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Wednesday, October 26, 2005


There are some who find themselves in a minority with consummate ease, drawn inexorably to the bylanes and un-macadamized dusty paths. Without having any earthly reason to do so, these souls find that a sudden darkness envelops their sight, confounding them and leaving them awestruck.
I have always thought that the Quiz Master Parnab had some foibles, which riled me and perhaps will continue to do so. I cannot readily condone factual inaccuracies and at least in Sport & Literature, any error is tantamount to heresy. Another was a disappointing urge to take veiled potshots at those who stood differently from his plane of belief and were hence condemned to ridicule and taunts.. Inspite of these two overhanging traits, I have found his questions markedly superior to those I encountered in other locales.
No different this time as we finished a forlorn Third this Sunday at a prominent management college, losing to a slightly lucky student team and a noticeably unlucky mixed corporate team.

It may be worthwhile to probe deeper into why I like the questions. With certitude, not because I have had any great success at any of his quizzes, having braved Sports, General & Business versions so far-Finalists in all but not much more. Not because he appears to manage without a cue card( as opposed to the QM muttering “ In 1777, Charles David was, well, moving from Exeter, and um, you know, you can read the rest on the screen”----Pathetic !) which while spectacular is a mere mental feat and also not because he appears to react with familiarity and make relevant comments and witticisms at the guesses that ensue. Unlike most others where the QM doesn’t even appear to know which hat you are talking through,

I like the questions because there do appear to stem from an understanding and comprehension of events and incidents. There is a structure in the range that his questions cover, a quiver of well-framed arrows that seem to pierce and prod, backed by a sensibility towards subjects that I, had I been younger, would have loved to have myself. ( Ed-Sadly, you remain a Philistine !) . The urge to enhance and improve the frequently-barren repertoire of the audience and participants is ridden with noble intentions, and I have always been taken with his earnestness to get spectators acquainted with people and achievements that they ought to know—people who straddle the corporate world while never being part of it, filmmakers who scrape and strive to make meaningful cinema. Sometimes his questions have just three words, and that’s good enough for an entire stream of thoughts and “fundas” to gush through.

He appears to be fair, inasmuch that a team could get points for getting the res without quite getting the phraseology just right, and despite the overwhelming odds against getting to have all questions of an equitable difficulty level, he seems to ride that tiger easily enough. Serious quizzing,, he calls it and it involves a grip on the import and significance of current events, as opposed to asking a question just because it was CA—which I’ve seen happening on countless occasions. Nuggets have surfaced because of the death, retirement of a luminary which I have always found rebarbative. And finally, the music—Never mind the context, they have always been singularly fascinating and towering pieces of work in themsleves, and worth a listen even if the listener has no clue as to the answer itself.
End with a piece from a Parnab Sports Quiz review I wrote earlier.

“””I loved the range—a love for the unfamiliar as we were swept aside and for one brief compelling hour, perhaps all of us on stage did an ET-like romp in the sky, far away from the cliché-ridden records, person-based trivia that enjoins most sports questions. Parnab also drifted well past the TV-based nonsense that pass off as sports questions these days
I remember feeling ecstatic that for once, lesser known footballers, athletes, golfers and the ilk finally got their due. I even remember remarking that we managed smooth sailing keeping just ahead of stiff competition till the last round, inspite of hardly anything really our ken coming our way


Monday, October 24, 2005


Needed a cathartic dose of something sensational to knock me off the thankless task of agonizing over somethings and uncharacteristically flipped on the telly to watch “Padom Onnu Oru Vilapam” .( One Lesson, One Wail )

Now, my Malayalam ain’t that good but if I could sit through the masterly Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon in its sweeping inane entirety and manage fifteen plus three minutes of Kill Ball ( Ed—On a full stomach, mind you !) , I figured this therapeutic village tale might just work wonders for a fevered brow and a beleaguered soul. I found out much later that this had indeed won some silverware .
Enough meandering, P.O.O.V is set in the Muslim-dominated Malappuram district (Ed—So we begin the generalizations early this time !) and is penned by Aryadan Shaukat. This T.V Chandran-directed film centers around the travails of a young Muslim girl, played by Meera Jasmine in an National award-winning role. Her innocent delight in learning new subjects in Class 10 is rudely halted when she is forcibly married off to an already-married middle-aged man, who has some time before he returns to the Gulf. Her mother, herself a divorcee, watches haplessly as societal mores force the duo to submit to a conservative establishment. The husband finds his new bride unwilling to be a willing purveyor of his conjugal rights before being thwarted and frustrated, he commits marital rape after drugging her after which citing an unwillingness to consummate the marriage , he divorces her. She returns to her matriarchal home where her mother dies of shock and she discovers to her horror that she is pregnant. Ostracized, repelling the matrimonial advances of a doddering cleric, she delivers a baby who is last seen wailing along with other toddlers while their single mothers wash dirty linen by the river.

Stark and moving, Chandran eschews narrative flourishes and is content to let the story play itself out on screen. His use of time as a reference is nuanced and allows his protagonists space without appearing to buffet his cast with his pain. The on-screen time for his mostly female characters is just sort of conniving a Surekha-Sikri kind of role and he is perhaps at his best at showing the reticent ambivalence between Meera and the family that she reluctantly enters. I found the symbolism heavy with almost direct cuts to far more sinister interpretations down to the last scene, with the hungry well-wisher at the wedding and the veils that womenfolk wear being the more memorable ones. His portrayal of the parochial theological brigands struck a chord—the priest who enunciates a verse on encountering a problem is life-like and repulsive. The music was minimal, violin strains and the flute.

I don’t know, I thought it was a fairly simple role for Meera to essay and cannot comment on the scope of the role to get considered for an award of that magnitude. But I heard that the Big B won this for a scowl and a jowl and a badly-composed refrain for Agneepath, and Lil S won for his impersonations of an amorous, if undecided duck this year, so we let the matter rest.

So a poignant and distressing tale, and some way off the Jeeves Pick-Me Up I sought!
I liked it, no question there.

Sadiyon sadiyon wohi tamasha rasta rasta lambi khoj
Lekin jab woh mil jaata hai, kho jaata hai jaane kaun…..


Thursday, October 13, 2005


Had taken the forgettable decision of inviting my sister over to watch a Perry Mason thriller on the telly. Between the two of us, we are fairly certain that we could manage a passable imitation of Erle Stanley Gardner’s writing style. At one time, I could even think of doing an A A Fair. After all, there had always been an inviting favourite sofa-like warmth and comfort in the predictability of the plot and the psychology of the protagonists so we were eager to see the portrayals of our beloved cast on screen. We were sure that the leads would succumb to the hackneyed characterizations that the American media has suffered from –so naturally Mason would be a Bond-like wimp with a cigar and a glint, and Della Street would be carved out of that woefully inadequate archetypal male American fantasy, part Glam Gal and part Workhorse. Still, the gimlet-eyed Jackson, the lugubrious Paul Drake, the mendacious Hamilton Burger and the rest were worth waiting for, and….. it didn’t happen. The film was not telecast. And while I am sufficiently fond of this potboiler schema I must tear myself away with the promise that Gardner merits a separate post at a later date.

So, left in the lurch by a devious channel, we surfed Up and Down, Low and High; my ineffectual search for old songs stymied by a plenitude of today’s trash till the vane settled on a channel showing a prancing Chimpoo crooning ‘dard-e-dil “ to a simpering Tina Munim. But what intrigued and occupied us was the marshmallow pliant space between the mukhda and the antara, or between two antaras. I have witnessed scads of techniques used by music directors—the better ones always manage to segue and interweave tunes –I think Salil even eked out a song of the Madhumati interludes, the Burmans brought in riffs and some experimental instrumentation, and some—I’ve written about this before , Raam Laxman and Anu Malik, actually play their theme tunes from other songs. And we think cross-promotions are the preserve of the marketeers !

All said, what i. & o. us is the fact that the director sometimes chooses to show the hero playing an instrument in that pliant space. As if mustering up the stamina and the gumption to start a song, maintain the beat and rhythm, get the orchestration going, whip up the necessary emotions, woo the leading lady and avoid the ubiquitous pots and pans as he jives and jigs away – were not enough !
So he picks up the closest accordion, saxophone, trombone and other assorted gadgetry to continue and help navigate the song safely to the next antara.

Why does this happen ?

Cannot be because the accompanying musical hordes suddenly vanished. After all, they miraculously materialized out of thin air when the song began.
Cannot be because a certain instrument was too recondite. My inherent chauvinism demands an explanation as to why the heroine has never quite blitzed into an interim performance.
My sympathies are purely with that humble worthy who suddenly has his instrument yanked out, on screen by the hero. And if it comes to that, I’ve never seen the aforesaid instrument being restored to its rightful owner either !

What then explains this ?

PS—One of the R. Sens was expostulating on how Bengalis have always been associated with Fine arts—she cited Satyajit Ray, Hrishikesh Mukherjee,, Mrinal Sen and Shyam Benegal !


Monday, October 10, 2005

WIN D'OH's 95

My proven superiority at being able to prognosticate weighty advances in technology coupled with my celerity in adopting them and welding them to my gizmo-savvy lifestyle has resulted in my being several steps ahead of these Luddites. I surprise myself with the time that the rest of the world takes to catch up with my tech prowess but hey, facts are facts.

Now there is this company called Lemon or Apricot or something and they came with up with this slinky plastic piece , called the Ipod or IPOD, or ipod. (Darn, I’m close ! )
I knew of the existence of this slinky p.p. , of course, and I went along the trials and t. of my life, secure that this s.p.p. would not really cross paths with me.
What you cannot see cannot hurt you !

Wrong I was ! I sauntered into the space of one of my colleagues, who was engrossed along with the MIS person in twisting and turning a white incrustation whose thickness led me to stray thoughts of Kate Moss. In my wisdom I turned away thinking that an IC or something had unhinged itself, after all, we’d been yelling the whole year for P-2s. I was upbraided at not recognizing an ipod, as I gasped in dismay.

On closer inspection, I was told that that painfully thin white incrustation could store over 500 songs and only needed connection to a site called loony tunes or something. The humble entreaty to me was to contribute about twenty songs of the fifties which I took about ten minutes to do. When I say contribute, I mean just providing the name, as I am not a warbler.

And then the ipod and I went our separate ways….. a little sorry, a little relieved, but glad for the fleeting moment when our lives were intertwined.


Saturday, October 01, 2005


My implausibly low number of films seen this year should have ensured that this was not a pike that caught itself in my cine fishing net. It did, and stayed long enough before wriggling itself free and forever sinking into the morass of flops/failures/duds or whatever else they are called. This was part of a trio of first-time directors who coincidentally had their debuts released on the same day—the others being Sehar and 7.5 Phere, and it was mildly gratifying that even the most truculent of raving lunatics who call themselves critics or reviewers did not, or chose not to, write off any of these three.

Shot in Kashmir, and how ! A love story unfolds against the serene backdrop of the glorious Valley whose resplendence reduces by the minute, militancy and a closeted tension weighing heavy on the atmosphere, seeping through the pores of human existence. A young captain of the Indian Army falls in love with a local belle and they struggle on, predictably against draconian strictures and societal admonition. The entire array of cine ploys play themselves out—resistance, court martial, harrowing near-death experiences and a naïve bloodthirst that is unidirectional and purposeful.

So assuredly not much in the vein of an avant garde venture.
Shoojit Sircar however coaxes passable performances out of Jimmy Shergill and a lady called Minissha Lamba.. The story never attempts philosophical obliqueness but does not really toe the expected happenstances either. Sircar is comfortable with what some may call the middle path. His characters though in the heat of the moment do not degenerate into patriotic platitudes, cloying cliches or impassioned inanities, and this in itself is a triumph. Sameer Kohli, a non-practising manager claims writing credits as he did for Samay, another Robby Grewal production.

The director’s photographing expertise has very ordinary domestic scenes refreshingly capture the sheer breathtaking beauty of the land, and some shots are beyond belief. One could argue that it may not need much to simply reflect what Nature has already carved out for us, such is Kashmir.
The music is unobtrusive and pleasant—a thumbs up for Shantanu Moitra, and enables the heady idealism of the hero to be comfortably placed against the pragmatism of the heroine. Made for nice viewing and overall a positive experience !

I remain the captious kind so will end by cavilling against the fact that the leads are played by Punjabis, and the direction and the music are by Bengalis, for a film that is unabashedly about Kashmir.
Surely, a native…
…..jhelum mein behlenge
waadi ke mausam bhi ek din toh badlenge


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