Tuesday, February 26, 2008

FYI World

Falling Slowly" is the new anthem of my life, supported by "The Hill". Just thought I'd let you all know.

In other news, currently consuming "Classically Mild", the new semi-classical meets Indi-pop world album by Sonu Nigam. Requires a slightly challenging change of ear, because it’s a rather unique sound. Review upcoming.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Falling Slowly - All Rise!

Daym! Nailed them predictions, didn't I? Best Director, Best Film, Best Actress, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. Had totally pictured Cate Blanchette winning for Supp. Actress, but Swinton bagged that one. But still - 5 out of 6!
  • Jon Stewart was so much more confident and poised, this time around. He's truly filling Billy Crystal's shoes.
  • Sheer hotness - Marion Cotillard!
  • Diavlo (Juno) winning Original Screenplay - nice!
  • Ratatouille bagging Best Animated Feature - tres bien!
  • But without doubt - Best Original Song, everyone! All rise! Hansard/Irglova - you are both rockstars!
With stiff competition from Oscar legends like Alan Menken in one of the most intense categories, coupled with all that controversy about eligibility, Once emerged victorious. This goes to prove the immense power of honest heartfelt music. What a moving performance, and what a genuine and sincere award speech! Jon bringing Marketa back to complete hers was the sweetest thing ever!

Those who still haven't any of the following - Juno, Once, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood and La Vie En Rose - please do!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Note from the Desi Oscars

Looking through the reports of the 53rd Filmfare Awards this year.

First of all, please examine the above selection of pictures that Indiatimes decides to put up to sum up the awards gala. There's Akshay with the misplaced heartache. What's with Shah Rukh and Saif in those bath towels and face masks??? These two have taken their gay/effeminate innuendo that they started off in KHNH too damn far. Kinda like a bunch of kids who've discovered something that their parents won't yell at them about. And Rishi Daddy looks like he's trying to hold a belligerent Ranbir down before he punches someone out - most probably Bhansali. So it looks like it was a semi-nude, raunchy and almost violent night. Fun! Sounds like last night's dream gone wrong. Dear God - why can't we have a classy awards show, made for television? Even the shadowed Indie Spirit Awards (which Juno swept) emerge with more eliteness.

But well, to give the black statuette her due, most of the actual awards were fairly attributed, with the exception of 3 glaring misfits (outlined further below), in order of increasing wrongness. Taare picked up Best Film and Story, and Aamir bagged Director (doubt he attended though). TZP's Darsheel Safary got a highly deserved critic's nod. Rahman won best music for Guru, Prasoon Joshi for his penmanship of Maa in Taare. Life in a Metro bagged the bridesmaids awards (supporting actor/actress) for Irrfan Khan and Konkona - well deserved again. Fresh new faces - Ranbir and Deepika. On the money, so far.

Questionable? Shah Rukh winning for Chak De India. One of his co-nominees was Abhishek for Guru. Fine, this is a slightly questionable turf. But although Guru had some issues with characterization and screenplay - Abhishek's performance was rock solid within those constraints. Shah Rukh's character was flawless, and so was his performance. But the question here is, the Actor's award is for performance, not for screenplay. And by sheer performance value - I would have to say that Abhishek's Gurukant Desai was miles ahead of Shah Rukh's Kabir Khan.

Shocking? Kareena picked up Best Actress for Jab We Met. Great performance by Kareena, but in the face of Vidya Balan in Bhool Bhulaiyyaa, which from what I've heard was one of the most challenging roles of the year. Bear in mind that BB was a remake of 1993 Malayalam classic Manichitrathaazu (try saying that after 4 Patrons), in which Shobhana's performance bagged her a National Award. So not too sure how that one went down.

Downright Abysmal!!! Shaan winning Best Playback Singer for Jab Se Tere Naina (Saawariya). Versus Sonu's heart rendered Main Agar Kahoon (OSO). Say what? Say WHAT? Jab Se was, first of all, a deflated composition. Had all the air sucked out of it. The song had the flair of a flat can of diet soda, and negative hummability. Basically, it was made for Shaan - who adds his smiley voice to such compositions and makes them slightly listenable. Main Agar Kahoon was the anti-thesis of this. Brilliant composition, immensely well sung, hugely popular. Now that, people, is just plain wrong.

In other news, check out this awesome Sonu track from Kannada film, Mungaru Male. What a voice!
Back and Psyched!

Rooting beyond belief for "Falling Slowly" (OST - Once) for Best Original Song - one of the most beautiful melancholic ballads of the year. Seeing this one performed live at the Oscars is going to be a MOMENT!

In other news, Hyderabad's epic Paradise Biryani now in New Jersey. Woo hoo - anyone been? So many memories of "double masala chicken biryani" and "bottle coke" (coke in a glass bottle tastes way zingier than can/recyclable bottle coke, trust me - its a desi thing) at 4 AM, postgaming, at Paradise Circle. And if you're ambitious, top it off with Double-ka-meetha. Or even early morning Irani Chai, on the way to the airport. It had its own lingo, even. If you wanted Irani chai to go at Paradise while you're on the move, you had to say "ek chalti phirti chai, jaldi". To which you'd get a busy 'hau, miyaan', in response. Hehe. Good times!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Oscar Predictions 2008

My '07 Prediction Score: 5 on 5 (see post here)

My '06 Prediction Score: 4 on 5 (was pleasantly shocked about Crash, see post here)

Not bad, no? Hopefully I should be back in time to catch the Oscars live, but here go my predictions.

As always, there's that eternal battle about who I think should and who I think will. But, having sampled most of the Oscar grub up for grabs this year, here goes:

Best Picture/Director: No Country for Old Men. Dark, disturbing and effortlessly beautiful. Judging by the Academy's history with dark movies, this should clearly bag it, without too much competition.

Best Actor: Hands down! Daniel Day Lewis for There Will Be Blood. Sadly, this is only the second Day Lewis movie I've seen, in nearly 19 years. And he won an Oscar for the last one - My Left Foot, back in 1989. A prolific actor, and a brilliant performance.

My Supporting vote goes to Javier Bardem for No Country for Old Men.

Best Actress: Yes, yes, I know. A lot of people think this one should go to Ellen Page for Juno. Purely for complexity of character, and an effortless performance. She lived the role, we loved her in it. But will she win? I strongly doubt it. Even though Juno is the only happy movie of the lot of significantly "feel-bad" movies, this year. But the Oscars has almost always been about seasoned performance a pointe. The SAGs and Golden Globes may go for encouragement of new talent, but the Academy has been fairly regular about picking pedigree/experience over debuts. Therefore, I'm going to have to go with Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose). From what I hear, she could likely be upset by Julie Christie, but I haven't seen Away From Her, so cannot comment.

Supporting should likely be Cate Blanchett (I'm Not There), but could be upset by Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton). My vote's with Cate, cuz she's awesome. And it would be regretful if she swings out of both her historic nominations this year.

Rock out, Stewart!
Only in NYC

This is one of the most awesome stunts ever! Quirky creative stuff like this is the reason I love New York so much.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Don't Miss It!

Jon Stewart on Larry King Live on Wednesday. And of course, hosting the Oscars, this weekend.

Despite harrowing distant travails, will try and put up predictions. After all, have my priorities straight! :)

Monday, February 18, 2008


Caught this version of the classic Skynyrd track, Sweet Home Alabama, by a group called BAMA Boyz, on the Jeff Foxworthy Roast on ComCen.

Pretty ill!!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sattar Minute
: The "Chak De India" Review

The "Success of the Underdog" style of movie making - Gotta love 'em! Especially when they have a sports angle, it synchronizes the climax better. Bollywood hasn't traditionally had too many such Sports/Underdog flicks, and Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander was probably the last decent attempt. Haven't seen Goal so can't comment, but I heard that it was more focused on the racism aspect.

I wouldn't classify Lagaan in this category, because it had the whole historical/patriotic angle thrown in, which took away from the sportiness of it. Although the cricket theme did help substantially in Lagaan's success in India. But its even more challenging when you take a sport like hockey, which is as 'brick and mortar' a sport as it gets. Stick, ball, goal, with a few fouls thrown in. Cricket has so many intricacies, vagaries and variations, which can keep you engaged - many of which Lagaan used effectively.

But I give it to Shimit "Chhappan" Amin for creating an effective "feel-good" movie, generating awareness about how the Sports Authority of India ensures that segmented sports in India live under the shadow of their sensationalized, glamorous and celebrity-powered step-sister, cricket. The cast was believable and real. I did feel that every character didn't get enough identity though. There was significant focus on Preeti Sabharwal (Lord! Sagarika Ghatge rocks my world, btw), Komal, Bindya and the Punjabi one. Unlike Lagaan, where each character had their own identifiers and idiosyncrasies which grew on you - all 12 of them.

Also, and I know this is a strange qualm to have, but the story really wasn't complicated enough. It definitely needed more substance, beyond the fact that, given the right motivation and practice, a weak team can win the World Cup. Especially the penalty shot climax. Pretty standard stuff. I mean, from the first scene of this movie, we know that this movie is going to have a happy ending where forgotten glory is going to be revived, and a bunch of female hockey players are going to emerge victorious. But the challenge is to make a predictable story so gripping, that you suspend the viewers ability to predict the future of the film, by his intense involvement in the present. This genre calls for a few more additional twists which would have made Chak De, a little more "edge-of-seat"-ish and a little less predictable. Like, say, the opposition team trying some underhanded stuff. Or one of the team's players working for the opposition (like Laakha in Lagaan), and turning around at the last minute.

And I know that was my umpteenth cross-reference to Lagaan - but its purely attributed to the fact that I don't have too much else to compare to in Bollywood.

Although, the crowning glory of Chak De was that The King didn't take away from his subjects. SRK blended so well into the role of "Kabir Khan", with a look reminiscent of his character in Swades, that he allowed the focus of the film to remain on the team, the sport and the storyline. And as always, his was a seasoned and brilliant performance. Especially in the "sattar minute" pep talk sequence.

The background score was signature Salim-Suleiman. Songs were nothing to write home about at all, with the distinct exception of "Maula Mere Lele Meri Jaan". Its in a very thought-provoking and moody raag.

Get this widget | Track details | eSnips Social DNA

The hook line sounds a lot like "nahin kuch sivaa pyaar ke" from that Anuradha Paudwal song (God, from the school of annoying Nadeem Shravan flop songs from the 90s that just sit in your head, coming back to haunt you decades later. Can totally imagine sitting in a retirement home someday, and humming "Zamaane ke dekhe hain rang hazaar").

Verdict? Definitely not historic, but capable of swaying the direction of the Bollywood film armada by a few degrees towards ports of meaningful entertainment. My guess is that there will be more like this in the next few years, and I do hope that we start to see more "independent" cinema.

And my favorite line in Chak De was definitely, "Cricket ki tarah, humaare hockey mein chhakke nahin hote". Freaking Sweet!

Friday, February 15, 2008


Been sampling KK's new album on my trips, and its a refreshing change from Bollywood. Its been a while since I heard some Indi-pop. The last albums that I enjoyed in entirety were probably Shaan's Tanha Dil and Euphoria's Doom, I mean, Dhoom collection.

Nothing to compare to Pal, which was a phenomenal album, but Humsafar is definitely worth a listen. Interestingly, none of the songs really have any element of stickiness. They have a great sound and a great mood, that maintains itself consistently throughout the album, but if you ask me to hum you a tune (other than Aasmaan Ke), I wouldn't have a clue.

What I like most about KK is that he sticks to his genre, and what suits his voice. He doesn't cram a dozen different genres into an album to prove some kind of hyper-versatility, like other artists. You know the kind who will do a slow song, then a fast song, then a qawwali song, then a rap song, then some wannabe hip/hop (with wierd lines like "come on baby. you and me tonight", because they think it sounds cool) and then an accent-laden english song as well, for good measure. Reminds me of a circus clown going "look at me! aren't I amazing? I can juggle porcupines while I do this too".

In other news, Dr. Evil's Dad did invent the question mark.

Rediff's (R. Sen's) review of Jodhaa-Akbar stands contrastingly far away from those of Mercedes-gifted and gilted reviewers on sites whose names mysteriously sound like national radio stations, when they aren't.

To quote one of the most generous lines in his review:
"The director can handle romance and emotional conversations well, as we are well aware, and war is just not his forte. Soldiers charge at each other visibly trying to hold back, and while I'm sure hundreds or thousands of extras are impossible to control, the battle sequences are amateurish to an embarrassing extreme. They might have worked if shown in fits and spurts, swords thrust strongly in rapidly edited montages set to a peaking score, but here we are shown long and tiresome battle sequences -- scenes where we see extras twirling weapons and jabbing the air pointlessly. Tsk."

Wow! Why don't you tell us how you really feel there, babumoshai?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

On the brink of phenomenon

Linking to a post on Vishesh's website which highlights some of the amazing growth stories and ridiculous projects that Dubai has, on its horizon. Epic!
Music Review: Jodhaa Akbar

The unique sound that results from the fusion of two distinct talents is a thing of wonder. R. D. Burman and Gulzar. Yash Chopra and Shiv-Hari. A R Rahman and Mani Ratnam. There's an aura that their music has, which emanates from their individual creativities, and the union of their mindsets and styles.

Rahman and Gowariker are two such minds. There's overstated grandeur and an element of "larger-than-life"-ness associated with a production like Jodhaa Akbar, which rests like an inverted pyramid on the needlepoint of simplicity. The music conveys this vision, grandly.

Azeem-O-Shaan Shahenshah has this trademark ARR percussive energy that kicks off the soundtrack. Listen to this on the highest subwoofer setting that your system can muster, and you can generate a 6.1 on the Richter. This marching song is both regal and powerful - a great start!

Jashn-E-Bahaaraa, the next track, is my personal favorite on the album. Sung brilliantly by Javed Ali, a Sonu soundalike with enough vocal variation to keep him distinct from his idol (unlike Rahul Vaidya who has conveniently disappeared ... or been made to? .. hmm).

This song is classic Rahman - seamless transition between chorus and verse, supported with beautiful interludes and a killer bass track. The quintessential, refreshing romantic track in his album that relaxes you the minute it starts. Like Ennavale in Kaadhalan, Ajooba in Jeans, Jaan-E-Bahara in Dil Ne Jise Apna Kaha, Roja Roja from Kadhalar Dinam, Khamosh Raat in Thakshak. The list is endless. Its funny that the opening notes are inspired by Imli Ka Boota from Saudagar, and the opening rhythms of the song sound curiously like Aisa Lagta Hai from Refugee. But Rahman adds so many of his own musical touches to a song/soundtrack, that the source of inspiration can, in no way, be attributed to its appeal.

The bassline, clap loop and tabla in Khwaja Mere Khwaja is beautiful. This song brings back memories of Piya Haji Ali from Fiza. This hopeful, prayer-like song has Rahman doing a very interesting opening qawwali-style khayaal, very unlike his usual vocal style. The progressive build of this song is very well done.

Inn Lamhon Ke Daaman Mein is a pretty song, but somehow not captivating at first listen. Kinda like O Ri Chori from Lagaan. Really sweet song, but a little plain. Probably a situational thing in the movie. The best part of the song for me, is Sonu's solo vocal interlude around 4:55. This song also hallmarks a popular technique Rahman uses. He has a sweet and melodic romantic ballad in a major chord, interrupted by choral, louder segments with higher energy, usually a minor chord, and he capitalizes on the sharp-edged transition between the two (Like Ishq Bina from Taal and more aptly, Bharat Humko from Roja).

Mann Mohanaa contains some of the most brilliant legato and staccato classical string ensemble sequences, coupled with great singing by Bela Shende (remember her from the classical track, Khaali Hai Tere Bin in Paheli, with Hariharan). Mann Mohanaa is the O Paalanhare of Jodhaa Akbar - albeit, much more evolved.

The kicker for me on this album is the flute version of Jashn-E-Bahaara. On a rainy day, I could listen to this on endless repeat, with an infinite supply of chai and namkeen.

The opening brass ensemble that one can hear in the teasers, which opens the album as well, is very reminiscent of Lagaan. And so is the overall sound of the album. With Jodhaa Akbar, their third album as a team, all of which were musically outstanding, it is evident that Rahman and Gowariker are out to create a musical character for their productions together.

In other news, doesn't Aishwarya look like a slice of heaven in the trailers of this movie?
Brevity : Underestimated

Ernest Hemingway was once asked to convey a story in 3 sentences, purportedly as part of a bet at a bar. He upped it a notch by saying it in 6 words. The famous shortest story went "For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Used".

The point of fiction is to inspire emotions or thoughts in someone, which are an escape from everyday reality. The ability of a writer to execute this inspiration in not so many words is key. Hemingway's genius is subtly evident in that six word classified ad - as they make one think. A child who just passed away? A shopping trip gone wrong? There could be so much behind those six words, which he has left to our imagination. Flash fiction was born.

Brevity is an oft underestimated talent. One sentence, if conceptualized thoughtfully and used tastefully, could stand for a thousand paragraphs. Not just in the world of script writing or song writing, but even in the social world; in conversation. Somewhere down this generation's traversal of time, we have stopped to study the impact of our words. Switching between TCM and NBC highlights a significant and heightened modification in what was/is considered to be intense articulation. Even in our new-found fascination for dark and sarcastic humor.

"like ... uhh .... that's what i'm saying ... uhhh ... man .... this whole .... new.... uhh .... political... thing. ... you know ... uhh .. its pretty f***ed up, isn't it?"

Wow, is that because of the writer's strike, or are you actually one of those intellectually defunct organisms?

In other news, shout out to "Global Shanti" for a "W"onderful "W"eekend. Cafe Boulud was tres classy et magnifique, as was SM and the candid conversations between martinis. Here's to expensive dorm rooms and summer!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Miluju tebe

Eureka! The line that Marketa Irglova says in Czech when Glen asks her if she still loves her husband. And it means "I love you". I realize that this is the n-th reference to Once on this blog. Contrary to public opinion, I do have a life beyond this movie.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Currently Consuming

Gregory David Roberts'

What a read!

Monday, February 04, 2008

What a game!

Superbowl XLII. Nothing short of nailbiting towards the finish, there! Especially with all the dramatics. Its manic to be in New York today, as the Giants swept that victory from under the Pats! Ridiculousness!

Commercials were gloriously lackluster; you can catch them here if you missed 'em. I loved Audi's spin on the Godfather horse's head scene. A lesser known favorite was E*Trade's Talking Baby, and an oomph-honorable mention to the Victoria's Secret Valentine Spot, which was sensually simple.
We all walk in different shoes

Watch this one through to the end. One heck of a smooth campaign.