Thursday, August 31, 2006


All right, cribbing time. In the summer of 1975, Spielberg unleashed on unsuspecting Americans a movie called Jaws. The movie gave birth to the term "summer blockbuster" and is singularly responsible for the scores of summer movies we are often burdened with. The marketing is simple. Get the movie released in as many theatres as possible and hope that the word of mouth and pre-release advertising makes it a hit. Yesterday, I sat down and watched about one hour of the movie, which left me no better enlightened on its astounding success. Why was Jaws such a great fodder for summer audiences? And why is it that I am not able to even sit through the movie today? I really don't know and that irritates me.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Clooney weekend

Syriana, starring George Clooney, may be a challenging movie to watch, but is a rewarding one as well. It is also a story of terrorism and oil politics that needs to be told and seen. Stephen Caghan, Oscar winning screenplay writer for Traffic, is at the helm. The screenplay is complicated and it took me a while to know what the heck was happening, but after that it was a stimulating watch.

The other movie that deserves to be seen is Good Night, and Good Luck. Clooney directed this movie and starred in a supporting role as well. My notes are here.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The ACJ gang

In 2000, I joined the Asian College of Journalism in Chennai as a student in the first batch. Six years later, on August 21 this year a friend that I first met in ACJ got married in Hyderabad. In these last six years, the gang captured in the photos have always met up almost as a ritual at each other's weddings. These photographs I guess are precious to me and just worth a watch to most visitors.

(From right Me(Nandhu), Narayanan, Parry)

(From left)Binoy, Shireen, Madhav, Jose, Prachi, Parry, Narayanan, Nihal, Me

(From left)Binoy, Shireen, Madhav, Jose, Prachi, Parry, Narayanan, Nihal, Danny

Jaideep and Parry deep in conversation

Thursday, August 17, 2006

BlogCamp at TIDEL Park

The venue of the BlogCamp has been shifted to TIDEL Park in Taramani, Chennai. The website of the camp at has all the details about the camp.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

On a heavy day

What is in the picture? I am aware it's the Firefox logo. Guess how it was created?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Booker Longlist

This a note to myself. Don't accuse me of doing a cut and paste job. I was a bit aghast that I haven't heard of even one book in this list. The Booker Longlist follows, guys:

Carey, Peter Theft: A Love Story (Faber & Faber)
Desai, Kiran The Inheritance of Loss (Hamish Hamilton)
Edric, Robert Gathering the Water (Doubleday)
Gordimer, Nadine Get a Life (Bloomsbury)
Grenville, Kate The Secret River (Canongate)
Hyland, M.J. Carry Me Down (Canongate)
Jacobson, Howard Kalooki Nights (Jonathan Cape)
Lasdun, James Seven Lies (Jonathan Cape)
Lawson, Mary The Other Side of the Bridge (Chatto & Windus)
McGregor, Jon So Many Ways to Begin (Bloomsbury)
Matar, Hisham In the Country of Men (Viking)
Messud, Claire The Emperor’s Children (Picador)
Mitchell, David Black Swan Green (Sceptre)
Murr, Naeem The Perfect Man (William Heinemann)
O’Hagan, Andrew Be Near Me (Faber & Faber)
Robertson, James The Testament of Gideon Mack (Hamish Hamilton)
St Aubyn, Edward Mother’s Milk (Picador)
Unsworth, Barry The Ruby in her Navel (Hamish Hamilton)
Waters, Sarah The Night Watch (Virago)

Well, how many have u heard of? Have you read anything at all? Do you read? Answer me......

More details are here.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Brokeback Mountain: Last but not the least

A reviewer writing this late aboutBrokeback Mountain has to face the backlash that all critically acclaimed movies suffer. After reaching critical mass, the reputation of all movies goes only in one direction: down.
Everything I say here about Brokeback has probably been said before. But I liked it quite a bit and so I am going to write about it anyway.
‘Brokeback’, now a popular euphemism for being a homosexual, was upon its release tagged as a gay western, probably the world’s first one to gain a wide release. It is pointless to get into a discussion about whether it’s indeed the first gay movie. But like Anthony Lane writing for The New Yorker says it, the movie isn’t particularly a western or a gay movie.
I think it’s about love, only between men. That feels a bit queasy to write, one reason why you have to see the movie. So that you no longer feel so queasy when men kiss on the screen.
(Just like many movies have undergone a feminist re-reading, others have been subjected to a gay reading. There are those who feel that Judah Ben-Hur, played by Charlton Heston, and Messala, played by Stephen Boyd, shared a gay relationship in the 1959 classic Ben-Hur. In fact, it is said that Heston, the macho man who later became the voice of the gun-toting American, wasn’t told of the gay relationship as he would have declined the role.)
One reason Brokeback works so well when set in the Wyoming and Texas of 1963 is because it manages to easily hint at the relationship that cowboys in their jeans and leather belts and boots would have shared, away as they were from their women and children. Another advantage is the use of the broken, rustic tongue of the west.
The inarticulate, mumbling and submissive Ennis Del Mar (Health Ledger) and the rodeo cowboy Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) meet as farmhands as they graze sheep on the idyllic Brokeback Mountain. Without knowing what they are getting into, they begin a relationship that will dominate their entire lives. Both aren’t gay, probably just lonely. Jack is quick to realize what has happened between the two, but Ennis is shrewder. He knows that their love has to always remain secret and forbidden. Both, however, seem not to know what they have started.

Ennis: This is a one-shot thing we got goin' on here.
Jack: It's nobody's business but ours.
Ennis: You know I ain’t queer.
Jack: Me neither.

But it isn’t a one-shot thing, and both are queer as hell. And, it is not just their business. It is society business and society has a way of dealing with such abnormalities. But that isn’t the point.
The two part ways and start families, but neither one is happy. After four years, Jack – always the aggressive one – visits Ennis. The two men embrace and as Ennis’s wife Alma watches them in shock through a window, they roughly kiss each other, years of frustration visible on both faces.
Unhappy with their wives and unable to declare their relationship in the open, the two “friends” are caught in “one unsatisfactory bitch of a situation”. They renew the uneasy but intense relationship that began in Brokeback. Through this second chapter, Ang Lee (in the picture on the sets of Brokeback) conveys the feeling that Ennis has of always being watched. For the consequences are severe. If caught, both will be killed in a gruesome fashion that will serve as a warning for the rest of them. Jack is persuaded that they can never live together. “If you can’t fix it, you gotta stand it,” Ennis tells him.
After years when Ennis is finally divorced, Jack is hopeful. Now at last, they can begin a new life. But Ennis isn’t sure and finally is forced to turn Jack down. And we aren’t sure why either. This sort of a relationship is not just possible. Period.
“I wish I knew how to quit you,” Jack says in exasperation.
Jack is killed in an “accident” and when Ennis hears the news from Jack’s wife, images of people kicking him to death flash through his mind. Jack wanted his ashes scattered over Brokeback Mountain, and so Ennis pays a visit to his folks.
There at his parents’ house, Jack has the shirt, wrapped inside his own denim, which Ennis missed in Brokeback. Ennis brings it down delicately like a trophy and wraps it and leaves. And in any case, he doesn’t get Jack’s dad’s permission to scatter the ashes.
Their secret like the shirt will always remain under wraps. It would never come out in the open, like the ashes that are never scattered on Brokeback Mountain.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Lady in the Water

Ever since he made The Sixth Sense, Manoj Night Shymalan, for some inexplicable reason, has been compared with everybody from Hitchhock to Spielberg. But with every movie since his first one, Shyamalan has gotten worse. With Lady in the Water, Shyamalan has almost abandoned his usual big-twist-in-the-end style and tried to make a quieter, more serious "horror picture". It's pretentious as hell, especially the movie's quasi-intellectual appeal. I think the movie is supposed to make you think about man's loss of his roots, er...something like that. What exactly is not quite clear. Butwhat is clear though is that Shyamalan is quite gone in his head and that it's going to take a lot to bring him back.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

BlogCamp - curtain raiser

It is ironical that a reason I am unable to blog as much as I would like to is because I am actually an organiser for BlogCamp. It will be held in Chennai on September 9 and 10. We are a bunch of amazingly enthusiastic guys – most of them are geeks – trying to see if we can pull this off.
Details are here on Do visit us. You can even pitch in and help us organise the event as this is, unlike most meetings, an unconference. An unconference is this trendy way of holding conferences, where everybody is an active participant and no one is a passive spectator. There are more rules, some have a profound meaning and some are just whacko. The website does describe what an unconference is in detail. I will be posting more details about BlogCamp in the coming days.
If you need further help in getting details, you sure can mail me at

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Annaism's victory

My close friend and Tamil writer Devi Bharathi wrote an excellent essay titled 'Annaism's victory' after the Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu for the Tamil literary magazine Kalachuvadu, which has the content of its last three issues on the site. Sify used to earlier host Kalachuvadu's content in its own site. Today, I found Bharathi's essay on the Net. The link is here. The points that Bharathi makes are still relevant. Please do make time to read this essay if you read Tamil.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Pirates of the Caribbean

Watched Dead Man's Chest on Sunday. I don't like Jerry Bruckheimer's (is that spelt right?) second avatar as maker of blockbusters. When I saw The Curse of the Black Pearl, I was pleasantly surprised. The movie was oddly satisfying. But this sequel is a raging bore. It drags for a good 2 and 1/2 hours and doesnt even end. I didn't remember a damn thing about Black Pearl when I saw this movie and I am sure I won't remember a damn thing about this movie when the next part is released one year later.
Whose idea was it to make a movie about a theme park? Walt Disney's? It keeps going round and round.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sasanam: Have we lost Mahendran?

If not for the formidable reputation of Mahendran, director of such classics as Mullum Malarum and Uthiripookkal, it would have been easy to dismiss Sasanam as a plain bore. The movies few scenes of brillance get lost in its many many ackward moments and make us more consious of the filmmaking process than the narration.
The film, set in the Chettinad village of Kandanoor near Karaikudi, is about the journey of Muthiah/Ramanathan played by Aravind Swamy. In this village untouched by modernity, Muthiah is "sold" or in less harsher words given away in adoption by his debt-stricken father, but continues to live with dignity. But when he tries to help Saroji (Ranjitha), he quickly becomes the target of his town. Gauthami, of course, play's Ramanathan's wife.
After meandering his way through for the first hour spending too much time underlining the greatness and intergrity of the community of Nagarathars, Mahendran spending the rest of the movie stressing on the need for man to follow the unwritten codes of society.
Muthiah's father dies and in the grief and humilation of not being able to peform his last rites, he encounters Saroji, who too has been humilated by society at the funeral. The inevitable ensues, giving the director an oppurtunity to tell us that only in times of crises is our mettle truly tested.

The artistic failure is due to many reasons. The story line is predictable, characters spend too much time praising Muthiah and his community and unable to indentify with no one on screen, the viewer is left out of the proceedings.
Acting by most of the cast is adequate with only Sabitha Anand coming out with a convincing performance. But the script is complicated and none of the actors have the genius or the charm to play it out on screen.
Technically too the movie is below par. The National Film Development Corporation formed with the idea to make artistic movies is the producer. But isn't the budget of Rs 35 lakh too less? Here, perhaps, lies the reason for the unfinished look of the movie.

Some of my recent reviews of Tamil films are here:
Imsai Arasan: 23rd Pulikesi