Monday, January 30, 2006

Rang de Basanti - A Cinematic Taj Mahal

Cast: Aamir Khan, Siddharth, Kunal Kapoor, Sharman Joshi, Soha Ali Khan, Atul Kulkarni, Alice Patten
Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Every Friday, Bollywood dishes out the usual fare of crap, lousy, clichéd, plagiarized movies which not only degrade Indian cinema but also make ardent movie fans like me cringe with horror. But once in while Bollywood outshines and outclasses itself. Rang De Basanti (RDB) is one such rare instance where Indian cinema has not only redeemed itself but actually taken the step up in movie making; it is a film as all films should be made- Entertainment with a message. It is Indian Cinema at its very best.
The best part of the movie is its narration. Very rarely do directors credit the Indian audiences with intelligence and hence end up explaining each and every detail. Thankfully Rakeysh Mehra does not feel the need to educate the audience and narrates the story taking the cine-goers’ knowledge for granted. The story is about Sue (Alice Patten in a brilliant performance) who comes to India armed with the diary of her grandpa who was a jailor in during the British Raj. She is in Delhi to make a documentary about the freedom struggle based on the characters in the diary — Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh et al. In India she meets Sonia(Soha) and her gang of friends - Aamir (DJ) — the high-voltage Punjabi who races, boozes, fights, dances and at times sings those gems of 70's. Sharman (Sukhi) — the butt of most jokes who fears he will die a virgin. Kunal Kapoor (Aslam) —the lone Muslim in the gang who is loathed by his family for his 'Hindu friendships'.Karan (Siddharth) — A business man’s son who hates politics, higher studies abroad and his mobile when it shows 'dad calling'.
Atul Kulkarni(Lakshman) plays the role of a student “Saffron” party leader who hates “Apni sanskriti ki hatya” but is convinced by Sue to act in her movie. The care free, aimless youngsters come of age when Sonia’s fiancĂ© (Madhavan) an ace pilot is killed when his MiG Crashes. The Government blames it on pilot error to cover shady defense deals of the MiG spares.
DJ and gang take matters into hands and solve the problem….How? Well you will have to watch the movie for that.
The movie touches a chord in the heart. It actually makes one realize how impotent we have become, how callous our attitude is, towards society towards our country and towards life in general.
It does have its flaws though, for one it’s a tad long. The climax is disappointing and the last 20 odd minutes of the movie defy logic as well as common sense.But even with these few glitches the brilliant script, the amazing cinematography the avant garde performances of the entire cast and a refreshingly new way of story narration makes this movie a must watch. Aamir Khan is at his usual best, Soha Ali Khan shows us that she has indeed inherited her mother’s acting genes. Siddharth , Atul, Sharman and Kunal too are terrific in their roles but there are two scene stealers in the movie - Alice Patten and A.R. Rahman’s music.
RDB is a must watch…one of the best movies to hit the screen in a long time.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Band Names

1. The Bangles - They were originally called the Bangs. However, that name was already in use by another band, so the band added -les, in tribute to the Beatles. A second story is that the band had been informed that they needed to change their name en route to a show in Las Vegas; one of the band members scrawled "Bang-less" on a napkin and the "Bangles" were born.
2. Beastie Boys - The name Beastie is an acronym standing for "Boys Entering Anarchistic States Towards Internal Excellence"
3. The Beatles - A tribute to Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Beatles is spelled with an A because rock and roll was called "beat music" in England at the time. Also a reference to "The Wild One", in which one character confronts another after the latter's extended absence, telling him that "the beetles [girls] missed you!"
4. Bee Gees - A contraction of "Brothers Gibb"
5. Black Sabbath - Inspired by a 1963 Boris Karloff horror film of the same name.
6. Blink 182 - The band was originally called Blink but an Irish band ( Blink by the same name threatened legal action. The band added the completely random number 182 to the end of their name.
7. Celibate Rifles - the opposite of Sex Pistols.
8. Daft Punk - from a music review that described a record from their first group (called Darling) as "a bunch of daft punk".
9. Depeche Mode - Inspired by a French fashion magazine of the same name. It translates to English as "Fast Fashion" or "Fashion News"
10. The Doors - Jim Morrison took the name from a book about mescaline called The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley, which in turn took its name from a quote by William Blake (If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is: Infinite.).
11. Duran Duran - Taken from the name of a character, Dr. Durand-Durand from the cult Science Fiction film Barbarella.
12. E Street Band - Bruce Springsteen's band was named after E Street (E, not East) in Belmar, New Jersey, because the band used to practice at the E Street home of David Sancious' mother. (Belmar's 10th Avenue was the subject of Springsteen's song "Tenth Avenue Freezeout".)
13. Foo Fighters - Foo fighter was a nickname for Unidentified Flying Objects during World War II by Allied pilots.
14. Fountains of Wayne - Named after a New Jersey lawn ornament store.
15. Guns n' Roses - From the names of the co-founders Axl Rose and Tracii Guns.
16. Iron Maiden - named after the original Iron maiden, a torture device. Often erroneously thought to have been a reference to Margaret Thatcher.
17. Led Zeppelin - After being told by friend and fellow musician Keith Moon that the band would go over like a "lead zeppelin", the band distorted the spelling (so that the name would be pronounced like the metal lead, rather than lead singer) and took the name.
18. Metallica - Named after an underground metal magazine from the early 1980s.
19. Moby - Richard Melville Hall (a.k.a. Moby), took his stage name from the book Moby Dick, which was written by his great-uncle, Herman Melville
20. Oasis - after a nightclub in their hometown of Manchester, England in the 1960s associated with early performances of The Beatles.
21. Pink Floyd - The band was originally called The Pink Floyd Sound, after blues musicians Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. Fans later abbreviated the band name to Pink Floyd, which stuck and became the official band name.
22. Radiohead - They originally used the name On A Friday, a name referring to the only time where all band members were able to practice. Radiohead was taken from a Talking Heads song.
23. R.E.M. - The name was selected by band members out of a dictionary, because they liked the sound and ambiguity. It refers to the rapid eye movement phase of sleep.
24. The Rolling Stones - The band was named after the song Rollin' Stone by Muddy Waters, one of the band's idols.
25. Savage Garden - Their name is taken from The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice.
26. UB40 - Named after the U.K. Social Security form for unemployment benefit.

Martina Hingis - A true tennis great.

When Martina Hingis hit a forehand long in her encounter against Kim Clijsters in the Australian Open the crowd rose to their feet not to cheer Clijsters for her victory but to cheer Hingis .Martina Hingis was the queen of tennis when a foot injury put her out for two years.Doctors said she would never be able to play again but the Swiss miss fought against all odds and after a two year lay off showed that she still had the game to unsettle even the best.
I am sure that asthe year progresses Martina will get even better and will rightfully claim her place at the top.

Baghdatis sets the Aussie Open on fire.

Unseeded Greek player,Marcos Baghdatis set the Open on fire by beating David Nalbandian in a thrilling five setter.Down two sets to love the 20 year old from Cyprus showed gladitorial spirit to win the remaining three sets.Baghdatis had already scalped the likes of Andy Roddick and Ivan Ljubicic and played some scintillating tennis to oust Nalbandian to reach the Ausralian Open final.Mens' tennis has lost some of its charm and has often has been termed boring since the retirement of Sampras and the total domination by of Roger federer.Hopefully Baghdatis will continue his giant killing spree and derail the FedExpress.

Quotes from The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

Wage war against weaker thoughts that have crept into the palace of your mind. They will see they are unwanted and leave like unwelcome visitors.

Everything is always created twice first in your mind then in reality.

Act as if failure is impossible, and your success will be assured. Wipe out every thought of not achieving your objectives, whether they are material or spiritual. Be brave, and set no limits on the workings of your imagination.
Never be a prisoner of your past. Become the architect of your future.
You will never be the same.

When you control your thoughts, you control your mind. When you control your mind, you control your life. And once you control your life, you become the master of your destiny

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual
beings having a human experience.

The quality of your life will come down to the quality of your contribution.

The best time to plant a tree was forty years ago. The second best time is today.

Nourish your spirit. Do the things you fear.

Sure I am that this day we are masters of our fate, that the task which has been set before us is not above our strength; that its pangs and toils are not beyond my endurance. As long as we have faith in our own cause and an unconquerable will to win, victory will not be denied us.

One must not allow the clock and the calendar to blind him to the fact that each moment of life is a miracle and a mystery.

Self knowledge is the stepping stone to step mastery.

Every second you spend thinking about someone elses dream, you take time away from your own.

The purpose of life is a life of purpose.

What really separates people who are habitually upbeat and optimistic from those who are consistently miserable is how the circumstances of life are interpreted and processed.

Its only when you have mastered the art of loving yourself that you can truly love others.

You will never be able to hit a target that you cannot see.

Always declare your goals to the world. Once you make your goals known to the world, there will instantly be pressure on you to work towards its fulfillment, since no one likes to look like a failure.

Courage gives you the self control to persist where others have failed.

The only limits on your life are the ones that you set yourself.

Fear is nothing more but a mental monster you have created, a negative stream of consiousness.

It is not what you will get out of the books that is so enriching. Its what the books will get out of you that will ultimately change your life.

You sow a thought, you reap an action.
Reap an action, you sow a habit.
Sow a habit, you reap a character.
Sow a character, you reap a destiny

One must never live in the thick of thin things.

Wage war against the weaker thoughts that have crept into the palace of your mind.

They will see that they are unwanted and leave like an unwelcome visitor.

When you control your thoughts, you control your mind. When you control your mind, you control your life. And once you reach a stage of being in total control of your life you become a master of your destiny.

Time slips through our hands like grains of sand, never to return.

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Having the courage to say no to small things in life gives you the power to say yes to big things.

The most productive people in this world have cultivated the habit of doing things that less productive people don’t like doing, even though they ( more productive ppl) too might not like doing them.

Laughter opens your heart and soothes your soul. No one should ever take life so seriously that they forget to laugh at themselves.

Don’t accept a life of mediocrity when you hold such infinite potential within the fortress of your mind. Dare to tap into your greatness. Its your birthright.

Act as if failure is impossible and your success will be assured.

The quality of your life will come to the quality of your contribution.

Your life moves to a magical dimension when you start striving to make the world a better place.

Happiness is a journey, not a destination.

Hope for what will appear in your future is what gets you out of bed in the morning and what keeps you inspired through your days.

Today is the day to enjoy the fruits of your efforts. Today is the day to seize the moment and live a life that soars. Today is the day to live from your imagination and harvest your dreams. And please, never, ever forget the gift of family.

Life dosent always give you what you ask for it, but it always gives you what you need.

Your genius will shine and happiness will fill your life the instant you discover your higher purpose and then direct your energies towards it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Numbers Game

Nature has an affinity for certain numbers and unknowingly they become a part of our life. There are two numbers which play a prominent part in our life and rarely do we think twice about them. One of them is three.From the holy trinity to the third umpire; three is a number which is as frequent as the strikes in Bengal.
Christianity swears by the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Hinduism has its Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh and the "Three Lokas".Lord Brahma has three faces whereas Lord Shiva has three eyes. There are the three Musketeers and the three stooges, there’s the Good the Bad and the Ugly. Baseball has three strikes whereas basketball has a three pointer, cricketing decisions are referred to the "Third umpire" .Even Charlie's Angels are three in number. We have three dimensions. Newton postulated three Laws of Motion (even Asimov postulated three laws of robotics).Even the greatest epic of the 20th Century, Lord of the Rings was in three parts. Our national flag is the Tri color. Counting to three is common in situations where a group of people wish to perform an action in synchrony: Now, on the count of three, everybody pull! Have you heard of a three piece suit and what about the third finger gesture? India is a third World country, S.O.S is also in three. The most glaring example of "three" is our planet Earth; it’s the third planet from the sun. The three blind mice, the three men in a boat, the three wise men,land-water-air,examination durations are of three hours, any Tom,Dick or Harry the list is endless. So three cheers for "three".
The other number is seven. We have the seven seas, there are seven colors in the rainboow)remeber VIBGYOR) and seven musical notes. We are in seventh heaven when we are happy. A week has seven days and who hasn’t heard of lucky seven? There’s the seven year itch and what about the seven deadly sins. There are seven continents on planet earth and according to Shakespeare Seven Ages of man. The Harry Potter Series has seven books, Lord Voldemort has split his life in seven horcruxes and we have the Magnificent Seven. The greatest of them all James Bond zero-zero- seven. The number of openings into the human head are seven(mouth, two eyes, two ears, two nostrils).In Hindu weddings the bride and groom take Seven "Pheras"(rounds) around the fire and if you are an amateur astronomer all you have to do is gaze at the sky and you will spot the seven sisters. The world has threes and sevens galore, so dear friends give these numbers a second or should I say a third thought .Life indeed is a numbers game.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Bet - A Short Story

The flare of the match stick lit up the dark room. Vivek lit the candle cursing the electricity board for the zillionth time. “What do we do now? How do we watch the remaining movies? ,” whined Shalini. “Well guys, I just called the electricity department and they say our transformer is gone, that means no power till morning” quipped Nalini. “Why don’t we go out?” said Gail and four pairs of eyes turned towards me. “Whats the POA (Plan of Action) Sid?” I looked at them, Vivek, the Konkani from Kerala, Gail from Mumbai, Shalini from all over India (her dad was in the army) and Nalini the “Telugu” who had lived all her life in Gujarat. We had first met in our first term in MBA.The girls were in HR and Vivek and I were from Marketing. We met through common friends and realized that we shared the same interests and hated the same people in college and lo we were the best of pals. I was the motor mouth of the group, the guy who had a word (actually many) to say about anything and everything and hence nick named Sid (after the fast talking weasel in the movie Ice age).As four pairs of eyes stared expectantly at me I said “Why don’t we all go to B&C?”
Bottles and Chimneys (B&C) is a famous pub in Hyderabad and one of our favorite haunts. We were seated in those lounge sofas that are like open Venus flytraps and you keep sinking in. I put a cigarette to my lips and a blue flame shot from my golden lighter as I clicked its round ivory “button”. The lighter was a prized possession. It was gift from my uncle. It was German made and my Uncle had boasted that it was the finest piece of German technology. The lighter was rectangular in shape, gold coated. It had an ivory button shaped knob at a corner and a small nozzle. The lighter was a marvel of German technology because it always lit up on one click. My uncle had said that the only time it needed two clicks was when the butane got over.
The girls gave me disgusted looks as I puffed away.Shalini said something about passive smoking, someone about lung cancer but Nalini hit me where it hurt most. She said “You only smoke because you have that lousy lighter”.
“Don’t call that lighter lousy” I retorted, my voice rising, partly due to the loud music and partly due to the tequila dissolving in my blood stream “It’s a marvel of German technology, always lights up on the first click.”
“Really? Would you bet on it?” said a voice and we whirled round. There was a man in his mid forties. He had unkempt hair and stubble. He was short and had a gray shawl wrapped around him. He looked like any other man on the street but for his eyes. His eyes were thin slits almost reptilian and were blood shot. “Would you bet on it?” he asked again.
Before I knew it I blurted out “Of course old man but whats the bet?” He looked at us and drew out a duffel bag and laid out two bundles of neatly stapled 500 rupee notes.
“If you can light that lighter of yours ten times in succession I will pay you 1 lakh rupees”
“And what if I am not able to?”
He paused and said “If you are not able to, you will have to give me your right hand my friend.”
The girls did an “AAh”, Vivek stood up and I felt a queasy sensation in my stomach. “Don’t do it Sid” pleaded Nalini, “Don’t be a fool Srikant”said Vivek.
“So sissy you man enough to take the bet!!” said the man in the gray shawl.
I looked at him and then at the money and then my friends. I took a long puff at my cigarette, not knowing at that time that it would be my last and said “I will do it man, my lighter has never failed me and it will never fail me”. The bet was on.
The blue flame darted immediately at my click. “One” said Vivek, the man in the gray shawl stood emotionless, his slits piercing into me like two Mongolian daggers. Two, three, four, my “precious” kept my faith but at “five” things started to happen. I noticed that the music had died down and there was a considerable crowd around us .The man suddenly took out a clamp from his bag and laid it out on the table.
“Six” said someone, the man removed an axe and laid it on the table. The sight of the axe sent a murmur through the crowd and I felt a drop of sweat trickle down my spine. “Seven” and the man started sharpening the axe on a small grinding stone. My shirt was damp with sweat. There was pin drop silence in the pub, even the bar tenders had joined the crowd. “Eight”, I looked at the girls they had turned a shade paler. The man though started murmuring “I will get a hand, I will get a hand” and stared at my right hand and said “What a lovely hand I love you my hand”. My fingers trembled; my heart was pounding like a piston of an F1 car. “Nine”, Beads of sweat were all over my forehead. The man started smiling, singing and was getting all agitated like a kid about to get his candy. The entire pub was under the spell of a nervous tension. I brought my finger to the ivory button, the man was practicing his axe swing, I closed my eyes felt my finger touch the ivory button.
What happened next was a blur, suddenly there was a lot of shouting and screaming and before I could press the button I was knocked down and by the time I got up I could see cops all around. The man in the gray shawl was held by two constables, he was writhing like a captured snake and kept shouting” I have a bet to win I have to have his hand .The tenth time the lighter has to be lit the tenth time” the constables dragged him away. The inspector told us that he was a psychopath who had escaped from the mental asylum. He had j robbed a jewellery shop and had cut off the owner’s right hand. The police left after asking afew questions and reprimanded me for the bet.
We sat down and Nalini said “That was a narrow escape Sid” I looked at her in mock bravado and said “Come on! I would have won the bet and won the money, the cops ruined it all.” I pulled out a cigarette and clicked the ivory button,” Click, click, click!” The lighter didn’t light up.
The lighter never ever did work after that “tenth” time., I don’t know why and I never bothered to find out but I did quit smoking cause whenever I put a cigarette between my lips I always remember the Bet and how I was one click away from losing my right hand.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Raj and the Maharaja

Raj Singh Dugarpur has been an enigma of Indian cricket for the last few decades.As his name suggests he is one of the few Indians who still live in the "Raj".Here is the only Indian who at India's finest hour,the 1983 world cup ,said that it was a fluke and that the Windies lost the cup rather than India win it.Here is the man who doesnt consider Kapil Dev to be a great player even though he has been voted the best Indian player of the lst millenium.
He is a staunch critic of Jagmohan Dalmiya,but when he had the reigns in his hand what did Dungarpur do?He hoisted Azhar as captain,made the Indian team lick the boots of any white team they played against and kept players like Ravi Shastri(who could have been the greatest Indian captain) out of the side.Regionalism,groupism and even (as later incidents showed) match fixing were thriving in his era.Dalmiya for all his faults has put India in a very commanding position in the ICC and Dungarpur has been a dismal failure.
His diatribes against Sourav Ganguly arguably the best Indian captain are totally unprecedented and shows how an insignificant person like Raj Singh can say anything and get away with it.
What is Dungarpur's contribution to Indian cricket? A big zero,actually he has done more harm to it.On the other hand Ganguly has served Indian cricket like no other player .He instilled the Aussie spirit in the team.I am no Ganguly fan and agree that his days are over but we as true cricket lovers should not let parasites like Raj Singh belittle our heroes and get away from it.I am sure no one will remember Dungarpur 50 years from now but Sourav Ganguly (love him or hate him) has already become a part of cricketing folklore and will always be regarded as one of the greatest Indian players.The days of Raj are over Long live the Maharaja .