Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mind Your Language

The Thamizhan hears the name of South Africa cricket captain and suppresses a giggle.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Social Network

The pace at which David Fincher tells us The Social Network story is the defining aspect of the movie. Before going into the movie, I was wondering how he'd keep a story of creating Facebook interesting. Biopics can quickly slip into the documentary genre. Not that that it is a bad thing but its hard to set the adrenalin flowing with such a story. Zodiac was close to 3 hours long and Fincher did an incredible job of meticulously presenting a very complex story. Social network is only 2 hours long and it feels like 1 hour.

I can't put my finger on why Fincher's movies are so different. They set a very different narrative pace and style. The combination gives his movies a sort of coolness that can only be created deliberately with careful construction. People say its his 'Frame insert' technique where he inserts a lot of single frames in a narrative sequence. I am not sure if that is the sole reason. But he gets the adrenalin flowing on a movie about a computer programmer. That's not easy. I am not a geek and don't think I can be one. By I appreciated the cool references to 'Emacs' (best editor ever) and page table bit arrangement. The dialogs are uncompromising, detailed, funny and fast. I couldn't believe such a combination could exist. I am not sure if the real Mark Zuckenberg was this awesome. Or how much of all this tracks the real story closely. But I loved Zuckenberg's character. Fantastic movie and a must watch.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Arundhati Roy

TPT'ing that I was among the earliest (if not the most earliest) proponent(s) of "Arundhati Roy is an idiot" theory. Such amazing talent spotting ability comes with the claim of watching Memento the year it was released, watching David Fincher's movie FDFS since Se7en and reviewing "Hurt Locker" FDFS.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Halloween

Most if not all festivals have rituals that we don't understand and makes us feel like are punching a ticket as we go through the journey of life. But at least they are grounded in one religion or the other and so have some religious reason to answer most of the "why do we do this" type questions. At that point it depends on your belief system to follow the festival or not. And good food + quality family time + a chance to say some religious prayers generally makes up for unanswered questions.

In America, I understand Christmas. I like the season and the festive mood. I don't celebrate Christmas. I am not a Christian and don't want to celebrate Christmas just to pretend and show-off to others that I am a progressive secular person. But I get it. I know why people celebrate it and it looks very charming in western countries. I usually go to parties when I am invited. Even if it is by desis and even if there is no Christian involved. I do find it odd that a non-Christian desi, who doesn't celebrate his own religion's festivals, invites 10 'thayir saadham' families for Christmas. I am totally judgmental on them when they say that they do it because their children, who have been brought up on the Santa Claus myth, "don't want to get disappointed" and can go and tell their white classmates that they celebrated Christmas with family too. I don't think the children will be disappointed and I don't think they have that many white kids in their class. But I don't object. Puliyodharai and Thayir Saadham is served in that party and I will go. Thanksgiving - I don't get it. However, I don't detest it that much because people don't invite me to eat dead birds. Halloween I detest.

Halloween scrapes the bottom of low I.Q. festivals. This to me represents people who can't think for themselves and make their own decisions. The word reminds me of mindless 'saaraya bottil' teenagers (and other adults with low I.Q.) who have fun by claiming to have fun. What are we celebrating here? Ghosts? What is there to celebrate about? It is not religion? It is neither science nor a Star Trek convention? It seems like people are dressing up as ghosts to visit american versions of TASMAC. Why? More importantly why are desis celebrating Halloween? I generally look down upon people who ask me "So what are your plans for Halloween?". I am a desi. I don't know how to answer that question. In my country we didn't know what this word meant when we grew up. That is until the so called "modern people" from Bangalore and certain parts of Adyar began to pretend they were westerners and started celebrating Halloween in their houses. I certainly looked down upon them And how does one "celebrate" Halloween? Most desis I know hit the saarayam, shout like dummies on the street, dance to bhangra music and call that celebrating Halloween. I don't want to dress up like an ugly ghost. I think most people who dress up like ghosts look like idiots. I get the boys who celebrate Halloween to get some girl drunk and then try and get her laid. That I respect. But most desis I know celebrate Halloween with other desis I know. All of them are married and generally not looking to get laid.

Recently, I was asked by a desi woman with a 18 month old baby - what Halloween plans I had for my 18 month old baby? Really! Why? The only reason I see people spending money on this is to satisfy themselves. Babies don't know about Halloween. Getting together with other Desis for a potluck, dressing babies up as ghosts and posting those photos in facebook is probably the most loser thing ever. No amount of Puliyodharai and Thayir Saadham in that potluck can compensate for that. Cowgirl is spot on about PseudoMaamis. The real 'Maami' is dead.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Vaidhyar

Sweeping statements and over generalizations usually come with their own disclaimers and pitfalls but to whatever extent one can stretch and extrapolate personal experience to a generic observation let me state this: On the topic of medical facilities, competence of doctors, and quality of health care - I am now convinced that India (specifically Madras) is about N times better than America.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Golu

I ate 3 dinners today. Accompanied my wife today to help her navigate the Golu Algorithm. This led me to uncover the secret hidden treasure of delicious food.

Today I had Puliyodharai, Aveeyal, 3 varieties of sundal, 2 varities of Halwa, Kadhamba Saadham, potato. People in Amerikka serve dinner instead of Sundal. God bless them.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Endhiran: Man, Machine, Lover

When an experience is genuinely thrilling, you can feel it in your bones right away. From the moment the very impressive title sequence rolled out with 'super star' flashed at the beginning till the last frame of the movie - there were many moments where I felt goose pimples. Its been a long time since we have had such a good mainstream commercial movie. And that is what this movie really is. Sort of a cross between 'Short Circuit' series and 'T-2'. Endhiran excels in almost everything it sets out to do. That is probably because Shankar manages to do almost everything he did not do in Sivaji. He has been gestating this story for a long time. And passion he has put into it is clearly evident. The biggest achievement in Endhiran (compared to Sivaji) is the strong presence of what we the audience all call 'an engaging story'. Sujatha's touch in all this is very visible not just in the first half but in certain debates that happen in the second half.

This movie also gets the entertainment mix right. Shankar does not dumb it down to a level you'd think is norm for Rajinikanth movies. I heard Rajinikanth uttering words like 'nueral schema' 'Fibonacci numbers' and 'prime numbers' and I did not have to squirm in my seat. It actually sounded very good and very engaging. The 'mass appeal' was very tempered and never overboard except during the stunt sequences. It did not have a thundering opening scene for Rajinikanth. This is probably the most casual introduction scene in any Rajinikanth movie post 90s. Not a great thing for "paal abhishekam for cut out" type "rajini fans". But certainly awesome for the rest of the people with greater than 2 brain cells. It eliminates all unnecessary distractions like 'punch lines' and focuses on moving the narration forward. The only 'style' it introduced was the 'dot gesture' and that was actually very impressive.

The dialogs, humor and small little stories around the Robot was very interesting. How a robot behaves in the real world has excellent scope for possibilities and Shankar teases us with several of them without going overboard or monotonous. A lot of sequences and possibilities have been packed into this 2 hours and 40 minute movie at a frenetic pace. You never get bored. Its like going on one ride after the other. The overall story is fascinating because I have never seen a triangular love story like this before. It also borders on romantic feelings towards a character's step-mother, which I thought was less explored. A specific plot situation colors the story as being a robo based Ramayana. Very innovative. Like any good story this one also revolves around love. And like any good science fiction story it uses non-humans to teach humans about themselves. Sujata is an expert on the latter subject and it comes out reasonably well in this movie. The movie touches on the debate of robots replacing human labor. But in order to keep the mix balanced, it doesn't go overboard with that debate either.

Now to the negatives. I was disappointed by the lack of tension in the stunt sequences. While the non-stunt plot sequences makes us care about Vaseegaran or Chitti. The stunt sequences involving the 'evil' robot had a poor sub-plot/narrative structure. It began to resemble a slide-show of stunts a robot can do. There was no cohesive flow between two subsequent stunt scenes. I am not sure if it was the editing or the flow that was disrupted. But after Aishwarya Rai was kidnapped from her wedding - the stunts that followed looked pretty disjointed. The computer graphics/CGI/animation (whatever it is called today) were excellent. And one has to applaud the level of sophistication shown in the special effects. But the mix on 'showcasing computer graphics' Vs 'creating action sequences that are tense' was a little off. Rajinikanth in the negative role starts off poorly (And I say that probably because I rate Rajini better as a villain than hero). But before you begin to wonder whether that role was going to fall flat, he goes to 'asathify' in the last 20-30 minutes. The visuals and the songs were beyond awesome. Especially the 'Kaadhal anukkal' song was shot very well.

In the end one has to applaud Shankar for taking thamizh movies to this level. We were waiting for this since 1995 when he put out teaser-posters of Kamalhasan standing with a Robotic dog. It finally happened at a time when such technology was more affordable. And call it destiny - it finally was done by an actor who you would not have guessed to be the one who played out Shankar's sci-fi dream. I have always felt this but not said it out in the past lest it be misconstrued as thamizh pride or whatever. But screw it. Let me just say it. Thamizh film industry is a modest, less rich, low volume industry that really cannot afford a movie of this budget. Without Rajinikanth they couldn't have even done this. But the fact is - a set of people here aimed higher. Instead of doing the same thing over and over again. Somebody thought of making a sci-fi movie that didn't look amateur. This point may get lost on people who ridicule Rajini based on his age or his skin color. And those who see this movie as a Rajinikanth style movie. It is the ambition that counts. The execution will finally fall into place.