Thursday, August 28, 2014

Anjaan - (only for) the fearless

Anjaan in Tamil means fearless. This totally applies to me.

Well, when I first saw the poster of this film, I told myself "Don't even bother." Something that looks like a Kohli-village setting, with Kohli fisherfolk, a boat, Samantha inappropriately dressed (so unlike her) and Surya (my darling once upon a time) also looking like a fish out of water (pardon the pun). Yet, I went and watched the film. The doing of my desperation and greed. It had been so long since I watched a film on big screen. And this was also a chance to check out the new multiplex, Luxe at the Phoenix Mall.

Right. Greed it was. And I went. Actually Anjaan also means the 'unknown' in Hindi. I made a mental picture of Run and Sandai Kozhi and assured myself it might not that bad after all. Alas! I didn't know!

**Spoliers ahead.** (Ha, ha! The word 'spoliers' makes me laugh. How can you spoil something that's already spoiled?) Anyway, the story is this. A dreaded gangster, avenges his friend's and his own death. That's it. That's all it to it.

There's a very poignant and symbolic scene where a taxi driver shows his car full of smiley stickers and says the stickers are there just to hide all the bullet marks on the car. If the movie were the car the bullet marks would be the cliches it has been fired with. Sadly, there are no smiley stickers to cover-up the cliches in this case.

Here are just a few:
1. The location of the story. Mumbai. Where else? Come on, its a gangster movie. There are no gangsters anywhere else in the world. Those that have a housing problem, sometimes shift to Pudupet in Chennai. The wealthier ones (that is, those that afford Ray-Bans) go to Malaysia.

2. The name of the main Gagster..er...sorry Gangster. Suresh, Ramesh, chey no. All of them have only two names. Either Raju Bhai or Salim Bhai. Our hero's name is Raju Bhai. Oh, but the directors of Anjaan couldn't decide until the end if they should call him Raju Bhai or Raju Bai. The LOL moment is when Raju's girlfriend tattooes his name on her arm as 'Raju Bai'. Why would any girl tattoo her boyfriend's name with the suffix Bhai on her arm? Either she wants to change her status from girlfriend to Rakhi sister or it must have been a typo on part of the tattoo artist, who was instructed to write 'Raju Bye-Bye'. Oh whatever!

3. Just like good cholesterol and bad cholesterol, there are good gangsters and bad gangsters. The bad ones walk about in suits or better still Tuxedos, maroon bow tie and all that. And yes, they have always been in the business of importing gold biscuits and/or sparkling diamonds neatly tied up in maroon velvet pouches. (I would love to watch a movie where they deal with Gluco Biscuits and Cadbury's Gems for a change.)

4. As always, there is a very loyal man. Yes, he is Muslim and what does her wear but a kurta with a checkered scarf around his shoulders? Not to forget the grey beard. And his introduction scene. How else can a Muslim character be introduced in our movies? Long shot of a Mosque. Zoom to the interiors of the Mosque. Seen from behind, a man sincerely praying. Slowly move to his left and close-up on this devout expression and freeze. (I'm sure there was this greyish mark on his forehead. I just didn't notice.)

5. The revenge plot itself is so cliched. You actually know what's going to happen next.

This is a real conversation between two young viewers, one aged 7 and the other aged 6.
(Some 30 minutes after the film begins, around the same time that the interest in popcorn and Pepsi begins to wane) Girl 1: When will the songs come?
Girl 2: Only when girls come. See there are only boys so far.
(With this statement, the Girl 2 had summed up the entire Indian film industry in a nut shell.)

During the second half of the film, there is a Burkha-clad girl hovering around the hero.
Girl 2: Hey that is Samantha! I know, I saw her red nail polish!
(This is supposed to be a suspense point in the story. Yawn!)

The story-telling is THAT predictable. I have never really 'liked' Rajini's Baasha but compared to this, it atleast had some conviction.

It is so obvious that the producers have every idea of selling this movie all over the country. It has more than a dozen actors from Hindi films. Manoj Bajpai. The first scene he is shown, I wondered why he looks so sickly and pale. By the end of the film, the regret of being a part of this hotch-potch is quite evident on his face. The scene he dies must have been his favorite scene. Apart from him there are a dozen talented Hindi actors in this film. Why they agreed to do such dim witted roles, is a mystery? And, there is even Bramhanandam, perhaps in the worst role of his career. And none of them have even bothered to lip-sync in Tamil. Each of them is merrily speaking a language he is most comfortable in. But the dubbing is in Tamil. Not only the plethora of actors from other languages, there are Teugu songs and Hindi songs playing at every point, each of which is pointless and superfluous. It is so obvious that the director is trying to a nation-wide 'reach'.

Music. What music? The only song that kind of stays with you is that oddly titled Bang-Bang song, which is again a rehash of Billa but still.... The rest of the score, terrible. I believe Surya has sung one song himself. I don't know, because by then I was checking my FB account. The only question I want to ask Yuvan S R is WHY? WHAT'S HAPPENING TO YOU?

The female-lead / heroine. The lesser said the better. That is what seems to be the Mantra. 'Less is more' (at least where their costumes are concerned).

You might ask if there is any at all that is good at all about the movie. Yes, Surya. Great looks and talent wasted. Apart from looking super suave, he leaves a gentle reminder of the actor he was and the respect I had for him. And then Vidyut Jamwal. He looks fantastic. You feel sad for him. He plays a side-kick to the T. Poor guy is even made shake a leg for Lungi dance. Man, he is so uncomfortable in that scene and for some reason he is constantly looking at the camera. Even Television actors know that they shouldn't do that!

When I watched the film I decided not to write about it. Not worth my time and effort. But even two weeks since I've watched it, if the film is troubling me, the reason is ANGER. It angers me that directors so grossly dumb down the audience. I am no film expert, but I can definitely make out the difference when I see a director/writer/producer taking an effort and failing and when there is absolutely no effort, thinking that nobody will mind. I can never stand a writer who belittles the audience. I'm sorry but I take it very personally. It angers me that an actor like Surya can do something like this. Yes, who doesn't need money? Haven't Kamal Hassan and Amitabh Bachchan  had their share of Masala films too (can anyone ever forget Maharaasan and Shahenshah?) but their good work over rides all of that. Thing is, these actors, including Surya are sincere in anything they do, if only they choose the better of the bad films they are offered.

At least I hope better discretion prevails and I avoid watching such films in the future.

PS: And the theater Luxe? I would say in Tamil, "Lux(e) aa? Lifebuoy alavukku kooda illa." (Loosely translated: What about Lux(e)? Its not even as good as Lifebuoy!)
Oh, BTW, the Girl 2 happens to be my Junior!

Monday, August 04, 2014

Re-runs

I've been dying to go to the theaters and catch a good new movie. But then I realised there aren't any good ones to watch. So this weekend was a re-run weekend.

I watched Delhi-6 AGAIN
I watched Sindhu Bhairavi AGAIN
I watched Enthiran AGAIN

Three wonderful films. Each from a completely different genre. But all of them bound by one common factor. Amazing music. 

Saturday, August 02, 2014

'Krishna Consciousness!'

Courtesy: http://photos1.blogger.com/blogger/1020/1511/1600/12Krishna.jpg
While I am stuck at the crossroads of a spiritual quest, wondering which way to go, my 6 year-old's conviction often stumps me.
She has 'Krishna' etched in her mind so strongly that I sometimes wonder how she developed the idea. Yes, her mother was quite spiritually oriented and even religious till the child was say, 2-3 years old but then, that's about it. The little girl's Krishna Consciousness (if I may use that term) is so deep that she gives her thoughts his ('His'?) name. Whenever she wants to tell us about something important running in her mind, she will begin by saying , "Krishna says.....".
She asks him for ideas when she is unable to take decisions. She recommends him to solve her Mamma's problems. If she wants it to rain, she asks him for it. If thunder and lightning bother her, she scolds him for it.

These days, he has become more of an invisible secret friend that most children her age have. She sometimes even fights with him. She says she is older than him. She tells me about how Krishna worries her and his mother by always picking fights with demons. So this morning when she got a little rude and nasty about him to me, I asked her, "Is okay to talk about him that way? Isn't he God?" She coolly answered (I quote) "Yes, but he has asked me to treat him like a friend." 

Simple and yet profound.

They say Gurus may come in any form and shape and size. I will only be too happy to be led by a tiny but strong hand.

Since we are talking about Krishna, I want to tell you this. Very strangely among hundreds of books at a book exhibition, I spotted this book. It stood there calling out to me. It is as if the book was written just for her. It is also the prettiest book I've seen in a long time. It talks about how Krishna is with the child during the day, at night and even in the child's dreams. Titled Krishna Loves You, this makes a beautiful bed-time read, gently lulling the child to sleep with a smile on his/her lips.  

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Thoughts on fashion

There just a thin strap between casual dressing and careless dressing. (In an office setting)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Aagadhu...aagadhu

SPB's voice has been ringing in my head for the past 2 days, now that the submission date for my book has got really, really close. The difference is that SPB is passionately singing (with full emotion and dramatics) about deathlines and I am thinking of deadlines. (Don't bother watching the entire video, I wouldn't want to gross you out.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwOmjfZO3rQ

Monday, July 21, 2014

Cinema Wishlist

My day started with gratitude for a good Samaritan reminding me about 'not forgetting my passions' this morning. As I was reading the paper in the same grateful mood, I read a tiny article about Kamal Hassan's plan to play the lead in the Tamil version of Drishyam. My reaction was a loud "WOW!". Man! I love Kamal. I love films in general! Right at that moment, this wishlist started generating in my head one after the other, just like flight information board in an airport. I want to put it down before I forget.

1. I don't want to see Kamal Hassan in K S Ravikumar films (at least for sometime to come).
2. I want to see Rajinikant only in Shankar's films (the exception being a Balki film - just one, for the thrills)
3. I want to see Surya in an Imtiyaz Ali film.
4. I want to see Dhanush in a Gautam Menon film (without any of the 'suffering' or 'the anger' - in any form)
5. I want to see Ajith in a Gautam Menon or a Balki film (or even a Maniratnam film - now please don't judge MR. He's basically an artist and he's had his good days.)
6. I don't want to see Ranvir Singh in any film.
7. I want Shruti Hassan to go back to singing.
8. I want to see the leading ladies in GOOD films, flaunting only powerful performances and nothing else.
9. I want to see the ladies in Tamil-Telugu films take up strong leads and to stop being just a pretty tree       on the Alps.
10. I want to watch a solid good film this weekend. I'm famished.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Europa! (Part Three) - Paris - Adventure, Exploration Unlimited

Paris is still fresh in our memory. The reason is that it was the last stop before we got back home. But by the end of the fifth day there, we almost owned it. There was a sense of familiarity-we felt so at home. The first day was as if we were thrown to an alien land our eyes blindfolded and our mouths scotch-taped. But by the last day, we felt we were leaving, only to be coming back soon. Gare du Nord, Chatelet Les Halles, Porte d'Italie, Chalet, Tolbiac...the names we had never even heard before, now keep ringing in our ears, bringing 'nostalgic' smiles on our faces.

So, we were in Paris for 4 nights and 5 days. The first 2 hours were almost 'traumatic'. With all our luggage, we confidently strode into the Metro from the Charles de Gaul Airport, thinking, all we need to do was just hop on and hop off to get to the hotel. But that was not it. If managing the luggage was hard enough, we had to change trains. No elevators. Only stairs. And a few escalators. While the hubby and junior managed, I found myself bumping, bungling my way through the escalators (I have a bit of a 'escalophobia' yes, that's the word for my fear of escalators). Hubby helped me with most of the luggage but even a handbag and a backpack felt like a thousand tonnes. The second station went miles and miles and miles. Hundreds of strange new faces around us, confidently zipping their way through the station. A zillion thoughts in my head, "oh, am I in the way of these people?", "what will they think of me?" "what will they think of Indians?" And finally the big question amid copious tears, "why are we even here? we should have gone back home from Zurich."
The trains stop at each Metro for just about 3 seconds before a scary sounding  beep would go off and the doors would close. So we were cautious, ready and quickly got off at our station, Place d'Italie. Now how do we get to the hotel? As we were standing there and figuring out the maps, avoiding eye-contact with the flower-seller who first tried to sell his flowers, then kept staring at us and then repeatedly asked us where we wanted to go. We somehow got out of the dark dungeons of the underground metro and saw day-light (yes there was still some light at 9 pm). We tried figuring our way ourselves - ignorant people are the best victims of con men, you see. We did ask a few people too. No con men luckily but most of them didn't know where Hotel IBIS was or the address or English. There was even a very drunk couple (around 60-70 yrs old!) trying to help us. After 30 minutes of search, a very sweet family who were also there on a holiday whipped out their cellphone and with the help of Google Maps informed us that we had got off at the wrong station! We had got off at Place d'Italie but we should have got off at Porte d'Italie!! How the hell were we supposed to figure that out in 3 seconds, amidst all the anxiety?
A young boy helped us. (maybe Asian? When you are in a foreign land, your eyes keep searching for familiar looking skin-tones. To your mind, even a Spaniard or a Mexican looks Indian.) He was on the same bus that we took to get to the hotel. We got off at the bus stop he told us to. He took us to the map that was fixed on a street corner. He apologetically informed us that we should have got off at least 3 stops earlier. Now what? Walk back! It was already 10:00 pm. We walked and walked and walked. Finally reached the rather small hotel, which was all closed and packed for the day. No restaurant. No room-service. We would think of that later. We first wanted to just dump the luggage in the room. The room...aha!...no more than 50 square feet. The tiniest hotel room I have seen all my life. Baby cribbing. Hubby cribbing. He was bent up on vacating immediately but it was 10:30 in the night dammit. We decided to wait till morning. It was finally 11 pm when we stepped out into the chill air to grab some food in a restaurant. The first stop was an extremely seedy looking Tuscan restaurant outside the hotel. More of a tavern. We heaved a sigh of relief when the waitress-with-too-much-make up-on squarely said, "sorry no vegetharian". We quickly darted across the road to another 'Italian' place - nice and warm, with some great food. The biggest blessing of the harrowing day was our baby. She was extremely co-operative. Walked all those miles without a single whine. Stayed hungry without a tear. As if she understood it all.
Phew! That was Day 1. Day 2 was great. We moved into the more expensive but lovely Novotel (thanks to some timely assistance by my brother-in-law). And as if by magic, everything started falling in place...and I started falling in love. A lot of lessons learnt (which I want to share sometime here).

State of mind on day 1: "Oh I hate Paris. We shouldn't have come here."
And now: "Oh I can't wait to go back there some day."

Europa! (Part Three): Paris!

Paris!
A wonderful city loaded with oomph, charm and charisma!

Our visit was just a sampler as it were, of this lavish spread of beauty and magnitude.

I think the best thing we (rather my husband did) was to pick up a five day pass through the Metro line in the city - the RER (the underground Metro) as soon as we landed. What an amazing connectivity! What surprises me is that the entire Metro system is so organised and standardised that it becomes completely reliable. For instance, take the train routes - each route is colour coded. Now where ever you look for a particular route, the font, the size, the colour everything remains just that. Absolutely no confusion.

So, after a harrowing first evening and the unsettling morning, our first 'sight seeing trip' was to Eiffel Tower. A truly grand assemblage of iron and steel. I never imagined it would be huge. (I couldn't help remember scenes from Queen). The moment we stepped in, it started raining and how! The heaviest rainfall in the season perhaps. Not just rain, the gusty and chilly winds just blew our minds out. All tourists were huddled at Level 2. So were we...sipping hot coffee and taking in the most amazing views from the very top. We unfortunately couldn't do much because of the rain. Also our baby, who was extremely patient and co-operative till this point started showing signs of weariness and homesickness. She wanted potatoes and ladies finger and nothing else. Now where do we find that in Paris? People had told us of Saravana Bhavan but we had no idea where it was. So we walked around looking for it. While we were walking, we passed by a FOREX shop and I thought I saw an Indian - a South Indian, a Tamilian to be precise. Like I said in another post, when you are desperate, even a Mexican starts looking like your countryman. But we still retraced our steps. And politely asked the gentleman, "Would you know where Restaurant Saravana Bhavan is?" He looked up and asked "Tamil pesuveengala?" Those were the sweetest words I had heard in a long time. I could hear Thavils and Sivakasi pattasu in the background. We eagerly replied in Tamil and he sweetly wrote down the train routes and off we went profusely thanking him. The little one who has always smirked at the mention of Saravan Bhavan in Chennai was jumping with joy. We finally reached the place after changing 2 trains. What do we see? A tiny T Nagar, with everything from 'Annachi Kadai' to 'Thanga Maaligai' to 'Anjappar'. And of course Saravana Bhavan. We got back to hotel with silly grins pasted on our faces. Food wasn't great but yet, we were pleased.

The next day, we headed to the famed Notre Dame. We weren't actually very keen on seeing exactly one place or the places listed in the 'must-see' list. We just wanted to explore. We stopped at street corners. We admired the roads. We gawked at the Palaces. We asked someone the directions for Notre Damme. But we found ourselves at the Saint Chapel instead. We didn't mind much. Its a chapel housing the most intricate stained glass paintings depicting scenes from the Bible. Beautiful!

That morning, we had looked up children's parks on the internet and found a place called Jardin d'Acclimation, one of the oldest amusement parks for children. So off we went. It's such a beautiful park with everything that a child would want. A zoo, an aquarium, plenty of space to run and play, a farm kind of a corner with all kinds of farm animals and huge sand pits, wooden houses, pine trees..you name it. Yes, there were rides and games too but as it was almost the end of the day, they weren't functional. (We weren't interested either!) There wasn't an whiff of commercialism about the place. If there is someone visiting Paris with children, I would definitely recommend this place. A great place to rest those tired touristy feet while your children get a break from seeing old building and statues which really don't mean much to them. Our moody little one shrugged at the Eiffel and said, "Its just a steel building. What's so great about it?". And at the Louvre, with a roll of the eyes"Oh, they are just drawings and paintings.". So you know what I mean!

Day three was important. On the agenda was Disneyland! Its been a month since we got back but I still see it in my dreams. It just transports you into a world of fantasies and fairies. Everybody knows about Disneyland. The lesser said the better. Unforgettable!

The last day. We made quick visit to the Louvre...so quick that I was almost in tears when I left it. We had a flight to catch that evening. So much to see. One needs at least  3-4 days, if not one week to take in all the wonderful pieces of art. I only feel the object on display needs to be labelled in English along with a little note about it. There is an audio guide but I its more useful for those who have time and the extra 7-12 euro to spare. And like a lot of people have told me before, Monalisa was a disappointment. Neither can you get up close and personal with her nor can you appreciate her beauty even from a distance. Such is the crowd there.

So, our almost 15 day trip to Europe came to an end. Three countries. Four cities. I was charmed by Florence but felt a sense of belonging in Paris. Probably that was the only city, we really 'lived' and 'explored' on our own. A regular traveller would call us lazy. Apart from Disneyland, we didn't have a major itinerary. We woke up late. Never stepped out before 11 am. We got to observe people on our journeys on the Metro. I'm sure we'd be scolded by friends for not visiting this or that place. I think by being laid-back, we were able to soak-in the real feel of the city. And I am glad.  I know I am going back to Paris. When and how, I don't know, but when I do, I know it is going to be a homecoming of sorts.