Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Proud moment

I have been named as a captain of the Chennai Metblogs. All my articles written for Metblogs (85 at last count) are here. Just wanted to share the happy news with you all.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Holi hai!

Found this video on India Uncut. It's worth reproducing on my blog. Read more here.

Meanwhile, friends who organised Wikicamp in Chennai might be interested in this news.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Departed wins

Much to my delight and surprise, The Departed won the Best picture Oscar, while one of my favourite directors Martin Scorcese won the honour long due to him for Best director. The Departed also took home the Best adapted screenplay award. Read more here.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A pale shadow of his former self

At the time I began watching Hollywood movies critically, Oliver Stone used to be a favourite. I consider JFK to be one of the best political thrillers of all time. Likewise, Platoon too is undoubtedly one of the best Vietnam films ever made.

Also consider some of his other movies: Salvador, Wall Street, Nixon, U Turn, The Doors and Any Given Sunday. Take a minute and think of the cast he commanded for any of those films. With such an impressive list of films starting from the mid 1980s, Stone must take his rightful place in any list of top American directors working before Quentin Tarantino.

Stone was the quintessential American director. You may have heard the ‘Greed is Good’ speech made by Michael Douglas in Wall Street. It wasn’t as if Stone was only technically perfect. He could make actors deliver too. James Wood in Salvador was nothing short of electric.

For the ordinary viewer, The Doors may seem ordinary. But consider the possibilities for the potter. Even without any artificial stimulants, I was quite tripped by the time The Doors ended. Also Val Kilmer delivers a stellar performance, even singing all the songs of Jim Morrison’s.

Also, consider the genres Stone straddled: the rock movie (The Doors), the political thriller (JFK, Salvador), the war movie (Platoon) and the sports movie (Any Given Sunday).

And yet Stone has now slipped. His last two films Alexander and World Trade Centre has not only failed at the box office, they have also been panned by critics.

I saw Alexander on a very bad DVD. But one shot of those chameleons and that soaring eagle was enough to turn me off. I recently saw WTC. It is a reasonably good film, but does not live up to the huge expectations of any movie made on 9/11. I haven’t seen United ’93, but going by the Academy nominations, it seems that ’93 is altogether the better 9/11 film.

Why do directors slip so badly? Why do they from their rarefied heights fall so pathetically? Will Stone regain his lost glory? I am plainly worried for him. I hope and pray that he, one day, makes a comeback as superb as his critically acclaimed movie, Platoon.

Read more here.

Links galore

Recently found this site. Been listening to Dylan ever since.

Found this post on resigning from a newspaper editorial on Smal Ideas

I have long been a fan of Jarshad's PJs. Have a look here. Meanwhile, Rahul, a buddy since ACJ, takes to blogging with a lament.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Mani Ratnam’s Guru ends with a polemic against the ‘Licence Raj’, the period prior to the reforms of the 90s when bureaucratic red tapeism was high. Since the reforms initiated by Dr Manmohan Singh in the Narasimha Rao government, this argument against the License Raj may have become irrelevant. Today, it appears that starting and running a company in India is comparatively easier. This is a conclusion I arrive at by the sheer proliferation of software and automobile companies in recent years.
If as reports say, Gurukant Desai is Dhirubhai Ambani, then it is wrong to side with Reliance, which is a well-entrenched power centre. It’s also wrong to convince the viewer that his sympathies should lie with the biggest empire in Independent India.

The movie meanders in the first half and really begins in earnest only with Guru entering the textiles market in Mumbai, demanding a membership in the union. Until then, the movie was largely forgettable except for the scenes between Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan, which assume significance mostly because of their off-screen relationship.
Why Mani spends the first 15 minutes of the movie in Turkey is an unanswered question. Some viewers may argue that it is here that Guru makes the important decision not to work under the white man. But still as a portrayal of a businessman's early days, this portion of the movie is unconvincing.

At times I also felt that this is hardly the movie a director should be making 15 years after Nayagan, acclaimed as the best Tamil movie of all time.

But Guru is not at all a completely shoddy work. The song sequences are excellent. The songs by A.R.Rahman, I felt, were among his best. The background music though leaves much to be desired. Abhishek's performance, like many have already noted, is his best since he first appeared in Refugee. But my quarrels with the politics of the movie remain. Any comments?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Oscar nominated movies

Babel, which I saw about a week ago, is the concluding part of the trilogy that began with Amores Perros (Love's a Bitch) and 21 Grams. Two siblings accidentally shoot at a bus in Morocco injuring a passenger. From this incident, two more stories are traced making it four in all - the siblings, the passenger, the passengers' two children taken care of by their Mexican nanny and the owner of the rifle in Japan. Some of you may be familiar with the story of the Babel tower. If not look here. Like the previous two films, this too is in non-linear narrative. But this is a much more mature film from Alejandro González Iñárritu. Amores Perros inspired Ayutha Ezhuthu. Wonder if Babel too will show up in Tamil one day.


Little Miss Sunshine is a little movie of a family of eccentrics, who hit the road, so that their nine-year-old kid can take part in the beauty contest. There is a moral in the end about losing in the winning crazed nation of America. Probably the most funny movie nominated for this year's Oscar.


Apocalypto,Mel Gibson's story of the decay of the Mayan civilization, is a gas bag. But it has interesting and extremely violent action sequences. Has to be seen in a movie theatre to enjoy the stunning cinematography. May end up winning the Oscar for best make up.

Monday, February 19, 2007


From left to right - Ram Narasimhan, my brother Rahul, Manu and Thangu.

My brother Rahul was in the US recently. Manu is the latest entrant into our family. I know that some family members drop by this blog once in a while. This post is for you guys. I love ya all.

And oh, btw, Feluda, Satyajit Ray's creation, is on the BBC. Read more here.

And here's the new India Uncut, the website that evolved from a blog.

Here's a decent review of Pachaikili Muthucharam.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Your Oscar goes to...

You have probably seen the Oscar nominees' list. You probably have guessed who will make the cut. I have seen a few films - among them Babel, The Departed (reviewed here), Little Miss Sunshine, Apocalypto and Blood Diamond. I am planning to run an Oscar week on this blog. If you have reviewed any movie nominated for any Oscar, please leave a comment and link and I will feature them on this blog.

Over the weekend

Open Water is an excellent example of an independently made film. A couple took time off during weekends for over a year to shoot the film featuring only two major actors. The story is of a couple that is left stranded in the sea during a deep-sea diving trip. The boat that carries them accidentally leaves them behind. After about 20 minutes into the movie, we find ourselves alone with the duo in mid-sea. It's an amazing little movie that puts movies like Jaws to shame. The terror is real and gripping unlike in the Spielberg classic where terror has Hollywood written all over it. A scene in which the shark attacks the couple is a highlight of the movie. Watch it if you do get a DVD.

All The King's Men
features Sean Penn as the King. He plays a real life Governor of Louisiana, who after siding with the poor dangerously tests the power of the oil and power companies in the region. Jude Law plays a journalist-narrator who plays the dirty man of the governor. The movie to its credit never reveals if Governor Willie Stark is a good or bad person. Not bluntly at least. Penn plays him like a bull-headed, godly character that Stark probably was. Sample this quote from the Governor's campaign speech:

"Listen to me, you hicks! Lift up your eyes and look at God's blessed and unfly-blown truth. This is the truth! You're a hick. Nobody ever helped a hick but a hick hisself. Listen to me, listen to me...Here it is, you hicks! Nail up anybody who stands in your way... Give me the hammer and I'll do it."

The movie was first made in 1949 and became a classic. I usually don't review movies not released in India. But after my yoga camp, I am out of sort with the release schedule. If you wait, you can probably catch this one in the theatres.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Poet Salma wins top literary award

Literary events are a little unusual on this blog, but here goes...

Poet and novelist Salma was on Friday awarded the Amudan Adigal Literary Award at a simple function in New College in Chennai. Ms Salma, who won the award for her contribution to Tamil literature that includes a collection of feminist poems, a novel and a few short stories, said her writings were mostly based on her own experiences. She said her experiences were not hers alone but that of each and every woman. Read more here.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Wikicamp in Chennai on Feb 25

People, there is a wikicamp happening in Chennai on Feb 25. I won't be able to attend it as I am out of town, but you can and probably should. Go here to register. I hope for ur sake that registrations are not over. The conference is being brought by the team behind barcampchennai, blogcamp and It's bound to be fun. Try and be there. There are more details here. Read more of my article at Desicritics here.


I first saw Gladiator in 2000 along with about 20 of my college classmates. The movie had not won the Oscar yet and I never thought it would. All through the 90s, the Academy had kept out popular movies, instead picking films for their grey matter. I did not think Gladiator had what it takes to be critically acclaimed. Seemed like just an action flick back then. Since then I have watched the movie a few times, the last of which was on Saturday.
From the days of the Spartacus, the Stanley Kubrick film made in the 60s, the Roman epic has been a favourite Hollywood sub-genre. Mention any year since then and movie pundits can easily throw a film back at you. Not all of these great epic movies were great. Cleopatra, rather notoriously, was very poorly made. Ben-Hur, on the other hand, was loved and wildly watched.
Ridley Scott, I have learned since then, did something different with Gladiator. Notice the darkly lit sets. Consider if incest is a subject closely associated with the epic movie? And what about Maximus's (the lead character) obsession with the afterlife? Hollywood tackles most of these issues only in film noir, the name the French gave for a certain kind of dark movies made in the US after World War II.
Maximus (Russell Crowe) is the general who became a slave who defied an Emperor. "Striking story," says Joaquin Phoenix, who plays Emperor Commodus, son and heir to Marcus Aurelius, whom we all know in present days as the great philosopher. Richard Harris, who played Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter movies, plays the Emperor who is killed by Commodus after Maximus is entrusted with job of protecting Rome. It's a simple story.
"My name" as Crowe most famously says, "is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next." That in a nutshell is the story. But Scott can do wonders with the movie. The dialogue (the above lines were, however, made much fun of) is crackling. Consider what Maximus tells the army in the beginning of movie just before the war on the Barbarians in Germania: "What you do in life echoes in eternity".
The Emperor Marcus Aurelius wants Rome to be made a republic and his most skilled general Maximus to protect it until such time it is ready to be given back to the people. But the people of Rome are not a crowd; they are a mob. In what is a very touching scene in the movie, Commodus kills the Emperor and crowns himself. Maximus is ordered to be killed. But he returns to Rome as a Gladiator and takes his revenge.
What made the difference to that story was Scott.
Phoenix played a career-defining role of Commodus and contrary to tradition is given as much screen time as Crowe, who went on to win the Oscar for best actor.
I doubt if the facts in the movie are historically accurate; Hollywood always sacrifices truth for drama. Commodus's fascination and love for his sister is a major theme in the movie. So is Maximus's obsession with the afterlife. The opening shot itself reveals this. Crowe walks on wild ground, the brown grass gently touching his fingers.
I have severe problems with the action sequences. They were sensational back then for their reality and editing methods. But for me the editing serves as a distraction from the action. But they were famous and I leave you to decide how good they really were. But the movie is definitely worth watching and if you have seen it already I recommend you to see it again.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Original sin

What revolting trash does Hindi cinema throw up your way these days? Dhoom 2 must be the worst movie made last year, and the one before that. If movies were until now organic, this one is plastic and looks as if shot on plastic. Look at Aishwarya's body for example. It isn't so hard to notice her. She struts abouts in barely enough clothes. Has anything except Barbie ever looked so plastic? And to think that this trash ran at Satyam for over a week. Ponder on the miniscule intellectual powers of the morons who enjoyed this movie. Who do people love movies which are logically impossible. Watching it was an exercise in self-degradation for me.

The Saint is an old favourite. It can be adolescent fun, especially when Elizabeth Shue takes out the papers in which she has written the top secret notes for nuclear fission from her bra. Val Kilmer, in his hey days in this 1997 film, cakewalks through a role oozing of charm. The movie is so named because Kilmer assumes identities of saints as he travels around the world stealing expensive stuff. Why couldn't the makers of Dhoom 2 learn from the makers of The Saint? Did they even watch The Saint? I doubt it. Footnote: The Saint in itself isn't so great.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


The story is about a set of six couples facing different problems in their relationships. Salman Khan and Priyanka lead the pack. Stories are like the movie Love Actually adapted to the Indian situation. Rex Theatre in Bangalore where I watched the movie was empty except for a couple who were holding hands and smiling in a lost kind of way. They left soon after the interval. The movie was really bad, though it did have a few funny moments. But when the plot gets serious, the ensemble cast, including Anil Kapoor and Juhi Chawla, overdoes it. Stay away from this flick unless u enjoy mindlessly stupid movies.

Meanwhile, JJ has been writing about new age jazz. Have a look.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

I'm back one piece. Thank god.