Wednesday, April 27, 2005

a class act

recently i saw this kid twirling a book on his finger. this reminded me of the many small yet brilliant abilities each person seems to innately possess. there used to be this guy in school who could twirl a pen like a baton with just 2 fingers. while i now know that baton tricks are "talents" that may decide if one beautiful girl deserves a crown and a sash more than another equally beautiful one, back then it was just plain cool. after desperate begging and giving him half my lunch everyday for a month , he acquiesced to teach me. formal training began and everyday (after lunch of course) i would sit there trying without much success while guruji supervised. he would teach the fine points of holding the pen exactly 2/3rds of the way from the bottom and then give it a subtle flick so it made one complete revolution. several teachers never knew i was in their class for i used to spend most of the class under the desk hunting for the pen that seemed to be repulsed by the sight of my fingers.

i quickly got bored with it when we discovered that rulers while to outside appearances looked like measuring devices, also possessed latent musical talents when mated with the desk and twanged. we were probably the first to form a band comprised entirely of ruler-wielding maestros. wooden ones, plastic ones, short 6-inch ones and the big, bad foot-longers all produced sweet cacophony during recess.(don't take my word for it, do your own thing here ..just turn up the volume) .the rebellious among our band even risked it by practising when a teacher was expounding on the volume of a sphere and were de-scaled in front of the whole class.

so there was a talent, there was a band. all that was needed to complete this circus was animals and we didnt lack those either. the unsuspecting ants that came hunting for morsels spilt on the desks were quickly ensnared and sent to the far away other side of the desk. there they were trained repeatedly to climb the dizzying heights of a pencil while some worked on the delicate balancing act of hanging from the underside of a paper. one particularly super acrobat could do both and actually had me wishing school could go on longer beyond the final bell.

needless to say the circus broke up when we left school to pursue more "stable" careers. all that talent, all that practice a waste. i still twirl a pen now and then at work trying to get it right but there are no ants to train on my desk.

no ants, beautiful girls or fingers were harmed during the writing of this blog. a few scales did break when we exceeded the material's tensile strength

Thursday, April 21, 2005

fish (me) out of (the) water

i am from madras. you wouldn't need exceptional reasoning abilities or mathematical induction to then conclude that i probably dont know swimming. you can always test that conclusion by dropping me in a puddle on the road. my legs will cramp, hands will flail about to catch hold of the nearest passing vehicle and i'll probably drown in my own tears. if by chance the whole of india were to instantaneously turn into a desert, only two groups would survive - the very rich who would still be able to buy those water-packets and madrasis. my mom used to give me 2 tumblers a day - one to drink and the other to take care of the other necessities. i've often stayed back in school to sneak into our principal's office which had a water cooler and my neighbors had to give 108 water-laden lorries as dowry for their daugher. ok i'm exaggerating, but given the copious amounts that gush into our reservoirs courtesy of the excessively generous karnataka government, we could barely fill a bucket let alone swimming pools and our youth,never having grasped the concept of swimwear, have always assumed that the anorexic bikini-clad models on FTV are really extremely poor people from 4th world nations.

the first time i tried swimming, i also learnt the importance of angles. having stayed on the shallow side of a pool (if u r wondering where, it was in madras not chennai) for abt 5 minutes, i decided to put all of my 6ft height to test and ventured over to the deep side and slowly clung to the side while a friend (its unhygenix, if u should know, and he probably learnt swimming at his favorite raibareli) beckoned me over to the other side. you see, he was better at math and having worked out that the breadth of that deep side section was barely 8 feet, he put 2 and 2 together and said that i just had to kick my 6ft frame off with a little power and my head will be hitting the other side even before i could say "save me". turns out he misjudged my expertise at staying straight (thats directional orientation smirking or giggling). so for a moment i was like a torpedo headed straight towards the heat source and the very next i'd deviated from the straight line by 90 degrees. it was as if the navigational circuit blew a fuse and, as unhygenix would relate later, i turned slowly like a temple chariot turning around mylapore tank and was churning the water like a blender. when unhygenix came over with the noble intention of saving me, i did the first thing my genes and newtonian physics told me to do. i put my hands on his head and pushed down. as per the third law, i came up for air and then someone else seeing our plight managed to pull us both out to the shallow side.

the next time was when i decided to put my tuition waiver to proper use and signed up for swimming 101. though i was/still am scarred for life by the first incident, i just couldn't resist the sight of a large square space filled with chemical-smelling, sparkling blue aqua. the brief time i'd been living in the US had turned me into a greedy sponge lusting for water of several kinds. nope it wasnt enough that i had the marvel of plumbing that was actually used to deliver water instead of air like in chennai. i just had to get my feet wet and how better to do it than in a class full of undergrads. with the help of 2 instructors, freestroke and backstroke were mastered quite easily. the butterfly was not that easy, but i didnt give up. with a lot of effort i was able to slice through the water with the grace of a caterpillar that had half-wrapped its cocoon around itself only to find it had to go in search of more leaves. then one day they decided to take us to the deep side (u didnt think i was mastering all those on the deep side, did u?). while the others slowly swam from the shallow side onto the deep, i cleverly beat them to it by walking on the side of the pool. by blackmailing me with a E grade, my instructors forced me into deep waters and insisted on teaching what they called 'treading'. while i was discussing the semantics of using a term associated with terra firma for describing activities associated with natation, i realised that i was slowly going down and that my exposition on english usage wasn't exactly contributing to keeping me afloat.when feet touched the pool's bottom at 15 feet, i stood there like i was waiting for the bus. an instructor realising i wasn't buoyant like other humans, came down and indicated that i should try coming up. that was stupid on his part, it wasn't like i wanted to become poseidon and play with mermaids. finally he came down grasped my hair and yanked me up and soon i was in a familiar position , sucking in air like a vaccum cleaner.

despite all this i did try my hand at diving a couple of times later. only because the whole class (including some beautiful undergrads) stood around exhorting me to jump and more importantly because the whole set of instructors were in the water ready to pull me out. i got out of the water without help to thunderous applause and right then i knew that i'd nailed the course. there you go,the story of a man from the water-deprived streets of chennai who grew up to be a less-than-average swimmer (only shallow side pls).

suggestion for producers: in the movie version , lets replace unhygenix by a new starlet and let there be a song right after she rescues me. for obvious reasons let the song be in a water theme park.

mid-week movie mania

after a unsuccessful jeopardy try-out and omelettes for lunch at greek town i headed home and started the week's true end with 'Raincoat'. rituparno ghosh takes o.henry's 'the gift of magi' , tweaks it a bit and then thanks him in the end. ajay devgan in need of money seeks help from his friends in calcutta and while there goes to visit his past flame,ash, who is now married to an apparently affluent guy. 'apparently' because it turns out that the antique (pronounced wonderfully as 'aunteek' by ash's uneducated character) furniture in the hall is not their own but belongs to a furniture salesman who is renting their house. the script moves at almost the same pace as life which was just right to keep me engrossed. its tough to get devgan to overact and the effect that the lack of hamming had on each shot was quite shocking for someone who has been brought up on the staple crying and shouting in indian movies. i wonder if 'black' would've been better if it had been taken in this style of very-low-drama.

after returning raincoat, we braced ourselves for 'socha na tha' which from the cover promised to be the anti-thesis of raincoat. the DVD cover said that it was the story of a guy who turns down a prospective alliance to get engaged to his catholic girlfriend only to discover he is in love with first girl. fooled by the cover story's relative simplicity we took it home to find out how complex and utterly real this movie was. at one point one of the characters asks the aforementioned guy "tum paagal ho kya?" . i've never heard a truer line uttered in any movie abt its hero. both the actor and the character are frustrating enough that we were placing bets on who - among his brother, father,bhabhi,girlfriend and the girl - would kill him first. the funniest part happened after the movie ended. the dvd stayed in our apartment for 2 more days before getting returned with a late fee. i cried like salman in HDDCS while paying the fine. all the money i earned doing "work" was going down the video shop's drain

by then , a nice golt movie called 'Mass' had mysteriously found its way onto my laptop and seeing that the print was decent, i bought a DVi-to-TV converter,hooked up my mac to the tv + stereo and let sundara telugu fill the rather silent corridors of my apt floor. mass is the name of nagarjuna..he even gives some convoluted logic as to why he got the name but i didnt understand one word of what he said. a rather uncooperative golt room-mate , forgetting how i'd translated the prabhu crying "naan ippo enna seiyvaen saravana" joke just last week,refused to repeat or translate it for me. mass comes to vizag from hyd to rescue his lady love(a rather large tub-of-jo'thika) whose father and brother are huge dadas. he goes about smashing heads and killing the henchmen of the dada and the people of vizag stand around applauding and after finding out when the next show is , disperse peacefully. after beating up scores of bad guys and blowing up a few cars and 1 van, mass meets the evil brother face-to-face,again in front of a million jobless vizag golts and thulps him..seeing which the father dada takes a gun, and in a ending that might've surprised o.henry, shoots the brother (his own son) and then shoots himself. talk about ruthless villains, this one even killed himself . i was so inspired by his act that i ruthlessly deleted Mass freeing up about a GB of repressed hard disk space.

i ended this week's movie marathon with 'Mahanadigan', a really funny story with the ultra-sarcastic sathyaraj playing a conniving "young" man who stamps on everyone in his way, neatly arranges them as steps and then walks on them to a better life. along the way actors and politicians face his/the director's wrath. he imitates actors, disses the technicians, ridicules politicians on their own stage and still manages to become the CM. if anyone is still uncertain that tamil inherently lends itself to sarcasm, i would like to invite them to see this movie.
btw, does anyone know what sarcasm is in hindi ??

Sunday, April 17, 2005

so-so sunday

ladies and gentlemen, you are in the presence of mediocrity-ness. i am not a quizzer though i have a penchant for useless trivia that makes me appear like one. the last and only time i was on a quiz was in the ninth class when my geography teacher volunteered me for one. i upheld her clever choice by wrongly answering several questions including one about the tallest mountain in india( which i instantaneously answered as K2 and when given another chance, quickly changed it to the doddabedda peak). despite that the red house, who i represented, came in third out of 4 and i got a plaque that sits between a nodding dog and one of my sister's chipped vases in the showcase in our hall.

jeopardy is a game show that is said to be the toughest game-show and is a quiz of (mostly american) general knowledge. so when i got a few answers right while watching on tv, i quickly filled in a form online and registered myself as an ardent, brilliant nerd who was interested in appearing on the show. the huge lucky wave i've been riding all past month started swelling again and i found myself chosen to appear for a contestant try-out. i started preparing by memorizing state and country capitals and annoyed friends from other states by calling them up, deliberately mentioning that state's capital and then asking them if they'd been there. i also did a fair bit of reading on the civil war, the american revolution, the presidents, shakespeare (yup i now know that hamlet was a prince and not a danish omelette) and pretty much read all i could in a month. but in no way does that give you license to stop me on the street and ask me questions . on my part , i'll try to be quiet about state capitals.

when the day finally dawned , i knew i was going to fail miserably. its a 50 question test with about 7 seconds for each question and word on the web was that 35 correct responses would send me to the next round. in some practice tests the highest i'd managed was 25. there was still opera, american playwrights, vice-presidents and a thousand other topics i'd completely avoided. when i got to the test-center (it was just a small room in Navy Pier) there were about 60 other well-dressed normal-looking people with the engine of a nerd humming under their hoods. as we got in , we were given a pen and a piece of paper with 50 blanks on it. then after a short practice game , the test began. literary characters, first ladies, english grammar, english rulers, english poets and several other words flew by on the screen. i actually did much better than i thought i would and was guilty of secretly harboring hopes of getting called. it didnt turn out that way and as the organizers said, the people who didnt get through probably all just missed by one. so there you have it , i missed getting on the toughest game-show in the US by just one question. so, folks, i am mediocre and i got a pen with JEOPARDY written on it to prove it.

You can play a multiple choice version of jeopardy on the web at :

S U P E R saturday

groups of desis stood smoking below a sign that said stratford square mall. surely we were at the right place but way too early. it didnt take too long to guess that we had entered the mall during the interval of the previous show. the rest of the mall looked and behaved like a typical suburban mall during a weekend. when we came back to the theater entrance about an hour and a half later, it was like the mall had suddenly announced it was having a sale for janmashtami. the last time i'd seen so many of our ilk was when the temple was having its annual diwali celebrations. but this crowd was to celebrate an even bigger event. even before seeing the movie, i was reminded of the charisma of the superstar. he'd managed to pull all of my university's (tamil?) alumni from every nook and corner of the midwest to one place. people were soon talking of zooming careers, imprisoned lives and the movie itself
"hey are u still doing ur masters??"
"yup...hey whos that chick over there"
"umm..she's my wife, i got married in december"
not every conversation was like that though. after several warnings that the line to get in was long,i finally joined the tail of a rather long and wide line and thanks to my enterprising golt friends managed pretty good seats. the movie finally began after thanking everyone from the airport baggage-handler who handled the "potti" when it landed at o-hare to someone called vasu , who was using the superstar ticket like other politicians before him. briefly, rajini is a psychiatrist who comes down from the US to meet his friend prabhu. prabhu is going to a village where he has a road-building contract but the house he is moving to is apparently haunted.strange things start happening once they move in and how thalaivar solves the problem is the rest of the story. i'm deliberately skipping a few beautiful damsels , some very well canned songs, a fight and a lot of double entendres there. if u r a rajini fan, you'll like it. if you are not, you'll just find reasons not to.

as most other reviews would tell u thalaivar looks much better than he did in baba and that intro -any other star in that sort of a fight sequence wud've been out of place,not rajini. we did the best we could crying ourselves hoarse almost throughout the intro and the first song. the movie moves along at quite a brisk pace in the first half with thalaivar and vadivelu producing quite a lot of guffaws . we then broke for samosas in the interval. rajini fans were put to shame by a caucasian/hispanic lad behind the refreshments counter wearing a t-shirt with thalaivar showing his pearly whites. damn the organizers, giving rajini t-shirts to popcorn vendors. the movie takes a more serious turn in the second half and p.vasu manages to tie it all up with a few loose ends. with that we came back to reality and stepped out from a theater that for a brief while had assumed the Santham moniker.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Sin City

gore is a dish best served in plenty. sin city creator frank miller and director robert rodriquez dish the violence out with style and have created a genre that most indians would succinctly identify as "masala". movies that take off from books suffer the scrutiny of readers who'd compare each scene to its corresponding page. sin city dives right off a comic storyboard and comes out not as a adaptation but as the comic itself. despite being only a small time comic book fan , i could imagine portions of the dialogs appearing as talk bubbles and there is a fair amount of narrative that could appear in a narrative box on its own. a lot of close-ups, exaggerated expressions and over the top dialog delivery complete this movie's make-up as a comic. oh yeah another thing, this movie is drawn in good ol' black and white (and lots of grey) with certain portions highlighted in really bright color (like a blood red car, shining blonde hair and piercing blue eyes). even the blood when it pours (and pour it does) is in a sort of fluorescent white which doesn't detract from the gore at all. the laughter from the audience at each decimation and decapitation was quite reminiscent of 'kill bill'. no surprise considering that tarantino is a "special guest director".

it starts with the story of hartigan who rescues a young girl from her abductor but quickly moves to another about marv , an ugly hulk who sleeps with a kind hooker. the hooker is killed when she's in bed with him and he seeks revenge. the body count starts there and soon you lose count.whether its due to the lack of fingers and toes or the spectacular,vibrant grey imagery is debatable. the next is about a bartender shelley and her lover dwight. dwight takes on her ex-lover who is finely chopped by another sword-wielding hooker while dwight looks on. they later find he is a cop and have to cover it up. the third is about hartigan again but now the small girl has grown up and blossomed into a fine young jessica alba. there are times in the movie when one wishes it was in plain color. her scenes were some of them. the abductor hunts her down again but hartigan saves her yet again.

as is obvious , i'm skipping plenty of comic strip panels here, including some very stripped ones that had more of the aforementioned hookers. i didnt think it was the best story ever told but the way it was told was quite unlike any i've seen. it certainly wont please everyone. i'm looking forward to see how it goes down with the indian audience who i'm sure will take it up only after feasting on chandramukhi,sachin,mumbai express and anniyan.

Website :
ogle at jessica alba and others there or at a theater

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Breakfast Club

the 80's arent really a generation i identify with. Among the few memories I have are one of running to my neighbor's house to watch the spiderman cartoon in color and another of playing the emperor in emperor's new clothes without knowing how the tale ended.. embarrassment has a strange way of increasing long term memory. ok enough illustrated about how little i remember of the 80s. So when someone at work told me they could lend me The Breakfast Club(1985) , I wasn't really going for it till someone else told me it was by the same guy who made Ferris Bueller's Day Off - in my opinion one of the best Chicago-based movies ever.

The Breakfast Club was quite different from Ferris Bueller. It is not linear in the sense that there isn't a continuous storyline. There are 5 characters - high school students - who are forced to spend detention together in the school library on a Saturday. They represent the different subgroups in school and if left alone would have passed out of school without speaking to each other. what happens is a catharsis where each relates his/her thoughts about parents, their mistakes, their insecurities. If you adjust a little for the differences in societies , you have a picture of what every high school student goes through.

With a minimal cast (apart from the 5, only a janitor and the teacher have any real talk time) and some very well written conversations, writer/director john hughes(writer of Home Alone, for the 90's children) does an excellent job of representing the whole high school population with its myriad problems that seem to mysteriously vanish when something called "growing up" happens. the movie starts with the teacher confining them to the library asking them to write an essay about who they think they are. the essay never materialises on paper but you can see it on your tv screen if you care to rent it.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

appadi Podu podu podu

my favorite 'ism' - materialism
read the fine print. click for a closer look

at times i think i made my sister and B-i-L buy this for me just to do a post like this

Friday, April 01, 2005

mandatory post on death

death and life start at the same is initially faster..death just catches up and goes on to win

today my speed increases some more. after much thought and after scanning my rearview mirror for cops , i've plunged my foot and accelerated to 26 years / year.

for the metaphorically challenged : its my birthday..yeah i was born surprisingly close to a day that celebrates stupidity.
but this year its different..i'm 26...finally.i have waited a long time for this.
in terms of achievement, year #26 ranks right up there along with #1 when i learned to sit on my ass. but i have a feeling theres a lot more to come.