Tuesday, July 26, 2011

13th July, 2011

Thunder, fire, mixed with red,
Silent bodies, a busted head
Scattered limbs and wrecked debris
Now a common sight to see

We have learnt life does go on
Even if some of us are gone
Violently they may have left
Quite a few of us bereft

But without work there is no pay
So here we continue to stay
In voiceles, strangled, helpless rage
Fettered, muted, in a cage

There really is not much to fear
For human life is not too dear
At five lacs each, life of a man
May cost you less than a small car can

And loss of sight or limbs or sound
Are cheaper yet, the government found
A compensation of fifty grand
May fetch something second hand

So toasts to courage are being raised
And Mumbai's spirit is being praised
But hollow, empty words and all
Will not cause terrorists to fall

There will be speeches and some noise
We will show restraint and poise
Then sometime later, all anew,
Bombs will go off with shooting too.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The GRE Doggerel

Chastised by a cousin for ignoring the GRE exam, I went through the word list provided by him. Needless to say, they consisted of poly-syllabic tongue twisters better forgotten. But that is hardly something for me to say. What did make it worse was that one was expected to memorise the damn things! Being the sane person that I am, I did not even try to do so. I did however, play with them. I present to you, a doggerel written while trying to stay awake through a boring college day:

The GRE Doggerel

There was once a hirsute lad,
As impecunious as could be,
Given to prolix speeches,
Till he got an epiphany.

He became an effluvient demagogue,
With dreams of apotheosis,
Very trenchant with aplomb, soon
Dictator, head of armed forces.

Naturally indolent and venal,
But bellicose as could be,
Plying nostrum to fecund minds,
Receptive to his philosophy.

He never needed to amortize,
He never needed to cadge,
He abhorred contumaciousness,
Pomposity was his badge.

His palace was Arabesque,
Arboreal his back-yard,
Where his toadies poured blandishments,
As they lost against him at cards.

Perhaps some day I will put it to music. A 2/2 time signature, resembling a march I think should be appropriate for something on dictators. I am open to suggestions...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Clerk - Manoj Kumar

There is cinema and there is Clerk, a movie so unparalleled that it warrants its own definition, not merely its own genre. Starring an international cast of actors (from Pakistan and India), including some of the foremost names of Hindi cinema: Ashok Kumar, Shashi Kapoor and Rekha, Clerk never allows their stardom to come in the way of the story. It is quite clear that this is one movie where script and direction have ruled, and star tantrums have not been entertained.

The story redeems the humble government clerk, loathed by millions for what people perceive as his incompetence and laziness. Through the character portrayed by the peerless Manoj Kumar (in and as Clerk), we are shown the cerebral work that this "lowly" official is entrusted with and the responsibility that lies on the shoulders of this functionary. Indeed through a rather imaginative plot we realise how clerks are responsible for national security.

These brave clerks however are generally poor and ignored (like retired officers of the Army and Air Force) and live miserable lives with only enough money for cigarette packets, booze and fatty foods. Thus prone to obesity and heart disease, whose chances are worsened by sedentary desk habits, clerks risk an early end. Besides an interesting debate on reuse and recycling vs. callous disposal with a rather inventive use of cigarette lighters is also presented. Clerk is indeed a very hard hitting social commentary on the life of the Modern Man.

But wait there is more, this brave movie exhorts people to think out of the box and experiment. We see a practical example of alternative medicine which may well lead to a cheap, relatively painless and dare I say it, fun way to cure heart attacks. Brave, brave movie. The idea has been put forth, let doctors and scientists act!

Clerk is besides, a social commentary; women's position in society is actively discussed and four different stereotypes are presented for analysis. Some of them offer close analysis. Very close analysis. This movie believes in going in depth.

Emotionally charged and action packed, this movie is also a thriller which includes an assassination plot. While it may be difficult for normal movie makers to reconcile every aspect of a movie that is so deep and complex, Manoj Kumar manages to treat every part of this movie the same way. He is indeed a master. 

Before one runs off to buy a DVD (very reasonably priced at Rs. 35/- by Moser Baer), be warned that this movie is heavy going, art, not for the faint hearted. The sheer emotional force, unconventional camera work and unimaginable drama makes it a difficult movie to watch and some may prefer to watch parts at 2x or more. It may be advisable to catch the heart attack scene on YouTube before watching the whole movie. A movie with several messages; one thing is for sure though, this movie once watched can never be forgotten. 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Songs and Bollwood

Rampant plagiarism exists, but there have been some really amazing songs in Bollwood. Many of them with some of the most poignant lyrics I have ever come across. An example is "Rahen na rahen hum" from Mamta (1966). While it has been beautifully sung and the music is wonderful as well, it is sad that Lata Mangeshkar gets all the credit. Through this post I pay a personal tribute to Majrooh Sultanpuri. Just felt like it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dan Brown's novels: general comments

Dan Brown has published a total of five novels till date and all of them follow a set formula: an academic for a hero, a pretty, highly intelligent heroine (who is somehow always clueless), and the obviously good-guy/protector/mentor who ends up as the villain. All this is tied up by an absurd plot. To Brown's credit, the pace of his novels are always fast and the language straight forward and simple, so you can finish his books on a long flight.

So getting down to his books:

The Good:

Dan Brown writes wonderfully fast paced novels. They are complete no brainers and serve to make one feel smarter as they are full of "obscure" tit bits known to everybody over the age of twelve. Often the plot turns so absurd that reading it is a laugh riot. Anybody who enjoys 70s Bollywood masala movies and Salman Khan flicks will love 'em.

The Bad:

Plots are stupid, stupid, stupid. Language is nothing great. There is very little to learn, understand or explore here. Mediocre writing, no research and slightly pretentious. Why must one have "Facts" at the begining of every novel? Besides being stupid the plots are also simplistic and idiotic. Especially the ones with Robert Langdon as the hero. "A secret that will shake the world" is what is promised in every novel. None of these "secrets" are earth-shattering. Whether Jesus was married or not is irrelevant as are the obscure practices of cults. Most characters are stereotyped.

The Ugly:

Facts are less believable than a bad wikipedia entry. He knows no science (not even basic 10th standard stuff. In Digital Fortress he compares computer viruses with bacterial viruses! Does he mean viruses or bacteriophages? Bacteria and viruses are totally different biologically, and this is basic stuff). While I am a technophile, my knowledge of programming and hardware is limited to QBASIC programming that I had learnt in school and stuff that I read in newspapers, but even I can find innumerable plot holes and absurdities in Digital Fortress. Even stupider was Deception Point. The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons were a race against time in a pretty European city. Thankfully, in Angels and Demons, at least there was a bomb to add some tension in the story.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Oh Shit, not again!

It is not often that one comes across a masterful piece of literature. Few people have the courage to be different and defy convention. Mandar Kokate does just that. From his unconventional use of language (he experiments with grammar and spelling - not to every one's taste) to his description and depiction of women (women are not good with money and require male supervision - perhaps Kokate believes that the global meltdown was caused due to the emancipation of women - he knows he is entitled to his opinion and expresses it) to North Indians (vague reference about a paan waalah), Kokate is fearless. Here is somebody who does not believe in being a politically correct pansy. Add to this a lyricism in the novel, so absent in the works of other popular young authors like Chetan Bhagat, '"Ting tong" the bell buzzed"'. Of this cloth are great artists cut.

All this I could conclude after reading only twenty pages of this masterwork - I do not own a copy, and I cannot spare the Rs. 150 to buy this truly unparalleled book.

I hope a genius like Kanti Shah or KRK can translate this to celluloid. I doubt if any one else can do justice to it.

Overall, this book is not for every one, it is in parts offensive, rude and crude and revels in it. Two classes of people may enjoy it - true geniuses like the author who "get" the book and lesser mortals like me: unjealous appreciators of true art.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Train to Bangaluru

My first long distance (over 7 hours) train journey was a fascinating experience. On 19th of December, 2009, at around 10.00 pm, we left for Bangaluru from Mumbai LTT, for a 23 hour train journey through some of the most dramatic landscape that I have ever seen. As students, broke, and hoping for travel reimbursement, we decided to travel 2nd class ordinary, on a passenger train taking the longest route between the two cities (the Coimbatore Express).

The journey as such was uneventful, but contained a wide array of people from all walks of life. As the train left the station from Mumbai, few people were in our compartment, and no one bothered to sit in their assigned seats. Everyone was scattered comfortably all around. There were a bunch of slimy looking people across the aisle, playing cards and talking loudly, and behind us, on the topmost berth, was a man ready to sleep, lying down, all snuggled in, with his tape recorder/mp3 player blaring some beautiful Mohd. Rafi songs. I couldn't help but hum along, "yeh chand sa roshan chehra...".

As we approached Pune, people got off (the slimy group among them), and our neighbours for the rest of the journey, a young couple, saccharinely in love, boarded the train. The windows by now had been forced shut by the cops for there was unrest in Andhra Pradesh due the Telanagna thingy, and there had always been a gang of robbing thugs in the whereabouts (so a friend told me), thus we had a couple of cops in our compartment till light dawned and the chai, coffee and breakfast wallahs came to sell their wares around 6.30 am, when people started waking to utilize the facilities. The toilets on the train were surprisingly usable, better than most public toilets one can find in Mumbai, and definitely superior to the one found in the G7 multiplex.

I hadn't slept much (perhaps 3 hours at most), mainly out of excitement, but sleep literally flew away after I saw a cockroach trying to find shelter in a sleeping friend's hair. The lone mouse in the compartment (active only after 7.30 pm till 6.30 am), wasn't much of a bother.

As I had not slept much, I managed to occupy the window seat before anyone else in our group could, and looked out of the window for most of the day. I saw the soil get redder, the grass greener, and the flowers obtain a deeper vibrancy. The transition was not dramatic, but was perceptible. Then came the dramatic rock formations along the river Krishna, very beautiful indeed, looking like old abandoned forts created by Nature herself.

Lunch was a methi thepla with aachaar for me. Every one had brought packed lunches, and our neighbours had it expertly packed and segregated according to meal and wrapped with newspaper and string. It consisted mainly of a heap of rice, which the couple fed each other.

After the obligatory games of Antakshri, we had our dinner, and waited for our destination.

Bangaluru is a horrible city for a tourist who is alone, broke and doesn't know the local language. The public transport system is rubbish and disorganised, so it takes a person 2 hours to reach a place that he can within 30 minutes, thus wasting the day in travel. Alternately, he can travel by autorickshaws (the option I had to reluctantly choose). These are exorbitant, and like to charge extra money (at least Rs. 20) on longer (over 5 minutes) journeys. So, one ends up spending around Rs. 500 just on traveling in one day. In Mumbai, you can do it in Rs. 50. The weather was pretty pleasant.

The train journey however, was not unpleasant. May be more fun travelling first class though.