Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pichhurr Hall - Rab ne bana di jodi

What is it that keeps Shahrukh Khan going? What goes on in his mind? Who advises him on his next move(i)s?

These questions, of an existential nature to millions across the Hindi heartland, seem to be increasingly resonating in my head. His recent misadventures in acting seem to be confirming my belief that the Baadshaah of Bollywood is losing the plot. Big time.

This movie could have been a lot better. A lot. There are thousands of rom-coms in existence across Hollywood and Bollywood that could have been used as inspiration. Its probably the most widely accepted form of cinema in existence today across the world with acceptance across all walks of society and among all types of audiences.

The plot itself is a no-brainer. Simpleton marries zesty girl under extraordinary circumstances and attempts to transform himself in an attempt to woo her. Certainly not very original. And yet, being so generic a plot, there are always possibilities of retelling this story with some creativity to engage and impress the audience.

And that is exactly what Mr. SRK was probably thinking when he came up with the innovative idea, err..actually not, Amol Palekar beat him to it decades ago, of an imaginary alter-ego, more in tune with the times. And it could have worked too. But why, oh why, did the alter-ego have to be soooooo over the top? Why did he have to be so sadak-chhaap that I could not accept that the heroine could ever see anything in him worth falling in love? The crassness of the character and the excessive hamming, outrageous even by SRK's own lofty standards, must be seen to be believed.

And when Vinay Pathak, the man as likely to be the next Naseeruddin Shah as anybody else, is reduced to a caricature of a friendly salon-wala, you can't but wonder at what could have been.

And finally, did somebody tell Anushka, or whatever her real name is, that she is a perfect match for the dozens of television soaps of the Ekta Kapoor factory or their knock-offs?

Maybe the item number in Kaal was not so bad after all.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

TV Watch - Seinfeld

I wonder what India's moral police, Gandhi-ists and Congress folk would say when they came to know that in an episode titled "The Old One" in season 4 of Seinfeld, one of the characters who has a huge goitre claims to have been the girlfriend of Mahatma Gandhi, with a picture of a young Gandhi with her to prove it. To make it worse, she even goes on to describe his performance in bed !

How come its not reached the Indian Media and Censors? The series does air in India, right?


pics of Trinidad apartment

Some pics of the Trinidad apartment, promised earlier.

Apartment entrance - top left

View of Diego Martin valley from outside the apartment

inside the apartment

dining area

Kitchen. Those are empty bottles of drinking water !

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Portents of 2009 - Cricket

Now that India will not be touring Pakistan as a fallout of 26/11, the biggest highlight of the first half of India's international calendar is gone. A big bummer, but in the circumstances, its only appropriate. I wish we had attacked the buggers though. Anyway,on with the predictions.

India in Sri Lanka - 5 ODIs

While India have to figure out how to deal with M&M - Murali and Mendis, Sri Lanka have to deal with trying to get their tired and recently brittle batting order to put enough runs on the board as well as making their innocuous pace attack display enough venom in the opening overs to allow the tweakers to weave their magic. Fielding has been a game-changer in limited overs cricket on quite a few occasions and this is probably the first time that an Indian lineup has the edge over Sri Lanka, even if its a slight one.

Keeping the murderous form the Indian batting order is in, and the flexibility and options they have in rotating the order and playing different roles, I think this will be a 3-2 or 4-1 scoreline in our favor.

India in New Zealand - 2 T20s & 3 Tests

While India being the world T20 champs does not really matter much in this form of the game, New Zealand has some really explosive batsmen in McCullum and co. and they do hold a slight edge. They also possess far more experience in T20 cricket than the Indians. Either 2-0 to New Zealand or 1-1 but then this is T20, 2-0 to India is not that unlikely either, particularly with Dhoni at the helm. That man can do anything, provided he has Joginder Sharma to bowl the last over.

The tests are a different matter altogether. I admit that the New Zealand pitches and conditions are quite unique and India have not one a series there in more than 4 decades but I think we will fare better this time around. The batting lineup is settled and one of the most prolific in world cricket at the moment, the pace attack, well lets just say it deserves the moniker, and the spinners are not too bad either.

The biggest factors in the humiliation meted out to the Indian team last time around were the pitches. But a voice in my head tells me that they will not be presenting those greentops again.

On an individual level, I am looking forward to seeing how Sehwag and Gambhir do on this tour. I am reasonably sure Dravid and Tendulkar will unfurl a special or two while Laxman will do his customary rearguard whenever needed. On the flip side, I suspect Yuvraj will continue to provide test selection woes to Srikanth and co.

So 2-0 or 2-1 to India, unless the weather decides to play spoilsport in a big way. In which case, it could be 1-1.

IPL season 2

This season is make or break time for IPL. Last time around, the novelty of the concept in cricket, coupled with the big names on display meant that there was reasonably high levels of customer interest throughout. This time around, Lalit Modi and co. have to deal with viewer fatigue as well as figure out ways to avoid a couple of good teams running away with the competition and rendering a lot of games meaningless.

If they manage to figure out how to do that, we could well have a long-term winner on our hands.

While I can't pick a winner out of the 8 teams in the contest, I suspect that the standard of cricket on display will improve remarkably. I also think that all teams will come up with a more thorough analysis and will have remarkably similar strategies. It will be much closer than it was the first time around. The semi-finalists will probably not be known until the last 2-3 league matches.

Beyond that, may the most explosive batting order win.

ICC World T20

India can only go downhill from the heights achieved in the first edition. Australia will certainly come to the party this time, they have way too much talent in their ranks to not do so. South Africa could very well go all the way. AB and JP are seriously good.Pakistan will be listless.West Indies will be passengers.Sri Lanka and New Zealand could surprise.England should not even bother to participate. For the founders of the format, they totally suck.

India in West Indies - 4 ODIs

Not much to say. 3-1 or 4-0 to India. The one person who can prove me wrong is a certain Mr Chanderpaul. But I am hoping that Zaheer Khan will be able to take him out cheaply. Gayle will flatter to deceive and the rest cannot make enough to keep this strong batting lineup worried.

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

Portents of 2009 - Politics

The term politics seems to have myriad definitions. The definitions that we would probably want it mean exclusively is "the activities and affairs involved in managing a state or a government" or "the profession devoted to governing a civic entity like a nation, state, etc.".

Unfortunately, however, the definition that Indian politicians prefer to impart to the term is "social relations involving intrigue to gain authority or power"at best and "devious and downright corrupt individuals accused and/or convicted of heinous crimes hellbent on stooping to the depth of hell in a shameless powergrab".

The terms honor, respect, integrity, sincerity, honesty, devotion and professionalism also seem to be uniformly missing from their lexicon. Their vacancy is filled by terms like horse-trading while the terms corruption, bribing, embezzlement and cabinet berth are highlighted, underlined and bookmarked.

Now that we have laid the base for my exalted opinion of the profession and its practitioners, I guess its time to move on to the topic of this post.

This year is an election year and henceparties desperate for power will promise the moon to the clueless electorate. Needless to say, these promises will be forgotten once the government has been formed.

Incumbent governments will make claims of achievements over their tenure. Needless to say, these claims will all be on paper, particularly newspapers, and there would be nobody in the electorate who would have benefitted from any of these claimed achievements.

And in quite a few instances, individuals, political parties, social entities affiliated, loosely in some cases, to political parties will make vague and unsubstantiated claims against their opponents. In most cases, these allegations would actually be much milder than the true acts of omission and commission committed by the person in question. But nobody will ever know, in most cases.

On the off chance that some of the truth does emerge in the media, it will be denied unabashedly vehemently and brushed off as a malicious attempt to discredit a honest and upright servant of the masses by unnamed vested interests.

This election will also be the year of the sting. This is probably the first general election in the country with so many news channels in fierce competition for viewer eyeballs. They will be on the hunt, big time, for scoops and stings. Undercover reporters will prowl all over the country, looking under all stones and in all nooks and crannies, for the big breaking news item.
In terms of the results, while its early to say, and the political landscape in India can change with one terror strike, one lost cricket match, one burnt mosque, one farmer committing suicide, one Rakhi Sawant marrying on TV, okay maybe not that but you get my point, one thing is almost certain and that is that neither the BJP nor the Congress will get a majority on their own.

I admit thats not really a Nostradamus-eque prediction and is generally accepted across the country as a fait accompli. However I will go on a limb to predict that neither the NDA nor the UPA, in their current form, will get to the magic number of 272. I would also stick my neck out and say that the NDA will be ahead, maybe only marginally but ahead nevertheless, in the race and will emerge as the single largest pre-poll alliance.

Whether the NDA goes on to form a government is a totally different matter altogether. Unfortunately what I also suspect is that the decisive factor in that decision will not be a policy issue of national importance, or a meeting of the minds with the broader national good as the objective. Instead, it would be an extremely opportunistic alliance of vested interests and hidden agendas with very small and selfish objectives.

In short, it will be business as usual in India. Come of think of it, I have not said anything great or new, have I?

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Friday, January 02, 2009

Portents of 2009 - Terrorism

I wanted to name this postlet as 'India's War on Terror' but that would be a tad presumptious. 

Considering that India has been the world's biggest victim of terror, state-sponsored and otherwise, right from the day of its Independence in 1947 and yet our successive democratically chosen governments have done nothing to ever deal with an issue that you and I would consider a threat to the very existence of the country, makes it difficult to name it that way. 

Cloaking cowardice, opportunism and
votebank-ism in the garb of Gandhian beliefs to justify 61 years of inaction is not going to make this issue go away. Calling 26/11 India's War on Terror just because a marquee hotel was attacked and the world media was broadcasting it live does not mean that India has not suffered from incidents worse in terms of casualties. 

Neither does it mean that this will be an iconic calamity along the lines of 9/11, resulting in a totally different national security paradigm resulting in the establishment of a proactive offence doctrine capable of impacting the enemy's assessment of India's weakness.

We have forgotten 26/11 faster than we forgot India's loss in the finals of the 2003 World Cup or the first round exit from the 2007 edition. Token SMS campaigns are not going to affect the polity of a nation still grappling with the Mayawati brand of politics.

So, whats the prognosis on terror, then? More attacks, many low intensity blasts all over the country designed to create fear and convey a sense of state helplessness.

Another 26/11. Not likely. That was a exhibition of capability, more for garnering sponsorship for terror and less for achieving any political objective but it extracted a huge toll and will not be repeated in a hurry. A series of seemingly random but very frequent blasts all across the country are far more effective in destablising the economy and fostering anarchy.


Thursday, January 01, 2009

Portents of 2009 - Introduction

This is a series of postlets on what I expect to witness in the year of the Ox. Lets see how accurate it turns out to be.

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