Sunday, February 28, 2010

Karthik calling Karthik - Classy experience!

First things first - No heroine on screen has ever looked as gorgeous as Deepika Padukone in Karthik calling Karthik! To quote my friend, "Deepika Padukone, for once, steals the thunder from Farhan." I would moderate that a little because Farhan has done his part like a seasoned veteran. Watch the contrasting manner in which he walks, bends and talks to know what I mean.

The movie is part romance (1st half) and part thriller (2nd half). You get to experience all primary emotions - Fear, Joy, Love, Sadness, surprise and anger in the space of a little more than 2 hours. Full credit to Vijay Lalvani for the story, screenplay and direction. Costume design and casting is just bang on. Clothes for Farhan (Karthik) - when he is diffident and when he exudes confidence reflect the same to a T! Deepika (Shonali) carries herself off adorably, delectably, sensuously and the list can never end!

The story is very realistic, laden with a lot of symbolism (the use of Rubik's cube throughout is a masterpiece I would say) and doesn't need too much masala for embellishment. The humor in the first half is very natural and the lead actors should be appreciated for their timing. The sequences in the second half are intelligent, especially Karthik's reasoning to find a solution to his woes. 

Expectations were perhaps too high from the music (by Shankar, Ehsan and Loy). If not for the manner in which the songs have been shot (especially 'Uff teri ada'), it is not great. The background score in most parts is effective (considering that it matters a lot in a thriller) but occasionally it drowns out the dialogues. Technical brilliance manifests itself in the manner in which lighting has been used.

Perhaps the sub-conscious minds in all of us really has the potential to elevate us and help us scale new heights in the quality of our lives. The phantoms of the mind are indeed very difficult to comprehend, let alone control. 

Go watch Karthik calling Karthik. It deserves a visit to the nearest movie hall...

Friday, February 19, 2010

My name is Khan - Overrated and a bad advertisement for a mature Industry

For all the great reviews, 24*7 publicity and star cast, My name is Khan didn't work for me. To get to the point straight away, why the movie fails - 

  • It is not the best Hindi movie made on the post 9/11 condition. So many things are simplified, exaggerated, unrealistic and incredulous for it to work. 
  • It is neither a good romantic movie. The SRK-Kajol pair has been wasted. Except for some brief sparks (the only thing that sustains the movie), there is nothing to potentially recreate their onscreen magic. 
  • It is not the best advertisement for Shah Rukh Khan's acting. If you say, Vikram acted well in Pithamagan, then probably you would feel SRK has acted well too. But if an actor -because of the character's supposed limitation (autism is the reason here) - is allowed only one expression throughout the movie, then I wouldn't think there is any scope to emote in the first place leave alone doing that well!
  • The narration too suffers from SRK's affliction in the movie. Able to lend neither weight nor humor, it is the weakest aspect of the movie. It doesn't move the viewer nor does it make him laugh whole heartedly. 
  •  The songs - 3 of them - are by no means apt for a movie of this magnitude. The music is just average. There is nothing great about the songs for the viewer to remember. Nothing of the class of "Yun hi chala" (Swades) to take home.
  • Story - It tries to be all romance in the 1st hour and after that the switch to heavier identity issues is abrupt and awkward.
  • Amateurish sequences - Some sequences are too amateurish. When SRK tries to meet the US President, the tactics he uses to take an example. When a movie like New York could effortlessly use English in dialogues to lend credence, MNIK resorts to melodramatic hindi!
What works or what sustains the movie?

  • Kajol's acting - If there is one reason to see MNIK, it would be Kajol's acting. When she is happy, the viewer shares her happiness and when she is grief-stricken, the viewer is moved to tears. 
  • Some standout scenes - there are some scenes in the movie that stand out for their simplicity and by consequence demonstrate what could have been possible. When SRK as a child is taught about the only two communities - the good and the bad - through an example and when Jimmy shergill's wife is attacked for wearing the hijab. 
The bottom line is that critics have allowed themselves to be swayed by the star power and the hype.  It is just another Karan Johar flick, a poor one at that! 

 Watch MNIK if you have to for Kajol! Else, get a DVD of New York.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hedda Gabler left me cringed and despondent

Hedda: "Oh, it was a little episode with Miss Tesman this morning. She had laid down her bonnet on the chair there—[Looks at him and smiles.]—and I pretended to think it was the servant's."
Brack: "[Shaking his head.] Now my dear Mrs. Hedda, how could you do such a thing? To the excellent old lady, too"
Hedda: "[Nervously crossing the room.] Well, you see—these impulses come over me all of a sudden; and I cannot resist them. [Throws herself down in the easy-chair by the stove.] Oh, I don't know how to explain it"

Now, don't we all get these sudden impulses? I unabashedly confess that I do feel an impulse to act mean at times. Later, I regret losing control of myself.

In another scene - 

Mrs. Elvsted: "You have some hidden motive in this, Hedda"
Hedda: "Yes, I have. I want for once in my life to have power to mould a human destiny."
Mrs. Elvsted: "Have you not the power?"
Hedda: "I have not—and have never had it"
Mrs. Elvsted: "Not your husband's?"
Hedda: "Do you think that is worth the trouble? Oh, if you could only understand how poor I am. And fate has made you so rich! [Clasps her passionately in her arms.] I think I must burn your hair off after all."
Again, sometimes don't we wish we had such a power to wield? Something Godly and other worldly that would make others part of a strange rope trick and us, the circus masters? Yes, all of us do. The difference between the kind and the mean people of this world lies in the degree to which each of us exercise caution and restraint. For the human ego, 'I' is the be-all and the end-all of existence. It constantly needs some reassurance to quench its thirst. Those who realize this are able to carry themselves well. Not that, all of us should aspire to become altruists. There is a middle ground sufficiently vast to accommodate all of us.

The extracts (in quotes above) from the play 'Hedda Gabler' by Henrik Ibsen that was performed at Rangashankara over the last weekend aptly sum up the dominant mood that the audience got to experience. It portrayed the dark, vulnerable and arrogant side of the human character through Hedda, played by  Sheeba Chadha. It was one performance that would stay with any viewer long after he leaves the auditorium. So riveting it was that the expression "the actor got into the skin of the character" would hold 100% true! 

As the story in the Wiki link says, it is pretty old, set in the late 19th century and hence very challenging to perform. The dialogues and the intensity demand very competent performers and I was not disappointed. The old setting and the costume transported me to the past for 2.5 hours. Seeing Hedda so manipulative and the other characters often helpless, particularly her adoring admirer-husband Jorgen Tesman, played by Neeraj Kabi, made me cringe at the extent to which human nature can torment itself.

The other characters - Eilert Lovborg played by Samar Sarila, Judge Brack by Denzel Smith, Thea Elvsted by Tillotama Shome, Juliane Tesman by Veera Abadan and Berte by Shipra Singh - pale in comparison with Hedda. Samar was a little too loud and Denzel, a touch too one dimensional in all the scenes. The performance was overall good. The transition to the different segments in the course of the play was marked by a sense of quite purpose. That is, I know, a trifle strangely put, but it was!

The appreciation of the audience is often a pointer to the impact of the play as I have come to learn. This time, it was a consistent applause, not very rapturous and enthusiastic, but subdued and moved, probably because the last scene was too much to consume. Human will is never free and indeed, one never knows when the hand of destiny might override it.

I am glad that I made the decision to see this. Lesson learnt: Don't go to a play with any set expectations, go to enjoy it and savor it! 

P.S: 'Google' makes writing both easy and difficult. Before I wrote this, I got to read a lot and it enriched my perspective. At the same time, it narrowed the canvas I had to write. It doesn't make any sense to repeat what is already available after all!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A love story comes to an end!

This morning, I woke up to a rude jolt. I climb down the stairs and find that my cycle is not in its place. Its stolen!

Did I lose it or was it stolen from me? It used to be my friend in the weekends when I would ride to the parks or simply roam aimlessly. The cool breeze that caressed me as I rode it, the thrills and the high it gave me can't be described easily.Every speed breaker, every bend and turn, every shift of gear, to cut this short, every moment of pride and joy it gave me lies shattered now. Only memories remain.

I still remember the day when I went with my friends to get the cycle. The journey back home and the first ride stand out clearly now as if to torment and accentuate the loss. When friends at work tried it out, it pleased me no end...some good memories recorded here.

Why do people stoop to such low levels? What can the rightful owner (like me) do other than moan the loss and lament about the helplessness of it? Perhaps this is destiny and perhaps I should be moving on but it would be an injustice not to record it here in this journal as a post worth the blog space!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

10K Conquered - ORRCA Marathon was an exciting experience

This weekend on Feb 6th, employees from several companies located on the Outer ring road in Bangalore (of which INTEL is one) came together under ORRCA (Outer ring road companies' association) to participate in a marathon that had the objective - "Create awareness amongst public to follow traffic rules and safety regulations and emphasize on BMTC Transport”. 

IT Potential apart, Bangalore is becoming infamous for its traffic woes mostly owing to the profusion of numerous private vehicles when the infrastructure is not able to keep pace. There is little that the Government can do except perhaps build flyovers and pitching for public transport through events like this. IT Professionals should also realize that they have a part to play in making Bangalore roads less congested. As influential members of the civil society, awareness of a problem should first lead to contemplation about potential solutions instead of wringing hands and frustration. 

 So, at 7.30 AM on a chilly Saturday morning, 300 + people gathered at ECOSPACE on the outer ring road for the run. This lends credence to the fact that people do come together for reasons that don't necessarily influence their self-interest or serve to advance their self-love. Adam Smith is supposed to have believed that public spirit is one such driver. There is also a piquancy that makes events like this appealing. That would, perhaps also be, one of the reasons for the good participation.

I had earlier participated in the Sunfeast Marathon but even then I had taken part only in the fun run - a distance of 5kms. But here thanks to my friend and colleague Jayakumar, I was ready to go for the 10 km long run. As we started running, there was a gentle cool breeze that caressed us and kept us going. At the half way mark, I was elated when our effort was acknowledged with a mark on our hands with a 'L' for Long Run (see the pic).

As we took a U turn to complete the run, thirst and exhaustion appeared to be winning over my Will. However, the sight of others persistently running ahead of me beckoned unknown reservoirs of energy and kept me moving. Meeting fellow employees during the course of the run in their casual selves walking/jogging/sharing a joke was an aspect that somehow made me feel less individual and more, a part of a huge collective.

After the run, there was a reiteration of the objective so that the focus is not lost. People came together to share the experience of the run and I could see a lot of beaming faces - a measure of the joy of the participants in running for a cause as well as an indicator of achievement. There was a performance by a band from CISCO after the prize distribution. 

I feel that events like this go a long way in mobilizing people together to rally for a cause. We need more of them especially in a place like Bangalore with its cosmopolitan diversity and civic problems. They are a good platform to goad people into action. I sincerely hope that more people embrace BMTC in Bangalore - the numerous volvos are definitely a success here - and the roads become less of a nightmare soon.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dancing on Glass - A commentary on BPO/IT lifestyle

Bangalore is teeming with youngsters who work in the BPO and the IT Industries. They are uprooted from the protection of their native cocoons and very often, upon landing in Bangalore, they feel overwhelmed by the city and its culture. As they tread in new social circles - sometimes with caution, but mostly with a marked irreverence and indifference to accepted norms in a quest to experiment, explore and give vent to their dormant desires- they tend to get carried away.

Especially in the sphere of relationships, the lack of anchor in a new place coupled with a quick-paced, brutal and demanding schedule can be challenging. The manner in which two young professionals - Megha and Shankar - confront relationships in their lives is what the play is all about.

Ram Ganesh Kamatham whose script for Project S.T.R.I.P I absolutely loved is the director and script writer for 'Dancing on glass'. Glass is a fragile material and dancing on it (to literally interpret the title) requires some deft balancing and positioning to avoid hurting oneself and so is the case with managing relationships. The extent of give and take required, the understanding demanded and the expectations (implicit) make for a confounding combination that can easily take a toll. One has to factor in the problem of identities as well. Young as these professionals are, they are simultaneously trying to figure out where they truly belong. The title can hardly get any better!  

The play had the audience roaring to the humorous dialogues right from the beginning. The two actors - Abhishek Majumdar and Meghana Mundku - playing Shankar and Megha respectively had a lot of soliloquies to execute. My guess is that Ram did not intend to convey any message through the script, rather the intention must have been to capture the drifting lives of the characters without offering any judgment.

There was the "cool" language of the splitsvilla or Roadies kind and the deliberately thrown in long dialogues recounting weird dreams which appeared affected. Here again, I would be doing an injustice if I say some youngsters aren't guilty of affectations of this variety. Indeed this worked to the play's favor because the audience could see glimpses of themselves in Shankar and Megha's behavior. 

Megha did well as the pretty BPO girl who is tired of answering boring and dumb questions. The way she said "ayo paapa" had me in splits! Her soliloquies were better than her exchanges with Shankar. Abhishek was the underdog whom the audience wanted to score. He was excellent in sequences warranting histrionics while OK in the other sections. If I have to single out a single excellent scene, I would go for the poetic imagination of Shankar - he imagines a 3 AM walk where he comes across a speeding vehicle and wonders whom the driver wants to impress when nobody is around to see! The ending with a "Life moves on" drift was apt. Overall, it was a decent outing made better by the audience and the company of friends! It had nothing great to offer but for the impressive entertainment value.