Monday, February 27, 2006

Jessica Lal & SMS Poll

Jessica Lal, a model, was murdered in 1999 in front of 300 people by Manu Sharma for refusing to serve him alcohol after the bar was closed. She was the celebrity barmaid at a party comprising of the Delhi glitterati. Over the years there were trials after trials and one by one the entire eyewitness turned hostile leading to the acquittal of all the suspects. Manu Sharma is a free man thanks to the judicial system of our country which relies on unflinching evidence rather than circumstantial evidence. Jessica Lal was also let down by her so called friends who refused to testify for her. I hope they can sleep in peace now that they have been collectively influential in freeing a murderer!!!

The media has unanimously denounced the verdict. NDTV has gone as far as starting a SMS poll where Indian junta can join hands with the channel to petition to the President for a new trial in the Jessica Lal case. The chance to make a statement quickly and easily seems to have struck a chord with the public. This SMS poll has gotten everyone from students to film stars to express their outrage on the verdict! People seem to like having the opportunity to vent some steam about the burning issue!

Will it work? I have heard that Delhi High Court has ordered clarifications in the case and transfer of the investigating officer. The opinion poll may or may not have been vital in this case. Will NDTV's efforts go to waste in getting Jessica justice? Or is it that NDTV is eyeing a share of the SMS poll pie which so far has been associated with game shows and competitions?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Memoirs Of A Geisha

WARNING: Spoilers ahead...proceed at your own risk :-)

I absolutely loved the book Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden and was eagerly awaiting the movie version. It took a while for the movie to release in India, but the wait was worth it, or was it?

Technically brilliant, visually sweeping, the celluloid version of the well loved story of the trials and tribulations of Chiyo, the daughter of a fisher man, a girl with eyes like water who was to become a celebrated geisha Sayuri was engrossing and engaging, yet it lacked the soul, the emotions so vividly portrayed by Golden in his book.

The movie starts exactly like the book where on a stormy night nine year old Chiyo and her elder sister were sold off by their father to a stranger who brings them to Kyoto. There the pretty Chiyo(debutante Suzuka Ohgo) get accepted in the Nitta okiya while her plain sister goes to a common brothel. Chiyo's journey to become the most accomplished Geisha Sayuri ( Ziyi Zhang) of her time had its share of trauma in the hands of the cold hearted matron of the okiya and the mindless jealousy of beautiful Hatsumomo (a fabulous Gong Li). Her chance meeting with the much older Chairman (Ken Watanabe) inspires her want to become a Geisha only to be able to get close to him. She remains a servant girl at the okiya for a long time, until another matron Mameha (Michelle Yeoh) turns her mentor and insists on converting her into one of the most desired of geishas.

Mameha's mentoring comprises tips on how to get and keep a man's attention, beauty makeovers ("agony and beauty go side by side"), tutoring in dance and conversation and explaining the real meaning of a geisha. Mameha and Chiyo take us right in the tearoom with the geisha; we are there as she gracefully fights for her life in a social situation where careers are made or destroyed by a witticism, a too-revealing (or not revealing enough) glimpse of flesh under the kimono, or a vicious rumor spread by a rival.

Strangely, while we are repeatedly told that geishas are "moving works of art, who do not sell their bodies," we see Sayuri's virginity auctioned to the highest bidder. There is a cold cruelty in the mechanics of the trade - from rivalry to the nonchalance and manipulation with which a girl's virginity is sold.The movie ends rather abruptly where out of nowhere the Chairman decides to profess his affection for Sayuri. It was the weakest scene of the movie. It could hardly portray the passion of expressing years of pent up feelings and ends up as an awkward finale to a rather grand arrangement.

Performance wise young Suzuka Ohgo steals the show as Chiyo. Her earnest face and expressive eyes draws you in and makes you want to protect her from all the cruelties in this world. Ziyi Zhang as Sayuri is beautiful in a mesmerizing way and with her limited knowledge of English was as effective as she could be. Gong Li is absolutely fabulous as the insanely jealous Hatsumomo... she is the diva here, imperious, vicious, being cruel to Zhang. She's fun to watch. Michelle Yeoh as Mameha is the only actress who has any command over English and does full justice to her role albeit slightly bland. I loved Ken Watanabe in the Last Samurai. Here he was wooden and one dimensional and looked extremely uncomfortable kissing the bewitching Ziyi Zhang!!

Beautiful locales and sets, lavish costumes and eye candy actors make Memoirs a lush period film that is simultaneously gorgeous and dissatisfying!

Friday, February 24, 2006

The Rang De Basanti Experience

WARNING: Spoilers ahead...proceed at your own risk :-)

I had pretty much made up my mind that I would like Rang De Basanti. After all, I have always liked Aamir and his movies (well, most of them anyway!). And I adore Atul Kulkarni. Rakeysh (what's with the spelling!?) OmPrakash Mehra had impressed me quite a bit with the strange, dark and very unusual Aks...I was eager to see his next offering. A R Rahman's tracks were already a rage. Did I need anymore reasons to head to the nearest multiplex?

RDB has a story to tell. It is not a rip-off of some Hollywood or Korean film. But the story is told at a rather leisurely pace. Is it a patriotic film? Yes and no. Is it a coming of age film? Yes and no. Is it a fun film? Yes and no. Is it a serious film? Yes and no. The movie is essentially split between intermissions as "A comedy caper" and "The Awakening" with a rather convoluted ending.

The story begins with the young British filmmaker Sue (Alice Patten) stalking off her budget-hit job to India to make a film on the young revolutionaries who so impressed her grandfather, a jailer, with their calm in the face of imminent death. In Delhi, aided by Sonia (Soha Ali Khan), she runs into DJ (Aamir Khan), Karan (Siddharth), Sukhi (Sharman Joshi), and Aslam (Kunal Kapoor). With them and the saffron-hued Laxman Pandey (Atul Kulkarni) who joins them later, she hopes to realize her dream of a making a film on Bhagat Singh, Chandrasekhar Azad, Rajguru, Ashfaq, Bismil among others. Contrary to Sue's expectations, the youth have no feelings for their country. India is a no-hoper where corruption is rampant, and nothing can be done to salvage the situation, they believe. They even poke fun at Sue's attempts to make a film, till they come around. As they play the historical characters, their perspective about the present, and their own role in it, changes forever. This, in a nutshell, is what the movie is about.

Madhavan, as Sonia's IAF pilot fiancĂ© is the voice of conscience. It’s his unfortunate death in a MIG 21 crash, knee-jerks the group into action. They take it upon themselves to avenge his death. How they do it is where the confusion comes in. The graph of the transition from being no hopers to believers should have been more like a curve rather than the drastic step which it seems like. It also gives a dangerous message to everyone... in a civic society, how are we going to decide who are the Bhagats who will rightfully kill the Scotts and who are the Nathurams. It is here that the film sends the wrong vibe.

I couldn't help but think of the characters to be foolish to juxtapose Bhagat Singh's movement to what they were planning to execute in the hope of producing similar results!!

The cast, besides Aamir Khan (let me get back to him later), was quite a pleasant surprise. I liked Kunal Kapoor in Meenaxi, and in RDB he doesn’t disappoint. Sharman Joshi was a revelation. It about time he rises above B-grade movies like Style, and joins the big league. Alice Patten was brilliant (even though her Hindi was too shuddh at times). Soha Ali Khan was a big surprise. Until RDB I hadn’t seen any of her movies so I didn’t have any expectations from her. She definitely is a chip off the old block! Atul Kulkarni unfortunately didn't have much to do other than look at Aamir and Siddharth angrily from time to time. Eventually he does redeem himself, but I always expect a lot from the actor! But the real surprise was Siddharth. His underplayed, intense performance as the suave Karan was the most impressive of the cast. I particularly liked the way he handled the climax. I am told that Karan’s role was offered to Hrithik Roshan who turned it down because he wanted to play Aamir’s role. Well, your loss Mr. Roshan!

Coming to Aamir Khan, the 40 year old actor looked too old (even with his new haircut) to be someone who graduated from college 5 years back, unless of course we’re talking about a PhD here. His DJ was coarse, uncouth, loud and sometimes downright irritating! That might have been by design; in that case you have acted really well Mr. Khan. I personally think you were hamming in most parts. You need to lose about 10kgs, get some botox treatment done to fix the puffy-eyed look and please try not to look ridiculous and borderline obscene!!

A R Rahman’s music rocks, well…mostly! I didn’t care much for Paathshaala and Khalbali. In fact the Khalbali sequence could have been edited out to make the pace tighter. My personal favorite is Roobaroo. Prashoon Joshi’s dialogues are natural and the lyrics inspirational.

I feel the film is still a great one, but it lost focus somewhere in the middle of the road... and became only a shadow of what could have been... Nevertheless, congratulations Aamir, Siddharth, Sharman, Kunal, Soha, Atul, Alice! And thank you, Mr. Mehra!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Charminar and the Prophet's cartoon

How old is the issue of the Prophet's cartoon published in a Danish newspaper? Sorry if I can't recall..may be September 30, 2005! The echo hits Hyderabad on the 18th of February 2006 where following the Friday prayer 10,000 strong angry mob descend on the old city and went on a rampage indulging in burning public transport, stone pelting and looting shops!!!!

Hats off to my Muslim brothers of Hyderabad!! To protest about a politically incorrect cartoon published in a Danish newspaper, you burn down your own transports, loot shops owned by your brethen and pelt stones at your own people!!! I sincerely hope that by destroying properties in your own city you have conveyed a messege to the Danish newspaper, who in my opinion gives a rat's derriere to your sentiment!!! And who will compensate the damages suffered by these poor business owners, many of whom are Muslims just like you (or did you only target the Hindu shops) ? Will it be the AIMIM, whose leaders stood around and argued with the police instead of controlling the mob?? Do you even know what the cartoon was all about, or how it hurt your religious sentiments? Or did you just carry out orders from your religious-political leaders who has some other agenda??

Thursday, February 09, 2006

An Ode on

Spouse found this poking around the Mumbai forums. Proceed at your own might be a bit to risque for some...I thought it was very creative :-)

Ode to My Husband's Missing Foreskin

I never knew you. I wish I had.
Someone said you were bad.

Ripped you off before you were complete,
thought that bare glans looked so neat.

Now we deal with wet against dry
and rely on KY.

How much fun it would have been
to slide you back and forth again.

And see the pleasure in his eyes
as his pressure starts to rise.

Circumcision robs more than one
of the perfect design for fun.

He doesn't miss what he never had,
so why does it make me so sad?


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Indian Idol 2

Monali got voted out last night! Not that I was a great fan of hers, but she was better than a lot of the current crop. Her voice shook a bit, but poor do you expect her to sing in pukka sur, emote, dance and be camera friendly at the same time??? Not forgetting at least half a dozen dancers prancing around her causing a major distraction!!Still she was leagues better than Antara, who btw completely massacared my most favorite RD song...I'd never forgive her for that!!

Ravi seems to be a jinxed name for Indian Idol. Last season thanks to Ravinder Ravi quite a few deserving singers didn't get a chance and this year looks like Mr Tripathi is pulling yet another Ravinder Ravi!!!

And what about Panna?He's cute to look at, dances well, but performance is getting repetitive and singing stays average. Anuj, the great come-back miracle completely squandered his golden opportunity! But surprise surprise, he gets voted in and who goes to bottom 3? Of all people on earth...Karunya!!!

Amey and Karunya by far are the strongest contenders for the title if one looks at raw talent only and not at cuteness factor or underpriviledged background or make-over magic or any other emotional drama!! These two sing with all their heart and soul and does justice to any song they pick.

Antara...what do I say about her?!I still remember when she asked Farah Khan about X-factor and how she can't help her bhadda surat! A trip to the beauty parlor did wonders to her! But where is the spark that she showed in the preliminary rounds??? Does she really come from Maslandpur, the so called chhoti si gaon? Her English diction is perfect, her body language is confident, it totally belies her claim of being a village belle! Remember the fashion victim Ritu Pathak...she was the real look at her and you know her background!!

Last but not the least, Meenal...hmmm...she's pretty, sings reasonably well, but her voice lacks the maturity required to carry off the songs she's picking. Who knows what the coming weeks will bring for her!!

The official Indian Idol site is flooded with messages from Pakistan, UK, USA, Canada, Bangladesh, Nepal, UAE and god knows where. Glad to know people out there are colsely following this mega talent hunt. Wonder why they don't open up internet voting like Sa Re Ga Ma Pa?! They have internet poll going on with security code against multiple voting...why not vote for the contestants the same way?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Hyderabad Blues Part III

First of all I have to say that I’m deeply touched by the overwhelming response to the previous installments of Hyderabad Blues. Many of you have informed me that you are keenly awaiting the next bout of my mental diarrhea manifested in an extra-long email choking up your mail-box. Since I'm so concerned about the health of your mail-boxes,I have decided to put it out in a blog format. So welcome to my blog, where I rave and rant about anything and everything, voice unfounded opinions and quote misinformed data at random!!!

Today I’d like to share with you my observations of a peculiar group of people who, in my opinion has become a very important part of our everyday life in India. There’s hardly any place one can go without bumping into one of them and most of the time that interaction leaves a rather bitter after taste. In case you are wondering, I’m actually talking about the security guards. Whoever thought of this form of employment has to be a genius! What a novel idea…get a bunch of really dumb guys, pay them peanuts, put them in colorful uniforms, make them stand in sweltering heat wearing hats, their only job description is “harass any one who tries to get past”…and boy, do they take themselves seriously!

Case in point, Microsoft campus in Hyderabad. One morning I had the misfortune of visiting the building. It seems there are two gates, one for VIP/employees and another one for visitors. Now the gate for visitors is actually located almost a kilometer away from the building entrance and if you are not carrying your Microsoft ID card you are not allowed to take in your car, which means park your car outside, fill up forms in triplicate to apply for a visitor’s pass, walk the kilometer in the Hyderabad heat to get to the building, wrestle another guard who’s standing at the door operable only by a card key and then fill up another set of forms in triplicate at the reception to finally get your visitor’s pass. The other gate actually expects you to have a pass even before you can enter. Well, on this unfortunate and extremely hot morning, after being unceremoniously and unnecessarily shunted about between the two gates of the great Microsoft, I finally lost it. I refused to walk the kilometer and decided to try my luck at the VIP gate. I try to walk in with a VVIP air about me, but the security guard was not to be fooled…he knows a real VIP from a fake one. The conversation thus followed went like this.

Security Guard (SG): Arre madam, ID card kidhar hai?
Me : Visitor
SG: Toh pass kidhar hai?
Me: Andar nahi jayega to pass kahanse ayega?
SG: Bina pass ka andar jana mana hai!!
Me: Thik hai, toh receptionist ko yahan bulao!
SG: (very patronizingly) Nahi madam, aisa nahi to hota. Rule hai…bina pass ka andar jana mana hai!
Me: Rule kahan likkha hai? Dikhao!
SG: Maine bataya na rule hai!
Me: Rule aapne banaya?
SG: Nahi upar ka order hai
Me: Toh upar wala ko hi bulao
SG: nahi bula saktey!
Me: Rule nahi dikha saktey, uparwaley ko nahi bula saktey…toh kaise chalega? Mujhey andar jana hai!!
I make an attempt to walk off. Now this guy gets really serious.
SG: Aise andar nahi ja sakte!!!
By this time I’m already baked in the heat, so I just lose it completely and break into this tirade ( in suddh Hindi) of how I have been going into Microsoft campus for last 7 years and nobody has ever dared stop me ( haha) and now I’ll have to learn the rules from him etc etc. I threw one last “Rok sako toh rok lo” and marched off to the reception while he stared helplessly. Well so much for security!!! But he forgot to ask me how I managed to go to the MS campus for 7 years when the campus was only 1 year old?! Oh well...

This afternoon, we took our son to the Birla Planetarium. Beautiful place located atop a hill with great views of Hyderabad. We reached about half hour before the show time. Sonny boy wanted to use the restroom so we show our tickets to the security guard and enter the building. They had some interesting exhibits on Einstein, so we decide to read those to kill time. A loud whistle makes me jump out of my skin. Turns out to be a security guard. “Yahan anadar ghumna phirna mana hai” he says. Spouse shows him our tickets.

Spouse:Tickets hai hamare paas.

SG:Ghumna phirna mana hai!!

Spouse and I wonder aloud why they put up the exhibits, if no one’s allowed to look at them. Now the guard is really angry. He chases us with his whistle and says ‘Bola na ghumna phirna mana hai! Show ke 15 minutes pehle gate khulta hai!”

Spouse: Aapko to ticket dikhakey andar gaya.

SG: Sirf bathroom jaaney ka permission diya tha…ghumney ka nahi!

Me: Pehle batane ka tha na ke aankh bandh karke bathroom jao, aas paas mat dekho!

SG: Bahar sab log wait kar rahen hai…aaplog anadar hai, confusion ho raha hai!!

So we decide to be good little citizens and obey the “rules” and step out. Immediately he takes our tickets, punches them and says, “Ab andar ja saktey hai!!” Apparently it was 15 minutes before show time.

So our friend the security guard is also the usher inside the planetarium and he decides the seating order. He points to a far corner and says “Wahan jaakey baith jaaiye.” Spouse and I look at each other and in unison say “nahi jayengey!!” pick our own seats and sit down. The guy probably realizes that we are lost cases and turns his attention to other people who are a little more “rule” abiding!

Now, this one takes the cake. Some time back we went to a water park close to Hyderabad. At the wave pool there was tiny entrance gate with a security guard checking if people are wearing “proper swimming attire”. The park was renting out long pants and shirts for the conservative Indian woman to protect her modesty in a swimming pool. A repatriate friend of ours was wearing a jet-ski top over his swim shorts…he was forced to take it off because it was improper attire. Then it was my turn. I had a sarong over my swim suit and the guy wouldn’t let me in.

SG:”Madam, skirt allow nahi hai!”

Me:Yeh skirt nahi, sarong hai

SG:Kucch bhi ho, skirt allowed nahi hai

Me:Arrey woh log lambey pants pahenkey pool me utar sakti hai to phir sarong kyu nahi chalega?

SG: Mereko nahi maloom. Skirt allow nahi hai! Yeh kholkey jao.

Me: Nahi kholti

SG: Nahi ja saktey

Me: Manager ko bulao

The manager was called…I start yelling about the unfairness of the rules by which women can wear long pants to the water park to protect their modesty and sarongs are considered improper attire! He took one look at my agitated state, decided not to aggravate the situation anymore and let me in. Unfortunately by then the security guard had already been at the receiving end of some choicest phoren gaalis from me. Before going in I took the sarong off just to prove that I was indeed in proper swimming attire!!

Another repatriate family renting out a huge mansion in Jubilee hills and employing day/night security guard experienced burglary three times in a span of one year…each time the guard was conveniently somewhere else!

Sometimes I wonder what exactly the role of a security guard is. Every place has one…banks, schools, shops, office, homes, malls, cinema, restaurants…why are we suddenly in need of security? What are we securing ourselves from? Can two skinny guys in ill-fitting uniform stop terrorists from attacking a school and taking our children as hostages?

And here's some food for thought...Why do Microsoft employees have to show their ID card while getting out of the building in Hyderabad?