Sunday, January 11, 2009

Slumdog tales


It’s kind of weird. Indian media and the Indian middle class have started resembling the typical American middle class. We start raving and appreciating anything just to be hip and cool. Case in point is Ghajini and more recently, Slumdog Millionaire.

Slumdog Millionaire (SM) is a decent film, well crafted but definitely not in the league of Academy awards or Golden Globe, period. Danny Boyle is a brilliant director and has portrayed Mumbai wonderfully for his main clientèle, the Western audience. I might have strong reservations against the movie mainly because I watched it with an Indian eye. This might not be the case for the Western media since this movie is a two hour sojourn into the images that defines India for them: Mumbai slums, prostitutes, beggars, underworld, Ram, Taj Mahal and yes, call centres too! So it is natural when NYT or Washington Post gives this picture a splendid rating, but why is the Indian media so frenzied about it? For any typical Indian movie buff like me, this movie would just fetch 2.5/ 5 stars

You may argue that I am overcritical because the plot is Indian. Well, a good comparison will be Fernando Meirelles ‘City of God’. The movie is based on the life of children turned gangsters in the slums of Rio de Janero. It has a tacit plot and keeps the audience spellbound. This grip is missing in Slumdog. The second half of the movie is too filmy and is very typical of a Bollywood flick where there are baddies who ham to the core, goons who chase the lover duo in Mumbai locals but importantly love wins over all evil in the end…that too in typical Indra Kumar/ Subhash Ghai style.

These flaws appear mainly because the novel ‘Q &A’ on which the movie is based is definitely not the best piece of literary work and doesn’t qualify for a good screenplay. However, the movie is not a cent percent adaptation of the book and most changes have been incorporated to suit the Western palate.

The protagonist in the book is Ram Mohammed Thomas, an orphan who is strangely named so to appease all religions. In the movie, he is just Jamaal Malik. This rechristening does not bring any kind of value addition in the movie, the only advantage being that a Muslim protagonist suits a post 9/11 world, especially when US moviemakers have become more interested in Middle East and Asia (Syriana, Kingdom, Body of Lies, etc)

In the movie, Jamal works as a ‘chottu’ in a call centre as opposed to a ‘teawallah’ in the book. We are treated to a jam-packed call centre (similar to the call centre video in the Russell Peters show) where aspiring employees learn English diction and try to be pseudo cool.

Some of the good pieces in the book which involves a film actress, a gay actor is left out in the movie mainly because it is tough to weave these snippets into the main storyline. My personal favorite is the story of the blind singers which has been brilliantly directed by Boyle. Anil Kapoor has acted brilliantly as the egoist superstar but the characterization is shaky. In the book, Anil Kapoor’s character has a larger role in the hero’s life and I would prefer it that way.

The effort by Danny Boyle is noteworthy especially for a foreign director especially when Western filmmakers have done a poor job with Indian themes, the best example being the veteran David Lean making a mockery of ‘Passage to India’.

Rahman’s background score and songs are brilliant…especially when the kids escape in the train. The most disappointing song is ‘Jai Ho’ which appears in the climax when the couple along with a bunch of junior artists dance like in a ‘mandatory mass drill’ in typical Saroj Khan style of the late 80s. The song sounds more like Anand Raaj Anand or Viju Shah than A R Rahman. But surprisingly, this song has won the Golden Globe. No comments J

The film has won the Golden Globe mainly because the movie delves into a theme hitherto alien in mainstream Hollywood. ‘Salaam Bombay’ was never mainstream and it was always meant for the wine sipping intelligentsia.

The Golden Globe will do wonders for Indian films and is recognition for the world’s biggest movie industry. It is definitely a good signal for Indian films, esp. when we have big names like Warner Bros producing ‘Chandni Chowk 2 China’ and Sony Columbia producing ‘Saawariya”.

All said and done, as I stated initially, I still can’t understand why we Indians are raving about it! Assume that this movie was directed by Priyadarshan and produced by Sajid Naidawalah instead of Danny Boyle and Twentieth Century Fox ; end product being the same, I am sure that the Raja Sen’s, Khalid Mohammeds and Shobha Dee’s would have ripped apart the movie!

This reminds me of an old Malayalam saying ‘Sayippine kandal kavathu marakkum’ which can be loosely translated as ‘Indians are so awed/ floored by foreigners that they forget their surroundings when they see a foreign babu’.


12 January 2009

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

White Tiger


‘White Tiger’ wins the Booker prize and Aravind Adiga jumps into the elite list of Indian Booker prize winners like Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy and Kiran Desai. The book has received mixed reactions, most people believe that the book inflates the social disparity in India and hinges on violence, terror and y Naxalistic sentiments. The Booker prize, according to them, is a testimony to the fact that westerners give literary prizes to Indians who highlight the darker side of India.

My personal opinion is that the book is brilliant. First of all, it is crisp, not voluminous and moves at a breakneck pace. Secondly, it redefines Indian writing in English. Arundhati Roy wrote a brilliant book but somewhere down the line, Rahel & Esther’s observation of Central Kerala in ‘God of small things’ is parallel to Saleem Sinai’s musings on Bombay in Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s children’. Salman Rushdie made the greatest sin of his life by designing this ‘Indian writing in English’ template way back in 1981 which has been aped (efficiently & effectively thou) by hordes of Indian writers for over twenty five years.

Aravind Adiga, is a distinct voice. His narration style and language is refreshingly different. The story in a nutshell is about an illiterate (only technically) Bihari who comes to Gurgaon to be a chauffeur to his village landlord’s son and how he kills his master eventually. There a lot of underlying themes but I don’t want to give out any spoilers.

His observations are needle sharp when he talks about the scum that exists in the periphery of our big futuristic cities like Gurgaon which all of us conveniently ignore. The protagonist talks about two India: the bright and the dark, referring to India Shining and the Bimaru states. The most interesting aspect is that the author doesn’t waste words in detailing the poverty and the wretchedness, but delves into the psyche of the people surviving in that environment. The book is rich in plenty of ‘in your face’ kind of observations like ‘These days there are two castes: Men with Big Bellies, and Men with Small Bellies." & “Do we loathe our masters behind a façade of love or love our masters behind a façade of loathing”?

As we turn the pages, we can feel the chill and terror, akin to what we experience while watching Naseruddin Shah’s Wednesday. When I read the part on how Baburam the protagonist slits his master’s throat, I was so disturbed that I had to take a half an hour break to reconcile with it. Trust me, I have felt like this in very few occasions, the strongest being while watching Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Requiem for a dream’.

If you have ever thought about the squatting rickshaw puller and the chauffeurs who wait for their masters outside malls for infinite hours, do read this book. And, for most of us, the experience will be very sour.

I am extremely happy that Adiga got this year’s Booker and sincerely hope that it teaches aspiring Indian writers to be different and to follow one’s own style.


15 October 2008

Friday, October 3, 2008



Before I start off with my review, I need to thank UFO movies for bringing in the digital movie revolution. Sitting in this sleepy town of Rudrapur, I am able to watch ‘Drona’ (which I repent) on the first day itself. The ambience was electrifying, tons of rural UP youth (India Shining) in their embroidered jeans and Himesh Resamiyya shirts & dozens of people like me who live in Rudrapur working for the Tatas/ Nestle/ M&M or Dabur sitting in this decrepit hall with eyes glued to the screen.

Now coming to the movie, my first question to Mr Goldie Behl, the director is “Why do you copy numerous English movies in parts and add dollops of Indian values & maa sentiments, isn’t it better to copy paste a single Lord of the Rings or Harry Porter…does it actually save you from perdition?”

I don’t want to divulge the story, because I read innumerable fan mails in Rediff cursing the reviewers for divulging the story. The gist of it would be something like this. Abhishek Bachan is an orphan who lives with his adopted family in Czechoslovakia and has a nagging step mom like in Cindrella who curses him in hard core Punjabi and a kind step dad who cares for him. Like in all good Hindi movies, his step dad soon becomes a Kodak moment (dead & converted to a garlanded photo in the drawing room) and his step mom continues to behave like those weird aunties in Ekta Kapoor’s K- serials.

AB junior is the descendant of a family which has been protecting ‘amrut’ from the hands of the demons right from prehistoric times. Enter Rizwaana, the menacing villain (Kay Kay Menon) who reminded me of Bobby Darling. He mouths extremely dangerous words like ‘Gustakhi maaf” and hams to the core. Kay Kay is the modern day demon who is tech savvy, gay oops homosexual oops oops Metrosexual… The story clings around how AB baby realizes that he is a Drona and has to protect the world from “hippie” (thanks to Eric Cartman of Southpark) demons like Kay Kay Menon.

The first half is extremely sad and the second half with its sleek graphics and action sequences seemed better. The graphics by Tata Elxsi is good. Even though it is not as real and life like as the wrecking ship in Titanic, it brings in lot of mysticism and Harry Potterish kind of magic. Coming to the flaws in the film, I can keep on writing for ages. I am just jotting down the major let downs

  1. AB baby: Poor guy doesn’t have the aura and personality to be a Drona. He is very shaky which suits his character in the first half but he doesn’t metamorphosis into the warrior prince
  2. Kay Kay Menon: He is one of my favourite actors who has displayed the subtle intensity of a Robert De Niro in movies like Hazaaron Khwashis Aisi, Life in a Metro and recently, Mumbai Meri Jaan. Sadly, he is wasted in Drona. He tries to be like the Joker in Dark Knight, cracking jokes and waging his tongue. His spiky hair reminded me of the bathroom scene in ‘There is something about Mary’. I hope that you recollect the scene, else watch the DVD J
  3. Side kicks: The histrionics of the villain’s sidekicks is at par with the Peters, Roberts and Julies in good old Ajit & Pran movies. Only difference is that they wear a black hood indicating that they all are part of some dreaded cult.

Here is one example of the director’s talent: AB baby & Piggy Chops (well I read Bombay Times every day and am fully updated on what Harman Baweja calls his girlfriend!) go to this bizarre village called Raazpur in their quest for the amrut and they meet this weird looking midgets. They sport clothes which are directly lifted from a Tarun Tahlani/ Satya Paul show…cool indigo colour robes with green, red streaks. It seemed quite funny & anachronistic and no where near being intriguing.

The movie is a khichdi of innumerable English classics. I am sure that Goldie Behl holds a platinum membership in BigFlix and .The ‘amrut’ reference is from Indiana Jones, the lonely kid is from Harry Porter, the quest is similar to ‘Lord of the Rings’, the sand dunes from ‘Mummy’, the villain is from ‘Dark Knight, a Gandalph look-alike from Lord of the Rings and the old banyan tree & dazzling white light from Darren Aronofsky’s ‘metaphysical I couldn’t understand what’ movie Fountain.

On the positive side, camera work is good, the actions scenes in Egypt reminded me of David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia. and Ms Priyanka Chopra is good. She sports that attitude, even though the clothing & make up reminded me of some English movie or video which I can’t recollect. She would have been a better Drona than Abhishek Bachan

On the whole, Goldie Behl who has directed some classics like ‘Bas Itna Sa Khwab hai’ should understand that having a family friend like AB baby wont salvage his career. I am very keen to find out how the movie fares at the box office. I have a strong hunch that it might work decently because whatever we say, Indians have a strong affinity towards fantasy stories and in these hard times, people wont mind watching a ‘dev v/s asur’ flick. Watch this space for more updates.


3/ 10/ 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Pant Nagar forces me to write again!!!

[Under construction]

Just like our Flyover in Bakery Jn, Trivandrum


Will be resurrected soon


Thursday, May 22, 2008

10 Mallu things


{This post is a tribute to 25 years of my existence in this universe as a proud Mallu.}

We might speak English differently, we might belch after lunch, and we might be different wrt to the world when it comes to our definitions of sexuality but ultimately the bottom line is that you can hate us, you can love us but you just can’t ignore us.

This is a list of ten things that any Mallu can easily identify with. The writer claims that it bears no resemblance to anything dead or living and any similarity is coincidental.

So start reading, please………

1. Gold jewellery

Any non mallu coming to Kerala would be amazed to see the number of gold shops existing in each and every small village from Parassala in the southern tip to Manjeswaram in he north. Mallus have been investing in Gold since the Stone Age as he is sure that the price will shoot up (thanks to an inflated demand caused by Mallus themselves especially those who reside in the Middle East.

Gold rules Kerala and companies like Alukkas, Atlas, Josco, Alapatt, Malabar Gold, etc are family names here. Some of these family groups like the Alukkas have split the business amongst brothers territorially and the family tree is more confusing than the family tree of the Buendia family in Gabriel Marquez’ 100 years of solitude.

2. Liqour

Vijay Mallya should have invested in some Kerala team with Sreesanth as captain. He could have won IPL with ease because Mallus are true to their liquor and hence will be true to the one who makes liquor for them. Statistics say that Mallus drink more liquor than the rest of the nation on Onam day.

All liquor shops, bars are closed on the first day of every month to prevent people splurge on liquor but it results in queues that run for kilometers in the wee hours of the 30th and the 31st. When the intellectual crowd of the North and the metros guzzle beer and vodka, Mallus only believe in hard liquor like rum, brandy, whisky.

3. Strikes, Hartals

We love to strike, be it in college for no reason whatsoever or in the office demanding our rights. Hartal is the new mallu euphemism for bandhs as bandhs are banned by the Kerala High Court. Yes, all these legendary rules (ban of smoking in public places; ban on bandhs, Private education bill) are made by the Kerala High court but that doesn’t mean that we have to follow them!

4. ‘M’ Magazines

We have almost cent percent literacy thanks to the novels that have been appearing in Mangalam & Malayala Manaorama & Manorajyam weeklies for decades. These stories, which can be called the precursor to the mega serials still is a craze for the average Malayalee. Novelists like Batton Bose and Kottayam Pushpanadh opened the world of incest, bigamy, righteousness and all those sins to the hapless god fearing Mallu population.

5. Rubber chappals

Bata chappals especially the one with the white sole and blue grip is ubiquitous in the state. It defines protection and comfort for the modest Mallu. To view this phenomenon, go to any temple on a morning and observe the long line of footwear, trust me, nine on ten would be Bata.

6. Parotta egg curry

This is one dish that is only seen in Kerala and in some parts of Tamil Nadu. It is one of the tastiest dishes made my man and is light on the stringent Mallu’s purse. This same dish has been exported to the North and is famously called the 'Kerala parotta'!

7. Die hard Communists

West Bengal may be ruled by the left for over thirty years but the true Communists of Kerala are a rarity. Go to any small village in the state, you find the quintessential old man tucked in a dhoti, smoking a beedi, a Deshabhimani(party newspaper) rolled in his hand. He is the quixotic Comrade who still believes that all other newspapers are funded by the CIA (this has been a Communist propaganda right from the 1950s) and he would go to any length to prove his party ideology……Lal Salaam sakhave (red salute, comrade)

8. STD Booth cum photostat cum real estate agencies

We move with the times. When STD became popular after the trunk dialing era, we set up STD Booths in every taluk. After that, when Photostats became the order of the day, we renamed it ‘STD and Photostat’.

When we realized that the penetration of mobiles killed the STD booth, we quickly converted it into mobile stores, mobile repair centers and of course, how can I forget…real estate agencies. Who said that Mallus are not modern?

9. Soft porn

All my non Mallu friends complain that Mallus have skewed sexual tastes. But the fact is that we are the first ones to adapt and absorb a new trend. We discovered Silk Smitha who later became a rage in the early 1990s and we discovered Shakeela in the early 2000s and thanks to globalization (sorry I have to use this word, I get paid for it) she became famous all over India. Her videos have been dubbed in Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Bhojpuri, etc, etc.

Mallu porn is in high demand across the globe. Key words like “fat mallu”, “mallu aunty” tops the lists on Google Search and we are proud to shape the fantasies of youngsters from Bhatinda to Siliguri

10. InternationalAirports

Imagine this. A state with just 140 MLAs as compared to 500 in UP; just 14 districts as compared to 32 in Rajastha has three, no FOUR International airports. Trivandrum, Kochi and the Kozhikode airports are as busy as Chowpatty beach on a Sunday and we are going to have a new International airport at Kannur, barely 100 km from Kozhikode.

Mallus may have the highest rate of literate unemployment, but that doesn’t prevent us from flying to the Gulf.

Well these are just some random thoughts and I request fellow Mallus to keep on appending the list.

Jai Kerala

(I am not a Raj Thackeray, but just a random Mallu preparing to go to Thackeray’s Mumbai for earning my bread and butter)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Tashan : the Torture with a capital T


Tashan is a tribute to the 1970s, the time when tinsel town was ruled by Ajit, Pran, MN Nambiar, Jos Prakash and other cult villains who had alligators for company and flaunted the quintessential circuit board with techni- color wires which were used to torture the hero, his girl friend and (how can I forget) the hero’s all suffering Maaa.

Tashan would have been a blockbuster if released in the 1970s but in this globalized era (sorry, my company pays me for using globalization in every sentence) where there is a free flow of culture and ideas, it’s anachronistic. How can one tolerate a movie in which the villain actually killed the heroine’s dad (dad is lovingly called Tiger by everyone!!!) and she also happens to be the childhood sweetheart of her abductor who apparently acts gay (meaning uninterested in girls) since he is lost in those childhood memories. WTF?

The film revolves around the style of the four characters: a sleek suave Saif Ali Khan, a “gavaar” Akshay Kumar, Anil Kapoor a don whose costumes are inspired by the Bappi Lahiri Evergreen Collection and Kareena - a Bharatiya Naari turned super sexy damsel.

The story is non existent and the screenplay is insane. The director Vijay Acharya suffers from Tarrentinomania which in medical terms means “creative constipation caused due to excessive watching of Queinten Tarrantino movies”. Kareene Kapoor uses a sword like Uma Thurman in KILL BILL and Akshay Kumar kills hundreds of Kung fu masters in a single blow in what can be called the worst tribute to Queintin Tarrantino

The top three scenes in the movie (in no particular order). Trust me; I had a tough time making the decision.

  1. The grand finale is in some arbit den in rugged Uttar Pradesh . Akshay Kumar is wired to the circuit board, Saif comes and starts killing the villains almost starting a mutiny of sorts. But, Anil Kappor being the dangerous villain he is, captures Akhay and Kareena again and is all set to blow their as*es off and bingo comes Saif Ali Khan in a Yamaha speed boat. Vroooooooom….. Speed boat, in a barren land??[Pardonable, since the director had written the script (if there was any) for Dhoom1 and Dhoom2]
  2. Kareena Kapoor comes to Haridwar to deposit sweet papa Tiger’s ashes in the holy Ganges wearing a Balaji Television inspired white salwar kameez. She sees the villains searching for her and instantly runs for shelter after covering her face with her shawl just like a typical Bharatiya Naari in distress. In the next scene, we see her in the river wearing a skin tight anorexic pair of jeans. I’m speechless!!!
  3. The trio of Akhay, Saif and Kareena are in quest of the 25 crores which has been carefully kept in Rajasthan, Kerala by maam Kareena itself. They travel through the length and breadth of the country, driving a TATA lorry thought the dusty highways of Rajasthan, a MAHINDRA voyager and finally in a Kerala houseboat…..and the last briefcase containing the money is delivered by a couple of Kathakali dancers….This is what we call Incredible India!

Anil Kapoor is one actor whom I respect from the bottom of my heart but this dreadful don character almost made me puke. Anil Kapoor’s dress sense is more pathetic that Vidya Balan’s costumes in Hey Baby…U can imagine!!!! Giving him serious competition are his sidekicks who wear identical lungis, goggles, silver chains and stupid shirts and mouth illogical sentences like “He is like Geoorge Bhuush”….Even stupid George Bush would sue them.

And yes…..about the oomph factor; I almost forgot. Kareena does a Bo Derek, comes out of the water in a bikini for a total time period of 5 seconds desperately trying to be hot but I definitely feel that the Serena Williams look-alikes in the “Chaliya Chaliya” song were far sexier than Bebo.

I would suggest that everyone download this movie from any Torrents site, fast forward to about 50 minutes, see Bebo flaunting her figure in her bikini and immediately Delete, no Shift Delete this piece of trash.

Hindi movies always puzzle me: I thought that Dhoom would be the height of insanity, but then came Race and now I have been served Tashan. Poor me

A disillusioned critic


Monday, April 14, 2008

Top 10 malayalam film dialogues

Sabari’s top 10 Malayalam film dialogues

The American Film Institute has a list of 100 most famous film quotes. It ranges from complex dialogues like “I love the smell of napalm…” from Apocalypse Now to simple words like “Rosebud” from Citizen Kane. I aint no Superman when it comes to movies but this is a list of famous dialogues which struck me when I thought of the above topic.

The following list is my choice. No one dare question me.

1. “Davidetta….Kingfisher unda, chilled?” (Thuvanathumpikal, 1987)
This tops my list as these words effectively convey the intricacies of Mannarthodiyil Jayakrishnan. Shot at the Sharabi bar in Casino hotel, Trichur this scene is also famous for Mohanlal gulping down a bottle of beer in a single shot.

Kingfisher could have quadrupled its sales by using this dialogue but alas, those weren’t the days of surrogate ads and brand placements.

2. “Bha…Pulle” (Commisoner, 1993)
These words gave birth to a new superstar in Malayalam who subsequently mouthed obscenities on the screen for a long time to come. A generation was swayed by these two words.

3. “Nee po, mone Dinesha” (Narasimham, 2000)
Kerala witnessed clones of Induchoodan wearing blue/ black lungis, white kurtas and sporting the twirled moustache. Dineshan became synomous with mediocrity and inferiority.

4. “Thomaskutty, vittoda” (In harihar Nagar)
The perfect escape.

I’m a lazy fucker, so can’t write anymore as of now. Blog will be updated when the author feels motivated to do so. So I am just jotting down the quotes here

5. “Vidamatte..Nee enne vidamatte?” (Manichitrathazhu)

6. “Ramji Rao speaking” (Ramji Rao speaking)

7. “ Kochumuthalali….” (Chemmen)

8. “ Poyi taaski viliyada” (Thenmavin Kombathu)

9. “Pavanayi Shavamayi” (Naadodikattu)

10. “Thalle, Kalippukalu theeranillallo” (Rajamanickam)