Thursday, June 14, 2007

Location, Location, Location

Lancaster, California

"This summer I learned at a party that there is a small - but important - difference between peeing in the pool and peeing into the pool. Location, location, location."

-Demetri Martin

As a big fan of road movies, I loved "Breakdown". Kurt Russell is somewhat like our own Sunny Deol - short on acting, have extremely limited expressions so as to not confuse viewers, yet always delivers, provided it's an OK scripted action movie. "Natural Born Killers" is probably the most overrated road movie, especially if you have not seen Brat Pitt's less discussed "Kalifornia". Later two has Juliette Lewis, who would easily have won my vote for best actress for the Oscars in those two years.

"Breakdown" has a somewhat bizarre gang of truckers and wanna-be truckers kidnapping (and possibly killing) random auto drivers (mostly females) from a somewhat deserted freeway that looked like near scenic Moab, Utah. I am taking off for summer holidays to Moab, Utah - following a week spent in a (work related) conference in Las Vegas. So - to prepare, not for the conference - I did what I do best. I made a list of movies made in or around Moab and just finished watching as many as my local video store had in stock!

I also found "Mr Location" who actually takes off for several weeks every year to cover cool movie locations like ones in "Thelma and Louise", "Italian Job" to Spielberg's one and only road movie (but one of his best work ever!) "Duel". Mr. Location also maintains an album - duly organized and captioned - in webshots. Hats off dude! You are my hero.

This man's level of details is evident from the picture that I linked at the top of this post. In the movie "Breakdown" -- Kurt Russel's wife hitches with a trucker, leaving her husband with their new, broken down Jeep, to go to this diner to call a tow-truck. While the road was definitely in Utah, this diner - as Mr Location points out - is in Lancaster, California. Moab to Lancaster would be a painfully monolithic drive of 700+ miles. I am speechless and - at the same time - humbled by such a focussed individual who - as you will see - is an excellent photographer too.

Some other movies shot in or around Moab (famous for Canyonlands and Arches National Park)- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Con Air, Hulk, Mission Impossible (1 and 2), Thelma and Louise (I will actually be visiting the location of the climax! Thanks to Google Maps!!), and also - Austin Powers (Goldmember). Now I just wish I had my own 'Mini Me' to send to places I could not possibly cover within 8 days!

Another recent awe-inspiring movie location was listed in my scrapbook as I was watching the opening scenes of "Arachnophobia" -- shot at Canaima National Park, Venezuela. If you ever get to grab this movie, do not let the first ten minutes pass. Especially the aerial shot of the falls -- as the entomologists helicopter is circling it -- is one true piece of art. Before watching this movie, my favorite waterfall scene -- other than the ones from RK Films -- was from Amitabh Bachchan-Manoj Vajpayee's "Aks", shot somewhere in Hungary.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Shorties - Three Other Movies

1) Ek Chalis Ki Last Local -

Let's start with a PJ.
Q. What would "Da Vinci Code" be called if Neha Dhupa and Abhay Deol act in it?
A. Last Local Chalice.

Jokes apart, this is a brilliant movie by a first-time director. A comparison with "Pulp Fiction" or Coen Brothers genre is probably unavoidable, but I found it more in line with "Get Shorty". The story, also written by the director, could easily be one penned by Elmore Leonard. Very few good "cult" movies are made in Bollywood, the last one I liked was "Waise Bhi Hota Hai Part 2" in 2003.

This movie does not have a single frame shot at daylight; has an array of strong, unknown character artistes; two rival South Indian dons (one played by Deepak Shirke - immoral for playing the "Hakla Seth") and a hilarious Nana Patekar mimic as an auto-driver who spends thousands after the bar girls. If any of these sounds interesting to you, do not give it a miss. If not, wait for Karan Johar's next!

2) Bheja Fry -
PJ - in Bengali, this movie would be called "Wet Bhaja". (Bheja = Wet in Bengali)

Yeah, it is lifted from a French movie. So what? One of the very few three-dimensional films ever made, it independently criss crosses (a) a story, (b) situational humor and (c) intentionally frustrating or annoying the audience. The best possible weekend stress-buster without inviting anyone for dinner!

3. Parzania -
This is one of the few films that, rather than let you escape from reality, drags you to face the bitter truth in all its minutiae. A must-watch movie if -
  • you hate Narendra Modi and the general bastardization of Indian politics by the so-called "Hindutva". You will find more reasons! Never before was one Indian film so unabashed in its portrayal of such an open secret.

  • you like Narendra Modi or Praveen Togadia. You will give the other side at least one chance to explain.

  • the last image of Sarika you recollect was from a certain frame of 'Vidhata'. Clearly, the ex Mrs Kamal Hasan is the best green eyed actress in India right now. Cannot wait to see her more in the coming days.

Eklavya - The Royal Guard

Eklavya - The Royal Guard

In "Maximum City", Suketu Mehta writes how Vidhu Vinod desperately wanted Amitabh Bachchan to play SSP Inayet Khan in "Mission Kashmir". Apparently, they landed up in Bachchan residence 2 am-ish to talk it over, to be told by a wide awake Abhishek that they are a family of insomniacs. The deal was almost clinched, but Amitabh preferred to focus more on "Mohabbatein" and apologized in a fax sent to Chopra wishing to work with him in future. Chopra kept waiting, meanwhile polishing a screenplay based on a lore - when a bodyguard of Yasser Arrafat was assassinated, his revolver was passed on to his ten year old son- narrated to him by a certain actor. Amitabh Bachchan.

If nothing, this movie is a great visual treat and one of Bachchan senior's finer achievements.

For trivia hunters, this is probably the first Bollywood movie to have its "official" blog. The site mentions that "The most problematic location proved to be a railway crossing - the scene of two pivotal action sequences in the film. Scouts travelled all across Rajasthan looking for a location where six hundred camels could run along side a moving train. The crew was preparing to shoot the sequence in Egypt. Thankfully at the last moment the perfect spot was found a hundred kilometers from Bikaner." Actually, Pradeep Sarkar should have told his mentor about the train route used in "Sonar Kella" - where camels did run along side a train. Ultimately Chopra and Co. chose the very same route anyways!

  • Original Eklavya put seven arrows in the mouth of a barking dog (hopefully it was not a Chihuahua).
  • Vidhu Vinod directed this movie after seven long years of hiatus.
  • Main movie poster of Eklavya has seven character close-ups.
  • Newly married Hindu couples walk around fire in seven full circles to ensure the bond between the couple lasts for seven lives.
  • Vidhu Vinod, however, married four times. Anupama Chopra, India Today film correspondent, is his present wife.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

"Delhii Heights" - Frustrating Aim at Mediocrity

I had my "Crap-o-meter" on as soon as I saw Shivaji Ganesan - of all - offering prayers to Tirupati and a batch of South Indian Deities at the front title of the movie. Was not this supposed to be a film on Delhi, where God takes a backseat unless He is driving a Bentley? Then, the narrator goes on (thankfully, not Amitabh Bachchan) - "Phir bhi meri Dilli meri shaan. Aur aaiye aab milte hai Delhi heights mein rehnewalon se.."

That's the last the city "Dilli" we would experience. Except a shot or two -- including one stock shot overwritten 'Bombay" -- all take place in cool comforts of the studio. One may have hoped this movie to continue the legacy of the foggily romantic Delhi winter (Ahista Ahista), or the Old Delhi cobweb of mystery (Dil Se). But finished watching, the biggest question that lingers on mind is not what exactly was Om Puri doing here, but why so many (I counted at least 7) travel agencies were thanked at the end title when the entire movie - barring may be 3 minutes - were shot within four walls!

Bengali literature is exceptionally strong with stories that touch the lives of people -- of similar background, but with different problems -- living within the same compound. Jyotirindro Nandy's "Baro Ghar, Ek Uthan" (Twelve Homes. Same Backyard)comes to the mind as the prime work in this genre. In the visual media, a tele-serial called "Kolkata" -- based on residents of a certain 'Kolkata Apartments' -- was highly popular in mid-80s. Lately, "Pran Jaye Par Shaan Na Jaye" was cliched but was a relatively enjoyable film from Bollywood on the same premise, literally. Success of these stories mostly lie on two factors - (a) different story in each family - if one family deals with a teenage criminal, the other does with a pedophile who is next door neighbor to a high-class prostitute; and (b) complete lack of predictability.

In "Delhi Heights" two neighboring couples of similar age and background both deal with spousal issues! At no point during the movie one would not be able to tell what is going to happen fifteeen minutes since. Except that Jimmy Shergill would indeed be thanked for getting discount on soft drinks for Om Puri's daughter's wedding where premium scotch flows scot-free!

Back to the front-end narrator, on Delhi he says - "Dariyagunge mein dariya ki, aur PahaDgunj mein pahar ki ek photo tak najar nahin aati". Ironically, the same can be said about "Delhi Heights" and "Delhi".

To find Gaseous Belly - People Google These!

Real examples from my counter -- showing what people Google for to hit this page. Exact search strings follow, spelling and format unchanged. My comments, if any, are in small, bold, italics.

1. relation between kaberi basu and juhi chawla

2. after the chinese, south indians are the smartest people

3. fart of the day

4. vizag middleage females dateing search (ok. I have no idea why someone looking for such things should land up here, but apparently they do!)

5. mandakini is an indian actress known for doing bold scenes in hindi cinema (Why search. You already know everything!!)

6. shrek 3 fiona fart (I wrote on Shrek + this is gaseous belly. Haha, Google is smart.)

7. how long can it take for a medical transciptionist to type up reports

8. how to find a date of birth of a child who was born in behala vidyasagar hospital in 1989

9. vinod kambli's second wife (I knew he only had one!)

10. real father of sanjay gandhi

11. babul supriyo divorce

12. picturisation of sex in indian hotel on mms

13. moon moon sen's blue film (ahem!)

14. you're not the person i fell in love with lyrics (If not, why search for the lyric baby?)

15. rahul dravid, engineer

16. weather report for the month of march 2007(kolkata)

17. french exploitation movies

18. vasundhara raje kiss video (Even this has a market. Certainly so does this page!!)

19. things to do while watching cricket

20. pune infosys staff cleavage (Again, no idea how! O Almighty Google..)

(Will be continually updated)

Lessons Learnt from "Shakalaka Boom Boom"

1. IMDB has the following entry, and just the following entry, in "Memorable Quotes" section for the movie -


Before you count - "LAKA" appears seven times. Good for Himmesh. Using the same logic, what would be the memorable quote from "I Know What You Did Last Summer"?

2. Out of the four people whom "music will destroy" (according to their website) -- two went to the left, two went to the right and rest went with Govindrao Asrani.

I could understand why "music will connect them", but about destroying -- I do not see how music destroyed Celina Jaitley's character in this movie. If they are talking about destroying her career, hasn't it long been done already? Her dialogue delivery -- even for very steamy ones as "You are ALSO good on stage", after making love to Upen Patel -- is as monotonous as a train cruising at late night.

3. One may wonder why, despite at one point having both aggressive Celina and willing Kangana at his arms, Bobby Deol's (named AJ) den is splashed with Upen Patel posters!

4. "Main aapko kha nahin jaaoNga. I am a vegeterian" is a great pick-up line. Kangana Ranaut readily steps into an aging Bobby Deol's car hearing these immortal lines. Another nomination for "Memorable Quote" just submitted to IMDB.

Not to blame Suneel Darshan, this morning I watched promo of "Naqaab - Disguised Intentions" that starts with a frame of a woman cavorting in an inviting two-piece near swimming pool. "Naqaab" literally means "mask". (Thanks to Dipta for the correction.)

5. Viju Shah is reduced to "background scores" these days.

6. Vivek Vaswani has not lost much hair since "Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na" 15 years ago.

7. Kangana Ranaut does not only look like a certain East-European pornstar called Sandra Romain, but probably took her acting lessons from the same school.

8. Dilip Tahil has it really easy in movies. Despite playing the bad guy in movie after movie, he really never was engaged in the typical Bollywood end-movie fights, chased by a faster hero or delivered lengthy evil speeches after throwing a fellow baddie in the shark tank. The wardrobe - mostly three-piece suit - is consistent too. I guess we all have seen likes of his at our workplaces. People who are there for years, makes jolly good money, no one really knows what they do and - most importantly, no one even questions why they are there! We all aim to be that guy. Except, Dilip Tahil has been that guy from day one in movies.