Sunday, September 30, 2007

Of Phoren Phillums Past and Present

The Indian nominee for the Oscar Foreign Film thing has run aground before reaching the western shores. As I mentioned earlier, a comical war of words has come up with everyone and their brother screaming about which film ought to go.

Was there a bias this year, in favour of VVC? Not improbable by a long shot, given the committee's track record:

2007 - Eklavya: AB-baby is the palace guard Eklavya who butts heads with his unacknowledged son, reluctant London-returned prince (white ewe black lamb etc.) Saif Ali Khan, who in turn butts heads with other, evil royals while checking out Vidya Balan's butt. There's a lot of palace scenery and helicopters and so forth in between the skulls cracking. Prediction: Has as much a chance of winning a Foreign Film Oscar as my hindi vlog

2006 - Rang de B: The most over-hyped, feel-good-for-no-reason movie made. Showed a set of hip college kids who role-play for Bhagat Singh and co. Halfway through, a ''serious'' (he joined the Air Force) friend gets killed. Friends get the impression (it's never explained how) that a corrupt minister and a businessman are responsible. Their dharna fails. They have no options left (????) They shoot the two (blossoming from role-players into skilled and ruthless marksmen overnight) and take over a radio station to explain why. As they're shot dead in turn, the ghosts of dead freedom fighters appear. The nation wails in lament. Credits roll. This was selected over Omkara - not only an adaptation of an understandable-to-worldwide-audiences classic, but a movie with an authentic and gritty feel to it.

2005 - Paheli: A horror movie showcasing the kind of hard-on Rani Mukherjee can elicit from the undead, as she falls in love with SRK, a ghost. It gets scarier as you see SRK sport a Rajasthani turban and moustache, and you're haunted forever when you find out Amol Palekhar was the director of this excercise in necrophilia. Selected over Page 3 and Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, both of which were again understandable to world-wide audiences AND had a gritty, gut-wrenching pathos in them. Paheli had about a ghost of a ghost of a chance.

2002 - Devdas: Once upon a time there was a young man. He decided to drink himself to death. Sanjay Leela Bhansali then decided to spend 50 crores showcasing his demise. Rather than send his film to Alcoholics Anonymous, the committee decided to send it to Hollywood. In place of, say, Monsoon Wedding.

The committee in short, is either malleable to the wishes of super-Khans, irrespective of film quality; or is phenomenally stupid. Given what we know about Indian goarnament committees, each is equally likely.

Having said that, it's equally idiotic and ungracious of a director to first scream "No fair" and then get a court order challenging Committee rulings. How are they now going to decide the best film? Have court judges or SC justices see both (It would be a unique first for our judges)? Take the two to a Lok Sabha session? Or will they go "Indian Idol" and carry out an SMS campaign? What's to stop a third person from screaming that his/her film was unfairly left out? And in the midst of all this, have any of these films much of a chance at the Academy (I haven't seen Eklavya or Dharm) Awards?

My verdict: Disband the Selection committee and have every director who can, send his/her film to the Oscars. People say films have to be chosen to represent the tastes and aspirations of the "Indian pippuls". Our tastes weren't much to speak of to begin with, and are now confused as well.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Stranger Than Fiction

It was officially announced - Vidhu Vinod Chopra's "Eklavya" is going to the 2008 Oscars as the Indian Foreign Language entry. The announcement met with the usual "will it ?"s and "won't it ?"s for a while, and would have been shoved aside to make news for Rahul Gandhi, when all hell broke loose.

Bhavna Talwar, who made "Dharm", another contender for the Academy entry, first went to the media telling whoever would listen that Eklavya was a bad film and her film deserved to go to the Oscars [You'll find the HT link here] Once HT, TOI, the Hindu and IE had saturated their Filmi Khabar section and Aaj Tak had aired her views on that "Breaking News" strip at the bottom of the screen, she actually - I mean it, she did this - filed a petition at the Bombay high court, calling for an investigation into the selection of Eklavya. In the meantime, selection committee members, "serious" actors, "joking" actors, Bhavna Talwar, Vidhu Vinod Chopra and NDTV knows who else have presented soundbytes to the media either describing the shadowy conspiracy in smoke-filled selection committee rooms, or deriding "The young filmmaker whose film hasn’t gone..." for "having durrty crab mentality". The latest has been this "Front Page Headline" - the Bombay High court has given the Film Selection committee 10 days to file a reply to their evaluation that "there seems to be merit in the argument that the selection process was biased....." The matter will be decided during a date in October blah blah blah

The truth has not only become stranger than fiction, it's turned into some sort of Academy Award winning screenplay itself now - the kind of satirical one Cho Ramaswamy would write and Farooq Sheikh/Naseeruddin Shah would act in back in the 80's.

Amazing, ain't it?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Shakespeare 'n Love

Here's a sign of trouble - I'm running out of things to rave and rant about. lexicomaniac sums this blog as reflections, and to my regret, you (or rather, I) can only reflect so much.

So anyways, this post is a set of little thingies going on....... with me rather than the world at large. So, no thoughtful Being Vir Sanghvi today.

Shakespeare. I've joined this dramatics group that can loosely be defined as a Shakespeare sketch show. We're planning a show with little clips from the Great Playwright's Greatest Plays. A feather in Yours Truly's cap is his bagging a role as Iago in an Othello scene, which should allow me one of those evil fourth wall grins that were creepy in Kaun and The Omen.

The role brought back memories from high and middle school. Of a time before IIT, when English wasn't quite English, but well.... English English. Or rather, ICSE English English. I'm referring of course to English spoken in a semi sing-song high pitched tone with special emphasis on diction and pronounciation, when reciting a poem on stage or acting out a classic drama. Don't get me? Ok, put simply, try reciting this, stressing on each sound:

"In this same interlude it doth befall
That I, one Snout by name, present a wall;
And such a wall, as I would have you think,
That had in it a crannied hole or chink,
Through which the lovers, Pyramus and Thisby,
Did whisper often very secretly"

Yep, that English. It's the one ICSE students pride themselves on in Calcutta or Bangalore. It's about as dead as the literature you enact in it, but it's fun. Coming to IIT, where Hinglish was more the lingua franca, and drama meant Hindi dialogue (and names like Kaal Bhuchandi), I lost touch with it. It's fun to relive it.

It's also a reminder of what kind of person you are. I had to summon IEE when reciting my lines. But the rest of the people in the group (all Americans born and bred) did not. Shakespeare rolls smoothly off their tongues. They doth their ayes and quoth their thees with cunning fluency. I don't. It's kind of a racial thing, but there you are.

I've also joined the Purdue swing dance club. Swing is something you'd see from the black and white films they had in the fifties - think "Eena Meena Deeka". It's informal, more fun and a less strenuous way to meet members of the opposite sex than say, salsa or tango (believe, they are best left to Banderas). Neways, swing is fun. What isn't is the interaction with the opposite sex.

It's been about two weeks since the club began. But wierdly, boys and girls are starting to pair up on a permanent basis already. Partner rotations are starting to feel more unwelcome and the post-class dances are seeing fixed couples, who dance looking all starry-eyed at each other. How in heaven did they go about it? I'm starting to feel left out, like the shithead you see in teen movies looking forlorn and pup-eyed at events like this, when he sees the class hot-chick dance with the jerk-jock. I wish they'd slow down and give me enough time to figure out the tricks of the trade and be smoother and less awkward when in close proximity to girls. Y'know, everyone starting the race at the same position. The science of coupling up. I wish they'd teach that in a course at IIT. The science of coupling. Way more practical than the effect of coupling forces on a tressle centre of gravity - D'you even come across such things in the real world?

Anyway, that's life now. Let's see where Shakespeare and Swing take it.