Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Kambakkht Ishq :: movie review :: Catastrophe

This movie is embossed with stars and wannabe stars. We have Akshay ( Viraj Shergill ), Kareena Kapoor (Simrita Rai), Aftab Shivdasani (Lucky), Amrita Arora ( Kamini) and a slew of cameos from bit part players. The movie is a loose translation/dub of Pammal K Sambandam ( the tamil Kamal Haasan blockbuster) released in 2002. There are elements that have been retained from that movie and parts that have been ignored/modified/fabricated in the hindi version.

The movie has most of its shots in Universal Studios. You have to commend the producers/directors on this one, someone from their team visited Universal and made most of their movie from the shows that occur there on a daily basis. So for anyone that has visited Universal Studios before, "Kambakkht Ishq" is a cheap recreation.. make it poor recreation of the same stunts with Akshay leading the stunts.

My first thought upon 40% into the movie was, i hope Kamal Haasan does not watch this movie, he might just jump off a cliff and i dear hope he doesnt have a rope nearby because he might hang himself... what a waste of money, time and human labor this movie is. Akshay who is at best an excuse for an actor pulls in a horrible job in this one. Thankfully i dont expect too much acting from Akshay and even with that expectation this one is a dud. I almost felt sorry for Kareena, because she has some great talent and potential, but she is wasted and her role neither sticks nor stinks and for that she should be happy. If you come out of the other end of the movie with a shrug of the shoulder reaction for your part, then you have done well.

How you can take such a good, funny concept and turn it into a disaster baffles me. Briefly, Viraj, is a stuntman and does doubles for prominent Hollywood actors. He is a womanizer and is adept at handling relationships without getting trapped into commitments. He finds out that his brother 'Lucky' , against his wishes, falls in the love trap and marries his girlfriend Kamini. Simrita, a close friend of Kamini, lives with her aunt Dolly ( Kirron Kher) and her seperated sister, does not believe in marriage and/or men. Fueled by her perception of her father's role in her parents' relationship freeze, she has grown to disavow men. Against SImrita's wishes kamini marries Lucky.

Simrita tries to convince Kamini that Lucky only needs sexual relationship from her and her views will be proved right if Kamini agrees to abstain from a physical relation with Lucky to see if he still loves her. With the help of 'lover boy' Viraj, Lucky tries to woo Kamini but fails everytime with Simrita at the heart of the thwarting. Simrita, quizzically, takes the opportunity to take shots at stuntman and their inability to become the men. Simrita who is a wannabe surgeon is on the cusp of becoming one with her fulfillment of her assistance in surgeries. An unfortunate event leads to Viraj getting injured and he ends being a patient of Simrita. Viraj refuese to take treatment from Simrita, but eventually she performs the surgery. Upon completion of the surgery and examination of Viraj's XRay Simrita realizes that she left her watch "in" Viraj's body and stitched it up.

Viraj, post-surgery, is able to listen to a Hindu-marriage mantra every once in a while. I have a big beef here, it is shown in the movie that the 'mantar' emnates when he is asleep and when he is peeing in his toilet. I think in the quest to be irritating and funny they took advantage of the accepting Hindu religion, i am not sure the censor board should have allowed the scene, certainly it generated lot more yeeew than wows . To sum up this scene was disgusting to say the least, not even in the zipcode of funny.

Simrita, realising that she had made a mistake, a career-busting one at that, tries to appease and form a friendly relation with Viraj with the idea of getting him back on the operating table, to remove the watch without viraj's knowledge. Simrita, goes to all extremes and even responds favorably - albeit fakely - when she acts attracted to Viraj's love. Viraj proposes and finds out the real reason Simrita was after him. What other events transpire for them to gettogether forms the conclusion.

There are scenes where Slyvester Stallone comes in, i really donno why... and Denise Richards who acts in the same movie as Viraj performs (as stuntman) has some scense as well. I still am at a loss as to why there were so many super imposed images in the movie to make it look like Viraj was in the middle of a Hollywood superstars. I do not get it. I also do not get why this movie is shot in the US, this movie would have attracted the audience if it were made in India, the scenes would not look so plastic too.

Akshay Kumar is who he is, 2 or 3 times a year he will have funny movies released, they may run, they may not, but you can guarantee there wont be much of an effort or attempt to explore new vistas of roles or stories. Another charred, horrible feather to his illustrious cap of bust movies.

I hope Bollywood doesnt embarass itself with too many other clunkers like this one. DO yourself a favor and do not watch this movie, your Rs 200 can be used in other useful ways or if you have to spend that 200 eat a pizza or goto a theme park. There are better things to do than endure this debacle of a movie.

Grade : F -- as in Failure...

Monday, May 04, 2009

X-Men Origins Wolverine : Movie Review : Fascinating, feed your fun side...

Fascinating. That sums up what I felt like when I walked off the cinema. Full disclosure, I was not expecting much from the movie, in fact I expected it to be a dud. So with reduced expectations, that set me up for a real positive experience and the audience did get one. My worry going into the movie was that I had seen only one of the previous three XMen movies and I was not sure if I were missing a few pieces to the puzzle. Refreshingly, this was a prequel and it worked well for me and as I watched the movie, I thought no one needs to have watched the previous versions to understand this movie.

Its very nice to see the reports that audiences are hitting the theatres, despite the movie already being online for the past one month, I decided not to watch the movie online for 2 reasons, one I thought the audio quality wouldn’t be that good and I was not too much into this series.

Now to the movie itself, the creators of this movie have asked the audience a simple favor, don’t reason… just appreciate. The bloodline of the movie, is a select few “mutants” that have some supreme powers due to anomalies in their genes, these mutants while appear human, are not and they each have their own abnormality, and generally these abnormalities are some sort of supremely gifted ability. One mutant has the ability to fly and climb walls, while another has the ability to create a shackle, while one other mutant has giant metal claws and there is one with invisibility. Most of these mutants want to gel with normal humans, while some don’t, but for the most part they are being ignored and even mistreated. Some creative-minded humans want to use their special power for their own purpose.

Hugh Jackman plays the Wolverine/Logan, Liev Screiber plays Victor (Logan’s brother), Danny Huston (Stryker) is colonel, Lynn Collins (Logan’s girlfriend Kayla), Taylor Kitsch (Gambit) with one unique “energy generating” gift. The movie is centered on Logan, a brief interlude of how Logan teams up with his brother and their few battles along the way. Not everyone is fond of a mutant and they are at fault with the law, they are even jailed. Stryker, a colonel, who realizes the unique gifts of these mutants, is in the process of forming a special unit to combat evil forces entices Logan and Victor to join him in his endeavors. Logan and Victor join Stryker for their own purpose, one good and one to realize his real power. Logan soon falls out of line with Stryker and his ways of hurting people in the name of helping them, particularly when it costs lives, Logan walks out on Stryker but Victor stays on in the team.

Logan, carries on and leads a seemingly normal life with his girlfriend Kayla. But, even though he leaves Stryker, Stryker shows up in Logan’s life. Logan refuses to talk to Stryker, who warns that one-by-one his former team members are being killed and wiped out. Logan ignores Stryker and carries on his life, when its interrupted by Victor who is on a rampage to decimate Stryker’s former team. Victor is shown to end Kayla’a life, much to the ire of Logan. Logan, whose special mutant gift is to have natural claws pop-up from his knuckles, seethes in anger and finds Stryker. Stryker reveals that Victor had a falling out with him and that’s the reason for his anger. Logan teams up with Stryker to add some special metal to his body to make him indestructible. Logan cedes to Stryker’s research ideas with the hope of becoming powerful enough to eviscerate Victor.

Stryker has other plans and instructs his researchers to make Logan indestructible and erase his memory, so he loses his vengeful nature and stays under his command, Logan realizes Stryker’s intentions and escapes Stryker’s research island once he is made indestructible. Logan (now Wolverine) goes on a search of his other former team members with the hope of finding some clues and even warning them of Victor. Wolverine then learns about Gambit, who apparently knew where Styker’s island was and escaped from there. Wolverine was back on the hunt for Stryker as he had learned that Victor was in company with Stryker and they two were still working together. With the help of Gambit, Wolverine reaches the secret island where he confronts Stryker.

Stryker reveals that their research project was not Wolverine but the agent XI who is grown with all the singular gifts gathered from other agents and was decided to overpower even the indestructible Wolverine. Wolverine also learns that he was always monitored by Kayla, who operated as a spy, he is crushed to hear that and swears never ever to believe anyone in life again, Kayla reveals Stryker has her sister as captive and that’s why she worked for Stryker, but her love for Wolverine was true. Wolverine then goes on a rampage and how he confronts agent XI and Stryker forms the end of the story.

Since this is a prequel, they end the movie with the scene that would make sense for the original “X-Men” movie and that is “Wolverine” losing his memory.

This movie was well done and I think it really helped that my expectations were so so low after some of the whispers I had heard about this movie being an absolute dud. I ended up having a pretty good evening watching this movie, while its not a path breaking or even awe-inspiring flavor like ‘The Dark Knight’, its entertaining and worth your money. There are certain movies you have no business watching in a theatre, then there are some where you have to watch in a theatre if you decide to watch it, I would put this movie in that category. If you watch it, watch it in a cinema, its worth your money.

Good Movie, well done. Grade: B-.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Truth Maze : Cut-Paste for the TRUTH :: Fiction

Eyewitness report to Cop:

I saw ‘accused guy #1’ near the statue, he had an axe in his hand and he appeared to be cutting down the nearby tree. Once in a while he stopped and looked around suspiciously, his hands were sweaty, he had a strong forehead… the tree was half cut… I was at the bus stop just across from the statue, I turned around to pick up a political flyer that fell from my purse, a jeep passed by, there were 3 men with sharp objects, another flyer fell from my hand, I stopped and bent to pick it up, the jeep was going, the statue was beheaded, ‘accused guy #1’ was still there with the axe in his hand.

Cop: Look, we found the jeep and the 3 members, they are good people, they are influential people’s kids… I will rearrange some of the details in your report… now confirm to me if it’s the TRUTH… I know where you live…. i can drop you home...

Eyewitness report to Cop:

I saw ‘accused guy #1’ near the statue, he had an axe and sharp objects in his hand and he appeared to be cutting down the nearby tree. His hands were strong, he had a sweaty forehead… the tree was half cut… I was at the bus stop just across from the statue, I turned around to pick up my purse, a jeep passed by, there were 3 men with political flyers, a flyer fell from the jeep's kids hand, he stopped and bent to pick it up, the jeep was still there, the statue was beheaded, ‘accused guy #1’ was going with the axe in his hand, he stopped and looked around suspiciously once in a while.

Cop: Good, that’s better…
Eyewitness: Ji Sab… Can I go home..
Cop: Sure, we may ask you to come back to tell the truth in the court…
Eyewitness: Sure Sab, I will only tell the TRUTH…


Jeep had 3 politicians’ kids.
Accused guy was day laborer hired to cut down a dead tree.
Statue was beheaded by one of the 3 kids.
Eyewitness was a normal middle age man with 2 kids and depends on monthly salary.
Cop is a middle aged man, indebted to the local punk who has kidnapped his little girl.
Local punk is the man hired by the 3 kids.

One of my favorite quotes “When a volcano erupts with anger, innocent bystanders may get burnt, its not the fault of the volcano or the bystander, timing is sometimes a hell”

What appears to the eye, is not what’s the truth, everyone is under pressure and truth gets fudged to save some and kill some… its unfortunate....

Not everyone is Gandhi but hey even he lied once....

While its sad the ‘accused guy #1’ became a sure shot ‘convicted guy’ you are only normal if you feel for the Cop.

If in the Cop’s shoes you claim you will not fudge the truth, then you are not telling the truth..

Sometimes, innocent bystanders get burnt.. ands that’s sad… but that’s the truh

Note: This is total fiction. Invented by my own overloaded coffee-soaked brain.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Movie Review :: State of Play :: Pragmatic Scare and a Thrilling twist...

The Russell Crowe starrer is one of the better movies to have hit the screens this year. It’s subtle, suspenseful and at times thrilling. The cast is pretty good, with Crowe (Cal McAffrey) donning the lead role of a brusque, burly, veritable investigative journalist. With Helen Mirren (Cameron Lynne) as a hard nosed editor, Rachel McAdams (Della Frye) as a tough cookie blogger, Ben Affleck (Stephen Collins the congressman) as a sinful and now repentant public official and an array of cameos from some lesser names the movie has a good package of talent.

The movie starts off with a thud, when a young lead researcher, Sonia Baker, for an up-and-coming hotshot congressman (Collins) gets apparently murdered. This comes as a jolt to Collins’ professional pursuits and rocking of his personal foundation. The Congressman who leads a group of fellow like-minded colleagues is in the midst of investigating a scandal surrounding a private consultant/security/military/everything firm named ‘Pointcorp’. ‘PointCorp’ is the beneficiary of sizable military/police contracts in the middle-east and are being investigated for malpractice and corruption.

Mcaffrey the lead investigative journalist for ‘Washington Globe’ newspaper captures your eye as a smart, influential and contacts-rich journalist. He seems to have stumbled upon a couple of drive-by murders of a young black youth and a budding pizza entrepreneur. Thanks to a washed-up petty criminal McAffrey finds some interesting material linking Ms Baker and the young black murder-attempt victim. Collins is meanwhile at the eye of the storm as allegations about his extra-marital affairs surface thanks to some nosy publications. Collins, who is under relentless attack from the media tries to get some friendly cover and pays a visit to his pal McAffrey.

Collins confides about his illegal relationship with Ms Baker to McAffrey, but contends she was murdered when everyone seemed to think it was an apparent suicide. A theory about PointCorp’s involvement to marginalize Collins by linking him in a public morality stench evolves. McAffrey agrees to follow the trail of the evidence on Baker’s suicide-murder but tries to console his friend Collins on how to approach the morality onslaught. McAffrey investigates the link between the young black youth, who while recovering at a hospital is murdered, and Baker. As information flows on how the youth came into possession of Ms Baker’s whereabouts emerge, a stronger link between Baker’s and the drive-by murders of the youth and the pizza man emerge.

McAffrey enlists the help of a young and at times cocky blogger Della, they have their moments which draws a few laughter, investigate the 3 murders. As details emerge on Baker’s relationship with Collins and an apparent hitman being employed to kill Baker, the plot thickens. McAffrey keeps Collins apprised of the developments and thanks to some insider help from a whistle-blower in PointCorp, McAffrey is able to track down the hit-man and nearly gets killed. As further evidence comes to light the McAffrey team gets a break when they crack a PR firm hotshot, Dominic Foy, for PointCorp and find out more about Ms Baker. As details emerge about the background of Baker and the real intention of why she got hired by Collins, the whole plot plays out as a setup of Collins for his eventual marginalization in the PointCorp investigation.

McAffrey works tirelessly to pin more evidence and at the same time is under undue pressure to produce some headlines for their struggling newspaper. McAffrey finally seems to have caught a break when Dominic confesses on tape about the knowledge he has on Baker. There still seems to be a missing piece to the whole puzzle as McAffrey works on the finer details and evidence to link Baker’s killing with PointCorp, when he finds out a startling truth, thanks to a thinking mind and an insatiable thirst for honesty and contempt for false-truths. How and what McAffrey finds out while on his pursuit to link the murder and PointCorp is part of a predictable yet thrilling end.

The movie is thrilling and scary in not a gory sense but how pragmatic this whole plot is, the potential for outside forces to influence anything, the real role of journalism and the dire future it faces [Check this entry on Newspaper], the 24/7 tabloidish world and the presence of some real honest investigative reporters. Overall this movie is definitely worth your ticket… B-.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Indian General Election 2009 : The Case for Stability and Term Limits

Once upon a time when steam engines were still the toast of the nation and earning Rs25 a day was cool, there used to be a thing in politics called stability. Life, as we know seemed to have more sense, there wasn’t one incident political or social that could create a domino effect with the force to shake the big green tree at the PM’s office let alone their job safety.

Life, as we know has changed a lot, everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame, doesn’t matter if its good or bad, as long as they got on NDTV or AajTak and get their gibberish on a loop they have achieved their purpose in life.

As time rolled on, the denizens of our nation have gotten an incredible itch and rage to make “it”. While it has often resulted in producing some wonderful visionaries at the head of some key public and private divisions and companies, it has also created avenues for the not so good folks to expand their roots across the fabric of our country.

When the drafters of the Indian constitution decided to have a cup of tea and talk about the laws and regulations, I am not sure they would have spent much time on the validity of a multi party system, they wouldn’t have deemed it as a luxury, it was a basic right. I for one am too young and too jaded to look up when multi parties started to get prominence in India but certainly not many folks would have expected the instability that would portend from such a luxury.

Over the last several elections in India, if there is one thing that we have come to realize its that the local parties in almost every state have become the king makers of the government in the centre. While we can all sit down and argue till we turn blue in the face arguing about the vagaries and riches of national and regional parties, we cannot be revisionist, we are bounded by the fact that everyone has the power to head a party and they have a voice. While at a fundamental level this is what countries strive for when they fought for freedom, what we have in our hands by virtue of the multi party system is a complicated mess, a conglomerate of spices and sweets that just aint cutting it for the dinner.

We cant say multi-party system and local parties are not worth their salt, that would be counter to what we want to achieve as a free nation, but let us drool on the following stat

From 1989 to 2004, there have been 7 general elections

89, 91, 92, 96, 98, 99, 04

Digest that!!! Now we are a nation of close to billion people, the cost for each general election is gargantuan, the election process consumes so much airtime, resources, money, causes added noise pollution, traffic, goons to knock your door in the name of vote canvassing, its practical stalking every time…

We all need so many things out of our elected officials. All I ask would be stability and limits. Term limits is a necessity, it ensures that there is no one hawk politician running a party and having a dynasty and it also offers opportunities for others, we have various examples at both state and national level where the same candidate keeps getting elected, beyond a point some things grow stale, its true with ideas too. Term limits is a must have. Similarly, if coalition governments are formed the party lending support should assure they will not hold the country siege for every petty issue by threatening to withdraw support.

If there was a law that says all government reigns will be for 5 years and if a coalition government is formed, the supporting party cannot withdraw support and even if they do that will not trigger elections. If supporting parties have a fall out then they can show their disagreements by not supporting for laws, I am tired of repeat elections every 2 years and every street corner party triggering elections by withdrawing support. This does not bode well to the government that is in power or the people whose tax mney go down the drain with each election.

Just imagine the 7 elections between 1989 and 2004, when, there should have been 4. That’s 3 more elections for a nation with 1 billion people, just calculate the cost that entails on the country, so many useful things could have been done with that tax money.

Whether you vote for BJP or Congress or 3rd Front, all we should ask from the winner is that govern judiciously, respect other parties, serve the people and all we should ask the losers is to accept defeat graciously, be a constructive critic and server the best interests of the country, the people you represent and then your party.

Good luck to Advani, Singh and Mayawati, may the best candidate win and lead us to better and sane times ahead. Most world economies piggy back on the American economy and with the stutter that has happened to the US the effects of it are slowly and surely hitting us in India, here's hoping for a clear cut winner this summer and sane and stable government for the next 5 years. Jai Hind !!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Utopia :: Indian Politics meets ideal world

It was a crisp summer evening, the soil has been burnt blue by the unrelenting and indifferent rays of the sun, hardly a cool breeze – not surprising as even my telescope couldn’t catch the nearest tree in sight and ad hoardings turning every road into rectangular dungeons – the only respite was that it was about sundown and it could only get better. I was among thousands waiting in line to get into the great hall. Lying beyond those metal detectors are imposing guards and those marauding carnivores raiding for any elements that could harm the evening’s proceedings.

As I wait in the line that meanders around the block to the east and south and west and north, I realize I might be among the lucky ones to witness history. I have earned it though; I went to work early by 2 hours, got some time off by an hour and have been in this imposing place for quite a while. I watched the sun show its wrath for a while and then its beautiful crimson red twilight, a little over 3 hours have passed and unfortunately there were no mobile restrooms or any other respite for us in the lines. Sweat had poured through my once combed hair – and politely can now only be called a shabby mess – I was drenched in my own sweat, on my forehead and neck, some spheres of sweat running down my neck and spine. My hanky could only help me so much as its now a wet wipe, I realized I cannot beat the sun and just better enjoy the tan.

It is easy for a guy like me with normal complexion to enjoy a free tan in the sun as I got not much to lose. For a brief moment I wanted to own the local chat just off the building we were trying to enter. They were having some special business and the astute minded dude reeled in some of the cooler stuff including dahi vada, nimbhu pani, butter milk. The wait was almost over, as I saw a hoard of high profile policemen walking past us. I could see they were important as they didn’t care much for us in the lines and whether were standing in line or someone was jumping in. A couple of more ambassadors file past us and we were sure some action was happening. Realizing all the hubbub the local constable showed up after a tea break of 4 hours and slapped his lathi-sticks on the ground, a way of letting us know who was in control of the scene.

Then a loud clunking sound, the iron gates were opening, the last time I felt this happy was when I was going to see my first and last ever first day-first show at a cinema. A sense of accomplishment washed the faces of quite a few folks standing in those lines. I quickly surveyed the line and I could easily understand 4 languages and recognize that 7 of them were being spoken at the same time. Then a big Matador white van pulled very close to the gates, a pretty young woman with a very resplendent smile disembarked, quickly a few folks around me recognized her as the local news reporter of a popular channel, she had a couple of cameramen with her and she headed right to us. She dressed up her eyebrows, checked whether the mirror was showing an acceptable image then went to her black purse and rubbed some waxy item on her pursed lips.

She was now ready, and the shocking question was asked ‘How do you feel’ Dude: ‘Great, we have never been a part of something like this before’ Her: ‘You Sir, what do you expect; Dude2: ‘Hopefully they catch my face on camera, I have waited 4 hours’ Her: ‘And you’ Me: ‘Well, for one I hope they are all honest and don’t take this personally, we want answers and this is the first time a forum like this has been provided’ Her: ‘ There you have it folks, we are about to witness this event live in another 45 minutes, keep your remote away and your eyeballs on the channel that has the exclusive rights to a path breaking event’.

We were all ushered in, first we passed the metal detectors and then a pair of suspecting and vicious, rabid looking hounds. We were then asked to empty our pockets, our wallet, our shoes and after everything was fine we were let through the gates. The first 500 got in, quite a big arena for an event like this. I selected a spot not too off the centre or the byline but definitely a little off the imposing 5 foot speakers. As I sat down, a neatly dressed young chap spoke “You all know this will be a live event, but, in order to prevent any misuse or abuse, please write down your input and we will parse and allow based on content’. Great I thought, this was supposed to be unfettered, unfiltered and already we have a red tape. I wrote mine and gave it to the chap. He finished ‘ we will have 10% of these tonight, so don’t take it personally if you are just here to witness the event, I am sure though, your grandkids will be proud of you... when you tell them’. Great, I don’t even have a kid and this young chap is telling me how to please my grandkid.

Suddenly the AC started working in the arena, I was like ‘Oh Finally !!’ then I realized the host just walked in and that’s why. We awaited for a few more golden moments with all types of ringtones blaring our ears, finally everyone had the courtesy to switch them off. And in walked in the 3 guests L.K.Advani, ManMohan Singh and Mayawati. Suddenly, everyone rose to their feat and shouted their beloved leaders names, I was standing too and wondering the momentous nature of the event. We all finally were tired enough after the applause to sit down, the 3 guests thanked everyone profusely.

The host spoke first ‘Good Evening everyone, this event is the first ever in India, for the first time in history we have the 3 main contenders of the general election at the same podium. An event like this was not imaginable as far back as 5 years, but thanks to the power of the internet, the thirst for answers, the movement to be heard and ask questions, the election commission of India and ofcourse the Supreme Court which weighed in favorably we are about to hold this event. I first want to thank our Prime Minister Mr Singh and the two main contenders Shri Advaniji and Madam Mayawati for taking some time off their busy campaign schedule to answer a few questions for us. As you all are aware, mails went out from our TV station to randomly select this audience and thank you by the way for being here, without you nothing is possible, we ask that you check your partisanship at the door and ask constructive questions to the candidates’

‘Each question will be asked by me, we have selected 50 of them from your written questions and we will get to as many as possible. There will be a 10 minute break after the first hour of questioning and then the final 90 minutes. Among the 500 submitted, we have selected a wide range of them, covering important topics like economy, inflation, cost of living, rural living, farmer’s plight, banks, security, tax increases, transport and infrastructure. We ask that you not applaud in the middle and save it for the very end of the session’.

First question, and from our random process it goes to Ms Mayawati, ‘What steps are you proposing to combat the job losses in the tech and manufacturing industry’.

Ms Mayawati clears her throat ‘ I believe that education is a must for every American kid, we should have a diploma to complete with the Indians who are invested in earning higher degrees’.

Mr Singh ' Namaskar... i believe that the Russians have the right to decide what they want... '

Mr Advani ' Jai Hind... The IMF money is going to the wrong countries, we have to get it in the right hands'

Second question: The inflation rate is currently said to be 0.2%, however when you only consider the items that other countries account for and the basics that a common man needs.. the costs of items are high.. how do u plan to control them'

Mr Singh ' I donno, we are in talks to outsource more so that should help'

Mr Advani ' By partnering with like minded countries... we can solve all ills'

Ms Mayawati ' If we are to combat obesity we have to make some tough choices'

I was like “Whoa !! what the hell was that… ” then a thud I fell down from my couch and hit my head hard on the coffee table. I woke up dreary eyed, then I realized a rerun of ‘KingKong’ was on HBO, I had fallen asleep. I realized there was no event where we can ask the 3 main candidates competing in the general election, that was all UTOPIA, that was all too ideal, what the hell was I thinking. By the way wasn’t I watching ManUtd-Liverpool... when did I even sleep?.. Oh, well, the only bummer about that utopian world I was in… I could have just stayed there 10 more minutes to hear what they wanted to say about the Indian economy, jobs, inflation, rising cost of living… now I can only hope to be in that dream world again, as we know the real Indian politicians would not let these forums happen to them ever…. or answer the questions that people have in their minds.. thats way too ideal for them... UTOPIA imbibe me again please...

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Roller Coaster on April Fool's day

Manish was on the lookout, he knew what happened last year on April 1, a couple of his colleagues pulled a pretty elaborate prank on him that won the cake and the award as the most gullible man at his workplace. From the moment he woke up today ‘April 1 2009’ he mumbled under his breath ‘History won’t repeat’, they wont get to me, they cant get to me, I am not going to be fooled by anything that happens today.

Manish hits the shower, gets out of bath and to the breakfast table he goes, his wife Mini had prepared a calorie conscious breakfast, as he munched it and had the orange juice, his wife muttered ‘Don’t forget, there is a whole list of items that you need to get, my parents are coming this weekend’, Manish half-acknowledged it with a dismissive nod of his head giving the impression that CNN was more interesting right now.

Sonal, his 8 year old daughter, suddenly recalled, ‘arey mei tho bool gayi daddy’… ‘Your manager called when you were in the shower, he asked you to come in 1 hour earlier today, as there is an important meeting’. Manish queried ‘He wants me in by 8’ Sonal ‘that’s what he said’ Manish ‘great.. why don’t you tell me this when its 8:15, I got 20 minutes to get to work now’.

Manish hit the pedal on his brand new Hyundai Santro and without much regard for the traffic lights he sped through, finally on reaching the work location, he realizes his manager is not in, feeling weird he settled into his cube and awaited his manager. About 15 minutes into the waiting ordeal his manager walks in, ‘Oh great, Manish… you are in already.. I wanted to call you …’ ‘You are welcome Boss, Sonal told me you called’.. ‘Oh I didn’t call your home, I actually forgot… anyways’. The manager went on ‘Well, I have some news for you, you are going to pad up some new roles, we are giving you a promotion for the great work you did last year’ Manish ‘thanks Boss, that’s great news, I will work hard and prove you right’. Boss ‘I am sure you will Manish, you will be getting a hefty bonus as well.. so have fun young man’.

Manish walked out of the boss’s office with a smile as wide as the Sahara, unable to bottle his enthusiasm, he felt compelled to talk to everyone who he encountered on his way to the cube, everyone but Kajal his teammate who he doesn’t converse with after a falling out in one of their prior team meetings. Finally, when enough people knew about his promotion it was ‘Party… pretty please… time’. A slew of his colleagues – who didn’t need much of an excuse to have a free slice of pizza, pasta and a masala chai at the nearest joint – were treated to some high calorie, high cost stuff. When the restaurateur rang up the bill, Manish heard a pop inside of him, he assumed a couple of his arteries just burst. Treating 35 folks to a mildly costly joint would do that to you. He slid his credit card, card didn’t go through – invalid card. Manish was stunned, he was sure there were enough funds and the card was valid, he had paid the bills online last night.. then, he remembered, the plastic he was holding in his hand had an expired date, he cursed himself…. ‘I should have cut this into two, the active card is at home.. it should have been Sonal who did this, she was playing with my wallet’. Feeling embarrassed, he pulled over his closest friend and explained the situation, his friend obliged and paid the bill.

Manish, was happy, but that didn’t mean his buddy was going to keep this all quiet, his buddy dispensed to the ‘munching colleagues’… ‘Don’t ever go out with him on a treat guys. He made me pay for it!!’. It was of course a friendly ribbing and jabbing, Manish felt compelled to explain his situation and apologized, the friends will have none of it and until their masala chais went through their digestive tracts, they were not interested in moving their butts off the chairs or the topic off discussion.

As the chit-chat was proceeding, the cell rang, it was the manager, ‘Manish, come here to my office immediately, we have a problem’. Manish and friends wrapped up their session at the restaurant and Manish headed straight to the boss’s office. Sweat pouring all over his body from the midday sun, he was a ragged appearance when he walked in to meet the manager, his face blue with embarrassment with the credit card incident and with the manager now assembling him in. His boss ‘Manish, we have a problem… I believe we have to put your promotion on hold’ Manish felt a huge thud, like the ceiling just dropped on his head, the day’s events were happening too fast.

Boss: We have a sexual harassment complaint against you and we can’t promote you with that pending.

Manish: Sexual Harassment Complaint against me?

Boss: Yes !! by your teammate Kajal.

Manish: Stunned by the gravity of the accusation and the implication to his work, reputation and career ‘That’s preposterous!! I have never misbehaved with anyone in this office’

Boss: ‘We take this seriously and until we find the truth you are on suspension, leave your id card here’.

Manish, realizing he has been framed by Kajal, left the office in stunned silence, he didn’t have the guts to look up and see what his just returned colleagues were doing, he took a look at Kajal as he passed her aisle, cursed her loud, he made a big racket and the whole office was eyeing Manish, feeling embarrassed he headed straight to the exit.

Back home, Manish got a hold of Sonal and slapped her twice ‘ Stop playing with my wallet, if you ever come near my stuff again I will starve your for 5 days and why did you lie to me today morning that my boss called‘. Sonal was crushed with tears swelling in her eyes, she was too afraid to look her daddy in the eye, she ran to her room. Mini, looked at her husband perplexed, in their 10 years of marriage she had never seen him lose his cool, leave alone slap their only daughter. Filled with anger Mini left the room without speaking a word to tend to their sobbing child. Manish felt awful, he had let the anger get the better part of him, he was not ready to tell Mini all the events of the day, so in a way he liked being alone. He wanted everything to be a prank, his daughter, his wallet, his boss, the complaint…. It was April 1 afterall… he felt awful, when suddenly a splash of water hit his face, ‘Wakeup, its 730 and your boss just called, he wants you in early for a meeting’… dazed and confused he realized it was all just a dream. He will take this dream over the April pranks and the pranks over the reality. He hugged and kissed the two women that mattered to him and got ready for a busy April Fool’s day.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The retirement of the Information Grandad... the twilight is upon the newspaper

The clock runs out, the hands touch the digits I knew that would come but hoped wasn’t until later, I want my 24 hr clock to run twice as slow so I can continue to dream the dream I wanna dream. Wishful thinking, the clock hands reach the time I had set, the alarm goes off, I add the lifeline also called the snooze button, I buy an additional ten minutes… but that runs out too… I get up, hit the showers and am at the coffee table.

I look out the patio window, it’s a crisp spring morning, the early morning dew was dying and there was a pleasant smell coming through the freshly hydrated grass. As the sunlight glazed the sharp blade of grass, there was idealism about the whole thing. I walked across the living room, retrieved the newspaper and switched on CNN. The coffee was brewing, I love the early morning coffee smell, something about that caffeine spreading across the living room and violating the defenses of your nostril that’s as captivating as anything that early in the morning.

As the dog days of the economy continue to drag down any positive vibe that we seem to procreate, I was preparing myself for another bumpy news day. I was pleasantly surprised, there was an uptick in the DOW Jones and the NASDAQ, the Asian markets were amping it up and there was not a scent of domestic violence report, for one day the news was all good. How often does that happen, as I browse through the pages I get a weird feeling, there was rarely any ad on the paper, for a fleeting moment it felt great, I mean how cool was it to go pages at a time without those annoying ads. But then it didn’t take much longer to realize that this was part of a bigger issue, the ad companies are cutting into the money they expend on the print media.

The online websites and the gazillion blog and classifies sites have taken over some real chunk out of the print media armor. Advertisers no longer need to put in ads that will be viewed by a few thousand folks, they now can advertise on some of the popular sites for millions of potential customers. The shopping and ad market is right now delivered to our laptops. The print media is paying the price for it, with every new generation there is something new that is ushered in, the bullock carts were overtaken by buses and trains as a medium of transport which was in turn overtaken by your motorbikes and cars. Change is the only constant. And the decade of reckoning comes for any aging medium or product that has outlived its purpose.

The newspaper industry is at that crossroad, they are running against time, they are running against a goliath named technology that fits this generation’s denizens; they are in the final stages of becoming outdated. As I read through my newspaper, I saw an article that reported over 208 print medium – mostly newspaper – companies have shutdown since January 2008. That’s a staggering number. Unfortunately for the newspapers there is no comeback, we are in the here and now generation, we want the news in picture and audio the millisecond after it happens not the morning after. I remember the days when ‘The Hindu’ ran a late edition to print scores from the West Indies-India series, so we have a little more updated information. I remember the days when the third one day international of the India-Pakistan cricket series in Toronto would have started and we only had the late edition score from the second one international. Fascinating, of how we were waiting for that newspaper, there literally used to be a tug of war between my brother and I and who got to read the newspaper first.

I remember when I got our first color TV, my grandmother told us about the days when the radio ruled the roast, when All India Radio was the goliath until the TV came. She was mildly surprised when we got the news the day of the event. While the newspaper has been able to brush back the power of the TV and Radio it doesn’t stand a chance when it comes to online reports and blogs. In the battle with TV and radio, there was only so much that a newscast can read to you, ultimately you have to explore the paper for the details, they only reported the top stories, but there is no such luck, with a trillion bloggers at their keyboards every minute, unfortunately this time there is no way out for the print media.

What do we stand to lose and what do we stand to gain, for a start there will be the hundreds of thousands of trees that will be saved from the big old axe, there will be less trash to dump into the ocean, there will also be some bigger losses, like the investigative stories, the on field reporters, the journalists that travel everywhere to report a minute story. Try as best as we can, the bloggers cant duplicate a journalist, we react to news and deliver opinions, we still need the AP and Reuters to print something online for us to opinionate. The reality is that many newspaper companies are going bankrupt, what will happen to investigative journalism, will the newspapers go online only and still fund the reporters, what lies ahead is fascinating and intriguing.

When they stopped production of the 1 paise coin, many nostalgic folks were perturbed, the pervious generation will attest to it, but something integral, that was part of their lives will now be gone, most young kids nowadays will be shocked to learn of a 1 paise coin, that’s what will become of the newspaper and some of our generation folks who still have a soft corner for the medium, will feel the loss. Lets just hope that though the newspapers are dying that creativity, honesty and information continues to inundate us in other forms.

As I sip through my coffee and get ready to leave for work, I think for a moment whether I am holding a soon to be relic in my hands, something whose last days are fast approaching, maybe I should find a cabinet to store a few of these to show the future generation, there was this before the online medium. This was how we got the news, this was how we were informed, this print medium is the grand daddy of information distribution, this print medium taught us, educated us and made us better. Unfortunately that day is approaching faster than we all are anticipating or hoping.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My First Vote : Reminiscing the election that mattered to me…

It was finally the year, the one I mattered officially… by getting one more year older I earned the right to choose my next leader for the highest office. I was excited, a sense of fresh hope in my veins, a sense of participation in a bigger cause. It’s akin to when you make your first rupee and bring it home and mom glows like you have just cleared the family debt. The feeling of power, after all, I am someone who influences who can lead and represent going forward….

In my early teens, I was a goofball, too much sports, studies when exams were around the corner, wander the streets to play with any other kids a game of cricket. All that appealed to me, where the 3 make shift stumps we came up with either by drawing them on a wall or by unraveling a thick broom and planting them on a soil bank, we had improvised every possible means to come up with stumps, another favorite was any home that had vertical beams in its gates. I wouldn’t call myself a hopeless nomad, but my father figured it out that I need to be reigned in, it was time to put some culture, some science, some discipline and time managements and efficiency in me. But he was careful about it, he didn’t approach me and say “Son, pack the stumps and bats, get the books rolling, or come over here let me teach accounting and ledgers or here let me teach you the nuances of a budget”.

He simply came over and said, “did you check out what Kapil Dev had to say”, I was curious, pre-Sachin, he was my favorite cricketer. I figured there will be something in it that makes sense to me. I don’t remember the contents of it, but I remember not regretting reading the article. My dad continued “Look, the newspaper is a cool thing. It has something interesting and useful for all ages and keeps you informed. It could be trivial or huge… it could tell you what’s going on in Delhi or your next street. I don’t want you to read everything, but read the sports section, you will be hooked onto this thing soon.” I didn’t think ‘Whatever Dad’… but I did think ‘I am not sure this will work’. But it did and I haven’t stopped thanking my dad for getting me hooked on the newspaper.

What started as a fetish for sports columns soon became a monster. I realized soon enough that they ain’t writing about cricket everyday. I slowly browsed other sections and soon enough I used it as a daily morsel for my information craving.

This was all perfect timing, by the time I became an avid fan of the newspaper, I was hooked on the politics section and the coming election. I knew my state’s political parties, their symbols, their partners, their achievements, their letdowns and their history. I even knew who was running for office in the 5 closest constituencies, I was absorbed and knee deep in the vagaries of that election. I was prepared.

As the Election Day approached the heightened tenor of partisan attacks and political wringing were beginning to nauseate me. I started to imagine, what it would be to be an operative, guys who organize the stuff for their leaders, don’t they ever get numb by the process. There was quite a bit of improvisation mixed in along the way, your favorite filmy numbers would be manipulated to sing in the praises of the candidates, when it wasn’t boring or causing a headache it was entertaining and funny.

Election day, it was as if I was taking a finals exam, I had an unease and tension about me, though about a month prior I had finalized on the candidate I was voting for, I had now started rooting for the candidate, the person symbolized a hope I had for the next 5 years, the hope of realizing the policies that were promised over the last 5 months, the ones that appealed to me and the ones that I related to and even yearned for. The moment of reckoning came, I exercised the power that I had, I voted, I am now part of the process that’s going to elect the candidate for the highest office.

Along came the results, the candidate I had voted for lost, but his party won the overall majority. I wasn’t sure whether to be happy or not, I didn’t vote based on which party he was in, but what my research of the candidate, the convictions and the promises that were made by the individual. I was not sure now, that despite his party winning the overall election, my constituency was going to be helped much. So I felt a little weird.

The next morning, back to my old saddle, the sofa and the corner of the sofa that I liked, the newspaper back in my hand and a strong cup of coffee, I was in my comfort zone. I took a moment to think of the journey I had been on, it was like a roller coaster, from not knowing much about politics or caring about the government to researching on candidates I hadn’t known and furthering that effort and participating in a cause that made sense.

As exciting as it was to be part of the process, I soon realized nothing much changed around me over the next several months, the streets were the same, the potholes were still there, there was still that ugly unfenced statue in the middle of a 6 road intersection, there was still that rusty taste in my water, that same frequency or lack of local buses, the same level of crime and burglary. There was still that wine shop in front of that temple, there was still the same old city. The election that took me on a ride of hope let me down on its results. We the people of my constituency were still the same and we faced the same issues. Lack of governance or lack of caring by my elected officials had left my home district as ugly as it ever was….

I didn’t know what exactly we could do anymore, they say the people have the power to change things and that change is by voting for change. I am not sure I saw those symptoms in my district or my state or my country. My vote was just another number that the voting officials counted and reported. Those tins of papers not only held millions of my countrymen’s choice but also their hope, not only did they held their anger towards indifference but also their quest for change and now along with so many other generations of folks my vote stood there… united with others in it’s despair, pain, longing. My vote now is a piece of paper that will be shredded or fed to the cows. It is as important as that piece of rust on that garbage can in my street.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Movie review: 13 B Mein Sab Khairiyat Hain: Fear has a new address : Suspense and Soap come together

As concoctions and inspirations go, the movie 13 B is one of the most intriguing cocktails that confront the cine-audience. If we are to describe the movie in singular words, I will choose.. bold, novel, suspenseful (though not edge of the seat thriller stuff), rich, compact, intense. You get the idea, the movie is done pretty well. It’s not one of the great movies to hit the screens this year, but it is certainly one among the intense and certainly watchable ones out there.

Once again, kudos to the backroom team, the art direction, sets, editing, screenplay and direction are quite good and the BGM fits in nicely in most scenes. The cast is simple and effective, the characters are concise yet involved in the whole picture.

At the heart of the movie is a concept that many find hard to come terms with, the evil-ghost spirit concept. The movie is not intended to make you believe they exist, the movie does not even attempt establish the validity of such existence, it merely takes you on a ride where just like Gods and angels are assumed to care for us, evil and spirits are out there to complete unfinished business. What is different from your regular B-grade scare-crow movie is that there is a decent attempt to show civility, while there is blood its not gory, while there is fear its not unbearable, while there is an incredulity that washes your thoughts its not strong enough to not give the story a chance.

One other idea that is somewhat novel in this movie is that, the spirits use living characters as their vehicles to complete their unfinished business. So while they scare these characters they don’t put them into coma or beat them to death like other senseless movies.

The first half was no nonsense, it gets right to the story, no candies, no hulchul… a nice big family moves into the stomping grounds of a once famous mansion that has since been demolished for the monstrosity also known as apartments. The family is subjected to some special treatments along the way, getting bucket loads of good and pitchers of bad news. The lead character, Manohar (Madhavan) has done a credible job. He does what he does best, which is put in decent effort and put out the best output that he is capable of, which he has done in this character. Mannu and a bunch of his family members move into the house and immediately he faces a streak of events that make him believe some alter-force could be in effect in their apartment. A very lively participant that is not a living object in this movie is your very own idiot-box. Precisely around 1pm everyday, only in Mannu’s house a serial seems to air, the soap is eerily similar to the events that are taking place in Mannu’s life. At one point the soap overtakes and stops resembling current events in his life and starts providing future events too. And oh what a coincidence those exact events that happen in the serial seem to happen to Mannu’s family.

The only leap of faith that the director asks you to take is that, spirits and alter-egos not only exist but they are next-generation ready, that they can communicate to you, not in the typical door slamming, tree falling, car failing methods.. but through your television and mobile phones.

The eerie resemblance of events in the serial to his life, makes Manohar travel the path of an investigator and the first half ends with a nice punch. I honestly thought the movie had been on for 2 hours, but it was barely 70 mins in, credit to the director for just cutting out any non-required scenes and packing it all with suspense and thrill. The second half takes a not so typical or atypical tone, as Manohar goes on a quest to get behind the serial and its story. He has a friend in need among the cops to help him out.

Along the way, we learn about the family that may have lived in their land a few decades back and they follow the trails of a gory massacre and eventually the killer gets punished.

The movie is simple and fresh, high marks for editing, story, screenplay and direction, good performances by the cast and overall a decent venture and not a bad way to spend your money. As with any movie, you have to allow the director some leeway and if you are prepared to do that then this movie will be a good watch. Don’t expect a swush-buckler but this certainly a good movie and worth watching once. Rating : B-

Thursday, March 12, 2009

When to bend the rules... when to hug the rules...

Everyday at work or wherever it maybe we are at that time… we come across situations where people bend the rules… it can be as trivial as cutting the line in a candy store or pulling your car into a spot that someone had put their lights for or letting your buddies cut into a line or it could be a little less than trivial stuff like fudging accounts, hiding stuff, not revealing the whole truth when its needed or over-stating your experience on your resume or producing documents proving your credibility even though you only saw them 10 minutes back yourself…

Where do you draw the line.. as to what constitutes an acceptable bend of the rule and what constitutes a down right no-no breaking the rule. Is it down to perception, is it interpretation, is it down to your own courteous attitude, is it your conscience, is it your patience or a personal score card you have that says your can commit 5 wrongs for every 10 rights that you do in life…

Is it crazy to think about such stuff.. I mean do people who bend the rules really think about what they did, say there’s a 20 head count line at a local post office with a min 5 minute processing time per customer, what if your manager walks in, are you obligated to let him cut into your line? If you do let him cut in, is it because you are afraid of him or is it because you like him, is it fair on the hefty number of people standing behind your for the last several minutes.. Does your manager thank his good luck or does he take a minute to feel sorry for the guys he cut infront of, does he feel sorry he put you in such a spot..

I think the simplest answer is that, people who cut in don’t give a rat’s rear.. if they did they wont even think twice about standing in the order they walked into the place. It’s a sad truth, it’s a world of not what you know, but, who you know. At work you can see people who kiss up to the management get the right assignment over someone who talks sense. It happens all the time. I think the only people who think about this is those who are caught in the middle. A guy who always follows the rules doesn’t even notice that a guy cut infront of him, infact he wont care one bit, the guy who cuts in doesn’t care one bit either. It’s the people who follow the rules reluctantly and immediately that get tempted when someone bends it that feel wronged.

They go, “well, that’s what I wanted to do.. but look at him.. he did that… I cant believe the others didn’t notice it..” This is a trivial example. I chuckled today, when I overheard a couple of guys talk this… Dude1.. “Hey did you pay the registration tax for the car” Dude2 “yeah” Dude 1 “How much?” Dude 2 “X” Dude1 “I hope you understated the value of the purchase” Dude2” No, why ?” Dude1”to pay lower taxes.. I did it.. everyone does it” Dude2 “Not me, I wanna sleep well” Dude1 “You are hopeless man”. Crazy right?.. well, for most its not that crazy. A guy who not only understated his car value to pay lesser taxes, mentions to the other guy what an idiot he was for following the rules. The world has turned pale my friends, you can see it everywhere, there’s no place that’s not vulnerable to rule-bending… I fall in the middle group, you know someone who hates when others break the rules or bend the rules but don’t have the guts or the heart to do it myself.

Once a rental car company forgot to charge me for an insurance package I used, it was quite a lot of money for someone like me who lives paycheck to paycheck, I thought for 10 seconds and told them they charged me less. I felt good for about 2 minutes, not good forever because I didn’t tell them immediately.. I thought about “not telling” them… but I did after wrestling with myself. I got a big thank you… that’s it… but how many people do that, what if the cash register guy gives 50 bucks extra, does everyone of you return it. What if they charge you only once for 2 cartons of milk do you go back and pay ? I don’t claim I do it often or everytime… but these are situations that fascinate me.

Then there’s the whole big bad ballgame of politics that people play at work, fudging resumes, fudging tax breaks and misstating information to get more money back. No place is beyond limit for these people, infact I personally know a few friends who invented “teams that they managed” offshore to get quicker green card processing in the US. How crazy is that? Well, not real crazy is they are always used to cutting infront of lines, or stealing parking spots or fudging account information. When you start fudging a little , you just don’t stop. And the crazy part both of those guys are getting their residency approved next week….

At times I laugh at my inability to be like them, at times I cant believe I stick to the rules while others bend it without issues and laugh at us for being incapable to do the same, at times I feel like a moron… the only thing I have going at those times? I get a good night’s sleep, because I can getup in the morning and say, I didn’t cheat a single person till yesterday.. I have a clear conscience..

It’s painful to be an incapable rule bender… but then not.. it feels far better to be a reluctant rule follower and am a proud one at that…

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Movie Review "The International" : the suspense, the concept & the scare...

“The International” is a movie that brings into visuals what we have heard/theorized/surmised and yeah feared. The great part is the ending is a concoction of realism and cinematic realism. It’s an “only in a movie” emotion with a “that makes sense” emotion. There are solid performances from Clive Owen (Louis Salinger, an Interpol detective) and Brian O’Byrne (the hired contract killer). The others have chipped in well at various points of the movie.

The movie starts with a cold killing of Louis’ Interpol partner after a meeting with an insider. This insider happens to be a key cog of a mega bank IBBC. The IBBC is the focus of the Interpol investigation, with suspicions centering on the true intentions, ideals and asset managements of the bank. The Interpol with its nosy detective Louis Salinger tries to pry open the veil of the bank, that seems to be no different than the corner Credit Union bank down the street.

As the movie rolls on, events unfold that seemed to cast the IBBC bank in less than flattering company, in terms of their association and their involvement and intentions in events that are momentous and mostly dangerous. Louis and his superior Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts) seem to be on an impossible pursuit. Armed with truck loads of money, assets that stretch across the continents, contacts that range from the local lieutenant to the Italian presidential hopeful, the banks tentacles seem to ensnarl almost anyone that it comes across. The director tries well to depict the bank as a well run mafia organization only globally more influential and well funded.

The movie has its share of stereotypical events, incidents that make the hunter become the hunted, as agent Salinger comes to the realization he might be fighting a hopeless cause. Agent Salinger tries his best to follow the trail and pickup any bits of information that he can get his hand on, but as pressure to curtail his investigation increases Salinger does some unconventional things to get more evidence. I think the highlight of the movie is the contract killer of the IBBC doing his psychotic acts and being very suave in getting away from them, only to finally become the hunted by the IBBC. The scene that ensues with Salinger trying to protect the contract killer he came to arrest from the IBBC is well executed.

Though Salinger loses his fight to get anything out of the contract killer, with the help of his buddies in the NYPD, he tracks down the killer’s contact and he is lead on the trail of IBBC’s chairman Jonas Skarssen. How Salinger confronts Skarssen and what ensues is the rest of the movie. What I liked about the movie is that they have played on the fears of the common man, “Can we really trust anyone?”. While there are holes in some of the theories in the movie, the whole product as such is palatable. Ever since Matrix resonated with the audience with its array of fear instigating concepts and its overall idea of the helplessness of our existence, movies of such ilk have tried to recreate fear to the best they can.

The International, has a good theory, but I am afraid it doesn’t do enough to scare you, it doesn’t do enough to make you think “you know what… that’s out of the box”. Too often you come across good concepts not treated well, while I wont call this movie as a bad effort, I do think that it’s a bad end product. The climax highlights the helplessness, even for agent Salinger, where he only ends up with the satisfaction of shooting down the messenger of IBBC and not the IBBC itself. I liked that ending, only I have a problem with how this could have been handled better. The audience could have been scared a little bit better, a solid effort but an average end result for “The International”. I would give a D+ and recommend waiting for the movie to be on the “tele” or “blockbuster”.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Delhi 6 : Movie review : Funny Smart and.. the "S" word

Recently i have developed a crush for Hindi movies. No not because they are splendid, not because they are well directed, not because they are well executed or acted or choreographed... none.. they are just visually scrumptious, oozing with clarity. I have never seen another set of language movies made in India that are this visually palatable. I just dont mean the Yash Chopra/Karan Johar big name headliner, even the second tier guys seem to present a visually catchy treat.

Delhi 6 had that and more. The visuals were great, at some points well beyond great. I am absolutely certain that when you come away from this movie, you will feel that at certain points u were with the characters as much as watching them. Abhishek Bachan has done a decent job, i really dig his coolers it suits his 2 day old stubble pretty much to a T and am sure the ladies will like that. The movie really doesnt have a heroine, Sonam kapoor is the closest to it, she has done an ok job overall. She has handled the juggling of a middle class girl trying to become an Indian idol quite ok. There's some cool acting by Rishi Kapoor, Waheeda Rahman, Deepak Dobriyal and Vijay Raaz as the inspector -- a true tribute to him is the fact that i overheard couple of guys swearing at his like he was a real cop -- the others filled in and were ok.

Overall, the movie is a devent entertainer. It has its highs and lows. The first half seems to be the director's favorite as more effort seems to have been distilled in it than the second half. The story hinges on a grandson (AB as Roshan ) taking his ailing grannie (Waheeda) back to India after his parents -- who had eloped and married -- had settled in US. If it seems a little dramatic that an american born kid will just leave his life, pack up and take his granny to her village.. well it is Indian cinema after all, so hang with them there. The movie goes on to depict the typical challenges and funny incidents that Roshan faces in the dirtbowl Delhi 6.

The movie's first half beats the second half hands down because the movie goes from funny, smart and at hilarious in the first half to preaching, sterotypical and down right wierd in the second half. The story follows Roshan's various encounters and smartly uses the 'kala bhandar' the now infamous 'Monkey man' spoof from yesteryear delhi lore. The Kala Bhandar (Monkey man) seems to run amok among the residents and due to circumstances that are purely manufactured Roshan ends up the center of everyone's irk and ire.

My problem with this movie is its sterotyping the unity or lack therof between Muslims and Hindus. A locality that seems to be in harmony with some Muslims even praying to Lord Hanuman seems to unravel like a pack of cards with the arrival of a Hindu swami. The typical idea of Hindus inciting political speeches and talks of uprooting Mosques and replacing them with temples is a clear dig at what has happened in the past, but so is the portrayed typical response from the Muslim community. From being calm and composed to depicting them as losing control and inciting violence, setting Hindu trees on fire and taking up arsonry and weapons and shooting Roshan, its all a little typical portrayal of the Hindu-Muslim dynamic. Look i am not here to judge what went on, i went to a movie to have some light hearted fun and for a movie that started with beautiful incidents and little pockets of suavity to one that preaches how people should live.

Everyone is entitled to their opinions, but the story that went on in the second half is not a derivative of what happened in the first half. One of the reasons the whole message doesnt seem to be relayed well is that the whole issue was sterotyped from the inciting that apparently is done by one religion to the violent resoponse associated with the other. I think for this movie, we could have not used that, for this movie we could have been taken somewhere else, a place where there was a little fun and may be a lot more sense. For that alone i recommend you stay home and wait for the CDs or online links to arrive in thier mailboxes. My rating would be D+

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The Economy Bandaid - lets stimulate

The world was abuzz, the messiah had spoken, the savior has arrived, your problems will be transformed into nuisances and your nuisances will melt when this savior aggrandizes the house that the Americans built. Well, I am not crazy, err.. not yet anyway.. but that’s how I translated all the post-Obama electoral victory news coverage. I feel very sorry for him, lets scan what is about to confront the new US president in the coming days… a couple of wars going nowhere, an enemy dispersed, strong and diverse, an economy that’s in the maddest of all tailspins, a health care system that reeks with stale ideals, an education system that’s been downgraded, a housing market that’s looking like a mazy abyss than a green pasture with an azure embellishment and a disgruntled group of denizens desperate for some good news and ready to be waken from the nightmare of endless negative missives in the name of news reports.

Welcome President Obama, no pressure there… we re considerate…. once you are done fixing everything that everyone has drawn up in their list, you can cure melanoma, achieve the drug for immortality without aging and find a world where everyone sits on their fanny and makes a million bucks a day.

I think among the million bytes of digits that scanned the globe as the US election run-up ratcheted one question stuck that was asked by a reported struck a chord in me … “ Senators Obama and McCain, do you for even a minute think, do I want to win and inherit this mess” .. Ofcourse they said the right answers but the kind of mess they are inheriting is unfathomable, really historical and deadly in its cocktail of complication and consequences.

The most famous rallying cry “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country” galvanized then Americans, Obama is no stranger to catch phrases, he apparently is an eloquent talker, but walking the walk and talking the talk are two different things. The economy rightfully has taken center stage and is sucking all the resources into working in this issue, but there are 100 other ones that are as scary as the economy, not the least of which is the security threats.

How do you not feel obligated to help the President Obama in every single way, he is trying to patch and fix on the go one of the most epic financial collapses a once-a-lifetime – hopefully – event for us. Now, this issue is not isolated to US or even Europe, the way every economy in the globe is structured we are mostly a house of cards, every single failure has a cascade effect, be it a bank going kaput or a insurance company going broke or a car manufacture going insolvent. Sometime I do feel angry, I mean a few thousand ineligible borrowers have rocked everyone’s boat and we are all swimming or trying to anyway upstream. Its time to hold hands and help each other out. The stimulus package will be a nightmare – any final version that gets approved – because of the burden its going to impose on coming generations, but there is no choice.

The mark of a true fighter is when his wound is exposed and his salt is down, are we gonna stand up and do something about this or not. I like every other Joe Smith, do want certain assurances of how these gargantuan bailout money is being spent. I need assurances, checks, double-checks, reports, status, insight and every damn nickel accounted for. But, lets also get smart. Lets not eat out if we don’t have to, lets not buy every single ipod that comes on the market, lets save some money and spend smartly. Don’t switch off your AC or heater but do switch off your TV. Take the public transport, donate to charity than going on a ski trip. Keep your resumes current, stay sharp and focused. Watch your leaders, whether what they say is what they do, watch yourself and your family and finally realize.

It didn’t take one bad decision to lead us to this rut, it took a series of hidden debacles to get here, it took turning a blind eye when a sore spot is spotted, so there is no silver bullet. No one decision can create the 2 plus million jobs last year or the ones that are gonna be lost this year. But we each can have a personal motto, spend wisely, be prepared and do your part to stimulate the economy. Every one wants to be part of the party but not everyone likes to clean up the dishes, you may not have wrecked every thing but lets be part of a solution. Support President Obama in his trials, his hits and misses, we need call him out if he proposes something unworkable. But lets also be reasonable, the man is under the spot like no other for the reason he inhibited something, not procreated, so lets cut him some slack and remain hopeful and work hard.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The accent.. big deal

"Its a big deal... if they dont get what you say... you are really not saying anything... if you dont talk American accent.. you are not one among them..." one of my buddies chimed in as part of an avalanche of rigmarole that i was inundated with when i let a few people know that i was traveling to the land of dreams. I even imbibed a few of their insightful ideas, ideals and definitions of what it is that i need to survive in a land where i cant claim to be a citizen. We have all gone through this one, when traveling to a different country -- well, my fellow Indians will acknowledge it happens to them when they cross state borders in the Indian countryside -- we are inundated with a bunch of outdated concerns that ends up unsettling us.

One of the things that we are always in a race with is where does our accent stack up compared to the land that we are traveling to. People are psyched about accent and for good reason, they are worried what would happen if they mispronounce something... it might be something subtle, it might be something common but what are the repurcussions of the adressed not understanding us.

This becomes more of a frightful scenario if we are going to a different country for some extended periods of time to work, there we are forced into a situation where we are obligated to both understand the foreigners and make them understand what we are spouting. Each has its own variety and severity of difficulty in its execution. I think the biggest flaw that anyone can commit -- and this from experience -- is that we try to speak a non-native language like its one, we try to think its just our back of the hand and we can flip it on whenever we suppose and it will work just fine.

Unforntunately we often find out that its not the case, in most cases we are even humbled a bit by how our most basic pronounciations are incongruent and even grating to someone who has never listened to our vocals before. With a bit of humiliation and a stomach full of humble pie we try to ape them.. we in lieu of a'pe try aa'pp'e .. in lieu hel'loo' try whazz'upp'... like oil and water, like black and white somethings just arent meant to mix. We are what we are and whoever we maybe... an American cant speak like a Srilankan, an Indian cant speak like a French.. we all have our own styles and sometime styles align but they never are parallel....

I found that the perfect equilibrium after quite a few humble pies, i realized a) i cant talk like a man who was born there talks and b) it would be better if i talk slowly so people have a chance.

Most people never realise that they have an accent, its like snoring.. almost everyone does it but they cant know it, the accent is very similar. Its not a shame to have an accent, but if we do a few things right we can all be communicate better. Ultimately its the content not the style, but a little effort to be presentable is required and really its alright to have an accent. We would be robotic without it. Imagine for a moment what would a world sound like when everyone talks the same wavelength, my i can think of quite a few professions that will be thrown to the attic... be proud of what you are... and accent should be the least of your concerns.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Zooming out of Gloom... hopefully

When 2008 was about to roll in, the numerology department was working overtime... the significance of the total 2+0+0+8 had them in a dizzy... its a great year or so they said... 12 months later... don't we all think 2008 as one of the most dramatic, impact-ful, draining, eye-opening, gut-wrenching times of most living beings' lifetime.. from the economy that was in a tailspin and the violence that wouldn't stop around the world and the melting glaciers and the deficit in most countries' budget and the increase in hunger deaths and the loss of jobs and the rise in crimes and the .... too many bad headlines...

10 years from now - when, hopefully we are out of this crisis - we will recall 2008 as the year that had too many bad headlines, the year that doomed many a savings account, the year where we started saving on fast food, electricity, gas and anything that can be saved... History will equate 2008 with 1931 the most comparable and deadly ogre of a cousin.... the great depression... History will by then have all things we did wrong in 19 titles on newsstands, of what we should learn, what we missed and how to avoid... and someone will make money on it too...

Human race... we are funny... we commit the mistake , we avoid the reactions, we sidestep the repercussions until it hits us in the face, we smart from it because we have no other choice, some try and stand up, like water off a duck's back we march on and commit the next series of blunders...

2008 was not all that bad... in fact 2008 was the ugly bill for all the sins of 2001 to 2007, the sins also called as failed policies, missed warning signs and general lack of concern for the future... 2008 was the ugly product of all that was wrong in the previous years... 2008 was needed, it was important the human race gets hit on the face with reality.... its a splash of cold water...

No one needs a million dollar home, no one needs a 4 bedroom home, no one needs 3 cars, no one needs 2 cellphones... but almost everyone wants them all and thats how we ended up with 2008... if we only keep paying the interest on a loan the primary never disappears, if we only look 2 days ahead in our life, the deadlines in the next week never shows up early, if we remain short sighted with a head bigger than the stomach we all only deserve 2008...

No one knows which one policy will take us out of this rut and deliver us to the next one... we are all as excited as can be... for what did we get from 2008 that we cant let go off ... other than a pile of bills, a rack of empty headache bottles, a few broken glasses that bore the brunt of our anger as the stock indexes went for a swim-dive.... its a fallacy to expect one policy to be the silver bullet a series of policies are necessary ..

As individuals we need to step up and distinguish our needs from our wants... in times like these we don't need what we want... we should want what we need... the more we realize the difference and cater to our needs... the better we are all off...

Can 2009 be as bad as 2008, well who knows... but every individual can command what happens with them, as more individuals get smart... with a concerted effort to keep ourselves better prepared we will sail through it... and we can even live to describe it to the next generation... of how we learnt WANT, NEED, GREED, PURPOSE and PERSPECTIVE from the year 2008.... Happy New Year

Friday, November 14, 2008

Recession Fears: Is an information overflow feeding panic

Each day... each hour... each minute... we are updated with information... Information that fritters through various sources... next door neighbour, your milkman, the TV man and ofcourse the internet..

We seem to learn about a spoilt milk packet in China before we seem to know what ails our restroom shower. We seem to know that Zimbabwe has a million percentage inflation before we even can recollect the number of distant cousins in our spouse's family...

Point is we are being fed with millions of pixels, every minute... we have become obese with information.... some of us see 'breaking news' in flashing red in our sleep... we seemed to be informed tha Obama is still searching for a dog, we seem to be informed that Sarah Palin bought 150k worth of clothes when we cant recollect the last time we bought a pair of trousers for our parents....

This plethora of useless information is an admissable snack if we are receiving positive news.. but whats the effect of this information orgy when it brings negative news. I mean, we seem to learn about another bank collapse every hour.

I wonder how was the great depression of the 1930s era... what kind of information was available, how frequently did they get them... what exactly did the then President convey to the denizens... were they better off.. when they didnt know it... for instance do the company's workers concentrate better if they arent declared as dead men walking... was it better for the psyche when u werent deluged with job loss information...

take for instance the Lehman brothers.. they were in "talks to sell to a Korean Company" on day 1... by day 3-4 the talks went cold... day 4.0000001 it was on the internet.... day 4.0000002 there were 18 internet experts downgrading the stock to junk status... day 4.5 customers start withdrawing money... day 5 bank files for bankruptcy.... i have never seen or even remotely heard prior to that an instance of an 100 plus year old institution crumbling hopelessly and basically vanishing from the scene...

i, for one, felt.. the speed of the information... the sources.. many of them off the record and illegal leaks.. were too many and it ultimately lead a mad spree to withdraw their money from the bank and it just crumbled... a similar thing happened in Washington Mutual bank... a similar thing happened in Germany... in UK... the point is.. maybe these companies had a chance if they just had a little more breathing room.. maybe if the information had been cold for 1 more day.. some other financier pours money into Lehman... maybe? we will never know.. because there is no stopping.. there is no pausing... there is one constant... the refresh button.. millions of articles each minute... about why we should buy this.. why we should sell that.. why we should stand pat...

I am not for a minute suggesting that customers or onlookers should not "know" stuff... but maybe they should not be "fed" to death with information... i just get the feeling we are at a point were things are happening at a such a fast pace we can neither pause nor take a deep breath.... its driven us to the point were we have become addicted to our "refresh" button on the browser... its feeding panic.. i just wish we had a little bit of scaled back information... maybe we will even relax a little bit.... maybe thats a good thing...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Obama Nation

Nov 4 was a red letter day. Simple. Sweet. Refreshing. I think for the first time in a million years the voting denizens and the onlooking political voyeurs look forward with hope and trepedity the oncoming change. Never before has the world stopped in awe and wondered aloud what one nation is teaching the others... change the eventual constant can happen anywhere. Can change be instant, is change the begining or the end. Is Change a destination or a pitstop.. is change a game-changer or is it a curveball/googly.

Change is what we want it to be. In an economy that seems to crack a little bit more each day, that seems to enjoy its own masochist orgy.. change is welcome. The only caveat is that we hope this change is for the better.

Minorities everywhere believe one thing, they are disadvantaged and cant win. Well a minority candidate won. The one shocking thing this is that it took so long even in the US of A. Is the American vote a reflection of the desire for unity or a vote for policy. I would love to believe that the vote for President-elect Barack Obama is a vote for mere unity. I would really love to. But, I believe its a convenient by-product. It's his policy that garnered the votes and thats the best part. We dont want a winner because we have sympathy for his melanin content, that would be cruel. I bet none of us want to win a victory thats conceded to us due to lack of competition or sympathy. Thankfully Obama won it, he wasnt given the presidency, McCain didnt concede it or lose it, Obama won it .

Obama won because he appeared articulate, knowledgable, coached, simple and mostly because he came across as someone who gets it. Oh the constant blaming of the Oil companies and the multi-millionaires didnt hurt.

Lets get one thing straight, he is not one of us. He was one among us who didnt deserve to be just another number in the population. He claims to be one among us, he just happens to be from among us.. now he is really in his league. Democracy or not.. Joe the plumber or Pat the soccer-mom cant get more than 15 minutes of fame.

It shows the guts of the American denizens to vote for a man who was recluse until one fine spring day a couple of years back when he provided the response to President Bush's budget. Obama represents a chance not a change. It will become a change if something really does change. Until then he is an opportunity, he is the dawn, let dusk come before we declare something changed during daylight.

Obama couldnt walk into a more complex chaos, its more pungent than a Pei-Wei exhaust, its as numbing as losing large toe. This economic climate is complex. We got out of one rut with some bandaid in the name of homeloans to an even more complex canyon. The thing that we cant afford to do is espouse another old wine of a policy, more often than not these policies of the past are sour milk.

I couldnt tell you how this is going to end up, i cannot fathom a chance that this will resolve in months. It doesnt matter who supported Obama or not, it doesnt matter who voted for him or not, it doesnt matter whether you like him or not, it doesnt matter if you think he can or not, it matters you provide him the chance. It matters you remain confidant in the choice of the majority, it matters you trust democracy and its fruits, it matters you contribute from the benches, it matters you provide him your voice of support, it matters you trust we stand to gain from this. Some people may not like him because of his skin, but lets find out whether we should rather shun him based on his results.

I am ready to follow the steps of the President-elect in the hope that he uses this chance to bring in change. Change didnt stop on the day he got elected, change just got born the day he got elected, change can die a quick death if he is not ready or is incompeteant... but lets wait, lets wait to see what he does with the chance. In the meantime make solid decisions for your life, your bank accounts and community. Think, Act, Work Hard and we will all thrive.

Lets hope Obama does that too, for we all need that change from up-top.