Friday, March 31, 2006

Cricket scribble

What happened to Indian batting? Admittedly Sehwag, is in "bad form", but what happened to the rest of the famed line up - Dravid, Yuvraj, Kaif?
Gambhir has in the last two matches got out playing horrendous shots. Today, in the second one-day against England, he played a cross batted shot, which he was in no position to play and scooped the ball back to the bowler. Why is he still on the team? And Dravid, what the hell were you doing out there today? After 23 balls in which he scored five silly runs, Dravid kept jumping out of the crease getting impatient when he should have just outplayed the powerplay2 overs and started scoring singles and twos. It was dumb.
We are lucky we won, thanks to what cricinfo called a nerveless display from Raina.

A friend recently called up to say that my blog is full of utter nonsense in bad English. Anybody agrees? Are these blogs so full of spelling and grammatical errors?
Another friend wrote in asking for visual relief. Any idea what I can do? I dont want to take a cricket pic with this blog because you are gonna see that in the paper tomorrow. I just don't want meaningless visual relief. Pls suggest something with a functional purpose and how I go about doing it. Thanks guys. and keep ur comments coming.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Woh Panch Din

Two jobs and three years back, I met a girl in my office. She was cute, bubbly. We never had anything in common, and never spend much time together except for the odd chat and lunch.

My first conversation with her had been a few months before I joined the office she was working in and it was nothing short of disastrous. It was on a friend's phone and I got pissed with him being on his cell all the time and sent an SMS to everybody on his call list saying: Fuck You.

She was on that list.

I had never dreamed that I would meet her, and that too at close quarters. She had a lovely voice and I would always tell my friend that she sounded nice and ask him if she was cute. He hated her and thought of her as a pest.

I still remember, quite vividly, the first movie I watched with her. It was Monsoon Wedding. And I liked it quite a bit, though my Hindi is not very good. After the movie, I had to get her friend an auto. I haggled with the autowallahs for 15 mins doing that, and as we walked to parking lot, she ragged me about how patient I was with them. That was our first real conversation.

When I joined for work - this was only my second job - she was most helpful. Work was fun the first few weeks and become more so as I got more responsibilities. However, we never quite managed to get that much time together.

Later, I switched jobs and cities, and for months kept e-mailing her. She would always reply. She too had moved jobs, but remained unsatisfied with work. These mailing sessions were for me a feverish affair, and for her, I guess, for her they were routine. I would write long, excited mails about the movies I saw and the books that I read. She, on the other had, would write about her travels and her family. There were weeks when we even wrote to each other thrice, something I have done only with a very few people in my life.

Then, one day, she paid her cousin who lived in the city that I worked in a visit. I had five whole days with her, and we spend much of it with each other. I certainly had my tender moments with her. I don't really know how she felt.

In all, we had a good time together and it had me wondering whether we had more in common that I had first thought. I told her about my feelings and naturally she was appalled. I was too, thinking that I was such a fool.

An year after: She got married to a guy from my hometown. She is a bit of a juggler, has too many balls up in the air all the time. The guy she married is more calm and more like me. I couldn't help thinking that I had a lot in common with the guy she ultimately married. And that he was luckier.

I met her over a month ago, a year and a half after her marriage. She has done well, and I haven't done too bad myself. She told me how she had met her husband and how she had fallen in love. She said it was a good decision, despite the fact that he is not so romantic.

And yet I had this nagging thought in my mind. Should I have paid more attention to her when I first met her? Would that have made a difference? Probably not. But one thing though: I have some wonderful memories of her and she said she did enjoy her time with me those five days, after all.

When we met, it was like old times. I opened up after a while and began talking a lot. It was friendly and nice and an affirmation that I was still a nice, decent person. It was good to know that, and sometimes only a girl can make you feel that way.

I was not very desperate, I knew then, not a random hitter on girls, not yet. :)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Student Violence

The student unrest in Sathyabhama University on the Old Mahabhalipuram Road in Chennai has shut the varsity down indefinitely causing concern among students over whether the semester examinations that are to begin on April 17 will be held.
Students of the deemed university - many of them who plan to go abroad after their engineering studies - fear that their examinations may not be held on time this year. Students have gone on a rampage at the varsity’s campus thrice since March 1, when violence first broke out.
After that instances of violence were repeated on March 22 and 23, when the management finally decided to close down the University.
At the heart of the differences between the students and the management is the lack of approval by the All-India Institute of Technical Education (AICTE) to the courses offered by Sathyabhama University. The management contends that it is a deemed university and, therefore, does not need AICTE approval, while students fear that the lack of recognition would hamper their careers.
On March 23, the students went on an unprecedented rampage, burning down an open-air auditorium at the campus and wrecking the classrooms and laboratories. Students allege that the authoritarian regime at the college is also one of the reasons for the violence. Sources said that often girls and boys are prevented from talking to one another at the co-education varsity.
Students have also alleged that the management is ruthlessly trying to suppress the unrest by hiring goondas and dividing the students along regional lines. They said the management should try and resolve their problems instead of suppressing the protests. Many students have started leaving their hostels fearing further violence.
On news channels, the faces of students being interviewed are being masked, leading to fears that the university management may take extreme steps in putting the issue to rest. A CNN-IBN report mentioned that its cameraman at the scene was attacked and his videotape burned.
Violence has also broken out at the SRM Institute of Science and Technology, another deemed university. Students and the police clashed at this college campus too on March 1.
Meanwhile, the first bench of the Madras High Court on Friday advised the students to give up the violence. They have also observed that even deemed universities have to observe AICTE norms while posting further hearing in the case for April 3. The bench, also comprising the Chief Justice A.P. Shah, was hearing a batch of writ petitions and PILs filed on the issue.
The Students Federation of India (SFI) and All India Students Federation have decided to back the students. The SFI has demanded that the University Chancellor Jeppiar, a famous Chennai-based educationist, be arrested. The students’ body has also impleaded itself in the case being heard in the Madras High Court.
Dreamchaser has been avidly blogging on the issue. Click here to read his blog.

Ziyi Zhang - Swathed in Silk

The 2000 film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, apart from the countless headlines that punned on the title, gave rise to two stars: Director Ang Lee and the spectacularly beautiful Ziyi Zhang.
In the movie, Ziyi plays a rebel, alongside the two great actors of Asian cinema, Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh. The sequence in which she is kidnapped and later ravished is among the most passionate in the film and at this point the movie becomes racy and breathless, the cinematography stunning. She appeared in much smaller role in Hero, more famous for its lead actor Jet Li rather than Ziyi's charms.
In Kar Wai Wong's 2046, Ziyi is back. Her acting in this movie has improved in leaps and it's around her that the movie is built. She play a high-class call girl in the movie, who falls in love with a writer who is writing a story called 2046. The title does not refer to a year, but to a place where people living in a futuristic world go to to relive their lost dreams. No one comes back. The cinematography is restless, the director choosing to creep in on his characters from behind walls. The production design is elaborate and the costumes too are designed well. In an interview on the movie's DVD, Ziyi appears chatty and thoughtful, trying to potray herself as a "thinking actor". Then Yimou Zhang made House of the Flying Daggers. The movie, which was almost a companion piece to The Hero, perhaps showcased Ziyi like never before. Ziyi played the daughter of the leader of House of Flying Daggers, a dangerous cult group that is threatening the Chinese empire. It was plum and demanding role, with Ziyi performing her kung-fu herself. Then came the icing on the cake. Rob Marshall cast her as the lead in Memoirs of a Geisha, the movie that really got her into the big league. Hollywoods beckons, and Ziyi seems to be ready to make the move.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

TN Poll Masala

I have been writing for about three months on my blog now. The highest amount of hits - I recently found out how to track this - was on the day Vaiko shifted camps and I blogged this. I got 96 visitors that day, the highest on my site so far. Cheers, guys.
The seating sharing within the Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPA), the main Opposition coalition in Tamil Nadu is over, for the large part at least. A few wrinkled need to ironed out. CPI has some grouches about it getting fewer seats than the CPM. Also, the fate of INTUC, the trade union wing of the Congress party, is ambivalent. There appears to be split that Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has engineered within the INTUC. The rebel group has announced that it will support Amma's AIADMK.
The elections will be notified on April 13 and campaign, which has already begun, will really go into high gear after that.
I was surprised to learn that contrary to what I had said in my post on Vaiko, AIADMK does stand a good chance of winning. The last three elections having witnessed a sweep against one Dravidian party or the other, poll pundits are predicting another sweep. I am not sure if really AIADMK can win with such a weak coalition.
AIADMK swept to power in 1991 after former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's assassination and reports of DMK's alleged hand in it. DMK hit back with equal vigour in 1996, the sweep coming in the face of a widespread scandal over Amma's corrupt ways and the massive amount of money she had spent on marrying off her adopted son. In the absence of any major such reasons, AIADMK swept back to power in great style in 2001 even as legal questions hampered Jaya's quest for the CM's chair.
Will there be yet another sweep? Do the people of Tamil Nadu have an overwhelming need for change. Has anything really happened to boost Amma's chances of retaining power since it lost all the 39 Lok Sabha seats in the last parliamentary elections to the DMK-led alliance?
Two things of some significance of indeed happened. One, Veerappan was shot dead and two, Sankaracharya was arrested and is being tried in court.
Also prior to the elections, Jayalalithaa has rolled back many of the stringent measures she had imposed on the people. A source said that she is willing to pump in Rs 300 crore to win this election. Will she be able to do it with only Vaiko and Thirumavalavan on her side? That's the question that will and can be answered even as the campaign begins. Right now, people don't know which way they are going to vote. Not yet. Let the policians start gunning and then we will know for sure.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Ahead of the Tamil Nadu polls to be held on May 8, actor Vijayakanth, who launched the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhakam (DMDK), is releasing two movies on the unsuspecting Tamil audience. Swadeshi is the first of them.
The actor's party - roughly translates to National Progressive Dravida Party - is largely an unknown in this election. If Vijayakanth does get some kind of role to play in this election, it would be great boost to his political career. The prospects, while unlikely, are not altogether improbable. Vijayakanth might just get to a Paswan.
Swadeshi is a pathetic movie. It's so bad that it's good. Watching it with a first week crowd can be an enlightening, funny and rewarding experience. Vijayakanth, not a great actor at anytime, no longer has any clue of the quality of the movie he is doing. He mouthes the usual, lengthy monologues, including the unintended funny one in a court, with much earnestness and sincerity. It's clear from the movie that he wants to be a kingmaker, realising that he is unlikely to be king.
The crowds that gathered at Vijayakanth's party launch was by all estimates huge. But these won't translate into votes. The actor is aware of this. He must also be aware that movies like Swadeshi can hardly improve his electoral chances. I really can't understand why he wastes this much time and money on a project that is bound to be a flop.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The secret world of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha

The movie is in a way the female version of Gladiator. In the Ridley Scott movie, the Gladiator dares to challenge the power of a king. Here a Geisha dares to fight for her freedom, to have actual feelings and not remain in the shadows of a secret world. Ziyi Zhang plays the Geisha, who after a delayed entry into that world, makes it her aim to woo the chairman of a power company.
The cinematography by Dion Beebe, fresh from the success of Collateral and Chicago, is stunning. He gets excellent support from the costume and set departments and Beebe makes the most of it.
Suzuka Ohga makes a stunning debut as the young Geisha with beautiful, blue eyes. The lengthy sequence in the rain as Chiyo makes a desperate bid to re-unite with her older sister, who has become a prostitute, is superbly shot. Ohga makes a brilliant turn, Chiyo’s despair written large on her face.
Ken Watanabe (The Last Samurai) brings in the fresh air of hope both into the movie and into Chiyo’s life. It’s love at first sight between the chairman and Chiyo, even though the girl is only a child. Watanabe is all charm and has this peculiar way of bringing a lot of dignity into all the scenes that he has. In many scenes, he has more screen presence that the lovely women in kimonos he is surrounded by.
Ziyi Zhang looks a bit uncomfortable playing a 15-year-old in the sequences that show her transformation from servant girl to Zayuri, Japan’s greatest Geisha, but later on she shows some of the brilliance that made her so great in 2046.
One of the most memorable scenes Ziyi has is of her return to Geishadom after WW II. She approaches Michelle Yeoh, an older Geisha who has trained her, for help. As Michelle agrees to help her, the look on Ziyi’s face is great. In a series of four of five expressions, Ziyi makes this scene matter to the audience, etching in her love for the chairman, which simply just grows larger and larger within her.
The lives these extraordinary women, trapped forever in a world of deceit and deception, are shown in great detail. I haven’t read the book, but I suspect it’s from there that director Rob Marshall (Chicago) draws his passion for detail.
I expected the movie to be another House of Flying Daggers, full of bright, flamboyant silk costumes, but it’s hardly that. The costumes are understated, the camera work exceptionally functional. In scenes of elation, the camera quickly moves to great sweeping shots. Just the first set up of the fishing village in which Chiyo has grown up was enough to convince me of the greatness of the cinematographer. Then Beebe comes full circle in the last sequence showing it exactly the same way he shoots the first one.
Gong Li, in a special appearance, plays a rebellious, passionate Geisha, who in the sheer frustration of her inability to beat her rival Zayuri, almost destroys her own life.
Ziyi’s greatest moment and the film’s as well, though, is a dancing sequence, set up for Zayuri’s bidding by the town’s wealthiest men. The cinematography here is ethereal and Ziyi’s performance belongs to the floating world of Geishas rather than ours. I expect when the movie is forgotten after a few years, this sequence will continue to influence cinematographers and dancers in Hollywood.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Hollywood's biggest night

So you saw the Oscars. Big upset that Crash won. But when the nominates are split down the middle between best picture and best director nominees this is what the academy does: split it. Ang Lee became the first Asian to win the best director award.

Of the films released in India, King Kong won three - sound mixing, sound editing and best visual effects; Memoirs of a Geisha won three too - Best cinematography, best art direction and one award I don't even remember.

Apart from best picture, Crash won best editing and best original screenplay.
Clooney, winning the best supporting actor for Syrianna, delivered the best line of the evening. "So I won't be winning for best director.''

Reese Witherspoon won for best actress for portral of June Cartey in Walk the Line. Philip Seymour Hoffman, who won for best actor for Capote, thanked his mother for passing on her passions to him. ``We are at party, Mom,'' Hoffman said, adding, "Be proud, Mom. Because, I am proud of you.''

Saturday, March 04, 2006

First strike: Vaiko

The finest hour in Tamil Nadu politics: Jayalalithaa

We were humiliated
by the DMK: Vaiko

Furious DMK cadres burning a huge effigy of Vaiko after he decided to have an ``electoral alliance'' (read not an idealogical alliance) with the AIADMK

A suitable ally?

This should be filed under mindspace in my blog, cause there is really no space for politics. This will be my first political blog. May be I will blog the entire elections. Watch out guys.

The Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) on March 4 (Saturday) decided to leave the Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPA), the main Opposition in Tamil Nadu, and join hands with Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's AIADMK to fight the upcoming elections.
The elections, scheduled for May 8, will be a fight between the two Dravidian parties - Karunanidhi's DMK and the AIADMK. Vaiko's u-turn, after he asserted last week that he will not quit the DPA and UPA at the Centre, came a day after Karunanidhi offered the MDMK leader 22 seats to contest in 234-member Tamil Nadu Assembly. Vaiko has asked that 25 seats be given to his party, Karunanidhi said at his party's statewide conference in Tiruchy.
At first glance, Vaiko's disgust for DMK's high handedness seems justified.
The fate of the two national parties is already known. The Congress, which has a marginal presence in Tamil Nadu and a new state president, will remain with the DPA. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is likely to go it alone as it had already announced earlier.
Vaiko's decision comes in the same week as Dalit Panthers of India (DPI) leader Tirumavalan's move to join hands with Jaya.
The MDMK and AIADMK are now left with the difficult task of explaining to the people and to their party cadre why Vaiko's arrest under POTA for his alleged pro-LTTE speaches is suddenly a non-issue. Just how Vaiko will explain this bizarre but expected turn of events is still unclear.
Meanwhile, the election promises to be viciously fought. Vaiko's arrest under POTA, Karunanidhi's midnight arrest, the TN government's efforts to provide relief to the Tsunami affected and the widespread criticism against this, the flood relief effort and the all too avoidable stampede in a Chennai school, all seem irrelevant now.
This election seems to based on pure maths rather than anything else. And if DMK carries the rest of the alliance with it even after the seat sharing charade ends, then it looks to me that the DPA would win.
I would not like to underestimate Jaya, but the difference between getting 25% of the votes and 35%, which would ensure a certain victory is all important. And Jaya has only Tiruvamalavan and Vaiko on her side now. The BJP may choose to go in for a last minute tie-up with Jaya. When campaigning begins much of what I said will be forgotten and a lot more will be dug up.
By enacting the Bill to take over SCV and Hathway, Jaya has ensured that this election is going to be vicious. A couple days later after the Bill was passed in the Assembly, Stalin and thousands of DMK men were arrested.
Jaya, traditionally thought to be the more corrupt of the Dravidian leaders, is also the more efficient. Her rule between 1991-96 and the present term have both been a flourishing period for the TN economy.
It's doubtful if the DMK, burdened by the presence of the Left and its own tendencies, will be able to continue from where Jaya leaves the state. I don't see how an alliance with PMK's S. Ramadoss and Nallakannu in it can push through economic reforms.
Also, mention must be made of the bungling over the conduct of the Common Entrance Test, which the High Court (HC) deemed mandatory after Jaya struck it down. The TN government now plans to take it to the Supreme Court (SC). Already, students in two well-known and reputed engineering colleges have gone on a rampage, smashing things up at their college. I really can't say if it will affect polls or not, but aren't students a big vote bank as well?

As the polls draw closer, the media, I expect, will begin to put out what it has already realised: only a last minute miracle from Jaya can hamper a DMK victory. Or is the poll still too close to call? The media will keep saying that the polls are being closely fought, particularly the English media, even if it's only to keep a largely uninterested middle class involved in the poll tamasha.
Kalanidhi Maran launched an evening daily Malai Murasu a year back and in the light of its huge success, revamped Dinakaran. This morning daily was launched last week, amid quite a bit of hype and both papers will throw their weight behind DMK. They have already earned a place in the Tamil media as being non-party papers, which means they are being read by people outside the party as well. Murasoli will now toe the DMK line as it has always done.
The Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) plans to launch a mainstream Tamil newspaper. With Dinkaran being re-launched just last week, the print wars are expected to begin in earnest ahead of the polls.

Meanwhile, look at what Harsha had to say just a few months ago. Seems to be still relevant. Also, read what he had to say on the day the story broke.

Something on the media front: The Pattali Makkal Katchi, headed by Ramdoss whose son Anbumani is the Union Health Minister, is to launch a mainstream Tamil newspaper. With Sun group's Dinkaran being launched just last week, the print wars are expected to begin in earnest ahead of the polls.

List Mania

Everybody who watches movies has one. A list of films that will bring a gleam in the eye and passion to the voice. I too have one. It's not comprehensive, but for starters, take a look

Friday, March 03, 2006

Dick and Jane

In the wake of the resounding success of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Jim Carrey gained new status as an actor rather than a series of caricatures he was reducing himself to. The actor had already established his reputation as an actor in Truman Show, released in the mid 90s.
But the promotional material and trialers for Fun with Dick and Jane make it clear that this movie is lighthearted and not in Eternal's league. But most viewers would expect that the movie show the same flair that some of Carrey's other movies - most notably Dumb and Dumber - exhibit for comedy. But Carrey is not at his comic best here and is burdened with an unoriginal screenplay.
Also, in the aftermath of the Enron scandal, ire towards such companies was at an all-time high in the US. If there were at least a few nods and winks to what really happened at Enron, this movie would have had an interesting subtext. But this is brazen wish fullfilment, that ends with Dick taking on his bosses and walking away scot free in a climax that stretches all imagination.
Dick and Jane, played by Carrey and Tea Leone, are a happy couple, whose life is disrupted when Dick is chucked out of an Enron-like company, minus his pension and other benefits. Dick has just been promoted VP of communications and unwittingly plays a role in the crash of his own company. Made into a public scapecoat, Dick and his wife begin a new career in robbing, by which time the viewer has probably given up all hope of the movie coming good.
The film mindlessly moves from one cliche to another, evoking chuckles from a well-trained audience who have been watching this kind of fare from Hollywood at regular intervals.
When Carrey is producing the movie as well, it is but natural to except a little more than this. Why the writers had to sink the movie when they could have easily written in some biting sarcasm is hard to see. Disappointing stuff, but at least doesn't scar you forever. I dare say that I will be brave enough to watch the next Carrey movie.