Saturday, June 23, 2007

Jhoom Barabar Jhoom - after the intermission!

A delightful first half ruined by a overtly emotional and long second half is the general complaint we hear about movies. Jhoom Barabar Jhoom (JBJ) turns out to be otherwise. Generally, the first half of a movie raises expectations and when we are let down in the second half, we come back feeling cheated. Here, I thought the first half was so dull and drab that I was yawning in anticipation of the second half. And when the second half turned out to be as delightful as it was, I was raring to kick Shaad Ali for having given so little thought to the first half.

The first half turned out to be excruciatingly slow, sync sound (was it?) ruining half the conversations. Most of the dialogues were totally inaudible adding to my woes. The songs were almost completely unnecessary, though the locales and the choreography made them eminently watchable. So much so, that I ended up not minding them. But after the interval, after the Bol na Halke Halke number, the movie took off in a way that I never imagined. The moment the leads realize that they like each other, the story moves along entirely different lines. And the 20 minute dance competetion is a riot. I can just see the fun that the cast and crew must have had during the making of the song. Each and everyone of them let go completely and the end with Big B revealing how it all started was a complete cracker.

Coming to the actors, they were funtastic. Abhishek and Preity were pretty good as usual, I was pleasantly surprised by Bobby's act in the second half and Lara was the life of the entire second half. Glad to see that the blink and miss act in Fanaa led her to this. Hanif bhai or Hafi bhai was super. Ive never been to Southall but the depiction was funtastic, making me want to go there as soon as possible. Shankar - Ehsaan - Loy's foot tapping numbers were ably supported by Vaibhavi Merchant's outstanding choreography and Ayananka Bose's superior camera work. Big B continues to defy his age and surprise us effortlessly.

Shaad Ali should have taken care in the first half, it is a pity that a lot of people will miss the well made second half of the movie as it seems poised to go down as one of the biggest flops this year. As someone said, patience pays and if you can bear the first half, the second half will more than make up for it!

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Shankar is called a socially conscious director. After witnessing one more time his penchant for spending insane amounts of money on his spectacles (they no longer remain movies), I doubt it seriously. Sivaji, for instance, is a movie about black money in India and how it is widening the gap between rich and poor in India. Seeing the amount of money that was spent to make the movie and the amount of business it did, I wonder how much of the much maligned black money went into the whole business of shooting and selling the movie. If Shankar is such a socially conscious person as he wants us to believe through his movies, let him cut down the budget of his movies by a tiny fraction and put it to some better purpose, like the affordable education that all his protagonists go on endlessly about.

Coming to Sivaji, Shankar makes sure that the 65 Crore Rupees spent on the movie is seen on screen. Every scene is staged with a lot of grandeur and the songs are obscenely lavish. In this all consuming desire to be grand, Shankar misses the most important thing, richness of emotion in the movie. Result: this is a movie that leaves you cold. You love The Superstar's eccentricities, his mannerisms (tossing the coin, the chewing gum rebounding off various surfaces and the superb drumming on his bald pate), laugh at his efforts to become fair etc etc etc, but you dont feel bad when he loses everything. Post interval, 40 odd minutes are devoted to Rajni getting back to a Prado from the local bus, but this is told in such a documentary fashion, that you are waiting for it to finish and the movie to get back to its masala mode.

Screenplay was a strong point in some of Shankar's early movies and so was emotion. There was a strong reason for his earlier protagonists to do what they did, let that be murder or robbery and you end up sympathising with them instead of treating them as murderers or robbers. Here, the strong motivation is lost, Sivaji is shown as a man who has it all and gains everything back within minutes of losing it - show me some hardships and then show me the ride back to luxury - and I will love it. The screenplay moved between one grand scene to one grand song to one grand fight and then back to a grander scene to a grander song to a grander fight and then onto.....

All that apart, Sivaji is a funtastic treat for Rajni fans, he plays out his role with elan, wears all the weird getups that Shankar planned for him and does wonderfully well in the songs where he pays tribute to other stalwarts. Shreya looks like a dream, someone who suits Shankar's grandiose dreams. Vivek is good and gels well with Rajni. Suman was good, though his role limited him to mostly being someone who flashes his yellowed teeth. The songs were brilliantly shot, Manish Malhotra's costumes and Thota Tharani's sets and KV Anand's cinematography were fantastic and elevated the songs to an different high altogether. Rahman's music was great, but did not fit in completely with the movie. The superstar is not my ideal candidate to do hip-hop or latina songs probably.

Shankar seems to be losing it...his stories getting thinner and thinner, his protaognists geting weirder and more superhuman with every outing and worse, his penchant for richness and grandeur overshadowing everything. I will however be ready for Shankar's next, no expectations of a strong script or a satisfying movie, just three hours of grandiose sets, fantastically staged action sequences and 5-6 music videos each with a different setting...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The temptress called life

I have always been a person who believed that we are nothing but puppets whose invisible strings god yields and makes us run about to his whims and fancies. There are people who believe so much in fate that they actually dont do anything, they think that since fate will run its course anyway, it is completely useless for them to attempt to do something. It is indeed grim that we are but mere puppets, but sometimes it strikes me that ours is a very fragile existence. Sometimes, like today, Im rudely awakened to the possibility that any moment in our lives might be our last on the earth.

As I was getting ready for my usual evening wanderings today, I received news that one of my batchmates during engineering had passed away a couple of days ago. The news was put on the group email and just mentioned her death. Frantic phone calls to a couple of other friends confirmed that the person in question was killed in an accident. The girl who died was my age, had just embarked on a new job and was returning from a pleasure trip to a waterfall near Bangalore. I took the news on face value first and then realized how deeply it had affected me. I could not take part in any conversation around me for the rest of the evening and was completely distracted.

As is illustrated by this incident, life is fragile. This moment you might be alive and vibrant and happy and the next moment, life might be snuffed out of you. Live life while you still have the chance to live it. Do not let all the beautiful moments pass by, live every moment. Do not leave all the simple pleasures in life waiting for a bigger joy in life to come your way. That might never come along and you will end up not having had any happiness in life at all. Take a minute and smell the roses, as I love saying. Life is too precious a gift to be wasted upon trivial matters.

Never for a moment, think that you are unfortunate and rue your existence. As Dr. Christian Barnard would say, every living moment is for celebration. As he writes in his wonderful piece called 'In Celebration of Being Alive', live and experience every moment and do not be a bystander in your own life.

PS: The girl apparently died cause no hospital would take her in as it was a medico legal case. Two doctors I know said that they could not blame the hospitals as if any of these cases leads to a death, the hospital might lose its license. If so, then the law that does this is inhumane. If the law lets a person who has a shot at life die a dog's death, it is no law at all and it needs to be changed immediately...
PPS: RIP Sowjanya...

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Eternal Question - Chicken or Egg!

This is one tricky question that a lot of people quote when in a tricky situation. I was asked a similar question in an entirely different context today. India is a democracy, while we are at it, let me emphasize that we are the world's largest democracy. It is the people who elect their leaders, whoever they decide to crown king becomes a pain in the neck for the next 5 years, or as long as people are willing to have them in power. Why then, does India have so much corruption? Why then, do we have leaders who can stoop to any levels? Why then, do we have leaders who help in human trafficking? Is it a case of the people electing bad leaders? Or is it a case of good people turning bad once they are elected?

The question was very similar to the chicken and egg conundrum. Who is to blame can never be decided. When one candidate has served 4 years in prison and another has served 6 years, it is natural for people to vote for the guy who has served 4 years. For them, it is afterall a case of choosing the lesser evil. In states like Bihar, no one apparently steps out of their houses on election day. Government employees treat election day like another holiday. This is because, no matter who comes to power, their lives will go on in pretty much the same fashion, whereas if they decide to elect a person to power, there will be no life in future to discuss. In such a scenario, how can we expect that a person will elect who he thinks is just, fair and honest (blah, blah and mmore blah).

To our leaders there is only one thing I think that is applicable for them. We do not begrudge you your positions. You need to make money while the sun shines and by all means go ahead and do it. All I ask is that even if you pocket 25% of the funds received by any project, ensure that the remaining goes to public work. Akin to our cricketers who are in form. They get ads, sponsors and the works immediately after a couple ok knocks. And we do not begrudge the money they earn and do not raise our voice until they get knocked out of the world cup. Similarly, we know that you have spent a lot to become an MLA or an MP. Earn it back but do some worthwhile work meanwhile.

Which again brings us back to the first thing! Why is the MLA having to spend so much to win the elections? This is happening because votes are being sold. Corrupt people are electing corrupt governments. Which again brings us back to the questions? Are the people corrupt or is it the politicians???

PS: Take a break from the heavy stuff and check out some cool pics from Goa on my frnds blog.