Friday, November 04, 2011

When I saw Ra.One

Much has been said, written and heard about this movie. No movie has caught the public’s imagination the way this one has. There have been comparisons galore. “His is bigger than his” type analogies are all over the electronic space around us. Love him, hate him or ignore him. But the juggernaut that is SRK rolls on.

I will be honest. I went to the theatre wanting to hate the movie. Ra.One – clever play on words – the name is in line with the current trend of naming movies after their villains. And a very menacing villain, indeed! But truth be told, I ended up liking the movie. By default, I do not like any SRK movie. By default, I want every SRK movie to crash and burn.

Yes, the movie is a mish-mash of almost everything good that Hollywood has thrown at us. Spiderman meets Terminator 2 / 3 meets Spy Kids meets blah blah. Who cares? ‘Cause it works. It works like nothing else has worked before. I do not understand the holier than thou attitude that we Indians revel in. Originality is overrated. There is one of only four or five stories in every movie. Even the fantastic Star Wars series is basically a father-son saga narrated in the backdrop of intergalactic war.

Read More.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

When Ghazal dies

Aankhon se aasuon ke marasim puraane hain
Mehmaan yeh ghar mein aaye to chubhta nahi dhuaan

Jagjit Singh. Naam hi kaafi hai. For 45 years his ghazals enthralled us. He had a unique gift – he made you feel as if he was singing only for you. And that voice! It enraptured us, kept us glued to him. To most of us, Ghazal is Jagjit Singh.

I consider myself blessed. My father has a decent collection of Jagjit and Chitra Singh’s live performances. I was introduced to music heaven as early as 4 or 5. The first Jagjit Singh ghazal I ever listened to was a recording of ‘Kal Chaudhvi Ki Raat Thi’ performed at South Hall. Smashing start, wouldn’t you say? It is perhaps his finest work. Ever. I did not know it then but I was sold. Completely sold on the man.

Read More.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Where are all the men?

Yes, there are billions out there with an appendage dangling between their legs. But the rate at which the Orlando Blooms and Robert Pattinsons are crawling out of the woodworks that very appendage will soon evolve into a vestigial organ. Something like the appendix which serves no useful purpose, yet retains the ability to put you through severe agony when it feels like it. Not that the penis does not put us through the misery of masking those untimely at-office hard-ons.

Born in the 80s, to me a man using a deodorant was as familiar a sight as a woman admitting to passing gas. While I do appreciate the good sense of using deodorants that the 90s brought, in the 00s men went completely berserk. To an extent, I can probably let slide the use of moisturisers and nail filers. But waxing? Seriously? Waxing?

I distinctly remember Akshay Kumar in a bedroom romp with Shilpa Shetty in the movie ‘Main Khiladi Tu Anadi’. He had enough hair on his chest to give a bear a run for his money. He was a man, a man’s man, the way all men had evolved over millions of years. Then he got married, probably had his masculinity taken away from him, and re-appeared topless devoid of all chest hair. There are countless scenes of Anil Kapoor in the shower in his earlier movies. He has stopped taking his shirt off. Whether it is his response to the neutering of the manly hero or due to his extreme shame at having gone the waxing way himself we will never know.

Most women would find all this talk of chest hair revolting, disturbing, may be even scandalous. That, however, would be missing the point. Chest hair, or references to it, is not nearly as disturbing as the fact that metro-sexuality seems to have become the accepted way of life. In their quest to become our equals, women have succeeded in converting men to women.

It does not end here. Married men are expected to not beer-burp or fart when their wives are around. In the unfathomable event that the unthinkable happens, lavish gifts have to be bestowed as an apology for letting their natural bodily functions occur. I see this evolving further. One day women like Renuka Chowdhury will have their way. Beer will be outlawed and all men will be required by law to have a butt-plug up their arse.

But we won’t have any men left by then. There will be women, and there will be those without a vagina. I am sure those without a vagina will have evolved mammary glands in human race’s eternal quest for gender equality.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The Great Indian Road Trip – Day 2

Itarsi – Bhopal – Agra – Bharatpur (780km; 5:30 am)

After a night spent at Meghdoot Hotel, Itarsi on sheets that only ever get washed when Lord Indra himself decides to send in the sporadic shower of rain, the wife and I made a dash for Bharatpur before the first rays hit the tarmac.

The distance of about a 100km or so to Bhopal takes more than two and a half hours. This is why:
  1. You are traversing through MP's infamous roads
  2. You will wait at least one level crossing out of the three as per law of averages
  3. You just have to stop at the stream running along the highway and get your feet wet
Most of MP is ghats. The views are breathtaking. The forests are still lush enough to seem other worldly. The wildlife seems not to care when you pass by. If you have the luxury of an additional day, take MP slow and breathe in nature at its best.

Bhopal is something else. It is possibly the only city on this planet where it is quicker to go through the city than take the bypass. The bypass is a 10km stretch resembling the result of a random gravel throwing contest. The Bolero struggled to average 12kmph. Yet, they have the gall to put up a signboard that limits maximum speed to 50kmph. Talk of rubbing salt into wounds!

Once you chug your way out of the bypass, things actually get worse. Apparently, everyone in Bhopal believes there is a different road to Agra. We must have stopped for direction three thousand two hundred and seventy seven times only to be told as many varied routes. I believe we clocked 50km simply going back and forth trying to locate NH 3. Here is a guide to a fellow traveller. Ask for directions to Rajgarh/Baora or the Ayodhya bypass.

NH 3 is driving heaven compared to all the roads post NH 7, especially the diversion laced NS 61/62 between Adilabad and Nagpur or the NH 69 between Nagpur and Bhopal, which is not saying much but it is the thought that counts. In fact, my wife formulated a theory that states 'Highways get their numbers designated based on how motorable they are'. Of course, that theory does not hold water once you hit NH 1A between Leh and Srinagar or NH 1D between Srinagar and Jammu.

Gwalior is a picturesque town that runs a narrow gauge railway. Since I am quite enthralled by relics of the past, this was a moment that made my eyes light up like a child’s on Christmas. Seeing people perched atop the train reminded me of the movie 'Gandhi'.

From Gwalior it is a couple of hours to Agra. The road dualises all the way through except for 10km in Rajasthan where you drive hoping that the car in front of you can find a way out. Neither does this stretch have roads nor does it have directions telling you how to locate one.

We learnt this the hard way, but to reach Bharatpur follow the signs to Jaipur that are displayed fairly prominently as you approach Agra. We lost an hour or so navigating through the city. The highway is lonely, more so when you are travelling with your wife at 9pm. It is dark, the darkest I have ever known a highway to be. It took us an hour to reach Bharatpur.Hotel Bharatpur Ashok Forest LodgeIt being off season, rooms in Hotel Bharatpur Ashok Forest Lodge (an ITDC Hotel) were available. At Rs. 2300 a night during off season it is a tad expensive, but worth every penny. It is located inside Keoladeo National Park, and being a Government of India enterprise they treat you like Royalty. The food is delicious, the way it usually is in Government hotels.

A word of advice. Before checking into a Hotel haggle. Haggle for a good price. All private hotels give you discounts, even if they happen to be the Taj. When you are on a 20 day road trip, a difference of a few hundred rupees a night can make the difference between visiting a place and going around it.

Also, check-in into tourism department hotels wherever available. They don’t give discounts but they provide you standard amenities like fresh towels, hot water, room service, laundry, etc. at reasonable rates.

To be continued...

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Great Indian Road Trip - Day 1

Hyderabad – Adilabad – Nagpur – Itarsi (780km; 6:00 am)

The journey of a thousand miles may begin with a single step. But a journey of 4500 miles begins with a paradigm shift. Not a shift in ideology for that is an exercise in self-righteousness (hence a subject non-conducive to most deliberations) but a shift in location.

There I was half-way across half the world somewhere in the jungles of Africa working a pretty fulfilling job. Of course jobs tend to be fulfilling in direct proportion to the paychecks they bring in. Even so, not everything can be monetized and Marylin Monroe was right in crooning that the best things in life were free. Three years on it was time to move on to the proverbial greener pastures.

The wife and I decided to go to Ladakh. The sensible among us fly to Srinagar or Kullu and then drive up to Leh. The smart ones fly down to Leh. We decided that driving all the way from Hyderabad was the way to do it. In these times of fast food and T20 cricket, it is fairly easy to instantly certify us lunatics. Well, who am I kidding? In most times it would be fairly easy to instantly certify us lunatics.

Anyway. The move back to India was made and the appropriate car was bought – a shiny black Bolero SLX. As the yarn is spun further more details about the car shall be divulged wherever appropriate.

The jaunt began on 20 September 2009 at 6:00am from the Script Writer house at Ameerpet, Hyderabad. As it has now come to be widely accepted yours truly got lost on a road straight as an arrow. It has never been satisfactorily explained how feats of such impressive magnitude are achieved time and again. Perhaps greatness is never meant to be fully understood. Despite all that we made it to Nirmal (about 270km off) in three hours courtesy the beautiful dual carriageway almost all the way through. National Highway (NH) 7 is possibly the best road in the country (shaayad ab tak Atalji lete hue hain us sadak par), which is not necessarily a good thing for it lulls you into believing that all roads are as benign.

About 80km or so from Nirmal is Adilabad, and then you cross over into Maharashtra. Whoever says Maharashtra has the best road network in India needs to have their head dipped in ice-cold water any day of the week and twice on a Sunday. The road to Nagpur is laced with at least 60 diversions, not counting the ones that are unmarked. It is hard enough making sense of them in the day leave alone the dangers of navigating after sunset for some diversions if not taken will land you in a 20ft deep pit. Most will plunge you into an abyss.

Nagpur is 485km from Hyderabad. 730 days of the formative years of my childhood were spent in this city. Yet I fail to understand why Nagpuris take pride in the city being the state’s second capital. I mean why be content with being the next best thing? It is a good place to have lunch, though. As you enter the city soon after you descend the first flyover on your right you find the famous Haldiram’s food outlet. You could eat there if that is the sort of thing you like to do or you could drive down a little further and find yourself a proper dhaba.

When doing a road trip, the most important thing is getting the right directions. And filling stations are great at giving you those. There is a Bharat Petroleum filling station after the Sitabuldi flyover. You will know the flyover once you take it because on your left would be Lokmat Bhavan, the city’s tallest building. The fuel station is located at a traffic junction. Take the left and head out straight on NH 69, the highway to Bhopal. Fuel in Nagpur is terribly expensive. Tank up only if you are in dire straits.

35km from Nagpur is Saoner. Somewhere after that is the border with Madhya Pradesh (MP). I would describe the stretch between Saoner and Multai as that quintessential ‘Haryaali aur Raasta’ in Manoj Kumar movies. It is the most scenic stretch of road. Absorb in the beauty of the Vindhya Mountains for it gets unbearably dusty after that.

The camera is the tool of the annoying tourist. It is sometimes a very good memory encapsulating device. Mostly it is just a source of proof for ‘I was there’. Keep it handy, especially at Betul. Some of the sunsets over the lake (Sampanna Jalashay) there will seem more unreal than modern art. More visually appealing too.

Itarsi is where we halted for the night. Considering how big the railway station is, one is bound to expect more of the town. Only, it is too much to expect even clean sheets in a hotel room. By then, you are usually past caring. You just flop on to the bed and crash. It fully makes you appreciate the depth of the Hindi proverb:

Neend na jaane tooti khaat
Bhookh na jaane jhootha bhaath

That said, drive up to Bhopal if you are not tired. It is an hour and a half away with much better accommodation.

To be continued...

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Decisions, decisions, decisions...

Every once in a while man comes to a decision. No offence meant to women for they also come to a decision as and when it is the right time in their lives to come to those sorts of decisions, whatever they may be. The use of the word 'man' is generic here. It is all encompassing, the same way the phrase 'Early Man' also includes (as an adolescent yours truly gleefully discovered in his history books) all the early women.

Make note that I did not make a gaffe like Neil Armstrong did when he landed on the moon and uttered those now indelible words, "... one small step for man... giant leap for mankind." He conveniently overlooked the insertion of the indefinite article 'a' before 'man', without which 'man' and 'mankind' mean the exact same thing. That we choose to ignore this grotesquery in the name of nitpicking explains the proliferation of bad grammar in our literature.

Moving on, every man must decide for themselves. Again, in non-sexist language, the conflict between grammatical numbers vis-à-vis singular/plural can be consigned to oblivion. However, feminists out there would hardly consider the use of 'man' to denote the entire human race non-sexist. See, I am in agreement with feminists in their push for non-sexist language. It is about time they got on with it and realised that everything else is quite bunkum.

The sharp among us would have observed that all I have succeeded in doing thus far is to postpone the inevitable, which is what most of us do before crossing over the threshold of the decision-making process. It is merely a reflection of our need to absolve ourselves of all responsibility for our actions. No wonder I am such a fan of our kind. To evolve through millions of years into a being with the greatest brain mass to body mass ratio, yet pass over all opportunity to exercise those grey cells is not to be scoffed at. Clearly, man has transcended the need to think.

Perhaps I have too. I was never a thinker. Yes, I can deliver day-long discourses on just about anything though that is largely due to the short-circuit between my mind and my tongue. But when it comes to making those life-altering decisions I have been known to take thousands of years. Some say I like making informed decisions. Others say I delay them till the time that making them does not matter any more.

Monday, January 26, 2009

When music had its Concorde moment...

Most of us born in the 80s tend to have grandeurs of eloquence. We believe the rest of humanity is a lump of turd, that it is somehow beneath us to even have some attributes in common with them. It is always us vs. them. Heaven forbid if we should ever share a taste in music or clothes. That would be sacrilege. As Motley Crue once famously put it, "The biggest career gaffe that we could ever make was getting caught having a glass of milk." Perhaps they did not put it quite this articulately with all the booze and drugs getting in the way of their coherence but you get the drift.

The 80s was all about excess. Rock n Roll excess, Metal excess, and even bad hair excess. For all that us 80s progenies make a fuss over, the one thing we completely disown is the decade's sense of style. We lean more towards 90s grunge styling. It is a reflection of the times that we live in - contradictions are everywhere.

The latter half of the 20th Century can be described musically. Elvis Presley ruled the 50s. It was all about The Beatles in the 60s. Def Leppard rocked the 70s. Michael Jackson was the king of the 80s. That MJ managed to carve out a throne for himself atop the metal mania is a feat in itself. Of course, for us 80s borns MJ's music is beneath us. Hypocrisy? No. That is what our trait is. As I often keep saying, you do not begrudge a Scorpion for its sting.

As the 80s gave way to the 90s and then to the 00s, 80s borns entered their teens and their adulthood. Ironic isn't it that not a single artist / band stands out in the last two decades? Oh there has been an explosion of 'artists'. Either none has been good enough to rule the roost or we are a screwed up generation that does not know what it wants.

Of course, if you ask most of us metal heads we will tell you that music died with Kurt Cobain's suicide. The bands we listen to even today belong to 80s and before - Quiet Riot, Metallica, Megadeth, Motley Crue, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Twisted Sister, to name a few. We wear our taste in music almost as proudly as a mother displays her child's trophies on the mantle piece. Unlike a mother though, looking down on someone who listens to a Britney or a Mariah is a given. Today's pop culture makes us cringe.

Being as I am, a result of the 80s, I believe we had our Concorde moment in music in the 80s. For the uninitiated, a Concorde moment is one where mankind reaches the pinnacle of its achievement - ever since the Concorde no passenger aircraft has been built that can fly supersonic, and perhaps none ever will be. It is all downhill from there.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Basic Instinct

As a race, we have always take things a little too far. Haven't believed in moderation. During the industrial revolution we worked the workers to death, which eventually led to Karl Marx having a field day. During renaissance we thought our brains out, which eventually led to grotesqueries that we are forced to acknowledge as pieces of art for fear of ridicule. During the writing of this post I was completely incapable of coming up with a third important period in history, which eventually led to the formation of this banal sentence.

As I said, extremes. With time, we have sunk lower into this nadir. It has never been truer than in this century. Green Peace activists have taken the red out of red meat, while at the same time we have dumped so much of our filth that mother nature might as well give up on us tomorrow. Why? At least let me enjoy my meat without making me think of the torture that the animal to which the shoulder on my table belonged to underwent. There is not much to look up to, is there?

They say the night is always darkest before the dawn. Things are at their worst before they get better. Just when we thought things could only get better, they give us hybrid cars. Really. Hybrid cars! Human ingenuity or human stupidity? Cars. It was the only constant in our lives. No matter what the world went through, there was always the comforting thought that a couple of hammer strokes in the right places would always get the car started. We did not have to depend on the bloke with a laptop to tell us what was wrong with our throttle response (This line, of course, is a complete rip-off of Neela's in the movie Tokyo Drift).

I remember the days when even the slightest of engine misfires told me if it was the fuel line, suspended matter in the fuel, spark plug, or distributor cap that was the culprit. Today it could be regenerative braking, battery (Yes, battery! Imagine that.), MPFI, Engine Management System or any or all of a host of other factors that we previously thought could only occur in the Star Trek universe. If I wanted to be bothered with all that I would call Captain Kirk. If I want a car, do not saddle me with a computer.

There was a time when if you could afford to buy a car you could not be bothered about the fuel prices. Those were simpler times, freer times. You could buy a Lincoln that did 8 miles to a gallon because, heck, you were rich enough to buy a car. Cars were never meant for anyone other than the rich. That is why we have public transport. That is why I love the Ferraris and the Lamborghinis. They have stuck to the basics while all around them have lost theirs.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How to write a blog post

Ask not what a blog post can do for you. Ask what you can do for a blog post. No, not for the altruistic reasons of working for a bigger cause (all that is humbug) but for the obviousness of it being insanely simpler to answer the latter. You can do nothing for a blog post, save for creating it. Then again, human beings have been making babies for eons and look at where that has brought us.

Before purists start to frown (do purists ever not frown?), it should be stated that this blog is not a 10 step guide to Nirvana. The Buddhists have the 8-fold path, the Jains have the 4-fold path. This needs verification - since this blog cannot be prosecuted, I am not going to spend my energy checking facts. That reminds me of this statement made in the US Senate about the right to be entitled to your own opinion but not to your own facts, which is a complete load of bull since it violates my fundamental right as a being on this planet to be entitled to whatever the hell I want to be entitled to, not to mention how much more colourful life could be if we all had different definitions for, say, the colour red.

That brings us to the subject of stilettos. <Trinity impression begins> No? Let me tell you what I believe. I believe that my blog means more to me than it does to you. I believe if you are really serious about deciphering it, you are going to need my help. And since I am the author of this blog, if you don't like it I believe you can go to hell. Because you are not going anywhere else <Trinity impression ends>. Stilettos are such fine creations, exceeded in fineness only by the fine legs that go into them. Speaking of fine legs, I have not seen a pair finer than those belonging to the sassy Stacy Keibler.

We should pause here to note the sickness of the jibe made by whoever it was who chose to coin the word ‘lisp’ to describe the condition that lisp describes. Now that it has been noted, we can choose to move on. Only, I prefer being here. Why move on when you can be perfectly happy not moving on? Besides, if Einstein was right (and I would like to think that he was – not for any good that this may bring to mankind but to avoid the disaster its falsehood can cause, a case in point being all nuclear reactors suddenly deciding to shove E=mC2 right up Einstein’s backside turning this planet into one giant fireball (on second thoughts, that may be fun)) no matter how far you travel you would end up where you started. Perhaps that is why all political speeches never seem to get anywhere.

It is not all bad. Aside from the obvious plus of no one ever needing to listen to speeches (which, by the way, does not need an Einstein to point out) there is also the comforting relief that one part of this world is always going to get rich by sucking on the other part, or for that matter, one part of this world is always going to make the other part read their blog posts by suckering them into it, evolution my fine tight ass!