Saturday, August 26, 2006

Confusions of an Over-analysing Mind

Generally a sane man's thinking process lies somewhere between two extremes - being too hasty while making decisions or being too cautious and analytical with every decision in life, be it about planning a career path or deciding on what to eat for dinner that night. I would count myself as being closer to the first extreme and maybe that's how Maa feels too. So she got me to wear a ring which supposedly keeps me cool and relaxed. That is expected to imply that I will no more make hasty decisions. Anyways, this is not about whether it really works or not.

This is about my meeting with someone 'anti-me' in terms of the thinking process. Someone who would study all the pros and cons of choosing between cabbaage and capsicums while doing grocery before making up his mind about buying both.

My friend Deendayal Upadhyay(name changed to keep identity secret) and I went grocery shopping and this is what followed at the store.

Event A
Time: 4:15 PM

Case scenario: Decision on whether to buy butter

Deendayal(DD): Should I buy unsalted butter or salted one?
Me: Better that you don't buy it. Its not even in a carton or something

DD: If I buy unsalted one then I'll have to add salt so there's no use. But do I buy this salted one or some better brand?
Me: They don't sell the Amul brand here. Better try out a US brand that's available at Stop & Shop.

Clock ticking..4:18 PM

DD: I think I will buy one.
Me: Thank God! Let's move on

Event B
Time: 4:20 PM
Case Scenario: Decision to buy cabbage or capsicum

DD: What should I buy, cabbage or capsicum?
Me: Take your time..think

DD: Cabbage is good and so is capsicum. I would have taken even brocholli but its way to costly for such small quantity.
Me: So you have narrowed down your sample space to two items, cabbage and capsicum..right?

Clock ticking..4:22 PM

DD: I think I will go ahead with buying capsicum
Me: That's the way to go about it man, go ahead and get it.

Clock still ticking..4:24 PM

DD: I have got the capsicum but I was thinking that buying cabbage will also do me no harm.
Me(thinking): Only if you ignore the fact that this cabbage potentially has the ability to jump out of your refrigerator in the night, go to your bedroom and strangulate you to death for choosing capsicum over it at the store.

Event C
Time: 4:28 PM

Me: Hey DD! Saleem Langda, Babu Chhapri and Babban Thakela(names changed again to hide identities) are waiting for us to go to the downtown. Rush, rush!
DD: Don't rush, I'll forget things that I need to buy.

Me: No problem when you are with me. I can help you with remembering the things that you might want to buy. Bread? Milk? Spices? Ghee?
DD: Yes, ghee!

Me: Dekha..main hoon na. Let's do it fast now. Take this 1 kg pack
DD: But which one do I take? There are two brands. I don't know which one is better. I also think that if I buy ghee then I won't need butter.

Me: Does that mean that I go and keep the butter again in the rack?, think
DD: Haste makes waste..but yes, you can keep it back.
(I go and keep the butter pack from where we picked it up and rush back to prod DD to move to the paying counter)

Clock ticking 4:31 PM

DD: I think I will not buy ghee now
Me: Why???

DD: Because it has higher level of cholesterol
Me: So, what would be the next action item? We go to the counter, pay for the rest of the stuff or something else?

DD: I think I will take the butter and leave ghee for the time being. You stand in the queue and I will get the butter.
Me: Oh sure!

Event D

Time: 4:33 PM

DD: I need to buy some biscuits
Me: Buy Parle-G. I remember buying a dog's biscuit pack one day in hurry only to realise it after opening the pack at home. Isn't that funny?

DD: That is why I tell you to be patient
Me: You go and get your biscuits mate..we are almost there in the billing counter queue.

DD: Now, these are a hell lot of types of biscuits. Which one do I choose?
Me: They are all same brand. Pick any.

DD: The question here is not 'what type'. The question here is 'how many'. There are at least 50 packs here. Now how many do I pick?
Me: DD, If you count your would be wife whom you are still to meet and your cute little imaginary Chunnu-Munnu type kids at home, you must buy 10 packs. If you think that you will have lot more chances of visiting a grocery store before your wife and kids come into your life then you can manage with maybe a couple of packs.

DD: I'll pick 2 packs of Pista badam flavor and another coconut cookie packet that I missed in some other shelf. I'll get those
Me: Run, run..we are next in turn at the billing counter.

Time: 4:45 PM

Me: Finally we are done with the shopping. Lets rush back home, tuck in our shirts, put some body spray and rush for the Path station
DD: You made such a rush that I forgot one item completely.

Me: What did you forget now?
DD: Yoghurt!

Me: But you stood at the milk, butter, curd shelf for almost 5 minutes. Didn't it occur to you then?
DD: That time I was thinking about buying milk and butter. Selecting a yoghurt pack needed a different analysis approach.

.. ..

Time: 5:20 PM

Me(thinking sitting alone in a bus, going over to the Path station): What if I get down on the road close to the path station rather than first going to the bus stand? Which one would be the shorter path? What use would reaching earlier be if the other three idiots don't reach there in time? So should I call them and ask if they have left or should I go by the time we set for meeting at the station? What if my watch is not showing the same time as theirs?

..Damn me! I am so very impressionable.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Abstract and Unfathomable - Modern Art Be Thy Name!

(Pollock's art work..about commotion, anger, upheavals or something more profound?)

I have never understood art even remotely. Back in school when I got a poor 50 out of 100 in pencil sketching examination, I sulked and took my drawing to my Mom expecting some consolation and appreciative words from her. It turned out exactly the opposite.

Me: Mujhe is sketch ke sirf 50 miley 100 mein
Mom: 50 de diye??

Me: Kyun? Kam hain ya zyada?
Mom: Kam to hain..(pause)..par is sketch ke liye..

I was shattered.

It was then that I left expressing my creativity through drawings and paintings. I took to writing sarcastic pieces and ridiculing art which was my way of expressing my anguish over the world's incapability to understand my colorful interpretations with a paintbrush. The wound seemed to have healed and the 'I hate it' feeling against art had given way to a more mellowed 'Why should I care?' feeling. But Friday brought back the memories again. I had a lunch with one of my school friends Saurav and then he decided to take a revenge on me for what I can possibly make out must have been some school time tiff which I don't even remember now.

Saurav: Hey I was planning to go to the Museum of Modern Art(MoMA) on the 53rd and 6th Avenue, coming along?
Me: Dunno, I mean can't we go to the museum of sex rather than this museum?

Saurav: You pervert, shameless creature. Your mind is filled with filth. Moreover, Museum of sex mein ticket ke paise lagenge..MoMA mein IBM card holders ki free entry hai.
Me: Tum mere sacche dost ho, meri aankhein khul gayi hain aur paise bhi bach rahe hain..let's go to the MoMA.

It was a 6 storeyed building full of sulptures, photographs, modern art stuff and I for a change decided to take a more liberal stance this time and tried to go around analysing the painitings. The first one was a pile of rubble(made from wood cuts) chained to the legs of helicopters on four sides. Then there was another set of 9 paintings that was inspired from Supernova. It was followed by a series of such stuff that sent my brain in a tizzy. I didn't give up even then. I negotiated two floors and then reached the third.

We saw some art work of Pablo Picasso. One of the sculptures was that of a pregnant woman which we thought was quite crude and non-aesthetic to capture in our camera. Then there was this huge canvas that was painted Olive Green. Its description said that the painter was inspired by a garden of Olive Trees that he saw somewhere(I couldn't help remembering William Wordsworth and his Daffodils) and then decided to paint the whole canvas Olive Green..nothing else..just olive green! My patience began to give way. My drawing days came back to haunt me. I could see Mrs. Kala Singh's face in the black oil and wax paint canvas laughing like the witch from the gory tales of horror showing me the sketch that I made. I couldn't take it any longer. I rushed out. But Saurav had more evil designs.

Saurav(with an evil grin): It seems you are pretty bored!
Me: Bored - yes. I think we have had enough..thakur ab mujhe jaane de..meri jaan bakhsh de is museum se.

Saurav: Bas ek exhibition dekh lete hain
Me(thinking): Main tere se 10 din pehle same hospital mein paida hua tha..agar us waqt ye pata hota ki tu mujhe aise torture kar sakta hai to main hospital mein hi tera gala ghont deta.

The last frontier was an exhibition on post World War I art movement - DADA, not the grandfather! They said that this movement was started by artists with anti war message and stuff. I couldn't understand how dumb people like me were expected to decipher the anti war message just by watching a urinal specimen kept right in the middle of the hall!

It was finally the time to go. As I was leaving the Museum thinking that only fools could come and appreciate senseless creations being exhibited in the name of Modern Art, I saw hordes of people entering the MoMA. The queue extended quite far.

Maybe I am an 'ancient' piece who cannot relate to the sensibilities of these modern artists for whom everything is expressed in some abstract form. In retrospect, I think I should have taken up some art courses during my humanities electives back at campus to be more appreciative of art. But as of now, I think strangulating Saurav the next time I meet him would help me get over this recent trauma.

Note to the Modern Art lovers: The writer of this piece is a bit low on intelligence and a bit high on exaggeration. You can choose to ignore him as being quaint.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna - Review

You do not go to watch Karan Johar movies looking for a thriller action packed roller coaster ride. So its pointless coming out of the theatre cribbing about the glycerine soaked dramatic emotions on display for a complete 3 hours. KANK is 'almost' another Karan Johar special. An enviable star cast, good music, good locales, good clothes, rich people - a perfect example of a designer movie. I said almost because this time around he falters on key accounts as he tries to experiment(though within the ambits of his usual sentimental and emotional stuff) in coming up with a bold story on the theme of extra marital affairs:

- The 'already seen that' narrative of Johar (you can almost guess what the next scene is going to be)
- The 'fallen from grace' character of SRK(The effervescent Rahul making way for the frustrated Dev isn't exactly what SRK fans would like to see I feel)
- The lame reason given for getting into an extra marital affair(I felt that Rani's character left a cool dude like Abhishek to fall for SRK because just like her, he too didn't like to party and because the story writer wouldn't have it any other way) and then extending the length of the film to generate sympathy for the guilty parties.

I would recommend that if you intend to watch the film for some novel experience then you better stay away from it. It is not going to be a milestone in dealing with the issue of out of marriage relationships. There's no point even comparing it to Arth which was realistic to core because KANH is made primarily to get good commercial returns rather than anything else.

Talking of the performances of the lead star cast, Amitabh Bachchan takes the cake with the cherry on the top(Siddhu effect this!). No one other than the Big B could have handled the flamboyant and playboyish role of a 65 year old Sam. He is definitely the high point of the whole enterprise and the on-screen chemistry that he shares with Abhishek is terrific.

Abhishek Bachchan gets to play the role of the 'good man' and he delivers a noteworthy performance. Rani Mukherji and Preity Zinta do not merely play decoration pieces here. They get their share of glycerine moments besides indulging in the regular singing and dancing stuff. SRK looks meek, both character wise and performance wise. I say performance wise not because he could not do justice to the role but because I do not see the evolution in the characters that he has been portraying for the Chopras and Johars since DDLJ. He doesn't even need a director or a dialogue writer now to play these roles, they are getting so predictable and monotonous now. I am sure that King Khan is gonna get back with a bang with Don but its thumbs down for him for KANK.

Music is good - in the Kal Ho Na Ho mould. Cinematography perfect! Lavish sets, good production value but the final product that we get is quite off the mark. Adi Chopra reinvented himself by moving away from the glycerine soaked lovey-dovey romances to more slick and 'in' films like Salaam Namaste and Dhoom post Mohabbatein. Maybe its time Karan Johar too took a stock of things.

Better luck next time Mr. Johar, KANK is not going to boost the sales of tissues this time around!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Omkara - Review

If Macbool was about guilt, Omkara is about jealousy. When it comes from someone who gave us a film like Macbool, expectations automatically rise sky high. And if the film is promoted as well as this one was, there is bound to be a lot of curiosity that ensures a good opening for the film. Omkara sure must have had that but I am not sure whether it can sustain collections in the long run. One, because it must be priced high owing to presence of top notch stars. Two, the dialect is UP centric so it might not have too many takers in the Marathi or Punjab belt and three, excessive use of profanities would keep families away from it.

To say that the film does not live upto its expectations would be doing injustice to the craft of the supremely talented Vishal Bharadwaj and the whole star cast of Omkara that leaves a lasting impression. Tassaduq Hussain, the debutant cinematographer adds value to the product. However, the whole premise of the film seems a bit trifle to me. It looked a bit too much for me to sit through the film which moved with just one agenda - seeing Langda Tyaagi's vicious design taking shape and then culminating in destruction of the characters involved. There was no sub-plot or any respite from the story which moved in just a single track.

Ajay Devgan as Omakara delivers a first rate performance. This was not the first time that he was portraying a silent, brooding character but what was special in this role was the way he brought about that vulnerability in his character. It looked so human!

Konkana Sen Sharma and Kareena do great job too. The best thing about them was that they were the characters they played in the movie. They deserve accolades for their performance.

Viveik(or was it Viviek?) and Bipasha make a mess of whatever they get to do. Vivek's character is not at all strong and he doesn't leave an impact either. The biggest problem with him is that he over exerts himself in a scene to create an impact and he fails miserably. The only natural performance from him was in Company and then he became a star. He needs to get the 'starry' feeling out of his head if he wants to survive. Bipasha is a glam doll. She has been used quite well in the two item numbers 'Beedi Jalaile' and 'Namak' but someone's gotta tell her that just getting into a village belle's attire does not mean that you have gotten into the character. You need to have the diction, the body language correct too. She looks best in a Corporate kind of film. A film based in western UP - not your cup of tea Bipasha.

The actor who comes out trumps in this whole affair is Saif Ali Khan however. He delivers the knock out punch as Langda Tyaagi. This guy is well set to take over the mantle from Aamir Khan. He looks like one complete actor on the scene who has the guts to play a metrosexual Nikhil Arora in Salam Namaste, the goofy Rohit Patel in Kal Ho Na Ho, the suave villain in Ek Haseena Thi and the wicked Langda Tyaagi in Omkara. To say that he was good int he film would be an understatement. Awards are sure to rain for this guy for this performance.

Now comes direction. Vishal Bharadwaj knows it too well. The industry has got two wonderful story tellers of late - Madhur Bhandarkar and him. Be it Makdee, Mackbool or Omkara, Vishal has always made sure that each of his movies has someting to tell. Its nothing different with Omkara. He explores how jealousy can lead to destruction . The film has a very dark ending so if you have a liking for the candy floss romance, keep away from this.

The whole set up looks straight out of life and my hunch is that Vishal has the adaptation of Julius Ceaser in his mind now to complete the trilogy - Macbool(guilt), Omkara(jealousy) Julius Caeser(betrayal).

Music of this film has not been too much talked about. The duo of Gulzar and Vishal Bharadwaj deliver yet again. The music is earthy, gels well with the film and yes, very much saleable too.

Do go and watch Omkara for the sake of the brilliance of Vishal and the reinvented Saif Ali Khan.

Omkara - Maybe not the best, but a laudable effort indeed!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Mirror Reflection

I don't know why I am writing this. Maybe the worn-out looking face of 'A', the guy I met the other day on my way back to home in the bus, has a role to play here. This is about the phases of life that I thought this 'A' might have gone through until the time he came and sat beside me in the bus. So bear with me as my imagination runs amok!

Phase I: Birth - The arrival

A's Dad works as a Bank officer, living in a rented house, growing bald with worries of saving money to marry off A's elder sisters B and C. Now that A's father finally has a boy, he has decided to stop having any more children.

On the day of his birth, A's dad was busy filling out ledgers in the bank as it was the financial year close. But to give him company at the hospital were his grand parents, loving sisters(one of them still a toddler while the other one went to school) and some other relatives. The news of his birth was a cause for joy. His grandfather shelled out money for 2 kgs of shuddh desi ghee ke laddoo. This meant that he was really happy and in a pleasant mood. A's uncle thought of introducing his girl friend to him then and there to seek his approval for their marriage but wisdom prevailed upon him.

There were celebrations and A's father felt the brunt of it. All his saving plans went awry with this recent splurge of money. But he did not mind.

Phase II: Childhood - The upbringing

'A' is good at studies so they decide to send him to a good english medium school. Daddy dearest goes to drop him to school everyday and then pick him up. Two elder sisters sit in the rear seat and A stands in the front on their 1986 model LML Vespa scooter. But this does not last long. The school being quite far away from home, it was decided to send them to school in a bus. It was a costlier affair as the bus charged them individually and did not grant any concession but they could do with it keeping in mind the rosier future that they had seen for their son.

A's Dad worked hard and so did his Mom to bring up the kids in the best way they could. A's Dad ensured that they never defaulted while paying their school fees except during the last month of the financial year. That was a month when tax deductions were made from his salary and poor A's parents had trouble keeping the finances in check during that time.

The kids got new clothes on every major festival and on their birthdays but they were not as lucky with getting toys as regularly. A board game of scrabble or carrom was a coveted possession for these kids in their childhood. They got a chance to buy a toy of their choice( there was no need to tell them about any money constraint, they were matured enough to understand it) when they performed well in their annual examinations or when Dad got some increment/bonus.

By the way did I forget to mention that A's uncle was married by now, with his college girl friend. There was a lot of hue and cry over the whole episode but A's uncle was relentless and the family finally gave its approval. They thought that it was better to concede defeat than let the family dispute get messy with people living all around making their own judgment over the matter. They pretended to show that they had changed with the changing times.

School life drew to a close for A and he came out with flying colors implying that he was to pursue either engineering or medical. These were the only options he was given. He chose to go ahead with engineering so he chose Science subjects. By this time, A's eldest sister had already completed her Bachelors and was ready to be married off.

Phase III: Education - The Survival

'A' cleared an engineering competition. His Dad felt that his hard work had paid off and would soon yield high returns. Marrying off B had caused a major dent in his savings and he still had C to marry off. Besides the expenses on the health care of his ailing parents made things worse for him. 'A' knew what responsibility he was carrying on his shoulders. He was matured beyond his years. His Dad took educational loan from a bank to pay for A's higher education. He slogged hard at his college. Competing with the nerdy and brainy guys who too had come with similar hopes and aspirations as him was never going to be an easy task. He survived and landed up with a plum job after 4 years of hard work.

His uncle too was now pretty much settled and had two kids. Both still went to school and looked upto 'A' as a role model.

Phase IV: Professional life - The Struggle, The Success, The Transition

'A' worked as a software professional in a major MNC headquartered in the Silicon Valley. They paid him good bucks. Right in the first year of his professional life, he started earning more than what his Dad brought home after 22 years of service. It heralded the dawn of a new life style for 'A' and his family. He was soon packed off to the US where he made more money and soon got his sister married off.

A's grandparents were no more with them and but that couldn't reduce the expenses. The money brought in a considerable change. 'A' got a car for his Dad. He pampered them with gifts he brought from US.

The Software Industry had changed the life styles of a lot of young middle class folks. This led to the creation of a new class of individuals who liked to be called the Upper-middle class. The money that they got curbed the recurring thoughts of being just another 'cyber-coolie'. The job did not require much of creativity but they still hung on. The happiness in seeing the joy on the face of their family on purchasing their first car kept them negotiating the rut that they had entered into. They managed staying away from home, compromised on living life on the terms of their employers and pretended to be happy.

As he sits beside me, I think 'A' is still making the transition. He's almost there. He has been in US for the past 3 years and has made some money. Now he would be going back to get married to his girl friend who stays in India. 'A' proposed the girl after seeking some practise lessons from his uncle when he last went to India. His uncle was celebrating his 25th marriage anniversary that year.

Though 'A' pretended to be all happy, I could still see him wearing down. His face said it all and then he turned towards me and asked with a smile - "Hey man why do you look so tired?"

What? Did I too look tired? I thought that I was happy or was I pretending to be? Why the hell did he ask me the same question that I wanted to ask him? I felt a seizure in my mind and then I thought that with a twist in the tale here and there, I too could have been what I was making out 'A' to be. I couldn't really answer him then. I needed to take a long hard look at myself in the mirror to get the answers I guess...not just me, a lot of us need that, don't we?

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