Saturday, December 31, 2005

Ramblings related to Google

the year end google Zeitgeist is here. hurricane katrina and tsunami are right there on the top; tells a lot about how a majority of the people live their lives today - we are still moved by the big tragedies that are taking place around the world. the news channels revisited the tsunami affected areas to see how people have fought back their fates and carried themselves ahead. the reports by TV channel CNN-IBN looked like the best researched ones.

5 of the top 10 searches on Froogle are related to ipod. seems everyone has been buying only ipods these days. did i commit a mistake by going for the creative player? don't forget to checkout the other sections on that page(accessible through the tabs at the top of the page). Google Zeitgeist re-affirms the fun of putting the statistics to good use :)

Google's official blog also has this interesting post about the method developed by an Indian organisation called PlanetRead "which provides automatic reading practice to individuals who are excluded from the traditional educational system, or whose literacy needs are otherwise not being met." it started with a thought from Mr. Brij Kothari that "‘ if they just put Hindi subtitles on Bollywood songs in Hindi, India would become literate.’" indeed putting the hindi subtitles in all the bollywood songs would help provide immense reading practice to a vast majority of children, what with so much of popularity of hindi songs in our country. its an interesting concept which has got high chances of producing the results IMHO. Full Story.

two nice blog posts around the new year eve, follow:
both are insightful and fun to read.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

My favourite Top-10 films of the year: 2005

it is that time of the year again when you look back at the just passed year with mixed feelings, and to feel positive about it, start compiling top ten lists from every possible field :) let me put the list of my top 10 fovourite films that i got to watch in 2005.

1. Bose - The Forgotten Hero : i had only watched 'Making of Mahatma' from Shyam Benegal's stable until then, that too when i was very young. i could not watch his other film 'Zubeida' but when i made sure that i am not going to miss Bose, i got much more than what i had expected. i had expected a slow, lengthy but factual biography of Bose - with a bit of dramatisation thrown in here and there. although i had complete faith about Shyam Benegal not making it too loud or too filmy like umpteen Bhagat Singh movies. instead, what i got was an extremely interesting, very unbiased take on Bose's life with minimum of the fact-file stuff of his life. as a first thing, there was no unnecessary Gandhi bashing in this film, as is the norm for every film made on indian heroes other than the Mahatma himself. Shyam Benegal succeeded in portraying Bose's character and his life in true spirit, without unnecessarily trying to make a hero out of him in every scene - Sachin khandekar providing him able support. i believe Bose's life in itself was heroic, you don't need to dramatise it to make it any larger. since then, i have been hunting for 'Making of Mahatma' in every video shop here, without any success until now.

2. Black: what can be said about this movie! it was a completely new experience for me, i had not watched this kind of a movie ever before. it had big points in Amitabh Bachan at his best and the wonder act by the child actor. i was surprised to see some people actually calling it a very 'loud' movie. someone not liking a movie is absolutely understandable, but criticising this movie to be extremely unreal and characters going overboard? this from the same people who vouch for movies like DDLJ!! they don't understand about the different abstraction levels at which the movies can be made - black had its own level of abstraction and it stood upto it brilliantly all through, without any exceptions in between. people complaining it to be a copy of another film should understand that, simply copying a film scene-by-scene does not make a brilliant movie. these two, SBC and Black, are right there on top of my all time favourite movies.

3. Page 3: kudos to Madhur Bhandarkar for making a successful script out of a not so usual theme. it was interesting, entertaining, as well as insightful at the same time. the fact that it was also a commercially successful film, takes it to the third position im my list.

4. Iqbal: i liked this movie very much. i am of the opinion that some people tended to give it more credit than what was required. if you are extremely happy about this movie and exaggerate the reviews, that seems perfectly fine. but some people want to pretend that they care for different cinema and go overboard in praise of it when they think that they have got their victim - this time in the form of 'Iqbal.' false praise was the last thing that this film deserved. the same thing happened with 'Gangajal' which was the most confused film i ever got to watch(followed by 'Apharan' by the same film-maker). the difference is, Gangajal is an ordinary film and Iqbal is an extremely beautiful film. i had only heard about Nagesh Kukunoor until then, but after watching the film, i too became one of his ardent admirers. i won't be missing any of his films in the future, however small budgeted films they may be.

5. Swades: this was a film which would definitely disappoint more than it would satisfy you. that's because it was such a wonderful film, yet it could have been so much better. i don't mind the length of the movie. i don't mind if Shahrukh Khan doesn't wear designer clothes. i don't mind if the lead actress of the movie can't act. i don't mind if only 60% of the film is entertaining. but i still believe that Swades could have been much better. the message was unclear, and even then, it was not emphatically expressed(what was Mohan Bhargav in Ashutosh's mind - positive, ideal character worthy to be emulated? what did he meant by "there is a Mohan Bhargav in every one of us?"). Swades was well researched and Ashutosh Gowarkiar dared a few things with it(ridiculing the usual 'bharateeya parampara' philosophy that most indians take cover behind whenever its economy is challenged) which only he could have. it proved that Shahrukh can actually act, if given an oppurtunity.

6. Parineeta: how many times do we make a film based on an original fictional work (of indian origin)? Paheli was flawed, an ordinary attempt at best, and Devdas was utter crap. Parieeta scored because it was not too bad, rather than being too good. the music and the visuals were top class. literally anyone in place of Saif would have earned more points for it.

7. Aa Naluguru(telugu): the same description of 'Virudh' applies to this film too: it couldn't have been made in any other way. there were 20 members in the theatre, including me, when i went to watch this film. but later, it went on do much better . it had lots of positives, and once again it was a sort of dream project for the film-maker, so no compromises were made here too. Rajendra Prasad proved what a versatile actor he is - he was the sole reason why this movie makes into my top 10.

8. Premiste(telugu/tamil): this was a simple film made from the very bottom of the heart by the film director Balaji Sakthivel. i enjoyed watching it and wouldn't mind watching it again. i have already written about it here, so won't waste anymore words on it (than this!).

9. Virudh: this was an honest attempt proving a liability on the audience's patience. Mahesh Manjraker tried to be very honest, and though his intentions were good, even the execution, it was never a movie material in the first place. similar to 'Dev' this should not have been a full-length feature film at all. its a winner for me because Manjraker did what he wanted to with it, without any compromises. it is the decision of making this as a film that i do not quite agree with, but once the choice was made, it couldn't have been made in any other way. and he dared to make it that way.

10. Main aisa hi hoon: this is another flawed film that i liked very much. the story was good, not expected by me, as it ends on a positive note with a twist. Ajay Devagan did a fabulous job here, doing what he has been doing all these years - giving a controlled performance. i appreciate what Hrithik Roshan did in 'Koi Milgaya...' but any day i would prefer Ajay's portrayal of this character over that of Hrithik's in KMG. it takes extreme amount of talent, understanding as well as courage to give such a controlled performance of such a volatile character. not too many high points, but the movie on the whole was quite engaging.

the other movies which i was dying to watch but couldn't, as they never got released in the theatres at my place, are:
  • Matrubhoomi
  • Khamosh Paani
  • Hazaaron Khwahishien Aisi
  • Black Friday
  • Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Maara
  • Sehar - this was released in the theatres here, but i still missed it :(

but i got these films from the other sources and plan to watch them ASAP. i am sure atleast the top five would have made it to my top 10, if only i had managed to watch them this year :(

From the short films, i can choose the following three as my favourites:
Me, Meera by Subhakar
Girni by Umesh Kulkarni
The Loser by Sini

i have written about them here and here.

as is evident from the list, i have excluded the films in English and other languages and considered films in only Hindi or Telugu languages.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Pawar Job: strange to see this from a politician

everything seems to be getting a bit clearer with the latest developments in the cricketing world. for the first time, Saurav Ganguly did the correct thing by directly pleading his case with BCCI head Mr. Sharad Pawar. he was also lucky that he found an able and willing taskmaster in the form of Mr. Pawar, who did the obvious thing that should have been done long back: talking to the senior players from the indian cricket team. since the very beginning, saurav's sacking-then-inclusion-then-sacking-again play was going on not based on the performance reasons alone. it was a sordid affair so far.
it all started with the unease between Greg Chappell and Saurav Ganguly. now to get to the truth, one needed to talk to the third parties, as any one of greg and saurav could have been lying. support staff, manager of the team etc could have been talked to in this regard, and then there were players themselves. if someone raises a point that the manager can take the side of whoever is more friendly to him, then i can understand the concern. but i am sure that the players don't have any reason to take the sides(atleast not the players like rahul, sachin and anil) and even in the rare case where they might, it doesn't matter. there is no reason for the person(coach or a player) whom the rest of the players back to be removed from the team for the reason of 'not gelling well with the team.' When mr. pawar met and talked to the senior players about all the accusations that were levelled against saurav which, until now, believed to be true what with the media coverage it succeeded to attract, and when finally he confirmed to the media and the pulic that there is no truth in those accusations, it only seemed that justice has been done to a player who had not been treated well by anyone in the recent past - whatever may have been his other shortcomings during the same period. the board(could have investigated the matter more earnestly when the uneasiness first arose), the selectors(could have avoided the politics in the selection process), the media, and perhaps even the senior players from the indian team itself, have all wronged saurav to some or the other extent. he should be a relieved person now, for atleast people who were genuinely interested in seeking the truth in the whole controversy that was created, should now see a pattern emerging out of it all- a pattern that suggests that some accusations levelled against saurav were after all baseless. for the rest its either like "we don't believe in anything that supports saurav even if vowed by the God himself" or like "we have always known that saurav can do no wrong, he is an unblemished person."

Shortcuts Mini Film Festival - Nov05 & Dec05

five films were screened in the latest edition(december) of the ShortCuts Monthly Mini Festival. two of these five films were made by the same film-maker Ajita Suchitraveera: "Notes on her" and "The Solitary Sandpiper." Both the films had extremely good background score and 'The Solitary Sandpiper' was an extravaganza of rich visuals; every shot in the movie looked so beautiful and so captivating that you won't let even a single frame to miss out. it was a treat to watch.

if you can't quite understand the title ".tibbar" then you can try reading it in the reverse direction. that is how the entire film actually runs: in the reverse direction! which means it starts at the end, and ends in the beginning, explaining the rational behind the title. if you think its really an innovative way of shooting a film, then you are not too far off the mark - it has won more awards than you can count on your fingers. it depicts the cruelty with which the rabbits are treated in rabbit breeding farms(not intentionally according to the film maker), which is not too different from what we do here in our poultry farms.

"I couldn't be your son, mom" is a documentary by the famed pair of Budhadeb Dasgupta and Sohini Dasgupta. good documentary. Sachin Kundalkar, on the other hand, has chosen to do the exact oppsite by preferring to make a fictional film instead of the (offered) documentary project, with "The Bath." generally, not many people opt to travel some distance to sit out and watch 4-5 short films on very unusual subjects for close to three hours time. but those who do manage to come, suffer with a bit of superiority complex, with a feeling that they are some kind of 'uber geeks.' well, not all those who come...but some. like the few, who even after being told by Sachin that his film had got no real messages in it, were repeatedly asking questions like "what was the hidden message in so and so," or "what was fish swimming in the acquarium meant to convey to the audience?" or "was there any special meaning behind the conclusion of the film," etc. If you found the questions amusing, then just think about the plight of the film-maker who had already made it very clear that the film has just tried to show a (fictional) day from the life of the main character of the film, and nothing else.

ShortCuts Mini Festival - November Edition

why do i look so angry about it? because the same thing happened with Ajita, and the same thing happened last month with jyoti patil too. four films were screened in the last month's edition of ShortCuts. there was this interesting documentary on bootlegging where the film-maker Jyoti Patil had not just done a very good job with her research(in my opinion), but she also looked to have strived hard to understand the root cause of it all - and succeeded. but most of the distinguished audience in the hall did not just seemed to have failed to pick the real message of the documentary, but they also refused to care for the explanation that jyoti was trying to provide during the talk at the end of the screening. what jyoti was trying to tell was, the liquor that most of the poorest classes of the society produces is termed illegal even while the liquor is allowed to be produced by many other(higher class) sections of the same society - including the government. now, one of the viewers was suggesting that they should try to find an alternative way of earning their livelihood instead of the bootlegging, and was justifying the ban on the liquor production because of health hazards associated with it. whereas what jyoti was trying to say is, when others are allowed to produce the liquor, then why not these poor creatures too? why discrimination? and if it is posing a health hazard for the others, then the correct solution would be to apply the same quality control measures to it that are being applied to the rest of the liquor production. there is no logic in having one set of rules for the higher classes and another for the lower classes. the audiences kept nagging jyoti with questions like "they can sell 'papad' instead, as was shown in the film" etc. i really pitied jyoti at that time.

"The Loser" was a small and beautiful film showing the relationship of a mother and a son with utmost sensitivity. the film touched everyone's hearts, and had a nice concept that was deftly executed.

"In the morning" by Danielle Lurie is about honor killings and is based on a true story. its the truth of the gory practice that strikes you the most. its about the practice of killing someone with the intention of getting back the lost honor of a family. when the daughter of a family is brutally raped by a youngster, the job of 'honor killing' is assigned to the youngest son of that family, so that he can get away with the minimum punishment from the law. it is only at the very end of the film where one discovers that its the daughter who is actually killed in the name of 'honor killing' and not the youngster who had committed the offence in the first place. classic case of punishment being meted out to the victim. its still practiced in many countries all around the world.

the mini festival which was open to all until now, turns subscription based from the next month. details are here

Saturday, December 17, 2005

'Premiste' is definitely worth a watch

the makers of the film 'Kadhal/Premiste' claim it to be based on a true story...and i feel the best tribute to this true story is the realistic treatment given to the film. for once, the school-girl looks like a school-girl and a mechanic looks like a mechanic, the two being the lead protagonists of the film not helping their cause. one of the very first scenes of the film where all the students of the school gather in the school-ground at the end of the school session makes a huge impression right away. the images of a 'hero' or a 'heroine' are left far away when we get to see the two leading characters of this film and still they successfully carry the film on their shoulders with equal ease. but full credit to the director to make a whole hearted effort behind this seemingly simple enough, done-to-death plot of teenage love story(well, they look like teenagers in this film; for a change, 'teenagers = super duds in skimpy clothes' is not true). he never lets it divert from the utmost simplicity of the real life like sequences, still(because of?) it holds the interest of the audiences through out. the climax may dampen the spirits of some, but it was the harsh reality of the real story that prompted the director to make the film in the first place.

whenever i ridiculed everyone of shahrukh khan brand of films(DDLJ, Mohabbatein, KKHH, KKKG, KNPH etc), people used to tell me that i don't have a taste for the love stories. well this one is surely one of the better films and it can be categorised as a love story. it ought to be put in the proper context.

the best part of the film is the stay of the boy and the girl at chennai for a couple of days. most importantly, the feel of that phase of their lives was very accurately portrayed. one of the reviewers termed the film to be a bit disturbing in the second half, but i found no such problems with it. i don't know what was in the mind of the reviewer, and if it was the climax, then its justified to some extent. most of the second half otherwise is quite entertaining - the boy and the girl going through all the travails that are expected to come their way is well picturised. infact, the two fighting it out courageously and without too many complaints was the best thing to show from the director's point of view.

it would be difficult to rate the performances of the actors as everyone in the film just looked to be the characters and not actors portraying some character. Bharat is said to have done a de-glamourised role, which i couldn't really observe as i have not seen him before, and one reviewer was impressed by Sandhya's natural adolescent magnetism and here i can't completely disagree with him. The child actor Arun Kumar as the aide of Bharat is extremely likeable. in fact, my favourite scene from the film is when bharat leaves him forever. the film has couple of good songs and others are passable. Tamil film industry is really rich when it comes to some quality films and it matches and surpasses the quality of american films easily in my opinion. it just misses out on the (quantity + quality) factor. but who is complaining?
those who have not watched it yet, head straight to the theatre and give it a shot. after watching the film, you won't believe that it is produced by Shankar :)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Selectors are truly a bunch of jokers

It seems that BCCI has got a lot of bonhomie for the well being of the indian media, as they never fail short of providing a new controversy for them to feed on every now and then. look from whatever angle, the entire handling of Saurav issue goes only to show the complete incompetence of the selection committee. they drop Zaheer Khan, who is performing way better than Ajit Agarkar, by replacing him with, who, Saurav Ganguly! we are not supposed to laugh at it. now that Saurav is dropped, where is Zaheer Khan? what is the logic behind replacing Zaheer Khan, the bowler, with Saurav Ganguly, the 'allrounder' and then replacing Saurav Ganguly, the middle order batsman, with Wasim Jaffer, the opening batsman, when we already have two opening batsmen in Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag?
Kiran More says that Saurav was dropped because the selectors want to 'look ahead.' what changed their approach in a span of a week or two? why weren't they 'looking ahead' when selecting Saurav for the first two tests? unfortunately, atleast saurav's performance in the second Test didn't give them too many reasons to think differently. only politics did.

what the selectors should have done is:
  1. Do not select Saurav Ganguly for the first Test. No controversies whatsoever.
  2. Make it clear to Saurav that only a double century or something like that will allow him to retain his place in the team. Or just tell him that the second Test against the Sri Lanka is going to be his last, whatever his performance in it. He deserved a standing ovation in his last Test, especially after a decent performance in a low scoring match.
  3. Pick him in the third test a final time and tell him that it would be his last Test.

none of these was done, and the selection committee has once again managed to come up with one of the worst ways to handle the issue by sacking Saurav from the Indian Test team in the way a kid is sacked from the school team. when you decide that there is no place for a senior player in the team, one who has done so much for the team, you execute it in a dignified manner. it was the same case with Anil Kumble(for ODIs), nothing has changed for Saurav Gagnuly. there are no two opinions on this occassion: Saurav deserved much better.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Do you miss the Internet?

so what happens when you relocate to a different place? well, you lose your internet connection.

when one of my friends blogged about this humourous video clip, i laughed and laughed and laughed at it. what did i know that i would be one such victim in a few days time. when i moved to a different house this time, what i lost was more than just the familiar surroundings - The Internet. I got the WorldSpace radio the same day and the cable tv connection on the very next day. I could have lived forever without them. But Internet? i lived without it for more than a week and it reminded me of just that video clip again and again.

what else troubles me whenever i move to a different place? just one thing: books. while buying books, i or my brother never give a thought as to just how many books we are amassing in the process. we are reminded of it only in situations like this. now imagine, the whole belongings put together comes no where near the total collection of books that i possess. how can i manage to pack them and move them without expert help? i tried it last time and i tried it this time. i got into real problems especially this time, for they were a lot more this time around. i got all the cartons that i can get hold of from every grocery shop near me. they were not sufficient, so i got this brilliant idea of buying a few polythene carry bag packs, but the two supermarkets in my area ran out of them before fully accomodating for my books. i then took a cue from a known book distributor: started tying the books using, what do we call these rope like things made of plastic or cloth? the labourers too were cursing the book packs silently, which was understandable, as lifting 29'' TV was much simpler for them than lifting one carton full of books. how is paper heavier than metal? because the paper is packed more densely?

But i am back to Internet. And back to life.