Monday, February 28, 2005


You already know enough about my views about these oscars. So, I don't think there's any need to tell once more which ones made me happy and which ones didn't. (Oh what the heck... can't resist myself... YOOHOOOO for The Incredibles and Charlie Kauffman!!!) . So, the only thing left to say about last night is that Ziyi Zhang didn't disappoint me... she was GORGEOUS!!! Others to catch my eye (and stimulate some drooling) were... Kate Winslet, Emmy Rossum, Charlize Theron and Scarlett Johansson. Young Catalina Sandino Moreno looked great too. But Natalie Portman disappointed. :( She should shoot her dress designer at the first opportunity.

Click on the links to see some pics (all courtesy Getty Images).

Update: Mathur pointed out that some pic links aren't working, so I have changed the links. courtesy IMDb and now.)

Update 2: While looking for images of Catalina, I stumbled on this fundoo image! coutesy Imdb/Wireimage again.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Academy is all set!!

to hand out the oscars for 2004! It starts in about 2 hours so I thought a quick pre-awards post will be entirely in order.

Here are the results that will make me very happy, if they turn out to be true!

Actress-Catalina Sandino Moreno (even though Hilary Swank is most likely going to win. And she'd deserve it too. Not that I have seen Being Julia or Vera Drake, but Hilary Swank was stunning in Million Dollar Baby)
Actor-Don Cheadle
Supporting Actress-Natalie Portman (not that I am sure she deserves it. But then I have a crush on her, you can't argue with that!! :) )
Animated Feature-The Incredibles (if they don't give it to Incredibles, I'm going to curse the academy.)
Original Screenplay-Eternal Sunshine
Adapted Screenplay-Before Sunset
Cinematography-A very long engagement/House of Flying Daggers
Documentary-Born into Brothels
Short Film-Little Terrorist

Saturday, February 26, 2005


I saw Black when I was visiting Mathur in Chicago (in what was the biggest multiplex I have ever seen - with 30 screens!!) and decided to post a mini-review on this blog. However, other things came up and I never got down to do it. Until now, that is.

Black is a good movie. A very good movie even. There are a lot of things about Black that are even better than some of the best indian movies I have ever seen. And yet, I don't think I'd include Black in that list of "some of the best indian movies I have ever seen".

Like I said, it has a lot of very good things. It is one of the most wonderfully shot indian movie you'd have seen. The lights, the shadows, the colors and the lack of color all work to set up a mood that is both sad and joyful at the same time. And the sets have a lot to do with that too. They help in expressing some of the sadness of Michelle's life and yet, the sheer beauty and grandeur makes you feel good about the art itself. Which, in a sense, is also a weakness of the movie. The setting is so far removed from the theme that the movie fails to touch you. It failed to touch me at least. Which is a pity, because its theme lent itself to be made into a very sensitive movie. Bhansali, however, ends up making a sentimental movie. A movie, that reminds you at every juncture that you are supposed to feel sad about this person. That you are supposed to be touched by this particular scene. If you need to remind the audience by going over the top, you are never going to touch their hearts. The most poignant moments in the movies are the ones where nothing much is happening on the screen. The emotions well up as a result of the understanding of the situation. They don't need to be forced by chaining up your protagonist to a bed or presenting a long, sentimental monologue to be spoken at the dinner table.

As I see it, Black is Bhansali's best movie by a big margin. But it shows some of his flaws just like his other movies. He has always been prone to going over the top when depicting either happiness or sorrow. And he does exactly that here. What makes it even more distant to the viewer is that you never identify with any of the characters. Because it is set in a world we never see around us. A very rich anglo-indian family of (presumably) first half of 1900s living in a hill station is not something a lot of people will identify with. Yes, its a setting that allows you to compose breathtakingly beautiful frames. And there is nothing wrong with making a beautiful movie for its own sake. But you have to give up any hopes to draw some involuntary tears if you choose that way to go. Problem with Bhansali is that he likes the medium so much that he can't resist going all the way with it and yet, he likes to be seen as a sensitive person resulting in portrayals and themes that are not quite consistent with each other.

All that aside, it is still a very good movie. The performances are all top-rate (except for the person who plays Michelle's father. I still can't make up my mind if I have the problem with the character or that actor, but I just didn't like something about him). Amitabh is good as he almost always is. Though I have come to know that people are saying that nobody else could've played that role as well as he did. I don't quite agree. I can think of many people who would probably have done just as well. Naseeruddin Shah for one. Kamal Haasan for another. That doesn't mean Amitabh wasn't great. Just that "no one else could've done that" is a bit too unfair to others.

Rani is great too and should probably start preparing for next year's award functions. (Though I found the stupid gait very distracting). She got an author-backed role and didn't do injustice to it. But the best thing about the movie - probably even better than the cinematography - is Ayesha Kapur. The little girl is incredibly good. As I say about a lot of things, her performance alone is worth the price of the ticket.

Another great thing that enhances the movie's appeal is the background score by Monty. Even though there were times when it is a bit too loud and distracting - again, making you feel that you are supposed to feel a particular emotion at that particular point, rather than letting the emotion come up naturally - overall it is brilliant. Rahman really should've found time to do this one. His loss is Monty's gain and we are surely going to hear a lot of this guy in coming years.

To sum up: Sanjay uncle, tone down the melodrama. You really DO have the potential to be one of the best directors that we have. What is killing your movies is the melodrama.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

17 down!

Filmfare award no. 17 for Rahman! The technical awards were announced today and Rahman gets the best background score award for Swades (very deservedly so!) . Not nearly as good as a National Award, but good to know nevertheless. :)

Now, if only they had the good sense of nominating Meenaxi for Best Music category!

Indian movie for non-indians?

I have been asked this question before and I have had my own suggestions. But its my turn now to ask this from all of you. If you have to choose one Indian movie (not necessarily Hindi) to watch with some of your non-indian (mostly american and chinese) friends, then which one would you suggest. In fact, give me as many suggestions as you can. I'll try and pick one. Remember, we are going to watch it with subtitles. So, some of the constraints are:

1) It should be reasonably famous (so that finding a DVD with subtitles won't be too difficult).

2) Its strengths shouldn't be lost by translation into english or when seen with subtitles. for example, a movie whose charm depends on the language/dialogues (Dil Chahta hai, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro and in fact most comedies) would be a no-no.

3) It shouldn't be so dependent on any aspect of the culture of the country that even a brief pre-movie explanation isn't enough for these non-indians to enjoy the movie. (Lagaan is probably one such movie, though I am not very sure. So is Iruvar probably.)

4) preferably not excessively long.

5) preferably not a copy/remake/inspired by a famous international movie (Sholay would be ideal had this constraint not been there).

So, what do you think? As of now I am inclined to choose Satya. In fact it seems to be the only movie that satisfies almost all these criteria. Other options that I can think of are Iruvar (except that I'll probably have to explain some things before the movie starts), Guide, Kannathil Muthamittal, Roja, Lagaan. RV suggested Monsoon Wedding though I personally didn't think it was all that great. Moreover, I don't think its "Indian" enough. Any classics probably? Kaagaz ke Phool/Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam? Though at least the latter will have the "seeped in culture" problem.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

H2G2 trailer online!

A new trailer for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is now online! It looks pretty fun actually! Have a look at it here.


My previous post might have given the impression that I think The Aviator was the best movie of 2004. At least Amit seemed to think that it did. Believe me, I DON'T!

The comparison in that post was only among the five nominees. And even among those five, The Aviator wasn't a clear winner as Finding Neverland ran it very close. Off the top of my head I can think of many movies of 2004 that would run The Aviator very close if not better it (like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotles Mind). And yet, at the end of the day, it would still probably appear in my top 10 (maybe even top 5!) of 2004. Amit wants to know "Why?".

His main problem with the movie is that we don't connect with any of the characters. But I don't think we were supposed to. We are supposed to be in awe of these people. We see Katherine Hepburn and Ava Gardner dating this guy. We see him fighting with the US senate committee (and not in the manner of Mr Smith Goes to Washington, where the protagonist can be anyone... we see ourselves in him. Or at least our good side). Here, however, we are looking at the life of THE Howard Hughes. And he was the sort of guy who would be very offended at the idea of people actually identifying with him! Scorsese made a movie which showed us the world of this incredible person. That his world intersected the world of Hollywood is very convenient because the movie is as much about that world as about Howard Hughes. That Scorsese is in love with the glamour of that Hollywood is no secret. To make us feel a part of that world would be an insult to it. We are supposed to see it from outside and applaud/detest it. We are supposed to see the movie and come out with the mystery of Howard Hughes intact - after all, his whole life was and is shrouded in mystery. He wanted it that way. He'd have liked the movie.

The question is not even if the story is an accurate description of his life. That doesn't matter. You just take a mysterious character, take some well known facts from his life and spin an interesting story around those facts and rumours. As long as you can show this story with requisite flourish, it will not be a bad movie. If you are Scorsese, it will most likely be a good movie.

As for the interesting events in his life post-47, its Scorsese's prerogative to decide what the theme of his movie would be and what he finds most interesting. He didn't say at the end of the movie that Hughes died the next day. And knowing the character as we do, its impossible that he'd have lived a less interesting life from that point onwards. He didn't. But this is like Shyam Benegal choosing only the South Africa portion of Gandhi's life to show in Making of the Mahatma. It does not mean that after coming back from South Africa, Gandhi went back to village and started farming and did nothing else cinema-worthy till the end of his days.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Oscar Update

Last time I talked about oscars, I hadn't seen quite a few movies that had pocketed major nominations. Now, that number has gone down to just 1 or 2. So, I guess I am much more qualified to talk about them now as compared to the last time.

I have seen all the movies nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor in Leading Role oscars. And both the categories are filled with some great movies/performances. However, even though I liked Sideways, Ray and Million Dollar Baby, I must say that I liked The Aviator and Finding Neverland much more than the other three. My personal favorite among these five is probably The Aviator with Finding Neverland coming a verrry close second (or maybe the other way round... depends on my mood :) ). However the award will most likely go to either The Aviator or Million Dollar Baby. Former more likely than the latter.

As for the actor award, this is even more closely fought than the best picture category. I personally think That Clint Eastwood is the odd one here. He made a great movie with some good performances (and an absolutely incredible one from Hilary Swank) but his own role didn't have as many will-stick-to-your-mind-forever moments as the other four nominees here. Johnny Depp, again, was good but probably in a role that demanded underplaying more than extravagance. And underplaying rarely catches ones eyes as much as extravagance, even though it might be just as - or even more - difficult. Jamie Foxx was great in Ray in a role that was tailor-made for oscar, and he will probably pick the statuette on sunday, but I personally liked Leonardo-DiCaprio more. Here was a character as close to being extravagant as you will ever get. And even though extravagance can be irritating at times, Leo made sure that it was memorable without being irritating at all. DiCaprio is coming up very well (which seems ironic considering that he has just been awarded a Lifetime Achievement award!!) and I am extremely excited about The Departed.

However, even though the real race seems to be between Leo and Jamie Foxx, I personally would give the award to Don Cheadle. He is absolutely superb in Hotel Rwanda. I know not many people have seen the movie but Don Cheadle is beyond great in that movie. He is so good that you don't realize what you are watching is actually a "performance". A curious case of an eminently memorable performance which is not even close to being extravagant.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Vivek "Douglas Adams" Kumar

Vivek has written an absolutely hilarious chapter of what is hopefully going to be his first sci-fi book. Believe me, it wouldn't look out of place in any Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy book. Its really THAT good. Read it here.

Friday, February 18, 2005

lonely thoughts of a birthday boy...

11:00 am, Feb 17: AG calls from India to wish me. But its still 17 (even according to IST!). Turns out he thought its on Feb 17. One of my better friends forgot my birthday! :( its ok.. doesn't matter. I have wished him one day too late in the past. It happens. Forget it. Look forward to the cake-cutting ceremony at midnight!

1:30 pm, Feb 17: We have lab-lunch in Tandoor - one of the indian restaurants in Rochester. AU calls for a toast for the birthday of "the best biochemical physics TA he has ever had". That just GREAT!! I have a great lab! And a great early start to my birthday celebrations! This makes me look forward to the midnight even more!!

10:30 pm, Feb 17: The lab movie show ends and I decide that I should run so that I am at home before midnight. The phone rings 3-4 times during the movie and the caller is someone from india though I don't recognize the number. I can't hear anyone's voice though and keep wondering who is trying to wish me.

11: 30 pm, Feb 17: At home. I still have time for the midnight thing so decide to call my home to find out if they'd been trying to call me. My sis picks up and talks about all the normal stuff which we talk about everyday. After some time I tell her that I'll have to hang up in a few minutes as my friends will be coming for the birthday. And she says, "Birthday?? Oh!! aaj 18 hai kya??" and in the background my mom says "arre haan!!! aaj to birthday hoga uska!!" and comes on the phone to wish me. My mom forgot it too!!! :(

12:10 am, Feb 18: NS - the roommate - screams from downstairs, "Oye Tyaagi!!" and I realize that I had dozed off. I am thinking of going downstairs when I realize that I can't hear anyone else. He is alone. He comes upstairs to wish me. Which essentially means that no one else is going to join him. Which means that for all the birthday wishes I was going to get at home, I might as well have stayed in the lab doing some work. well... at least he remembered it. or wait, maybe others did too... maybe they'll come but Neelaabh doesn't know about it for some reason. I know, the chances were slim. But who knows....

12:30 am, Feb 18: ok, this is it... no one is coming. At least Mathur called. RV didn't though. I call my father and find out that it was he who was trying to call me earlier. At least he remembers it. Forget it... doesn't matter much. There will be wishes... though mostly by email/YM/SMS/phone.

7:25 pm, Feb 18: not too bad. even though I was right about almost no wishes-in-person, there were enough by other means (including comments on this blog! thanx Amit, Sapre and Vivek!). I still haven't heard from at least three people I'd have loved to hear from, but some other unexpected wishes should probably compensate for that. :)

Happy birthday to me!! :)

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Kya karein kya na karein!!!

A lot of people need caffeine at the start of the day to fill them up with the energy required for all the work they plan to do during the course of that day. I don't. Not that I do a lot of work that requires a lot of energy. Still, I am sure there are times when I am the most energetic person in the office when I enter it in the morning. (That might be because my morning starts after noon when all others are already exhausted.. but let's not go there.. ). Reason? Rahman.. :)

There is nothing more refreshing than the 3-4 minute drive from my home to my school parking lot with some ARR song playing LOUDLY inside the car. And today it was "Kya karein kya na karein" from Rangeela. I can't tell you how happy that little drive made me!! :) There are times when you forget a lot of things about the great songs that you used to hear regularly 4-5 years ago (and in this case almost 10 years). You still know that they were great. You still remember them once in a while and maybe enjoy singing them aloud. But you forget a little note here, a sweet bell-sound there. And it is all these things which come rushing to you when you put that music on after so many days. One tends to remember the vocal stanzas much better than the instrumental interludes. And in Rahman's case (specially Rahman of early-mid 90s) its the interludes that carry that incredible magic.

Put your best headphones on and play "Kya karein kya na karein" and play the intro (upto 01:03) , the interludes (01:37-02-22 and 03:16-04:10) and the conclusion (from 05:01), specially the two interludes, and turn the volume high. You'll know what I mean.

Consider that this is not even one of his most famous songs or his best instrumental arrangement in interludes and you'll realize exactly WHY he single-handedly elevated the standard of indian popular music in 90s. When you listen to a particularly inspired piece by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy/Anu Malik/Harris Jeyraj and others, remember who provided the inspiration in the first place. :)

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

TOI and the canines..

TOI has REALLY gone to the dogs. Forget about what seems to be a policy decision to post only the most irrelevant and/or obscene stories on their main page, it seems they have stopped editing the articles that their increasingly stupid contributors send them. Read this article and try to find why the headline says what it does.

Going Places..

I haven't spent a lot of time outside Rochester since I came to US (August 2002). just a weekend in Boston, 3-4 days in Chicago, and a few hours each in Amherst, Buffalo, Corning and Detroit (just the airport). And maybe 7-8 trips to Niagara. But I'll probably be setting that right soon. I have just returned from a trip to Chicago. Mathur is there in Northwestern Univ and i went to spend the weekend there.

Last time I went there, I was with AS, SS and AC and we drove there in my car. Its about a 10-hour drive which, even though it was pretty enjoyable that time, takes 2 complete days from your schedule. So, I decided to take Amtrak this time around (a long-distance train service here in US). The plan was to sleep in the train (an overnight, 11 hour long, journey) so that I have three full days to spend there. But.... regardless of how impressed Mathur was with Amtrak, I personally found it VERY uncomfortable. The train was only about 50% full, so that almost everyone had two seats to try and sleep on but I still found it very difficult to sleep. Could sleep for only about 2 hours while going there (however, I guess I got the hang of it after that... had a good 4-4.5 hour sleep while coming back).

However, I guess the trip was worth all this. Even though we didnt really do much (we didnt intend to), it was a pretty enjoyable time. Mathur had rented a car and most of the time we were just driving around Chicago listening to some good music (Kangalal Kaithu Sei, Enakku 20 Unakke 18, Minnale, Kaakha Kaakha). We also went to see Black ( I intend to write a review later) and spent some time roaming around a mall. Most of the time we were just laughing away talking about IITB anecdotes. Nice time overall..

Also, there are at least two more places I have to visit in next few months. First, I have to attend a conference in Detroit during the last week of June. Not really decided yet, but very likely. Second, and most important, I am going to India on July 4 to celebrate my one month of independence! :) As you might've guessed, the dilemma I was referring to in a recent post has been resolved. So, July it is.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

In case you didnt notice...

Google is GOD!! They have been coming up with new ideas and facilities at a rate faster than the rate at which junta is learning about these things. Starting with Gmail, they have added stuff like Google Desktop, video search, Google Suggest, Keyhole, Google Print and Google Scholar to the ever improving Google experience. And now comes Google Maps! I have only tried it for a few minutes and it seems much better than yahoo maps and mapquest which are probably the two leading map/driving direction services in US. Its Cool! Try it!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

May or July??

I have one day to decide exactly when to have my india tour. Choices : April 29-June 5 and July 5-August 4.

As things stand now I am planning to fly to Delhi, stay there for 3-4 days, go to Vadinar (where my parents currently stay... its near Jamnagar) and stay there for 10-12 days, go to mumbai for 3-4 days, go back to Vadinar and then go back to Delhi 3-4 days before my return flight. Whether and when I'll have to go to my villages and meet my other relatives will totally depend on whether and when my father wants me to. Which means that I might stay in Delhi longer than just the 7-8 days I am planning as of now.

But all that comes later. First I have to decide between May and July. May is going to be very hot but the ticket is about 250 dollars cheaper than July. In May I'll have the opportunity to attend a friend's wedding (whether I'll do so or not is unclear... His will be the only familiar face there, so I'll probably have a nervous breakdown if I have to go), but my sister won't be able to spend a lot of time doing lukkhagiri with me as she has some exams in June. So... its a HUGE dilemma and I don't know how to solve it.. I guess I'll have to fall back on good ol' coin toss! :(

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Another Zhang Yimou Masterpiece!

Saw Raise the Red Lantern yesterday. And for all the stunning visuals and brilliantly choreographed action scenes of Hero and House of Flying Daggers, RtRL is a much superior movie than either of them. Gong Li might not be half as beautiful as Zhang Ziyi but she is an amazing actress (as I already knew from Farewell My Concubine). And for once Zhang Yimou had a great story to tell along with the usual superb cinematography.

In short, this is the story of a young Chinese girl who had to drop out of university due to her father's death and marry a rich man - who already had three wives - on her stepmother's insistence. Her new house, however, turns out to be stuck in a glut of customs and traditions which, along with the jealousies among the four wives, is something she is quite unprepared for. Her slow transition from a likable young woman to another scheming wife who would make elaborate plans to get to spend as many nights as possible with her husband and the tragic end it all leads her to is what this movie is all about. Great Movie.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Why do I never write about Cricket?

Good question actually. I noticed that the little line near the top of this page indicates that I expected to talk about cricket once in a while when I started this blog. Yet, the while has now stretched over a year and I have NEVER written anything that directly relates to cricket. Some lines about Sachin sending Pak Players on a leather hunt in forthcoming series is about all I have to show for my cricket love.

So, coming back to the question. Why DO I never write about cricket? Honestly, I am not quite sure myself. Probably because I am no longer as much cricket-obsessed as I used to be, say, 2 years ago. Which is probably more because of Sachin's decline than my coming to US. Don't get me wrong. I still visit cricinfo and keep an eye on most current international scorecards. But you probably won't catch me doing what I used to call "stats research" any more. Heck, I don't even know the exact number of runs Sachin has scored in either tests or LOIs! (To compare, two years ago I probably would have told you his exact stats - batting and bowling AND fielding - even in first class cricket and List-A limited overs matches.)

Anyway, as I said before, this doesnt mean that I dont follow cricket anymore. Or that it doesnt contribute much to my daily dose of websurfing. Or that I don't give it any thought at all. But for some reason I just didnt get down to post my thoughts. But when Mathur was talking to me about our respective preference list of international teams earlier today, I realized that this is purrrfect matter for posting. Now, as I normally try my best not to allow any part of my brain to contribute anything to what I say or think while talking to Mathur, I don't know if I'd stand by this list on any other day when I am using some part of my infamously vast reasoning powers. So, as of now I won't try and look into WHY my list looked as it did. This is how it looked, in case you are wondering...

8) New Zealand - "we use our grounds for golf on match eves."
7) South Africa- "we are so formal, we can't leave without a tie no matter what's at stake"
6) Sri Lanka- ok.. this is it.. can't think of anything to write about them... giving up at this stage... just the names now.. :)
5) West Indies
4) England
3) Pakistan
2) Australia
1) India

Javed - By Shabana.

Came across this nice article about Javed Akhtar. Its actually a collection of excerpts from the preface (written by Shabana Azmi) to his new book "Talking Songs". Gives some insight into the way he works. And is interspersed with some great lines from his songs. Like this one from Tezaab.

Rat a’i to vo jin ke ghar the
Vo ghar ko ga’e so ga’e
Rat a’i to ham jaise awara phir nikle
Rahon men aur kho ga’e
Is gali, us gali
Is nagar, us nagar
Ja’en bhi to kahan jana chahen agar...

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Ye Jo Des Hai Tera...

Swades Hai Tera...
Tujhe Hai Pukaaraa....

:) aur maine finally pukaar sun li... main aa raha hoon.. :)

Announcing my visit to India. Nothing is quite finalised yet except that It will happen sometime between May and August this year. Keep the red carpet ready! :P

someone agrees with me!!

I was so disappointed when Meenaxi's soundtrack didn't get the recognition that it deserved in my opinion. The other day I was typing in my choices for the 2004 filmfare awards on and I realized that ALL the music category awards went to Meenaxi! Surprised because I didn't start any category thinking only about Meenaxi. I considered all the major albums that I had heard last year, and even though I am a HUGE Rahman fan, I would never have predicted that the best in all the categories would come from the same album specially considering that there were some other great albums too (Swades, Yuva, Lakshya, Rog, Paap, Musafir etc) in 2004.

So, my choices?
Best Music: Meenaxi
Best Lyrics: Do qadam aur sahi
Best Playback Singer (male): Sonu Nigam (Do qadam aur sahi)
Best Playback Singer (female): Alka Yagnik (Rang Hai)

Anyway, I have just found out that I am not alone in thinking that Meenaxi is an album for the ages. Apparently the Planetbollywood people think so too! There is a list of top 20 albums of 2004 and though I personally don't agree with such high ranking of Kisna and Raincoat, let's just forget all that and celebrate Meenaxi today.

Back to the playlist... :)

half a woman.

Seminar that is... (if you aren't indian, or if you ARE an indian but are hindi-illiterate, stop thinking about the title)

Have one of those annual beat-the-kid-into-pulp ceremonies today that are formally known as department student seminar here. about an hour from now I'd be standing in front of about 100 people (including about 20 faculty members) trying to tell them that whatever I have been doing over last 5 months makes some kind of sense. Well, it does to me anyway (which almost ensures that it won't to anybody else).

Now you know why I haven't been blogging for so many days. Will be back now though.