Friday, November 28, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
These girls had come along to cheer Surya and jollu vittufy him. Fair enough - completely normal. Somewhere along the line they thought there comments were funny, that they were cool or worse that they were doing "samaaa galatta". This is where I began to have problems. Frankly, I have seen very few women who are genuinely humorous. Very few. These women were not among them. The "great progress that women have made so far" (seinfeld reference) in a variety of fields does not extend to the field of "theater galatta". Based on the evidence on display in the theater, the feminist movement has a long way to go in this department. These girls were making "kekke bukke" jokes and howling (not even properly) like donkeys every time Surya came on screen. Not a single comment was impressive. And they were talking continuously throughout the movie. Apparently one of the idiots was called "shanthi" and so every time the "shanthi" song played, people in the back row yelled "shaanthi". To which she vazhinjufied "adi po ya" or some shit like that. The back row continued to yell her name even after the joke had been killed and buried after 10 such yells. This unfortunately made that girl think that she was some sort of a cool gansta head chic. So she starts to yell lousy, un-funny and totally boring comments.
Men weren't much better. An idiot behind me kept asking his wife "what will happen next?". Every scene he wanted to know what will happen next to Meghna, Surya, Priya and a host of other characters. His expression of intense curiousity continued until his wife shut him up with "padatha paathu tholaiyen". Shouting comments in theaters should be left to niche audiences in Madras. Nobody in America should even try for it. In general, people should shut up and let others watch the movie. Reminds me of this guy (he owns the lolluexpress web page), who came to watch a movie in Columbus, OH. He had come alone (as in wasn't part of a gang) and kept making these stupid comments through out the movie (he kept calling out every actor's name and said "hey - he looks like a police constable man"). Until someone shouted back and asked him to shut up. Finally he had to leave the theater. What bugs me is the thought that this Shanthi and gang will go home and tell their husband/friends, "we had sooooo much fun ya! theater'la orey galatta panni kallakittom theriyuma".
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
They began talking to him about their beliefs, and how they thought they had become better people after they converted. Michael soon began warming to the idea. An Imam was summoned from the mosque and Michael went through the shahada, which is the Muslim declaration of belief," the source revealed. Mikaeel is the name of one of Allah's angels. "Jacko rejected an alternative name, Mustafa meaning "the chosen one", the source added.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
We already know that Daniel Craig as James Bond is a brute. He fits the description of Ian Fleming's bond - rugged, handsome-but-not-a-chocolate-boy, well-built and most of all a cold blooded animal. Casino Royale showed us that Bond. It was exhilarating. It gave us the adrenalin rush that many of the previous Bond movies did not. It revived an enterprise that was going stale, an enterprise that had locked itself by trying to stick to a 60s formula. The problem with this movie is that it does not build on the platform that Casino Royale had so wonderfully established. The only new thing this movie provides is more of the new Bond. But we've already seen that. A coincidental pattern in Bond history is that the movie that introduces a new actor playing Bond has been slower paced and a little bit more introspective. The second James Bond movies of those actors (From Russia With Love, Man With a Golden Gun, License To Kill, Tomorrow Never Dies) were all fast paced action thrillers that didn't waste too much time with dialog but filled the movie with once chase scene after the other. Not Quantum Of Solace.
Quantum Of Solace starts in a frenzy though. It has the traditional pre-title scene where Bond does the impossible and escapes from near death situations. This movie is a bit more edgy with its camera work. It has these first-hand view kind of quick shots where you get to see the action the way the Bond sees it. The editing is all extremely fast paced and slick. But it is hard to figure what the hell is going on. There is lack of clarity. Some sequences are awesome but most make you wonder "what is really happening". The title credit do show the traditional images of naked women, guns and bullets but isn't as impressive as some of the previous title sequences. I didn't think too much of the song either (by Alicia Keys). The movie continues to be fast paced in the post-title sequence also. Makes up a few silly scenes along the way. However, suddenly mid-way through the movie, the pace changes abruptly, the movie slows down and lingers unnecessarily on moments that have no larger meaning.
This new Daniel Craig sequence of Bond movies recreates some of Ian Fleming's concepts. This Bond looses a girl too and seeks revenge. This movie introduces a new secret organization much similar to Ian Fleming's S.M.E.R.S.H or S.P.E.C.T.R.E. This secret organization also has penetrated most intelligence agencies in the world. All very good. But the crux of the movie's plot is just too small time. It is almost like some small country will have water problems if Bond doesn't intervene (I am trivializing of course). Compare that to satellite eating satellites and world destroying moon stations. Don't get me wrong. The movie entertaining. But its got no new tricks. Offers very few surprises and the action sequences (maybe because of astronomical expectations) aren't that impressive. Somehow when I left the movie I had a feeling that I saw too many little things - some impressive and some not so much - that didn't add up to anything greater than the sum of the parts. The only consoling thing is that this franchise has opened up possibilities that the previous versions did not. So better luck next time.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Before I get too far into a post about his retirement, let me put out a disclaimer that I am not a big fan of Ganguly. Kumble and Ganguly are among my least favorite players in the senior group of 4-5 players who have been around for over a decade. In a way, I am saddened by the fact that the team I grew up with is slowly getting dismantled. Ganguly has provoked fierce debates and probably has broken friendships among cricket followers. Above all he has been integral part of the team that has brought great joy to many in the past decade. I am genuinely sad to see him leave the game. I did not expect him to get out first ball (in his final innings) and had a lump in my throat when they showed a slomo of him taking a look at the sky before beginning his final walk to the pavilion.
Here are my series of posts on Ganguly and his cricket career.
1. Ganguly Series I : Ganguly's Selection & First test Tour.
2. Ganguly Series II: Ganguly As a Test Batsman
3. Ganguly Series III: As a Captain.
4. Ganguly Series IV: On His Aggression
5. Ganguly Series V: Ganguly as an ODI Player.
To sum up, he was the kind of character who was needed for Indian cricket. It was my dream to see India winning test matches and Test series outside the sub continent. Ganguly made that happen. I also respected him because of his ability to do unpopular things. Intentionally or unintentionally he made people criticize him. Intentionally or unintentionally he just carried on with his stuff. Most paths to success aren't difficult but hugely unpopular. Every time, the stupid Indian media toned up its criticism against him - it was a good contra-indicator that Ganguly was on the right.
My favorite ODI innings: 1. Both his 100s in the 99 Australia tour 2. His century against RSA in 2001 (in RSA) 3. Century during Bangladesh's Independence Cup finals.
I thought his key move was to de-emphasize the 'Sachin' factor. He did not find team combinations that revolved around Sachin (which was common during Azhar's phase) and instead tried to build a team that had a solid foundation and good players. He probably learned "what not to do as a captain" from Sachin. If Sachin can be dropped and not missed (unthinkable in late 90s), credit goes to Ganguly. His second and most impressive achievement as a captain was dropping Anil Kumble. I have never stopped admiring him for trying to find an alternative to Kumble (I suspect Kumble will have a Ganguly-special section in his Autobiography). For a good period Kumble was never a certainity in the team and all credit to Ganguly for that. One may argue that Kumble came back strong after that period - but at the time Kumble was dropped, he really had it coming ('The Hindu' newspaper of course lick-assed Kumble for being the "silent victim" or worse "silent fighter" and some such nonsense). For a significant period of time I thought Kumble had existed in the Indian team purely because of a lack of alternative. Harbhajan became that alternative during Ganguly's tenure.
One cannot deny the selection of players like Zaheer, Yuvraj and Harbhajan or the presence of John Wright as an influencing factor in Ganguly's success. I am not sure if Ganguly had a say in their initial selection (Bhajji had debut under Bhai's captaincy, Zaheer/Yuvraj came in during Saurav's second ODI series as captain) but he stuck on to some good players. Many captains before him had good players. Under his captaincy, they seemed to be themselves instead of trying to play like a machine. It was almost as if he had released the players from something that held them back for while.
In my view, another reason why Ganguly did well as a captain was because his core team had played together for a longer-than-average period of time. They had seen most tours multiple times(They all toured England, RSA, Aus & WI at least thrice) and so learned well from their experience and began to improve with every trip. Plus Ganguly cut through some nonsense and got what he wanted in terms of support staff and infrastructure. He was fairly decent in giving chances to selected players. If I had to pick a blot, it would be S. Ramesh, Murali Karthik, Rahul Sanghvi and a few other people who were not provided adequate chances. On the bowling change, field placing aspects - I thought he was just as good as any other captain - nothing exceptional. The above are just theories. None of it may be true. The important thing was at the end of the day he won more than any other Indian captain. It’s like Seinfeld saying to George "I am just like you but only more successful".
After that point I began to view Ganguly as a undependable test batsman who 'may' click once in a while. Australia had uncovered his leg-side weakness (in a Singer Cup series in SL) and for a few years he struggled to rectify that chink. Until the end of his career he did not blossom into a consistent super batsman. He kept getting out while in fantastic form (1999 Aus tour and 2007 Aus tour) or he was in horrendous form (2001 Aus tour). He just never went to that next level. Over time - people viewed Ganguly either an average batsman who maximized his potential or as a super talented dude who underperformed. I went with the former view. When he scored, India always had a good result but that (obviously) does not mean he scored during all crucial times. Of the fab four, he was least likely to turn up and score big when India was tottering on 67/3 or 37/5 etc. Doesn't mean he never did. He did it less frequently.
Additionally, I thought of him as a lazy sportsman resembling the 80s cricketer. His running between the wickets, his general focus while at the crease, grounding the bat etc were fundamentals he either partially or completely ignored. Getting really good at these could have made him a better batter but I guess he wasn't a sort of a guy who liked details. His off-side play was much talked about. It was truly exceptional. It was however diminished by his lesser-than average all-round strokes. Maybe the fact that he was a natural rightie playing left-hand bat was the reason (cricketers are usually other way around) - he was literally zero on the leg side for a while (people bowled to him on the pads and he appeared to swat the air blindly). As a result, I thought, he went for really low percentage shots on the off-side and kept getting caught behind (or at slips). He might've exited earlier if he had not developed his leg side play to average levels.
My favorite Ganguly Test Innings: 1. 98 Against Sri Lanka in Kandy 2. A nice 60 in Adelaide (1999) 3. The 144 in Brisbane 4. The 2 half centuries he scored in Johannesburg (97) 5. 75* in POS WI (2002)
Memories of His First Test Tour: After India's semi final fiasco in the 1996 world cup, it was kind of evident that the board was looking to make some big changes to the Indian team. With G.R Viswanath in as chief selector I was anticipating two things (a) More players from Karnataka and (b) No players from Tamil Nadu [That turned out to be reasonably true with the Indian team at some point in time having as much as 6 players from Karnataka]. In the sidelines something else was happening that did not get much attention until Ganguly came into the picture. The mandatory 1-ticket-for-east-zone was doing some musical chairs. After the 96 WC, when we toured Sharjah to play Pak & RSA (this was when Dravid made his ODI debut) small media hullaboo was made when the East Zone Quota was given to some dude called called Prashant Vaidya (who played 2 games and went away). Then we played a few games in Singapore and the left to England amid controversy.
The bigger controversy was that Kambli was dropped on disciplinary grounds in spite of having a 50+ test average. The smaller controversy was that the East Zone ticket was given to some dude called Saurav Ganguly. The papers constantly reported the Mumbai lobby perspective. ESPN made its entry into India and the 96 England tour was the first tour shown on ESPN (as opposed to Prime Sports). Since the cable operators weren't awake to this change - not all of them showed ESPN - so all my friends had to gather in a place where ESPN was on. We had a month long lead-up to the English tour and it wasn't uncommon to find every press reporter worth his salt writing a critical comment on Saurav's selection. The current chief of selectors Krish Srikkanth wrote several such articles. Ravi Shastri, Sunny Gavaskar weren't exceptions (they liked Mhambrey's selection of course). I do not recollect a single article that did not diss Ganguly. The first time I saw Saurav bat was in the tour games (the tour games were shown on Prime Sports). More specifically, in games captained by sachin as opposed to the regular captain Azhar (who was at the height of Sangeeta Bijilani episode). Strangely enough, Saurav's actual test debut also happened as a result of a non-cricketing reason. In one of the most bizairre developments seen in the cricketing world, the completely mad Navjot Sidhu walked out midway during the England tour in a huff (he had argued with Azhar about some stupid thing and left the touring party). Furthermore, Manjrekar was injured. So Ganguly/Dravid debuted in Lords. Thank god for Sidhu's madness.
In a way it was change of guard. Ganguly took over Kambli's batting spot and Dravid eventually occupied Manjrekar's spot.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Some men prefer to follow a predictable path and their stories tell of a slow rise to the top and an equally measured decline. To that end instinct is subdued, contention avoided and risk reduced. That has been altogether too dull for Ganguly. Throughout he has toyed with his fate, tempting it to turn its back on him so that once again he could surprise the world with a stunning restoration. Something in him rebelled against the mundane and the sensible. He needed his life to be full of disasters and rescues, and comebacks and mistakes and memorable moments. To hell with the prosaic. At heart he is a cavalier, albeit of mischievous persuasion.
Maybe I have read Roebuck too much. Maybe too many cricket articles are coming out today compared to the frequency of cricket articles in the past where weekly sportstar and daily The Hindu was the standard serving. But it is nauseating to hear the same thing being said about cricketers again and again and again. And half of it isn't about cricket. If its Ganguly, there are a few standard things Roebuck says about him- removing shirt in Lords, making Steve Waugh wait for toss, and century in Brisbane. With Kumble its "fighter". With Dravid its "technique". With Laxman its wrists. There is definetly more to the game and these cricketers than these standard cliches. I wonder what Laxman, Dravid and Kumble are thinking when they read Roebuck. Is it too much to expect cricket writers to write about cricket? Can't they write about real stuff? What the hell is this?
He did not give much ground to the modern game, with its fitness and diving and running between wickets and morning training and all that rot. It was brave of him to remain apart, for it left him exposed to ridicule, forced him to justify himself. But Ganguly was not scared of the pressure. Perhaps he needed the extra pressure the way a veteran car needs a crank. And, just in case, he had the populist touch. If Anil Kumble was the colossus, Sachin Tendulkar the champion, Rahul Dravid the craftsman, VVS Laxman the sorcerer, then Ganguly was the inspiration.
[bold emphasis in quoted para is mine] Here, he is explaining someone's inability to dive and field as a "brave" deliberate thing. I hope Gaundamani watches cricket, reads Roebuck and says "Ithellam avanukke theriyaadhu da nayee". Looking at the way his recent articles describe the game and its players, I wonder if he is watching the same game I watch. He seems to be explaining a game in the parallel world where collossuses, craftsman, sitthal, maesthri, kundu oosi vikkaravan, sarayam kaacharavan are playing cricket. I recognize that he is now being paid by Indian media and *has* to jalra. But athukaaga ippadiya. You should read his stuff in Sydney Morning Herald. He doesn't write cricket anymore. Total fantasy fiction stuff.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Crichton, who helped create the TV show "ER" and wrote the best-sellers "Jurassic Park," "The Andromeda Strain," "Sphere" and "Rising Sun," has died in Los Angeles, his public relations firm said in a news release. Crichton died unexpectedly Tuesday "after a courageous and private battle against cancer," the release said. He was 66.
Crichton also invited controversy with some of his scientific views. He was an avowed skeptic of global climate change, giving lectures warning against "consensus science." He later took on global warming and the theories surrounding it in his 2004 novel, "State of Fear," which attracted attacks in its own right from scientists, including NASA climatologist James Hansen. Crichton was a distinctive figure in the entertainment business, a trained physician whose interests included writing, film making and television. (He was physically distinctive as well, standing 6 feet 9 inches.)
He published "The Andromeda Strain" while he was still a medical student at Harvard Medical School. He wrote a story about a 19th-century train robbery, called "The Great Train Robbery," and then directed the 1979 film version. He also directed several other films, including "Westworld" (1973), "Coma" (1978), "Looker" (1981) and "Runaway" (1984).
In 1993, while working on the film version of "Jurassic Park" with Steven Spielberg, he teamed with the director to create "ER." The NBC series set in a Chicago emergency room debuted in 1994 and became a huge hit, making a star of George Clooney. Crichton originally wrote the script for the pilot in 1974.
"Michael's talent out-scaled even his own dinosaurs of 'Jurassic Park,' " said Spielberg, a friend of Crichton's for 40 years, according to The Associated Press. "He was the greatest at blending science with big theatrical concepts, which is what gave credibility to dinosaurs again walking the Earth. ... Michael was a gentle soul who reserved his flamboyant side for his novels. There is no one in the wings that will ever take his place."
Crichton was "an extraordinary man. Brilliant, funny, erudite, gracious, exceptionally inquisitive and always thoughtful," "ER" executive producer John Wells told the AP. "No lunch with Michael lasted less than three hours and no subject was too prosaic or obscure to attract his interest. Sexual politics, medical and scientific ethics, anthropology, archaeology, economics, astronomy, astrology, quantum physics, and molecular biology were all regular topics of conversation."
Though most of Crichton's books were major best-sellers involving science, he could ruffle feathers when he took on social issues. "Rising Sun" (1992) came out during a time when Americans feared Japanese ascendance, particularly when it came to technology. Disclosure" (1994) was about a sexual harassment case.
Monday, November 03, 2008
In his movies, he was mostly the innocent man. Ethical, often victimized, but one who tried his best. There were some notable exceptions to this too. My memory isn't what it used to be so I putting the following out with a higher-than-usual probability of error. Somehow, when I think of Poornam, I am reminded of the set of short-story series he did many years ago for DD. He did about 2-3 different short stories each spanning 2-3 episodes. One was about a middle class man's travails and another was set in the pre-independence era, where Poornam tries to avenge an English Durai. Those stories were really impressive and we got to see Poornam hog the limelight, which was usually never the case. Another forgotten but classic movie comes to mind when I think of Poornam. It has been many years since I saw this movie and I can only vaguely recollect it. How many of you remember the movie where he forges his daughter's caste certificate to indicate that she is a Scheduled Caste woman? Lakshmi plays the daughter who grows up to be an IAS officer (gets in through reservation). Poornam pretends to be her Gumaastha. She gets caught one day and there is a court case etc. It got a national award and was shown as part of Sunday afternoon DD series. If anybody remembers the movie's name please let me know.
Among his popular movies; Anjali (I love the way he says "Mrs Shekhar" and "society"), Mahanadhi, Thillumullu (his dialog "unga appan perusaa onnum sonnadhu kedaiyathu" somehow stays in the mind), and Varumaiyin Niram Sivappu stand out. He was criticised for his role in Moondrampirai. My least favorite role was the one Poornam played in 'Aasai'. He overcooked that role. My most favorite Poornam movie would have to be Varusham 16. As a head of the family who tries to unite two different factions in the family, his was an endearing and touching character. The scene where he deals with his goat getting shot is a magic movie moment. The situation was carefully constructed to touch an emotional nerve and the way Poornam delivered that scene was simply heartwrenching.
In my grad school days 2 sentences gained immortality among all of Poornam's Mahanadhi dialogs. They were "vayasu aayiduthu veggietariyan", and "appo nee brahmanan illaya" [said in Poornam style with the correct amount of give-up-ness or shock]. My grad school roommates repeatedly used the dialog to tease their meat eating/chivas regal amukkifying 'iyer' roomies. The dialog become so popular that we began to say these two sentences for pretty much everything. It did not require an explicit relevence for us to say these sentences. We just said it. People - who were lazy, who kept getting out first ball, who had pot belly, who had no energy or enthu - kept saying "vayaasu ayiduthu, vegetarian" - as some form of an an excuse. People - who watched porn, who made lewd comments on women's anatomy, who didn't understand sanskrit words, who basically did anything (normal or abnormal) were subject to "appo nee brahmanan illaya comment". At one point N.Indians grad students were saying this to other N.Indians without knowing the meaning of this sentence.
Poornam played a sad and serious character in Mahanadhi, which itself was a very serious movie. The fact that his dialogs in that movie are now being used in jokes and mimickry situations is a peculiar legacy that Poornam leaves behind. His stammer "athu..athu.athu vandhu vandhu" was his trademark filler before he began a sentence and this has become legendary. He is probably the most mimicked among all non-hero non-comedian non-villian characters. It probably speaks volumes about his unique intonation and voice. One can imagine how these characteristics were his assets during his radio career. But it is surprising to note that he translated that uniqueness to his movie stint too. In my mind, he joins small-role legends such as V.K Ramaswamy, Shanumuga Sundaram, and Major Sunderrajan. People who stood out in small character roles not just for their performance but also for the uniqueness they brought to the role. They delivered dialogs in their own idiosyncratic ways and while doing that they oddly enough reminded us of sombody we knew. That's why they are memorable. Poornam Viswanathan, his voice and his trademark stammer will live for a long time in our minds.