Ode to Wych Kaosayananda

Why would anyone ever make Ecks vs Sever,

while adding the title ‘Ballistics’ forever;

Featuring the international cast of Banderas and Liu,

along with a director who will never ever get his due.

They shoot, maim and they kill,

and we keep watching as we foot the theatre bill;

The monologues sound more like something that rhymes with ‘tart’

In this writer’s structure the donkey came after the cart.

Me act natural, me act deep,

That’s what old Antonio is saying in his sleep;

Me act cat, me act bitch,

That’s Lucy’s swan song and the last time she gets rich.

Who is Ecks? Who is Sever?

Will I get to know this ever,

I am getting euthanised by those flashing images,

Hey, that’s just Antonio and some bobbing cleavages.

Wych Kaosayananda – that’s the director’s name,

I know its a mouthful that you’ll forget all the same;

He would do well as Jigsaw’s next 3D victim,

Or the ‘Human Centipede’s’ next escapade up someone’s rectum.

That’s my two cents on Ballistsic – the max my brain allows,

The box office returns match the number above;

I would advise watching it too,

When you have no backup plan in the loo.

What Mangalore can teach Ayodhya

So, there we have it. The Ayodhya verdict is due this month end and there’s no stopping it this time, now that the Supreme Court has intervened and cleared the path for judgment day on September 30, 2010. Simplistically speaking Ayodhya Ram Janmabhoomi has been a conflict between two of the largest communities in India over a historical piece of land that holds cultural and religious significance to both communities.

From what I have heard and read in the media, Babri Masjid was built over a Hindu temple sometime in the 1500’s/1600’s when the Mughal invasions were at their peak. As the name suggests, the mosque was built by the Mughal ruler Babur. Sometime, towards the end of the nineteenth century, you had this court case filed by the Hindus who wanted to reclaim the land and their temple. But this case was ruled in favour of the Muslims by a British judge who said that too much time had passed and in the event of no clear historical documentation this case could not proceed further. That was it until the middle of the twentieth century, when following independence you had a bunch of politicos deciding the fate of this land based on the religio-political significance it held for their party.

The facts in the previous paragraph bring into perspective an event in Mangalore, that in my simplistic view of the Babri demolition would serve as a fine example of how such a case would be allowed to complete its natural progression in a cultural era of suspicion.

The Idgah Mosque on the Light House Hill Road is a landmark in Mangalore and one of the oldest mosques (if not the oldest) in this region. This mosque exists right next to the St. Aloysius College and Educational Institutions that are home to the historical St. Aloysius Chapel and some of the oldest Catholic artefacts in this region. You must be wondering where this is heading.

Now, sometime during the reign of Tipu Sultan, i.e. around the 18th century, when Mangalore was under Tipu’s control, a whole lot of atrocities were perpetuated against the Catholics and Christian community at large in this region. Reason – Tipu believed that the Indian Christian community was siding with the British against him. This unfounded fear led to thousands of Christians being marched up to Srirangapatna – the capital of Tipu’s kingdom and forced to labour their days there. Similar to the Holocaust, where slave camps were the final resting places of whole families, a generation of Catholics suffered in these camps and many perished while others bore the brunt till they could escape or wait for the liberation by the neighbouring armies or the British as soon as Tipu was vanquished.

Now it was during this period that the Milagres Church that rested at the foot of the Light House Hill, came to be known as a sort of seat of the Catholic Church in Mangalore. Being in the center of the city, this Mangalorean parish catered to most of the Christians in the region. However, the advent of Tipu brought about a rash of cultural destruction that included the demolition of the Milagres Church in Hampankatta.

To add insult to injury, the Idgah Mosque was built with the very same bricks taken from the demolished Milagres Church. Following the defeat of Tipu and his armies after years of battle, Mangalore reverted back to British rule under the purview of Madras Presidency. Milagres Church was rebuilt at the bottom of the hill and this is where it stands to this day. The Idgah Mosque was allowed to remain on the top of the Light House Hill, built with the holy bricks of the Milagres Church.

Gradually, as time flew by, the mosque and church formed their own identity and even though the mosque was a reminder of the atrocities perpetrated by Tipu on the Mangalorean Catholics, the fairly large community of Catholics did not persist with the case but went on to build a successful economy for the region.

Centuries have passed since these events and even though the Catholic community commemorates the persecution of our forefathers, there is no attempt at creating animosity between Muslims and Christians in the region. It is understood that historical circumstances where the rule of democratic law was not what it is today, were responsible for those events and in the present scenario with an Indian Constitution (that in my eyes reflects the purest form of justice if implemented in the right spirit), we have successfully integrated values that respect history while avoiding the use of it to score a religio-cultural point.

My interpretation of the Ayodhya conflict may be simplistic to use this Mangalorean example of how an historical conflict can be resolved naturally. But I feel there are enough similarities that reflect the maturity of the people of this region. Mangalore has had its share of communal tension and as I write this, there are security forces deployed ahead of the Allahabad High Court verdict on September 30. But, the cultural values and the educated mindset of the people are strong enough to withstand the worst. Mangalore may not be a shining example of tolerance at the moment, but there was a time before the politicians rode the religious bandwagon, when educated, erudite, honest politicians ruled the root and used a mature worldly understanding to resolve issues.

A sign of the bonhomie and strength of the relationship between the Muslim and Christian communities of Mangalore , centuries after the demolition of the Milagres Church by the Mohammedan Tipu Sultan, is the annual Eid/Ramzan celebrations. The parking space near the mosque is not enough for the worshippers, so St. Aloysius College has offered its campus parking space for free during the festival period. It is not an uncommon site to see Muslim brethren walking through the Catholic campus carrying their prayer mats and going for Namaz at the Idgah mosque next door. We do not absolve what happened in the past, but we are ready to forgive (it’s hard, I know) and move forward.

That was another time, and in Bob Dylan‘s words – ‘the times they are a changin’.

Damme good!

‘There’s somethin’ strange, in the neighbourhood, who you gonna call? – Jean Claude van Damme.’ If Ghostbuster’s was still the international flavour of the season, the anthem every Belgian would be singing while walking the streets of the hometown of the ‘Muscle from Brussels’ would be this.JCVD

Jean Claude Van Damme has been Belgium’s biggest export till Kim Klijsters took away that tag by going love-all with the US Open centre court audience, and he has had a hard fought career roundhouse kicking his way to the top of Direct-to-Video stardom. Not to take away from the fact that he has been a part of successful mainstream Hollywood franchises and individual action movies that have cemented his place as the go-to guy of the non-squint-eyed variety (I am not being racist here, its Hollywood dammit).

There is no ballet in the action sequences he executes, nor memorable one-liners that would tickle the bad guys to no end. Here is an out-and-out action star who’s main competitor in the ’80s and much of the ’90s was a certain Steven Seagal.

Until Death‘ was the first Van Damme movie that gave a glimpse of what he was capable of in terms of lending credibility to his character as someone who could make it to the Oscar podium someday. A totally uncharacteristic performance from the slam-bang goings-on in the Direct-to-Video market, this movie did go the same way, but received wider acclaim as time wore on. And then there was JCVD.

JCVD, an acronym for Jean Claude Van Damme, is the story of a washed up Van Damme who is stuck with direct-to-video releases in the international market, with no brain actioners that manage to just keep the fires burning. This semi-autobiographical film, though fictitious in nature, places Van Damme playing himself in a situation that he could very well have experienced had things gone out of hand in the near past. Director Mabrouk El Mechri, was himself a fan of the Van Damme school of Martial Arts, that brought Bloodsport, Hard Target, Double Impact the respect they deserved in a saturated end of millennium action genre market.

As Van Damme fights a custody case for his daughter in JCVD and fights battles against creditors, he gets back to Belgium for one last try at finding himself as an actor who could relive some past glory. In familiar territory, he gets to meet his fans who stop him to pose for pictures, reminding him of the huge international star he was.

Popping into a post office to withdraw some cash, more as a last resort, he runs into an actual robbery happening and from then on a comedy of errors leads to Van Damme being the main suspect in this robbery that turns into a hostage situation à la ‘Dog Day Afternoon‘ except that there’s no cross dressing lipstick smeared Lothario waiting at the other end.

JCVD turns into a dark comedy infused with Shakespearean intent where the character breaks the fourth wall and directly addresses the audience. This is Van Damme’s finest hour, as in the midst of the hostage situation he launches into a monologue that would make Ian Mackellan‘s Old Vic renderings as impressive as Magneto’s raised eyebrow in each franchise event of the X-Men series.

I felt sad for Van Damme. Here was an action star who ruled the global action box office and was now reduced to being rejected by his very daughter for being a laughing stock of an actor. Two images strike the heart – Van Damme’s rejection by his daughter and the redemption that takes place when she claims him back when he is truly down and out. Watch his face when these events occur. With all due respect to JCVD, it would roundhouse kick every other Oscar emotion that Sean Penn ‘Milk’ed to the brim, and knock the hat off The Last King of Scotland.

Mabrouk El Mechri is a true fan – a fan who knows what this star is worth. Van Damme’s second lease of life, what with the glowing critic reviews, has extended his stay on the dramaction zone where he need not do any more cameos on series like ‘Friends’ and can command himself to opt out of ‘Expendables‘. He is no more the expendable, but a force that can reaffirm his export quality status for Belgium.

Deadgirl – A heavy body count

Picture this – you come deadgirlacross a girl in the darkest corner of a basement in an abandoned psychiatric hospital. The girl is tied up, shorn of all her clothes, on a hospital gurney with a dazed look in her eyes. What do you do?

Deadgirl‘ starts off from here. A movie from the heart of mid-state suburban America, this movie makes no statements about its small origins, what with its unknown cast and minimal production values that are unhindered by some telling cinematography and the staple diet that horror films run on – visual prosthetics with a lot of blood, pus, torn faces and disemboweled bodies.

Deadgirl‘ has a cringe-worthy subject within its running time and this comes in the form of the immortality that the supposedly ‘Deadgirl‘ in the basement possesses. You know where this is going.

While predictable to some extent, ‘Deadgirl’ uses an uncomfortable situation exacerbated by unmitigated violence that reflects the helplessness of the victim while making the viewer sorry for and then repulsed by the very same victim. It is a conflict that makes it hard to watch as the movie goes on and the perpetrators of violence are almost made sitting ducks against an immortal force of nature that may be of supernatural or other-worldly origins.

The ‘almost’ twist in the end, while predictable does not leave a lasting impression but justifies the irony that the movie is based on. Directors Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel may not be auteurs in the horror genre, but they do have the knack for bringing out a cringe worthy subject in as laid back a way as possible. I am a horror buff but it takes a really strong movie to intimidate me and ‘Deadgirl’ did not do that.

‘Deadgirl’ is not a statement making film, unlike ‘A Serbian Film‘ which according to its director was actually a film that had a patriotic Serbian undertone. That makes me wonder what the Serbs are going to do next. Make Slobodan Milosevic’s corpse immortal and go on giving him enemas till he skips the border into Transylvania to join some blood letting marauder of virgins and they happily skip and jump across borders covering every nation under the UN.

‘Deadgirl’ is not pretentious – that I will give, but when you have the lead character in this film looking like Edward Cullen with a sullen face waiting to perhaps sink some fangs into every soft tissue he finds, you can’t help but get some ‘Twilight‘y goose bumps that keep growing with the introduction of some High School Musical like scenes of male bravado and female cheer of the same. Don’t be mistaken, you still need to be well overage to watch this movie. Leave ‘Twilight’ for the animal activists waiting to picket some cruelty to werewolves thing.

Dabangg – More bangs for your buck

An Indian campy film never looked, sounded or felt so good. Take a bit of Sergio Leone‘s early Westerns, mix them with a bit of the Sippy brothers kitsch of the ’70s, get a psychologist to transcribe the dreams of every living BIMARU (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, UP for the uninitiated) villager and bring in a director willing to pitch the same to a star who makes hay when he caters to the front-benchers in every single screen hall in small town India. BTW, the director needs to be influenced a bit by the Hollywood pulp films of the early ’90s and sticking with Hollywood, he better have watched a lot of Ernest Goes to Camp and the rest of the series.

Dabangg poster
Dabangg poster outside the Rex Theatre on Brigade Road

The above is the surefire recipe for Dabangg that seems to have done wonders for a whole lot of sagging careers in Bollywood. Being from deep down south India, with a Bollywood IQ akin to a sherpas knowledge of the Deccan Plateau, I can vouch that I did enjoy nearly every frame of this movie.

Salman Khan hams it to the brim as the goofy Chulbul Pandey alias Robinhood Pandey – a corrupt UP village cop who lives for action and makes sure that the rest of the crowd die laughing at his antics. The action is shamelessly lifted from south Indian cinema (especially Tamil cinema) but in the hands and also the feet of Salman, it finds a worthy inventor who can find all the right moves without any lab trained stunts. I have always been willing to give this guy a bit of leeway when it comes to his acting or his life. No matter what he does, there is a charm in his hilariously choreographed mimes that would definitely break the fourth wall in a Marcel Marceau interpretation.

Dabangg is Salman Khan all the way. From the wickedly written dialogues with a whole lot of tongue in cheek moments to the incredible action sequences, one of which actually sees Chulbul’s shirt ripping off like the Incredible Hulks’, you have Salman masterfully controlling the  screen time with the right mix of eye-popping pop action and slapstick devilry that would make Dada Kondke turn in his grave with his naada intact.

It does help that the film is held together with a strong script and editing that makes it easier for the director Abhinav Kashyap to bring together a motley set of characters who hold their own in whatever short scene they have in the film. Arbaaz Khan, as Makkhi Pandey the no good step brother of Chulbul, gets an unusual amount of screen time based on the fact that he is the brother of the star of the film and he also happens to be the main Producer of Dabangg. Malaika Arora Khan completes the family affair in this film by creating an ideal item number that works with a catchy tune and with the right amount of oomph from the Khan lass.

Sonakshi Sinha in her debut as the heroine in the film, does make a huge impression and she has it in her to make it big. Her beauty completes the kitschy feel of the movie and she stands out as an ideal foil to Sallu Bhai’s tamasha’s as Chulbul. She does have her lines in dialogues that drew whistles and shouts of appreciation from the 10 PM crowd that thronged the Gandhi and the balcony seats of the single screen Rex theatre on Bangalore’s Brigade Road.

I don’t know how much of a hand Abhinav Kashyap would have had in conceptualizing the various styles used in this dramatic action campy film. From the buzz in the media it looks like Abhinav Kashyap may have been short changed for the credit or there may be truth in the fact that the Khan’s had a prominent role to play in helping conceptualize and build the tempo of the film. Whatever the argument they did give the audience a lot to laugh about as they in turn laugh their way to the bank (a Trojan horse could not hold all the money that this film is gonna earn).

RIP – all the deceased criminals on screen. They served their purpose especially the evil and vile Cheddi Singh played by the surprisingly inventive Sonu Sood. There are a whole lot of comical encounters within the film that only serve well when watched, so I am just shutting up here.

Dalma – Koramangala goes Oriya

This evening turned out to be one of those ‘ don’t plan and just go for it days’. The discussion in office these days eventually veers towards Salman Khan‘s latest blockbuster Dabangg. With all the hype and the cracking open of enough piggy banks to fill up the RBI mint, this movie was a must see for me and the need turned into action as three of us colleagues went ahead and booked the tickets for the 9.55 evening show.

Binod - the Oriya food guide
Binod - the Oriya food guide

Now with a lull in the project work, we had all the time in the world to kill till 9.55 PM. So, Binod Pradhan, my Oriya friend suggests that we go to ‘Dalma‘ – an authentic Oriya restaurant located in Koramangala. We set out for the 100 feet ring road in Koramangala and easily found the place on the main road (of course with Binod’s help).

Dalma is a tastefully decorated Oriya restaurant that at the same time makes no pretensions of its small town origins. I was told that the word Dalma signifies a type of dal that is a part of the Oriya cuisine. We started off with the Prawn and Chicken Pakodas.

The prawn pakodas were up to the mark with the freshness still intact, but I felt that the chicken pakodas could have done with better pieces. What followed was the main course for which we had (or rather Binod, our Oriya guide had) a full Oriya thali with a chicken gravy dish authentic to that region again.

Oriya Thali
Oriya Thali

The Oriya thali was simply wonderful, with a mix of light spice topped with a sweetish tinge of a tomato mix that went well with the overall taste. The meal consisted of white rice with a huge bowl of dalma (dal with potatoes), another dal like dish that was slightly different from the dalma, a fried vegetable mix, a sweetish tomato dish, a dry spinach dish seasoned with spices and roasted dal,  and a bowl of a kheer like sweet. The chicken dish we ordered was lightly spicy with soothing flavours that were easy on the tongue. Unlike the starter, the chicken pieces here were pretty good.

Dalma
That's dalma 'the dish' for you

For those fond of extremely spicy stuff (meaning Andhra food) and for those whose gastric juices can withstand any fire fighter, this food would be pretty timid, but those with a balanced world-view of cuisine would surely love the difference that Dalma offers. Idid.

Dalma is located at:

#37, 6th block, 100ft road, Bangalore , Koramangala, Bangalore

P.S. I am definitely going for more servings and the next time its going to be the fish that is covered in mustard. Sounds good.

My Mangalore weekend

Back in Bangalore this morning after a weekend of gorging on home food backed by ice cream from Pabba’s, Mangalore’s very own and in the eyes of every Mangalorean – the best ice cream in the world. As usual the days passed by pretty quickly.

Spent a part of the holiday shopping with my cousin for suit material for his wedding. As the best man, I too had to tag along to get a lighter shade of suit material from the Raymond’s showroom in the Empire Mall complex on Mangalore’s M.G. Road. A lot of thought seems to have gone into our suit selection and I just had to do as I was told, so it was sort of a peaceful experience as I am otherwise a pretty fidgety shopper with a penchant for blindly buying stuff to avoid the pain of searching or bargaining, though you could say this has changed a bit once I settled down in Bangalore. The Raymond’s showroom in Empire Mall does have a wonderful selection of formal and casual wear and another dekko at this place would help my shopping pangs. The Color Plus casual collection here was also pretty decent.

Following this, we went over to Star Wear tailors in Falnir, one of Mangalore’s landmark tailors who specialize in suits and formal wear. The Star Wear guy did remember suiting me up nearly seven years back, so it was pretty smooth going as I realized a lot had changed in styling since then. Suits now had two buttons and the pants had a flat front unlike earlier where suits had three buttons and pants had pleats.

Ran into some trouble with the vehicle on the way back from the tailors as in all probability the battery of our Scorpio died down and I got stuck in the rain bang in the middle of the crowded KS Rao road in Mangalore. Got down and managed to move the vehicle to the side. After many tries to crank up the engine, I waited for the Mahindra helpline to get back. After a few minutes, thought I will take another shot at starting the vehicle and voila, the engine roared back into action without a hitch. Weird! Now we got to ascertain if this is a battery problem or some electrical problem in the engine circuits which may be sucking the life out of the battery or may have screwed up some connections.

Six years and over 80,000 kms and I guess the Scorpio has run its life. Need to keep our options open at this stage.