Optimism for the year ahead! Happy Pongal/Sankranthi

I will blog regularly this season, I will blog regularly this season, I will blog regularly this season… As the new year begins, as usual I got to hear ad nauseam the new year resolutions of half a dozen added to a thousand radio listeners. Radio channels still seem to be getting a hard on by getting their audience to spew out inane resolutions. Sample this – ‘I will wash up after breakfast’, ‘I will stop behind the zebra crossing at signals’, I will make new frands this season’… ok I made up a couple of them, but I am sure you get the drift.

A lazy December coupled with the Christmas season turned my fingers into ten little sloths. With more than a month gone I have a lot to say and a lot to answer to especially my Chennai pal Christy.

Today is Sankranthi and Pongal and I wish a happy feast to everyone. May the coming season bring in peace and quiet. I am gonna be optimistic inspite of what I hear around me. So here’s praying for the best.

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Breaking news – the complete break down

The following is a fictionalised rant on actual events that took place last night and that continue this morning in Mumbai. This rant is from the point of view of the Indian news anchor who showed exemplary stupidity in covering a grave, sad and gruesome attack that otherwise needed coverage that would calm nerves, provide privacy to the affected and provide secrecy to the security operations in dealing with this.

News Anchor (NA): This just coming in… terrorists are in the Taj and Oberoi hotels in South Mumbai and have taken hostages from among the guests. There are celebrities among the hostages, that’s the news coming out of the hotel and we have our reporter out there. Over to you Kedarnath.

Reporter: Hi, I am just outside the Taj Hotel that has been attacked by terrorists. I have the hotels paanwala with me who’s shop got the full effect of the blast outside the hotel. As you can see he is covered in red (sic) blood from top to toe. Sir, can you tell me what happened when the bomb exploded outside?

Paanwala: Oh yes, while I was sitting in my booth and handing out paans to the guest after their dinner, the bomb exploded about 50 meters from my shop. The shock of the bomb blast caused my customers to spit out the paan and as I was facing them, that red stained paan ended up on me.

Reporter: Oh so this is not blood on you? It’s paan stains?

Paanwala: Yes sir, that’s right.

Reporter: Who was that oaf who sent me this guy to interview? I want real blood. Can someone get me some real blood? How tough is it to get some real blood at this place.

Camera pans erratically as the reporter charges past the cameraman and the screen cuts back to the studio.

NA: Ok we are back live in the studio, sorry about the interruption. It seems our cameraman was attacked by one of the terrorists who is randomly firing out into the crowd. There is a lot of confusion out there… as we just saw, the paanwala seemed to have been suffering from retrograde amnesia and couldn’t accept the fact that there was blood all over him. Lets go down to Nariman point for our reporters live coverage of the situation there.

Reporter: I am at Nariman building where a tense standoff between police and the terrorist gunmen is happening.

Camera pans to the poor cops holding their ancient single barrel rifles. A barrage of automatic gunfire hits them as they take cover behind vehicles. Some of them move next to the news van.

Reporter: I am right in the middle of this gun battle outside the Nariman building. Looks like the terrorists are aiming at the journalists now, they are trying to extract maximum coverage by attacking us.

As the reporter speaks, a policeman in the background is felled by automatic fire from the terrorists. The policemen hiding behind the news van crouch down to avoid the gunfire. The reporter shoves the mike in their face to get their reaction.

Reporter: Sir, how do you feel about this situation?

The policemen slowly rise and take aim as the reporter keeps blabbering while facing the camera. The reporters mike that was shoved into the policemens face is now in line with the cops ass as they stand up to fire back at the terrorist. One of the cops unknowingly farts into the mike while the reporter keeps blabbering at the camera, still ignorant that the mike is up the cops ass rather than in their face.

Reporter: Wow, that was close. Did you hear that? Bullets are flying all around me and it’s a war zone out here. Looks like they are launching rocket propelled grenades against us.

Louder fart and the reporter ducks.

Reporter: I think it’s a chemical attack, I can smell it.

Reporter gags and the camera goes haywire.

Back to the news room.

NA: Our team is now under attack with weapons of mass destruction. Looks like chemical warfare is taking place against our journalists to ensure that the real story doesn’t get out. I think our journos are in line for a lot of medals for their acts of courage.

NA (off camera):Where’s my PA? Make sure she gets the names of the list of journos out there? I need to ensure that medals are due to those guys. Need to fax the list to the Home Ministry today. Which medal should I apply for? Vishist Seva? Maybe, I too should apply for the Padma Vibhushan for leading the charge in this coverage.

Back live.

NA: We are now going down to the Taj Hotel where some of the hostages have been rescued. Hey is that Salman Khan? He’s injured, looks like the terrorists attacked him. Let’s go to our correspondent there.

Reporter: Thank you studio. I have actor Salman Khan with me with a bloody nose. Sir, how did you get this nose job?

Salman totally sloshed and blurry eyed surveys the damage outside.

Salman: Hey, Shah Rukh started the fight, he punched me in the nose and all mayhem broke lose. I had nothing to do with it.

Reporter: Studio, I have some breaking news here, Shah rukh Khan punches Salman Khan in face and mayhem breaks lose. Salman injured and bleeding on way to hospital.

NA: What about the terrorists?

Reporter: According to Salman, Shah Rukh created the mayhem.

Off camera

NA: All bunkum, get back to the terrorists please.

Back live

Reporter: Hey I have Bobo the celebrity monkey here with his trainer who has just been rescued from the hotel. Tell me Bobo how was the ordeal in there?

Bobo: keekee kaakaa, keekaaa, kaakee

Reporter: Bobo seems to be worried about his car key. He has lost his car key. If anyone has seen the car key please contact the following number #$%#%#%#

NA: Further breaking news, we can see the commandos moving in to rescue the hostages from the north side of the building. Hey, we didn’t know there was an entrance there. Looks like the commandos found a loophole through which they could enter the building.

Oops looks like the terrorists found the loophole too, they are firing at the commandos and the commandos are going down like ninepins.

NA: Now, lets zoom into one of those windows in the hotel. We can now see the terrorists watching our news channel. The terrorists are watching OUR news channel. Yaaayy! That shows that we are the most up-to-date channel and irrespective of caste, creed, colour and nationality every person on the sub-continent looks up to us. You can see our channel creating history.

As I write this, the idiotic banter of news anchors is going on. I am in office and viewing the updates on various websites, all I see is cameras shoved into hapless faces. The journos seem to be terrifying everyone in their path, creating confusion and preventing anyone from doing their job while the news anchors virtuaously drone about how they are taking extra care in the line of fire. I wish someone sends them into the hotel. They would make perfect cannon fodder.

Dexter reaches Chennai

It’s been more than a month since I enlightened a fellow movie buff about a bright new serial killer on the loose – Dexter Morgan. Christy got his copy of Dexter couriered to him this morning and he’s gonna have one hell of a ride when he gets back home to his DVD player.

It’s impossible to describe Dexter in any single way. Simply put – he’s there on earth to kill. I was introduced to Dexter Morgan by a friend who was going through session after session of serials that he had downloaded thanks to Bittorrent and other half a dozen download sites. I was hooked from the first scene onwards and went through nights without sleep just to keep up with Dexter’s life in a single go. The following morning in office used to be one big session of red eyes and dark circles.

dexter_morgan

Dexter is a serial about a Miami blood splatter analyst who is a serial killer by night. The rest is about the dilemmas he faces in undertaking police field work while carrying out his dark deeds by night. Inspired by the novel ‘Darkly Dreaming Dexter‘ this series is deliciously witty, bloody and sensuous. I fell in love with Miami from the first scene onwards. I swear, even Miami vice coudn’t have made the city look more beautiful and deadly.

Christy being a respected film and music afficionado (he writes music columns for the Indian Express while he’s off from his job as a Business Development executive in a s/w firm), sure deserved to get this much earlier. Procrastination and a shortage of DVD writers prevented me from getting this series across to him earlier. Now that he has it in his hands let’s see what he has to say. If there’s one guy’s review I can trust, it’s Christy’s.

Ragi Mudde and a bottle of rum

I hate long days in office when deadlines force us to spent hours on end scrolling clients mails and turning their requirements into never ending deliverables. However such days have a light side to them at the end of the day. A friend of mine from my days in Manipal stays quite close to my office and on such days we usually end up at this seedy looking, dim lit joint in Jayanagar 9th block called Amaravati.

I usually associate the name Amaravati with the Doordarshan series that used to play in the early ’90s. Called ‘Amaravati Ki Kathayen‘, each episode was based on a short story by some popular Indian authors (don’t recall their names though). Anyway coming to this restaurant, it was my friends discovery and when he told me that it was ‘the’ place to have ragi mudde with chicken gravy and guzzle it down with beer or rum or Lime ‘n soda (in my case) I was up to trying this unique mix. I had heard a lot about ragi mudde after coming to Bangalore but never made an effort to go out and taste it. Of course this dish was made famous by Deve Gowda and family when he was the Prime Minister of India.

Dark and seedy looking with the usual bunch of local goons and college chokras the place was an after hours hotspot for government servants and bank employees looking forward to unwind after a hard days work in their respective offices. I could make out that most of the men were family guys who’s excuse to their spouse once they got home would be that they were held up by some urrrrgent work at the office or the boss held a exclusive meeting at the last minute where drinks were served.

Dirty, seedy, broken bulbs and red and green lighting – you coudnt have asked for a seedier and gaudier atmosphere. A bunch of plastic flowers in shades of pink, purple, red and other lipstick colours filled the centre of each table that was covered by a checked cloth that looked like its last wash happened a month back. A broken ashtray made up the rest of the table.

What I love about such places is the freedom that you get to talk as loudly as you want, talk whatever you want, and take your time to order your food and drinks. These are the best places for a good conversation on anything and everything. Saint and sinner make this their home for the evening. The evening goes on as broken, unconnected pieces of conversation make up an entire drinking session. I hardly remember what we talk about, but I know that we really had a good laugh at someones expense and go on reminiscing about the good old days in Manipal which had its share of such joints – ‘Janani’ the most notorious and famous (with its mnthly credit for the guys who were regular customers). I guess these restaurants are a perfect tool to unwind at the end of the day.

The ragi mudde is solid and fills up your tummy in a jiffy. It tastes great when you mix it with the chicken gravy. The first time I tasted the mudde I really ground it between my teeth and ended up like a kid with sticky chocolate all over his mouth. This dish needs to be rolled into balls and thrown into the mouth and gulped. Thats the mudde eating process.

Tonight will be visiting the mudde place again. Another round of talk over some chicken lollipops and muude with some spicy gravy. Today was one of those days.

Oozing sex… and a lot of blood too

If you ever thought Mahatma Gandhi could never spout four letter words even in your dreams then watch Sexy Beast. This is Ben Kingsley‘s movie. He spouts four, five , six… letter words at the speed of the roadrunner in the Wily Coyote series. Boy, did this movie wake me up. It so happened that I ended up sleeping on most of the movies I watched last week. Didn’t even remember the damn names of half the films. Sexy Beast has a title that screams B-Movie. This was a classic – not a B-movie classic, but a proper A-grade classic.

This movie is a study in the art of hiring. HR guys out there, watch this for the manner in which Ben Kingsley builds up the tempo to go all out and convince a former con to join him for one last bank job. Kingsley is charming in a most menacing way, sadistic, and depraved way. He requests politely, then demands that his request is met, then forces the con to accede to his demands. When this does not happen blood is shed, but without giving away too much the job gets done in the end.

Kingsley deserved to be nominated for the best actor category rather than best supporting actor. Such was the power of his short but lasting performance in the movie. The rest of the cast is good. Ray Winstone as the con disturbed by Don Logan (Ben Kingsley’s) visit to his retirement paradise in Spain is spot on. So too are thw two beautiful women in the film. This is a Brit gangster drama/thriller that brings back memories of the ’70s sinister Brit gangster flicks like Get Carter (Michael Caine). Watch it for Ben Kingsley.

The Delhi Freakin’ Marathon

Marathons especially Indian marathon events are freak shows. I was watching the Delhi Marathon, prominently sponsored by a mobile company, on one of the news channels yesterday and what do I see – half naked men running and shouting in the hope of promoting a mens magazine, weird looking characters supposedly running for gay rights, someone running for cancer, another one running for chimpanzees, yet another running for people with half a brain, another for llama rights… Ok so I made up the last few, but I swear when you have all sorts of characters turning a sporting event into a circus without stunts then you are sure to demand your ticket back.

The freaks interviewed were irritating to the core. Celebrities even more so. You had team leads taking their team on the run and waving flags. I am sure quite a few of them would have been cursing the bastards for waking them on an early Sunday morning and making them run 5-10 kilometres or so. You had news anchors gushing about a power couple who coudn’t even complete running a quarter of a kilometre. I also wonder how the marathon organisers allowed people to run around with all sorts of garbage on them – some guys ran with huge condom costumes, some ran in gorilla suits, some in bathing suits – you really wish you were far from the maddening crowd.

I watched this freak show for a while on TV. Why did I go on watching this? Curiosity. There is this strange human tendency to view cheap stuff that gives you a kick when you realize that there are mortals lower than you. That’s the reason we love B-movies, slasher movies where guts spill out in virtually every frame and creatures that look stand at the size of the empire state building while snarling at the world around them. Cheap freaks. Cheap idiotic freaks. Pah… TV seems to have thrown some of the most irritating freaks of late. Commentators, actors, tv serials… Indian TV sucks. Thanks to Star World and World Movies and the other English channels for somehow maintaining sanity and balance on screen.

The Fall of Dr. Lecter…

How the mighty have fallen even before they set off on their career? Confused? Well I certainly was when I went through the first few scenes of ‘Hannibal Rising‘ that played on a movie channel last night. The movie is intended as a prequel that explains Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s transformation into the ‘monster’ that he is made out to be later in life.

Where Silence of the Lambs gave us what I consider one of the greatest villains of all time in Dr. Lecter, ‘Hannibal Rising’ destroyed that perception in the fist few scenes of the movie. Almost halfway through I was wondering whether I was watching Karate Kid or Three Ninjas Hit Back set in the 1940s. You had this young and earnest (too earnest i say) German actor trying to emulate Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal and dump in standard characters who follow the same old quirks – Japanese woman (who’s life centres around orientalism and some mysticism), former Nazis (caricatured as unrepentant ruthless killers), well I can go on with the cliches. This movie stank of cliches and caricatures.

Wikipedia’s entry on this movie explained that Thomas Harris, an otherwise intelligent writer, had against his wish been forced to complete this book as the copyright owners of the franchise threatened to find someone else to take forward the Hannibal franchise. If ever there was an instance of corporate greed destroying art this was it.

Silence of the Lambs and even Manhunter (1986), the prequel, gave us Hannibal as he should be – intelligent, calculating, mysterious, with a murderous streak that always was backed by clear reason (without sounding like a ‘Death Wish’ vigilante). For me, Hannibal was a protector of class and intelligence, he loved a challenge and in turn a worthy challenger (as he saw in Clarice Starling). At the same time it was never easy to define him. Hannibal is a question mark that yo cannot fathom. Trying to understand Hannibal is like trying to pry the secrets of the UFOs, or the Nazca lines or whatever swallows up ships in the Bermuda Triangle. I don’t think Thomas Harris himself was confient of deconstructing what he had created.

A Psychiatrist by profession Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s ascent as shown in ‘Hannibal Rising’ was a pitiful attempt to explain every little quirk of this character. The explanations were too convenient and this is where the movie fails. Nothing is convenient in the life of Dr. Lecter or the people who surrounded him.

Now that I have flogged this movie, I guess it’s time for this franchise to retire. One, I can never see anyone other than Anthony Hopkins play Lecter. Two, Hopkins has made comments that have led many to believe that his days as Lecter are over. If that is so, leave the character alone. Silence of the Lambs and its far inferior sequels would be better off packaged in DVD stores and relaunched in aniiversary collections rather than creating new monstrosities such as Hannibal Rising.