Blaaak, waaack, kraaack….. blumph

About the headline. I just could not help myself. Reached Mangalore this morning after another stinking journey in the volvo. A guy in the back seat of the bus puked all over himself and someone else, ran up to the drivers cabin and ended up puking even more right next to the driver. I remember waking up to the same pungent gagging smell and praying that the driver would not steer off the Shiradi ghats. There was an alcohol smell emanating from the puke and filled the entire bus. Driver and conductor cursed him and made him wait before stopping the bus and sending him off to relieve himself. Felt sorry for the conductor as he had to clean up the mess in the cabin.

The dumbass must have drank and got on the Bangalore-Mangalore bus. Anyways reached Mangalore without any further accidents. I am now getting ready to cast my vote in the elections here. Lets see if I can sneak in a few snaps from the polling booth 😉

Resurrecting the ‘Damme’d

A silent renaissance is taking place in the action world. So silent that it appears to have bypassed mainstream Hollywood. In 2008 Cannes took notice, but it was a 2007 feature that really began this transformation.

Don't be fooled by the B-grade poster
Don't be fooled by the B-grade poster

Jean Claude Van Damme or the ‘muscles from Brussels’ is one of the all-time action greats. In the Mangalore of the ‘80s and early ‘90s all out action thrillers dominated the only English theatre – New Chitra. From Chuck Norris’ Delta Force series to Van damme’s Universal Soldier and Hard Target, I caught these movies either at the theatre or Madhu Bazaar, which happened to be the best English video library at that time.

The slam bang action movies gave way to more serious fare and the gradual shift in tastes clouded out the past. Re-runs on Start Movies and HBO failed to enthuse me any longer with the exploits of Chuck Norris (save for Delta Force, my personal favourite), Van Damme, Rutger Hauer or the martial art mayhem from China and Hong Kong.

That was until last month. Though I may not watch these action stars with the same childish enthusiasm, I still have a soft corner for these blokes. They took the blows that made us laugh and grip our seats during the stunt climaxes (no wonder most of the New Chitra seats were rickety, I guess they may have changed them by now), made me day-dream about joining the commandos and riding a bike off an aircraft carrier with a parachute stuck on my back, made me kickass with guys twice my size when they thought I was an easy punching bag to satisfy their sadistic whims.

Back to Van Damme. JCVD released in 2008 brought the actor back into the limelight. I did not see the movie, but reviews of it heralded a new Van Damme – a thinking, dedicated method actor who could move away from the splits and instead split the critics with a performance of a lifetime. I am waiting to get my hands on this movie, but then one day I get a call from Christy Bharath telling me to switch on my TV for the 9 PM movie on Star.

What followed is a surreal Van Damme experience. ‘Until Death’ is Van Damme’s finest ever performance (remember, I have not watched JCVD yet). Breaking away from the stereotypes, he plays a crooked cop, and when I say crooked I mean he’s really mean and it shows. Infidelity, drugs, irresponsibility, dishonesty, disloyalty – every rule (of an action movie hero) was broken in the first half of the movie by Van Damme’s crooked cop. The latter part of the second half plunges into typical Van Damme fare, but the change in persona throughout the movie is a master act.

Maybe it was the shock of seeing Van Damme completely out of the type or seeing him match wits with Stephen Rea, a talented British actor, both these actors were playing against stereotype. As the movie moves on you can’t help but feel sorry for Van Damme. The scars show and somewhere, somehow the pain and anger he feels and expresses in the movie seems to be personal. Relegated to the fringes of the action hero genre and in danger of being junked, Van Damme had gone back to straight-to-DVD fare and surprisingly this movie too was one of those. There are traces of a straight-to DVD movie (poor actors, typical action scenes…) but then I guess Van Damme surprised even the whole crew with this performance whereas the director would have expected the standard hangdog look (perfected by Nicholas Cage) while playing out the opening sequences.

Until Death has blood, guts and glory but completely reloaded this time by Van Damme. There is a renaissance in the action movie genre that is making its presence felt among the Benjamin Buttons, Slumdogs, Milk et al. We had Rocky Balboa and John Rambo make it up there recently and now it’s the turn of the beefcakes from the ‘80s to sucker punch Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, George Clooney and all the other pretty boys who line up on a carpet where crimson wine is spilt and not blood. It won’t be long before Van Damme, Rourke, Stallone, Lundgren and co. create a bloodbath at the box office.

Food for the morning soul

Steaming idlis, deep fried vadas with the right touch of oil, spicy sambar with that subtle sting of tamarind, freshly ground chutney with a perfect balance of mustard and methi (coriander), all this followed by a cup of piping hot slightly strong filter coffee, with the suprabhatham playing all along – that’s what I call the perfect south Indian breakfast at the Udupi Gokul Café in BTM Layout.

When I landed in Bangalore 5 years back, Udupi Garden in BTM layout was the biggest landmark that directed people to my residence close by. Run by Kundapur Brahmins, this restaurant was the only one that opened at 6 in the morning and it suited me fine as I started my walks pretty early (5.30 to be precise). As this darshini became my kitchen, I got to know the staff pretty well and service got over enthusiastic when they heard I was from Mangalore. That’s one thing about living in Bangalore, you meet any ‘Kudla’ people and you get that extra bit of friendly service.

Udupi Gokul cafe at 6 AM
Udupi Gokul cafe at 6 AM

Three years later, in 2006, the folks at Udupi Garden had to vacate the place. Besides being in a prime location and a landmark for all BTM directions, the restaurant was doing roaring business and was recognized as one of the best in Bangalore for darshini type food. Naturally, the owner hiked the rental amount and even though I am sure they could afford it, they may have been pipped by another ‘kudla da jana’. Another Kundapur guy began running the restaurant, but the quality sucked and btw it still sucks, so much so that the Udupi Garden name is forever tarnished.

Meanwhile the original Udupi garden gang started off a Udupi Gokul Café that was recently renovated. But, the quality, cleanliness, cooks and the atmosphere remains the same as the original Udupi Garden. For now Udupi Gokul Café is the place to visit for South Indian snacks in BTM layout. Situated close to the Jayadeva hospital flyover, the darshini is a bit out of the way for me, but then my morning walks have got that much longer resulting in a bit more weight off my a**.

Check it out:
Udupi Gokul Café,
Near Jayadeva Hospital Flyover,
BTM Layout
Bangalore

P.S. – The pongal vadas are my favourite.

Morning walk, eye candy, elections

My morning walks in the BTM layout joggers park have been uneventful over the past five years. Five rounds of the park was all it took to rejuvenate me and unlike other parks where you tend to have over friendly joggers come up and start asking questions about yourself, it’s each one for himself/herself here. Besides the usual walking crowd the most that you could have in terms of outsiders was a van selling homoeopathic products and services and the ‘health’ juice guy. Throw in a couple of coconut sellers and the picture was complete. That is until this morning.

At around a quarter to seven, a huge Pajero followed by a Maruti Omni turn up in the park and out tumble a bunch of ladies and young girls. Now this was quite a site. Being a conservative family-oriented neighbourhood, this sudden change was met with wide eyes and you could say popping eyes as the fairer sex that tumbled out of these vehicles happened to be really fair and good looking, with model-like attributes.

I kept walking trying to be as discreet as I sneaked a peek at this bunch. As I completed my third round out popped a hand with a flyer that showcased Capt. Gopinath, the independent candidate for Bangalore South. So that’s it, these were the campaigners for India’s low cost aviation pioneer. The simple flyer asked us to vote for communal harmony and progress and had the guys email ID and website address.

While visually striking I don’t think this campaign will cut ice with a lot of the electorate in Bangalore South. Reasons –

  1. This constituency has a large conservative and old Bangalore community. Any sign of modernity is looked upon with suspicion even by the so-called progressive classes.
  2. While the idea of having young, beautiful girls is not bad when you consider that BTM layout has a huge chunk of young people living here, most of these youngsters are from out of the state and wouldn’t even be registered here.
  3. The have-nots in the constituency (and there are a lot of them) would consider it a visual spectacle, somewhat like a K-Jo movie, far removed from ground reality.
  4. As far as I know, from newspapers and the media, Gopinaths campaign has not followed inclusive politics. He surrounds himself with highly educated, page 3 types and the odd token poor guy, who actually looks like a token character in the gang. Again this is not gonna cut ice with the crowd.
  5. You need at least a few street smart guys around you when you campaign. A balance of street smartness and refinement could go a long way in being accepted. Actually, what the hell, be realistic, you need rowdies to help you sell in politics.
  6. Too many rumours are floating around of this candidate being propped up to fulfil the whims of a political master. Definitely would hamper his chances.

This is my take on this particular campaign. My feeling is that too many independents around are going to screw this election up. The two party system in US, where there is a clear winner works best for me. Hold on, that doesn’t mean I like their complete election process. Who can forget the 2000 US elections and Florida?

So that’s my take. Pardon my tastes, but I prefer the rustic neta to the highly polished superficial ones, especially when considering the fact that these elite guys are in it only when someone pinches their ass.

BTW Prasad Bidapa campaigning in Bangalore South. There’s gonna be a lot of swish swish sarong swaying (yeah, the guy calls a mundu a sarong), air-kissing going to happen… ha.

Done with the Dark

In the last couple of months I have turned into a voracious reader – all thanks to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series. I loved reading as a kid, devouring 2-3 novels a week during the summer holidays, but the habit sort of fizzled out once I got into college and then into professional life. Not that reading was completely ruled out but now it was restricted to 4-5 novels a year and that too each novel took me a couple of months to read by which time I had forgotten half of the characters and their mortality rate.his-dark-materials

I inherited His Dark Materials from my sister’s collection with the recommendation that these were novels that were integral to the neo-classical genre and a must read. This coming from my sister who rarely showcases her likes or dislikes piqued my curiosity and got me to start off on this. This brought back my old habits. Three books back to back were finished in no time and a regret that there were no more in the series to pursue.

My verdict of His Dark Materials series (Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass) – One of the best grown up fantasy adventures ever written. The contents of the books may be somewhat controversial to those who swear by organised religion and the diktats from13738203 above that bind them, but the subtle meaning in the books drive home the point that there’s more to life after all. No more metaphors or dragging reviews and giveaways. Just go read it.

Besides the His Dark Materials trilogy, I also had an unfinished Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy omnibus with me. This book that I picked up from Sankar’s at the Bangalore Airport in 2006 had been a stutter and stop read. I had just about made it to the last novel i.e. Mostly Harmless and the short story before it which was ‘Young Zaphod Plays it Safe’ when I stopped short of completing it about a year ago. The book was just lying there unfinished. After Dark Materials I made it a point to complete this at the expense of mundane news and TV serials.

I would say that my new found interest in books is due to the fact that there is hardly anything worthwhile paying on TV nowa300px-sherlock_holmes_-_the_man_with_the_twisted_lipdays. Now that the reading bug has bitten me I don’t see it disappearing anytime soon. Right now, I am onto the complete and unabridged Sherlock Holmes series. This is another book that I picked up at a book sale in 2005 (I don’t remember the book seller). It included the adventures, memoirs, return of Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of Baskervilles all in one book with the original Sidney Paget illustrations. All this for Rs. 350. Quite a steal, but it lay unread on my table for sometime. Sherlock Homes was a hero to me as a kid and I had read some of the short stories that appeared randomly in assorted sets of books. Long forgotten, I turned to my complete Sherlock Holmes volume and I am now in the middle of it trying to figure out the Adventure of The Man with the Twisted Lip.

Thank god for literature. In the event of an electric storm we still have a lot to look forward to.