Monday, December 31, 2007

Recap 2007

All you folks who missed me on this blog for all this time.. (does that even amount to 1 person? :-/ ), here I am back on the job at the fag end of the year.. This is most certainly the last post of this year.. to cap as the 12th post of the year.. hmmm.. 12 posts in 2007 comparing to 32 for 2006. So there, am certainly not upto the challenge to feed this blog enough.. lets see what 2008 brings...

2007 had me watching a lot of movies... a lot.. and a lot of good ones.. I DID watch a lot of classics, popular english titles and a whole lot of Hindi mainstream ones too.. What was nice to see was that this year saw a surge in quality film making. True, the Partners and the Dhols were made, but there were more than a handful of movies made not for the only reason to watch bottom lines. There were creative reasons behind these. An effort to make movies that push the envelope.

Let me try to outline some of these:

- Manorama - Six Feet Under
The finest film to hit screens this year, in my opinion. A film that doesnt take the easy route when the going gets tough. A genuinely crafted thriller brilliant direction from a debutant, Navdeep Singh.

- Chak de India
Good story and well made, though is not as novel in its narrative as Manorama.. A little over hyped in my opinion. But nevertheless, a quite departure from the formulaic Bollywood stuff.

- Johny Gaddaar
JG is a tribute to the 70s movies. An interesting story well written and well directed. It has its moments and it does NOT try to fall in the rut, when you expect it to.

- Cheeni kum
The best written dialogue of the year. Amazing conversations happen here.. and for once Amitabh is utilized. Inspite of a tacky ending, a great watch.

- Eklavya
Another Amitabh starrer.. though more prototype than Cheeni Kum. Eklavya is rightly chosen as the indian entry for the Oscars (though i admit I havnt seen Dharm), for its narrative and its compact direction. Its the closest we have to a 120 minute thriller that hollywood makes 10 every year.

- Black friday
Well, definitely the most different movie to be present, even in this list. A complete departure to any pattern you might have seen in Bollywood. Chapter based narrative and amazing tension built in key scenes. What stops this from getting in Black Friday idolatory is its rawness.. i find too many edges and uneveness to love it the way a lot of people do.

- taare zameen pe
Yet to watch it.. :-( But from the reviews and news, Aamir brings in a fresh perspective to the area of direction too. All eager to watch it.

- parzania
Yet to watch it.. But again, its a movie based on the horrors of Gujrat genocide. Actually the thought of it makes me want to skip this one.

- Life in a ...metro
Metro is pretty much the only multi-thread narrative in Bollywood that didnt suck. A little tacky at times, but certainly engrossing once you watch it past the 30 minute mark. Some inspired acting here.

- honeymoon travel pvt ltd
Another multi-narrative.. nothing breathtaking here, but finds a mention here, for the sheer bravery of this one. The story is quite different and at times does seem to go in the right direction.

- bheja fry
Yet to see it completely. Though have seen the original french title 'The Dinner Game', which this is a faithful interpretation. A small budget movie that raked in a lot of monies. A good trend, only if this one was a complete original.

- ek chalis ki last local
A take on Tarantinoish thriller. The screenplay reeks of Tarantino all the way.. though direction lets this down quite badly.

- jhoom barabar jhoom
Contrary to the popular view, I kind of liked this one. It is pretty much the first Hindi movie I can recall to have used misleading narrative. They dance too much at the end to really ruin this one though.

- gandhi my father
A great attempt actually to take on a very interesting and difficult subject. Almost succeeds. The transitions between various sequences jarred.

- blue umbrella
Vishal Bharadwaj, one of the best film makers in India today, makes a small childrens' film. Yet to watch it, but everything about it feels too interesting.

- jab we met
Imtiaz Ali comes back to write a Hum Tum type romance. Decently written, the direction could do with some work though. Some moments are very effective, some quite over the top.

- No Smoking
Anurag Kashyap finally makes his own film -ontime. Critics dump it. Yet to watch it, but have a good vibe for it. Atleast he made something different than a rip off on Hey Baby.

So, here it was, a list of titles released this year that I thought attempted something to challenge our tried and tested Bollywood formulas. Do write back which ones worked for you and which ones didnt.

So, come back again next year and hopefully there will be something fresh out here to take away.

Happy New Year 2oo8....

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Toronto these days...

Well.. blogging has suffered immensely offlate. I havnt had time to think about it for ages now. And for a changes its due to work.
I am in Toronto these days.. and will be here for nearly another month..

And it isnt a vacation.. far from it. Have been working real hard all this while. And things dont look to change in the coming few days. So there it is..

Weekends have been well spent in the company of a friend who is based in Toronto these days and needless to say thats been great.. meeting him and his wife after nearly 2.5 years.

Have been taking a few snaps off and on, and have uploaded a selected few here. Do have a look and pass on all the kudos.

Actually am based just outside of Toronto in a place called Markham. Its a small suburb, which houses mostly techie companies like mine. Lots of offices and apartments.. a few malls.. and all of it predominantly chinese. A bulk of Markham's population is of chinese origin, contributing to Toronto's multi-ethnic mix.

Toronto downtown is where the action is. Till a week or two back when the weather was not as un-friendly as it is now, it was all summery and lively. The chill breeze of the last week or two has vastly impacted the same. More of the same to follow...

The place looks prohibitively expensive to me, more so coming from a weaker currency and in the facing of the rising Canadian Dollar. Now am getting used to buy stuff in dollar, but still the prohibitive-ness (if there is a word like that) persists.

Anyway, there is no real advantage to buy stuff from here. The cost difference, once huge, has shrinked to a bare few percent, and at times I have a feeling India is cheaper. So no shopping on the cards...

Toronto as a city is a modern one.. a big (bad) American (Canadian, to be politically correct) city. No real history on display, unless the last 100 years can be termed as history. It does have a dazzling sky-line, even more brilliant on a foggy night, but thats about it. Offcourse the malls are stunning.. and huge. The Eaton Centre is truly magnificient, only if can bear the sight of teeming crowds more than once.. I can, btw. And the overlooking square really comes alive late in the evening. With some live music and razzmatazz. The harbor is an area I havnt explored much, but its supposed to be a quite a place. And then there is the CN Towers. And the it is supposed to be impressive for its height. Blah.. cant care less, coming from the country of Mt Everest, flying on a Boeing.

So thats a brief update on things at this end for now. Havnt got a clue when the next one is gonna go up.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Indian Idol

Again a sizeable gap between this post and the last one. No reason to justify this wide a gap, but a long list of personal engangements that have eaten up all my time outside of work. This situation continues and no promises can be made about regular blogging for the next month or so.

In this post, I want to talk about, surprise surprise, Indian Idol. Yeah, this is a reality show that I had almost swore not to follow since it started some 3 years back. I did not watch the first and the second season of the show, though I confess having seen an episode or two of both the seasons, mostly when the remote wasnt in my control. My impression of this show was that this is more of a reality thing than a musical program. More stress on 'drama' than really on music. The show I did follow in the past years was the Zee's Sa Re Ga Ma Pa - Challenge 2005. Now, that was quite an interesting show and it did have some real awesome singers. More than a couple of them were decent enough to sing at the top level, and I believe some of them do.

This season, somehow I have followed the show quite regularly, watching most of the episodes. For one, the judges this time are interesting. Udit Narayan, for one is my fave singer and I wanted to see how would he be as a judge. Javed Akhtar is again someone who is really good with words, even when speaking about the most inane things. To offset these two, there was the squeaky Alisha Chinoy, who I have never liked. And Anu Malek or Malik or Mallik or whatever, to round up the quartet.

My original impressions are mostly accurate, the show, specially in the first few episodes WAS really about the drama and reality. The kind of 'freaks' attempting to qualify for the show was the highlight in the initial parts. Infact most times the show would spend time with participants who were soo bad they were good, than really introducing the more talented participants.

But slowly, things have turned, and its now more about the music. Out of the 13 or so who qualified, atleast 4-5 of them can sing. Now although thats sounds an abysmal ratio, it isnt. Also, the level of drama on display has been mostly in control. Offcourse the contestants do cry, specially the ousted ones, but not so much to put us off. The best part about Indian Idol is the presentation. Its really impressive.. the way things are brought together to stitch a sense of continuity. Things dont feel tattered or badly edited to make up the running time of an episode. The emcees are top class and do a great job, which is to not hog all the limelight. Also, compared to the other two music reality shows, the judges dont hog all the attention. I mean, they do have strong opinions at times, and do have rather animated arguements, its nothing compared to what folks do on SaReGaMaPa and Star Voice Of India. Also, the arguements are often cut short to keep the show running, rather than resolving which of the judges won the round.

Now, I am not trying to promote Indian Idol or extend their claim that the winner is Bharat ki khoj or blah.. all I want to say is that the show is a compelling watch, given you have the time for television. But again, let me admit I do not ever vote for the contestants, nor ever promote that. I purely take Indian Idol as just another television program and not a place to pick the next big singer.

Among the judges, the best of the lot, for me, has been Javed Akhtar. He seems unbiased and mostly provides a fair assessment, thats amazing because he isnt even a singer, unlike the other three (Anu also claims to be one!!). Udit holds on to a netrality, though he never really criticizes a contestant even after a horrible performance. Alisha, what to say, is pathetic. She has a few favorites and will praise them, however their performance may be. And that giggle, it is soo very annoying. Anu Malek tends to dominate the others. He tends to overrule the assessments of the other three, which was quite annoying initially. Slowly, thats reduced. He tends to go overboard criticizing sometimes, but atleast he has a strong opinion. Otherwise, what use is a judge who is there to praise one and all.

Coming onto the singers, finally, I think the better singers among the ladies are-
Charu, who not only has a charming personality but can also sing decently.
Deepali, not really top-class, but has a nice voice and given the right song, does well.
Ankita, again has limited range (which holds true for almost all of the folks) but has a stage presence that elevates her performace.

Among the boys-
Meiyang, the most likeable among the lot, has a smooth voice and render the new brand of music pretty well.
Emon, IMO, the best singer here. His range is the best. If Indian Idol was only a singing contest, he would win hands down.
Prashant, the dark horse. He has an amazing voice with a nice 'something' that is very soothing. He does not have much presence though. Unlikely to win.
Amit Paul, another North-East import. Great voice once again, and he easily renders the songs from the genre of Zubeen Garg and James.

So there it is. I suspect Meiyang, Emon and Abhishek will end up in the top three. Abhishek is another contestant, who is very average as far as singing goes. He does dance well and bring drama to the show. I suspect thats enought to garner votes from the junta.

Whoever wins, I doubt any of them can really make it to the top level as professional singers. They will have their 15 minutes, earn some tidy cash doing live shows and go back into oblivion. Who cares?

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Hiatus from blogging

I took an extended break from blogging, yet again. For me, I have these phases, when a lot of my focus is on a particular thing. A month or so back it was blogging, and since then it had shifted onto movies.

I have been watching movies like a zombie. Have had this uncontrolled urge to watch a lot of movies. I have been trying to watch mostly old time classics and the good ones from the last 4-5 years as well. The contemporary ones have taken a back seat for now.

The only one of the new releases I caught was the Spiderman-3, which wasnt as exciting as the last two. The fact I saw it on the giant I-max screen could not completely salvage the hash this movie was.

Onto better things now.

Casablanca: Yup, I saw it only now. It does manage to still be quite a treat after all these years. Though in my personal opinion, does it deserve ALL that hype?

Citizen Kane: Well. Again one of the most loved movies of all times. It has a layered story. The first viewing is not sufficient to extract too much from it. I need to watch it again to really understand it well. The kinda jaded visual and not so amazing audio does hamper the experience.

Psycho: Pyscho is just amazing. Its nearly 60 years old but boy, it still holds up really well today. The plot, although has been rehashed so many times since this one,  but it still chills you bigtime. Amazing acting. Hitchcock rocks.

Rear Window: Hitchcock again. I wrote about Rear Window sometime back here. Truly thrilling.

Rashomon: Akira Kurosawa's classic. Well, again a very layered and complex movie. But it is rewarding in it first viewing itself. It invented the technique of unreliable narrative that was borrowed in modern movies like: The Usual Suspects.

Mulholland Dr.: David Lynch, the Tarantino of the 80s, made this visual treat. It spins and meanders like a 'dream'. :) I want to watch it again a couple of times to truly savor it.

Jackie Brown: This was the missing Tarantino for me. Finally got the chance to watch it. Unfortunately it doesnt measure up against the other Tarantino's like Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill. A much more straightforward narrative and not as gripping as its brethren.

21 Grams: Amazing. It has a very different narrative with 3-5 minute clips all arranged non-cronologically. So the narrative goes back and forth in the story. Sounds wierd, but it actually enhances the viewing experience for this one. Very Stylish!!

V for Vendetta: This one is not so old. Quite a gripping and visual movie. An interesting plot and a great narrative.

The Illusionist: This one is a amazing. Again quite new. Starring my fave Ed Norton. This one is truly about an illusion. Another of the movie with a twist in the end. One of those kinds, that are interesting to rediscover all the apparent clues leading up to the end.

Das Experiment: Well, a little unknown German movie, not soo old. But its truly amazing and chilling. The fact that it is based on a real life experiment adds to the chill. A must watch if you like grity and edgy cinema.

The Downfall: Another German movie based on the last few days of Hitler. Great acting in this one and it does portray of how sheer madness in a dingy bunker really changed to face of the entire of Europe.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Fuzon - great listening

I first sampled Fuzon, the band, when one of my friends recommended them. Listening to some of their tracks, I found familiar a couple of them. The more I heard them, the more I like them.

They are a Pakistan based band, whose niche is fusion of classical hindustani music with Rock. And boy they are good.

Some of the best tracks by them are:

Tere Bina... jiya nahi jaaye..

Mora Piya..

Aankhon ke Saagar..

And you would definitely heard their lead vocalist 'Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan' in the hit Bollywood songs:

Mitwa (KANK)

Yeh Honsla (Dor)

So do sample their other songs as well. Their music is the kinds you want to sleep to. Melodious and soothing...

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Bangladesh thrashed India..

Well, this is the big news this Sunday morning. All news channels and blogs are beaming up their opinions on the same.

reproducing my comments on Amit's blog on the same...

IMO, its all about incentives. This Indian team has but few incentives to push their game up. Most of them are millionaires.. raking in more moolah promoting biscuits and colas than winning matches. What is in it for them to put their heart in the game (and in turn risk injuries..) when they are doing quite good as it is.

Bangla team on the other hand was enthusiastic as a team can be. All of their 11 members were gunning for their spot in the limelight. You could feel it on the TV screen.

I dont think replacing a few players here and there would make that much of a difference.

I mean cmon, this IS World Cup. and you know Sehwag is woefully out of form. And still you want to tag him along. That itself speaks for the way they planned. If it was another warm up tourney I wouldnt blame Dravid for giving him another go, but here on the biggest arena, it was sheer madness... playing your luck too far.

I personally would like to see India out of the Cup in Round 1 itself, and that should catalyze into retirement for the 'stars', although I doubt if the stars would share the blame even now.

Anyway at the loss of India's chances we have a better team gunning for the cup.. almost.

end of comment...

BTW, if you wanted to find respite on this hot Sunday morning, find solace in the fact that India has company. Pakistan got knocked out of the World cup losing to debutants Ireland.

A mug of beer, anyone?

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Rear Window

Recently saw Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window".

A fantastic thriller and a great watch. What really amazed me about this movie is that not a single frame, and not a single line of dialogue is redundant. Everything adds onto the story and the plot. Its that tight..

I mean it might sound straight forward but you should see the movie to understand what I mean..

This is my first Hitchcock movie in years so I cant generalize.. but I hear that was his style.. to keep strictly to the plot in his narrative..

I know of some equally wonderful movies that meander around the plot quite a bit.. they focus on stuff not directly linked with the plot.. but in the big picture it adds to the mood of the movie..

So can't say its absolutely necessary to do as what Rear Window does.. but it was remarkably evident here.. hence the post.

By todays standard, the plot is not convoluted enough. There is no major twist at the end or anything as gimmicky. Things move towards one direction and the first suspect IS the actual murderer.

But what really contributes to the thrill and suspense is the fact that the viewer is an equal party to piecing together the hints on display. We all, like the protagonist look outside the 'rear window' at the happenings. And like Jefferies, we are as incapable of playing an active role in the proceedings.

Anyway this is not meant to be a review. For the same visit here or the IMDB page.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

My VisualDNA..

Game 1: West Indies vs Pakistan

So, finally the Cup has begun..

The first match starts off tonight.. and it has WI, the hosts facing off against Pakistan.

Hard to pick one from the two..

But if I have to, which I did in a friendly game of Cricket Satta with friends, I would pick West Indies.

WI are on their home turf.. which has increasingly been unpredictable.. what with slow and low bounced pitches with a tendency to crack..

They had the slight edge, mainly due to their batting.

Lara, who is playing his last tournament in his long career would like to go out on a high.

Gayle, debatably, the most destructive batsman in the world. A man to reckon with for the Paki bowlers, none of whom are world class.

Chanderpaul, really reliable specially when the team needs him.

Samuels, in my opinion, the next big thing. A solid bat.

While on the other hand, Paki batting is not much to talk about. Haq and Yousuf are good but not ably supported by others. Then they dont have a stable opening partnership. Also, with no Akhtar and Asif, they lack the sting in their bowling.

I know they were humbled rather badly in a warm-up game against India, but these warm-up games dont speak much about a team like WI which is more instinctive than even India.

I think WI should make it.

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Should we ban it?

I am not talking about something specific here..

But have you noticed how often people providing their feedback on a topic will simply exclaim that such-and-such thing or phenomenon should be strictly banned in India.

Also, if they feel strongly about something, it should be made compulsory..

Just the other day reading up TOI's Hyderabad Times, I remember

a reader commenting that Yoga should be made compulsory in Indian schools, for its benefits..

Isn't this a worrisome pattern?

People in general seem to be getting more and more stubborn with 'their' views..

If I feel this way about an issue, then it should be made compulsory and the other way should be banned.. and so on...

So make Yoga and Vande-matram compulsory and ban smoking, violence in movies, Valentine's Day..

Sometimes it makes me wonder where are we heading towards as a country !!

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Monday, March 12, 2007

A prolonged break from blogging..

Its been a real long break since I posted anything here..

The reason has been both my being busy as well as not enough motivation to put down my thoughts...

I did start on a few posts.. but then never went past the midway mark on any of them.. so now I have quite a few unfinished posts lying around...

I HAVE been watching quite a few movie all this while.. almost every weekend, its been almost 2-3 movies.. mostly English, but have managed to fit in most of the latest Bollywood releases..

Well, that shall be another post another day.. time permitting..

One reason I quite never really find motivation to post all this while was, that I am not really sure what this blog is about..

I can really put place it in any category I know.. its quite a mix-up to put it decently..

That is something I would want to do sooner than later..

find a genre that I want to stick around to...

Well, any of the readers (who are a rare phenomenon on this blog as of now!!) reading this blog for sometime, do propose what I do good enough to really carry it on...

BTW , the World Cup is almost on its way..

And it should be interesting this time.. with no team the clear leader at this point..

Its real hard to put your money on any one of them.. though I wouldnt put it definitely on INDIA.. (lets not get started on that here....)

Cheers and happy watching...

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Chutneys - South Indian at its best !!

This Saturday night, yet again, we ended up at Chutneys for a nice dinner. Its been like a ritual for us to hit Chutneys anytime we dont feel like cooking at home (and not ordering a Biryani at home from Hyderabad House, which btw has been happening quite often as well !!).

So here is the story in pictures...

The Chutneys is located right next to the Nagarjuna Circle, near Punjagutta. You can spot it from a distance with its quite different colours and the long queues that wait for table in late evenings..

Thats the first floor seating area.. As you see, it isnt execeptionally plush or luxurious. Quite basic and simple. Well, it isnt really the experience that pulls you here.. Its the food, period !!

The USP.. Chutneys.. With most (or even all) dishes they serve, this is the standard fare. This 4-in-1 serving of chutneys. The all white one is pure/ fresh cocunut chutney. Its amazing.. beyond words, with minimal masalas etc to ruin the natural coconut flavor. Moving clockwise, the off-white/ creme colored chutney is a daal-based chutney.. Next is the Red chutney.. thats also real cool, with a spicy tange and goes real well with most dosas. The last one is the green-adkrak (ginger) chutney...

Steamed Dosa - My fave item in the menu.
At the risk of sounding boring and truly predictable, I have to admit that on most occassions I have been here, I shamelessly end up ordering the Steamed Dosa.. Its really the best of the lot for me.. I have tried a Steamed Dosa elsewhere as well, but nowhere did I find anything close to Chutneys thing.

So, you get the drift. They also serve some real nice conventional Masala Dosas, Uthhapas, Idli-Vadas. Also, high on the popularity charts is their South Indian Thali. And we never fail to miss their Buttermilk, which has been consistently good.

Actually that is one aspect that makes it easier for us to pick Chutneys again and again.. their consistency. Rarely, do you find their preparation gone bad.. The chutneys are always fresh and the Sambhar always nice and spicy.

Another interesting thing I have noticed about them is that their pricing for South Indian dishes is reasonable. So you get a Masala Dosa for Rs 35, and the Steamed Dosa for Rs 42..

They also serve North Indian and even Chinese stuff.. which I would never advice you to order at Chutneys.. Also, they price these 'other' cusines a little on the higher side. Dont really remember exact costs, but a Chinese Soup will cost you about Rs 60 and a North Indian dish about Rs 75-80. Not, this isnt out of the roof, but compared to their South Indian dishes its definitely expensive.

My theory is that they basically cater to the South Indian cusine lovers.. But if these folks bring in people (and kids) who are admant on eating North Indian/ Chinese, they can still be the choice of this group. And, they also manage a bigger margin on these 'other' cuisines, for which their Cooks/ chefs would need more time to put aside a conventional order or two and get on with the a Chinese noodle dish (say).

Anyway, I do recommend you visit Chutneys on your next visit to Hyderabad and do do try out the Steamed Dosa. You wont regret reading my post for a change.