Wednesday, August 28, 2002

I saw Everybody Says I'm Fine today. Or rather, inflicted it upon myself. One-and-a-half hours of excruciating viewing. I have seen better school plays than this. I mean that's what it looked like, an amateur play mounted on screen, and a very bad one at that.
And somebody should lock up this jerk Rahul Bose.
When all around him guys like Farhan Akhtar and Ram Gopal Verma are making brilliant films, this no-good excuse of an actor tries his hand at direction and goes on to make one of the most pathetic expressions of cinematic creativity ever seen on screen.
The jerky camera movements, the tacky sets, the inane dialogues, the contrived situations, the dumb plot… (Couldn't he get something right, for Chrissake!)
Now to come to the acting.
I kind of liked the fellow in Dev Benegal's English, August even though his performance was panned by some critics then. Probably I was too taken in by the character of Agastya Sen to notice his acting. But then Bombay Boys gave me the first inkling that Bose may not be the greatest thing to happen to cinema after Clark Gable. And seeing him prancing around in colourful clothes in ESIF, mucking up a role which even Deepak Tijori would have done justice to, I thought Bose should do what the character he played couldn't do - commit suicide.
Rehan Engineer is bad. Only saving grace is he looks sincere.
Koel Purie not only bad and ugly to boot.
And what was Pooja Bhatt, lisp and all, doing in the film? She may be producing some good films, but that hasn't done anything to improve her non-existent acting talents.
And the rest of the cast is as wooden as stilts. Even the Hindi film extras you occasionally glimpse swaying beside the hero look more credible.
The most tasteless scene in the whole movie: Purie prances into Engineer's saloon with a group of lepers, gets him to cough up a few hundreds rupees in alms, pumps up the music and makes them dance to it. Her idea of egalitarianism. And the director's idea of showing that she's different! Hey, hasn't anyone heard of subtlety here?
After this I will put my money on a David Dhawan, rather than a Bong who thinks he is a filmmaker.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

From time to time, Ramblings will try to cut the verbiage that invariably creeps into news coverage and give you the story straight. Today we take a step-by-step look at the Gujarat imbroglio.
  • Narendra Modi and goons dissolve Assembly in May and push for polls because they want to ride the Hindutva wave to power.
  • CEC Lyndgoh spoils the party. Says elections only in November-December.
  • This upsets BJP's gameplan. If elections aren't held soon and a new government sworn in by October 6, the party is in serious shit. Reason: Article 174 of the Constitution. Which says that unless a fresh assembly sitting is convened within six months of the preceding one, President's rule will have to be declared. Which means egg on face of Modi, Advani and co.
  • Government is clever. Instead of going in for a confrontation with the EC, which is a constitutional body, it refers the case to the President. Article 143 of the Constitution empowers President A P J Abdul Kalam to refer the matter to the Supreme Court. (You see Presidents and Prime Ministers can't do things just because they you want to. So, they need all this verbose Articles to back them up.)
    In case the apex court agrees with the EC, then the government would have no option but to impose President's Rule till the polls are held.
    Now, all eyes are on the Supreme Court which will hear the opinion on Monday.

  • Wednesday, August 21, 2002

    The creative process is a very healing process. I mean even the act of writing a blog is cathartic. Even if you write extremely uninteresting, self-indulgent stuff like the one I am writing now.
    But the kind of stuff that is out there is amazing. I was reading this blog, written by a Bangladeshi girl based in US, who recounts how she told her mother that she was a lesbian. To think that people will publish something as personal as this for the rest of the world to read kind of freaks me out.
    Actually, deep down I think we are all exhibitionists.
    In fact, I have imagined myself being the protagonist of this great cosmic drama which is being watched by an unseen audience. You know, something like Truman Show.
    Hey, I am not saying that blogging is exhibitionism. I think it is a very human response to the increasing isolation created by modern day living. A world in which your worth as a human being is constantly being depreciated. (Ignore it. Just meant to give some weight to the article!)
    In fact, the phenomenon of blogging is very interesting as it is in complete variance to the predictions of those who said that the Internet would create a society where human interaction will be minimised.
    But, they forgot that human beings are basically social creatures. They'll bond, gossip, banter, swap ideas no matter what.
    Proof: "A magical thing happens when you get your first e-mail from someone who says, 'Me, too'," says Meg Hourihan, an early blogger.
    Another one: "In the future, everyone will be famous to 15 people on the Web," says David Weinberger, author of "Small Pieces Loosely Joined," an incisive book about the Net.
    Clinching evidence: "Some people can go on and on about something they found on the sidewalk. It connects me to people I would never meet, and I guess people feel the same way about my blog," says Barbara Fletcher, 33, a Web designer in Toronto.
    These examples have been taken from an article on blogging published in MSNBC.
    In fact, just look at Net usage and you will realise that the two most popular online activities are mailing and chatting!
    Need I say more?

    Tuesday, August 20, 2002

    Every day when I set out for office in the morning I am trailed by a pesky fly, which keeps on buzzing around and irritating the hell out of me. Lately, I have been wondering why the fly takes a fancy to me. An it occurred that it may be my cologne. (Now I know it's not a very flattering thought. But what the heck, anything for the greater cause of scientific inquiry.) The question that came to my mind was: Do flies have the powers of olfaction? Common sense says the do but anyway I turned to the omniscient Mr Google! And bingo! I was immediately informed that not only do these buggers have a phenomenal sense of smell, their favourites include old pork meat, damp stale bread and chicken manure (Ugh!).
    "The fly has on its head two antennae, a kind of fleshy trunk for sucking up food and two palps. The antennae and palps are covered in hairs that have sensory cells inside which react to odours," says Dr Frits Kelling, who recently earned a PhD from the University of Groningen, in the north of The Netherlands, on this subject. (Next thing you know somebody will have a PhD thesis with a title like "Flatulence in African Killer Ants")
    To discover these nauseating facts Kelling caught flies and stuck electrodes to the hairs on their antennae. (Now, this is what you call dedication, maan!)
    More enlightening stuff: When a young fly is emerging from the pupa it can already smell. And there are a few differences between the olfactory habits of males and females. (Oh no! How could I have been so completely ignorant about all this.)
    Anyway, it so happens that Kelling's research is not meaningless academic indulgence. Apparently, Dutch researchers are going to use his findings to improve fly traps. Hurrah! Death to the shit-eaters!

    P.S. I want my blog to be totally apolitical. However, I can't help but make an honourable mention of James Lyngdoh. This man knows how to cut the crap. I mean, these politicians and their bureaucratic cronies have been bullshitting us on Gujarat for a long time… but Lyngdoh's kick on their collective butts has landed them face down on their self-manufactured manure.

    Monday, August 19, 2002

    The Sunday Times Of India had an interesting article about a ET which has been attacking people in Uttar Pradesh. From the article it appeared as if this was not another mass hysteria thingie - a very popular diversion among us Indians. Apparently, the Intelligence Bureau, one of the premier investigative agencies of the country, has video footage in its possession which 'shows' the ET.

    Interestingly, the report appeared just the day after I saw Steven Spielberg's E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial on VCD. I watched the movie with a tinge of sadness. It seemed to me that had I seen it twenty years ago when it was originally released I would have 'connected' with the movie. Not that I wasn't touched by the chemistry between the ET and the kid, but the sense of wonderment was somehow missing.

    The problem is as you grow older and cynicism sets in, you begin to lose the sense of wonderment. Things that you felt were remarkable when you were young, you completely fail to notice now.

    Watching ET for the first time, I was convinced that the child in Spielberg is alive and kicking. Or else he couldn't have brought the sense of childlike wonderment to the film.

    Here's some trivia for E.T. fans:

    > Spielberg wanted ET's walk to be a combination of Bambi and Charlie Chaplin walking with his cane.
    > Gertie's famous line "I don't like his feet" was actually contributed by actor Drew Barrymore and wasn't part of the original script.
    > E.T.'s communicator made of an umbrella, record player, saw blade and many more items is actually worked. It was constructed by Henry Feinberg, an expert in science and technology interpretation for the public
    > E.T.s scream was actually an otter's shriek
    > ET's face was modeled after poet Carl Sandburg, Albert Einstein and a pug dog.
    > Spielberg shot most of the film from the eye-level of a child - showing adults from the waist-level - to further "connect" with Elliot and E.T.
    > Spielberg shot the film in chronological order to invoke a real response from the actors (mainly the children) when E.T. departed at the end. All emotional responses from that last scene are real.
    > Spielberg is reported to have spent $100,000 to digitally remove the guns from the hands 2002 20th Anniversary re-release of the movie. He regretted using the scene and said he would remove it if he ever re-issued the film.
    > As a child , Spielberg actually freed frogs at school
    > Three actors were used to play the part of E.T. - two dwarves and a child who was born without a leg.
    > ET premiered at the Cannes Film Festival

    Friday, August 16, 2002

    So, yesterday was Independence Day. Best thing about it was that it was a holiday. (You see having been a dot com journalist for the last three years, I have had to drag my arse to office on every national holiday, while the rest of the country slept, watched TV, made love…)
    Tidied up my room (just in time it seems, because a couple of days more and I would have found it difficult to make my way through the heaps of soiled underwear, snot-soaked handkerchiefs, discarded bus tickets, cigarette butts and other detritus of a bachelor’s pad). Also got a much-needed haircut (every time the barber goes to work on my hair I can’t help noticing the receding hairline).
    Somehow, Independence Day in India doesn’t seem to evoke the kind of response that Fourth of July evokes in the US. Come on man, I-Day should be a national festival like Thanksgiving. People should celebrate it like any other festival. I had read somewhere that Indians don’t have a common festival which is celebrated nationwide which is why we fail to bond as a nation.
    The government should market it like Archies markets Valentine’s Day. I mean this day should mean SOMETHING BIG to us, rather than just another day before which you line up at the local liquor shop to tide over a government-imposed dry day.
    Hey come on, did all the freedom fighters die fighting the Brits so that we assholes get one more excuse to get pissed drunk?
    Anyway, I will stop before I work myself up into this patriotic hysteria.
    But, I very strongly feel Independence Day should be celebrated big time by all Indians.
    The fact that the government has allowed the common man to put up the national flag seems like a good start.

    Wednesday, August 07, 2002

    Yesterday was Hiroshima Day. I was planning to post a blog in memory of the occasion, but didn’t get the time. In the morning, I noticed this photograph of a ‘die-in’ protest by anti-nuke activists in front of the Atomic Dome. And as I was editing this particular page of our newspaper, I decided to carry it for yesterday’s edition. It gave me a sort of satisfaction of having done my bit to commemorate the outrage.
    I am reproducing some lines from an article by John Berger in the Guardian:
    A few days before the bombing of Hiroshima, Vice Admiral Radford boasted that "Japan will eventually be a nation without cities - a nomadic people". The bomb, exploding above a hospital in the centre of the city, killed 100,000 people instantly, 95% of them civilians. Another 100,000 died slowly from burns and effects of radiation.
    "Sixteen hours ago," President Truman announced, "an American airplane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima, an important Japanese army base." One month later the first uncensored report - by the intrepid Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett - described the cataclysmic suffering he encountered after visiting a makeshift hospital in the city.
    General Groves, who was the military director of the Manhattan Project for planning and manufacturing the bomb, hastily reassured congressmen that radiation caused no "undue suffering" and that "in fact, they say it is a very pleasant way to die". In 1946 the US strategic bombing survey came to the conclusion that "Japan would have surrendered even if atomic bombs had not been dropped".

    Anyway, today I was reading this brilliant article on Salon about how one’s life will always have it share of crises no matter what you do. It’s message: Don’t wallow in self-pity, just get on with life because there are countless others who are in the same soup.

    Monday, August 05, 2002

    The Sunday Times of India had an article yesterday which listed the factors on which the Indian monsoon depends. Some of them just blew me: Surface pressure at Darwin, zonal wind conditions over Balboa. Did someone say Balboa! Hey! I don’t even know about this place. So, this is chaos theory in action! Just because some stupid butterfly beat its wings a tad too fast, poor me is sweating buckets here. This is so irritating!
    Anyway, if dear reader (hey, anybody out there?!!) has been wondering why I have been only discussing the weather for the last few days, I will just change the topic.
    Last weekend I saw three good movies — Pulp Fiction, Girl, Interrupted and Traffic.
    Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp … was simply outstanding. Girl… was very dark and disturbing. Traffic made for interesting viewing.
    Girl… had an unforgettable line. In the film Winona Ryder says, “Madness is just a amplification of a part of us.”
    What was enjoyable about Pulp… was its crackling dialogue.
    Sample this:
    Jackson: Well, you know the shows on TV?
    Travolta: I don’t watch TV.
    Jackson: Yes, but you're aware that there's an invention called television, and on that invention they show shows?

    And this:
    That was...divine intervention.
    You know what divine intervention

    Yeah, I think so. That means God
    came down from Heaven and stopped
    the bullets.

    Yeah, man, that's what is means.
    That's exactly what it means! God
    came down from Heaven and stopped
    the bullets.

    I think we should be going now.

    Don't do that! Don't you fuckin'
    do that! Don't blow this shit off!
    What just happened was a fuckin'

    Chill the fuck out, Jules, this
    shit happens.

    Wrong, wrong, this shit doesn't
    just happen.

    Do you wanna continue this
    theological discussion in the car,
    or at the jailhouse with the cops?

    We should be fuckin' dead now, my
    friend! We just witnessed a
    miracle, and I want you to fuckin'
    acknowledge it!

    Okay man, it was a miracle, can we
    leave now?

    Thursday, August 01, 2002

    Yes, the naysayers were right — monsoons are still a long way off. After Wednesday’s shower, it was back to the sultry heat. The sky had darkened at around 2 o’clock in the afternoon, but after the first few cooling drops, nothing. Though the sky remained overcast, the rain gods refused to relent.
    However, by the time I came to office I was drenched in sweat.
    I checked out the Indian Meteorological Department website. The forecast said rain is expected in Delhi in the next 24 hours but the satellite image didn’t show even a fleck of cloud over Delhi. Hard luck.

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