Vantage point

Saturday, January 31, 2004


When India does well, everything Indian does well. Not only is the economy doing well, the cricket team and the film industry have struck a purple patch. I can't remember the last time I have seen so many decent-to-good-to-excellent movies in Bollywood with such regularity. I have seen many amazing movies movies first-day-first-show. Lagaan was one, as was Dil Chahta Hai. The latest in the series is Vishal Bharadwaj's adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Macbeth". And like the previous two, this one is a masterpiece that will be remembered by Hindi film buffs for decades to come.

When you have "the bard" as a storywriter, you have already started off on the right note. Vishal builds on this by coming up with one of the most refined scripts ever seen in Bollywood. I was doubtful whether co-script-writer Abbas Tyrewala, whose previous works include the competent Ashoka and the entertaining Munnabhai MBBS, could rise up to the challenge. But they have exceeded all expectations to give us an engrossing narrative. The characters and situations analogous to those in "Macbeth" have been so brilliantly conceptualised that one understands the true import of the saying "Naqal ke liye bhi aqal lagti hai".

If the outlines of this sketch were adroitly demarcated by the script, the vivid imagery is further enhanced thanks to performances that are spectacular triumphs for the actors. Tabu does full justice to the spirit of Lady Macbeth; scheming, greedy, manipulative, yet not stonehearted enough to drink wine laced with blood. She also looks fabulous enough to make a loyal lieutenant betray the hand that fed him. Irfan, who has already shown promise in 'Haasil', has finally "arrived" with Maqbool. His portrayal of various emotional stages such as bully-ish haughtiness, impulsive rage, transition from loyalty to opportunistic lust, guilt, and the abject realisation of imminent defeat is enough to earn him a bucketful of awards and another bucketful of plum roles. (*just a small note - If the 70s and 80s belonged to Film Institute graduates, then the 90s and 2000s seem to belong to NSD alumni)

Pankaj Kapoor, who has thusfar been relegated to television and/or slapstick roles delivers to Bollywood filmmakers a resounding slap, whose echo says "YOU HAVE WASTED ME ALL THESE YEARS!!". From the posture he adopts and the accent he mouths to the controlled expressions he wears, the role is miles ahead of Marlon Brando's performance in Godfather(he is even given his own Luca Brazi :)). As Om Puri says in the movie, albeit in a different context, "Kya actor hai Abbaji!!!".

Another stellar performance, which will probably get overshadowed by the big three, is that of Piyush Mishra, who plays Kaka, the equivalent of Banquo. (The first thing I noticed about Kaka was that he had close cropped hair, thus eliminating any literal depiction of the famous "never shake thy gory locks at me" scene....but I digress). So far I have seen him in only 2 movies, Dil Se and Ek Din 24 Ghante, and in both movies he plays the role of a suave police officer. This role was very different and difficult, since Vishal added more facets to it than that of Banquo. Mishra however delivers, and he too, will hopefully be noticed by more filmmakers.

Om Puri and Naseer play Inspector Purohit and Inspector Pandit, Vishal's idea of the witches. This analogy has me totally sold on the movie. Only a rookie director could come up with such a brilliant idea. A few movies later, originality and creativity gets adulterated by influences and market considerations, not to mention the urge to emulate one's own successes. I have not seen any other adaptations of Macbeth, like the one by Kurosawa, but I doubt if any of them had such an innovative way of depicting the witches.

From my personal viewpoint, the biggest triumph of the director is the fact that my attention never wavered despite the songs. This is the first time I have been so engrossed in a Hindi movie with so many songs. Even the Lagaan's and the Dil Chahata Hai's had one misplaced song each that disrupts the tempo a bit. Each of the melodious songs is however perfectly placed. Jhin-min-jhini is among Vishal's best compositions. "Ru-ba-ru" is a top notch qawwali, probably the first one in a Hindi movie after Rahman's "Haji Ali" in Fiza.

Maqbool is the sort of movie you watch again and again. My favourite "Mumbai underworld" movie used to be Satya, and I have seen it 5 times. Calling Maqbool a "Mumbai underworld" movie would be like ignoring its multidimensional richness, for it is miles ahead of Satya or Company or Ardha Satya. That is not because it was mostly shot in Bhopal (hardly a couple of scenes were shot in Mumbai), but because the story here is much larger than just the underworld. The other movies were rooted in the gangs on Mumbai. Take the gangs away and you have no story left. However Vishal's use of the underworld setting as a mere backdrop, rather than the source of the story, takes the movie to a higher level, both in terms of the plot maturity as well as the cinematographic depiction.

I could just go raving on and on about Maqbool, but I have a few CV's to submit. :) So I will stop here with a hearty "Go Watch it!!".

elsewhere: Ramanand's thoughts on the film


These are some of the questions I asked at the Quizzing Nite in IIML. There are some visual

questions as well, and the corresponding images can be accessed at

Visuals with the qn nos as the image names.

1. This idea is the brainchild of Adam Gilchrist, who wrote about it in a newspaper column and suggested it as an annual event. He suggested the name �Tendulkar-Waugh Cup� . The chairman of Cricket Australia, Bob Merriman endorsed the idea, and has promised to support it. The idea may become a reality next year. Explain in detail.

2. Connect the two images qn2 and qn2b.

3. Give the final name and funda- Bob Mack, Gene Borkan, Michael Reid Mackay, Cat Mueller, Heidi Schanz, Gwyneth Paltrow, ___________________

4. The official website says - "According to ancient Arabic literature, love is classified into 7 different shades. This is true even today. ________ is a journey through these 7 shades of love. The feelings are as old as mankind, only the circumstances have changed. Come step through the seven shades with us "
hub �attraction
uns - infatuation
ishq - love
aquidat - reverence
ibaadat - worship
junoon - obsession
maut - death.

5. Look at image qn5. 2 points for this one. 1 point for identifying the person whose face has been blacked out. 1 point for identifying BOTH the remaining guys and giving the funda.

6. Look at images qn6 and qn6b. 2 points again. 1 point for naming the song that connects these images. 1 point for naming ALL THREE people in the second pic.

7. Steve Waugh's first as well as last test dismissals have been by a leg spinner. Last is obvious. Name the first.

8. Look at the image. Whose face should be in place of the question mark?

9. There are 2 pair of states currently whose CMs share surnames. However, in the case of one one pair, the similarity is not evident because an anglicised version of the surname is used. Give me both.

10. Fill in the blank
__________________ 821,319
Cruz M. Bustamante 681,438
Tom McClintock 202,823
Peter Miguel Camejo 46,775
Arianna Huffington 12,270

11. Look at the image of a powerpoint slide. Guess the audio that I played, and give the full funda.

12. The climax of this recent movie was co-written unwittingly by X and Y. A & B play key roles in the movie and have to make important speeches in the end. A asked X who was his very good friend to pen down the speech for him. B asked his father - Y to pen down his speech. Name the movie,A,B,X,Y.

13. The final of the IFA Shield in 1911 is seen in two different lights by historians. While Britishers think it signalled the success of their colonisation since the natives took to a foreign sport, the Indians view it as the first major expression of nationalism in the field of sports. What happened?

14. Connect Aamir Khan to "The Sign of Four" .

15. Identify who has been blacked out in this panel from a Tintin comic.

and last but not the least,

16. A question which very few people will be able to answer. Whoever does so first will win a masala dosa. :)
Cawdor : Bollywood :: Scotland : ???
Give me the full funda as well.

Either mail me the answers at sabnis{ATTHERATE}{dot}in or post them in the comments section. In either case, do specify the answers you got without using google. :)

Thursday, January 29, 2004


And while on the topic, let me tell you about a unique exercise we undertook at IIML this week. As our time in IIML draws to a close, all us quizzers wanted to have a special "Final Quiz". All of us were sitting together after a quiz one day and wondering what we should do. I don't remember who came up with the idea of a "Quizzing Nite", but it was an instant hit.

The basic idea was to quiz through the whole night, something like what the Savai Gandharva Mahotsav is to Indian classical music afficionados (of course stupid rules by the government have now made it a day affair). So we decided that -

*We would meet at 10:30 pm to start quizzing
*Each person would have to get at least 50 questions. If you don't get 50 questions, then you can't participate in the quiz. Just be a spectator.

I was sceptical about whether we would get enough good questions to last us the night. Even if we did, I had serious doubts about the "quizzing stamina" of all IIML quizzers (who number around 12).

However I am delighted to report that my doubts were unfounded on both counts. 10 of us turned up, each of us getting between 30-50 questions. All questions were good questions, painstakingly thought up, not just "copy-pastes" from quiznet or some such site. We started the quiz at 11:30, because of a slight mishap with the college FTP server. And the "quizzing night" went right up to 6:30 a.m.!!! We had a snack break in between at 2 a.m. in the night mess. There were about 450 questions and we had FUN with a capital F.

The "quizzing nite" is a brilliant concept and should be emulated by keen quizzing fraternities all over. I am going to push for it at the Boat Club when I go to Pune.


J Ramanand, the incumbent Mastermind India, has started a quizzing blog - Interrobang. We can call this "a different quiz blog", because the purpose is not to exhcange questions and answers like thousands of quiz blogs dotting the blogscape. Interrobang aspires to be more of a Quizzing Almanack.

In the words of its creator,

This is a quizzing blog, but it's not quite about swapping questions. Rather, it proposes to serve as a notepad for myriad thoughts on the techniques of setting and conducting quizzes, investigating further into the nature and concepts behind the universally acclaimed and sometimes elusive "good question".

Of late, I have found making and conducting quizzes more satisfying than participating in one. To quizzers like us, every question is a painstakingly compiled miniature, somewhat like the little grain of rice with stuff carved on it that you see at many gift shops in India. To the clueless passerby, a bowl of such rice grains might just be that - a bowl of rice grains. But to the appreciative eye, it is the carving on it that makes the bowl of rice invaluable.

It is the same with quiz questions. A bunch of quiz questions don't vary from each other, whether they are from Mastermind, Kaun Banega Crorepati or COEP Boat Club. But the inherent richness of the question is somewhat like vintage wine, and is appreciated only by a few.

The URL for the blog is

The name holds special significance to anyone who has ever quizzed on the COEP Boat Club Lawns, and the etymology is explained by Ramanand in this post.

The blog starts off, fittingly enough, with a 2-part post by Niranjan about "Setting a Quiz". It can be to quality quizmastering, what "Art of Cricket" by Bradman is to cricket.

So visit this site if you want to learn more about the intellectual orgasm that is quizzing.


For years, we in India talk about how Israel deals with terrorists with an iron fist and how we are a "soft state" in terms of the way we deal with them. First of all, India has done some pretty bad stuff, so it is not like we are a "soft state". What we dont seem to realise is that Israel is supported, financially and militarily, by the United States, and it is facing a bunch of ragtag organisations that, though motivated, are pretty slim on resources. The most they can do to attack Israel is send some suicide bomber over. Israel however can use its planes and bomb the daylights out of the terrorists, assured of the veto power support of USA.

We however are facing Pakistan, a big country with a disciplined, reasonably well-equipped army. Plus they have nuclear weapons. Remember how much pressure there was on us from USA even when we were throwing terrorists out of our own territory in Kargil?

So we should consider all these facts before we genuflect in front of the Israelis for their "manliness" and lament our "cowardice".

What made me write this post was this news -

Israel Releases 400 Palestinian Prisoners

Remember how everyone (myself included) cribbed when we released 3 terrorists in exchange for 150 hostages? Israel, the "hardline" state is releasing 400 prisoners in exchange for 1...yes "ONE" hostage....and some dead bodies(!!). How about that, huh?

An excerpt from the article -

Since Israel's founding in 1948, Israel has participated in several dozen prisoner exchanges with its Arab neighbors, many of them lopsided in the Arabs' favor. In 1985, Israel freed 1,150 Palestinians in exchange for three soldiers held in Lebanon.

Over to the Israel-fans.

Monday, January 26, 2004


If I was salivating at the idea of watching an F1 race in India 3 years later, thanks to all the hype about Hyderabad getting a nod from FIA's Bernie Ecclestone, you can imagine my exhilaration on reading this - Formula One may go to Mumbai

I remember talking to some friends about this a few months back, and saying that if the Maharashtra government takes up this F1 issue seriously, there is no chance in hell that Hyderabad is going to be the venue. To conduct an F1 race, you need (at least) the following -

* An international airport
* A motorway/expressway from the airport to the racetrack to transport the heavy duty equipment
* 5,000 hotel rooms, all five star.

Plus you need millions of dollars worth investment.

Mumbai already has an international airport. There also exists a world class motorway between Mumbai and Pune. And the highest number of 5-star hotel rooms in India has to be either Mumbai or Delhi. As it is, the Congress as well as Shivsena governments are agreed on the plan to develop the Mumabi-Pune-Nashik triangle as a major industrial hub, with talks of emulating Guangzhou. An F1 GP would fit in perfectly, as it would speed up this process, in terms of infrastructure development.

It would be interesting to see who wins this "race-for-a-race" between Mumbai and Hyderabad.

My vote would obviously go to Mumbai. An F1 track located between Navi Mumbai and Lonavla would be amazing. For all you know, in 2007, Sachin Tendulkar could be waving the chequered flag for Michael Schumacher in good ole Maharashtra.

Ah well, let's see. :)

Saturday, January 24, 2004


Let us hope at least this occasion makes you restart blogging.


A lot of movies have been made lately that have the handiwork of "ISI" bandied around a lot. These movies star menacing looking terrorists wanting to blow up everything Indian in sight, and it is our heroic armymen and policemen who foil their evil designs. While a section of the society protests this "anti-Pakistan" genre of movies, claiming it vitiates the atmosphere of peace that should be aspired for, the filmmakers and those who watch these movies defend them saying that their movies are not far from reality. Yes, the angle of ISI activity shown in movies like Sarfarosh, Qayamat, Zameen may be based on what really happens. But there is another side to this reality. And it is this side of reality that Rajkumar Santoshi strives to bring forward in Khakee.

The movie starts off on a superlative high, with one of the best shoot-out sequences in Bollywood history. Dr. Iqbal Ansari, played by the immensely talented Atul Kulkarni, is an ISI agent in Chandangarh, a small town in Maharashtra. He has to be brought to Mumbai to be presented in a special court. A heavily armed party of policemen transporting him, is ambushed in Chandangarh itself. It is this ambush that is portrayed in the aforementioned sequence. Through that sequence, which is technically as brilliant as any Hollywood action movie, Santoshi grabs the viewer by his collar and pulls him to the edge of the seat. Uniforms worn by everyone in the cast are actually worn-in police uniforms, and they give the movie a feel of reality.

Eight policemen are killed, but Ansari is still in police custody. A team of 5 policemen is sent from Mumbai to get him there safely. These 5 are Anant(Amitabh), Shekhar(Akshay Kumar), Ashwin (Tusshar) and two havaldars. They are joined by Mahalakshmi(Aishwarya), who has seen and can identify one of the terrorists, and so has to be safeguarded. Trying his best to stop them is Angre(Ajay Devgan). This is all the story I can reveal without being guilty of "spoilers".

The biggest spoiler though, is Santoshi's penchant for the theatrical and the sanctimonious. He manages to keep the movie perfectly tuned, like a well oiled machine, till the interval. There are slick action sequences, funny scenes (mainly from Akshay Kumar), and a plot that is very absorbing, and a novel one. The movie was going along fine. If he had just stuck to what he had started, in terms of style, we would have had a classic on our hands. However Santoshi strives to introduce "twists" in the story. And these twists keep coming! Unfortunately, most of the twists, except for the main one, seem painfully contrived.

Then there are lectures. Like most of his movies, here too, Santoshi takes it upon himself to "educate" the Indian public. There are enough yawn-inducing and obvious lectures to make you feel like you are sitting in the World Social(ist) Forum in Mumbai. These lectures are responsible for two follies. One is that they take away the tautness of the plot that so far differentiated it from a regular masala movie. Second is that they waste Amitabh's talent, since most of them are simple pedestrian "iss desh ki janta ka desh ke corrupt politician...blabla.." type speeches. The speeches would seem OK from a Nana patekar, and it is the fact that we have heard tons of such speeches from Nana that makes Khakee yawnducing. Towards the end of the movie, one really starts looking at the watch every two minutes. Twist after twist is forced upon us, even as the mind screams "Abey khatam kar na Santoshi!!!". The story stumbles towards a close.

Now about performances. Amitabh is his reliable old self, doing full justice to the role of an ageing policeman. Akshay Kumar and Aishwarya Rai, who are there as comic relief and eye-candy respectively, do their limited jobs. Tusshar Kapoor, playing an earnest young cop, is for the first time in a role that does not make me want to chop his head off. Maybe he is improving as an actor, or maybe I am getting over the fact that people like him will be lead actors in Bollywood and there's nothing I can do about it. Ajay Devgan turns in a decent performance, but like the plot, his role too was much more impressive pre-interval. For once, he does not portray the angre(sic) young man(sorry couldnt resist that one :P). Atul Kulkarni's performance, is without doubt the best in the movie and he shows that he is here to stay in Bollywood.

The last scene of the movie is good though. It is well conceptualised and well executed, and brings back memories of the pre-interval "Khakee", when Santoshi hadn't gone berserk. The last scene has all the qualities that the movie lost midway. Santoshi would do well to remember the "Keep it Simple Stupid" formula. I hope, just like I have been hoping for over ten years, that Santoshi's next movie will do better justice to his talent as a director. Maybe he should hire a good script-writer, who will resist twisted temptations.

So is Khakee watchable? My verdict is, yes, but just about. We have Santoshi to thank for its good points and Santoshi to blame for its bad points.

Friday, January 23, 2004

The news that Wasim Akram has played a major part in the development of Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra shows narrow-minded individuals on both sides of the Radcliffe line is the poor light that they deserve.

I would like to hear what Thackeray has to say about this. Particularly Thackeray, because his opposition to cricket with Pakistan is based on his contention that - "they treat it as jihad". This gesture by Akram shows that you can not just brand a person based on his nationality and religion. OK, Imran might have said something to that effect, but it does not mean we should paint all the cricketers with a thick brush. There are many examples of cricketers from pakistan helping out other cricketers, regardless of their religion. Zaheer Abbas' suggestions to Desilva were what made him one of the best batsmen in the world at that point of time. Abdul Qadir gave suggestions to Kumble and Warne during a tournament in Sri lanka some years back. Akram is another example.

In fact Akram has been one of the most popular cricketers in India. He is universally regarded as one of the, if not THE best bowler that my generation has seen. In this era, where Australia lead the cricketing world to a more rude phase, Akram has always been a gentleman. One doesn't remember him shooting his mouth off in the press, neither has he been seen crossing the line in sledging. He has always conducted himself with diginity. I still remember the sincerity with which he congratulated Anil Kumble when the later took 10 wickets in an innings against his team. Contrast this with Saeed Anwar who kept cribbing about "the ball the ball why did they change the ball" when India pulled off a sensational win in Karachi.

The reaction of certain sections of the Pakistani public is disappointing to say the least. One person even filed a PIL against Akram for "helping the enemy". Such cross-assistance keeps happening in cricket. By thinking that Akram is helping the enemy, those people are substantiating the noise that Shivsena makes.

It is a sport. Play it like a sport.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

Manfest is here. It is IIML's All India Management fest. This 3 day long event usually involves a lot of events, both business related, as well as normal lit ones.

Siddharth Basu conducted the Business Quiz yesterday in which a whopping 140 teams took part. I participated with Nikhil, and we were the less fancied IIML team. Yet, luckily, we made it to the finals, being the only team representing the host institute. Basu was very loud, theatrical, and not at all the dignified gentleman that he is on television. on TV I have rarely seen him crack a smile, and yet at Manfest he was all haha-hehe. The questions themselves were okayish.

Nikhil and I came third, with the top two spots going to teams from IIMC.

Doing well in a biz quiz is a really different experience.

I am more interested in the Maestro quiz, which is a general lone wolf speciality quiz. one of the quizmasters is livejournal user - Beatzo. I hope I do well enough to make it to the finals. My previous attempts at Lone Wolf quizzes in the AIT B C Joshi Memorial Quiz have been unfruitful. It will be even tougher here, since only one finalist will be chosen per speciality. I am wondering which speciality to go for. My knowledge of football is not good enough for me to choose Sports, and my knowledge of Western music is not good enough for me to choose Arts n Entertainment. It is going to be a tossup between Lit&Comis and History&Myth.

It all started like any other love story, as the movie's site informs us. Yet, by the time the end credits roll up, one has seen one of the best thriller movies made in Bollywood.

This movie starts off well, and it just keeps going, like a flawless Dravid innings. It has everything in right measure, like a Dravid innings. There are stellar performances by all the actors, a well thought out plot, brilliant dialogues, slick action sequences, a rivetting background score...I could go on and on.

Ek hasina Thi, the latest product from Ramgopal Varma's stable is not just an entertaining quickie like Darna Mana Hai. It is right up there on the production house's list, with Satya and Rangeela, in terms of being a superlative piece of cinema.

Its biggest strength, is its intelligent and wellcrafted script and screenplay. The amount of thought that has been put into the script is evident from many sequences, which I shall not enumerate, lest they act as spoilers. The dialogues do the right job at the right time, conveying humour and irony in equal measure. The pace never slackens, which is a remarkable achievement for an Indian thriller.

Coming back to my analogy of a Dravid innings, if the first half of the movie is like a fluent Dravid century, then the second half is an exciting race to the double century with even more strokeplay. Urmila has really outdone herself. Her most acclaimed roles so far were Kaun and Bhoot, which required her to be either scared, or crazy. This role is much more challenging, in which she has to portray a transformation in her personality brought about by real life events. She came into her element in the scene when she hugs Saif in the prison, and from there on, it is just one awesome award-winning performance. Saif does a splendid job as does Seema Biswas. But the movie well and truly belongs to Urmila.

A lot of people who go to watch the movie after reading this post will go in with ultra-high expectations. I firmly believe that the movie will measure up to them.

So as my MSN sign-in says, and will say for many days - Ek Hasina Thi - Go watch it immediately!!!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2004


Those people who flippantly dismiss stupidity don't realise the hard work that goes into being and remaining stupid. You have to start early in life, and keep your stupidity levels right up there. One slip, and you are in the sane domain.

The tales of my stupidity go way back. I have already recounted some of them on my blog, most notable being my pyrotechniques, when I almost burnt down my house. However there have been other incidents that deserve an audience.

From the age of 8 to the age of 11-12, I was a voracious reader of Enid Blyton's Famous Five, Secret Seven and Five Findouters. I had also been initiated into the world of the more sophisticated Three Investigators. Now the aforementioned ages are when human stupidity is at its peak. At this age, children are not cute, neither are they adorable. They look forgettable and they talk unbearable. In fact I am sure the ancient system of Gurukul, where all the kids that age are sent away to a school-like thing in the forest for "education" and return only when they are in thyeir late teens, was started because of this. The modern day version, i e boarding school is a mere continuation of this practise, which ensures that kids that age are not murdered by annoyed adults. In fact the highest punishment in the Indian Penal Code should be appointment to the post of headmaster of a boarding school.

So coming back to the point, me and my friends were like any other kids that age. Stupid, irritating, talking too much, (if you are gonna say nothing has changed, let me threateningly remind you that I am much stronger now) and in general prone to doing utterly dumb things.

So taken in were we by those kid-detective stories, not to mention TV series like "Super Six" and "Ek Do teen Char", that we decided to jump into the fray ourselves. Some of us started a kid-detective group called "Secret Six" (yes, I know, how original!!). It started off basically as a way to just horse around. It was no different than when kids play any other make believe games. I live on the outskirts of the city, with open fields and hills closeby and so we had plenty of territory to play these make believe games. We all were generally very pleased with our non-existent careers as crime fighters. We had made visiting cards for ourselves though, using sketchpens on the backsides of our respective fathers' visting cards that we purloined. I loved weaving up stories and imagining them to be actually happening, and fancied myself as Pune's own Jupiter Jones. In fact i would always complain how unlucky I was to live in a non-happening and utterly safe neighbourhood where there was almost no crime, and how my talents were being wasted.

Then one day, during vacations (summer or diwali, I dont remember) it all changed. A family called the Daruwallas had moved into this bungalow called Dhun-Villa in the neighbourhood. One afternoon, when there was no one in the house, some thieves apparently broke into the house, and made off with some money and electronics items. An 'aaji'(old woman) living next to the Daruwallas saw them escaping and called the police, but the thieves escaped.

My stupid 10 year old ego was suddenly given a huge feast. A robbery in the neighbourhood? this is a case for the Secret Six, I thought. However, most of the six were not as stupid as me. They ridiculed my intentions of "investigating" this case and said I was crazy. I tried to tell them what a unique opportunity we had of becoming famous, but they were content leading lives of insignificant anonymity. I did manage to convince one friend though, Sushant to join me, though I think he came along more out of a desire to not ditch me rather than out of any conviction that we ought to "crack" the case.

Sushant and I got together the next morning, and decided to interrogate the aaji, who had seen the thieves. We went to her house, assuming that like in the books, we too would get a friendly welcome, some snacks, and then she would recount all that happened. After all, most of the books showed that productive alliances are forged between old people and children during the course of crime-fighting. We rang the bell, and the door was opened by a man in his thirties, presumably her son.

"Hello, we want to speak to aaji" I said.

"About what?" he asked in a curious tone.

"Well, about the robbery at the Daruwallas." I matter-of-factly informed him, wondering if I should show him my visiting card.


"Yes, we are junior detectives, and we want to talk to aaji about what she saw. maybe we can spot a clue that the police missed."

The expression on the fellow's face, if expressed in words would be - "Amway salegirls, I can handle, Jehovah's Witnesses, I can handle, but junior detectives? Why why why why why?"

He put on most-annoyed expression and said "aaji is sleeping right now, come tomorrow." and slammed the door shut in our face.

I was about to turn to Sushant and say "We must not give up, let us come again in the afternoon when this guy has gone to work", but Sushant was already out of the gate. He told me had never been this insulted in his life, and he would not be helping me with investigations anymore.

I was not confident enough to go solo on this case, and thus ended my career in crime-fighting. The Secret Six disbanded a few days later because....basically, we were growing least most of us were.

I have no idea if the robbers were ever caught. I never got to talk to the Daruwallas about the topic again.

And Aaji's son, well he would keep giving me dirty "dont you come junior detectiving again" looks whenever our paths crossed for the next decade or so.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Other movies watched in the moviethon, and short verdicts on them.

Enemy at the Gates - Deecnt war movie, but an unnecessary and contrived love story dilutes the effect. the sniper-vs-sniper showdown throughout the movie is very well portrayed, as is the cynical jibe at propoganda.

Calendar Girls - Cute movie. Tries to be like a female Full Monty, and while it does not half-succeed, is still worth a watch. Drags a bit in the end, and the Hollywood trip is quite boring.

Other than this, I watched 6 new(to me) Seinfeld episodes which, needless to say, were hilarious. Also watched the latest episode from FRIENDS Season 10, suppressing yawns and clucking tongues...make that tongue.


There has recently been a trend in Bollywood to make different movies. Most filmmakers end up laying eggs that are as bad as the formula stuff. I always counted the late Anant Balani as one of these. I found his earlier ventures like "Joggers' Park" and "Ek din 24 Ghante" absolutely wannabe-ish. However the movie he started shooting for just days before he died has turned out to be a decent flick.

The biggest strength of Chameli is, no not Rahul Bose, it is its length. At 2 hours, the movie does not make you feel that it should have ended an hour earlier, like most Hindi movies. Of course, Rahul Bose does a fantastic job as well.

The movie is set in a stormy night in Mumbai when an investment banker and a prostitute are stranded under the same shelter. Chameli, played adeptly by Kareena Kapoor, has set out that night having made up her mind not to sleep with Nayak, a guy who has paid advance for her, but is afflicted with an STD. The banker is stranded because his mobile phone and car have given up on him. In the beginning, Chameli tries to entice him, making a predictable sales pitch. Then, when she realises he is not interested, she starts yakking, telling him how she manufactures sob stories to get extra tips from clients.

Characters keep entering and exiting, thanks to the Nayak angle. It is this angle that takes the couple to a bar, then a police station, then a hospital and finally Marine Drive. But i will not elaborate on the story too much.

What is refreshing is the portrayal of a prostitute, which for the first time avoids the two stereotypes seen in Hindi movies. In fact the script pokes fun at the two stereotypes - a) that of a young village belle sold into flesh trade by her uncle, b) the daughter of a prostitute who has to enter the flesh trade because of her mother's connection. It pokes fun by presenting these two as the tip-inducing sob stories. Chameli is not shown as a sati savitri, neither is she shown to be totally independent. She actually seems believable when she is being very sisterly with a young coffee vendor, or when she is being pally with the lady constable.

Rahul Bose's character is on slightly shakier grounds. His motives behind going out of his way to help a whore are highly questionable. One could assume that he has fallen in love with her, but he seems too obsessed with his dead wife for that.

The story moves rapidly, and the dialogue is by and large taut. Since I watched it on a computer, the songs were fast forwarded, but their placing rankles. However the movie is ended right in time, which is admirable, since it is the end that leaves most Bollywood directors looking silly. It also ends in an "open to interpretation" manner, which I personally like, since it is not forcing any particular end, probable or improbable, down your throat.

Another pitfall that replacement director Sudhir Mishra by and large sidesteps is that of political correctness. Indian directors tend to either get so sanctimonious that it looks like a Films Division production, or get so anti-establishment, that the movie seems to be funded by the politburo. For a movie that features prostitutes, eunuchs, pimps, policemen and heehee investment bankers (couldnt resist that MBA jibe), the scriptwriter walks the tightrope pretty well. It doesn't sermonise, neither does it lambast.

It merely tells a simple story in a simple manner. Very few Indian movies follow the "Keep It Simple Stupid" adage. This movie does so.

P.S - There are some beep-ings by the censor board that are bizarre, bordering on the ridiculous. Whenever Chameli is telling about how she started her "dhanda", the age is beeped out. I think Anupam Kher, the board chief, feels that by hearing the age at which Chameli took to the streets, all girls of that age will immediately feel encouraged to do so. Ridiculous!!
However the censor board has not beeped out some pretty bordering-on-vulgar marathi dialogues mouthed by the policemen, acting under the assumption that no Indian understands Marathi. Maybe none of the board members understands marathi. :P

Monday, January 12, 2004

An excerpt from the "Daily Some Achaar" - Lip-smacking news that you can preserve.

Michael Clarke Announces Retirement from Test Cricket
Sydney - Young Australian batsman Michael Clarke today announced that he would retire from test cricket at the Sydney test in 2022. He said that he will have done all that he can by then, and will like to move on to something else. He also said that he would like to spend more time with his wife and children after 2022.

Clarke is yet to make a test debut for Australia, but this announcement is expected to make all the Clarke fans very emotional.

"Every tour from now on till 2022 is going to be a Clarke Farewell tour" said Joey Beer, a resident of Sydney who has been a fan of Clarke since the youngster made his debut for New South Wales a few years back. "I am shattered to hear that Clarke will reitre in 2022. Fans like me thought he would play at least until 2025. However now that he has made up his mind, we shall make sure that the remaining 18 years in Mike's career are memorable ones."

Clarke fans plan to turn up in huge numbers whenever he is playing, and give him a standing ovation everytime he walks in to bat. In fact Joey Beer has already booked tickets for the January 18 game between Australia and India at the Gabba. Beer plans to fly all the way to Brisbane for the match.

"I was planning to watch a movie on Sunday but now that Clarke has said he'll retire in 2022, I realise this is prolly the ..... 2nd 3rd last time that he will be walking out to bat at Brisbane. I want to be there for this special occasion."

Some former cricketers have said that Clarke has hijacked the next 18 years of Australian cricket by his premature announcement, and have called it a marketing gimmick. However Clarke has brushed off these allegations saying,

"There is a right time for announcing retirements. I think I announced mine at the right time. I want to retire in front of my home crowd in 2022. What is wrong in clarifying that? Allegations that I am stealing the thunder of all achievers in the next 18 years, are ridiculous and cynical."

Australian captain Ricky Ponting said, "We will try to win every test series and one day series from now on, plus, all the 4 World Cups, to make this period special for Mike."

Meanwhile it is hoped that the selectors too will get swayed by this announcement and grant Clarke his test cap against Sri Lanka in March. Until then, the currect VB series, already being called the "Blonde Hair Series", after Clarke, is expected to see huge turnouts to applaud Clarke.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

This Sunday is going to be spent very productively. Moviethon!!!!

One of the best feelings in the world - When you get up, of your own volition, at 7 a.m. on a cold Sunday morning.
Another one of the best feelings in the world - You lazily sit in the room, reading scanned Tintin comics.
Not so best feeling in the world - The alarm you set on your computer for 8 a.m. goes off, making you jump a few metres, hurt your scalp, and damage the roof.
Another not so best feeling in the world - Thinking why the hell did I set an 8 a.m. alarm for a cold Sunday morning, especially when there are no classes on Sundays this semester?

Some movies are like Dali paintings. They aren't simple, straightforward movies with a definite beginning and an end. They have layers, and the way to enjoy these movies is to unravel these layers and admire the way in which the movie is put together.

Such movies are choc-a-bloc with symbolism, and it is fun decoding exactly what the director seemed to convey through each and every frame. Most Kubrick movies are like this. I remember being utterly fascinated by the symbolism in "A Clockwork Orange". More recently, I also loved Ridley Scott's "Bladerunner", one of the few movies that I was engrossed by, inspite of having read the book('Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" by Philip. K. Dick) first.

Yesterday I saw one such movie - Mulholland Drive. I have wanted to watch it since I read that its director - David Lynch was voted the best of all time in a poll. While I don't quite agree with the top spot, he is definitely a great director.

I don't want to discuss it in great detail on the blog and spoil it for those who haven't seen it. However I have to talk of this one thing about the movie, people who have seen it, kindly respond. Did you also notice the "Alice in Wonderland" parallels in the movie at different stages, or was it just a result of my having re-read the book last week?

I also saw Tarantino's "Jackie Brown" yesterday, and I must confess, it left me slightly disappointed. It is without doubt his most mediocre work. Great performances by Pam Grier and Samuel L Jackson do manage to make it worth a watch, but the repeat value of his other movies is not there.

Why is the whole "Ash as Bond girl" issue making a comeback? It is totally ridiculous.

She is "quoted" as saying that she wants to use a body double for the "inevitable" sex and nudity scenes. Now exactly which was the last Bond movie that had nudity in it?

Monday, January 05, 2004


For over a year now I have been writing about cricket on my blog. I started doing so mainly at the insistence of Satyen, a month or so before the World Cup. It is only after I started writing on my blog about the game that I realized what a staunch fan I have become of the Indian team under Saurav Ganguly. In the Azhar days, I was a fan of Sachin Tendulkar, and that was equivalent of being a fan of the Indian cricket team. However over the past 3 years or so, this team has shown character, gumption, and a hunger to win. Somewhere along the line, maybe a few months after the 2001 Calcutta test, when subsequent performances showed that the win was not a fluke, I transformed into being first a fan of the Indian team and then a fan of Sachin Tendulkar. Which is why his string of low scores never bothered me much. If you are a fan of the Indian cricket team, a position of 1-1 going into the last test is like a dream come true. Who cares if Sachin had even gotten 5 successive ducks.

However now a more appealing dream is set to turn to reality. A series win in Australia, which I have always rated as the ultimate prize in cricket, manifold greater than the World Cup.Can we make the leap? In my series preview I had written that we will most probably draw the series 2-2, with wins at Adelaide and Sydney. I had doubted whether our team was ready for the mental leap of a series win. All this was based on the premise that every test will end in a result. The rains in Brisbane changed all that and we can actually win it. However the mental leap factor is still there.

What stops India from winning tomorrow is the same thing that stopped them from winning the World Cup. No, not necessarily the Aussie batting lineup, but the demons within their own minds. It was the inability to turn the screws and seal a victory. Defeats in cricket are inevitable. But I would rather that our team lost tests like Melbourne, rather than the one at Lords against England last year. Go down fighting, and you will rarely go down. Our bowlers tomorrow will have to do what our batsmen did on the last day in Adelaide. Say to themselves �Now is the time we gatecrash the frontpages of newspapers all over the cricketing world�. The newspapers of 17th December 2003 showed a triumphant Rahul Dravid embracing victory. Let the 7th January 2004 papers feature a bowler. As of now, the most likely candidate would seem to be the bowler who got 8 wickets in the first inning, the best bowling performance by an Indian bowler overseas.

Before the Sydney test, while talking to Sunil, I said �Series wins don�t happen due to individual brilliance or teamwork. They happen when the whole team, at some point or another, delivers individual brilliance. So far we have had 6 players putting in their career best(not statswise) performances � Sehwag, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman, Zaheer and Agarkar. If only Kumble, Nehra and Tendulkar come to the party as well, we can wrap it up in Sydney�. Tendulkar did his part, chalking up a total of 302 runs in the test without being dismissed even once. Now it is up to Kumble to finish it off with another plunder in the second innings. Murali Karthik will also have an opportunity to show if he truly deserves to be called a 21st century Indian cricketer (whose hallmark has been coming back from adversity to snatch glory).

This Indian team is on its way to greatness. Whatever the result tomorrow, I am sure it will just be another step on the staircase to the pinnacle. Whatever the result tomorrow, I am sure the Indian team will forget it in a few days, and start thinking about how to win the ODI series, and then prepare for the toughest challenge � a series in Pakistan. Because that is how great teams are made, not by soaking in the comfy gloat pool of success or stewing in the stinking cesspool of abject failure,. Great teams are made by continuing to scythe the waters of the ocean towards future achievements.

The way rahul Dravid was smiling, even as blood was oozing out of his ear after being hit by Lee, encapsulates what this team stands for.

Good luck, India.

Current mood � Optimistic :)
Current music � Chale chalo, chale chalo (Lagaan)