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Friday, August 28, 2009

Sankat City 

Other than two forced references at the beginning and the end of the film, the unnaturally-named and even more unnaturally-made Sankat City does not directly reference the city much and in fact the only ones weaken what was never a taut plot in the first place. An empty B.E.S.T bus lumbering uphill and then downhill and a garbage dump the size of Scrooge’s money bin may seem thin devices indeed.

However the absence of a cogent storyline is more than made up with a textured humour that imbues most scenes and breathes life into a maze of otherwise improbable characters bumbling their way past and sometimes into obelisk-size boulders. A ragtag bunch of unabashedly dissolute and avaricious rascals which range from opportunistic goldfish-loving car-thieves, dough-worshipping film producers and saintly moneylenders who turn Satanic when the moolah is not returned, to enterprising prostitutes, Walter Mitty-esque cab drivers and wanton Swamijis make hay while director Pankaj Advani leaves the cameras rolling.

A fine cast led by the versatile Kay Kay and Anupam Kher run amok among accomplished television actors in Manoj Pahwa, Sanjay Mishra, Hemant Pandey ( Office Office ),and Virendra Saxena, Dilip Prabhavalkar, Shrivallabh Vyas, Jehangir Khan, Rahul Dev. Rimi ( again spouting Bengali when in trouble which is often) and Yashpal Sharma ( mouthing Mind-blowing incessantly !) steal the show with eye-catching performances juxtaposed with a slaveringly-hamming Chunkey Pandey.

Even if one walks away with the feeling that Advani could have done away with some farcical elements ( the dangling-from-the window discovery of twins discovering each other after a mela-melee) and some scenes appearing unnecessarily rushed, the individual elements of this songless and breezy caper do deserve a viewing for their own selves.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Secret Lives of Bees 

In an enervated attempt to bring the tense spectacle of the Spelling Bee contest to the already-academics obsessed Indian living room, ESPN STAR Sports hosted the inaugural edition of Spelling Champs 2009 recently.

Unlike the now-familiar “ May I have the word again please”, “May I have the usage”, “May I have the language of origin” routine, one now had a staccato fire of words thrown at the contestant with the idea being the child with the highest number of words correctly spelt ( with negative scores for wrong ones) in the allotted time winning. Shorn of the drama that permeated the humid confines of the Grand Hyatt at the D.C. ( Ed—and the resulting ignominy of your getting one word right every two years !), this was a more pleasant, almost light-headed affair with the stakes being different-no visible parental egos and weighty expectations. A bright kid from the Do(o)n School, Piroune Balachandran won the contest besting the other finalists from The Mother’s International, Wellham Girls and Springdales.

While most words had a familiar ring and may come straight out of any standard word list, the host/Word Pronouncer Rajat Kapoor did his best to heighten the tension by enunciating the words in a quaint variant of Mythili. So his coshchuns were directed at well-dressed participants but his diction that effortlessly mispronounced almost every word made it an exciting aural if not visual delight. At first one thought he was doing it on purpose and one wonders what his co-hosts, Rana Dasgupta and British Council folks were there for. The man’s outlandish and garbled articulation confounded many a keen contestant in the Nat Geo earlier, and the fact that this set did not get swayed by him indicates an eerie association with this brutal mangling of words.


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