Thursday, December 31, 2009

5 films we did not talk about in the decade

It's that time of the year again where people make lists of the best and the worst, especially about films. Add to it, it's 2009 and hence people get a chance to talk about the best-worst of the decade as well. There are already thousands lists out there about it, so I don't want to add it to the noise. Instead I'll talk about the movies that not only escaped aam junta's attention, but esteemed critics' as well. Movies that I think deserved better.

Haasil: Set mostly in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, this film will be talked about how politics mostly works in rural India from college politics to regional politics to one's personal life. Ironic as it may sound, so-called protagonists of the film, Jimmy Shergill and Hrishita Bhatt, are mere sidekicks. Dialect-based dialogues and witty one-liners are special highlights. Minor characters like Badrishankar Pandey, Inspector Tiwari, Jackson-wa leave their own imprints on this fabric. Most of all, the film will be remembered by power-packed performance from Irfan Khan. Irfan Khan's The Warrior may have won the BAFTA, but this is the role that'll be difficult to overtake even by the Khan himself.

Manorama Six Feet Under: I absolutely hate when any Hindi film-maker uses the word "inspried" loosely, when in fact his movie is straight lift or even frame-to-frame copy of another movie, Korean movies being the latest trend. Navdeep Singh, in the true sense, can use the word inspired. Based on Roman Polanski's classic Chinatown, Manorama is set in the desert state of Rajasthan. With all the elements that define noir cinema; double-cross, twists and turns to false identity; added with underplayed sincerity of Abhay Deol, makes a fitting tribute to the original movie.

Chameli: It'd have never struck me to cast Kareena Kapoor as the title character of the movie that is Chameli, but much to my surprise she plays out just fine. With backdrop of a rainy night, two strangers and soulful melodies (Total respect to Sunidhi Chauhan), Chameli manages to pull-off a superb fable of human emotions.

Hey Ram: No, it's not about the greatness of Mahatma Gandhi, nor it's about off-again-on-again plot to assassinate the father of the nation. Kamal Hassan, one of the most versatile actors of our times in the truest sense, in the role of Saket Ram talks about his partition riots induced, hatred-filled journey to the redemption. The film created curiosity for the wrong reasons (Kissing scene between Rani Mukherjee and Kamal Hassan) than it should have. This is the film that Atul Kulkarni and Shahrukh Khan can boast off in their resume, in spite of their supporting characters.

Zubeidaa: Zubeidaa was most likely Shyam Benegal's first mainstream movie, so critics did not feel the need to put it with Benegal's best of the works. Sad. In momentous role of her career, Karishma Kapoor, which won her the national award, plays the title character Zubeidaa with aplomb. Narrated as the series of memories by her estranged son, Riyaz(Rajit Kapoor), Zubeidaa goes through journey of a girl from her teenage effervescence to a trouble marriage to a queen of a falling empire ends with a quote from her son. आखिर माँ चाहती क्या थी? (What did the mother want after all?)

Obligatory honourable mentions: Waisa bhi hota hai - Part 2, Ek Chaalis ki last local, Aamir, Being Cyrus, Raincoat

Monday, December 28, 2009


This blog has been dysfunctional too long that even the author doesn't remember the last post. By now, the faithful readers would've deserted this place. One thinks that one would blog often if one had more time at hand, but that's a lie. When one has a lot of free time, one still doesn't blog.

Back to the point. After four years of fruitful and enjoying times at Read-Ink Technologies, I finally decided to move on. Great learning experience though it was, I thought it was the time for the change. So here I am. With effect from December'09, my new employer is Microsoft India and yes, I've moved to the city of Nizams, Hyderabad. So if you are from Hyderabad, drop in a comment to say hi or if you are a laconic type, a simple tweet will do at @nishitd.

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Now since you may have come here looking for some entertainment, will leave you with some Hyderabadi flavour, a clip from The Angrez:

Monday, June 15, 2009

Jack Bauer and Consequentialism

It's an age-old debate whether the end justifies the means. No one personifies it more than Jack Bauer. Technically, he is an outlaw who has violated Constiution of United States than perhaps Osama Bin Laden would ever have. Still, he is a hero. He is the dark knight. Introduction of Agent Renee Walker in season 7 has especially highlighted the choices Jack Bauer makes. It's as if Renee Walker represents Jack Bauer with conscience. Perhaps justifying the quote, "Either you die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain". Anyway, in his talk with Renee Walker, season 7 finale, Jack Bauer reveals what he thinks of himself, which in my opinion, summarizes pretty much his behaviour in the whole series. (Mostly harmless. No major spoilers ahead)

Jack Bauer
"I can't tell you what to do. I've been wrestling with this one my whole life. I-I see 15 people held hostage on a bus, and everything else goes out the window. And I will do whatever it takes to save them, and I mean whatever it takes. I guess maybe I thought, if I save them, I'd save myself."

Renee Walker
"Do you regret anything that you did today?"

"No. Then again, I don't work for the FBI."

"I don't understand."

"You took an oath. You made a promise to uphold the law. When you cross that line, it always starts off with a small step. Before you know it, you're running as fast as you can in the wrong direction just to justify what you started in the first place. These laws were written by much smarter men than me. And in the end, I know that these laws have to be more important than the 15 people on the bus. I know that's right. In my mind, I know that's right. I just don't think my heart could ever have lived with it. I guess the only advice I can give you is, try to make choices that you can live with."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

GMail down -- creates havoc!!

Around 1600 hours today, GMail has gone down. Not for me only, the whole world, it seems! And the effect...

#GMail is already trending topic on Twitter. My whole timeline is abuzz with "#FAIL" quotes. People are running around to find some Oxygen. If this isn't up within 15 minutes, it will start flooding with "Is world coming to an end" quotes and you may be able to see people on the street shouting slogans.

Goes on to show, how much we are dependent on GMail! Difficult to survive without GMail it seems. What would creatures like me do, if not for twitter?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

American Idol : Anoop Desai

Remember Sanjaya Malakar? Of course you do! Otherwise known as that horrible singer from India. Desis in America got pretty excited too. I remember Arati talking about, how sms voting for Malakar was almost norm of every desi get-together. (Can't find the damn link right now). What with myspace protests and all that, he was, if somewhat infamous, celebrity until he was finally voted out. Phew!!

Desis have a new hero now : Anoop Desai . From whatever little I have seen, he is a decent singer and any day better than Sanjaya. It's just the beginning, so too early to judge or form an opinion about him, so as of now it's wait-and-watch. My friend Neha here, got pretty fumed about the judge, Ryan Seacrest calling him Anoop Dog. She assumed that pseudonym was drawn from Slumdog. But as it turns out, Anoop himself identified as 'Anoop Dog' (On the lines of 'Snoop Dogg' I think) during his audition, which I personally think is pretty lame. May be he just meant it to be one-time-funny and leave it at that.

One thing I believe is that no sensible American will call you terms like dog, at least publicly. Even if not for the sense of equality, they'd be damn afraid of racism controversy that might follow such comments. So unless you are one of those dumb blonde American celebrities, you wouldn't call such terms to African-American or Asian or any other minority. Any way, coming back to Anoop Desai. I am just waiting for the time, when India's 24x7 idiotic media will pick up this story and make big deal out of it. Digging history of Anoop Desai circa 1761 and desis flooding blogosphere with Anoop Desai posts.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, that 'd' in 'nishitd' stands for 'Desai'.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Inglourious Basterds

Quentin Tarantino's much awaited Inglourious Basterds (Inglorious Bastards) is finally ready to hit the theaters on August 21, 2009. This is what QT calls his version of Where Eagles Dare, Guns of Navarone and such like. Here is the first trailer. Can't wait!!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Review : Dev D

An egotistical brat returns from London to meet her childhood love, only to blow her off with his saddistic ways, resulting in love getting married to a widower and brat resorting to liquor and a kothewaali. That's as crisp and accurate summary of Devdas you can do. Still it's surprising to see fascination of bollywood with the character and the story. Three times, three directors made their version with top actors of respective times. Anurag Kashyap definitely does not belong to aforementioned genre. He believes that those movies/story are too melodramatic. He believes that Devdas is nothing but a sore loser. And that's how Devdas takes a big leap of faith, if you will.

Kashyap's Devdas is not totally a biographical of a man of misery. Dev, Paro and Chanda all get their own narrative until they converge. Dev, in the beginning, is no cute child artist who gives a hug or an innocent kiss to his childhood love. Instead he threatens his girlfriend to bite her hand if she doesn't obey him and he does. In one of the rare hilarity of the movie, when asked to leave for London, Dev asks whether he is being sent to London because he was caught smoking or for calling his father 'Sattu'. Shahrukh Khan's passion towards Paro is in expression is with melodramatic Koi tumhe chhue yeh main bardaasht nahi kar sakta, while Dev (Abhay Deol) here, looking at nude picture of his girlfriend,with expressions full of lust, goes Paro, main aa raha hoon. Paro (portrayed beautifully by Mahie Gill) too, on the other hand is no silsila yeh chahat ka girl of yours. She is succumbed to lust as much her man is. I was probably the only one in the whole cinema to laugh out loud when she starts carrying a mattress on her bicycle stand, but that shows the extent she is willing to go to follow her lust and that of her man. When, now cult song, "Emosional Atyaachar" by Patna ke Presleys breaks during her marriage celebrations, uncaring of her surroundings she breaks into a zesty dance, much to shock of her relatively-old husband. When asked by his ex about physical satisfaction from relationship, she not only retorts, she goes on to say, tumhe tumhari aukat dikha rahi hoon. While Sharat Chandra's Chandramukhi does not have much background to identify with, Kashyap's Chanda (Kalki Koechlin) goes through roller-coaster of teenage, scandals, hatred until succumbing to Easy Money for her life. Dev's journey of rise, fall and redemption goes through dark --figuratively and literally-- nights, lots of vodka, mountains of himalayas, grief of the father's death, misery of a criminal and lot more. Even if that meant a little dragged and arbitrary second half of "self discovery" and "epiphany". That's where movie deserves its share of criticism.

Two strongest department to come out of these movies are cinematograpy and music. Kudos to Amit Trivedi and Kashyap for not only creating a surreal music, but also blending it to the film so beautifully that in spite of 18 tracks, it never distracts narrative, but only adds to the effectiveness. For example, after confronting her ex, when Paro leaves hotel, in slow frames, hiding her sorrowful eyes with sunglasses, to the tunes of saavan barse/ chubhan de hazaar/ saavan barse. And it's amazing how much sense Dhol Yaara Dhol or Paayaliya makes after having actually seen the movie. DevD's sojourn through underground pubs and drug bars reminds you of another visually stunning expression of misery, Requiem for a dream. Originally, Abhay Deol himself conceived the idea of Dev.D and he knows his character well. It's sure a challenge to portray someone whose perpetual mood is that of sorrow and masochism. I will go on to say that Devdas is one of the most unidimensional character you'll ever come across in hindi cinema in the ranks of all babujis of Alok Naths and maas of Nirupa Roys and Reema Lagoos. Only for that, if for nothing else, Abhay Deol deserves accolades. Mahie Gill as Paro makes an interesting debut. She does not make a cute or girl-next-door debut, but a role that requires her to shed clothes in first few minutes of movie and not for titillation that one. Challenging and well done! Kalki Koechlin is passable as Canadian-Indian high class prostitute. Chunni here gets more color than Sharat Chandra's counterpart here. He is not just an accomplice of Dev, but a shrewd drug dealer and an accomplished pimp. Kashyap will surely get some of his fans back he lost with "No Smoking".

Thumbs up for beautifully crafted and visually stunning film. I say bring on more.
PS:- Just as I was about to publish this, I got the answer for Special Thanks to Danny Boyle frame at the beginning of the movie.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Roger v. Rafa

Although not as big a classic as Wimbledon 2008, but we all can agree upon that we saw a great final in Australian Open 2009. I have so many thoughts about it, so many, that they are so messed up inside my mind. I need divide them up and put it in context to make sense out of past, present and future and significance of this event. Someday I will, hopefully.