Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I saw History with my eyes today

Late into the night of the 4th of November of 2008, America wrote history when John Mccain conceded the presidential race to Barack Obama.

After 220 years, 2 active wars and an economic meltdown, the message of hope for change, for unifying the nation with all its diversities for a better tomorrow awakened a new generation and was heard beyond the boundaries of race, gender, age, state geographies, wealth, politics, beliefs and ideologies.

Barack Obama will take over as the true 21st Century President, the 44th President of the United States of America in 77 days. As the world wakes up tomorrow, a new era has already begun.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

No Such Thing as Magik

With moderate expectations, i watched Rock on! during the opening weekend on Aug 30th.
The film kicks off with a great promise laid down by a racy number with zany electronic music and catchy camerawork. The energy quickly dissipates and the pace vanishes and what follows next though is a mediocre stretch of 2 and 1/2 hours with predictable and hokey scenes.

Surprisingly i found rave (really really rave) reviews of the movie over the internet. To be fair to Abhishek Kapoor, the movie looked better than its predecessor-hyped movie - Jane Tu Ya Jane Na. That apart, it's a movie of a music band re-union. I don't think that sounds original to anyone reading this post or watching the movie.

I think they made Farhan Akhtar's debut as an actor and singer bigger than the movie. He did good as an actor i would say, but his vocals, hmmm, more on that later.

Let me list down where the movie scores and where it falls.

1. Throughout the movie, all we hear is the band 'Magik' wants to be a rock band. Their haircuts, their dressing sense, their 'attitude' towards life, collectively speaks the language of a rock-star dream. And now look at the lead vocalist of the band. He does not, SO NOT, have the voice of a rock star. I can't imagine leading rock band of the country to have Farhan Akhtar's vocals. He can easily be and should be a country singer. Or a soft pop artist. Did anyone watch 'Americal Idol' this season? From the beginning it was a one on one between David Archuleta and David Cook. D A has a very soft and honeyed voice. He could have easily been the Idol but a big nay for a rock star. Idol is not a rock-band competition mind you. D C on the other hand has a very matured voice, perfect for a rock star. Hear a song he sung and you would know what is an upcoming rock artist should sound like. That's why i am comparing with him and not established rock vocalists. And if you don't want to go that far, just listen the 'Zahereelay' song of the same movie. You may not like the song (neither did i), you may or may not like the singer's voice, but that my friends is a rock star's voice. Farhan A's voice is too shallow, and he could not take any song to higher notes, or at least i never noticed.
The song they picked for the contest - 'Peechhale saat dinon mein' is way out of category for a rock song. They still manage to win the contest because they are our movie stars and not rock stars. They should have at least used the services of Luke Kenny who was right there on the sets playing Rob.
Our supposedly rock artists are purists, they live by principles, so they don't want a remix song in their album. But they have no objection towards 'Tum Ho To' song. I like this song, it's a soulful melody, but what about the rules they just set for themselves.

2. Arjun Rampal - This shouldn't come as a surprise. Someone should convince him he is way far from an actor. His cold demeanor and stone face is used quite cleverly i would say in the movie. Nice way to use someone's inabilities to act to project his character. Acting apart, if you want to see someone really uncomfortable with a guitar watch A R strumming strings on the concluding stage show. Even the extras could have done better.

3. Storyline - Is it only me or everyone thinks they have seen this before in movies, on TV ? You know what i read on internet, that this is Dil Chahta Hai part 2. The only apparent similarity is Farhan Akhtarand S E L.

4. Cliche's - There are so many of them, that it hardly keeps you guessing and mostly boring. It's full of sequences created to cramp into storyline.
Devika's goa acquaintance at her shop, the character of Aditya's boss, Prachi's leaving Aditya to her Mom's house and quickly coming back, to count a few.

1. I quickly became the fan of the music. To me that's the only non ordinary thing about the movie. All the songs put together, Shakar Ehsan Loy have done a superb job. Rock on! is catchy, Socha Hai is racy, Tum ho to is soft and romantic. I also liked Phir Dekhiye song, it's equally soft and melodious.
2. F A is ok as an actor. Can't expect too much from a debut artist. Prachi Desai is beautiful and looks easy in her character. Former DJs Purab Kohli and Luke Kenny have done their part well. Koel Purie on the other hand should have been given more footage. Her character itself looks artificial created only to make Prachi easy to compare her life with someone.
The movie is good on technical aspects like cinematography and camerawork.

Magik do well as a band. They are lovable as young and restless oozing with bouts of energy but their tale could have been told better. Their magic fails to mesmerize the audience and their spell falls short of the promise.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Olympics are over - what can we learn that we never learn

Another olympics came to a scintillating close. China waived goodbye to the thousands of athletes, coaches, press and media and millions of eyes watching from around the world with a grand celebration and its head held high.

Apart from the obvious controversies of athlete's age, garbage judging in gymnastics, boxing and just a few doping incidents, the olympics was a phenomenal success for the communist nation.

This time i followed the olympics much closely than before. I kept up late nights watching games on NBC or the canadian CBET channel. So here are some observations.
1. It's a big pain in the butts to keep up late nights watching them and getting up early morning to be in office in time.
2. Great Britain won 7 out of 10 gold medals in indoor cycling. That's an incredibly high % of medals in any event and takes a huge chunk out of the 16 golds GB won overall.
3. China won 7 out of 8 gold medals up for grabs in diving. Except for the 'final dive' heroics by the Aussie Matthew Mitcham, China swept the golds in diving.
4. Ethiopia won 4 gold medals, all in long distance, won by 1 man and 1 woman. Two were men's 5000 m, 10000m and 2 were women's in exactly same categories.
5. US won 13 gold medals in swimming alone. That's more than 1/3rd of their total gold count.
6. Jamaica won 6 golds, 11 total medals. 100% of them in track and field. 100% of them in sprinting (100, 200, 100X 4).
7. There are 7 gold medals to grab in 'rowing' , 11 golds in 'kayaking/canoeing' , 6 golds in 'equestrian' events.
8. There are 14 golds to dig in gymnastics (China won 12 of these) and add 2 in rhythmic gymnastics.

Why i list these here, cos i felt a certain trend in these. For a medal deprived country like India, which spends exuberant amout of money, and excessive attention to the sport of cricket that is not part of the olympics at all and even if it is included in future can fetch only 1 (or 2) medals as a whole, look at the opportunities to grab medals !!
For the startes, we must put this on a notebook, how much of money, sponsorship which sports require. Look at Great Britain and their olympic program. They pay part of the tax money as salaries to athletes and they got excellent coaches who turned their cyclists (who also are great athletes) into world champions. If GB can do it, why can't we !
If Ethiopia can win long distance double gold, why can't we. Why can't we pick sports which have greater potential of giving results (and less fluff) and target them.
Jamaicans are known for sprinting. They have troubled the US athletes all the time. This time was their greatest trimuph.

One thing i've always heard is 'desi' ppl lack in strength and stamina to africa or western countries (no offense meant). But then what @ diving ? what @ gymnastics. If China sweeps men's gymnastics golds, and almost sweeps diving (you should have seen the Chinese divers, they are sleek, extremely lean and small compared to others. Being sleek and light is quite an advantage in diving. Their women's synchro pair looked like twins both in form and movements off the board.) there is no question of someone being bigger in size than you.
Our boxers have done well over time. Not that well may be to win multiple olympic medals but they have been noticeable from quite a while. But then that sport never got attention to pour money into it and develop the contemporary breed of young athletes into gold diggers. We have history of medal in weightlifting as well.

Abhinav Bindra won gold in 10m rifle - shooting. That doesn't require you to be big and heavy. And he won. There are so many ways to target certain sports and do good in them. Of course the first attempt may not fetch any gold medals but that would take you close to the podium. Even a bronze in a 'systematically targetted event' is a harbinger of future success to come. But we rely on individual athletes working their ass off w/o any financial support or security or little help in world class coaching and facilities. Somehow our folks manage to scrap a medal or two and whoa !! the whole country exults and then the politicians / sponsors start serenading them with rewards and long term contracts. We are always reactive, we can not for once think ahead and plan and support a system that can produce results.

May be we already know this, but are hesitant to take that first step. Why - cos obviously these sports are not 'popular' so there is little mass-awareness and media coverage for them. That means little sponsorship and hence little funds. Can our Govt take steps like GB to pay salaries ? Or ask BCCI to donate even 10% of its annual income to promoting and supporting other sports (that would be huge money !).

Friday, August 15, 2008

Age, myopic judges and Gymnastics

Nastia Liukin won the all-round gold in gymnastics. Finally something other than the Chinese National anthem played at the medal ceremony in the National Indoor Arena.

She conquered the allegedly underaged Chinese, garbage scoring by horribly inconsistent judges and her good friend and reigning world champion Shawn Johnson to claim the top spot on the podium.

My heart goes out to Shawn. She got hammered in the uneven bars routine despite doing well (of course at a lesser difficulty level than Nastia) and she wasn't given her due on the balance beam in spite of an incredible performance. Her do-or-die floor routine was stunning too!.

My heartiest congratulations to the women's new all-round olympic champion. Way to go Nastia !!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Take your pick - Cooking or Wedding

25 something bachelors staying away from home, beware. If you cringe that you hate cooking, even a casual line that you did not want to cook y'day night or you were too tired of work to cook or u want to go out for lunch on a weekday, you just got yourself into trouble.
A pervasive statement in it's many flavors would be hurled at you from all sides, "You should get married" or "Go get married" or "why don't you get married" or "it's time to get married" or "find yourself a girl to get married".
Now, what has cooking to do with wedding bells. Agreed, after marriage probably your wife would cook for you (and her) but shouldn't there be more reasons to get hooked up with someone for the rest of ur life than having to do away with the boring cooking chore. Besides, in world like today's, it's likely that you would be the one toying with skillet and pans for both of you than her. Or you might just get a maid to do the kitchen stuff. Or, and quite unlikely, you may just enjoy cooking yourself !!
hmphhhhh !

Monday, July 28, 2008

Salute the Knight

What happens when you give the keys of a superhero franchise into the hands of an outstanding director who finds talented screenwriters either employing himself or his protege' brother and get the best actors to play his characters on screen. You get a movie where Amazing Happens (borrowed from the NBA) !
To me, the Batman really started with Batman Begins. Nothing against Tim Burton, but i didnt really enjoy the pre-Nolan Batman movies. They were good but they were like those recipes which taste delicious, yet you still feel there is something missing, mmm, may be cinnamon, may be salt, may be pepper, you can't narrow it down and still you know it could have been better.

Enough said already about the movie, so i will keep it short. I found a perfect handshake between developing the characters and keeping the pace of the movie in TDK. Just listen to the meticulously written dialogues and you would know how carefully they've written the script.

Finally a movie,
where we get to see the full blown villain, Joker, the man behind the painted face with special love for anarchy and chaos. Agreed he doesn't tell any jokes but he makes you laugh with his wisecracks and plain insanity. The agent of chaos is written remarkably by the Nolans and portrayed perfectly by Heath Ledger far better than the Riddler of Jim Carrey. I especially loved his confrontations with Batman - "This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object.... You won't kill me out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness, and I won't kill you because you are just too much fun !"
"Why do you want to kill me?" "Kill you ! What will i do without you. Go back to ripping off mob dealers? ..... You .. you complete me". Equally good were his arguement with the officer "Do you wanna know why I use a knife? Guns are too quick. You can't savor all the little emotions...... So in a way, I know your friends better than you ever did .. Do you want to know which of them are cowards? " or his "Why so serious?" tagline explanation of his scars. He's really got into the character of Joker and once again, credit also goes to the script.

If Batman Begins was written for Bruce Wayne and Christian Bale, then TDK without a doubt is written for Joker and Heath. To be fair to Bale, he's done a great job showcasing the Batman who wants to turn Gotham into the hands of the "White Knight" Harvey Dent, or turn himself in to stop Joker's innocent killing and give up his suit for the love of the city. He wants to see the picture of Gotham that doesn't need Batman, but it is still not there yet, so he remains a dark knight, who like a guardian angel protects the city, takes blame for someone else to keep the hope of the city alive, the shawdow the city needs and yet loves to hate. The movie also brings out technical wizzardry of Batman and also touches the point that a completely human superhero has his limits.

Aaron Eckhart couldn't have been better in his "You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain " portrayal of Harvey Dent.

The stunts are just brilliant and you get to see every penny's worth on the screen. An occasional shot of perky humor, outstanding action sequences and great chemistry between some of the greatest big screen performers keep the movie racing and the clock ticking for 2.5 hours without you noticing.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Lost and Delirious (2001)

I was flipping through Youtube and stumbled over this movie. Surprisingly the whole movie is out there.

Lost and Delirious is a love story, set in a posh girls boarding school. Mary (Mischa Barton) is the 'new girl' who joins her senior roommates Paulie (Piper Perabo) and Tori (Jessica Pare'). As she is trying to get over the death of her mother and getting used to life in the new place, she discovers her roommates are actually lovers. Surprised at first, she silently approves of their love playing her tacit part. No one else knows about it and the love is blossoming through the lives of the adolescent and adorable young couple. Everything seems well when Tori's sister Allison accidentally finds her in bed with Paulie. Before she could relay this to their orthodox parents and hell cut loose, Tori decides to break up with Paulie lying to Allison that Paulie has a crush on her and she slipped into her bed and Tori has nothing to do with it. That she is attracted to guys and in very much in love with Jake, from neighboring school. Paulie on the other hand, never denies to be in love with Tori, and she begins to try win her back, fending off the constant taunts of her peers. Tori, though still in love with Paulie is in a constant denial of her feelings, just to look 'normal'. It gets worse when Paulie gets a mail stating they have found her Mom but she doesn't want to reveal her identity. Paulie's desperate ways to win the only person to love her, making a scene in the canteen, in the class, in the library then challenging Jake for duel reach their limit and the tragic end dawns.

It artfully captures the essence of falling in love at the adolescent age. Paulie's not giving up her love over Tori's denial, Paulie's insane actions over Tori's exaggerated praise of her boyfriend, and Mary's trying to snap Paulie out of it while discovering her coming of age are portrayed beautifully. The movie underlines you can't control when and with whom you fall in love and love is 'just is'. It captures all the hues of a love story, starting with the freshness of love at tender age, the holding hands and singing, the lying in each others' arms, the melancholy when your love walks out on you, the buckling of one of the lovers under family and social pressure, the sense of competition and determination to win your love back. All this has been brought through vibrant colors, great photography and outstanding performance by the lead characters. The movie is slow and sometimes predictable but it doesn't fail to touch a part of you.

Piper Perabo outright steals the show . Isn't she as gorgeous as she's a great actor ! Too bad she doesn't do much mainstream cinema. Equally stunning Jessica Pare' has done justice to her portrayal of the lover unable to pick between what she wants over what others would say. Mischa Barton has done well too.
The movie clearly goes beyond the lesbian undertones and what we get is the masterpiece of a marvelous and sad love story.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Wisdom through Scrubs

In one of the past season episodes of Scrubs, Turk and Carla are planning to have a baby. Carla observes the tightrope walk Dr Cox and Jordan had to go thru due to their kid while she also discovers she can't manage kids by herself and they are just a big nuisance. Dr Cox observes her caught up between the two worlds of the desire to have baby and the fears of not being able to raise it. And comes this from Dr Cox - "When you have yours, you'll know you had the courage to be a parent all along".

Last weekend, i spoke with one of my friends who became mom 3 months back. And after the usual Qs about her 3 month old, i threw the question - how does it feel to have the kid, to completely focus all the attention to him, to think about the baby before yourself and your husband, to bend everything to fit the new part of you into your life. She instantly said "M, when you become a parent, it just happens. It takes nothing special beyond that".

So the point is, sitcoms can be worth something, despite being so unreal or plain fake !
Another point is, it's not only about welcoming a baby into your life. It can be applied to anything new coming to your life, even your wedding, or quitting your job in pursuit of your dream.
hmmm ...

Monday, June 30, 2008

No Pain for SPain this time !

It was theirs to take even before the tournament began. They entered the tournament with a 16 game winning streak and they emerged as the only team of late to win every single match to lift the European Championship trophy (after France did that in 1984 or so).

From the very beginning they displayed their skills with the football. I always liked to watch them dribble and enjoy ball possession. They however lacked taking control in midfield especially against a strong defensive team like Italy. You don't see them making long passes across center line and their tiny framework against bigger-in-size European teams was not in best of their favor.
But they had speed, and Puyol and Marchena took care of business down their box intercepting almost everything that tried to sneak to Casillas. And Casillas had the safest pair of gloves on his recently insured hands. Xavi was impressive all along and David Villa became the hottest player in Europe.
Fernando Torres finally got the credit for such a great player that he is. Whoever saw his title clinching goal against Germany would agree, no body else could've done it. It was Torres and only Torres who went to the blind side of Lahm and outran him and flicked the ball just before Lehman could grab it.
Torres could have got one earlier but it hit the woodwork and added one more to his poor luck this tournament. But he kept running. kept fighting hard for the ball and he got his dew finally.
Torres and Fabregas almost never let anyone realize that they were missing their star striker and the leading goal scorer in Euro 2008 - David Villa. With a little more luck they could've got a couple more into the net. But in the end, they didn't need one. One of the surprising things was how Spain never let Germans into attacks in the dying minutes. They made it look like Germany had already given up. That was a stamp of how dominant Spain was.

They overcame quite a bit of history to win this. They first got better of Italy in quarterfinals and then broke the jinx of yellow jersey (??) against Russia in semis. The only doubt was if they can beat the 44 years of drought of a major title and Torres and Casillas and Co showed they meant Championship this time. Hail the Champions of Europe !

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Boston TeaM Party

The reaction of KG said it all. Oblivious to the delirious crowd and his team mates in wild frenzy of celebration, he rushed to the center of the parquet floor, knelt down, kissed the leprechaun and collapsed. He had finally answered his own demons, he could stand up to him for once and forever here on. He wanted to savor this moment. He couldn't hold his breath when someone put a mic in front of him. He finally let his emotions flow, unrestrained, he nearly collapsed on shoulders of Posey. There came the biggest moment when Bill Russell walked over to him and hugged him and then he could once in his life say those proud words "I've got my own". Yes, he got his own. He quickly got approval from Bill when he asked 'Hope we made you proud'. For all those years in Minnesotta, he was alone. In Boston he finally found his home, he found a place where he belongs. The city that has seen it all in 16 NBA titles, was long waiting for it's 17th, so long that they could have even quit on basketball. With KG in off-season trade, they got their hope back, they got the reason to believe in the C's. They worshiped him all season. They knew the 17th banner was in the making.
In Boston, like in war, there is no prize for the runner up. Their legacy is so rich, anything short of a title is flat ordinary. KG knew it, Paul Pierce knew it well through the last decade and Ray Allen knew it too. They gave the city the reward for every single moment of faith it has shown in their revived green team.
When the scoreline says 131-92, no ones need a telling it was a no contest. But it came against the best offensive team in the league. They could have won game 5 in LA on Sunday and made their fans and fathers proud. But it was a close contest, and more importantly, KG had a 'garbage' game in his own words. KG was the most consistent player on either side of the board throughout playoffs for Boston. He, most of all, was not going to let this chance slip. But he didn't have a great series against Lakers and game 5 was his worst. But come game 6 and it was a totally new KG, rather the same KG we knew before, the KG on a mission. He was aggressive than ever and with clinical precision of not giving away fouls in aggression. He was there to take shots and to get boards on defense. Celtics' celebrated defense is built around him and he showed why, once again.

Ray Allen shot with a magical touch, anything and everything sliding out from his fingers would find the basket. He is unarguably the unsung hero for C's. He had a crap first 2 rounds in playoffs. Nothing would work for him, and media and fans doubted him but he never changed anything. He believed in himself. Doc Rivers, KG and Paul did too. He came alive against Pistons, he was the biggest factor in that win. He was the most consistent player against Lakers. Game 6 was no different.
Pierce was charging into paint, and he had Kobe silenced and perplexed. He's sacrificed his offense to guard Kobe. He did that against a more physical Lebron of Cavaliers. He could have easily scored 50 more points in the playoffs, but it wasn't individual honors for Boston. Paul, Ray, KG have seen it all - all sorts of awards and all-star selections. What they didn't have was the ring. Their own rafter, their ultimate prize, the Larry O'Brien trophy.

The best thing to see was Rajon Rondo in action. I have nothing against him, he is too young, and to be a point guard for a such a high profile team, is a big weight on those young shoulders. He & Perkins give the opposition a chance to flank the floor and use free safety on their shooters. He would miss free throws, and often his extra energy would give away a turnover. But that didn't matter. Doc always had faith in him. He accepted Rondo is not getting few things right, but he never criticized him. He missed shots and FTs here again but he gave them all important 6 steals. That put them in dictating terms. Even notorious Phil Jackson admitted it was Rondo, who took it away from Lakers. It was a big moment for him, at the biggest stage of his budding career with the cloud of doubts hovering over his head and he came out the winner. Perkins though sloppy on the offense, gets crucial blocks and forces turnovers. He's still to go a long way, and he sure will. One should never undermine the contributions from Eddie House and James Posey. Doc turned to them in game 4 when C's were ailing under a huge deficit. House and Posey played a monumental role in bringing them to life again and to take it all the way. Powe got them game 2. PJ Brown and Sam Cassell had their share of contributions. NBA commercials say "There can only be one" but in Boston, it was the TEAM, it never was individual glory. It is with that in mind, they got Garnett, Pierce and also Posey, Brown and Cassell.

The playoffs didn't start well for C's and it was more of being themselves on the court than any opposition for them. They struggled against Hawks and people thoughts Cavs would get the better of them. They survived Cavs and people would mock the seasoned Pistons would burry them dead. All thru the playoffs in the post-game conference the C's would say only one thing - All we think of is the Championship. Nothing less. Nothing else. I am sure it sounded like daydreaming to some. But they believed in the dream, they walked the dream. The extra games gave them a chance to trust each other to complement each other, to get their bench in action and build the on court chemistry. They didn't have a superstar like Kobe or Jordan or Magic, they proved they don't need one. When Paul left injured in Game 1, Doc quickly gathered the team and announced that they were a better team, and reminded them that they were going to win this, even if Paul won't return. Now that was game 1 and everyone was predicting a Lakers triumph. But the sentiment on Celtics bench was they were better, from the very beginning. They never let media or Laker fans get between their belief in themselves and the prized Championship trophy. Before game 6, in the dressing room, Doc again reminded them 'no one in this team wants this championship more than anybody else'. They were a team, with identical hunger for that ring.

This win, at the Garden in Boston, in front of their vociferous fans with the Celtics Legends Russell and Havlicek in the stands, over their old nemesis by 39 points - their biggest win in Championship finals, at the greatest stage in basketball when all of their big 3 shined, when everything fell in place like a scripted drama, was the best culmination to a dream season which goes as the biggest single season turn around in NBA history. It was the most the city of Boston could have asked from their team for their faith and support and the best Ray, Paul and KG and Posey, Perkins, Rondo, House, Davis, Cassell, Tony Allen, and Doc Rivers as a coach could deliver. With this the big 3 finally got their chance to get immortalized.

Weighed down by the pressure of those 16 banners hanging from rafters all season, they now have one of their own. They are right up there, with the Celtics Legends, as the Celtics Legends.
(all images from