Friday, July 28, 2006


Summer being what it is, specially after college and more specially in a fucked-up city like Chennai where cable requires a set-top box and an analingus performed on the cable-guy, life's revolved around the DVD player. Just finished watching the Dollars Trilogy, and some old classics. Here's something to think about from "Chariots of Fire"

For those who don't know, CoF is an Academy Award winning picture from 1981. It's most well-known to us, as the source of a theme pirated to depict Moon-Moon or Suchitra Sen cavorting with Kabir Bedi in "Khoon Bhari Mang". The film deals with the English athletes at the 1924 Paris Olympics. Specifically, it depicts the emotions, attitudes and rivalries of Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell (both real life gold-medallists). The former, a Jew, is a defensive and pugnacious athlete. He's ruthless and willing to go beyond the whole nine yards to win, yet is insecure deep within about his abilities and his place in society. He runs to prove his worth. The latter, a missionary Christian by the side, runs for the glory of God (sounds woolly-headed but there you are), lectures people after his races, and holds his prowess as a means to drawing more people to God. The film focusses on their background, their preparations and their responses to adversity, bringing in a twist two-thirds into the plot.

More than the theme, more than the plot and its twists, hell more than the acting, what really strikes you is the simplicity of the thing. Its just about two guys. Two rivals at a race. Thats it. There's no romantic angle, there's no cancer or AIDS (which unfortunately, Ian Charleson who portrayed Liddell later died of), and the protagonists are far from the under-dogs with impossible odds against them. Yet, you see a plot that comes out coherently, you hear dialogues that aren't cheesy, and most importantly, you see acting that's genuine. Ben Cross as Abrahams simultaneously oozes grit and fear. You see him in the movie, crushed by defeat. But his portrayal of Abrahams crushed near the end by victory is even more fantastic. His coach tells him "You've won. This is your moment. Enjoy it, and get it out of your system. Then go home and marry that girl of yours" [He's got a girlfriend whose role is small. They meet, they're together, she's worried about his insecurity and in the end they're married. No insults from rivals, no competing with the sport for his time, no telling him she'll love him no matter what and NO NO NO romantic meetings and songs] and you understand, instinctively, what he means. Ian Charleson is even more spectacular as Eric Liddell. His conflict between his duties to the Mission and his committment to the sport (With his reasoning as to where God comes in between) is truly fantastic. More so is his response to the situation at the particular plot twist.

Ok, so it was a good movie; a great movie. So what? Well, here's what. I mentioned Ben Cross. Does that ring a bell? It probably wouldn't, seeing as his next big movie role was in a 1994 flop named "First Knight" and his latest, in the Exorcist sequel of 2004. Neither memorable. Neither noted. Before and since his big screen roles, he's been on mini-series and TV movies and the kind of junk you'd associate with Hack-tha Kapoor and Shitty Irani, but he's still able to deliver when it comes to the sort of thing you'd expect to win the Oscars. Liddell too, was not a big screen man, mostly being a theatre actor. Yet these guys could put any number of B's and Khan's, no matter how big or King-y, to shame.

I mean, what would "Agni ka Rath" be like, if some dude decided to take it on? For starters they'd not see the logic of a Jew protagonist, and the Dalit panthers and what-nots would see red if a movie character were from such a background. So just keep him a poor guy. Nevertheless, he' d arrive in T-shirts, jeans and shades, and would woo the college belle on day one. And the other? Well, priests are passe, sports-priests more so, so hey let's just make the other guy another student, but rich. Ok, cool. Now what about the stakes? Well, it'll have to be the girl (I mean inner turmoil isn't something you can really show) till about half-way through, then one'll have to beat the other up over her, she'll ditch the winner, the loser will sing a couple of "pyaar, jaane bahaar, jeevan-saathi mere" [[This is a tribute to lexicomaniac]] songs, the winner will have him beaten up horribly, and against impossible odds, he'll beat the winner at the race. Seeing as the rich guy's more likely to do this, rich guy is the bad racer, poor guy is the good racer, and while we're at it, throw in some name like "Rajput college" for bad guy and "Model college" for good guy. Plot sound familiar now?

When, oh when, will Bollywood grow up ??

Thursday, July 27, 2006

If I Were the Bollywood Bada Badmaash

Having come across this now really famous list - “If I were the Evil Overlord” (look for it at the “Evil Overlord” Wikipedia entry), I thought this one out. When you really think about it, Bollywood Badmashes are at an all time low, considering how cheesy and ineffective their men, weapons, plans and overall establishments have become. So here’s a guidebook, for all Bollywood Baddies:

(1) My name will be something with as few syllables AND initials in it. The KKs, JKs, DKs and MKs all got killed, as did the Pralaynath Goondaswamis, Madanlal Prakash Singhanias, Jagadmohan Oberois and Devendra Raj Khatris. Nor will bizarre, semi-mystical or pseudo-foreign ones like “Jugraan” or “Dyson/Jackson” be required. Something simple, like Arjun Singh, or Nakul Sood will suffice.

(2) My name will not come with additional titles or sobriquets, like “Daatha Guru”, “Bhai”, “Dada”, “Mauth ka naya naam”, “Baawa – Kisi ko bhi maar saktha hain” etc.

(3) As a special corollary to the above, I will not allow any use of names such as Sher Singh, Sher Khan, Tigerr, Billa etc. Big cats are highly endangered, as will be people named after them.

(4) I will make it a point to have a large and diverse wardrobe, drawing from several clothing styles. You become easy to recognize if you’re the only fellow wearing a suit, a Jodhpur outfit, a banyan and lungi, a sherwani etc.

(5) I will not have a pronounced Bihari, Punjabi or Madrasi accent, nor will I repeatedly toss characteristic English one-liners in between prolonged Hindi speech – these things only add an ill-timed comic effect. Consistent fluency will make for a much more refined and precise Badmaash.

(6) Seeing as I have the money, I will surgically rectify all squints, eye defects, hunches, twitches etc at the beginning. Tall, upstanding men make more frightening Bada Badmaashes than deformed, sickly, maniacal freaks.

(7) Before setting up my operation, I will make it a point to read The Godfather and watch the film trilogy, each at least 5-10 times

(8) My dear, beautiful, innocent daughter, whom I prize above all else will not be sent any “College” in my City, or even the country. She will first attend a Convent School, and then go to Harvard.

(9) Rather than wait for my daughter to fall in love, and then force this whole daulat vs. love thing on her, I’ll make her double major in Engineering and Philosophy, with emphasis laid on Hegel, Sartre and similar existentialists. She’ll never fall in love.

(10) My daughter will be trained to the Black-belt level in at least three martial arts. She will not jhaapad the hero – that leads to hand-catching and eventual romance. She will kick him hard in the nuts.

(11) If after all my effort, my daughter does fall in love with the poor hero, I will not attempt to separate them, throw blank checks in his face or send goondas to beat him up. I will discreetly have him placed in a Bangalore call-centre job with an executive title, tripled salary and solely night-time responsibilities. The IT revolution will take care of their relationship.

(12) My son will be taught the importance of hard work, even to someone in my position. I will not tolerate his loafing around college with thuggish friends. Nor will he go to a “College” college. It will be an IIT for him.

(13) Rather than face the inevitable task of covering up the case every time my son rapes a college girl, I’ll simply send him to an Ivy League university and enrol him in a sorority house there.

(14) I will set myself up as a star promoter/godfather, of the likes of Shakti Kapoor. This will be a simpler way to bring beautiful women willingly into my grasp, compared to going about raping every other female I see.

(15) My underlings will be taught that guns come with sights, which should be used to take aim when firing at a hero.

(16) When dealing with a running/driving/cart wheeling hero, I will aim at a point ahead of him, wait for him to reach it, and fire precisely. Spraying bullets all over the place makes for noisy fireworks, but does not do the job

(17) I will deliberately aim 3 feet higher when firing at a moving hero. This will cause the bullets to hit him, rather than ricochet around his feet.

(18) My underlings will undergo regular training in marksmanship. Anyone who can’t hit a moving target at 10 feet will be shot dead.

(19) Captured enemies will be instantly shot in the head. There will be none of this “dheere-dheere se, tadap-tadap ke” stuff.

(20) When I’ve captured the hero, I’ll shoot him unceremoniously. I will not take him to an open courtyard to be beaten to death, torn apart by animals, crushed by a bulldozer etc. while his family looks on.

(21) I will keep an armory of up-to-date automatic Kalashnikovs, Heckler and Kochs, M16s etc. Neither I nor my men will be using those useless scooter exhaust-pipe things.

(22) When my hit man is aiming at a hero, he will take such precautions as to hide at a secure, elevated point. He will also be instructed to wait till the hero stops moving, and to fire only when he is sure nobody – especially not a girl the hero recently met – is going to approach him and turn his head at a crucial instant. Too many assassination attempts have ended as exercises in shattering glass.

(23) My men and I will be careful and polite with inspectors, however familiar and contemptuous we may be with sub-inspectors, constables and commissioners of police. You can never tell which one is a hero-in-waiting, or the friend of one.

(24) Any inspector whose investigations are becoming taxing to my operations will be discreetly assassinated. He will not be publicly discredited and jailed.

(25) I will not kill the hero’s honest, senior Judge/Commissioner/Politician/Civil Servant father and establish it as a suicide. That will only infuriate the hero and make trouble for me. I will kill the hero, and the old man will die of depression and cardiac arrest.

(26) I will be a practicing Buddhist. This will give me some spiritual counter when the hero’s wife/mother appeals to Rama/Krishna/Kali/Allah/Christ/Sai Baba etc in the action climax. As a bonus, it will enable me to mingle freely with Richard Gere and Steven Seagal.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Axed Men Three: Superman's Screwed Us Over

For those of you who haven't grasped the meaning of the heading, its that Bryan Singer's exodus has deflated the franchise entirely. What was first comic-afficianado-caviar, and then a decently enjoyable action flick, has degenerated into a cheesy, schmaltzy, hormone-overloaded embarrassment - to Marvel comics, 20th Century Fox and most importantly Stewart and McKellen. It was quite a shame to see two artistes of such legendary stature thrown together in this soppy saga, with only special effects to go for it. Brett Ratner, get adamantium claws shoved up your black hole. And screenplay writers, lets disintegrate you guys telekinetically while we're at it too.

So lets get the story in. At the end of X2, a psycho general had tried to destroy all mutants with an evil telepathic thingie from the lab. To provide a three-quarter twist, Magneto rewired it to kill all humans. Our heroes saved the day, at the cost of Jean Grey who was left at the business end of a super sized water wave from the evil adda's cave in. Having taken the hint, the government has appointed a Secretary of Mutant Affairs. Enter Kelsey Grammar as Dr. Henry McCoy aka Beast. Suit-boot main aa gaya Kelsey with a penchant for hanging upside down. He's called in to look up a major breakthrough - a company has come up with a serum, derived from an angelic bald uber-innocent Chosen-One-type kid's DNA, that suppresses mutation. For ever. They call it a cure.

Predictably, our heroes get all worked up. Mutation isn't a disease. It is preposterous to call it "a cure". We don't want to be cured. There's superhero careers at stake. I mean, Star Trek: TNG and Frasier are over, and Van Helsing was a flop. And what of our Indian compadres? They've just finished getting an additional 50% reservation for themselves at IIT and IIM. [Hysterical thought: What if one were SC/ST?OBC and a girl, and a Mutant at that? I mean, career possibilities are awe-inspiring. Imagine Mandal-X, with all these dudes fighting it over for reservations...]

Back to the story. So everyone's in a tizzy. This mutant girl Rogue who sucks people's energies out upon physical contact is thinking abt it cuz she sees her boyfriend Bobby aka Iceman up for grabs - she can't give him what other girls can (She's specifically jealous of this other mutant, Kitty aka Shadowcat who passes through solid objects unconsciously. (I dont see why. I mean, imagine the sex. "Was that good for you? Was what good for me?")) Meanwhile, the lead lover-boy Cyclops is still heartbroken over his girlfriend's (Jean Grey) death, and spends all his time crying. Then, funnily, he hears her voice in his head.

This is where X3 decides to emulate Scream 3, with it's rules for a trilogy concluding chapter. The rules laid down were roughly as follows:
  1. "You've got a villain who’s gonna be super human. Stabbing and shooting him won’t work, basically in the third one, you gotta cryogenically freeze, decapitate, or blow up."
  2. "Anyone, including the main character, can die."
  3. "The past will come back to bite you...Whatever you think you know about the past, forget it. The past is not at rest, any sins you think were committed in the past are about to break out and destroy you."
  4. "Never, ever under any circumstances go running off by yourself
  5. The body count for a trilogy is always massive, even more than the sequel
Cyclops breaks rule no.4, and rushes off to where she died, to meet her alive, see her levitate stuff, look into her eyes, kiss one of those long vampire-soul-sucker kisses and meet the fate reserved for the sceenwriter. Our undead Jean Grey sends psychic waves that summon the others. They pick her up as she says "Kill me quick, or I'll hurt more people" (Yeah right!!) and Professor X does the once-over on her psyche.

Rule 3 kicks in. Turns out Jean wasn't as in control as we thought. She was awesomely powerful, and her psychic abilities were emotion-linked (If she only knewwww the Pphaoower of the Dark Side). So, to control her, the Prof psy-locked the bulk of her energy, and that apparently split her personality into this intense Carrie-type character (I'm not sure that wasn't the inspiration for this whole piss-up of a story). Anyways, the near-death has awakened the Dark Side, so as he tells Wolverine, Handle with Care. But our hero being the now solo male adult, and so hairy to boot, he awakens her, kisses her, lasts a little longer than his predecessor, and gets Yoda-slammed into the wall.

In the meantime, Magneto's back, and re-organized his gang. Mystique has been forcibly cured, so in her place he's now got a tattoed super-fast girl who senses mutant powers, a dude who replicates in a Naruto-meets-Agent Smith-fashion, a dude who shoots fire (very ala Sasuke's "Katon: Gokakyu no Jutsu")and Vinnie Jones as Juggernaut, a mutant with super strength, invulnerability and a reservoir of soccer-hooligan-chutzpah - the things mutants turn into these days!!. He hears of our Evil Gray, and tracks her down, simultaneous to the X-Men. A fight follows, while Professor X tries to mentally control Evil Gray. Rule 2 kicks in, and the Professor gets disintegrated. NNOOOOOO!!! Magneto, now with Jean Grey (or Phoenix, as she calls herself) raises a second mutant army, and plans to destroy the cure Labs (on Alcatraz) with the kid to boot. He lands in SF, bends the bridge around, and crash lands there. A guerilla war ensues, and the body count rises, in accordance with rule no. 5

The X Men then save the day, with Kelsey Grammar doing this whole animal combat thing (A counselling speech would have been more lethal), Storm hitting out with Sidious-esque finger-lightning bolts, Iceman iceing his way about, and the Shadowcat using nimble brains and colourful language to beat Vinnie Jones. The climax is when Phoenix wakes up again, and now starts disintegrating everything. I mean everything - buildings, guns, ocean, people, mutants, hell even the screen doesn't seem safe. Our hero the Wolverine, lands in near her, counters mutant disintegration as he struggles, and nearing her, delivers a mortal wound by saying "I'd die... for YOU!!!!". This, delivered from a rapidly disintegrating Hugh Jackman, is predictably killing. Phoenix is stunned. Our hero kisses her and stabs her at the same time, obeying rule no. 1, and bringing a dramatic, if pretentious end to the whole thing.

The President is overjoyed, Beast is now UN Ambassador, the X Men Academy is formally recognized and given Harvard accreditation, Storm is Principal, Professor X, Jean and Cyclops are buried side-by-side, and I imagine Arjun Singh gets his Mutant Reservation bill passed by an even more overwhelming majority than his OBC quota bill. The Rogue girl is cured, and can now kiss safely, some dude who's son's a winged mutant is now proud of him, and the only unhappy person is Magneto, who's struggling to levitate metal chess pieces. In a desperate attempt to salvage the franchise by leaving the possibility for a quadro-thingie, a piece vibrates a bit. Credits roll......

All in all: Watch it if you've ten year old's to entertain on a day when Ponnuswamy's is closed. No othr reason whatsoever exists to put 80 bucks per head into Rupert Murdoch's pocket for this. And as mentioned before, shove metal claws up Ratner if you meet him.