Friday, April 27, 2007

My first attempt at pop-up video

I fell in love with "Music and Lyrics"

What it is about

Has been 80's pop idol Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant) has one last chance to revive his career from low-paying appearances in theme parks and high-school reunions. Ruling teen-Goddess Cora Corman (Britney Spears + early Aguilera + Shakira) asks him to compose a song for her latest singles album. Problem - Alex is a pathetic lyricist. Sophie Fisher (Barrymore) appears to be one last chance he has. That is if she can get over her insecurity and if he can overcome the urge to repeat his past success.

When should I watch it

Right now! I just came back watching it and I am already considering a DVD purchase when it's released. This is within the top 3 movies I have watched in this year. Please keep in mind that I watched over 110 movies in this year already and am not much of a fan of the pure "romantic" movies! Still, I gave M&L a 9/10 in IMDB a few minutes back.

Reasons I loved it -

(1) Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore are the King and Queen of romantic comedy. Despite their very strong presence and despite sharing the screen for just about 13 minutes, 17 year old Haley Bennett stole the show as the edgy yet likable teen idol Cora Corman.

(2) Like any successful romantic movie, the story is simple and with enough touchy-funny moments. To paraphrase from the movie, a good romance is much like dating an attractive person first time. You will always relish the time you're at it. A love story, on the other hand, is probably like lyrics. You notice the real person -- or the words -- later and possibly understand your deeper feelings for him/her/ composition. M&L follows every known formula of good romance and, yet, makes your in-theater moments truly enjoyable.

(3) Just for the reasons given above, I would have given M&L a 6.5/10. What really made the difference was the exceptionally made 80's pop hit video and -- in the end credits -- Pop-Up Video style "trivia" on the video.

Pop-Up video has remained my most favorite TV-program ever! PUV is an intensively researched and supremely hilarious wave of mostly useless trivia accompanying hit musical videos (rarely, some movies too). The serialization of the facts would often lead to an inescapable trivia chain starting from a very topical fact (Simpson twins' "Hold Me Now" -- " 60% of callers who are put on hold hang up") that often ends in a related yet inconsequential -- sometimes unverifiable and so, naughtily addictive -- factoid(" The same percentage of women like "to be held" before sex") .

The same song had the pop-up question -- " Twins are most likely to be found in which US state?" You would be an idiot to pay any attention to the music -- or even to the raunchy video if it is one -- before they show the next pop-up-- "Minnesota".

As a trivia obsessed person who lives to watch movies and loves a well made spoof, nothing could have satisfied me more than a great take-off on 80s music videos (the part where Hugh Grant is unconscious on a hospital bed but wakes up singing as soon as the busty nurse bends down to inspect him -- takes the cake!) followed by a faux-Pop-Up Video style rendition of the same! That was sweet.


  • What could be more entertaining than a PhD style article on pop-up video? The whole point of pop-up video was to make guys who hate TV watch TV.
  • Sadly, no new pop-up video episode was made after 2002. They still show some of the old episodes in VH1.
  • Only one DVD (Pop-Up Video:80s) is available on the series. Search Ebay!
  • Some of the trivia gems from pop-up video - (each line is a pop-up, following the earlier) --
Song -- "Rush Rush" -- Paula Abdul
  • Rushing on stairs causes nearly 1 million injuries per year.
  • Rush Limbaugh has rushed to the altar several times - his 1994 marriage was his third.
  • Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas performed the ceremony.
Song -- "Hold Me Now" -- Thompson Twins
  • A "new button" was introduced around the world in 1938.
  • (shows picture of flashing "HOLD" button)
Song -- "What is Love?" -- Howard Jones
  • 78% of Americans say they are currently "romantically involved."
  • The same percentage say songs about love are "unromantic."
  • Percentage of marriages that end in death or divorce: 100
Song -- "Stranger in Moscow" -- Michael Jackson
  • A stranger in Moscow is a neznakomets.
  • In Los Angeles: freak
Song -- "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" -- Whitney Houston
  • What are the most common daydream subjects?
  • Sex and career change
Song -- "Cryin'" -- Aerosmith
  • Wolves chew and spit out food for their young to eat.
  • Humans do not.
  • Humans are the only animals that cry when upset.
  • At age 13, most Americans develop their first case of "puppy love."
  • Age 13 1/2: first phobias.
Some other gems --
  • Every minute in the United States, 6 people turn 17.
  • There are 114 Jacks currently living in Bloomington. (Then) -- None of them live with a Diane.
  • According to the Hosiery Association of America, a pair pf pantyhose should last 8 wearings. (then) -- 2 is the norm.
  • This video was shot 452 years to the day after Copernicus' death.
  • A banana is 75% water.
  • Nuclear war would freeze most of the earth - not melt it.
  • Cold showers actually increase sexual arousal.
  • Frogs have no lips.
I could not find any original pop-up video clip, but here's one on Mandy Moore that's close to the original (though, the real pop-up 'sound' and the entry pattern don't match)! I am told MTV-India had also done some pop-up video style episodes on Bollywood numbers in late 90s. This person can validate that. May I request a post, Sir?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Not so "Hot Fuzz"

What is this about

This is a spoof on "buddy cop" movies from the maker of "Shaun of the Dead" (was spoof of zombie movies). Supercop Nicholas Angel is transferred from London Metropolitan Police force to a country called "Sandford". It's so tranquil that the police evidence room is empty, detectives show up at work only to gorge on ice cream, underage folks are served beer unasked at the area pub and local police chief keeps his son in payroll just to keep an eye on him! However, things turn a bit different after Angel shows up. A few people die mysteriously, and no one else but Angel suspects it to be murder. Angel partners with Butterman (local chief's son) and eases up on the country lifestyle. Local retailer Skinner (Timothy Dalton) is investigated by Angel for the murders. However, he discovers much more -- and many more -- behind the murders.

When should I watch

If you ever have seen "Point Break" or "Bad Boys" or "Lethal Weapon" -- you will have a lot of fun. This movie mostly copies elements from and makes fun of the three above. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have been roommates *and* best friends for years and it totally shows in their incredible chemistry. Nick Frost, especially, has most of the comic moments thanks to his very fluid facial expressions.

In another interesting perspective, this is one of the very few British spoof of American (action) movies.

Some scenes - like the Priest shouting "Jesus Christ" after getting shot; or Constable Butterman having a "brain freeze" attack (ever had your entire throat-and-above numb after trying to gulp too much of cold ice cream?) just when they *really* needed to chase bad folks; taking the shortcut that has incredible amount of roadblocks; or the twin cynical detectives who just hate working -- are pretty good. Even though HF has its own fun moments, I expected way more subtlety and a bit diverse range of stuff spoofed.

A spoof is a tad different from situational comedy. Core idea of enjoying a great spoof may not be belly-tickling laughs, but the fun to spot out every tiny detail in the main that become inconsequentially laughable on a more realistic day. Hot Fuzz lacked delving into those "tiny details" to make it totally irreverent. There were "cool" car chases indeed -- and yes, Butterman and Angel unnecessarily turned the car quite a bit, skidding and all before actual chasing -- but in most occasions irrelevance -- the prime spoof element -- took a backseat over an almost believable story.

May be that's the idea. Even "Shaun of the Dead" was an almost OK "film" on its own -- had a nice story, real fights etc. May be the audience for 100%-proof spoof is not that strong in number to warrant a full movie -- but "Hot Fuzz" was definitely not a spoof on the rocks. HF got a 8.2 in IMDB, but even Mel Brooks' "Robin Hood - Men in Tights" (got 5.9) was far more enjoyable as a pure spoof.

  • Apparently "they" took off from work for a while and watched 135 action flicks before making this movie. Nice excuse!
  • Cate Blanchett appears in this movie -- very briefly -- wearing a surgical mask *and* uncredited. Weird why they took her then!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Vacancy - Leaves No Room for a Sequel

What is this about

A soon to be divorced couple (Luke Wilson and ever-hot Kate Beckinsale) goes about "300 miles" off highway while night-driving in rural California. The car breaks down near a deserted "Pinewood Motel". They decide to spend the night in the motel. Once inside the "Honeymoon Suite" -- that was probably cleaned last a quarter century ago -- they discover some extremely violent snuff VHS tapes. Wait! "Honey, doesn't it look like OUR room this is shot in!!??"
As the banging on their door increases, bitterness between the couple gives in to the alliance to survive.

When should I watch this

I watched this on a Monday night. Immediately after watching a pretty good spoof /homage movie - "Hot Fuzz" (review forthcoming). On Mondays most of the movies would be fine with you but "Vacancy" exceeded my expectations because -
  • The central characters of this chase/horror/thriller movie are not idiotic SCREAMing teens having no idea about their impending demise. Most of the "I know what you did last Summer" type movies is really about a cruel murder before or after some very wild party. Movies like "Cabin Fever" - slightly better than the former series - put together so much unabashed sex and gore that you could miss feeling the impact of one, or worse, both! After watching most such movies I feel exactly how I feel after a really good brunch buffet. Lots of food, yes. All favorites, totally. But boy, I wish I could have broken it down over two meals!!

    There's so much gore, that you would not be able to enjoy the "scenes" with chilled beer in your hand -- expecting a hooded loser entering the scene and chop of significant part of anatomy of one of the orgasmic characters on the bed (or within the woods!). And there's so much (mostly teen) nudity that the actual shock scenes won't really reach the necessary climax!

    "Vacancy" has a very unusual pair of central characters - a bitter couple! So guess what they said immediately after noting the bed probably has never been cleaned in any of the Bush presidencies (or in between) -

    Amy Fox - (Rolling eyes) I'm sleeping with my clothes on!
    David Fox - (Bland, expressionless face) I'm sleeping with my SHOES on!!

    Won't you love such a "motel" movie to NOT start with weird sex but bitter-ass "I can do better than you" exchange between a blaming couple? I did.

  • I won't spoil the movie for you, but it has an unusually usual ending. I am almost tired of applying my "brains" to figure out the endings of recent thrillers. It severely hurts the quality of driving back home after the movie. You keep thinking "OK - so they're not really finished. They showed this handkerchief from the killer gang and somebody picked it up after the end credits! DAMN!!!"

    Last night I drove back peacefully. I was sure everything was settled at the theater itself leaving little room for a sequel.

    Don't you hate good movies that intentionally ends with a not-so-subtle hint of a sequel at the end credit? Why don't they just make both of it together and just edit it well to let you catch a good night's sleep? We will have two (or may be more) climaxes in the same movie in that case. However, in hindsight, one with multiple climaxes may not necessarily be a "guy" movie!

  • Even though the main premise was "snuff film" there's surprisingly less real gore in it.

If you're a thriller fan, watch director Nimrod Antal's "Kontroll". Very smart-made movie.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Earth Day and Some Extreme Measures

Today, April 22, is "Earth Day". Mother Earth is not only getting old, it's getting warmer, more polluted and environmentally unstable. I was talking to a friend in Germany this morning and he said the summer is already intense there in spring. Personally, I try to do my bit to reduce my "carbon footprint" to leave this world as habitable to my grandchildren as it was to me. I read most of my news online (that saves about TWO trees a year per person); I live close to work to reduce my commute to less than 80% of the US average (about 50 gallons of Gas saved a year); I recycle my coke cans, cardboard boxes and plastic. When buying any energy consuming gadget I always see if it is "Energy Star" labeled, start the air-conditioner only when it's totally needed and I do not use the conventional filament light bulbs. Overall, if someone rates every citizen on a scale of 10 - on Environment - I would not top the class, but I would easily get a 7.

However, just like any such burning issue there are some really aggressive "tips" surfacing every day. One such tip -- read immediately after a heavy and sumptuous dinner -- has had me thinking.

I get the point. Average commode uses 3.5 gallons per flush. Put some pebbles in there to make it to 1.6 gallons per flush. You save roughly 730 gallons a year. The problem is - primary objective of flushing may not be quite met. I am a heavy 'weekend eater'. Be it parties, dinner invites, belated birthdays -- I end up eating thrice the normal amount between the Friday afternoon and Sunday night. Now, biologically at least, this should increase my bowel volume three times between Saturday and Monday mornings. Sometimes, especially following Indian meals, the volume increase is duly manifested as an equal increase in the number of trips. Thus volume ejected out of body per trip remains constant, pretty(?) much. So what took 3.6 gallons on an otherwise quiet and calm Wednesday morning takes at least two full flushes on Sunday! As observed after gorging on to an Indian buffet, the number of trips goes up as well as the sheer volume resulting in an exponentially increasing volume of water. I just cannot imagine trying to 'move it out' by using a pittance of 1.6 gallons. I may stand and keep pushing the flush buttons like people in Rural Bangla keep pushing a tubewell before bathing.

Forget flushing the remains from a dinner, I have serious doubts whether 1.6 gallons would be sufficient enough to change the physical property of the water 'there' from a pale yellowish to the 'colorless, odorless' liquid known as life after a long Friday night beer party!

There's also this equation where volume of water you would need to flush down anything solid through a 2-inch diameter elliptical hole would be a function of the shape and length of the stuff your body is throwing out. Good Indian Vegeterian meals, Italian Pasta meals (with lots of cheese not lots of red meats) or even certain salads may not necessarily produce nice tiny pellets that would easily bow down to a thin stream of water. Sometimes all you produce down there is one single piece of an oblong "Big John" that you may yourself wonder -- after that painful 'labor' scream accompanying its ejection -- "How the hell it was inside me in that shape and did not even bend or break down!" In those cases the 1.6 gallons may just nicely caress the surfaces of it without any realistic chance of moving it at all. I adopt a nice 'slice, dice and wipe' technique when a truly muscular piece obstructs most of the whites I could see down there. First flush is to slice and dice. The second flush is to wipe of every single 'stain' proving such a monster ever existed!

1.6 gallons won't take it any far!

Seriously, saving water while flushing is an excellent idea. All I want to say is you should have options. I noted the "Dual-Flush toilet" as the best invention in 2006.

You can use two "modes" using either small or large chamber of water as output. On those after-three-bottles-of-beer or after a huge-wedding-buffet -- use the "large" volume one. On casual encounters otherwise, just use the "tiny" volume one.

No shit!! This is what I call a great piece of engineering. It solves the problem; gives the user a diverse set of options (including the one to reintroduce the problem it's trying to solve); makes the base system more complicated; increases the base price of the product and results the engineer promoted beyond his level of competence.

P.S. About extreme measures and environment, please pay close attention to this research as well. One Dr. Bala has found that chopping down all trees in the world would actually slow down global warming. He found out that trees' "heating effect" (they're darker and thus retain more heat than an otherwise bare earth would) exceeds their "cooling effect" (absorbing Carbon for photosynthesis) by at least 0.3 degree per year.

Let me restart subscription to my newspaper delivered at my door. I am now ashamed to have saved four trees over last couple of years.

Thank You Sunnybhai!

There are some days that would forever remain etched in your memory down to the detail of how you sat cross-legged on the sofa reading those three panels of "Phantom" strip in the day's newspaper. Dec 27, 1984 was one such day in my life. I can vividly remember at least 20 strokes from that epic innings of Sunil Gavaskar.

Sunny grew up playing "Court Cricket" or "Gully Cricket" in a dense Bombay where he would be declared out if he hit the ball above a certain height. According to Sunny, he could never really come out of this 'defensive' mindset, and it resulted in a less than average one-day career. Yet he was -- apart from clearly being the best test opener ever --a great reader of the game, not just a local genius who somehow had a few unbelievable games like Vinod Kambli. Even in one-dayers, he adjusted and at the very end of his career gifted us an incredibly reactive 103 not out against New Zealand in Reliance Cup (World Cup 87).

Naturally, when such a great and intelligent player comes with words like these you expect somebody up there will pay attention to it and will focus the action to rectify the errors, not worsen it by following the formula that started the slide in the first place!

"When Chappell took over, there was optimism all around that Indian cricket would be ready to challenge Australia for the title of the best team in the world.

Instead, at the end of his tenure, Indian cricket is down in the dumps with a first-round exit in the World Cup, and is as fractured and divided as seldom before. The most promising of talents, as recognised by the ICC Cricket voting panel, has lost his way and nobody of note has come through in this period."

[Note: "divided as seldom before". Sunny's choice of words - in this case adding "seldom" in between - has always been a magic in itself. That "seldom" would bring an impish grin to anyone remembering the power struggle in Indian Cricket in early 80s!]

Please read Gavaskar's column in its entirety. Cricinfo - the so-called "leading" cricket site - has remained incredibly mum even after 24 hours this syndicated column was handed off to press. This adds yet another star to Cricinfo's partial and rumor-mongering reportage that could benefit to only a handful cricketers the website is 'allied' to.

According to Cricinfo, Sourav Ganguly should be dropped irrespective of the runs scored. If he scores too much runs, Cricinfo subtly starts rumor of a "contract" between Ganguly and his sponsor that rewards Ganguly for the time he spends at crease!! Ganguly's average, if not applicable his striking rate, and if not applicable -- sadly -- his age is sited as the reason the player "must be dropped" to accommodate the likes of tried and failed "30 year young" talents like Dinesh Mongia! I even remember reading a report where they even said Ganguly should just stop playing because, at least "Maharaj" does not need any extra money! Why the same site remains conveniently silent about Dravid's age, details of his contract (along with, if any, with cricinfo), his dubious decisions after winning important tosses and above all, his strike-rate or average (both lower than Sourav). Cricinfo reporting on Sourav is just an example here to underline the malaise with Indian cricket. Don't just get me started with Niranjan Shah-Shashank Manohar-S Srinivasan trio!

Gavaskar has again done a great service to Indian cricket! While the record book shows about 11,000 runs against his name it leaves mentioning how most of those precious runs had helped to keep our supporters from drooping, and our interests from waning from the game. We were sad after Malcolm Marshall and his buddies thrashed us badly at home in 1983 - just after we had won the "World Cup" beating "Them" in the finals. But, we knew who would be the last man standing, often without any significant help from the Yashpal Sharmas, to face the most ferocious horde of fast bowlers the game will ever see. That he was not wearing any helmet but pretty much a baseball cap with ear-flaps - called "skull cap"- only made the impending moment of violence more difficult to picture! But that moment never came in the 16 or so years He ruled. He ruled with an absolute authority of calm prevailing over mayhem.

And I thought he retired!

Today, the opposition has changed. Just like the bipolar "cold war"threat has now been replaced by an untraceable link of "terrorist cells" -- Indian cricket faces far more serious challenge from corrupt administrative forces within and from some money- and glamor-struck ex-Australian has-beens than from Glenn McGraths and Shane Bonds on-field. And guess who in the country of billion came down first, as calmly as he ever did, took his guard and said -
"Now even Ireland has a chance of beating Australia sooner than later"?

Thank you Sunnybhai! Just like you did 23 years ago in Chepauk, today you again assured me that it's not all lost yet! That there is someone unbeaten on the crease to take the fight to the day next. To a cricket-lover nothing can be more heroic and romantic than fighting a lonely battle against a pool of hungry jaws and I will patiently wait for you to win now, like I ever did those decades ago.

Friday, April 20, 2007

F@#% YOU Anand Vasu. Enough is Enough.

Cricinfo profile of this self-proclaimed "expert" goes like -

Anand Vasu (Associate Editor)
When the IT revolution took place sweeping vast tracts of southern India in its wake, Anand Vasu stayed well clear of it, nimbly evading engineering college. Cricinfo's longest serving writer, Anand is a veteran of the glory days of ball-by-ball commentary from Valsad to Vizag and was the site's leading expert in cajoling government department staff to put up telecom lines, before mobile phones spoit it all. He supports Tasmania and Hampshire, and likes nothing more than espousing lost causes. An opening bowler who stayed undiscovered by MRF Pace Foundation in his hometown in Chennai because they were too busy working on Dilhara Fernando, Anand moved to Mumbai and had to abandon his first-choice career teaching basketball to school kids. But he continues to be a poet in his spare time and an avid consumer of single-malt scotch whiskey at all times. And you're more than likely to spot him with his collar turned up, in silent tribute to ML Jaisimha.

From the above - possibly written by himself - if I were a psycho-analyst, I would describe Mr Vasu as one not so successful academically yet full of false vanity; insecure; unhappy in relationship (if one such exists!); lacking any focus, and possibly an alcoholic one too!

Not so successful academically yet full of false vanity - Lots of people flunk IITs. But very few try camouflaging it with "nimbly evading engineering college". Also a self-proclaimed supporter of "Tasmania and Hampshire" probably tries to remind us losers how "un hep" it is to support usual teams like India in World Cup or Uttarpradesh in Ranji.

Insecure - "likes nothing more than espousing lost causes"

Unhappy in relationship - blames others for his fault. An opening bowler who "stayed undiscovered by MRF Pace Foundation" not because HIS lack of abilities.

Lacking any focus - He tried Cricket and apparently tried MRF but "his first-choice career teaching basketball" and then he quit trying in Basketball too!

Possibly an alcoholic one - "avid consumer of single-malt scotch whiskey at all times". This "single-malt scotch" also doubles up in the above "vanity" point.

So, I would urge a fair degree of caution when you read any cricket report by him in that Cricinfo website. Especially this report published today is so full of personal vilification disguised as an "expert analysis" that you would be sure of at least one thing mentioned above. Anand Vasu does always remain high on some shit! Whether he earns enough money - or any at all judging by his standard of reporting - to imbibe on "single-malt scotch whiskey" is unknown, but I would be surprised - and shocked - if he does!

So what's wrong about this report?

"It has emerged that the selectors, and senior members of the board, are far from impressed with Ganguly's recent ODI performances."

I don't even know how to react to this extremely parochial, naive, and may I say Dravidian journalism! Ganguly's recent ODI performances are bad?? Man, even Greg Chappell could not say that. We are talking about the person whose 2007 average in one-dayers is abour 63 - the highest in Team India! If you took him out from the team that played West Indies and Sri Lanka before the World Cup -- India probably would have lost both the series as well!

"His 129-ball 66 against Bangladesh, 114-ball 89 against Bermuda, and 23-ball 7 against Sri Lanka conveyed the impression that he was more concerned with making runs for himself than the team."

Vasu seems to be suffering from an incurable case of "boiling frog syndrome" where he neglected the recent records -- and yes, effectiveness too -- of all other Indian team members to shed his venom against one single person. He is singularly focussed to see Sourav Ganguly go away from every cricket field so that Cricinfo's pet first-bencher Rahul Dravid is left with no real competition thereby enhancing the website's balance sheet. Cricinfo apparently has its material future growth tied with the longevity of Rahul Dravid's tenure as Indian captain and its exclusive contract with him. So much so that last time we had to bear looking at an avoidable bare torso of an Indian captain's -- it was not even tied to the celebration of the team's win in a hotly contested final of an International tournament (Chappell probably forgot about this win when he said India hasn't won any tournament outside after 1985!).

If Ganguly -- on Vasu scale of concerns -- forgot about "himself" and rushed as Dravid so badly wanted him to in that Bangladesh match, India probably would have folded under 145 judging by performance of the rest. Accepted that Ganguly's strike rate in Bangladesh match is nothing to brag about -- 66 in 129 balls -- a paltry 51%. But remember he was on crease watching THREE top wickets of Sehwag, Utthappa and Sachin gone by 15th over. India was 40/3 at the end of 15 overs. Had Ganguly tried to rush it up and played a rash shot like another ex-captain Kapil Dev did against England in 1985 -- he too could have been dropped in next game just like Kapil was! And the incredible chemistry Rahul shares with Sourav, the later may never have been recalled! What I don't get is why no one is asking Rahul 'the wall' Dravid about bad strike rate and less runs scored! 14 runs in 28 balls in that Bangladesh match! Something to write home about, ain't in Anand? If it were an unbiased journalist, he would also have shed light on the more apparent reason India had lost the game. Rahul Dravid won the toss and, defying the popular judgment for that particular pitch, decided to bat first! If I were a bad partial "journalist" like Anand Vasu, Rahul's motive would be - "I wish Sourav gets out quick in this mother of bad pitches and then I could just drop him in Super Eight" . That - like Anand Vasu says - is thinking for 'himself rather than for the team'. But I am not indicating any such conspiracy. Not yet! Though a point to ponder is Greg Chappell's clear disenchantment with Dravid opting to bat on that day.

"Of all three high-profile omissions, it seems that Ganguly is the one whose future is at risk. Is this the end of the road for him? Dilip Vengsarkar, the chairman of selectors, said emphatically that Tendulkar and Ganguly would be considered in the future but a young batsman taking the chances afforded to him could well make it difficult for Ganguly to return. After all, with no domestic cricket left to prove his form in, Ganguly will be under intense pressure to score in the Tests against Bangladesh. A couple of failures there and he might well be out in the cold."

Looks like Vasu knows quite a bit more inside stories than everyone else! Is it Dravid himself speaking with him or it is just how he feels after consuming the 7th shot of 'single-malt whiskey'? He had assumed - just like he did this time - it's farewell for Sourav last time Ganguly was ousted by the unholy trinity of More, Chappell and Dravid. ("Ganguly deserved a better farewell") In another he doubted - "it was now not so much whether he could make it back to the Indian team, but whether he still deserved a place in the Rest of India team". To think of how prophetic Vasu is, Ganguly not only earned a place in the team -- he was the highest run-scorer in consecutive two series -- 'man of the series' in the later one after his recall. Incidentally, Ganguly is the second highest run-scorer for India in this World Cup too.

It makes one wonder why Vasu or Cricinfo is so intent on seeing the best performing batsman in 2007 - and the man of the series in the last one at home - retire!! Vasu the astrologer probably needs to change his brand of single malt or switch to another career. Teaming up with Mandira Bedi doing some non-cricket stuff could be a good starter!

And why exactly Vasu's definition of "recent" encompasses only last three matches and not last 10 matches Ganguly played in last 18 months eludes me. But then I, luckily, did not HAVE to "nimbly evade" Engineering and -- having earned my degree from a premier institute -- am quite proud of my quantitative abilities. Since Mr Vasu is probably too busy sipping his single-malt to check the facts, let me just help with it -- Sourav's average in 9 innings played over last 10 matches in 2007 is 63.62 with a strike rate of 72 - the highest among Indians scoring over 300 in the same time range!

I think if Mr Vasu's bowling average -- even in the so called "gully cricket" -- were half as comparable to the above he would not have stayed undiscovered by MRF!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dick in top Gere

I mostly like waking up after a good night's sleep. Subtle sunlight somehow creeps on to one corner of my bed despite the foam covered area between the air-conditioner and window seal. Die another day. Today is all there to live. I am no poet or composer, but I feel most of the great compositions are born in those precious moments after you wake up and before you realize you're getting late for something.

Some days, however, I wish I could just skip to the next. Day before yesterday was one such. There was this brutal, sad, angry, cold blooded murderer who killed a lot of smiling, happy students in Virginia tech on one sunny morning. I got the news as soon as I got up. That's a bad, bad start of a day. As I opened my laptop to see the messages, I got this one from a friend -

"Can you believe this? Twenty people died in Virginia Tech and the top news in Rediff is either on Abhi-Ash marriage or on Richard Gere kissing Shilpa Shetty!!!"

My friend was outraged. I was thankful though! Thankful that I could now salvage a part of my day that was going completely wrong so far.
  • 32 bloody corpses on a college campus -- a reality that almost cripples.
  • One BJP MP caught in flesh trading -- a big sigh inducing moment indicating nothing has changed or probably never will.
  • A Hollywood hero - best known as his portrayal of a 'White Knight' who truly falls in love with a cheap Hollywood hooker - surprising a Bollywood second rung actress by suddenly kissing her in a public function and the usual protests by BJP type people in India -- PRICELESS!

Thankfully because Media does give importance to such things -- like news on the guy suing Liz Hurley because she did not follow "all" the Hindu rituals of marriage -- I still read my newspaper daily and yet do not have to see a shrink. The relative importance in our lives of the fact that Aishwarya is getting her Henna from a certain place in Rajastan can be debated with friends over beer without the sting and frustration of a similar discussion on "Gun Control". In my opinion, we should ignore the Cho Seung-Hui as the ugly zit near asshole and keep focussed on our celebrities, and nerds (particularly those in Infosys management!). The latter do irritate - at times - but, hey, they don't kill!

Anyways, about the kiss between Richard and Shilpa -- watch this video. And this one too. It surely was a surprise to Ms Shetty as evident from this expression as they were coming down the stage about 27 seconds after the kiss and the bow -

Now, that is a genuine "what the HELL was THAT!??!! You SCARED me!" expression. I know. I have watched at least 30 plus movies of Shilpa and in each of those her "surprise" expression was exactly same as her "my lover just died" expression which in turn was exactly same as her "I am a serious looking cop in tight pants" expression. If you watch the videos carefully you will see that Richard Gere had to apply a certain amount of force to bend down Shilpa before pecking her. She certainly was unaware of this. The most plausible explanation was Richard Gere was drunk and he had spent a bit too much austere time with His Excellency Dalai Lama off late. He badly needed a bit of action!

Or, worse, may be the urban legend about Dick is indeed true! He is just way too horny to not react within 2 yards of any female like Shilpa.

One suspicion remains though! What was this guy telling Shilpa before she started to talk and what was he whispering to Dick's ears as she was speaking to the microphone? The kiss followed immediately after that. In the video I think I even saw him gesticulating something to the cameraman as Shilpa started her 'speech'. Was it doctored? Is Gere plotting a Bollywood entry? Or Shilpa a Hollywood one? Or the guy just said something like "Beware! Parmeswar Godrej is waiting for you after the show"? Scary enough thought for me to lose my sanity temporarily!

Watch for yourself -

Please keep the kiss controversies coming. These are "awww! so cute" moments in the newsreel. In India, we have our usual quota of at least THREE kissing controversies a given year. If I get two, I feel deprived. Historically, controversies involved Padmini Kolhapure-Prince Charles; Shabana Azmi-Nandita Das; Shabana Azmi-Nelson Mandela; Rakhee Sawant - Mika; Rakhee Sawant - another starlet; Vasundhara Raje Schindia - Kiran Shaw; Mallika Sherawaat - Mallika Sherawaat etc.

Time came out with a lame article on the recent controversy. It - like so many other foreign media articles - almost admonishes India to turn into this middle-aged uncle from a super cool dude who churned out "Kama Sutra" in past. Please!!! Give me a break. Next thing they will bring up is Ajanta-Ellora. And then talk about how stupid our movies are without kissing etc etc. Every time we do something funny about Sex, or kissing in this instance, we are shown "Kama Sutra", and then the bad X-ray plate of the present health! This is just not right. It's like how my mother still talks about the night in the movie where the only point I stopped crying was when a completely wet (and then a couple of months' pregnant) Hema Malini danced on the deck of a ship to save her lover from a bunch of ugly villains. I was two then! Things change with time.

So, please stop bringing "Kama Sutra" to every such topic. The relatively unknown fact that it was written by an avowed bachelor hurts even more. Though, in hindsight, creating such 'work' needs a lot of experimentation and Abhishek Bachchan, say, probably would not be getting much of it from tomorrow!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Titu Vs Gullu -- The Saga Continues..

One of the sublime pleasures in school hostel is the transformation of useless banter into passionate debate often followed by altercations and, if unchecked by bemused (and very few) levelheaded folks around, physical exchange between two viciously warring groups. Since this was one big fun, I often changed sides. If I were a Kishore fan last week, this week I would be a die hard Rafi fanatic just to not let the heat die because Rafi had fewer supporters this time!

Douglas Adams prophesied the number 42 to be the answer to everything in the universe. He probably got the number only partially correct. Our lives always swings between two options, just two. Us Bengalis always have to choose one between East Bengal and Mohanbagan; Gavaskar and Kapil Dev; Uttam Kumar and Soumitra; Satyajit and Ritwik; 'Pahar' and 'Somudro' (Hills and Sea); sometimes even between Saturday (Hindi Movie) and Sunday (Bengali!). Rest of the India too fascinated themselves with Rafi and Kishore, Madhubala and Nargis and lately, Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai.

It started with Femina Miss India 1994. A completely unknown Sushmita (Titu) upstaged everyone's favourite Aishwarya (Gullu). Then both went out to win "Miss Universe" and "Miss World" in that same year. We were so proud of their 'achievements' we thought everyone in the world will *now* know what we Indians are capable of. However we did not see any such visible effect other than the fact that Lakme became more expensive!

Now, after almost 13 years I see the comparison between them has not entirely died. Even my wife now thinks that Sushmita is "better" than a very "hypocrite Ash"! It's usually difficult to gather facts backing such judgments but the premises behind are mostly -
  1. Ash - for some stupid astrological reason - apparently, has 'married a tree' before she is to marry Junior B.
  2. Despite all beatings by Salman Khan she did not really kill him. But she happily accepted millions to enact one Ms Kiranjit Ahluwalia who, provoked beyond the limit one can tolerate, killed her husband. Ash does not have the courage to stand up and claim her own rights to a belligerent mass of anabolic steroid, but she expects people to accept her enacting Kiranjit who braved a much worse situation.
  3. Sushmita, of course, is the symbol of independence. She has one adopted daughter whom most learn from 'reliable source' is her own though!
  4. Ash dumped men to suit her career growth like you throw away those soiled underwear after a long day.
First, I do not get where exactly Ash tied a knot to a tree. This is as reliable as 'A tooth left in Coke overnight will dissolve' to me! Amitabh Bachchan does not deny running to all sorts of temples, neither we should care about it -- but he DID strongly deny this seemingly untraceable rumor. For the sake of debate, even if we assume Ash indeed 'wed' a tree -- it still is just a religious symbolism. Stupid, yes, but probably just as much as married women wearing "Sindur". Red sindur - BTW - shows the rest of the world that 'this woman's already been bloody. Had intercourse. Not a virgin. So, don't ogle at her. Spend your energy after finding a virgin!'. Every religion is full of seemingly stupid, and on second thoughts probably disgraceful, symbolisms. We don't care when *we* follow it, but if it's a better looking celebrity the world is a totally wrong place to live in! Sure.

P.S. The best on marrying tree rumor I found was -

"It seems Aish also has a mangalya dosham. In Hindu tradition, the 'kumba vivaham' penance for it is to tie a mangalsutra for a plantain tree or banyan tree."

Note there is no report of her actually doing it. Looks like another SMS kind journalism to me!

Second, About Khan episode of heightened testesterone - Aishwarya Rai did lodge a formal police complaint in 2002. She did - unheard of from a Bollywood heroine till then - a 'press release' exposing the maltreatment she received. She decided not to team up with Salman for any movie in future, and thereby lost some highly viable business (Bajirao Mastani, for example). Zeenat Aman, often proclaimed as one of the boldest actresses India produced, was publicly kicked by her then boyfriend in front of at least 50 odd people in Tajmahal hotel lobby, Bombay. She was on the verge of losing her left eye because the shoes dug in; but she did not mutter a single word in public. Ash - often denounced as 'plastic' and 'facile - indeed became a pioneer even though within a shabbily maintained bollywood standard of things. To me, she passed with flying colors in all papers on dignity, strength and courage when compared to her peers!

Third, this is the weirdest of them all. A lady allegedly having links with a dreaded gangster, with all intentions to twist tax laws and having done it, single yet rumored to have her own daughter as one 'adopted' is the one who is NOT hypocrite??

Fourth, anyone remembers a character called Rajat Tara from Delhi? She is the first one to be dumped after a certain Ms Sen won "Miss Universe" in 1994. Nothing bad in that. Everyone should probably try to build a relationship that is sustainable from all angles. Saves bitter heartburn later.

I admit I totally like Aishwarya. She's totally hot these days and I paused the DHOOM-2 DVD so many times there is a dent in my remote. She acted awesome in at least "HDDCS", "Raincoat" (must see) and "Guru", and at least in some parts of "Choker Bali". Unlike Ravi Shastri in 1994 Femina Contest, I would vote for Ash today if I have to choose. But what I don't understand is why she 'has to' lose again, particularly to a mostly unsuccessful actress whose last mentionable work was a Jeans ad? I can understand why the entire female population truly hates Aishwarya.Hey! We guys hate Hrithik too. Nothing wrong in that. But what I don't get is why they have to push up someone as inconsequential as Sushmita Sen while doing it! For us, guys, she has not done anything worthwhile after her ill done (and may I say completely unnecessary in hindsight) boob-job.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Five Cool Jobs

Today, I do what I do now because my earning is maximized compared to my potential (or lack of it). But let's assume Karl Marx and Warren Buffet put together a society. Let's assume every job pays the same. What would be the cool jobs for a backbencher like me? Every year Money magazine comes up with a list of "Best Jobs in America" -- I cannot find the jobs I think are "cool" w.r.t. the Marx-Buffet society there.

Evaluating factors for such "cool" jobs would be -
  • Amount of real work - the lesser the better. Even better if the position demands least amount of seasonal work and / or mostly watching other people finish something that you would share a profit on.
  • Control on other people's lives - can you make a superstar cry or beg (Income Tax Officer)? Can you scare the shit out of the 'topper' in the school? (The guy who posts the marksheet on the wall). Remember, Marx and Buffet took care of the poverty and serious stuff, so all you have to do is to create some illusions of your importance into significant people's lives.
  • Non-cash compensation - can you get to offer batting advice to Sachin Tendulkar? Or, laugh off on Aishwarya's Cannes gown from your living room and be heard? Can you be the dispatcher from Maxim magazine that takes a hard copy of photographs to a starlet's house for her approval to print?
  • Permanence - remember you will not at all be working hard. So you have to choose a job that is safe, stable and with minimum or no competition to limit lay-off!
1. Guy who decides show times in the Movieplex -

Upside - Typically there are 8 to 16 theaters in a plex. About 4 to 6 movies release a weekend. You can make or break a relationship here. Most people remember their first movie together! After 15 years - thanks to you - something like this may come up in a conversation. "Just like our first movie - "Dil Ka Rishta" - this is not going anywhere!"

You watch all the new releases free. You can bullshit about "Just in Time" and other assembly line lingo during performance reviews.

Downside - if you are single, you probably have to go to theme park for dates!

2. One-liner writer in late night TV shows -

Upside - You can Google for "Joke" and get paid. You just have to find a safe host and write may be 15 words per night. If you are unhappy with your wife, poke fun at Hillary Clinton or Rabri Devi. If you are upset with your son - laugh at Vivek Oberoi. etc. etc.

Downside - This is a low-profile and very safe job. So, can easily be outsourced. Also, your wife won't understand your jokes after a while. She will start feeling embarrassed if you speak out in front of her friends.

3. Last Page Editor in any popular magazine -

Say, "Eyecatchers" in India Today or "Glitterati" in Outlook.
Upside - No matter what's on the cover, everyone reads those pages first (unless it's a "Playboy" or similar one). No one ever complained about the quality or lack of it. There are no 'angry' old folks writing to editors complaining about journalistic standards. Totally safe job. Just find one B-grade semi-clad female model producing first album; some politician's wedding cake arrived late-type news; Finance Minister's wife chatting with Amar Singh's and one random photo from a fashion show -- and you are done for the week!

Downside - Almost none. Except that you have to work hard on those "special anniversary issues" once every year. But even then it's just mostly a compilation of bests from earlier last pages! On 25th anniversary issue, just do a collage of all 'revealing' pint sized pics that every appeared on your magazine on the page. Just make sure people recognize Zeenat Aman and Mandakini on that collage. You may even get a bonus!

4. "Computer Analyst" to Indian Cricket Team -

Upside - Pointing out flaws to Sachin, Sourav and Rahul's batting. Tell how Kumble's arms should bend for 'optimum angular MoI (moment of inertia)'. Remember to restrict bullshit though. They may invite you for real nets otherwise! Travel to exotic locations in First class, stay in the same quality top hotels as the players, watch the match from special boxes and eat free food at stupid local rich NRI's house. When players are sweating in the field, grab a beer and surf or chat. Look busy and keep that cricinfo page open. Just in case. Pretty much like a software engineer's job with much better social life! The coach will ask for your help in drafting any 'secret' emails. Leak it - along with other dirty dressing room gossips - later to your media buddies. Ask them for free beer in return.

Introduce yourself as "I am with Indian Cricket team" in the local bar. Bitch about their lack of positive attitude and how fast Sachin eats Zunkas at lunch.

If you are really one of those enterprising types, launch a cricket 'software' or a CD compilation. Invite the whole team for inauguration. They will do it free! Sell it off to Nike, pocket the money and run.

Downside - Almost none. No matter what the team does, no one ever beat up a computer analyst. This is a dream job!

5. Movie Producer -

Upside - EVERYTHING! Just be careful it is no sting operation and avoid Amar Singh types for company. Biggest challenge in life would be to find a place to go to for vacation, now that you would have gone to all the cool places for "shooting"!

Downside - Irritating phone calls from aging stars. After a flop movie, you may have to add an extra "R" or "S" or "H" to your name. Don't introduce yourself to your son's or daughter's friends.

So, what do YOU want to be?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Thought Fart of the day

Work-life balance is a big myth. No one can have it. Yeah, I know what you are thinking. But even pornstars have pretty lousy X-mas. They don't work in holidays and have no families to enjoy time-off with (I hope so!).

You are happy when life sucks much less than work does. Vacation is the break even threshold point where the work becomes so pathetic that you try to balance it by adding stress to your other life too. I have never seen a stress free vacation.

The key to survive is to see job stress as a yellow card. Then, just be hormonal hunk and beat the shit out of the referee.

If your life sucks more than your job, you are overpaid. Or, your parents are looking for a babysitter for the evening. They want to go to a movie.

Most "Gurus" are bearded because females don't want to be reminded of their ex or ex-ex types. You see how females immediately start "who does he look like" with everyone? Unless it is a carrot or bicycle. However they do it with baby carrots, if you care. When they see beard, they don't compare the face anymore. It's like "if someone does not have time to shave, one must be REALLY busy".

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bobby - Death of a politician

What is is about

"It is impossible to experience one's death objectively and still carry a tune."

- Woody Allen

Guess what? This is not your 10-th grade essay to start with and elaborate on a quotation and Woody Allen is not always right - at least for death in movies.

Robert F Kennedy was fatally shot at Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles on June 5, 1968 following a win in California Primary. I rented "Bobby" today thinking it will probably be a taut political thriller or an overly drawn anti-conspiracy drama like Oliver Stone's JFK. I was wrong too!

In fact, there is not even an actor playing "Bobby". Most of the footages are taken from CBS archive. "Bobby" is all about how America was fighting less in Vietnam and more within herself in the 60s. Racism, Dr King, Vietnam and a divided nation, huge part of the nation still dwelling with poverty, political sub-culture of satisfying media even at the cost of twisting polity, extreme hard work of just about everyone and - as always - immigrants. Written and directed by Emilio Estevez (elder son of Charlie Sheen, ex-brother in law of Denise Richards), "Bobby" shows a day in the lives of about twenty odd people who were in Ambassador Hotel on the day of the assassination. There is the elderly retired hotel employee (Anthony Hopkins) who - like all others in that period - was so much tuned to his job that he still keeps coming to the hotel. There is Sharon Stone (thankfully, she is finally looking of her age!) - a hair dresser in the hotel who exchanges middle-age marriage angst (bitches!) with star performer Demi Moore (who, thankfully, still is not looking even half her age!). Lindsay Lohan plays a teen who marries Elijah Wood in that hotel that same day so he can skip Vietnam! Like everywhere in US then, after assassination of Martin Luther King, there is racial tension among the hotel employees too. In other words, "Bobby" is a "Love Actually" in the backdrop of a real political event.

The movie briefly touches upon Bobby's political beliefs and kind of portrays him as the would have been savior of the nation. The movie is about two hours long. However, rather than depending on the 'conspiracy' angle of the murder or analyzing who did it and why - it spends most of the time with the period and characters that define it. There is also a "hippy" listening to Sitar and trying LSD to find "God". Overall, not a bad movie.

When should I watch

Depends. Do you enjoy political thrillers? Then keep yourself busy with the "Manchurian Candidate"s. Do you like period drama with identifiable events within it? Then watching it should not be a difficult experience.

  • Apparently, Estevez went almost broke producing this movie. He also developed a "writers' block" while writing. Martin Sheen advised him to take off to a remote place and keep trying. He checked in to a random motel and found the check-in lady there was apparently present in the Ambassador ballroom on the night it all happened. Lindsey Lohan's character was based on her! I usually doubt coincidences like this. Problem is, this type of claims are totally unverifiable. How could you possibly disprove the fact that once I talked with P Chidambaram on my Niagara trip? We both were on the same boat for the 'Maid of the Mist' tour of the falls and I introduced myself. He was accompanied by his wife. Well, nobody shot him that day and I am not famous.

  • Though five more people had been shot with Bobby that night in reality, no one else died. In the movie, the other people shot are fictional -- probably because Estevez wanted to save some money by not having to give any fees to the actual people who were shot.

  • We could make so many taut assassination movies in India. So many of them, right? Indira, Sanjay, Rajiv, Lalbahadur Shastri, Gandhi himself. Out of all these, I think Sanjay Gandhi's would make an excellent movie. However, to me the most planned, dramatic and till date unsolved (read - best movie potential) political murder is Lalit Narayan Mishra's. Lalit was Jagannath Mishra's elder brother. He was the then right-hand man of Indira Gandhi, the union railway minister from Bihar.

    Side joke - Q. What's the similarity between Eminem and Ghani Khan Chowdhury?
    A. Eminem is a white rapper, Ghani was a railway minister from outside Bihar.

    Mishra was included in the all powerful CWC (Congress Working Committee) a few days before he was killed by a grenade explosion in an inauguration ceremony. There are still so many questions that need answering. For example, his wounded body was taken to Danapur, and not to much closer Darbhanga. Apparently, the train was also made to stop at several places so that an alive Mishra does not make it to hospital. Bihar, murky politics, assassination, train -- I cannot find a better movie plot!

    I remember reading a few "India Today" pieces on Mishra's assassination. Cannot find any online. But here is the next best - an excellent article from Jan 13, 1975 issue of Time on "Murder in Bihar".

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Grindhouse - An Instant Classic

What it is about

Having just watched Grindhouse, as I was walking alone - my wife decided to stay home and watch "Look Who's Talking 3" instead - into the dark and desolate movie parking lot around 3AM - I almost felt vindicated. Since I can remember, people have tried to "talk me out" of my quite "diverse" movie watching (and reading) habits. As someone who feels equally comfortable watching Ray and Porn; or Truffaut (same date of birth as mine!) and David Dhawan, and having the honesty to accept to like the David Dhawan more - at times, I have constantly been flagged by my friends and acquaintances. It was almost a cardinal sin to come out of the "closet" in early 90s and declare that you truly like to watch those cheaply-made Tarzan movies in Hindi; those murders happening in the backdrop of mandatory Jai Santoshi Ma songs; Shetty's innocently portrayal of villain; Madan Puri's over the top crookedness; Biswajeet driving a speedboat to save his life - and his wig from flying out; white shoes with pink socks; cheap disco beats made cheaper by Bappida; the quintessential Bombay Mill movies (not only "Nimak Haram", but "Resham Ki Dori" too!); Hope 86 and Sonam; the zillions of almost copy of "Sholay", and almost copy of "Mazdoor" too. Someone said imitation is the biggest form of flattery. Nothing could underline the saying more than the fact that you can have about five and half plots and about 900 movies made around it in India per year.

Remember the 70s in Bollywood? Remember any of the movies out of - "Bond 303"(Parveen Babi-Jeetendra-Helen), "Suraksha" (Mithun) , "Nagin"(with everyone who was alive then), "Jaani Dushman" (Sanjeev Kumar)? In that same period, a movement of B-grade "exploitation films" (exploit the animals, sex, females, lesbian vampires, nazi nymphomaniac prison warden etc) were running the pop sub-layer of Euro-American films. Remember "Cannibal Holocaust" or "I spit on your graves"? Movies that came in at least 5 years late to India and caused a lot of that last bench whispers among people like us? In US, those movies were shown, often back to back or in a series of 3 to 4 together in a night, in slightly seedy, cheap downtown movie theaters called "Grindhouse". Try to imagine "Society" in Central Calcutta in early 90s if you want to have an idea of a real grindhouse!

Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez grew up on a spew of grindhouse movies. Most of QT's work is nothing but a solid grindhouse movie packed with much better dialogue, superb acting, state of the art action sequences and a unique rubber stamp of his direction on all frames that screams "guy movie with class". In fact, his Kill Bill is almost a straight liftoff from a grindhouse film "Five Deadly Venoms". RR - who started his career with so-called "burrito westerns" - moved from one genre to another (action, horror, humor, sci-fi) in his short but interesting career. To prime for Grindhouse, I watched two RR movies yesterday noon in DVD. One made with $7000 in 1992. The sequel made with $70 million in 1995. I would not have known that just by watching "El Mariachi" and "Desperado"!

Grindhouse is basically two movies back to back with some "fake" grindhouse type trailers (about four of it) and even some fake ads thrown in between. The first movie - "Planet Terror" - is directed by Rodriguez. Because of some military experiment gone wrong, a whole bunch of people turned into flesh eating zombies. Main characters - a hot blonde lesbian mother of a six-year old; a standup comedian wannabe go-go dancer who loses her leg but then was fitted with a machine gun to fight zombies; scantily clad teenage babysitter twin sisters; a leather jacket wearing dude called "El Wray" with attitude who 'never misses' a shot and will invariably show some tricks whenever he holds a gun - even if he only has a split second to shot and save himself. Oh! There's also our own Naveen Andrews as the madcap scientist who cuts and collects - in a glass bottle - balls of people who defy him. You get the idea. Don't you? Intentional grainy footage, go-go dancer with a shade of tears as she's stripping, lots of bike action, forced bad acting, a kid who seems too smart but is so stupid, mimicking and / or respecting the traditional grindhouse "too filmy moments" and a very strong almost surreal brand of humor just as much as the gore are the footprints(pun intended) of the movie.

Then comes some gory but totally funny and incredibly cool trailers. Watch the trailers to get re-charged because things will be a bit slower afterwards. The second movie - "Death Proof" - is directed by QT and the first half of it lacks much dynamics in an obvious intention to bore you a bit with "safety instructions" before a bad turbulence hits the plane. You may even get bored and start drooping to hear all the talks between the four 'usual' girls in bar. Then they meet "Stuntman Mike" who takes the pulse and his car racing to three digits within a few seconds. He has a totally cool 1971 Chevy Nova that he uses to kill people - specially uber-talkative chicks with attitude! The last part of Death Proof has QT stamped over it as some tough leather clad females literally kick male ass, especially that of guys who hate and abuse them. Together both movies, with trailers, run for about 3 hours 10 minutes. I did not even peek at my watch except for the window when women were randomly talking about guys, drinks, jobs, pick up lines etc in the bar. But then it was QT's idea of creating an intentional vacuum before filling it up with hot high pressure hurricane!

When should I watch it

Right now! Please watch it in the theater and ensure more such movies are made!!

If you are outside US, both the movies would probably not be packaged together as "Grindhouse". Probably they would be released separately as two different movies. That would be totally defeating the whole idea of movie made from movies. Standing alone, or even together, the movies are not even a 5/10. Unless you watch it together with the same perspective the directors want you to, and it's not very difficult to do here, you would probably yawn in the theater and think where you parked the car. If you follow the directors, you will smirk, smile, laugh, applaud and feel satiated at the end. Yet, you will feel hungry within moments after ending to grab more of it!

To me, movies are of four types, generally.
  • Movies made from books
  • Movies made from reality
  • Movies made from surreal stuff. Movies to "feel", not "understand"
  • Movies made from other movies.
Grindhouse is not only a movie made from other movies, it is a bent-knee homage to all B-grade movies ever made anywhere. That's why I told you I felt almost vindicated after watching it. QT and RR made a movie exactly for people like us.

Like they take old stuff and repackage it in today's format and call it "remix" in Bollywood and everywhere else -- I wish they could take today's stuff and repackage it in yesteryear's format. We may call it "Premix". There was a remix song a few years back that tried to do the same with the hero sporting a Rishi Kapoor in 70s style of hairstyle, wearing white bell bottoms and colorful oversize sweaters, playing his guitar while dancing on a stage that looks like a giant rotating LP record, riding a Rajdoot with his won-over girlfriend in white and both smiling at us next to the "The Beginning" message shown at the end! It was a deja vu all over again.

In the bollywood context, I am so tired of watching movie after movie made in the same high-gloss, shot in Manhattan, without any obvious stupid moment -- I badly miss those lackadaisical 70's and 80's movie where a villain had to be bald and had to make a lot of mean faces to express his badness. I badly miss the usual 12 minutes of "dhishum dhusum" at the end of the movie - typically near a naked Pune hill. I badly miss the Ranjeets trying to smuggle 1 crore of Diamonds (so cute! Ain't it?) using a Ranjeeta without a trace of accent in her English. I sorely miss the 6 minute song picturization with no more than 2 changes of clothes and no more than 3 long takes. I sorely miss Dal Lake and a certain Saira Banu with her bouffant who even feels cheated in love there just because his lover did not show up in her birthday party back in Bombay! This is in despite the fact that she hasn't even been pecked once by the local Kashmiri houseboat hunk! Will someone make a Grindhouse for me in India, please?


This movie is so full of trivia that it needs a book, not the postscript of a lame blog to talk about it! Still I liked when they laughed about "Angelina Jolie's Gone in 60 seconds" and talked about the "real" 1974 one. That was one more Nirvana moment for me.


Thanks to Quentin and Rodriguez. Really. Also thank you so MUCH to my dear wife. I love you! I know how difficult it is for you to even try to understand why I almost toss and turn whole night- and run to pee umpteenth time - before release of certain movies even though it does not have Hrithik Roshan or has a "bride" or "princess" word in the title. When I asked if you wanted to watch this movie, and you did not want -- you just let me without saying "You could watch this without ME!!!" I would never understand how meaningful could a few roses be to you on certain evenings, but I guess it's pretty much how I felt last night after "Grindhouse". Thank you again! Thank you for not making me feel like this guy!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Part 2 - Ian and Greg

(Continuation of "Reading between the lines - Ian in defence of Greg" post that adds up the missing pieces in Ian's article. Bold pieces appeared directly on the article, the non-bold font adds the missing links.)

7/ For example, in Sachin Tendulkar's recent comments he said: "No coach had mentioned even in passing that my attitude was not correct."

As a cricketer Greg was always trying to better himself, especially his mental approach to the game. Improvement doesn't come without constantly challenging yourself and also responding to the demands of your team-mates, something that happened regularly in the Australian team. Having seen Tendulkar struggle in recent times Greg would accept it as part of his job to challenge the him to resurrect his batting in order to help India win matches.

You need different approaches to face a Koala and a Royal Bengal Tiger. You don't need a mosquito net if you live near Sydney Harbor, but would certainly need one in most parts of Kanpur. I understand what works in Australia may not work in India. OK, both our countries drive on the wrong side of the road, but that, and the 220v voltage in residential lines - are probably the only similarities you can find between the two. I understand the words or action that could challenge Ricky Ponting to come out of his shell and win back the ashes, could only frustrate and corner son of one Ramesh Tendulkar from Shivaji Park. This gentleman Mukul Kesavan rightly points out that - "it's odd that Indian journalists and commentators should find the stereotype of the straight-talking Australian and the truth-denying Indian easier to credit than the chorus of allegations that Chappell's preferred mode for communicating with the media was the modern equivalent of harem whispers".

I am so thankful India does not have it's share of Tupacs. Otherwise there could be a song on my brother sounding like "Shut up and let go. You hormonal biatch".

8/ That is not questioning a player's attitude, that is called striving for improvement.

Or, you can call it "break the bastard completely". It's also called"reverse psychology" and goes like this -

(a) Make a list of players you don't like as soon as you take control of the team.
(b) Wait till they are temporarily out of form.
(c) When they come to you seeking strength and encouragement in a Cricket crazy nation that has zero tolerance for failures, just break their nerve by pretending you are the only one in the world who is delivering the "harsh truth". Tell them they're done and over and should retire right now.
(d) When the player walks away confused, send middle-school girl types hushy-mushy SMS or email to some eager middle-aged journalists who will always pick out the lowest hanging fruits. Leak, leak and leak every little diaper details to the media. This breaks the player even more.

9/ Greg was one of the best half a dozen all-round fieldsmen I've seen; he's up there with Neil Harvey, Viv Richards, Mark Waugh, Mohammad Azharuddin and Ricky Ponting and it would have grated that many of India's best batsmen were slouches in the field.

I don't like giving statistics to establish a fact. We Australians really hate statistics when it does not serve us right. For example, we got miffed recently hearing South Africa, not us, are the topmost cricketing nation! But if I had to share some statistics on brother Greg's fielding -

ODI - 23 catches in 74 matches. 31.08%

Let's look at one player my brother really hated for his awful fielding - Sourav Ganguly -

ODI - 98 catches in 289 matches. 33.91%.

One of those 98 catches looked like this. Let's not even go to Sachin's fielding abilities and his strong reliable arms from long. Another player my brother hates (actually, envies) for fielding once caught this impossible one!

10/ To see senior players just going through the motions in the field would have been enough to send Greg off on a search for young players who could field. However, they would also have needed to be good at another skill and hence his early push to get younger, more athletic cricketers into the team.

After writing this I kept thinking if getting younger, more athletic cricketers is the panacea why my own country has a 37 year old as the main strike bowler? Why the main performing batsman in the world cup in my team is older than any of Sachin, Rahul, and of course, Yuvaraj! Why except South Africa, all other teams in Super 6 relies on someone over 32 to sail them over? Why Murali (35) and Jayasuriya (37) for Sri Lanka; Brian Lara (38) for West Indies; Kallis (32) and Shaun Pollock (34) have not listened to my brother's advice and started looking for another job? Why the performance of 30 plus players in this world cup beats the younger players' performance (exception - G Smith) by such huge margin? We have to talk it over between us brothers. I myself admitted Lara and Sachin are batsmen of same caliber; I never claimed Lara is so much more agile a fielder than Sachin -- then why did I advise (unasked, like us Chappells do) Sachin to look into a mirror and ask certain retirement questions?

What if someday people demand that they want younger commentators -and not some old farts who have never even played 20-20s - and then 60 year olds like us have no future in this lucrative part of the business? Would that be a harsh truth, an inconvenient message or some baseless conspiracy to promote certain men as commentators?

11/ The fact that his tenure as Indian coach was less than satisfactory for both Greg and the team is probably a good indication that the system producing young cricketers needs more than just a bit of fine tuning. The day before he resigned, a "Kerry Packer"-style proposal was put forward for Indian cricket, which suggests Greg isn't the only one who thinks the system needs a large overhaul.

I wrote this article in supporting my brother. So I had skipped two very inconvenient truths.

(a) Greg's failure as coach with India is nothing new for him or not just specific to India because of "certain Indian reasons". After his retirement, Greg coached South Australia team for five years with a very pedestrian record just like he had with India's. Guess what? He was not popular among players in South Australia team either (search for "Chappell draws criticism in Australia")

(b) If the system producing young cricketers needs "more than just a bit of fine tuning" -- why did not my brother mention it during his famous job-winning presentation "Chappellway" - the fast-track to World Cup 2007 ? Why the "Vision 2007" was all about how Greg will fine-tune Sehwag and win us the cup?

One thing I must say about our family though. We sometimes acknowledge our mistakes. Even though it took more than twenty years from the infamous underarm incident, Greg almost offered a half of an apology.
"If I had my time again, I wouldn't do it,"I am not saying Greg will, or shall, but it's just that we may have to wait a long, long time for a Chappell to admit a mistake.

We live on hope. Maybe someday he will accept- not just through a SMS or email reeking of rotten flesh -that he should just have kept quiet, should have given a little more time in the nets, encouraged the players and not made them feel insecure.
That he just failed to enact, with team India, what he said coaching is all about - "We're not talking about rocket science - it's a simple game and I want to keep things simple."

Reading between the lines - Ian Chappell in defence of his little brother

Ian Chappell, as usual, has come up in support of his little brother. I just felt the short article had a lot of missing things. Here they are. Ian's original comment in bold, followed by stuff he's missed to mention.

1/ If there was any chance of Greg Chappell continuing his tenure as coach of India it probably disappeared when Bob Woolmer was murdered during the World Cup.

It also disappeared as soon as Greg walked in to India with borderline pedophilic idea that "Anyone over 25 and Yuvaraj Singh are bad. Young people are good". It also disappeared when he started dishing out his ideas unasked and termed it a "leak". Some of his emails reached more people than a Nigerian scam spam would! One would be amazed with the zealousness one single person was attacked in those! It also disappeared when he showed middle-finger to a sensitive foreign crowd in a not-so-borderline racist example. It also disappeared as he sat glum in the dressing room with borderline depression and did not talk with anybody for over three days during the last world cup. It also disappeared when, in a nation that thrives on stability, he started breaking the working mold of a winning team by ransacking through batting order. And of bowling too. It also disappeared when he used a "bio-mechanist" to snoop around players he did not like and gave more credence to the stooge's reports than to the performance in the field. It also disappeared the day he went ahead and tried to fix not just the way Indians play cricket, but also the way world's largest democracy works. Oh, and it disappeared every day - and a lot of it were there - when the team coached by my brother Greg my-job-is-to-motivate Chappell - not only lost a game, but looked completely clueless and devoid of any spirit to fight.

Woolmar may have been lucky to survive had Pakistan won, but losing the job was inevitable for my brother even if India had won the cup this time. Let me be brutal, that we in Chappell family prefer to be even at the cost of truth, Greg was never flexible enough to hear others' opinion and thus never a good candidate as a coach of a team of eleven and to a billion supporters. If he were one who would listen to others, one certain newspaper would never have a heading like "Chappell, your underarm STINKS". (That was not I, Ian, BTW. I use deo.)

2/ Such an ugly incident is sure to focus your concentration on life's priorities.

Fear did bring him closer to the truth that a hundred failures could not! It sometimes happens that way. Ever tried to convince your kid to brush his teeth before bedtime? Logic often fails where fear works just fine.

3/ As much as it would seem that Greg is probably better off without all the angst that comes with one of the most demanding jobs in cricket I doubt he'll feel completely fulfilled.

How exactly different would you feel when you are sacked from a job that pays about $230,000 a year in Cash - mostly tax-free; let you live in a separate quarter of a fine five-star hotel; journalists gate crashing to hear you as if you are a rock star; and all you had to do to get that job was to prepare a better power-point presentation than other contenders (actually, the others mostly spoke!) and wear a suit in a sultry Delhi afternoon. You would definitely feel "not completely fulfilled" to let it go. The pain would be manifold if all you had to do to camouflage your failure by bitching about what a bunch of losers you have inherited. Discount the fact that the same bunch reached finals of World Cup last time.

4/ A perfectionist, even one who has mellowed, is never going to be happy with under-achieving on his expectations.

We can easily identify to one who's repeatedly been pointing at the huge amount of money involved in every sphere of the game.
We can easily identify with someone who is involved with the largest mass-media component passionately linked to lives (and, sometimes death) of over 1 billion people and thinks about how much money can be made of the noise. And still, at the end not chosen by himself, has to let it go. His expectations would not exactly stop just having been paid for 22 months, no matter how astronomical the sum in this case may have been!

5/ Greg's only rationale for playing cricket was to win. I can guarantee that, because we had the same tutor: our father Martin. Greg's approach in his latest role would have been exactly the same, to do everything he could to help India win.

That, exactly that, had become Greg's bane as coach. A coach wants to win too - but before winning little things like who should be in the team and who shouldn't for himself, a coach wants the TEAM to win. Greg wanted to clean up every 'mess' and then start playing. Ever waited for enough dishes to gather at the sink before you start washing them? It usually takes bad stink to drag you to start doing it as you keep piling it up! Greg thought of the players he did not like as "cancers" - not just people "I don't like, but have to work with anyways".

He wanted to start 11 battles and wanted to win all of it himself before he even starts winning 1 for the team. To him, it was a plain and simple world that we all have seen somewhere. It's called "I am right. You are grossly wrong" syndrome. Think of the classic ex-boss or the ex-wife and that's just a better looking Greg!

We inherited one more gene from our father Martin. The gene that carries the ability and desire to twist the truth to advance one's personal agenda. I did it too. Read about this bar fight between myself and Ian Botham -

Chappell then claims that Botham said he would "cut him from ear to ear". Botham vigorously denied that. "The day I have to resort to that," he wrote in his autobiography, "is the day I know there is something wrong."

After a few more words either Botham punched Chappell and sent him flying backwards off his chair into a crowd of Aussie Rules players scattering their drinks (Botham version) or he pushed him backwards off the chair and got hysterically angry (Chappell).

Chappell then fled the bar making a final rude comment at Botham as he left, resulting in Botham sprinting out of the bar and hurdling a car bonnet to get at him (Botham) or he calmly walked out of the bar pursued by a ranting Botham who had to be restrained by one of Chappell's team-mates (Chappell).

[Excerpted from Chappell and Botham autobiographies. You decide whom to trust, but close your eyes and visualize 6'2" Guy the Gorilla Vs. a skinny bloke bar-fight before you do. I do not see any "calmness" there in my vision!]

6/ Greg is a respectful person but there is no point in trying to be like an Indian when you've been employed because of your knowledge and experience as an Australian cricketer.

Please discount recent Sly Stallone episode where he was arrested for possession of a drug banned in Australia, but of very commonplace in USA as he was entering Australia to promote his "Rocky Balboa" - a movie that at least some Australians wanted to watch because of Sly's "knowledge and experience" as an American director! Or, the event where Hillary Swank was fined $163 for carrying an Apple to the garden of Eden called New Zealand. So what I am trying to say is - when you go and visit a different culture, be careful to their law and be respectful to them - especially to the difference between yours and theirs. Unless of course you hail from Chappell family. In that case, do not care about those dark-skinned bastards. Remember we have a common tutor? Greg and I? Our father Martin.

So, if you are one of us, if you're from Chappell family - just show your middle finger to the rest of the world. They DON'T matter! Be a Chappell first, and then be an Australian. Someone tried that before with some success too. Someone wanted to be Hitler first and then a German. Being a human does not ever show up in the wish list of people like us.

Part 2