Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Now Now..

  • This is the Indian Batting Line-up today

    1. Tendulkar 2. Jaffer 3. Sehwag 4. Karthick 5. Kaif 6. Dhoni

    I think the bar has been sufficiently lowered for Saurav Ganguly to be in the team.
  • I think the following players are nonsense 1.Agarkar 2. Suresh Raina 3. Venugopal Rao 4. Dinesh Mongia 5. Jaffer
  • The following players are talented players who may never deliver 1. Laxman 2. Dhoni 3. Yuvraj Singh 4. Sehwag
  • In one of those 'I am totally ashamed to be Indian' moments - I think the bar has been sufficiently lowered for Laloo Yadav to be in the parliament (now wait he already is)..well.. I guess even a fool like Navjot Sidhu can be a MP (no wait he already is). I think any bumbling idiot who can't even count to 3 - can now get into the parliament. It is embarassing to think of the idiots who are actually passing comments on the team and Chappell. Someone, an MP, actually said this "a majority of Ganguly fans feel that he should be part of the team and we need to communicate those feelings to the team.". Its not even " a majority of cricket fans" - how embarassing is that?
  • So these MPs have sent a comparable idiot called Dilip Vengayasarkar to communicate their retardedness to this team.
  • All the experiements have led to just 1 conclusion - that there are only 2 reliable batsman in the team and the rest are bonuses. 1 shot wonders and "i may/may not click today depending on which side of the bed I get up". There needs to be 1 more solid batsman in the line-up. Laxman is an excellent batter for the first 12 runs that he hits and then he gets out. So Laxman is not solid neither is Yuvraj, Kaif or Jaffer. Ganguly isnt solid either but he is better than these fools.
  • My god! we really have no bench strength.
  • Given the Idiot quotient of the selectors and MPs it is only appropriate that an ODI player like Ganguly be included in the test team. It makes perfect sense in that it does not make sense.
  • 2-3 out of the last 3 world cups our progress to the final stages has mainly depended upon 1 guy. In the last WC there seemed to be a semlance of back-up support to that guy. But for a idiot captain who chose to bat second, we might have actually had a shot of winning the finals. This time that guy is more alone than the 1996 WC.
  • Edit: Tendulkar's record against RSA is just pathetic. There seems to be no reason why he can do it against Aus and not against RSA. He isn't anybody's bunny and he has shown he can score in RSA. Its just specifically against RSA that he appears like a fool. His career is ending and this record cant be altered significantly. So it will remain that he sucked against RSA. I remember him eschewing playing anything against Fannie De Villers in 1996. They do have that hold over him

Monday, November 27, 2006

Movie Review: Casino Royale

The first time I read the novel more than a decade ago, I never thought this novel was movie material. The novel was an intense drama about a British Intelligence spy (I think it was called MI-5 and not MI-6 in this book) caught in a tense card game, followed by some torture chamber etc. The lead character James Bond (who was described as one with a scar on his face/back?) was completely different from the Roger Moores and Connerys I had seen on the screen. In the books, he was intense, barely used double entendres and was more human. I went to this movie with a lot of skepticism. On one hand, movies based on Fleming's novels tend to have a semblance of a story line, which was completely absent in the last 4 Bond movies and needlessly over-emphasized in the previous two Dalton movies. On the other hand how do you make a movie based on a novel that dedicated 70% of page space on a card game?

The movie begins by violating a sacred Bond tradition. This seems to be the theme of the movie - violate as many Bond movie traditions as possible. A typical Bond movie has 4-5 acts. The first act is a pre-title sequence. This act immediately follows the 'United Artists' banner and you see James Bond walking from left to right on the screen (Connery did this with a funny hat) turns around and shoots at the camera. The camera bleeds red and the circle that focuses on bond enlarges and takes us to an adrenalin filled opening scene which is followed by a semi-animated 'title credits' sequence involving guns, negative images of naked women, Bond and more naked women silhouttes. Then 3-4 acts follow in an episodic structure, which involve James Bond travelling to exotic locales, ordering martinis, saying his name in a yoda-like reverse fashion, doing hawt chics with funny names, play cards and finally in a separate 5th act called the climax sequence - James Bond escapes a carefully orchestrated near death sequence kills off the villian and saves London, Queen and the world (warning: although its an awesome awesome video that will thrill you if you r a bond fan - the next video is 21 minutes long - see it in the end).

This movie's pre-title act starts in Black and White, it follows the latest Batman/Spiderman movie tradition of going back to the beginning of the lead character's story/career, a time when James Bond is not yet a '00' agent. The act ends with James Bond shooting someone and the circle hovers over him and directly leads us to the title sequence. Thereby deviating from the usual structure. I did not quite buy the 'you need to kill two people to get a licence to kill' looped logic. It seemed silly but it made up for a good opening scene. The animated title-credits sequence was poorly done and the song was not in line with Bassey, Duran Duran or Louis Armstrong classics. Given the constraints of the novel, it is understandable that the action sequences need to be invented or contrived to keep the pace of the movie interesting. In that context, the act following the title song is simply awesome. This bond is young, ruthless, athletic and has tons of energy. It was a physically enthralling action scene and I was impressed. The other action sequences are interspersed in the middle of the card game sequences and blend well with the flow of the story without appearing contrived.

Other obvious places where Bond tradition has been violated are - Felix Leiter, who is Bond's trusted CIA friend comes back (he keeps getting injured, dead or disposed in many movies/novels). He is also African American. He never appeared in the Casino Royale novel but finds a place in the movie. Bond also doesn't give a damn if his martini is shaken or stirred. Strange but acceptable. M still continues to be a woman. Bond breaks into her house and almost utters her real name. Yes! it is not a random symbol given by the British Intelligence. If I remember my novels correctly, M is short for Admiral Sir Mercilles Miles (can anybody confirm this?). I am not sure what a woman's name in this place would be. The movie's biggest weakness is the the final act, which violates the usual huge action sequence of exploding ships (even space ships) and buildings. The romantic emotional bond ( I missed Brosnan in this sequence and was the only time I thought Brosnan might've done a better job) that you see in the final half hour is against the pace of the movie and made the movie un-bondish. In purely business terms this is being puristic at the cost of ignoring your audience. Otherwise the movie is simply awesome, really entertaining and renews interest in this wonderful franchise.

The Actor Who plays Bond: It is inevitable for Bond fans to argue on 'who is the best bond' topic every time a new actor takes up the Walther PPK. The debate usually has been "does he replace Connery as the best bond ever?". I liked Daniel Craig. I was a huge Brosnan fan (very obvious since I have seen each episode of R'Steele gzillion times) and I was pre-disposed to thinking Daniel Craig did not have the class or the panache to play Bond. Well! I was right - he does not. But I was wrong in that Bond does not need class or panache. Roger Moore made bond an upper class, snooty cricket playing grandpa Bond with a country club membership. His witticism and aristocracy made Mike Myers a superstar than make him the best bond ever. Dalton, a really fine actor, played a serious classless bond who was less physical but more shakesperian. Brosnan, I thought blended the right bond. He had the style and built of Sean Connery, he had charm and he was a really fine actor. Plus he was a box office king. Unfortuntely his movies never had a story line that was even remotely sensible (frankly his movies never depended on a story at all) and added to that Brosnan got bond 10 years too late.

Daniel Craig is a brute. M directly compares the 2 bonds. If I remember correctly, Brosnan was called a 'sexist mysogynist dinosaur. A relic of the cold war' by Dame Judi Dench. Here, she calls Craig a 'blunt instrument'. These were the respective Brand positioning of the two James Bonds. The difference between the two is that this story allows Craig to deliver on his positioning. He is young, so full of adrenalin, intensely physical and moves like a cross between Jackie Chan & Schwarzenegger. He presents a different Bond. A simple no nonsense cold blooded killer. He makes mistakes and learns from them. He is closer to Sean Connery in the spectrum than Moore. Connery could play the brute but he had class. Connery's walking style (the way he leans on the counter in the theraphy club in Thunderball ) - just oozes style and class. Craig hasn't had an opportunity to showcase that side of him - yet. However, when he finally announces himself in the closing lines of the movie - he makes us stand up and take notice.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanks Giving

Seems to be the pivotal holiday around which my life undergoes dramatic changes.

In anycase, I apologize for being poor in responding to comments, posting regularly etc. All that will change in the future :-). I should respond-to-comments/post regularly from Monday. Right now I am in the buckeye land, visiting my alma mater and showing my family - my version of 'gnabagam varuthe' song (basically walking down the memory lane). I dont think there is much beyond the Mirror lake, Dreese labs, and the Lincoln tower. Which must be as interesting to my family as seeing a fresh new bag of fertilizer.

Today, I put on my Ohio State T Shirt after a long time. I could never wear it safely in Michigan. So for today i'll be in a Go Bucks! mood (ofcourse they won last week by a whisker and it is so convenient for me to switch allegiences). I cant believe I am staying in Lane Avenue again. Ofcourse this time its at the Holiday Inn and not one of those cheap run down places owned by Pellas. But - My god! this place has changed so much. Its actually better looking. When I went to school here, this whole place looked like a sewer dump. I'll switch back to Go Blue in the weekend.

After Columbus, its off to Pittsburg and then to Washinton D.C, and after a brief detour to Darden Business School, I'll begin my drive back to Ann Arbor on Sunday.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Air Travel in the U.S

I have been flying a lot in the recent past. Flying so much that sometimes, I land and check my boarding pass to find out where the hell I just landed. The whole security check before the flight is so funny. It is so painful to get up in the morning, pack, dress up ( i hope this is different from wearing a 'dress') and then go to the airport. The moment you go there they ask you to unpack, undress (shoes, belts and stuff) and then quickly put it all back again in less than 1 minute.

The whole thing seems so artificial. You are standing there in a line like a dead log for 15 minutes and then once you get close to those x-ray machines, your activity level drastically goes up. You take your laptop out in a hurry, remove shoes, remove belt, coat take your cell phone, wallet keys out. Walk through that detector gate and quickly put all these back on and leave in a minute. Some of us feel the time pressure that we have to do all this in record time, some of us (read as old people) do it so slowly that you need a shave by the time they are done.

Then there are these people who feel they have accomplished something if they cross that metal detector without a whistle from that machine. They have this smug look on their face when they walk. The self-rightous, "Look at me - I am such a nice person - I am so safe" look as they tip-toe through the small gate. They walk slowly and carefully as if - speeding - would tick off some sort of an alarm. When you reach the other side of the gate you hope for a trophy or an award for being the safest man on earth. But all you get is a signature and an unspoken mandate to dress up and leave quickly.

Some times you get good company in the aircraft, sometimes you dont wanna talk to people at all. Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to meet a very diffent co-passenger (yes! my "single serving friend"). He was so excited from the moment he got on the flight. He must have been around 22-23 years old. We were approaching Detroit, and he kept peering closer into the window (I was in window and he was in aisle) and said "Detroit so beautiful. Its the best place in the world". I was surprised. I mean we just flew out of Chicago, which according to me was just awesome. And this was Detroit we were talking about. The fungus of America. And he was pointing to the small lights far far away and said "see christmas lights. its so beautiful". I couldn't resist but ask him "is this where you are from?" and he said "yes". We landed and I could visually see his excitement level increasing. It was unmistakable. He was behaving exactly the same way I would behave every time I landed in Madras. After the permission was given to switch on the cell phone, I called up my wife and told her I had landed. The guy apparently heard my foriegn tongue and asked me "Do you speak Urdu?". I told him I didn't speak Urdu. He then asked "where are you from". I told him - India. "But dont Indians speak Urdu?" he said confused. I said "well.. some, not all, Muslims in India speak Urdu". So I asked him where he was flying in from. He said " from Iraq".

Okay. So he explained that he had spent 2 years with the US military in the Iraq War Zone and is now coming back to the U.S for good. And we started talking abaout staying away from family etc ( although my case wasn't even remotely similar to his). He actually got to talk to his parents over the phone - from Iraq. He also said he worked with the Indian military a lot (in iraq??). Well! its hard to even imagine how his emotions would be like and what kind of excitement he was going through that moment? Sweating it out 2 years in a war zone and making it back to see his parents. It is probably one of the happiest moments he would ever experience in his life. I suddenly felt all emotional and happy for him. I told him that also.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Autograph Background Score

I happened to watch some scenes from Cheran's Autograph. I agree its a well crafted movie and is made to target the sensitive emotions of a majority of the population. I actually did not connect with the movie at all. Frankly, none of what was mentioned in the movie happened to me and I have lived and studied in villages. I kept thinking it was more relevant to my dad's era than mine.

But that aside. Did anyone notice this or is it just my imagination?

I think the background score of Autograph, especially the one that is played when Cheran goes to college in Kerala and falls in love with the Veena girl, is a rip-off of Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven". It does not just stop with resembling that song slightly - it is the instrumental version of "Tears in heaven" played with Indian instruments. Side Note: Eric Clapton has given many hits like "I shot the sheriff" and "Layla" but "Tears In Heaven", a song dedicated to the memory of his young child, who accidentally fell off the patio of a high rise building and died, touched a lot of hearts. Clapton won a (lot of) Grammy Awards for this single.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A 'friend', 'source' 'passerby'

Have you read those novels where a James Bond like hero - risks his life, tracks a spy, who is sent to kill a president, chases the spy down in a high-speed car chase and finally kills the spy. Ofcourse the newspaper wont carry the true story. The next day the incident is reported as "a highway accident happened where a 'person' was killed and a 'passerby' witnessed the incident".
Have you read novels where a person and 'friend' study together. This 'person' becomes a sportsman. The sportsman becomes huge and wins something like a grandslam. A photo of the two appear in newspaper saying "popular sports personality xyz and 'friend' celeberate xyz's victory". So imagine how it is to be this 'friend', 'source' 'passerby'.
Its actually not bad :-).
My post, making fun of Orkut testimonials, seems to have caught a lot of attention. Some aggregators seem to point to it, some scraps have a link to it, and there seems to be an email forward with this link going around as well. My friend Sudhish Kamath, popular blogger, newspaper columnist and debutant movie director, wrote about that post, and offered his own suggestions on proper orkut decorum. This appeared in in one of India's leading national daily and I got mentioned as the 'friend'. I am actually glad to get referenced, even if I am just a pronoun in the article. But I thought about this over the weekend. I feel like the 6th guy in uniform in a Star Trek episode, you know the one who always gets killed by a Klingon phaser attack, (or) like the seventh guy in Karagattakaran movie, who is the hero's sixth side-kick after Goundan, Senthil, Sarala etc. That guy got one line in the movie and I got 1 full para.
Next my friend Karthi will take a bow as hero in the movie Paruthiveeran and maybe I'll get mentioned as a 'passerby'. Growing up I so wanted to be like one of these two people but I ended up as the 'friend'. Sad state of affairs. But ofcourse, in West Mamabalam (more specifically in my grand ma's house) these 2 guys will get mentioned as a 'friend' of hawkeye :-)
Ah! stardom! Its so infectious.