Friday, March 30, 2007

Songs with Awesome Videos - I

Peter Gabriel is known for giving us awesome music videos. "Digging in the Dirt" comes to mind every time I think of well picturized songs. This is one of those songs where he not only comes up with a good music but picturizes it to perfection. I agree that technology elevates this song to a different level but you need some amount of creativity and imagination to make technology work for you. This song so fills up my imagination that I sometimes can't believe someone could conceive such a sequence.

Comparing Ambros(ia) to Aatu Puzhukkai

Note: Aatu Puzhukkai = Goat Poop
I wasn't going to write anything about cricket. Especially about this Anil Kumble retirement. Gosh! I hated him so much. His selection for better part of 17 years can be attributed to the complete lack of alternate spin talent. Imagine Kumble's biggest competitors were Venkatapathy Raju, Rajesh Chauhan, Sairaj Bahatule, Aashish Kapoor, and later Harbajan Singh. Ajit Wadekar, might have had to personally go and dig up our pitches so that Kumble can take his 5-fors. Calling him 'accurate' made my blood boil. He consistently bowled one or two balls down the leg-side every over, could never ever ever bowl decently to left handers. His economy rate is the worst for someone who is being hailed as accurate.

Anyway enough of my Kumble rant. I guess beauty lies in the beholder's eyes. But whats with this Anand Vasu's retirement-eulogy in cric info? I understand Kumble is retiring and journalists are obligated to say some crap like 'fighter' 'gentle giant' ' die hard' etc. But comparing Kumble to Ambrose??!!!! There has to be a law against exaggerating the abilities of retiring mediocre cricket players. Sujith Somasunder got an article written about him on his retirement. Would you believe that? Somebody has to say "Kumble was an average bowler, who got in because there was nobody else. Among that category of players Kumble was the best" Instead we get crap like this

Michael Atherton wrote that there were times when he sensed that Curtly Ambrose, his nemesis, was going to bowl a yorker, and shaped to play accordingly, only to find that his off stump flattened anyway. With Kumble at his best, it was much the same. Like some natural disasters, you could forecast and predict all you liked but, when the strike came, there was nothing to do but run for cover.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Kabali Times: Chapell Woos Uthappa

An urgent call has been sent out by Greg Chappell to Trinidad & Tobago branch of . He needs a place to sleep. According to eyewitness reports Greg Chappell has been reluctant to go into his hotel room alone. He has been loitering around in the lounge and boring arbitrary people with his analysis on why Levrock's stomach is so big. Apparently he tried to entice Robin Uthappa into his hotel room by singing the seductive song that went "I am the sambar, and you are the uthappa. I will flip you backwards and pour all over you". "summa vaa" said Chappell to which Uthappa became red-faced and extremely shy, "ponga annen vekkama irukku". They were interupted by the chairman of Stupid Media Association of India, who politely asked Chappell the same question for the 7 Billion'th time. "Bat Why India Bad" - he asked with intelligent face, thinking he had altered the question sufficiently enough to make Chappell answer it differently. When the answer came back as "We didn't bat very well" the stupid Indian media men were upset and vowed to ask the same question in anagrams.

Eye witness reports also indicate that many Indian/Pakistani players, supporters and underworld match fixers have sent samplers to touch and feel Greg Chappell's neck. The coach has apparently been annoyed by people walking up with a measuring tape and measure the size of his neck. 3 undertakers have already been kept on reserve for any eventuality.

Back in India, Effigy Burners Association of India refused to apologize for burning Chadrababu Naidu's effigy instead of Venkatapathy Raju's effigy. They said that if they were literate and intelligent enough to know the difference they wouldn't be spending time burning effigies anyway. Apparently that was the reason why the court exonerated them for burning Venkatesh Prasadh instead of his effigy. Venkatesh Prasadh's skeleton was unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile, Shilpa Shetty took a pledge that she will continue to strive for India's racial progress. After curtsying to the Queen, she quickly took a flight to Trinidad to work on the morale of the Bermudan team. She immediately checked into Levrock's hotel room and promised to work on his fitness. According to her spokesman, she has promised that she would drain him of at least 200 pounds and get his legs in shape for the key game against Bangladesh. Dave Whatmore was last seen hosing in cold water into Levrock's room. Rakhee Swant also has thrown in her bit for India by joining the Bangaldesh support staff as the hot nanny for their 17/18 year olds.

Ganapathi Sastrigal, who conducted 267 homams, to ensure India's victory is missing in action. The 267 sets of bat ball and stumps he used were also missing. In an unrelated news Ganapathi Sports club opened in the outskirts of New York opposite to Singh sports.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Note: I believe this post states the extremely obvious. Some moment of clarity allows me to see the obvious. I write it so that I'll remember it well.
After many conversations with people on their superstitions surrounding, exams, interviews, new ventures - I have developed certain interesting observations on this subject. Many people have lucky dates, days, lucky colors, clothes, combs, powder, perfume, vehicles, God etc. It is either formed as a result of some intuition or as a result of a 'perceived' causality ("You were born on 12th, got your job on 12th, got married on 12th etc. So 12th and and 3 (1+2) are lucky for you). When superstition is formed for the first time ever, its relatively innocuous. People don't have a preconceived notion of what is lucky for them, they are innocent to superstition and discover their own path and end up finding out their superstitions in retrospect. Interestingly, causality, analyzed in retrospect focuses on the trivial and blurs the obvious.
Life gets screwed when people hit the same situation/crisis-point for the second time in their lives. Now they are facing the most difficult challenge of their lives and they know what their superstitions are. They know their lucky date is 15th and lucky suit is xyz, lucky airlines is RyanAir, lucky day is Friday etc. Intriguingly, people approach the challenging situation by trying to work out the superstition in their favor. Its not that they put no effort into the 'real' preparation but they spend some significant time sorting their superstitions. They buy a new car on Friday, schedule their interview/operation/ business-opening-day on 15th, wear they lucky suit, fly in RyanAir to a Friday interview. Preparing for university exam, by sitting in their favorite position, wearing their favorite half-pant, visiting their favorite temple (Lucky N times pradakshanam, Lucky J times Jabam), watching their favorite TV show - is considered time that is productively spent towards ensuring success. My theory is people don't do those activities if you label those activities as superstition. But since those activities don't answer to the name of 'superstition' - people think these are some what acceptable. These are people who aren't outwardly superstitious. You wouldn't even guess/believe that they have superstitions (remember these activities aren't called that). They wouldn't part with this information if you aren't their close friend and if you don't probe them on this.
Time spent on such activities in inversely proportional to success. The more self-assured you are that you have aligned all your superstitions in your favor, while facing your biggest challenge, the more the probability of failure. The key is to deliberately do the opposite of what you feel is lucky for you. That way you get rid of the distraction.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Classroom Humor

Michigan sends and gets a lot of exchange students to/from universities around the world. I was supposed to be in Sydney, Australia this semester but decided against going. So, we have a British student, who is studying in Stockholm, as an exchange student. The class was engaged in a heated case debate on some Global Competition topic. The situation involved a decision on whether a company should send its European sales force (highly skilled sales people) to replace local sales force in different parts of the world. Many students argued that building relationships and networking, a critical component to sales success, was a highly 'local' thing . They argued that an international sales force might not measure up well.
The British student started talking and said ".... may not smooch well". The first time he said it we went "whaa..." and paid closer attention until he said "smooching may be important but....". As the giggles started trickling out, he said " is okay if they don't smooch well". The class couldn't take it anymore and burst into laughter. The student paused, looked up, threw up his hands and said "well! I I guess, I am not a native speaker of English here". Later, in a smaller group setting he asked me to pronounce 'schmooze' a couple of times. He got it right after saying it as 'smooch' a couple of times.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Just Shut up! and let Tendulkar open!

  • It is one of those days where you feel you would have been better off being one of those NRI desis, who over time have forgotten cricket and have started watching NBA, NFL. They ask innocently "is gavaskar in the team?" and when u say no with an incredulous face they say "I can't believe you still watch that long game". Being the guy who pays shit load of dollars to subscribe the tournament, and watch it happily with a large group of friends hurts (with 'araichu vitta' sambhar, masala dosai etc). Really Really hurts.
  • Watching the Ireland game really helped relieve the pain a little bit. I am not kidding. Its not just that misery seeks company, you don't have to listen to sarcastic comments from Pakistan students.
  • Sri Lanka beating Bermuda by 240+ runs does not look funny anymore.
  • Ajit Agarkar should be made Captain of Indian Cricket Team, Prime Minister of India, U.N General Secretary, President of USA, Queen of England with immediate effect. He has been the most permanent member of the team. His name is written first before even Tendulkar's name is written down. Either he is a high-quality pimp or the selectors are gay.
  • Sehwag is the only cricketer who would square-cut a straight ball to the middle-stump. I've never seen this before. Not even in colony matches in Thirunelveli. "sarithaan poda sottai thalaiaaa" (courtesy: anjali)
  • Solution: Tendulkar should open. They tried to push him down in 1997 in prep for the 99 world cup, he came back quickly. They really pushed him down until the last minute for 2003 world cup and he came back to open in the nick of time for the first game of the WC. Now they have somehow pushed him down successfully. He does not like it. He is our best chance for a decent total. He is 2X-Tendulkar during world cups and no other Indian player is good enough to push him down. Just shut up, dont analyze and let him open.
  • Overheard: Its not super-eight. Its 'sumaar' eight.
  • We have spoilt Sri Lanka's world cup in some ways. They could have lost to India and still progressed. Now thanks to India its not so obvious. I hope they return the favor by beating Bangladesh by a huuuuge margin. Edit: While its low probability, given that we have to beat SL anyway to progress, it is better if SL loses against Bangla.
  • David Lloyd is like the best alternative to Geoff Boycott for commentary. John Wright is an excellent commentator. I really like him. I am warming up to Siva also.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Many years from now, when future psychologists study the interaction of individual human beings with their peer groups, I wouldn't be surprised if the psychologists concluded that - over time, 'gossiping' commanded near monopoly in market for 'tools to forge new friendships'. I have been surprised at amount of friendships, super-conversations that can be credited to gossip or bitching. Much like the way breast-feeding nourishes infants, gossiping acts as a crutch that nurtures nascent group-friendships before the friendship can sustain itself in an auto pilot mode. My initial theory on why people gossip wasn't much different from my theory on why people stereotyped. Self-esteem. By gossiping, people pretend/assume for a fleeting moment that their lives are somehow better than the gossiped-about person. The Gossip-content provides you with amazing latitude/scope to differentiate yourself from the gossiped-target. It also allows you to indirectly advertise possession of certain virtues/attributes, by simply claiming that the gossip-target lacks them (For example by bitching about another person's dishonesty, you can indirectly advertise to your peer group that you are an honest person). However, on superficial inspection - the urge to improve self-esteem and subsequent actions to satisfy the urge - are perceived as voluntary human behavior. Gossiping is perceived as voluntary behavior - that you indulge in it out of your own choice. Is gossiping voluntary or do we just assume it is so because of the alleged non-zero possibility that it can be avoided?

I would assume that when a person is gossiping with a group of friends, there is some part of the person's mind that instinctively warns the person that 'gossiping' is wrong. However, ignoring the instinct is as easy as eating potato chips when you are on a diet. You probably ignore it because you have cheated yourself into believing that you aren't as 'gossipy' as some people in your peer-group. And this brain-washed state gives you the latitude for some indulgence ( I have dieted/worked-out so much - a little potato chips can't hurt me) Every time human beings think some other person in their group is a "gossiper" - do they step-back and analyze themselves? Do they know that they are being perceived the same way just because they participated in the conversation without protesting? On the other hand, should you oppose gossip every time you encounter it? As an experiment if we arrange group structures in such a way that one member resists gossip, or says something against the phenomena of gossip, would the person be perceived as odd or weird? Will the oddness be accentuated if the person resists gossip in the context of a nascent friendship? Can that human being consistently resist gossip across different set of friend-groups? Will the person succumb in a more mature friend-group ( a group of best-friends). According to me 100% of humans will or have already succumbed to gossip. But only a minuscule (say around 0.1%) of those actually are actually self-aware because they take that step-back and do a self-analysis. A surprising number of people truly believe that they aren't gossipers. When clearly their actions indicate that they are. Confronting them is as futile as this post on gossip. It provides personal pleasure but no external change. I don't want to be judgemental and I am trying hard to phrase my words so that it doesn't sound judgemental (because by default people assume that anybody who writes about gossip is doing so to condemn it). I am just fascinated by the lure of other people's troubles. Why is another person's misery/handicap/failing so sexy? Other people's (lack of) intelligence, low grades, affairs, love-interest, past, accent, dressing-sense, hand-writing, cooking-skills, nail-cutting skills, dancing skills are such alluring topics to gossip about? It could be extremely insignificant, however, does the fact that gossip could lead to a 15-minute super conversation and a possible friendship (maybe a date or some sack time) make it so irresistible?

I am not so naive to write a post condemning gossip. I am also not stupid enough to believe that people who condemn 'bitching' never really bitch. It is an excellent candidate for being a fundamental instinct. Even the daily News, which is a N-billion dollar industry, is a sophisticated form of gossip. And discussing news is akin to gossiping. Forget the pretense we put out there to satisfy our daily dose of hypocrisy. I am interested in knowing why? Is it semi-involuntary? Like masturbation. What DNA? What aspect of our psyche/biology makes it so appealing? Remember Joey's stable-boy fascination for the princess. Is it so sexy because it is taboo? Lets say you are an outlier, like a gossip-lesbian who is more interested in talking about people who are present (like yourself) - Vs - those who are absent (unlike yourself), and you feel that gossiping is bad, how do you resist the urge to gossip? Will this anti-group behavior be noticed the way homo-sexual behavior is noticed and would it be considered 'not-normal' (which, recursively, is a gossip topic in itself after you have left). Why do humans feel the urge to gossip? Is it like adolescent masturbation, a primitive-biological-pleasure-calling that has been unnecessarily juxtaposed with an opposing 'guilt' DNA instinct?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

WTF is Inzamam saying?

What the hell is he saying? He loses the game, comes to Tony Cozier on the podium and says some stuff at the beginning, which I think amounts to apologizing to Allah. He lost the freakin' game. He sucked and his stupid team sucked. I remember, after the 2003 WC defeat against India Waqar said something to this effect as the bemused Tony Craig looked at him (probably thinking 'whaaa'). I thought that was a one-off thing. But Inzy says it after every game.Why wrap the defeat with a god-based plastic cover? Would you be any less angry with Rahul Dravid if he walked up and said "Om nama Shivaya. Muruga! gol vittiten mannichikoba"? I don't care if Dravid and I prayed to the same god, I'd freaking shove the mike up Dravid's ass if he pulled a stunt on me like that.

If he so wants to apologize to God, why can't he say that in his dressing room? Or when he is walking up to the podium. Why does he have to hold the mike and say it so that Tony can hear it? Why bring Tony Cozier, me and a billion other people into this?

Edit: Here is more comedy from the Pakistan team. First they stop several good players from representing them in the world cup and then they ban the rest of the club-class players from talking in English (is this really true?).
The Pakistan cricket team have been banned from speaking in English at World Cup news conferences to prevent players from being misquoted, according to a team spokesman.Former player Pervez Mir, the team's press liaison officer during the World Cup, said at a captain's media day in Montego Bay on Sunday that Pakistan's players would speak only in Urdu, which would also help to promote tourism to Pakistan."This decision was taken by the Pakistan Cricket Board because it is our national language and because 2007 is our National Tourist Year so we are promoting Pakistan as well."This is the perfect platform to promote and expose our national language, so there's nothing more to it."He added that a Pakistan player had been misquoted in Trinidad following the gas leak that led to the team being evacuated from their hotel earlier in the week."A journalist spoke to Danish Kaneria and asked him what he thought about the gas leak and he tried to play the incident down and said `It happens'."But when the report came out the journalist quoted him saying `It happens at home as well'"So we would rather avoid these kinds of incidents and speak in Urdu at official times, as well as for reasons of promoting Pakistan."


I played tennis on this Wii thing yesterday. I have to admit this is addictive. In the excitement I played game after game and ended up with a pain on the wrists and elbow. Though this really isn't that unusual for men, I wasn't happy to wake up and learn that Wii leaves you sore the morning after also. I wonder why this isn't a huge drawback for Wii. The joystick (sort of thing) simulates a tennis racquet and we have to stand in front of the TV move our hands and actually hit the shot for it to be simulated in the video game. This may look funny to someone who cannot see the TV. Two people standing, swatting their wrists on the air and swearing is really funny. The only disappointing thing about Wii is - all you do is move your wrists in a sling-shot manner and the game takes care of the actual stroke. I tried moving my wrists in many different variations but it did not significantly alter the strokes on screen (although there seemed to be a slight correlation).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

College Friends

Friends from undergraduate college are special. They are almost like family. It is unbelievable that four years in engineering can create so much closeness. It is a pleasure to watch the way your friends grow, the way they change, and the people they marry. Its a 'good feeling' in itself. I just found out that my class mate is marrying my wife's class mate. Some friends (and their family) had visited, we were watching our fourth year tour video and were discussing how well we knew most people in our class. No amount of grad school friends, room-mates, colleagues come close.

Four best years of my life.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Movie Review: 300 - Battle Porn

Bad Movie. Please stay away.

A good clean XXX pornography is just the sex. No build-up, no story, no characterization. Its just about the sex and sex in different positions. 300 is similar. Its battle porn. All they do is battle. No story, no characterization, no build-up. This movie has been made with new technology (used in "sin city") where actors do their stuff in green suits before a blue wall and the background hills, water, landscape are all drawn using a computer. This makes the movie look funny. The colors are too 'Utopian'. So are the 300 Spartans. All of them look like professional body builders, with a sculpted body. I suspect they are computer drawn too.

This is an old well-known story about 300 Spartans resisting invasion of 250,000 Persians. Gaptun Vijaykanth would have been proud. Persians are attempting to conquer the entire planet and a Persian king who claims to be god wants the Spartan king to kneel before him. But Spartan law disallows them from retreating or withdrawing. So they fight on and on and on and on. The Spartans are professional warriors, bred on the art of war from birth. Each person has to survive a super selection process to become a spartan warrior. So given their superior strength and war skills they cause unspeakable damage to Persians. The block a hill and funnel the persions through a narrow path called "hot gate". The numbers don't matter then and the Spartans slaughter the Persians like cows. It is said that the Persians had so many causalities that in retrospect the battle wasn't worth the victory.

After a while the fights looked video game'ish, the blood funny and graphics artificial. It looked like a gay orgy with so many thighs and sandals. It had its high points also. An 'adolescent' hot chic dances nude, the king humps the queen (front and back) till her face turns blue and the extremely hot queen offers herself to a senator for some serious 'Bondage'. These scenes helped the movie's cause a long way. The overall costume design of the movie was even more funny. The leather stuff made for some badly made porn S&M stuff. I watched it with a group of friends and we couldn't stop repeating the corny dialogs "your thrust is strong" "lead them through the hot gates" and finally "i promise you. you wont enjoy this and this will not be short". The last quote though was said by the senator after he flips over the queen backwards as she prepares herself to save the country, king and honor of Sparta.

Terrible Ponting calls India's hypocrisy bluff

How dare he do this? Does he not know that India can only criticize and cannot take criticism? Does he not know that the only reason why Indians harp on off-field behavior is because we can't win as many test matches as the aussies? Ask him if his country-men can refrain from jealousy and if they can stay away from focussing on India's sledging and off-field behavior if India were #1 test playing nation and his team had only won 3 out of their last 10 test matches? How dare he take away our right to "invent" new standards. We have as much right to feel good about ourselves as his country-men.

How dare he insult sunny? Does he not know that this country of cricket mad (but very knowledgeable) fanatics actually believed Sunny's story about "I batted slow because I did not know how to adjust to One day cricket - oh! plus I didn't think we would win anyway".

Oh! Ya bad biased Aussie umpires. S.K. Bansal (was that his name?) zindabad! The great i-raised-my-hand-to-give-out-but-i-ended-up-scratching-my-head umpire Zindabad! My country-men! Please please spend precious hours of office time, Internet chat time, radio time, TV News time discussing how bad the Aussies are and how goodie goodie we Indians are as people. We have no faults. We are great! Bad Bad Aussies.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Movie Review: Paruthiveeran: EkDuujeKeLiye Gang(sta) Rap(e) Mix

Director: Ameer (Director of Ram)
Starring: Karthik, Saravanan, Priya Mani

The "pun" in the title is intended. I really wanted to tag it as 'Romeo Sandiyar & Juliet Sandiyar'. This movie is an old excess-ethanol-killer-illicit-arrack in a new water packet. I doubt if the 'A Center' audience are elastic enough to like this movie. They probably won't. But I have a feeling that that this movie would be a huge hit in rurals a la' Sethu. Even though, I completely disliked 'Sethu' - I wouldn't miss Paruthi for the world. Sethu was mostly mediocre and cheap ass crap, which in retrospect looked better because of the last 20 minutes. It ended on a high and so the audience remembered the movie in a positive light. As Paruthiveeran lies naked showing his buttox, face down on the mud, dripping blood, Ameer makes sure this movie ends on a dramatic high. And that is the movie's biggest plus point. People walk out of the theater remembering the movie in a favorable light. Giving it more credit. Paruthi, though it sort of meanders and lingers needlessly in the first half, is a significantly better movie than Sethu even if it suddenly upgrades itself from 'eccentric' to 'good' in the last 30 minutes. Tamil cinema has traditionally drawn a lot of mileage and money from the phenomena of 'rape'. K. Balachander to Barathiraja have made huge amounts of money based on 'rape' and 'karpu'. Ameer milks this phenomena until it bleeds blood. Literally.

This movie is something Barathiraja would have been proud of. It is shot in a typical desertish village, somewhere near Madurai. However, this movie is completely unconventional. Unlike what Barathiraja can create. It portrays and deals with completely evil people. This aspect of the movie is very innovative. Its like 'Mudhal Mariyathai' Vadivukarasi falling head-over-heels in love with '16 Vayathinile' Parattai. You have no sympathy for either character. However, their love, as wretched as it is, touches you somehow. All the lead characters are despicable people. People you wouldn't touch with a 600 foot Boeing 747. Paruthi and his uncle are bad ass thugs who get in trouble just for the heck of it. Paruthi's noble ambition is to make it to Madras Central jail and have his name on the papers doing that. He is annoyed that the policemen steal their thunder in local newspaper photographs. They are the local goondas and they don't specifically work for anybody. They just stab other people in the "kundi" for deterrence sake and spend 2 weeks in jail for it. People in the village are afraid of these 2 people because these two try their best to irritate, annoy and bully everybody. I think this movie tells a six month segment in Paruthi's life. The first 2 hours has Paruthi having the time of his life. He makes fun of Police officers, bullys some of them, steals prostitutes paid for by truck drivers, humps them and only gives them any unused excess capacity. MuthuAzhagu, is head-over-heels in love with Paruthi because he saved her life when she was a child. She is a bitch of sorts. Tempermental, stays in the same class for 4 years just so that she is not put in the marriage market. Her voice is masculine, scary and she could easily slip in a villain in any movie. While not representative of any typical village belle, she is what 'Muthal Mariyathai' Vadivukarasi would have been in her formative years.

One of the significant strong points of the movie is also its weakest point. There is not much logic to anything that anybody does. If you don't buy into the fact that this movie is about semi-barbarians with minimal human emotions, you most probably won't like this movie. It gets worse if you somehow get a feeling that this movie somehow depicts real village life. Paruthi's antics, his arrogance and disregard for civilization, which get him into trouble often, does not make sense. Muthazhugu's unrequited love, her arrogance and her dialogs does not make sense. So does her parents inability to stop her. Not that it needs to make sense. Heck! many things most people do - never make sense. But it is too prevalent for my comfort. I loved these characters for it and hated them for the excesses. I was disappointed with 'American Beauty' because I thought every character in that movie was one-dimensional and all characters looked the same. Every character shown was cynical, evil, dark and sarcastic. They all seemed to say "look at me. I am so cool". After a point I started getting annoyed with that Sam Mendes movie because of that. This movie suffers from the same syndrome. Every character is a 'prick' of sorts. I would have been happy if there was one main character, who was sane and regular person. I am not sure if this is in anyway true depiction of village life. It needn't be. But it should tell us clearly that we are dealing with outliers. It doesn't. I understand that the tendency to take the 'veech aruval' is more in villages. But how come nobody shows respect to anybody? Things are too callous to be believable. Elders, youngsters, grandma, father - everybody is called a 'nayee'. Let me just stop by saying its a freakishly different movie.

As far as performances go Karthik has done a debut of a lifetime. Take a bow dude! I haven't seen a more powerful debut by any other hero. Come to think of it, he might get a career as an outstanding villain. No other actor in my recollection has entered film world with such an intense role. Come to think of it not many actors have done a full-throated "thevdiyaa pasangala". They way he casually humps prostitutes and says "kottaiya arithuduven" to policemen was simply awesome. I have never seen a person/character like this. He so fits into this role. You wouldn't believe he is an urban kid. While sarcasm and gaundamani-aping comes naturally for him, this pure evil 'porikki' role is a level-jump for him. He really comes of as a horrible thug. His last scene performance alone is high quality stuff. Not many seasoned actors can do what he has done. It clearly shows the amount of hard work he has put in for this role. If you look at debut movies of most of the current heroes, you would realize how awesome this role is. He looks like a seasoned actor in every frame he appears. Most actors have stiff legs and a stiff face in their debut movies. I remember Surya, Vijay, Ajit couldn't dance to save their lives in his first few movies. This fellow is just so natural. When he dances, you can really feel he is having the time of his life. He really brings back the 'bad is cool' theme. Very few actors start with such an unconventional role. By virtue of 'risking' this start he clearly looks and behaves like a seasoned actor. It has been a tough ride for him. After quitting a job, with a plan of acting in Ayitha Ezhuthu (for Siddarth's role), he was rejected as too fat by Maniratnam. He stayed in the game by designing Wall Posters/hoardings for movies like Kaakha Kaakha, moved to being assistant director in AE and then finally this movie happened. I really cant find anything bad about this role. His voice is much different in screen. I was surprised that it was his own voice. Priya Mani was also a surprise, although I hated her voice. She has done well. In many ways she is the real hero of this movie.

To sum up. The last 30 minutes are good for a reason. The build-up for the eventual irony starts eearly on in the movie. You feel sad for these wretched lives in the end. Evil begets evil and there is simply no retribution for any evil doer in this movie, which I liked. They way I liked madhavan's character in AE for being bad till the end. When priya mani says "nee panna paavathu poora yen thalai'la irakki vechutte" - there will not be a dry eye in the house. Especially Not so after we see how Paruthi decides to fulfill his promise to her.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Movie Review: Pans Labyrinth - Simply Excellent

Note: This is a Spanish movie with English subtitles Director: Guillermo Del Toro ( Director of Hell boy)
Winner of 3 Oscar awards. Genre: Fairy-tale, War

Mercedes, after stabbing the captain twice on the back and front, shoves the knife into his mouth. She shows less emotion than you would expect her to. She is a spy who would have been cruelly tortured by the captain. But he underestimates 'a woman' and the woman now has a knife in his mouth. The camera doesn't fade or move away from the mouth. You see the knife tearing the side of his mouth. In one swift action she rips his mouth off and the captain is left with a significantly larger mouth than he came into the world with. Even after he stitches his mouth (and you are shown the way he pierces his mouth with a needle and puts the stitch) the wound is neither healed nor forgotten quickly. That's only because when he drinks alcohol it falls out of his mouth from the inside. Pans labyrinth is probably the most gruesome, violent movie, I have seen in my life. It shows raw uninhibited violence. I promise you, you will not be able to watch this movie without looking away. When violence is shown, you would expect the camera to move away and show 'reactions' instead of the violence. But no. The camera just stays there. After some time you sort of sense that a gruesome scene is imminent. When the doctor gets ready to amputate a person, you have this creepy feeling "oh! no! they are gonna show that". After a while I involuntarily brought my hand up to cover my eyes because I just couldn't bear to see it. And I love violent movies. We probably have look away because the camera never looks away. Not even when the captain repeatedly hits a bottle across an innocent man's face and kills him. I still can't get the images of this movie out of my mind.

So given all this the creatures in the girl's fairy tale world look docile and the word 'beast' looks more apt in the other world. This movie is about an excellent juxtaposition of the defense of a military camp by a cold and ruthless captain and his step-daughter's fairy tale adventures. It is an exquisitely crafted, creative story backed by mesmerizing cinematography, imaginative sets and mind blowing editing. I have never seen scene/frame transitions done like this. The camera moves from its focus to a tree and when it comes from the other side of the tree a new scene/frame begins. Very cool. The movie instantly surrounds you with a kind of magic you would rarely experience in movies. The whole movie is like a painting, every frame is like a canvas and the images appear as if they were conceived by a thoughtful and a brilliant artist. The texture of the movie has so little contrast that you wouldn't be mistaken for assuming this to be a black and white movie. Although, it is said to be taken at the backdrop of the Spanish civil war, it has microscopic focus on a few lives. Its not about nations, politics and ideologies. Its about a few people and cruelty, from which an innocent mind chooses to escape. A military captain Vidal, his wife, Vidal's step daughter Ofelia, Mercedes the house maid, and a doctor are the few people.

Vidal's wife is heavily pregnant. Probably because Vidal ordered for a son and she is promptly following orders and manufacturing one for him. Ofelia, though she never directly witnesses the brutality of the captain is significantly frightened of him. A magical creature draws her into a labyrinth of a fawn named Pan. Pan tells her that she is destined to be a princess. But she has 3 tasks to accomplish. Her tasks involve magical chalk pieces that take her into a different world, where creatures (with eyes in their hands instead of their face) eat children for lunch, toads make an appearance too. Her task, where she has to open the secret door underneath her floor and retrieve a knife before the hour glass runs out, is chilling. But highly imaginative. I mean, a person has to be incredibly creative to develop such a fairy tale. Overall the parallel fairy tale aspect of the movie depicts innocence of the child in a way you couldn't possibly imagine. It all builds up for an excellent climax.

I left the movie feeling very sad. Some movies have a way of altering your mood. this was certainly one of them. The movie has two segments. One is a war segment and another is the fairy tale segment. The former has to make sense without the latter. And it does. Each segment viewed independently is mediocre. That they have been placed side-by-side is where the genius of the movie lies. People have this habit of escaping from the depression of real lives by escaping into a magical world. In this world they are princesses, princes, kings, rock stars and what not. It is the magical world that keeps people going during difficult times. Ofelia's magic world is innocence personified. It represents that magical world, which reality can never destroy even if, in an outward way, it is show to have done so. I highly recommend this movie to everybody. Never mind the fact that its a foreign movie with subtitles. Just go see it before it leaves the theaters.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Movie Review: Babel

Its been a while since this movie got released. I just saw it in Dollar theater. It is an interesting movie. Innaritu re-uses the style he used in Amores Perros and 21 Grams. One single accident/event leads to a cascade of events that spans different geographies and different lives. It is an exciting and creative concept. That one single event leads another, which leads to another in the end - affecting completely unrelated people. Amores Perros (on which Yuva was based of) involved an accident that affected 3 separate lives. 21 grams is slightly similar. Here in Babel, most of the people impacted are very related (unlike the other two movies). A couple of boys play with a gun and accidentally shoot a tourist. The movie then deals with how the lives of the boys, the husband of that tourist, the maid of the tourist and an apparently unrelated Japanese girl in Tokyo change as a result of this random act.

The movie expertly cuts forth across all four lives. The main thing that impressed me was the varying tension levels in each life. The movie alternates across each life in a round-robin fashion. About 10-15 minutes are devoted for each life. Every time Brad Pitt (the husband of the tourist) life is visited, the tension increases to screaming proportions. The tension level in his case starts high in the beginning and it maintains the high-levels through out. The maid and the 2 boys are shown happy at first and their lives gradually deteriorate over time. The Japanese girl's life simmers in sadness and low tension levels that promises high but ends low key. None of the four parties really did anything wrong. Their terrible situation is not their mistake at all. If at all someone is to be blamed, it is the father of the kids, for giving the kids a gun. But then he gave the gun to help them ward of jackals. At the same time, on the flip side, all of them make teeny weeny mistakes but none of them are uncommon and not all people who make those mistakes get punished like this. I like the 'quirk of fate' aspect this movie investigates. Among the lives pictured, I was most touched by the Deaf/Mute Japanese girl. The way, in such a shot period of time, her plight is shown was commendable. Destiny is an under-rated master controller of life. This movie tells us that in an emphatic fashion.

On a negative note, I think Innaritu has thrashed this concept to death. While Amores Perros was excellent, 21 grams was mediocre and Babel was good without being really brilliant. I can't see him making a similar movie that will tell us what he hasn't yet told yet. We are impressed but we've had enough.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Movie Review: Zodiac

Note: No Spoilers. No review of this movie can have spoilers.

David Fincher's latest $85 Million movie on the true story of San Francisco "Zodiac" killer, will not be commercially successfully, most people will not like it and will probably be termed as a very long (its 2:40 hrs) boring movie. But Zodiac is an excellent movie and is also David Fincher's best movie so far. The performance of every actor, crew, technician is top of the rack. This is a movie about a real-life serial killer, who was never caught, the cases surrounding him were never solved, and the SFPD finally deactivated the case in 2002. So there is no cinematic ending to this movie. You know going in that it has no payload, no satisfaction of seeing someone tie all the loose ends up, explain why/how it happened and send you on your way to the parking lot with a contented smile. None of the lead character's lives are ever in danger and there is no suspense at all for most of the movie. It is still magically engaging. I was riveted to the screen and absorbing terabytes of information that was thrown at me. I can't recollect a movie that has thrown so much information at me. William Hayt's book on Electro Magnetic Theory came close :-). Very much like Seven, this is a classic textbook cop-serial killer investigative story that goes in a level further. It has gory murder, planted clues, decoding of clues and all that. But it also has the element of "can it be proven in court". So it involves methodical data collection, patient examination of evidence and its usefulness.

The movie is based on Robert Graysmith's novel. He is also the central character of the movie. When you see him getting anonymous phone calls in the night with heavy breathing (a symbolic precursor before the Zodiac killed) you understand what he must really gone through. This movie involves 3 main characters. Two cops who investigate the crime and Robert, a cartoonist (Robert) at the San Francisco Chronicle. There are several other important characters and several independent threads. What is so great about the movie is that it pieces them together as a single coherent screenplay. The characters and their theories are incredibly complex, but there is no confusion in the way they are presented to the viewers. I was amazed at the choice of words and images that Fincher uses - to not loose the audience. We are kept informed clearly of what going on. It is as if we are part of story. We see the frustration of Inspector Toschi, Armstorng and Graysmith as the case wears on for years and years. We see them struggle to get a warrant for arresting a suspect. We are shown how hard it is for police departments (without fax machines) to exchange documents, evidence and co-operate with each other. Sometimes handwriting experts give a negative report, when everything else about the suspect seems to be obvious - which means no warrant and no arrest. It is a movie the depicts real life as real as possible. We are shown how the central characters deal with all this as it consumes their mind and their entire lives.

The story starts with the Zodiac shooting a couple at point blank range. He then courteously informs the police of such an act and then proceeds to commit another cold-blooded murder. This time Zodiac stabs the couple with a knife. The camera does not move away or blink when the stabbing happens. You are shown the stabbing in close-up. But that is the last of the gore. The fun begins when Zodiac starts sending letters to three important newspapers in San Francisco. He talks about his victims being his after-life slaves and talks about his penchant for collecting more slaves. He sends in coded clues, and other information about his killings. Sometimes he states the truth and sometimes he takes credit for other murders. He breaks his pattern of killing rural folks by moving to SFO and killing someone in the city. That brings SFPD inspectors Toschi (Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry was modelled on this popular real-life cop Toschi) and Armstrong into the picture. While Paul Avery (a smoker, drinker, drug-addicted degenerate appropriately played by Downey Jr) is the San Francisco reporter responsible for covering Zodiac, a cartoonist working for the paper called Robert Graysmith gets interested in the case. Robert is a boy scout, a geek, who doesn't drink/smoke - almost hippy'ish - but not really. While nobody takes Robert seriously at beginning, his nerdy obsession, persistence, and code-breaking skills get the attention of Inspector Toschi. Long after the case has become dormant, Robert still maniacally persists with the clues and his theories and is occasionally helped by Toschi. Robert's obsession is almost inhuman. He is writing a book on the Zodiac killer and he wants to solve the case. he wants to see the man's face and know that he is the Zodiac. The is no real reason given as to why Robert, the eventual author of the novel, is so interested in this killer. But the obsession seems to have cost him his second marriage. The obsession is addictive and consumes every inch of his life (and inspector Toschi's).

David Fincher keeps this movie straight and doesn't pull his super-famous technical stunts on us. There are no multiple cuts and unique camera angles. Its all straight. The rock'ish pop'ish background music was very interesting. The movie is the first Hollywood movie to be made in uncompressed digital format (VIPER). Frequently, an X-files like clock at the bottom tells us the date, or time elapsed since last event. This movie is a period movie that spans years and for most of the time there is no activity. But Fincher still builds up tension, some close calls for Robert and a nervous energy for this movie. This is a very disciplined movie, that systematically collects data like an accountant. Its really a documentary movie, where commercial cinema meets art in art's side of the world. Although, there are a couple of people shown to be prime suspects (each tries to be more obvious than the other) this movie never takes sides or hints at the eventual killer. Its a clear and analytical presentation of assimilated facts. And Fincher decides unambiguously on which of the zillion facts deserves screen time. The San Francisco of 70s is recreated magically. the color, the texture, clothes, all are remarkably done. In the second half you realize that the movie feels really long and drags on without purpose. I enjoyed it nevertheless. There is almost no point to making this movie. Much better serial killer movies have been made. But none like this one. This one has no twists, no action. I think in this category of movies (which documents a real-life killer story) this is the best. People who want a clean suspense thriller will not like it. Think of it as Manirathnam's Iruvar. Strictly for Fincher fans and movie buffs.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Hawaiian Experience III: The Art of Laziness

A typical way to spend a day in Hawaii

Step1: 9:00 AM Wake up

Step 2: 10:30 AM Lie in bed and ponder on the need/necessity to get up.

Step 3: 11:00AM Sip Frappuchino, Watch TV, Browse Web

Step 4: Receive Alu Paratha from wife. Eat it in Bed. Keep the plate under the bed. Go back to sleep.

Step 5: 11:45 Ensoy te view from the room.

12:15PM Step 6: Inspect the beach from a Goikka point of view

Step 6: 'Nattify' the Umbrella.

Step 7: Set up chair, junk food, novel etc near you. Spend time either reading the novel or staring at the emptyness. Its a Corona moment. Silence.

Step 8: Sleep

Step 9: Head for the water.

Step 10: Repeat Steps 6,7,8, 9 until Sunset.

Step 10: Ensoy Maadi the Sunset.

Movie Review: Pachai Kili Muthu Charam

Pachai Kili, though significantly better than the movie version of Derailed, fails exactly where its Hollywood counterpart failed. When I saw Derailed, the thing that struck me instantly - was that - the seduction happened too soon. Lucinda was too quick, too smooth, too easy. A girl, that too a married girl, with looks like Jennifer Aniston or Jyotika don't come so quick. Men like Clive Oven and Sarath Kumar should know that. The accelerated seduction is exactly where both the movies fail to impress the audience. People are left thinking -why? In both movies I instantly thought "this cant be for real". The key to convert the slow-moving-gradual-seduction-novel into a movie is to make the seduction look real. Gautham did the right thing by thinking-like and aping Balu Mahendra. After all nobody can do movies on extra-marital flings better than Balu Mahendra. If "Rettai Vaal Kuruvi" was a slow and humoros deterioration from the marriage orbit for Mohan, Balu Mahendra showed man's fundametal weakness for sex and deviation from monogamy within 15 minutes in "Marupadiyum".

While Gautham does a significantly better job of filming and styling the movie than Balu( which is an achievement in itself - Balu is a hard act to follow), the "natural-ness" of falling prey to temptation is an art that only Balu is a master of. Gautham fails here big time. I thought, the casting of Jyotika in itself, given her family-girl image, was a casting coup of sorts. It was seriously a master stroke. But Jyotika's whore-like costume worked against her. Something didn't gell right. If only she was shown as a nose-ring'less, regular dressed, working-mom slowly and surely falling for Sarath Kumar - this movie would have been significantly better. Why does Gautham fail big-time in aping Balu Mahendra? His failure to control Sarathkumar's role. Sarath Kumar has an image to protect and he can't be shown as a philandrer. So he is shown as a reluctant participant in adultry, which craters the spirit of the story. Balu's vision of men was that - Men are fundamental sexual creatures. They stray. According to him, they are wired that way. They are creatures, who make their wife believe that they are the only 'uthaman', rest are porikkis and then they drive the auto-rikshaw in the cycle gap. Thats his legacy. His version of "men are from mars - women are from thooka-nayakam-petti-palayam" To show men as Sarathkumar is a parody. A blasphemy. Crazy Mohan wasn't far off in Sathi-Leelavathi (another Balu master piece) when he wrote "Ambalaingalukku soice'o chanc'o koduthuda koodathu". It takes a Kamala Hasan to boldly play a married and obvious flirter (Mouli's role in Nizhal Nijamaakirathu comes to mind- though he is unmarried but old in that movie). SarathKumar here is significantly less bold and less ambitious than Kamal Hassan. With him shown as a passive participant, the final nail on movie's coffin is hit. I think the tamil world has come far away from the days where women bent over backwards to seduce MGR and he still refused.

These are simply the two main reasons why the movie failed (a) Jo is too fast in wanting to get some sack-time with Sarathkumar. (b) Sarathkumar showing surprising (and needless) restraint and puts no effort to get Jo' in bed. Its anti-nature. Plain and simple.

I liked the movie though. It was significantly better than the english version, which I thought was amateurish and sucky. Gautham has class. He only picturizes three and half songs (Omits Bombay Jeyashre's version of that Awesome song), keeps the movie real and packs some style into it. Who ever did costumes for Sarath/Andrea and designed their house needs to be applauded. I'd like to arrange my house like that (the last time I felt so was when PC Sreeram designed Mohan-Revathi's house in Mouna Raagam ). Sarathkumar repeats what he did in Dasarathan (the last Sarath movie I saw). Manirathnam and Kitty brought a sense of restraint in him and made him play it real. Gautham does it to an extent. Until the last 30 minutes. For the first 2 hours it was Venkatesh, Sales Rep for Alpha Pharama, playing the hero of the movie. The last 30 minutes had "mega star" Sarath Kumar replacing him and single-handedly beating up 40 baddies. That somehow spoiled the rhythm of the movie. I did not like this Andrea chic. I did not think she was beautiful. I am not surprised many people find her beautiful. People found Suvalakshmi and Kamalini Mukherjee beautiful. I hated both of them. But thats just me.

Gautham's villians are always special. They are cold, ruthless, have a vile tongue and generate serious fear, even for a seasoned movie goer. But somehow he has developed this fascination for long-haired villians (Jeeva, Daniel Balaji, Milind Soman). From hearing Gautham dub for Milind Soman here, I am beginning to suspect that he may have dubbed for Jeevan in Kaakha Kaakha(I have to check the credits in the DVD). Its allright to have these long-haired villians spewing venemous dialogs. But after a while it gets repetitive. Gautham could have changed that style by having a woman (in this movie) spew venom and play a real hard-core baddie. But he fails to capitalize on this wonderful opportunity. I thought the execution of the last 30 minutes was cinematic, unreal and against the flow of the movie. After seeing kaakha Kaakha, I wrote a review of it and sent it to Karthik. He forwarded that mail to his brother. A few weeks later he got back to me on Surya's opinion of my critisism (ofcourse I boast :-) ) of the hospital scene. He said "the producers wanted something for the front benchers, they forced this overly dramatic scene into the movie". That scene did not kill the classic Kaakha Kaakha but this last 30 minutes of masala, if force-fed on Gautham by the producers, killed Pachai Kili. Just to end, I still think this is a avery good movie but the bar for Gautham, unfortunately is higher than the level this movie manages to jump.