destiny and fate have always smiled on me.”

"Considered purely in military terms, the Kargil operations were a landmark in the history of the Pakistani army."

"I would like to state emphatically that whatever movement has taken place so far in the direction of finding a solution to Kashmir is due considerably to the Kargil conflict,"

"...I was talking to my military secretary, Major General Nadeem Taj, seated to my right, when I heard a loud, though muffled, thud behind us. As my car became airborne I immediately realized what was happening-I was staring terrorism in the face. I thought ruefully that while leaders of other countries only visit scenes of carnage later or see it on a television screen; I was personally in the midst of it. Not only that-I was the target. But unlike most leaders, I am also a soldier, Chief of the army staff and supreme commander of my country's armed forces."
The self-congratulatory tone is all there above to see. All the PR general Pervez Musharaff has been maintaining could very well be Shah Rukh Khan's envy. All those vivid TV images where he tries sounding an earnest general with sugar-coated belligerence immediately spring to my mind.

So who was Musharaff? Was he a Muhajir with his prejudices about Hindu India? Was he a vengeful General reeling under the Kargil debacle after Nawaz Shariff unconditionally withdrew the troops? Was he a wannabe Kamal Ataturk? Was he a trustful ally in the war of terror? Or was he simply a product of the circumstances of war between ISI and Pakistan army during Nawaz Shariff's regime? Too complex are the queries, the General is in his endless labyrinth, it is just that he is no Simón Bolívar nor are we talking any magical realism here.
A commando at heart, he always displayed a taste for military adventurism. It is easy to take him as a sabre-rattling war-monger. In 1999 in Lahore, he boycotted Vajpayee visit. A few months later, he engineered Kargil adventure. In 2001 in Agra he pulled up a media coup, using the summit to gain some respect to his military rule in international community instead of actually making any headway regarding Kashmir or other issues. The Vajpayee government smarted under the debacle for a while. With all this expertise, the present situation must have been quite a retreat for the General.

After playing a wonderful double game with US on taliban and terrorism, his luck seems to have at last run out. Uncle Sam gave up on him but must have just chipped in with enough support to stop Nawazmia from vengefully packing off the General to Saudi.

Some folks in India think Musharaff was even-handed on Kashmir and other issues. Nothing could be farther from truth. Mere rhetoric does not mean flexibility. After all he is the same person who was responsible for the attack on India in Kargil.

Musharraf had only laid sweet-cover on complex issues. He bans Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and other groups but does not arrest those guys. He simply lets them go and regroup under a new banner. That is just one aspect of how he 'handled terror with an iron-fist'.
One more instance is from 2003 confidence building measures (CBMs). India presented some 12 concrete proposals like opening up travel between the Srinagar - Muzzafarabad and treatment of 20 children with heart-ailments on its own cost every year (This was after the successful operation on Baby Noor). These were proposals in good faith.

Ofcourse, Musharaff resisted the first proposal by insisting on involving UN. He then reciprocated with his own CBMs and they are - Pakistan would offer one hundred scholarships for Kashmiri students to study in professional institutions provide treatment for disabled Kashmir’s and assist widows and victims of rape in Indian held Kashmir through international human rights organizations! Wow, that was the General in his right skin, in his true elements.

Then, why was National Security Adviser (NSA) M.K. Narayanan mourning the General's exit? He argues that it is easier to deal with the General than any other 'civilian ruler'. And ofcourse he believes his exit would create a vacuum. This could be true but just because it has relatively been peaceful in Kashmir for couple of years doesn't mean Musharaff contributed to that peace in any way. He was too preoccupied in tackling Pakistan's own internal terrorism especially that linked to taliban, that he couldn’t open another front with India in Kashmir. After all, he was the one who not just engineered the Kargil adventure but publicly glorified it. How could he otherwise just sit silently?
However, this thinking on part of NSA and his ilk only betrays an escapist attitude of Indian establishment. They just want Musharaff to stay simply because he is under too much pressure to deliver on the Afghan front for the US and so he would not be able focus on Pakistan's obsession Kashmir. They assume that US being his main support (in absence of legitimate democratic mandate back home), the General, despite all his chicanery, can not antagonize them. So he would stay focused in at least pretending as if he is fighting terror. Turning on the heat in Kashmir would be too visible and would damage his anti-terror posture.

The Indian establishment must have thought about getting some sleep during this 'silent' period. How I wish they just did that at least instead of raking up the Amarnath issue and making a near-normal situation go bad. Having Musharaff for some more time would have may be given some more peaceful time but would not have helped make progress on any thorny issues between India and Pakistan. Musharaff refused to learn politics and defied pragmatism and so he wouldnt have been of any usefulness. Instead of just sleeping over issues and being escapist, the Indian government should very well look ahead courageously for solutions, as it did in case of the Nuclear Agreement with NSG, IAEA and the US.
So instead of waiting for the Pakistan's feudal political ethos, immature democracy, the ISI-army tussle throw up another general, India should go ahead and do the hard business, even if it is with the Mr. ten percent now in place. Politics and pragmatism when pursued unrelentingly eventually would lead us to the right solution.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Ashta Chamma: The importance of being Mahesh!

"..I've now realised for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest."
- Jack aka Ernest John in Oscar Wilde's 'The importance of being Ernest'.

More than a 100 years after Oscar Wilde penned his famous play ‘The importance of being Ernest’, Mohanakrishna Indraganti comes up with an adaptation of the same, and how! A gem of a movie with perfect writing and casting, it keeps us so engaged from credits-to-credits that I actually find it hard to believe that the play set in Victorian age can be adapted any better. The main credit goes to Mohanakrishna for successfully making this story native with a masterstroke – using the name of Mahesh, the filmstar. Mohanakrishna‘s Telugu dialogues with the wordplay fit in so perfectly with the mood of this light-hearted movie. After a long time, we actually get to hear actors speaking Telugu and not just sounding that way! This movie is yet another example what good casting can do. Some of scenes featuring lead actress Colors Swathi were simply excellent. The two male leads put in excellent timing and it shows that they didn’t make it to movies just because they are someone’s sons!
The movie taps on Maheshmania successfully and that is where Mohanakrishna showed his knack into popular psyche. And despite all good writing and faithful adaptation Mohanakrishna produced, this movie wouldn’t have turned up so well if not for this knack. After all, the name Mahesh makes the story our own, adds liveliness, an extra zing and gives the movie good promotion(Otherwise the name Ernest has no baggage in the original play, it’s just that Gwendolen, whose part Swathi plays here, likes that name very fondly). So Mahesh Babu inadvertently introduces ‘The importance of being Ernest’ into mainstream Telugu homes.
Welcome Oscar Wilde.

Monday, August 18, 2008

DARK KNIGHT: Got the load of Heath Ledger!

“Wait ’til they get a load of me” - Jack Nicholson’s Joker in “Batman” - 1989

Wow, so those bags of money shown in the movie's opening bank heist scene, elaborately shot on IMAX, are nothing compared with the worldwide box-office haul "Dark Knight" will take from theaters. Mounted on a $185 mn budget, Warner’s Dark Knight already collected well over $470 mn in US alone. Writer-director Christopher Nolan is undoubtedly the White Knight for Warner. However, Heath Ledger contributed to some of the box-office pull for this somber-themed Batman sequel, pre release with his premature death and post release with his fleshed-out performance. Such is his mark on the movie that the first image Dark Knight vividly recalls from my memory is a shot of Ledger’s Joker with the pasty white face, sloppy, garish red lipstick and greasy, stringy green hair leaning out the window of a Gotham City police car with his hair streaming in the wind. He looks like a happy wet dog shaking off the wetness in the sun.

In the movie, Heath Ledger's psycho Joker says as much "I'm a dog chasing cars, I wouldn't know what to do with one of them if I caught it." He further tells Christian Bale's caped crusader "I don't want to kill you,". "You complete me!" This is the essence and USP of the very labyrinthine Dark Knight. Its not just about the customary victory of good over evil, but the actual war that needs to be fought to earn that victory. It is about the actual cost of that victory. The evil here is not driven by worldly ambitions, criminal motivations but is driven maniacally by the sheer desire to counter the good embodied by Batman. The Joker sees his existence as the necessary antithesis for the vigilante and his righteousness. The Batman protects order, the joker wants chaos. As Joker says, the Batman has rules to adhere to as a custodian of order. And so he provokes the Batman to cross the line with his devious, diabolical plots and creates moral complications for him. He is out to prove that nobility won't hold in a world of disorder and chaos.

But did we not see this villainy before? And so what is the big deal? The deal is that this is the superhero genre, which it itself has some constraints in story telling, given its vast ardent fan base which is pre-conditioned on action and adventure. For instance, Batman has been part of American pop culture for almost 70 years and he cant be shown without the customary big fights, chases, explosions and the over-scaled action extravaganza and be accepted by his devout fans. So Dark Knight provides all of these, in fact most of them shot grandly in the IMAX format. If it just stopped there, it would have been yet another pop-culture throwaway. But it ventures the extra mile and focuses on the thin red line separating the Batman and the Joker in their pursuit of each other and the cost of Batman pursuing justice without turning it into an exercise of his vengeance. This is best exemplified in the scene where Batman beats up the Joker in the police cell. That moment, Joker just won.
Although it does not quite answer, 'The Dark Knight' ponders well on what it takes for a superhero to not turn into a beast when he fights a beast. And that in itself is a great achievement considering that the villain here is not a super-villain with none of those fancy gadgets Batman has. The Joker is very much a mortal, complete with a knife instead of a gun! (Many must have completely overlooked this fact that to start with, the Joker-Batman war was not one between equals. Thanks to Ledger’s performance and the excellent author-backing his role got).

So, how did Dark Knight manage all this allegorical and psychological musings within the parameters of this genre? How could it do all the philosophical examination of why we need superheroes, and what do they mean? Well, I can think of two reasons. Firstly, the movie went longer, at 150 minutes. Secondly, it helped that this is the second in the series and that meant that the screenwriters could spend lesser time on character development and exposition and more time on the anatomy of Batman-Joker warfare.

Dark Knight is good conceptualization and imagination. This is further abetted by very good writing, casting, acting, and direction. This may very well be the pinnacle of this genre. It would be hard to imagine anything greater in conceptual scale, considering the limiting parameters of this genre. The aftertaste is definitely that of the Joker which may well, in all probability, fetch a posthumous Oscar for Ledger. Joker’s languid body language and slow cadence of speech reflects that of a pitiless psychopath who fears neither pain nor death. He revels in chaos and bloody anarchy. The slithery tongue and the sucking and the sloshing sound it makes, the occasional jerking of his body, all point to his own metal realm and its febrile madness. Or was Ledger fighting his own demons before his suicide!? I wonder if Ledger knew, while doing all this, that this would be one of his last movies. Such is the intensity he generates which we cant escape from, long after the credits roll down.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A sequel to Singh is Kingg!?

Talking straight: Akshay lights up the screen in an otherwise unbearable movie.

Singh is Kingg is a fantastic idea wasted. A simpleton sardar Happy Singh in all his earnestness, goes to Australia to bring back Lucky Singh, an underworld don, to his village. Lucky was native of Happy’s own village and everyone in the village thinks Lucky bought bad name to their village and community by becoming a don. So, Happy ventures down-under for the pride of his village and to alleviate the suffering of Lucky’s parents. Now, with so many Sardarji jokes abound about how they go about things, we could very well imagine the fun this idea could have generated, especially when you have a very good performance in the bumpkin Sardar role (What else could we ask when the start playing lead role could groove well when the inevitable song routine comes and fight great in the action sequences?). Alas, this is not be, courtesy, POOR writing and indifferent direction. All that was expected was ludicrous adventures of a sardarji in phorenland. And what we get to see is ludicrous film-making! A potential Munnabhai kind of plot has been lost. I yawned though the film and I guess so did many.

But what works for the film is Akshay Kumar (well, let me remind I am no actor’s fan or anti-fan). He plays very well as Happy Singh, the village idiot, who though is very well-meaning, inadvertently and inevitably makes a mash of things around. Akshay is the reason I feel this film has wasted this very good idea. If not for him, I wouldn’t have seen an idea in the first place! So disoriented and pointless is the writing and film-making.

Akshay is the saving grace, and perhaps the match-point of this film. What with the openings the film got and the good run it promises at the box office. Firstly, the accidental publicity (Manmohan Singh winning the confidence emotion) to the title ‘Singh I Kingg’ helped the film and so did Akshay’s great promos. Now, despite flawed script, non-existent screenplay and poor production values, Akshay may sustain some of the extraordinary openings the film got with his entertaining screen presence. Especially, the kids may like this and that may bring in the families. It is this highly possible success that makes me wonder whether Akshay will reprise this role in a sequel! This idea has got such a potential and the name 'Singh is Kingg' itself could be made into such a brand that any success now could trigger the next business opportunity for Akshay and the producers. With some good writing thrown in, Akshay could very well come back with a Lage Raho Happy Singh kind of film. And then no one would complain, and nor will I yawn.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Could The Happening really happen?

"If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live." - Albert Einstein
Manoj Night Shyamalan got a doozy of a premise and Albert Einstein to back it! (Though Einstein must be turning in his grave for what is now being attributed to him). The Bees disappear and a discussion about it (which involves the above quote) in a Philly high school classroom builds up THE HAPPENING.
The movie starts with beautifully shot cumulous clouds and with James Newton Howard’s menacing music. It gives us the eerie feel and an idea about events about to happen (not that this film as a whole is scary, despite Shyamalan’s claims). Suddenly, mass suicides happen in parts of north-east US, notably in parks. Not far into the movie, are we told the reason. The plant life, in a last-ditch attempt to save themselves, evolve into releasing neurotoxins that disorient the human brain and turn them into suicidal zombies. The plant life starts targeting humans. This triggers mass suicide in public places with trees around.

The idea of green vegetation turning malignant might have seemed preposterous if handled by a lesser director, but not with this auteur at the helm. Shyamalan has his visual flair stamped all over the movie. His regular cinematographer Tak Fujimoto taps into the shock value of the theme with such finesse that we dread the rustling trees and find the moaning wind ominous. With some trepidation, we wonder about what lies just beyond. Never has the sight of wind blowing across green fields seemed so eerie. The effect of seeing humans turning so viciously on themselves and then their falling bodies is not lost on us. Music and Camerawork are two main characters in this film and they do exceedingly well. The problem starts with the ‘real’ characters, a couple, played by Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel. Both are miscast, the latter more so . Both are poorly written for especially when you consider this - "Suppose you knew you were going to die. Suppose you knew you had only a minute of life left. All that other stuff -- what arrangements would you make, would you look for a way to escape -- all of that is done, over with, dusted. You have a minute, period. What would you do with that minute? What would you tell the one you loved?". This is what Shyamalan said the movie’s core is about and this is the part completely missing from the movie! Blame it on his writing, Wahlberg’s wooden acting and Deschanel’s BIG translucent blue eyes, the movie has its soul missing. And, so, everyone wonders what the climax scenes are all about.

So, we have a bang of a premise which peaks early and ends in a whimper. While the movie’s pace works for it, its writing fails it. But Shyamalan has become so adept with this genre -- paranormal stories with a wait-for-it twist ending that the movie sure is entertaining despite its failings. It successfully plays on people's fears for the future about such things as terrorism and climate change. It gives us the thrills and pops up the big question "Could this really happen?" through its provocative theme. The theme of nature’s payback, itself sits somewhere between science and fiction.While
some see the movie as a parable in view of man's continued assault on our green planet, some may view this as sci-fi, in line with red tide syndrome mentioned in the movie. Half of the viewers may find the movie too thoughtful and so may digress into laughter seeing the boom mikes hanging over actors’ heads in some scenes (unbelievably poor production values, I wondered if these scenes actually made Shyamalan promote this movie as 'the greatest B grade film ever').

Call it the hypening, the knives were out for the movie even before it opened and when it did, almost all reviewers dutifully panned it. Despite this, the $60 mn movie collected well over $130 mn in the 1 month since its release. Maybe now the critics should take a break and take honest filmmaking a little more seriously.

Shyamalan has never been a critics' favourite, even his sensational hit The Sixth Sense was panned by major newspapers. Maybe his getting up close and personal with a very sparse set of central characters while rambling about faith frightens or bores most of the critics, they simply write him and his movies off. But, Shyamalan surely is the one who is not afraid of making films that do not appeal to everyone; he is true to his inner voice seems to be quite sure about elements of his craft. What else would make him turn down those high-profile offers from Harry Potter, Narnia and Indiana Jones franchisees? In the seven years since he was knighted by Newsweek magazine as the next Spielberg, he has never tried to cement his A-list status. After all, his 2 biggest hits grossed $1.7 bn worldwide and it could have been easy setting up his tent-pole. He did exactly the opposite. He did not even move to LA. He stills lives and shoots in his beloved Philly, his city of brotherly love (by now it has become to him what Manhattan is to Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese). He took on the bosses at Disney quite publicly, over the script of ‘Lady in the water’. He claimed that fight was to preserve his individuality and to keep making movies he believed in. He parted from Disney and joined Warner. After the debacle of ‘Lady..’, he would have been a broken man if not for his conviction and self-belief . He seems to be high on self-realization and I guess that brings out the many layers in his movies. I loved all his movies since 'The Sixth Sense' with the exception of 'The lady..', which i did not watch. Despite all the flak they attracted, I very much loved his ‘Signs’ and ‘The Village’ for all the layers and nuances. Although, as one of my friend suggests, that could just be my own interpretations. His novel themes are stimulating and are refreshing among so much conventional action/drama/romantic stories.

Notwithstanding how good he is at his genre, I would just like to see a regular story from him without the spooky touch, where everything is what it seems! Well, it’s quite possible that with his ability to harness his undergrad good looks, a million watt smile, and an ease to talk nineteen to the dozen, he can make the Ronnie Screwvalas trust him with their monies for his non-spooky projects as well. All he needs to do is open up his mind, empty out the dead people and then write. Let’s hope it happens.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

If only they could split the trophy!

“I am just glad I was able to win another one before Rafa starts winning them all" – Federer after 2007 Wimbledon Final.

When Rafa cried in the locker-room after losing a superb five-set final to Roger Federer at Wimbledon last year, he earned a rebuke from his uncle and coach, Toni, that no tennis match was important enough to warrant tears. Rafa cried again last night, and, warrant it did, he just earned an extraordinary victory at his third finals attempt, the claycourt master having just dethroned the king of grass.

Rafael Nadal dethroned five-time champion Roger Federer as king of Wimbledon last night, with an epic 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-7 (8/10), 9-7 win in one of the greatest grand slam finals of all time. It is already counted as the greatest Wimbledon final ever. In the centre court festooned in near-darkness after almost five hours of epic, see-saw tennis, Rafa finally prevailed in one of the sport's all-time classics, vanquishing Roger Federer in his attempt to become the first man since the 1880s to win six consecutive Wimbledon championships. Twenty-seven years after a left-handed John McEnroe wrecked Borg's hopes of landing six in a row, Federer's dreams are also scuppered by another left hander!
The win also ended Federer's six-year, 65-match winning streak on grass. This victory made the 22-year-old Nadal only the third man to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same season, and the first since Bjorn Borg in 1980, while giving Spain its first men's champion since Manolo Santana in 1966.

In doing so, Rafa had to beat not just his rival but the weather and the light! Downpours twice sent the players running for covers. Lewis Hamilton, another victor in equally bad conditions, can count himself unlucky to be thoroughly upstaged on a day when he won the British grand prix. (Ofcourse, he beat no Federer).

Rafa gave us a glimpse of the things to come in the previous year's final. It was a tough loss. Bjorn Borg indeed predicted 2008 would have a traditional Federer-Roger final but Rafa would win it. How true that turned out to be. Somehow, Federer's magic wand does not work when it comes to the majorcan muscleman. He looks very much a mortal, unlike the superhero he looks like while playing others. We have seen the Baghdatis’ and Roddicks’ of the world who run away with the initial set, only to exhaust and fall flat for Federer to walk all over them in the next three sets. Rafa is different; he is a bull dog who never gives up. No two players have met in more grand slam finals in the Open era, and nor has any pair met in three successive finals at two different majors, as did this Swiss and the Spanish pair. Over the years, it looks as if they, with each passing encounter, got affected by each other! Initially, we presumed Federer was all finesse and Rafa, all force and then they started borrowing a little from each other. For, now we see glimpses of that ferocity in Federer even as Rafa refined his game.
Even as they mutually respect each other off-court, they put every ounce of their mental and physical ability into the game and compete fiercely. Four weeks after humiliating Federer in the French Open final, Rafa demonstrated that the balance of power in men's tennis had shifted in his favour when he punched through Roger Federer's aura of invincibility that just kept on growing since 2003. Rafa, the longest-reigning No. 2 in modern tennis history proved that he can win a big one on something other than the red clay of Paris. Rafa had only one title on grass, Federer's total stood at 10. Rafa had a 30-7 win-loss record on grass, the Federer's was a far more impressive 81-11. No one had been able to beat Roger the emperor on his favourite turf for 65 matches. Grass, its his fiefdom.

However, Rafa had a much more impressive warm up to Wimbledon than Federer. Rafa beat Roddick and Djokovic in the same week. He won his first title on grass. He had a 11-6 win-loss record against Federer. He had all the momentum. Such has been the Spaniard's form, entering the contest on the back of a 23-match winning streak, he made even the stylish Swiss look like an ordinary club player when he bagged the first set and clawed back from 4-1 down to take the second. Federer had his opportunities but could only convert one of 13 break points while sending down 52 unforced errors to the world number two's 27.

As the storm clouds moved in, Federer began to lose his trademark cool becoming frustrated with his performance, one commentator remarking that it was "very dark around here and it's not just Federer's mood."

It is almost a Shakespearean tragedy for Federer, the rise and the fall. A 'federer forehand' ends it all for him in darkness where he could hardly see his challenger. "I couldn’t see who I was playing against by the end", Federer said.

As one commentator put it, "Here's Federer with the best forehand the sport has ever seen, and he puts a routine ball into the net. But then, that's the story of Nadal. He always makes you hit one more shot than you want to."

I am a big fan of Federer and it hurts to see him loose after treating us with all those class acts over the years, but then Rafa deserves it and he is indeed a worthy successor, in game and in manners. If Graciousness and humility can still be found at the highest level in world’s professional sports, I guess it’s only here. Maybe it has something to do with none of them being an American or Australian!

It was poignant to see just how much the Wimbledon crowd love Federer--they didn't cheer for him at the end, they roared. But then the old has to give way to the new. And whatever Federer feared has happened.Rafa, as always, was magnanimous in victory: "He's still the number one, he's still the best. He is a five-time champion and I have just the one." He further said "I had match points but Roger is very tough. I want to congratulate Roger because he is great for tennis, win or lose” in his broken-up English. "It's hard for me to appreciate it right now," Federer said afterward. "I can't look at it as a feel-good thing. Probably later in life, I'll be happy about the way I fought, the way it lived up to expectations. And congratulations to Rafa, a great competitor."

"It's rough on me now, obviously, you know, to lose the biggest tournament in the world over maybe a bit of light”.Federer admitted the loss was probably the toughest of his career. "[It was] probably my hardest loss, by far. I mean, it's not much harder than this right now," he said.

"Probably later on in life, you know, I'll go, 'That was a great match'. But right now it's not much of... a positive thing to end this match." "I'm happy we lived up to the expectations, you know. I'm happy the way I fought. That's all I could really do."

Well, just like with a hard-fought victory, a very close loss too takes time to sink and to be seen in perspective. And then Federer can only be proud of the greatest ever Wimbledon final he staged for us. For now, the cardigan must make do with the five buttons! I hope he comes back to his winning ways, beat the Sampras record and then maybe, add the sixth button.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

GV Prakash - Rahmanesque?

One of my friends did not quite agree with what i said vis-a-vis south indian and Hindi film music in my post on Dasavatharam. Well, here i am back with an instance that explains in part what i said there. GV Prakash, the 21 year old nephew of AR Rahman shows yet again after 'Ullasanga Utsahanga' the path the southern film music (especially Tamil) took after Rahman took over. Just listen to the compositions in 'Kathanayakudu/Kuselan' to see the kind of efforts put to bring in the many layers in vocals and orchestration. Even as he was working with the same traditional instruments, the newness is hard to miss. We got used to this kind of diet since Roja days and that is why i did not quite understand why Aascar Ravichandran had to rope in Himesh Reshammiya, who at best can hum well and rehash some old tunes.

Coming back to 'Kathanayakudu', songs are very
Maybe this is the only dubbed film in the last several years where we can actually hear the lyrcis! Well, because we have Veturi writing 2 beautiful melodies while Anantha Sriram handles 2 mor
e. What a relief without the Bhuvanachandras..! Prakash composed in such a way that he let the singers be audible while they sang and then took over the music-mixing in the interlude. Songs are meaningful and AR Rahman's impact is inevitable though. He looks like Rahman's younger days' version. In fact, some bits remind us of what Rahman did in 'Donga Donga' and 'Oke Okkadu'.

Couple of songs are especially for Rajini fans. Both are very well written by Anantha Sriram. Well, we are definitely going to see much more from this guy, who like Prakash is around 20. '
Cinema Cinema' eulogizes cinema and its reigning superstar. Shankar Mahadevan goes to the hilt. This song is a nice example as to how Rajini successfully packages his image and stardom into his movies. In fact this song is a best-fit for Rajini (despite so many stars around in south) as it recalls his fan following in other asian countries. Khailash Kher further raises the tempo for the superstar in 'Ra Ra Ra..'

It would be fun to watch Rajini in his many avatars in these songs.