Tuesday, November 25, 2003

A study in contrast...

Two key contributors for the opposing teams. One the vice-captain and the other the most important batsman of his team. Both are candidates for the MVP of their teams (if such an award exists in cricket). And yet marked differences in the way they speak about team selection and their peers.

Sachin Tendulkar on India's would-be openers - "Sehwag is a very dangerous player. He can turn around and play a big innings, even match-winning innings. He has done that in the past and stroke-players like him are very exciting to watch. Let's hope we see more of him on this tour," he said.

"Ramesh has given himself a nice build-up for the series with this innings. But I can't really comment if he would play in the Tests. It is up to the coach and the captain to decide... I don't take part in that."

This is extracted from a piece that had Sachin Tendulkar commenting on various issues including the Indian team's goals during this tour (Courtesy Rediff's Cricket section.).

Contrast this with Adam Gilchrist's comments on the selection dilemma that Cricket Australia faces.

Wouldn't a senior player's kind words do a world of good for a wanna be. Sadly a wanna-be's what a lot of India's fringe players have been reduced to. I certainly would have hoped much better words from Sachin on a performance that was equivalent to his knock today, both in terms of runs and also the sheer value for the keeping the teams morale intact, if not raising it.

A small deviation of focus.. well not too far from the trodden trail

With India starting its tour of Oz-land today, this blog will focus much more on cricket and the activities on and off the field Down Under. Was tempted to start another blog, but decided that this one is enough. Let's just hope that India performs to their potential.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Is that Preity Zinta? Really?

The first picture, I got after googling for Preity. The second is from the promos of Kal Ho Na Ho, the latest Karan Johar flick directed by debutant director Nikhil Advani.

But is that really Preity Zinta in the second picture. Hmmm... What's she done with her face? You have really lost it, Preity!

Monday, November 17, 2003

Plagiarism vs. Adaptations

Two long posts in the same day. I can’t remember when that happened previously. But the comment about “blatant copying” by Maniratnam (in his early movies) has really set me off on this.

What would YOU consider plagiarism (while talking about movies!) and what would YOU say is an adaptation? Here is my viewpoint.

My point is, just because the theme is the same as another movie, it does not mean that someone has plagiarized it. Let me use three movies as examples. First one being the case of Thiruda Thiruda by Mani, which I have heard a lot of people claim as a “straight lift” from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. As I mentioned in the last post, I can’t find any similarities beyond the fact that the central characters in both movies are 2 guys and one lady. Well, Thiruda Thiruda had one more, if you consider Anu Agarwal. In Butch Cassidy, the trio go about looting banks first in the USA and then in Bolivia and get killed when one such attempt goes awry. Thiruda Thiruda on the other hand is about a cargo container full of brand new bank notes that gets heisted on its way from the central mint in India. 2 good for nothing vagabonds and an ill treated gal get to know about this and go after it. The mastermind behind the heist is also after it as does his girlfriend who wishes to escape his clutches. The police are on the hunt for the money and the trio who they think has the money. So where is the “lift”?

I would go even as far as to say that I would not consider an movie like 12-B to be plagiarized because in no occasion has Jeeva (the cinematographer who directed this movie) claimed that this is an original story, just in opposite to what some people do when accosted with a question like whether their movie is a “copy” of another. The second thing about 12-B was that the original Sliding Doors, which FYI, starred Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah (seen widely in India as Rachel Weisz’s bungling brother in the Mummy franchise) was set in England and Jeeva had sufficiently put his efforts to “Indianize” it. So I don’t consider it a “copied” movie solely for the effort that went to making the movie look as Indian as the original was British.

On the other hand, Kaante, was a scene to scene lift from not one, two movies, taking one half of the movie from The Usual Suspects and the other from Reservoir Dogs. The director denied all this and the movie got ample newsprint in India. Now we have a statement attributed to Quentin Tarantino that he is happy that Reservoir Dogs has been lifted because he claims he lifted it from Hong Kong (Read the interview with Rahul Bose which mentions this, here!). Will that give filmmakers a passport for more of this kind? I seriously hope that does not happen.

So I have three movies, all three reviled in different levels, for being “copies”. Do you agree with my viewpoints? Or am I making no sense?

Whatever, let us see what you feel. Email me with your comments and I will post if not all your comments, at least some of the most interesting ones on the blog here. Please don’t add your comments on the blog. Email it to this address (you can find it on in the comments box too). Let us see if we can generate some good discussion on this.

(P.S This is not a flame, so incase you are angry and have lots of @#$% for me, please stop. Close this browser window now, take a deep breath, count to fifty while thinking simultaneously about a beautiful girl (or a handsome guy, to be politically correct) of your choice. However, I urge all married readers to think only about their spouses when you take a deep breath and count, because you are past even your “virtual philandering” days. Others please think of anybody other than Aishwarya Rai. She is reserved for my thoughts alone! )

UPDATE: Btw, contrary to expectations, I will NOT, I repeat, I WILL NOT, edit anybody's emails to me. So please use ASCII characters in case you wanna bad mouth me. However I reserve the right to exclude posts. Give me at least that much editorial independence for the sake of ensuring diversity of opinions. And I had to put that "P.S" in bold to make it obvious that I dont intend to flame anyone and to instruct people on what to do if they think they are offended!

In defence of Mani!

A couple of days ago, Lazy Geek had posted a humor laced viewpoint about one of Bala's interviews. A couple of people did not see the humor part of it and mini-flamed him for the post. It sort of escalated into something just short of a flame war and since my comments threatened to beat the record for the longest comment ever, I decided to post it on here.

Though I agree with comments that Guru should see Pithamagan with an open mind, I cannot agree with the criticism about Maniratnam.

First - I strongly oppose the use of the words "blatant copying". Those words are I think too strong in this context. If the words had been used for some of the recent Hindi movie - Qayamat or some of those Dino Morea, Bipasha Basu "almost-skin flicks", then I would whole heartedly agree.

And though I don't share this particular person's feelings about Mouna Ragam or Pagal Nilavu or Nayakan, I cannot help but notice that though he is criticizing Maniratnam, he seems to have not noticed that all that Guru recommends about Mani Ratnam are his movies of recent years, i.e. KM, Iruvar etc. Mani has come of age now. I dare someone to find any of those scenes/subjects that fir the term "blatant copying" in these movies, unless the same mistakes that a lot of people commit when they say that Thiruda Thiruda is copied from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, are repeated.

See, all that was great about Mani's early efforts were the technical aspects. I think he cleverly used commercial elements, i.e. those time and tested stuff that is "blatant copying" to establish himself with his audiences. Do not know of anybody else who have taken the same path as Mani.

After 1991, he has moved to his own sphere. Thiruda Thiruda was an aberration - an experimental foot hold into almost a forgotten movie genre in India, something I would term the "Chase genre". It had 2 guys and a gal chased by the law - the similarities with Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, that many people claim that Mani copied from, end at this point. I personally like the movie for the tight screenplay and the fast pace. His terrorism trilogy + KM (what would u call something that has four parts, lol) appeared after 1991.Dil Se was the most "unreal" of the trilogy, but original never the less.

AP was the most innovative treatment of the most repeated theme in the history of Indian cinema. I would have wanted it to be released with proper subtitles rather than a remake like Saathiya whose dialogues did not carry the same punch. Some of the parts of AP that did not have dialogues carried more punch than Saathiya's equivalent scenes. Mainly that particular scene when Madhavan runs to Shalini's train, grabs her book and spouts lines lost all its sheen in Saathiya. At least Mani should have redone it in Hindi. Though I wondered before it was released whether Mani was actually ghost directing Saathiya, I lost all those doubts when I saw the finished product.

In spite of the Godfather inspired scenes in Nayakan and Agni Nakshatram, the movies were very good because the themes were original. He just used those "inspired scenes" to complete them, to keep the lay man interested. After making sure that he had established himself, he found no reason to resort to such gimmicks and hence you find his recent movies shorn of such gimmicks.

You should also remember that Idhaya Kovil was made at the height of the success of the SPB - IR - Mohan trio and aimed to exploit the success of this combination. And it did. I still cannot find what you have found "stupid" about Pagal Nilavu, because you have not mentioned your peeve with respect to this movie. You have just committed the same sin that you accused somebody of i.e. not substantiating what you claim.

I can tell you what is realistic about each and every movie of Maniratnam except Pagal Nilavu and Idhaya Kovil. I was very young when I caught these two movies and hence don't remember much about them. But for the rest, I can give you examples. You can find unrealistic elements too, but hey, we are talking about cinema here.

To answer questions about realism in Mani's movies, according to me, just look at the various relationships. In Nayakan - Kamal's potrayal of Velu Nayakar and his relationships with his children. Ruthless in business but otherwise docile and vulnerable. In Agni Nakshatram, the treatment of Vijaykumar's bigamy (Vijaykumar is bigamous in real life too?) and the simmering hatred between the two "families". Mounaragam again had excellent portrayals by Mohan and Revathy, but was a little ahead of times with the whole divorce thing.

Bala has chosen a completely different path. Of doing his own thing right from the word go. But this path has been made easier only because people like Mani Ratnam have primed the audiences to accept alternative modes of story telling, screenplays shorn of clich├ęs (though both Bala and Maniratnam have not been able to discard these cinematic elements completely, as the item numbers in their movies would indicate) and hence movies like Pithamagan or Sethu can do well these days, in spite of the best efforts of producers to derail these efforts. In fact, the rumor is that Vikram stepped in with money for Pithamagan after producers showed Bala the door after sometime. Hence this delay in finishing the movie.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

My man makes it to OZ!

The Indian squad for Oz Land '03 runs thus - Sourav Ganguly (capt), Akash Chopra, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Parthiv Patel (wk), Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Ajit Agarkar, Sadagoppan Ramesh, Aavishkar Salvi, Deep Dasgupta (wk) and Irfan Pathan. (courtesy Cricinfo)

I think I am rightly assuming that the squad for the VB series involving the Aussies, Zimbabweans and the Indians will be announced midway through the tour. And that would be another exercise in frustration, I am sure, atleast for the Indian enthusiast. But first about this squad for the Test matches.

Surprise Inclusions - Both Ramesh and Dasgupta. This seems to be the master stroke. Everybody assumed that since a backup keeper was necessary and Dasgupta being the man of the moment, he would make the squad only at the expense of Ramesh, "since he could open the batting as well". "No Sir", said Kirmani and Co. and hence we find both making the trip! Does that mean Sehwag's Xenia Onatop impression might be meeting a climax soon or is it already over? Anyways, 3 "specialist" openers and one goalkeeper who can open too (if you ask Sidhu, who wanted to transfer him to ManU and Robin Singh) is way too ostentatious for an underperforming team such as India whose bowling department seems sparse.

And Irfan Pathan Jr. ? Hmm... Why was poor Lakshmipathi in the squad for part of this TVS series at all and what about his lion hearted performances in both Test matches against the Kiwis on feather beds disguised as pitches? Another T.Kumaran in the making?? I hope not!

Notable Exclusions - Murali Karthik. That boy is of the Srinath mold for sure. Is a musta and bowls his heart out , but is as unlucky as the 13th guest at supper. His bowling has been top class in both the matches he played in this series and should count himself unlucky. His case is just like that of Stuart McGill vis-a-vis Shane Warne, though Kumble and Harbhajan are not even half as threatening as Warne or even McGill in their backyard.

Btw, Munaf Patel's case might be turning into something similar to the hoopla surrounding this mysterious Namibian bowler who has his name spelt with a "!" no less. Hyped to beat the likes of Shoaib and Lee but slowly going back into obscurity, unless he suddenly "re-arrives" with a couple of broken skulls and a brace of hat-tricks. But with pitches like the one for the last match at the Fateh Maidan, that looks highly unlikely.

Cricinfo predicts a sound drubbing at Brisbane for his Indian team that faces a team, 6 of whose likely players make the top 10 in the world at the moment in either the batting or the bowling charts. However I am slightly more charitable than that and would say that unless this team disintegrates badly like last time, we have a chance of atleast drawing 2 of Tests, mostly in Melbourne and Sydney where we have performed marginally better previously.

But nothing shall gladden me than a win or two even if the series is not won. However by doing so, I think that we would be barraged with comments from one and all that we have performed beyond expectations and hence should be happy. And we shall all be told that this team is one of the best ever Indian teams. Hence, going by this thought, I feel that "Celebrate Small Successes" might be one Sunny Therappan axiom that I would urge the cricket fans in India to forget. Let's win every one Down Under and not be satisfied with anything else!

Update: Salvi is injured and Balaji gets into the Australia bound squad in his place. Great news for Balaji. Just that its as fishy as so many things about the Indian Team. I would actually want Kartik in place of Kumble, because by not taking Harbhajan to Oz land, we would be jeopardizing any future chances India have there. Is there any way Kartik can get in?

Update - o - update: My question that formed the last line of the previous update to this post is answered!!! (11/12/03)

Friday, November 14, 2003

Best in the world.. Food for Thought!

Rediff has an article today listing the 40 best directors (??) in the world today. I saw this article and later George’s post on this list as well as the original article from Guardian Unlimited.

However several questions arise. The first one being - why did Rediff not link to the actual article! The second question is what made them list 40 directors? Is it because, by shortening the list to 40, they could exclude some usual suspects which would in turn raise my third question. My last question is kind of linked to the third. But more on those questions later.

The Guardian Unlimited article lists the 40 directors with a small write-up on each of them. Several of my favorites make the top twenty. David Lynch, whose Mulholland Drive was recommended highly (to me by my co-workers), tops the list. My man Scorsese comes second.

The third in the list comes as a pleasant surprise. The Coen Brothers (Ethan and Joel) who have risen up in my chart in the last couple of months, during which I have seen Fargo and O’Brother Where Art Thou? (both of which were unfortunately trashed by some of my friends), feature at third on the list. I am yet to see Raising Arizona which I don’t know how I missed given my extensive must see movie list. But that list has not been updated for quite some time now due to my inability to borrow tapes from the college library. I missed Intolerable Cruelty for the sole reason that word of mouth opinion about the movie made my friends shy away from it and I don’t like to watch movies in the theatre all by myself.

Steven Soderbergh and Terrance Malik round of the top 5 in the list. Quentin Tarantino figures in the top 20 at 17 while Ang Lee (he, of The Hulk fame, yuck!) and Michael Moore make the top 30 at 27 and 28.

Now for some of the usual suspects who don’t make the list. Hold your breath. Steven Speilberg and Ridley Scott !!. These ommisions with respect to some of the people in the list makes this list pointless. While I agree with George who questions the validity of this “top 40” list, I cannot agree with his statement that guys like Ridley Scott, Steven Speilberg deserve to be out of this list. But these people have been the ones in the forefront of the technological advances in cinema in the last two decades.

Looking at Ridley Scott’s filmography at IMDB, we find that, after some TV series in the 60s, his movies from the second half of the seventies have spanned every genre. From science fiction in Aliens and Blade Runner (difficult to pinpoint whether this movie is from the film noir genre or is pure science fiction, but perhaps the darkest movie of its kind) to drama like Thelma and Louise and Hannibal and historicals like his Christopher Coumbus biopic, 1492 and Gladiator, which was nominated for a dozen Oscars incl. Best director and won 5 of them, incl. one for Russel Crowe for Best Actor. If this variety is not influential, what is?

As for Steven Speilberg, the guy has epitomized technical brilliance all through. But is grandeur detrimental to critical acclaim? It seems so, as his absence from the list indicates. Another guy who fails to make the list is John Lasseter, the brain behind the cartoon hits like Toy Story and A Bugs Life. So does that mean that cartoons do not deserve their acclaim? Food for thought!

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

End of an Era!

The most successful Indian pace bowler after Kapil Dev has retired!

Adios Srinath! It was a pleasure see you bowl and it was just as sad when you were not at your best. You made your debut when an aging horse was going after its last hurrah. And it now seems that the aging horse was so preoccupied with its efforts that it spent any extra energy making sure no colt, whatever the pedigree, was alive to give it some competition. While the other colts fell by the wayside, the fact that you kept up with your efforts speaks a lot of your dedication.

You played your first home test match and 13th overall in Mumbai almost three years after making your international debut. And it was perhaps YOUR Zanjeer and you had a Man of the match award with a half century and 5 wickets in the Test. I am sure you would have another 30 to 40 wickets to your credit if you had played more Test matches in your first few years in international cricket. Well, shortsighted selectors put the brakes on this but you never wavered. In terms of sheer numbers you are just as good as Abdul Qadir but the value that you added to a Indian attack was much more than Abdul Qadir's to a Pakistani attack that had, in different periods, bowlers like Imran Khan and Wasim Akram to shoulder the burden.

Experts say that good batsmen edge the ball much more than the novices who blindly swing their bat. Maybe the batsmen you bowled to were not good enough, as the umpteen deliveries that beat bat when you bowled, suggest. You are probably one of the most unlucky bowlers in the history of international cricket. In my opinion, your spell at Kolkota against the Pakistanis in 1999 was probably the best ever by an Indian fast bowler in test cricket. But it is also perhaps true that your going off the field after the 17th over probably let the Pakistanis off the hook. Azhar brought Ganguly to bowl and I have never been able to figure why! In the space of 10 overs, Moin Khan and Salim Malik had consolidated!

Towards the end of your reign, you made sure that the other young men making their way to the top had their job much easier than you had yours in the company of the aging hurricane. Thank you for helping to motivate and cultivate these young Turks who seem to have started to fill your huge shoes. Your presence in Australia would have done a world of good, because barring Kumble, you would have been the only frontline bowler with knowledge of way Australian pitches play and Ajit Agarkar faces stiff competition for his position.

But though we, as Indians, are as unreasonable as we can be with our cricketers, we do understand that you have had your good days and your injuries probably make you cringe every time you think about playing Down under. We however hope that you will be just as accessible to the youngsters in the team, as you were when you were in your position at mid on or mid off.

Thanks Srinath.. Thanks for everything!

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Political thinking and its pitfalls!

Almost a day after the Tamilnadu assembly decided to imprison six persons, including editors of The Hindu and the Murasoli, to 15 days simple imprisonment for an alleged breach of privilege (see the Hindu's front page, from the print edition here), comes news about the reactions of various politicians.

T.S Subramanian had detailed the chain of events that has led to this fracas in his column way back in the May 10th issue of the Frontline (read it here). But this is what apparently caused the fracas - an excerpt from the The Hindu's editorial titled Rising Intolerance on the 25th of April this year:

With each passing day, the Jayalalithaa administration in Tamil Nadu seems to be scaling new heights of intolerance. The crude use of state power against various sections including political opponents and the independent media shows a contempt for the democratic spirit that is deeply disturbing. Perhaps because she was at the receiving end of a series of criminal cases filed by the previous DMK administration, she sees her return to power as an opportunity to wield the sanctioning and prosecuting power of the state blatantly to her political advantage.

Another article that the TN Speaker mentioned as acts intended to "blacken the reputation of the government" was this one - CM taunts Marxists again.

But one thing that strikes me as strange as to why something like this be done just on the day on which the Assembly is adjourned sine die and why should this happen almost 6 months after the above mentioned articles in the Hindu? Is 6 months the usual time for a House Privileges commitee to table its report? Someone clarify this for me! I think that the same thinking that goes toward making political arrests on a Friday evening knowing that bail cannot be received till Monday morning when the courts meet after the weekend has been put to use here too. But perhaps the move has backfired.

Maybe the honorable TN CM could not fortell what her fellow politicians would react. Two Chief Ministers from adjacent states have expressed disapproval of what happened in Chennai, one in a public meeting in what can be seen as a rebuke and another in a personal phone call. Karnatka CM, S.M Krishna, while speaking at the 125th anniversary celebrations of The Hindu in Bangalore on Saturday, expressed displeasure regarding developments. AP CM, Chandrababu Naidu called up N.Ram, The Hindu's Editor-in-Chief and echoed the same comments. As did ABV when N.Ram called him up and Sonia Gandhi, who was "quoted in a New Delhi report" that she "deplored the attempts made to curb press freedom in Tamil Nadu". Even people like IK Gujral and Digvijay Singh, of whom nothing has been heard, maybe even in the last decade have got mileage with their statements expressing support for The Hindu.

What will be the ramifications of this whole issue? I am sure it will end with all cases being dropped or going sub-judice for such a long time that we will forget this whole issue. But with each passing day, TN politics is going murkier. After a good first year or two, the TN government (read the ruling party) is perhaps slowly starting to repeat its mistakes from last time. Though the whole issue of talking tough with truant Government employees was appreciated by the mainstream press, the decision of the government to build a new secretariat in the middle of a city already plagued with badly planned civic projects has perhaps not found enough takers among the people. Already the Government has been forced to retrace its steps in more than one issue - the Queen Mary's College issue being the key. But the CM's public diatribe against Mayiladurai MP Mani Shankar Iyer and his subsequent assault near Nagapattinam (apparently inside Pondicherry state limits and hence absolving the TN ruling party of all involvement) did not receive much mileage anywhere after a day or two. Is this because of the doubts that Mani Shankar Iyer used unparlimentary language to abuse the CM on stage and that the CM refused to repeat those words in public using her position as a woman of high moral standing as an excuse?

Whatever it is, TN politics is getting to be a joke. Everybody does the same thing and accuses everybody else of not doing what they said they would. But who is at a loss here? The common man of course and most don't even know it! The ghosts of the erstwhile movie star turned politician(s) are still up and about and it is about time that these ghosts are exorcised. Who do we turn to for this? Is a California style recall possible under the Indian constitution? If it is so, then TN is one main target for such a recall! But I am sure we don't want a Arnie here. That's just why we want a recall!

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Ajay Palvayanteeswaran is back?

I just found that Ramesh Mahadevan, he of the CMU (and OSU too?) and SCI fame (of a different generation though) is posting on Sulekha. If you have enjoyed his posts in MSN India a couple of years ago, where I first read about Ajay Palvayanteeswaran's adventures, you would enjoy these for sure. Read them...

And then I used the ubiquitous Google to find a page that had a link to more than 90 pieces from the farceur extraordinaire (as he has been described in the past). And I also found on the same page, what is a goldmine for a trivia junkie like me - The Asterix Notations. This when I was so bored at work. Asterix Notations, here I come!