Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Diwali!

Here's wishing you all a very Happy Diwali! If you intend to indulge in firecrackers, then please do so safely. Accidents are just waiting to happen.
We had a Diwali party organized by the new MBA batch or, the 'first years'. It was done very well and we all had a great time. It was well attended and the food was excellent. It was then topped up with some drinks and dancing at the Staff Club. A thoroughly enjoyable affair.
The general mood was hampered by the Delhi bomb blasts, 3 in all, claimed by a LeT backed outfit which killed more than 60 people. Shame! This kind of thing hadn't happened in a while and I was almost getting lulled into believing that the 'midnight's children' were getting their act together with the peace process. How wrong I was. Things were however livened up by one Mahendra Singh Dhoni's batting...He bludgeoned the Sri Lankan bowling to all parts of the ground, making 183 n.o in the process, the highest score by a wicketkeeper in ODIs. Well done, lad!


Friday, October 28, 2005

A new Bond

Daniel Craig has been selected by makers to be the new James Bond in the latest edition of the franchise, 'Casino Royale'. The producers wanted a replacement for the aging Pierce Brosnan. The first blonde Bond, Craig was selected over other candidates like Orlando Bloom, Eric Bana, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Colin Farell, Clive Owen, Jude Law and Hugh Jackman. Craig is no doubt a competent actor, having starred in films like 'The Jacket', 'Road to Perdition' and 'Layer Cake'. I felt Craig should consider himself lucky as I feel he lacks a certain suavity that Brosnan had is oodles. My choice would have been Hugh Jackman or Robbie Williams (yes, you read right). Both actors have that attitude required to pull off a Bond role. Craig is only the second Englishman to play the superspy, after Roger Moore.

In other Bond news, guess who might be paying the villain in the new Bond flick? Our very own 'bad man', Gulshan Grover! He's made rapid strides in Hollywood and here's wishing him and the new Bond all the very best. Bring on the guns, gadgets, cars and babes!


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Matrubhumi - A nation without women

Undoubtedly one of the most disturbing films in recent times, Matrubhumi is stark, intense and brilliant. The movie is set in the future where prejudice and economic concerns have caused female infanticide to run so rampant that there are hardly any women left in the country. Families of men fight over women, parents dress up their young boys as girls to marry them off and claim dowry, men copulate with animals, and women are only used for procreation and to carry out domestic chores. The more disturbing truth is that all of these things happen in some parts of India today...
The film centres around a father (Sudhir Pandey) and his five unmarried sons. He happens to come across a girl in the neighboring village called Kalki (Tulip Joshi) and bribes her father to marry her off to all his sons (known to happen in Rajasthan). The film then delves into the pathetic condition that the girl finds herself in, used merely as sexual entertainment by the sons and the father. She takes a liking to the youngest son (Sushant Singh) and he in turn respects her as well. The other brothers, however, get jealous and end up killing him. This gets too much for Kalki to take and she decides to run away with the help of the scheduled caste servant. As luck would have it, they are caught and the servant is shot and Kalki is tied up in the shed with the cattle. Angry young men from the lower caste decide to avenge the servant's death and rape Kalki repeatedly. Night after night she is also ravaged by her husbands and father in law, who during the day hypocritically denounce her to be 'soiled by the seed of an untouchable'. She gets pregnant, which causes friction between the lower castes and the landlords. This ends in complete destruction of the village and a great deal of bloodshed. The final scene predictably shows Kalki delivering a girl child...
The film extracts good performances from the cast. Sudhir Pandey is good and so are Tulip Joshi and Sushant Singh. Tulip Joshi, expresses emotion well through her soulful eyes as she hardly has any lines to deliver. The rest of the cast is equally competent. There are some parts which are tedious, though. Kalki being ravaged night after night does evoke sympathy but it gets a bit much after a while. There are shocking scenes all through the length of the film so it is certainly not for the faint hearted. Manish Jha's direction is brilliant. He's one man to watch out for. Needless to say, the film has done very well in the film festival circuit. A must watch. It will disturb you and make you think about the lamentable position of women in some parts of the country.



Saturday, October 22, 2005


Well, the exams are done! 6 days more and I'm an MBA degree holder. Of course, the results are yet to be released, but I'm hoping the school will pass me because I'm absolutely sure they've had enough of me for last year and a half! Having me around for another trimester will be too much for them to take! Though I'll technically be a student till the end of February next year, I'm done with all the course requirements and am therefore free to call myself an MBA.
So how has the ride been? Much better than I had hoped actually. I didn't quite know what to expect when I got here. I knew that my batch had much more experience than me, most came from middle management etc. I also thought I was going to be one of the youngest people in the batch. There was a little trepidation. Would I cope?
I guess the journey has been fabulous. I've met some remarkable people, made some great friends, and learnt a great deal about business. The MBA, according to me, is like a toolkit that one can use to counter a variety of business issues. Management is a mix of science and art, they say. We're done with the science bit and now its up to us to use it well. The art bit will come with practice and experience.
There were also some other great takeaways. I personally felt that I've picked up some soft skills that I didn't possess earlier and I've learned to appreciate foreign cultures and customs.
Hostel life ofcourse came as an added bonus. Cheers to that.

Right. Exams came to an end on Friday. So promptly we headed off to a local club called 'Double O' (wonder why they call it that?) and partied the night away with the guys. Most were fellow students who also had their last exam and so everyone was in the mood to really let their hair down!! We had an awesome time. The alcohol flowed non stop. Some of the seniors who showed up, sponsored a few rounds of tequila for the whole gang! (thanks Ashok and JD!) We left when the place closed at 3 a.m.

The boys look pretty happy ya?

That was Friday. On Saturday, we had a little get together with one of the most knowledgeable and good natured professors at NBS, Prof. Amit Das. We had taken a statistics course with him and all of us had formed a great bond with the affable Bengali. So all of us met up at a neighborhood foodcourt for dinner and a round of beer. Prof. Das has the ability to reach out to students in a way that I haven't witnessed before. He has that rare ability to converse with you at your level. He kept us regaled with humorous tales from his IIT and IIM days. There were no shortages of laughs and beers either. The night ended at 1.30 a.m.

The desi gang with Prof. Das(green shirt behind the beer bottles). Foodcourt festivities!

What can I say? Its been a great weekend!


Monday, October 17, 2005

Exam Week

Exam week is here! Drat! I shall be hopelessly trying to cope with the syllabi of Financial Statement Analysis, Operations Research and E-Commerce and IT this week. Another subject to go after this and I'm an MBA! Don't quite know whether to celebrate or not. With graduation comes the arduous task of job hunting. Well, that's another battle altogether. One battle at a time though. Well, wish me luck... and I vow to be back with a vengeance next week!


Saturday, October 15, 2005

Monty Python Scripts - 1

Title: The Bookshop Sketch
From: Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl
Transcribed By: Bret Shefter

Customer: (entering the bookshop) Good morning.
Proprietor (John Cleese): Good morning, sir. Can I help you?
C: Er, yes. Do you have a copy of "Thirty Days in the Samarkind Desert with the Duchess of Kent" by A. E. J. Eliott, O.B.E.?
P: Ah, well, I don't know the book, sir....
C: Er, never mind, never mind. How about "A Hundred and One Ways to Start a Fight"?
P: ...By?
C: An Irish gentleman whose name eludes me for the moment.
P: Ah, no, well we haven't got it in stock, sir....
C: Oh, well, not to worry, not to worry. Can you help me with "David Coperfield"?
P: Ah, yes, Dickens.
C: No....
P: (pause) I beg your pardon?
C: No, Edmund Wells.
P: I... *think* you'll find Charles Dickens wrote "David Copperfield", sir....
C: No, no, Dickens wrote "David Copperfield" with *two* Ps. This is "David Coperfield" with *one* P by Edmund Wells.
P: "David Coperfield" with one P?
C: Yes, I should have said.
P: Yes, well in that case we don't have it.
C: (peering over counter) Funny, you've got a lot of books here....
P: (slightly perturbed) Yes, we do, but we don't have "David Coperfield" with one P by Edmund Wells.
C: Pity, it's more thorough than the Dickens.
C: Yes...I wonder if it might be worth a look through all your "David Copperfield"s...
P: No, sir, all our "David Copperfield"s have two P's.
C: Are you quite sure?
P: Quite.
C: Not worth just looking?
P: Definitely not.
C: 'bout "Grate Expectations"?
P: Yes, well we have that....
C: That's "G-R-A-T-E Expectations," also by Edmund Wells.
P: (pause) Yes, well in that case we don't have it. We don't have anything by Edmund Wells, actually, he's not very popular.
C: Not "Knickerless Knickleby"? That's K-N-I-C-K-E-R-L-E-S-S.
P: (taciturn) No.
C: "Khristmas Karol" with a K?
P: (really quite perturbed) No....
C: Er, how about "A Sale of Two Titties"?
C: (moving towards door) Sorry to trouble you....
P: Not at all....
C: Good morning.
P: Good morning.
C: (turning around) Oh!
P: (deep breath) Yesss?
C: I wonder if you might have a copy of "Rarnaby Budge"?
P: No, as I say, we're right out of Edmund Wells!
C: No, not Edmund Wells - Charles Dikkens.
P: (pause - eagerly) Charles Dickens??
C: Yes.
P: (excitedly) You mean "Barnaby Rudge"!
C: No, "Rarnaby Budge" by Charles Dikkens. That's Dikkens with two Ks, the well-known Dutch author.
P: (slight pause) No, well we don't have "Rarnaby Budge" by Charles Dikkens with two Ks, the well-known Dutch author, and perhaps to save time I should add that we don't have "Karnaby Fudge" by Darles Chickens, or "Farmer of Sludge" by Marles Pickens, or even "Stickwick Stapers" by Farles Wickens with four M's and a silent Q!!!!! Why don't you try W. H. Smith's?
C: Ah did, They sent me here.
P: DID they.
C: Oh, I wonder...
P: Oh, do go on, please.
C: Yes...I wonder if you might have "The Amazing Adventures of Captain Gladys Stoutpamphlet and her Intrepid Spaniel Stig Amongst the Giant Pygmies of Beckles"...volume eight.
P: (after a pause for recovery) No, we don't have that...funny, we've got a lot of books here...well, I musn't keep you standing here...thank you,...
C: Oh, well do, do you have...
P: No, we haven't. No, we haven't.
C: B-b-b-but--
P: Sorry, no, it's one o'clock now, we're closing for lunch
C: Ah, I--I saw it---(loud arguments)
P: I'm sorry--
C: I saw it over there! I saw it...
P: What? What? WHAT?!?
C: I saw it over there: "Olsen's Standard Book of British Birds".
P: (pause; trying to stay calm) "Olsen's Standard Book of British Birds"?
C: Yes...
P: O-L-S-E-N?
C: Yes....
P: B-I-R-D-S??
C: Yes.....
P: (beat) Yes, well, we do have that, as a matter of fact...
C: The expurgated version....
P: (pause; politely) I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that...?
C: The expurgated version.
P: (exploding) The EXPURGATED version of "Olsen's Standard Book of British Birds"?!?!?!?!?
C: (desperately) The one without the gannet!
P: The one without the gannet-!!! They've ALL got the gannet!! It's a Standard British Bird, the gannet, it's in all the books!!!
C: (insistent) Well, I don't like them...they wet their nests.
P: (furious) All right! I'll remove it!! (rrrip!) Any other birds you don't like?!
C: I don't like the robin...
P: (screaming) The robin! Right! The robin! (rrrip!) There you are, any others you don't like, any others?
C: The nuthatch?
P: Right! (flipping through the book) The nuthatch, the nuthatch, the nuthatch, 'ere we are! (rrriiip!) There you are! NO gannets, NO robins, NO nuthatches, THERE's your book!
C: (indignant) I can't buy that! It's torn!
P: (incoherent noise)
C: Ah, I wonder if you have--
P: God, ask me anything!! We got lots of books here, you know, it's a bookshop!!
C: Er, how 'bout "Biggles Combs his Hair"?
P: No, no, we don't have that one, funny!
C: "The Gospel According to Charley Drake"?
P: No, no, no, try me again!
C: Ah...oh, I know! "Ethel the Aardvark goes Quantity Surveying".
P: No, no, no, no, no,...What? WHAT??????
C: "Ethel the Aardvark goes Quantity Surveying".
P: "Ethel the Aa--" YES!!!YES!!! WE'VE GOT IT!! (throwing books wildly about) I-I've seen it somewhere!!! I know it!!! Hee hee hee hee hee!!! Ha ha hoo ho---WAIT!! WAIT!! Is it?? Is it??? (triumphant) YES!!!!!! Here we are, "Ethel the Aardvark goes Quantity Surveying"!!!!! There's your book!! (throwing it down) Now, BUY IT!!!
C: (quickly) I don't have enough money.
P: (desperate) I'll take a deposit!
C: I don't have ANY money!
P: I'll take a check!!
C: I don't have a checkbook!
P: I've got a blank one!!
C: I don't have a bank account!!
P: RIGHT!!!! I'll buy it FOR you! (ring) There we are, there's your change, there's some money for a taxi on the way home, there's your book, now, now...
C: Wait, wait, wait!
P: What? What?!? WHAT?!? WHAT???!!
C: I can't read!!!
P: (staggeringly long pause; very quietly) You can' (pause) RIGHT!!! Sit down!! Sit down!! Sit!! Sit!! Are you sitting comfortably??? Right!!! (opens book) "Ethel the Aardvark was hopping down the river valley one lovely morning, trottety-trottety-trottety, when she might a nice little quantity surveyor..." (fade out)


Thursday, October 13, 2005

Durga Pujo in Singapore

The Durgostav in Singapore was an enjoyable experience. The moment I got out of the Farrer Park MRT, I sighted three or four Bengali women dressed colorfully in 'pujo attire' (term used to cover up my lack of knowledge of saree varieties). We entered the chock- a- block full pandal auditorium were Mother Durga was housed in all her resplendent glory. The purohit was chanting the mantras of prayer, the many men and women dressed in traditional Bengali attire were animatedly chatting with each other. The festive spirit was very palpable. There were loads of Marwaris, Panjabis and Gujratis as well, all offering prayers to the Divine Mother. All together. Sometimes I marvel at the fact that India manifests herself as much outside her borders as she does within them.
It was all good. There was quite bit of jostling as well, because of the large number of people there. I also ended up losing my shoes for a while. Thank God I found them in the end! Met some Bengali friends, made some new ones, laughed, chatted and offered prayers.

Its like I had never left Kolkata...

Maa Durga in Singapore.


Sunday, October 09, 2005

Ya Devi Sarva Bhute

"Come ye, who shun the folly of the East,
Nor court pale midnight at her gorgeous feast;
Who run from tom- toms rattling at the gate,
And view no poojahs crowding by in state"

This is what Lt. GW Wallace said of the Durga Pujas in Calcutta in 1876. Its that time of the year again. Maa Durga has arrived yet again, to dazzle us with her radiance and to spread joy and cheer to millions of her devotees.
I have lived in Calcutta for 14 years, but have experienced the Pujas for what I believe it to be in only in the last 5 or 6 of those. This year, I shall miss it as well, deluged in classes, submissions, work and exams. However, I shall visit the pujas here in distant Singapore, soak in the atmosphere and once in a while close my eyes.
I hope to remember -

- Calcutta. Its many pandals, most based on a theme, a current event even, brightly and intricately decorated, all competing for the prizes that are given out at the end of it all for best pandal etc. The city will be alive for the duration of the pujas, the magic will be visible. There will lights, sounds, traffic jams, incessant crowds, all night Qs and chaos on gargantuan scale. But it won't matter. People will throng, smile, laugh, spread cheer and travel. All will be forgiven. Disgruntled neighbors will present each other sweets, distanced lovers will fall in love all over again and warring families will once more sit together at the dinner table. The pujas can do all of this... and more.

- The mornings. You wake up, still heavy headed and tired from the all night pandal hopping with friends and family. You stumble to your balcony. Its a bit cloudy but the sun peeps through. There's a certain smell in the air. Theres a that light smog cover as well, but now it doesn't bother you. The steady drum beats of a 'dhaaki' floats in from somewhere. Some loud speaker blares the latest Hindi and Bengali film songs. You close your eyes and take in a deep breath. You realise you're not tired any more. The headache has gone. The only thing you look forward to is being with the people you love and doing the same thing you did last night all over again.

- The elders. The various grey haired, false-toothed, elderly relatives who would miraculously descend all at the same time and narrate stories of how the pujas used to be in their time and how things have changed. I will miss listening to them in wide-eyed wonder. I shall also miss accepting Rs. 101 each from them for 'sweets'.

- The all night 'addas' or chat sessions. Not specific to the pujas, but this time of the year gave us the excuse to indulge in conversations of all kinds for however long. No topic would be left untouched. From the plight of the Idol makers to the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden to the two hotties sighted in 'benarasis' at Maddox Square.

Here's an article by Vir Sanghvi on the Pujas, what it means to the Bengalis and his experiences with Calcutta.

"Tell outsiders about the importance of Puja in Calcutta and they'll scoff. Don't be silly, they'll say. Puja is a religious festival. And Bengal has voted for the CPM since 1977. How can godless Bengal be so hung up on a religions festival? I never know how to explain them that to a Bengali, religion consists of much more than shouting Jai Shri Ram or pulling down somebody's mosque. It has little to do with meaningless ritual or sinister political activity. The essence of Puja is that all the passions of Bengal converge: emotion, culture, the love of life, the warmth of being together, the joy of celebration, the pride in artistic expression and yes, the cult of the goddess. It may be about religion. But is not about much more than just worship. In which other part of India would small, not particularly well-off localities, vie with each other to produce the best pandals? Where else could puja pandals go beyond religion to draw inspiration from everything else? In the years I lived in Calcutta, the pandals featured Amitabh Bachchan, Princes Diana and even Saddam Hussain! Where else would children cry with the sheer emotional power of Dashimi, upset that the Goddess had left their homes? Where else would the whole city gooseflesh when the dhakis first begin to beat their drums? Which other Indian festival - in any part of the country - is so much about food, about going from one roadside stall to another, following your nose as it trails the smells of cooking?

To understand Puja, you must understand Calcutta. And to understand Calcutta, you must understand the Bengali. It's not easy. Certainly, you can't do it till you come and live here, till you let Calcutta suffuse your being, invade your bloodstream and steal your soul. But once you have, you'll love Calcutta forever. Wherever you go, a bit of Calcutta will go with you. I know, because it's happened to me. And every Puja, I am overcome by the magic of Bengal. It's a feeling that'll never go away."

Here are some links dealing with the Durga Puja.

1. The one stop shop for all the essentials you need to know about the Durga Puja.

2. A trip around all the Kolkata 'pujo pandals'.


Saturday, October 08, 2005

Vardi ki laaj...

What makes an engrossing cop flick? Underdog against the system, fiery dialogues, heavy maar-dhaad or the battle between duty and 'zameer'? I have personally always enjoyed a good police drama. A police officer upholding the law against heavy odds always holds a viewer, if executed well. The cop film has changed over the years. The 70s ushered in the image of the 'angry young' officer who takes on the system single handed. It was characterized by the villains who usually dabbled in smuggling and drugs, and heroes who went all out to stop these guys (normally named KK, Narang, etc, which changed to Shaakal, Bhujang, Dang etc. in the 80s and 90s). The 80s hardly had any decent cop tales of note. The villains did get more incredulous though. The late 90s and 00s saw a rejuvination of sorts in the genre and some decent films were made. The underworld took centre stage and power politics and corruption were the new villains.
Here are some films that stand out in this genre.

1. Zanjeer (1973)
This catapulted Amitabh Bachchan to superstardom. It also introduced the 'angry young man' phenomenon. Salim-Javed's story and script was something that the Hindi screen hadn't witnessed before. Add to that the fiery Bachchan and Ajit's famous dialogue delivery and you have a classic. Pran leaves his mark as well.
Most memorable line: 'Yeh police station hai, tumhare baap ka ghar nahin. Jab tak baithne ko nahin kaha jaaye, chup chaap khade raho'.

2. Ardh Satya (1983)
One of the best. Govind Nihalani's stark film had amazing performances from Om Puri and Sadashiv Amprapurkar. Puri as the disillusioned cop, caught between the police violence and bribery on the one hand, and his desire to fulfill his duties to the letter on the other, turns in one of his best performances ever. The film showcases the nexus between politicians and antisocial elements and delves into the psyche of a cop trying to do his duty in difficult times. Vijay Tendulkar writes the script and Nihalani's cinematography and direction brings it to life beautifully.
Most memorable line: Would you believe it, I don't remember any!

3. Sarfarosh (1999)
Aamir Khan as a police officer was a revelation. The talented actor makes the role of ACP Rathod is own. John Mathan's (can someone tell me where he is these days) debut film was a very good film. The movie tried to go to the depth of some of the real reasons behind terrorism and insurgency in India. ‘Sarfarosh’ shows how guns and drugs are smuggled in, across the border at Rajasthan, and how they reach the interiors of India, spreading terror and destruction.
The film will also be remembered for Mukesh Rishi's brilliant turn as an honest police officer and Sonali Bendre's effervescence. The film also had that Jagit Singh classic, 'Hoshwalon ko khabar kya'.
Most memorable line: 'Don't mind'.

4. Shool (1999)
Manoj Bajpai's last memorable role. This intense movie didn't fare too well at the box office, but is still a gem of a cop flick. Co-scripted by Ram Gopal Varma and set in heartland Bihar, it exposes the blatant lawlessness that envelops the grassroots milieu. Bajpai plays a cop who will uphold the law under any circumstances, even disregarding the fact that the he is up against the system itself. The film is focused, has no frills and and has strong performances from an ensemble cast. Shiyaji Shinde plays the evil politician brilliantly. This is one character you will genuinely dislike!
Most memorable line: 'Hum aapke niche nahin, aapke saath kaam karte hain, aur hum dono kaanoon ke niche kaam karte hain.'

5. Khakhee (2003)
Though it borrows heavily from Hollywood, 'Khakhee' is engrossing fare. The film could have done without the songs, I felt. The film tells the tale of 5 officers faced with the task of moving a suspect from one location to another. The trip turns out to be one they never expected and ends up being a battle for survival. The officers realise that they are up against the political machinery which doesn't want the suspect to get to court. The film is fast paced, filled with action and has great direction from Raj Kumar Santoshi. Bachchan is brilliant, Akshay Kumar and Tusshar Kapoor are good, and Ajay Devgan as a negative character is competent.
Most memorable line: 'Hum yahan apna khoon bahakar farz nibha rahe hain, aur udhar apni hai sarkar hamari hi thokne par lagi hui hai. Tchaa!'

6. Gangajal (2003)
Based on the 'Bhagalpur blindings', Gangajal was a very good movie. Twenty years after Govind Nihalani made Ardh Satya, conscientious cops in Hindi cinema were still trying to overcome the same hurdles Om Puri stumbled against. The film questions self justice by the police and the public. This is therefore different from the usual, in the sense that it enforces that the law should be the same for all and also apply to victims who may have unwittingly taken justice into their hands. The end comes with Devgan assuming the role of social crusader, which is a little far fetched, but otherwise, its a very fulfilling cinematic experience.
Most memorable line: 'Sabko pavittar kar denge.'

There are loads of other good films. There is the Nana Patekar starrer, 'Ab tak Chappan' (a great encounter movie), Bachchan's 'Akhri Raasta' , and 'Dev', the masala 'Mein Khiladi Yu Anari', Nasseruddin Shah's 'Encounter-The Killing' and Arshad Warsi's 'Saher'.
Heard a lot about this Kamal Hassan starrer 'Kurudhi Poonnal', which a lot of people have claimed to be one of the best around. Must catch that one.


Thursday, October 06, 2005

Too busy to blog...

Damn! Its been a week from hell!
I'm in the last week of my internship and hence there's tonnes of work to wrap up. Classes are coming to an end as well so all the trimester end presentations are due this week and next. Exams start from the 17th. Just too much to handle. While good Bengalis in Kolkata will walk street after street and visit pandal and pandal into wee hours of the morning this Pujas, I will be swimming in deadlines and deliverables...
Well, as someone said recently, 'that's life'.

A quick list of significant happenings over the last week:

1. We have been allowed to stay on campus a while longer. So house hunting can wait for the time being.

2. Batchmate KK interviewed with an IT company for a f/t position and returned not knowing what the name of the company was.

3. Made loads of calls to India, so expecting a fat phone bill (there goes my internship allowance!).

4. Haven't seen a film for the last 7 days, quite an unbelievable statistic as far as I am concerned.