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Friday, July 1, 2011

Of robots, monsters and critics

I seem to have developed an annoying habit of late. Reading movie reviews. So before I start off on this rather frustrated rant, a word to young impressionable movie goers who want to maybe read an expert’s take on the movie before they actually watch it: Don’t! Ok, maybe those are two words, but let’s not get hung up on technicalities. 

The reason for such a seemingly unreasonable outburst? Probably the silly, motion picture saturated old men (and women) who like to call themselves critics. Now this is a rather harsh generalization, some of them are probably nice people who enjoy knitting and have cats, but sometimes it’s just hard to care.

Now this particular criticism deals with action movie reviews, usually from a really popular franchise, and how they are more often than not panned with stuff like ‘cheesy plot’, ‘just an unbelievable borefest filled with CGI pyrotechnics’, and my personal favourite: ‘Godzilla’s physical size varies between scenes!’

Having seen X Men: First Class and Transformers: Dark of the Moon recently, it’s a little hard to relate to the views aired by our rather experienced reviewers. While the former escaped their scrutiny relatively unscathed, Transformers did fall victim to some of the aforementioned comments about plot and relying on CGI, not to mention Michael Bay’s affection for blowing things up. But the fact is, while every last thing they say may be true, no one really cares. After all, people don’t go to see Transformers for refined method acting and a taut script do they?

The only important thing here is the images left behind by these films. If a movie can leave a memory in the viewer’s mind that will remain there for years to come, that is a success in my book. It means that the filmmakers, whatever other flaws they may have, have succeeded in what they set out to do. And I’m sure that most people will agree when I say that a generation got its money’s worth when Magneto lifted a whole submarine out of the sea and left it hanging, that we all shifted to the edge of our seats in those frozen moments when a semi transformed Bumblebee reached for an airborne Sam. And we smiled with childish amusement that Michael Bay could not help himself, even as his female lead looked out upon the chaos of the battlefield in a rare moment of calm, to put an exploding car in the background.

Because that’s all we want to see when we go to watch these movies. The very people who are abused for making these movies gave us what we wanted to see. We saw giant robots beating each other up, we saw Godzilla sink a claw into the Empire State building and roar majestically as lightning speared in the background. We saw some of cinema’s greatest moments. So if you are one of those people who has a tendency to whip out a ruler and measure a giant lizard as it crawls through a city sewer, please just stay at home and let the rest of the world enjoy it.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Media in a muddle

There are a lot of things the independent media is supposed to do, but throughout this year, we have witnessed enough to get a clear idea as to what they are not supposed to do. While television and the internet have paved way for quicker and wider coverage of just about anything that happens, it seems that the poor people in charge of filtering what goes out to the general public have had their in trays full.  It would appear that things have finally reached a point where they just do not care anymore. The result? Our general public is being exposed to complete nonsense passed off as professional journalism.
Now if we were a nation of level headed individuals who were capable of accepting a broad and understanding view of society, things would have been better but alas, Murphy’s laws do work.  Take for example the kind of nosy penetration into people’s lives carried out these days. Seeing tear stained faces on television pointing fingers and allocating blame seems to have blown away ‘Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’s TRPs! This is before even mentioning how controversy is sniffed out and even respectable figures like poor Manmohan Singh are ridiculed without remorse.
This is the age where reporters sneak dummy bombs into stadiums to prove that security is lax, and corporate lobbyists play around with media figures people have trusted for years. The argument is that the truth must be exposed and controversy will be created. If that was indeed the case, how did Woodward and Bernstein expose the truth in a manner that hurt only the ones involved and did not enflame an entire nation?
Now, let these matters rest. The most comical scenario seen this year is that of our beloved MP Shashi Tharoor. True, the man may have erred on occasion and ended up with a bit of soot on him after the whole IPL fiasco, but now he seems to be everyone’s favourite whipping boy and tongues wag over the implications of him drinking his morning tea. It’s come to the point where the man cannot pose with an award without drawing flak!  Maybe we should all just take a nice deep breath and give each other a hug and celebrate the New Year instead of looking for more skeletons to dig up and see if people like Mr. Tharoor can be used to get any more attention. Let’s face it, the man sells.
It is most ironic that people I felt like cheering for while watching interviews were movie actors. When asked some question to start a controversy based on a remark of his, John Abraham replied something like this,” Why can’t you think positive for a change? We all know everything I said is in good faith, must you always try to find controversy? Please be a little positive once in a while, just a little!”
So now the fourth estate has sunk to the point of being chided by Bollywood, what next? May 2011 be a better year, and see something sensible for us to mull over, instead of the ethics behind accepting awards!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Eureka! Writer’s Block!!

I’m not really sure if this is the phenomenon known as writer’s block but what follows is proof as to how I’ve tried unsuccessfully to publish a post in the recent past. Since I still have not been able to think up anything to add to them, I decided to compile all my unfinished posts and put them up anyway, for anyone who can make head or tail out of them. Two, or rather three birds with one stone, if you will.  And since the contents are just pointless raving on my part, be warned that what follows will probably make no sense. But then for the most part, neither did ‘Pulp Fiction’.
Unfinished post 1
This is what I like to describe as the ‘weird mood’. It’s when things go out of control in my already thought crowded head. The situation that makes me wonder why I can’t just be talking about rocket science one moment and go “Hey, a bird!” before launching into a lecture about birds. In short, it’s that kind of time when I have no idea what I’m actually thinking about, some idea what I want to think about and a fair understanding that thinking about what I want to think about will not particularly help me. Call it frustration caused by unvented emotions built up over a significant period of time, but for now I think I’ll stick to ‘weird mood’.
Unfinished post 2
The first picture that comes to mind on thinking of the word evolution is probably that sequential diagram that shows the evolution of men from apes. Truth is, that is not a very relevant part of the thing at all. A physical transformation or a change in appearance is not much to consider compared to what has happened to man over the years.
We are the offspring of coincidence. Ever wondered how many things happened in exactly the right sequence at the right time to bring us here today? That in a vast universe of uncharted size we happen to inhabit the only known planet capable of supporting life, and even within the planet, so many things came together to create a favourable environment for whatever form we originated in. Mere coincidence or a higher power? That debate will rage on endlessly..
Unfinished post 3
Sometimes, there are periods when people just seem to fall out of a timeline. As if the world keeps moving and they remain stuck. There is a past, which does not seem too distant and is still fresh in memory. There is also a future, again not too far away and eagerly anticipated. But somehow, there is no real present. There are things that need to be done but there is no real progress, attempts are made but nothing happens. At the same time the world goes on at its own pace, it is like standing on a sidewalk watching traffic pass by, at the same time waiting for an opportunity to cross the road and get a move on..
And that’s that. Normal posting shall resume shortly. Good day to all!

The murky road ahead

I'm looking for some inspiration. Sitting in the office of The New Indian Express and biding time until I go out and cover yet another inaugural function, glimpses of the future come unbidden to mind. Like the silk weave of the cocoon that protects me from the real world has become thinner, and the cacophony from outside finally reaches my ears. It feels as if my brain has gone into limbo as portrayed by Christopher Nolan in ‘Inception’, fantastic plans and ideas taking shape and almost immediately being washed away by a relentless tide. There is something I must do, something that seems just out of reach, fleeting glimpses seen at the edge of the imagination.
I'm looking for an idea, something to free the mind and carve a path forward, which finally reveals the big picture. It's almost like life plays out in a huge glass case with someone on the outside watching with amusement as people make choices, create, destroy and survive. For once I wish to peek at my own life from outside the case, see where it's going and what to do. But the very thought is terrifying, for trying to plan out and act on something like the future is futile, Darth Vader will vouch for that.
I realize that all I can do right now is continue on this murky winding path with the hope that everything turns out alright, but one always wishes for reassurance. Like a system restore point in case things don't work out. Someday, under a desolate lamp post on this long road engulfed in the darkness of night, I hope to finally meet that inspiration which seems to tease me from the depths of my consciousness. Until then, like Paulo Coelho points out in one of the few good parts of the otherwise rather pointless
'Brida', we only learn to appreciate and live life after going through the Dark Night of faith.

Friday, December 17, 2010

May legends live on

One fine day our Environment Minister made a certain remark which would have felt like a brick in the face to some of our good friends from Germany and also to anyone who enjoys powerful motorized vehicles.  A harmless little remark made in good faith that went something like this, “using SUVs in India is criminal!”  Though he obviously meant it in the interest of future generations and sustainable development and what not, the backlash he received should be proof enough that petrolheads in the country are far from extinct.
It’s come to the point where some sections of society see owning big cars as taboo. Ever since tiny, practical hatchbacks have stormed markets, even good old sedans have taken a beating, and saloons are a far cry. But in such a situation, shouldn’t concerned politicians and people who drive the Toyota Prius spare a thought for those of us who love the roar of a diesel engine, the whine of a turbocharger and the sweet symphony of smoking tires on tarmac? After all, what would he who drives the humble hatchback know about the glory of pushing down the pedal while standing at a red light and watching heads turn in awe, of getting the approving glances  of lesser mortals and feeling the surge of hormones? 

The extremely critical attitude toward vehicles that do not give mileage equal to the age of the person driving it is sad, especially for the youth who one day hope to own BMW’s (yours truly!) and Audis. After all, if people like the respected Minister mentioned above get their wish, they will at least have experienced the satisfaction of having travelled by or perhaps even owning a great vehicle. But for those of us who see legendary four wheelers whizzing around Monza or conquering the Dakar Rally and fantasize about laying hands on such machines, reality may slowly be slipping away.
No one is really to blame here, resources are finite indeed. But then wouldn’t you harp on about Bill Gates’ fortune if you had the chance? Consider SUVs, supercars and luxury saloons to be the Bill Gates equivalents of the automobile world. They need to exist, but they will be criticised. We who love our cars (in the true sense of the word and not those excuses that run on concoctions that can be mixed by the soda vendor on the street) will do whatever it takes to keep the legacy of the Mustangs, Camaros, McLarens and Veyrons from being wiped away.

 Our good friends from Germany are trying their best to make sure that our fantasies on wheels continue to roll off assembly lines while giving hatchbacks a run for their money as far as fuel consumption is concerned.  But there may yet come a day when the Tata Nano is king, and we will be left with no choice.
But that day is not here yet. Today we still have vehicles that raise the hair on the back of the neck, that send chills through the spine and cause goose bumps to erupt. Today we still feel pride as the sleek Mercedes draws up next to the bus we ordinary mortals travel in, and allow ourselves to indulge in a little daydream about one day being more than mortal. Because cars are not just practical machines that take people places. They are an indulgence, an expression of freedom and a statement all rolled into one. So the next time you are driving along in your frugal little Alto and you see an Audi appear in your rear view mirror flashing millions of shiny LEDs, give way humbly and behold royalty as it breezes past. Like the mortal you are.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An ode to another time

Recently, a friend of mine (henceforth to be referred to as ‘the Weatherman’) uploaded an old class group photo on to his Facebook account. Though not an extraordinary action by any means, the response it attracted was something which the Weatherman, despite his uncanny ability to forcast nonexistent showers, probably did not foresee.
It was nothing earth shattering, just a photo that attracted a lot of comments, but it was the memories that accompanied them that made it all worthwhile.
Flashing back to around five years ago, everyone in the photo reflected upon times gone by. Back then our minds were still clouded by formulae and theorems, but gazing upon our younger selves with a clearer head, the little memories resurfaced.  There were so many things that made us happy then, spinning tops that doubled as lame excuses to ‘Beyblades’, badly organized jam sessions where the drummer used a wooden bench and the DJ (also known as ‘The White Man’) turned a notebook on the table. At least that one notebook escaped becoming a dusty souvenir of our academic exploits at the White Man’s house! And then there was the Little Kid, who used to beat the life out of the White Man if he so much as looked at a girl, the avid gamer, who somehow managed (and does to this day) score marks for tests as well. 
Those were the days we dreamt, we dreamt of fantastic fire breathing monsters that fight other monsters, we dreamt of watching these monsters on TV after getting home, we dreamt of emulating the heroes of many a movie and asking a girl out (which usually ended up as a comedy sequence). 
That was us, glazy eyed, staring off into space, or playing hand cricket under the table while the wonders of Pythagoras and Newton went to waste before our unseeing eyes. 

The place where it all unfolded..

Time passed, and we sort of grew up. The once mridangam playing table thumper is today a drummer, spending much time gazing upon the photo contemplating about the sudden growth of hair under his nose. The White Man remains the White Man, and probably always will be, because that’s why everyone loves him. The Little Kid has grown up into the Big Kid, and is now tolerant of the female species, even appreciative, to a certain degree! 
There are so many others too, and a fully fledged ode to those days would require a tome to be written. Though no less important, the tales of Leg Breaker, Smiling Snair and many others remain to be told.
Coming back to the present, there isn’t much to be said. But I’d like to say thank you to all those silly idiots, who were there throughout and still are, for being the best friends ever.  

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The wonderful randomness of life, in pictures

I love taking pictures. It’s the reason I always insist on having a really good camera phone I can whip out anytime and start snapping. This tendency of mine has led to quite a large collection of photos that are highly unlikely to make sense to anyone other than me. There are some taken on walks, during drives, at home, on train journeys, inside shops, it just keeps on going. It’s not like no one has ever seen them, but I suppose keeping them all stored on a hard drive doesn’t really do them justice either, so here are a few.

Dove Orchid...don't get the name for nothing!
A rainy night in Trivandrum, my kind of weather!
Munnar... didn't even have to bother with a good angle.
Oil slick, BP should see this!
Found greenery in Chennai! On a road in Adyar.

Note:  This just a taste of what jobless people do when left alone. Believe me it's fun! All the pictures displayed here were taken by me courtesy the Sony Ericsson k550i and c903. Thanks a bunch SE!