Thursday, June 29, 2006

And its good that I'm not angry... I just need to get over... I'm not angry... It's dragging me under

Take a look at the article printed in the Financial Express.

"Amidst the row sparked by Kannada actress Jaimala's confession that she had once touched the idol of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala, Kerala government on Thursday said it will not interfere in the customs followed by the temple, including its ban on women in the 10-50 age group from praying at the hill shrine. It was for the temple authorities and institutions like Travancore Devaswom Board to decide on issues concerning customs followed by the temple for centuries and the government did not intend to interfere in them, Devaswom Minister G Sudhakaran told the State Assembly. CPI MLA N Aniruddhan had sought to know from the minister whether the practice of not allowing women to visit Sabarimala did not amount to gender discrimination. The minister however, evaded a direct reply to supplementaries on the Jaimala incident. While some of the members sought to drag the minister into the Jaimala episode, he said it was better to skip a debate on the issue, as the main question being considered by the house was the master plan for the development of Sabarimala.
Meanwhile, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad demanded a comprehensive inquiry into Jaimala's claim that she had not only visited the temple in her youth but also touched the idol of the deity after being pushed into the sanctum sanctorum by the heavy rush of pilgrims.
"The actress's claim has created grave anxiety in the minds of devotees. They have the right to know whether that version is true or just a concocted story. It is necessary to bring out the truth through a thorough probe," VHP state organising secretary Kummanam Rajasekharan said in a statement. If Jaimala's claim proved to be true, it would amount to breach of the temple's traditions. In such an event, those responsible for defilement and encroachment should be punished, he said.

I have long held the view that any creation of man that seeks to divide the human race is detrimental to its very creators...caste, creed, and religion fall under this umbrella and I therefore would rather they didn't exist. The world fights and spills blood over the above mentioned. India seems to have its own troubles as the article above reinforces. You think I'm being simplistic? Perhaps...
The purpose of religion was spiritual enlightenment and worldly wisdom, started I'm sure, with peace, harmony and prosperity as its goal. We are taught, 'God is everywhere', 'God lies in action', 'God lies within us'. We must therefore kill, murder, maim, rape, burn, wound and destroy, all in his name. The VHP secretary wants a probe, apparently. Joker. Like all things change and adapt to keep pace with time, religion too needs to evolve to remain relevant and generally to make the world a better place...(very 'We are the world' ish, but whatever). Idol worship, superstition and caste system are somethings I would rather not be part of the religion that coming generations embrace. They will have their problems I'm sure, but they will not have ours. I do not want my children's blood spilled over cries of, "MY God Strooongestt!!" We fail to see the futility in spending eons of time and negative energy in brick, stone, colour of skin and status, instead of diverting that into positive action...wait, isn't that what all religion advocates in anycase?? What I want to see is the removal of the dead weight and the forging of a more relevant and meaningful 'religion'. Enforce the philosphy, the ends, and not the superstitious manifestations. Walking around a stone 11 times will not cure your troubles, my friend, having faith in oneself and going about fighting them might help though (and in doing that, you find God)...also, slaughtering a cow or killing 'infidels' and 'heathens' will not get you too far either. Lets the keep the positives and restrict the negatives, the things that are driven by fanatics, superstition, apprehension and fear. I am not saying stop believing in God. You feel free to have your concept of God...but whatever it is, it shouldn't be worth killing for. I don't care if a girl touched the shrine. I care if the print space devoted to the article could have been devoted to something more important like lack of education, poverty, and corruption and what action has been taken against them. Only through positive action will we be happier, more content and at peace with ourselves.
I have taken a stance. I wish the rest of you would follow. There are gaps in my philosophy, I'm sure. I have my God. I am at peace with Him. He lies not in the confines of walls which cannot be touched by a woman. He lies inside me. He lies everywhere.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Classic Corner #1 - The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses

This is a new chain I am starting, like the 'Songs of a Lifetime', which is quite dormant right now. Here is where I shall showcase, rave about, dissect and eulogise about some classic instances of pure genius in the performing arts, be it theatre, music, film or any other medium. These are examples of sheer brilliance and works far ahead of their that regal, enthrall and stay relevant even today. These shaped the future of their respective art forms and left an indelible mark on society and social consciousness. Some of them were plain difficult to describe, such was force of their beauty, power and effect.

I'll start with one of the most prized possessions in my collection, The Stone Roses' self titled debut album. What a record. British pop music had not heard anything so pristine before these guys came along. I do not want to get into the history of the band and such details, as it would require another post altogether. Just a bit of an intro, though. These four guys teamed up in the mid 80s when British pop/rock music was ruled The Smiths, New Order and The Fall. The Smiths were on the decline and nothing as exciting was in the offing. Then Ian Brown and his mates from Manchester decided to have some fun with their style of light rock/pop guitar driven music. They were to record only one more studio album after this one, 'The Second Coming', before they eventually split up in the early 90s. Their music formed the reference point of loads of modern bands like Oasis, Blur, Lightening Seeds, Embrace and The Verve. Sadly after delivering a near perfect rock/pop album first up the band could never live up to the hype of an encore and the next album, though not bad by any standards, wasn't quite the same. Our loss entirely.

Let’s look at the album then...

The opening drawl on 'I wanna be adored' lets you know that this is something special indeed. When I first heard it, thanks to Brown's hushed Mancunian accented style of singing, I mistook the words to be ' I wanna be a door' (and I couldn't understand why the hell he wanted to be a part of the furniture). And then John's Squire's heavenly guitar riffs hit you...I couldn't care if he wanted to be the wash basin or a toilet, the resonance was just too powerful and the narcissism just too tempting to resist. Oasis tried something similar with 'Listen up', but came nowhere close. This gem is followed up by the holy trinity of 'She bangs the drums', 'Elephant stone' and 'Waterfall'. Well, rock songs dipped in honey. British pop had never had it better than this. When Brown croons, "Burst into heaven...kissing the cotton clouds" on 'Elephant stone', you can almost feel yourself with him 30,000 ft above sea level...sigh! The beauty of multilayer guitars has never been better demonstrated. Then there is the anti-monarchy gem, 'Elizabeth My dear' with the lines "Tear me apart and boil my bones / I'll not rest 'till she's lost her throne / My aim is true, my message is clear / It's curtains for you Elizabeth my dear". It ends with a silenced pistol shot.
Oh, and things are just about to get better...
Then comes the Paris students riots inspired, 'Bye bye badman' and the dark anti violence 'Made of stone', which is another fantastic addition. There were even audacious enough to add a song 'Don't stop', which is in fact the latter played backwards! The album finishes with 2 more beauties, 'This is the one' and the anthemic 'I am the resurrection', the first a powerful rock tune with fantastic guitar work (as usual) and the second presumably about coming out triumphant after facing rejection in love. Genius generally is accompanied by arrogance and 'Resurrection' is ample evidence of that...
I could go on and on about this album. If you don't have it and are a lover of guitar music, well...just die. But a better option would be to go out, buy it and give it a listen. Your world will be a better place to live in. Seriously...

Album: The Stone Roses
Band: The Stone Roses
Year: 1989
Label: Jive
Track listing:
1. I Wanna Be Adored
2. She Bangs The Drums
3. Elephant Stone
4. Waterfall
5. Don't Stop
6. Bye Bye Badman
7. Elizabeth My Dear
8. (Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister
9. Made Of Stone
10. Shoot You Down
11. This Is The One
12. I Am The Resurrection

"So here it is. Yes! Yes! Yes! The best rock album since Revolver? Definitely. Maybe. You don't have to believe that. Just play it from time to time. It gets better and better. Rave on!" -

"Make love to this album, get stoned to this album, start an uprising to this album, change the world to this album. For this album has changed many people's world and a world without it would be a place with slightly less magic." - Matt Pomry, Pop Matters.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Eagerly awaiting...

One a continuing saga of a comic book hero and the other a Shakespearean tragedy. Brendon Routh, beware, all actors who have played Superman before have had tragedy afflict them. Vishal Bhardwaj is set to be our generation's Gulzar. Kudos, sir.
Ironic, that I'm looking forward to 2 adaptations after railing against lack of originality...go figure.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Learning to enjoy the lack of originality...

The last few years in Indian cinema have churned out some really good films and also loads of average and generally worthless ones. While the technical ability of our film makers has improved in leaps and bounds, the lack of original ideas remains a constant bane. Can't these guys come up with one story which I haven't already seen in another movie a few years ago? The other day I happened to watch the Akshay-Katrina starrer 'Humko Deewana Kar Gaye' and the very first scene with the credits was a shameless rip off from the opening sequence from Richard Curtis's 'Love Actually'. The film itself was a bad rip off of 'Notting Hill', with some scenes lifted frame to frame. Then there was Sarkar, Ek Ajnabee, Quayamat, Zinda, Main Asia Hi Hoon and almost every Bhatt film. The list is in fact endless. While some very good work in being done, the writers are taking a back seat. The creative process is pitifully shoddy. I guess living in the jet age does not leave film makers with enough time to think up an interesting and original story. Why try something so weird, when you can walk into a Music World and pick up a random English or International film and turn into a Bollywood extravaganza with sprinklings of romance, melodrama and song and dance. The trend is also moving towards remaking Hindi films of yore. RGV struggles with 'Sholay'. Farhan Akhtar is almost done shooting 'Don', Feroz Khan announces 'Kurbani' with Fardeen playing his role in the original. Not acceptable either, I'm sorry.
The trend doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon, so I thought I might as well list down some of the better 'inspirations' in Indian Cinema.

1. Chori Chori (It happened One Night) - One of the better inspirations, the remake of the Clark Gable film had Raj Kapoor and Nargis in lead roles and some great music from Shankar Jaikishan. The film also spawned a modern version in 'Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin' which wasn't too bad either.

2. Sarkar (The Godfather) - This RGV is certainly one of his better efforts. He credits this film as a remake of Godfather and gives it an Indian twist, keeping most of the major events in tact.
The potent duo of Bachchan Senior and Junior works really well. The background score of the film is lifted and well Indianised with the 'Govinda' chants. He also used camera angles really well and RGV's use of silence is superb. An enjoyable remake. Lets see how RGV does with Bachchan's Humbert Humbert and his take on Nabokov's 'Lolita' (Nishabd).

3. Ganashatru(Enemy of the People) - One of Ray's films which was a remake of Ibsen's classic play. Its message, about the perils of greed, religious fanaticism, and environmental pollution, may be topical, but the film was too static to have total impact. Still, there were enough flashes of Ray's brilliance to make it worthwhile. The film had Soumitra Chatterjee (who else) playing a doctor convinced of the poisoning of a lake, water from which is used in the temples as 'prasad' and his 'against all odds' efforts to create awareness about this pollution.

4. Sholay (7 Samurai/The Magnificent 7) - What can I possibly add about this one?

5. Nayakan (Godfather) - Though not a frame for frame copy, it was based, by Kamal's own admission on The Godfather(the fixation never ends). Brilliant performances, brilliant film. Kamal also co wrote 'Sati Leelavathy', a copy of the Meryll Streep hit 'She Devil'. Also, an enjoyable fim.

6. Karz (The Reincarnation of Peter Proud) - The film was enjoyable, though much of the story was lifted from the 1975 horror/thriller original and LP's music also borrowed heavily from the west ('Om Shanti Om' was a blatant lift and so was the guitar riff from 'Ek hasina thi'. Ghai never admitted the similarity till recently and always claimed never to have even seen the original (which is a blatant lie, if you've seen both films). The film was grand though, and perhaps benefited from the fact the original was rather small budget and raw.


Thursday, June 08, 2006

India in a restaurant

Having dinner in an Indian restaurant in Singapore can be a very familiar experience. I don't mean it in from the culinary point of view. Purely from the people that frequent the place. Of course I'm also not talking about the upmarket, snooty sorts of places frequented by expat communities and foreigners trying to get a taste of India (the 'Oh you have to try the Chicken Tikka Masala at Rang Mahal' types). I was in a mid sized place in Serangoon the other day, and the experience for an occasional social voyeur like myself, was interesting to say the least. On the table next to me was an Indian girl who was introducing her Caucasian boyfriend to her parents for what I believed to be the first time. I expected muted and skeptic conversation. But what ensued was a friendly and amiable chat. Quite symbolic of the new emerging trend of disappearing borders amongst countries and communities. The Indian of today is far more at ease with the global phenomenon than he was even a decade ago. There is no awkwardness, no 'sahib' mentality. It is slowly developing into a meeting of equals. Pleasant and refreshing. LN Mittal can embrace steel plants and factories the world over, but the joy of watching this little meeting in a non descript eatery had its own significance and potrayed an encouraging and indicative reality.
A nearby table hosted a family of animated Bengalis, complete with pesky kids and over protective mothers. One of the ladies obviously thought that her 9-10 year old was completely incapable of eating on his own and hence laboriously continued to shove dollops of rice and daal down his throat. The kid was on a trip of his own and was more interested in exploring every corner of the premises, much to the annoyance of the other members of his family. 'Tubai! doude barash ni! Chup kore bosh! Uff eyi chele ke niye aar parlam na!' ('Tubai, don't run around and sit down quietly! Uff what shall I do with this kid!'). How many times have we as kids heard this? Brought back so many memories. Bengali boys, as children tend to be tremendously sheltered. Visions of Bula aunty (my neighbor a long while ago) feeding a visibly embarrassed Montuda at school during exams came flooding back. The poor fellow was instructed to cram his algebraic equations for his class 7 term exams and not waste time on eating! Mothers complain sporadically, but dutifully discharge their motherly chores, to the point of excessive pampering. How can one deny little Tubai? He will grow up to become an engineer or a doctor someday, the pride of the Bhowmick brigade. Nothing much seems to have changed since our time...
Then there was the Tamil group a few tables away. They stuck to curd and rice...staple diet down south. C'mon guys, there was a whole menu to chose from! But I guess home food is home food and it was quite possible that they had chanced upon this place after a while and wanted to get a good meal in. Politics was on their minds, perhaps thanks to the just concluded elections in TN. One gentleman was mighty dislpeased with the outcome and claimed that the state would not be the same without 'Amma'. He was pleased, however, that he would receive a free TV from the ruling party and hoped that cable would also come at no cost. They also proceeded to draw up how they could see the whole of Singapore and its sights in the next day and a half! A little time saved from taking this bus route, a little time saved from cabing it from point x to point y. Sometimes I feel, we Indians return from vacations far more exhausted than we were before we take them. The kind of schedules we put ourselves through! Perhaps its an economic thing. Westerners always seem more relaxed and appear to have more time on their hands...
A Punjabi couple occupied the table to our right. They were honeymooning in Singapore, (glow, bloody...glow!) I gathered. The guy in his smart turban and majestic whiskers and the a tank top and a miniskirt...I had no problems with the attire per say...hey its your honeymoon, enjoy it, but please get rid of the elaborate mehendi, the nose ring, the long earrings and the 800 red bangles on both hands! I know its the age of mix and match and fashion fusion and all but this looks plain ridiculous! They discussed their travel plans over the weekend and then diverted their attention to a fancy handy cam the guy had just purchased, along with his equally fancy I-Pod nano. The prosperity of the Punjab/Haryana belt was amply evident.
Here was India playing itself out in all its stereotypes. I am in no way judging their actions or the motivations behind them, but it was a very interesting evening in all. We all are so different, region from region, yet the union is so strong and the blend so natural. It was like cutting up bits and pieces of a country and re-arranging them somewhere else. The picture still remained the same, familiar and beautiful. And for people such as myself, who do not get to go back that often, this was a pleasurable and unique opportunity. It just took a microcosm of the country to feel the pulse of India, old and new, to gather public opinion, to get an insight into a changing country, and to feel at home.