Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Finale 2007

Another year goes past. First, apologies for being hopelessly irregular. New year resolution for sure. Wait, thats what I said last year...Hmm...more action less talk...thats what the resolution should be. Have heard that quite a bit this year... and just as well, because if its not love then its the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb, the bomb that will bring us together. Whats what Morrissey says anyway. Nope, will work on that. What else, more enthusiasm for life maybe? Go out, duniya dekho...kya bekar kamre mein baitha rahta hai...hmm..point taken. Done, resoultion no. 2. Need to get more health conscious as well...Ok no need to push it. Enough already. Not good with resolutions at all. But lets see this time...

The year was ok...2 months in the UK, property purchase, some half decent films, 1st wedding anniversary, Dada - 239. Well, can't ask for much more. Lol.. really need to start demanding more from life.

Well, here's wishing you all a merry Xmas and a Happy 2008!
Off to Calcutta tomorrow... ciao.



Sunday, November 04, 2007

Got to be Aishwarya

Went for a play after absolute ages. Wasn't really your connoisseur's delight, this Bharat Dhabolkar production. I have seen a couple of his earlier plays, both being bawdy pieces, typical sex comedies. Thankfully, he seems to have matured as a playwright. 'Got to be Aishwarya' deals with father-daughter bonding. Tom Alter plays Neil Kapoor, a Bollywood screenwriter who meets his long lost daughter from his first marriage, Reem (Ananya Dutt), who ironically has come to Mumbai to make it in the movie business. Their first meeting is awkward to say the least, but then over time how the father changes from a care free, cynical, and dry human being to a fretting, worried and doting dad, forms the crux of the proceedings. He is helped in this endeavour by his girlfriend and single mom, Anuradha (the lovely and supremely talented Mona Ambegaonkar, of 'Ambar Dhara' fame). They end up forming a nice little family unit of their own by the end of the play and its a happy story.

The play in itself is enjoyable on the whole, though cliched in parts. Issues like the man's fear of commitment, single motherhood, Bollywood double standards, and struggling in the movie industry are discussed. The set is pretty sparse and the proceedings take place in the protagonist, Neil Kapoor's flat.

Performance wise, Ambegaokar steals the show with her natural performance as the single mother in a carefree relationship with the screenwriter. She is a pleasure to watch in the supporting role that she essays. Her simultaneous insecurity (at suddenly being the second most important woman in Neil's life after the appearance of his daughter), and heartfelt love and sympathy for Neil is phenomenally well nuanced. Alter is good as well, but is visibly stretched during the the emotional scenes of the play. Ananya Dutt is passable and seems to wilt under the most demanding role on display, that of a daughter in search of her father who left twenty years ago. Someone should tell her that shaking her head vigorously while delivering her lines is not necessarily good acting... Anyways, a decent watch. A light, sprightly piece for the entire family.




Friday, August 31, 2007

Chak De India

Shimit Amin's film has to be one of the best sports films to come of India, though really, that's not saying much as sports films are generally neglected in this part of the world. However, I was keen to see how this product from the US returned director of 'Ab Tak Chappan' would turn out, and I must say I was quite satisfied. Set in the backrooms of the Indian Women's Hockey world, the film is a cliched story about a disgraced India ex-captain, who returns from exile to lead a ragtag, fractional team of no-hopers to the title of the World Championships. Its the treatment, however that should come in for high praise. Fast paced sports action, dollops of emotional drama and a fresh bunch of actors/hockey players make this film enjoyable. The move to enlist the services of hockey players rather than actors (barring a few exceptions), seems to have been an inspired one as it makes the story entirely believable. Most of the stereotypes are revisited - inter state rivalry, the team bullies, girls being stereotyped according to their origins (a scene where a girl from Andhra Pradesh is termed a 'Madrasi') - however, the treatment saves them from getting boring and repetitive.

Special mention should be made of Shahrukh Khan. The star delivers one of his finest performances in recent times. He holds the film together and his quiet confidence pervades the entire film. We hope we see more of this side of him in subsequent outings as well... but with Om Shanti Om in the works, it looks like we might have to wait a while.

A word of praise for the film's music. It remains in the background and doesn't jar the proceedings. The songs are some of Salim-Suleiman's best, all aptly placed throughout the film. I only wish the title track was sung by Daler Mehendi instead! Direction is good as well and Amin shows he's capable of handling completely diverse genres with ample ease. Jaideep Sahani's screenplay is also one of the stars of the film. Tight, smooth and flows like a charm. A high energy outing, worth a watch.



Friday, August 24, 2007

India's lost generation

In Harsha Bhogle's recent article in the Indian Express, he mentioned a group of cricketers he claimed to be India's lost generation. These were players who flattered to deceive, who showed an initial spark but failed to live up to their potential, victims of their own prodigious talent. He mentioned Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh. To me they are not so much lost generation players, as they are temporary benchers. These players have proven themselves at the highest level and have now fallen off the radar due to inconsistent performances... I highlight a few current Indian players who have always failed to reach their full potential.

1. Ajit Agarkar - It doesn't get more frustrating than this guy. Oodles of talent, yet an enigma. Century at Lords, yet nicknamed the Bombay Duck. Quickest to reach 50 ODI wickets, yet now only a stock bowler. One never knows which Agarkar will show up at the game. Sometimes brilliant, sometimes wayward and most times plain average. Blessed with immense talent with both bat and bat, this lad has failed to realise his true potential with either. Three performances will stand out for me. His match-winning 4-for in Sharjah against NZ, his 6-for in the Adelaide test win and a 142 kmph beauty he hurled at Mark Waugh in Mumbai, in his second ODI, cutting the stylist completely in half, making him look..erm..clumsy, human. He should have been a certainty in both tests and ODIs, but now plays only in the shorter version of the game.

2. Ambati Rayudu - Hailed as the next big batting hope, this youngster has all but fizzled out. A heavy scorer in domestic cricket early on, his form completely deserted him and a couple of ordinary seasons did him no favours. A couple of Challenger Trophies went a begging and his batting form dipped completely. His domestic average of 39.92 does him no justice. This man is immensely talented. His double hundred and hundred in the same match against Andhra Pradesh in his first Ranji season is testimony to that. He was expected to take over the mantle of genius from Sachin Tendulkar, but still languishes in the mire of domestic cricket.

3. Ashish Nehra - Where is Ashish Nehra? His 6-23 against England will always be etched in popular memory. Yet the man behind a few moments of brilliance has completely disappeared off the scene. Dogged with injury and inconsistent form, this is one player who was to be part of India's new found pace bowling plans. Along with Balaji, they are now part of the what could have been plans.

4. VRV Singh - India's fastest bowler he was touted. Given India's current success with the test team in the fast bowling department, his entry into the bowling lineup looks inevitably delayed. He struggles to stay fit, and is inconsistent at most times. Hope we hear more of him in the future.

5. Akash Chopra - A steady opening bat who was the perfect foil for the exuberant Sehwag. Their opening stands in the tour of Australia were crucial in drawing the series. it was one of the most determined opening stands in the history of modern Indian cricket. Chopra's stonewalling allowed the the batting galacticos to come in play fluently. His contribution as a close in catcher should also not be forgotten. However, the establishment at the BCCI seems to have forgotten him. Dropped by Ganguly to accommodate Yuvraj Singh, a bad move, no doubt, he never could fight his way back into the test team. He and S. Ramesh remain India's best opening hopes who fizzled out after a spark.

Players from the past - There have been a few immensely talented players in the past as well who didn't go on to fulfill their potential - Sadanand Vishwanath, Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, Utpal Chatterjee, Rajender Goel, Padmakar Shivalkar, Raman Lamba and many more.



Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Bong Connection

Anjan Dutta's 'crossover' effort is not entirely crossover, neither does it offer anything entirely new to the viewer. Yes, a decently packaged product, but that's about it. It will please the Bengalis a bit, but might leave most others a bit bemused about what all the fuss was about.

The story moves on two parallel tracks. Andy, an NRI musician, returns to Kolkata in search of some musical inspiration, a muse of sorts. Apu, a software engineer on the other hand is waiting for the first opportunity to leave Kolkata, a city he thinks has permanently stagnated. He leaves for the US and is quite oblivious of some of the resistance from his girlfriend and his family. He harbours NRI dreams of big money, fancy cars and the high life. For me the Andy track is the more interesting one...Kolkata befuddles the young man... its laid back attitude, the work culture, and this richness of its culture. He sees the youth blindly following western trends, without once turning to the rich and vast cultural heritage of Bengal. He visits a pub, the hallowed Someplace Else, and on hearing the band perform Dylan, he comments, 'How come they're all singing English songs, this is Bengal isn't it, why don't they sing a few Bengali ones as well?' He gets increasingly frustrated with it all. To add to that, all is not well with his own family in Kolkata, his cousin beats up his wife, while the elders chose to completely ignore this almost daily ritual. His retired uncle wishes to sell the family house for a lot of money and settle down to a hum drum life, surviving off the interest. The buyer would probably turn it into a hotel...Andy asks, 'Why can't you run a hotel? You abuse the Marwari for ruining the Bengali and then sell him your house to just to take the easy way out?' The facade of the Bengali Bhadrolok is shattered. The end sees Andy succeed in his musical endeavors and move back to the US, with an offer to score the music of Mira Nair's 'Namsake'no less!

Apu,on the other hand has a more difficult time of it. When he has spare time from bouts of vomiting (as a result of an old Bengali affliction of not being able to hold much liquor) and nodding his head, he works, befriends a Bengali-American girl and an illegal homesick Bangladeshi taxi driver. He has his fun times, falling in love with the Bengali American and drinking (and vomiting again) with his taxi driver friend. However, he is unable to completely come to terms with the life in the land where his dreams are supposed to come true. He is shocked at discovering that his flatmate and coworker is gay. But then stands up for him when he is fired by their homophobic boss. His own frustrations, coupled with his deep rooted Indian grounding, sees him head home to Kolkata, not defeated, but disillusioned. This track is entirely unremarkable, the only highlight being a Bengali party he attends, where every Bengali stereotype is poked fun at. Is Netaji still alive or is he dead? Does Jyoti Babu still drink Blue label? Rabindrasangeet or Nazrulgeeti? How were the pujas this year? This year the hilsa harvest hasn't been good! Its all good fun.

In essence, similar to most 'crossover' NRI-returning-to- India', ABCD-type movies. A light, mildly refreshing little film, with good music (Neel Dutt), average to bad dialogues (more suited for reading) and decent direction. However, the film belongs to the husband-wife duo of Shayan Munshi and Peeya RaiChoudhury. Shayan as Andy is believable and is surely Munshi's best performance to date. Peeya is great as well, both of them having visibly worked really hard on their American accents. Parambrata Chatterjee as Apu is adequate. The supporting cohort of Mamata Shankar, Victor Bannerjee and June Maliya are good. Raima Sen is sincere as usual and turns in a decent number as Apu's girlfriend and Andy's love interest. GOd only knows why Soumitra Chatterjee decided to partak in this venture Andy's paralysed grandfather. All he does in the few minutes he gets is blink twice. The actor playing the Bangladeshi taxi driver is spontaneous and one hopes to see more of him.

So there...for those of you curious enough, or game for a quiet chuckle on a lazy Sunday afternoon, a sample of this may not be too bad. It will obviously help if you're a 'Bong'.




Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wham! Bham! (or is it Bam!?)

Leaving Bricket Wood this week. Will miss the place and the people. Made new friends, dispelled myths, overcame cultural stereotypes and learnt that all that matters in an organisation are people, and more so when they come in with the right attitude..."all in all its nice to be out..." not sure why I have the Stereophonics on my mind all of a sudden. Hope nothing happens to poor old Kelly or Richard. Last time I had "Sgt. Pepper" playing non-stop in my head, George Harrison died. Coincidence for sure. Or do I have the power to kill musicians off just by playing their records in my head in an endless loop? Watch out Himesh. Crazy made up words were the highlight of the day. Someone almost got away with 'distinctify'. Sounded about right. Who cares. I was supposed sort myself out on this 2 month long training thingy. Going back largely the same person. Only a tad more confused. All this psycho-babble has messed me up a bit..."if you could rewind your life, would it change your mind?". Kelly Jones, time to be scared. Why isn't the brain playing "Imagine" or "Hey Joe"? But I don't want to rewind my life. I like it the way it is. Or do I? Ah, thoughts...thoughts. Power to kill, I tell you. You don't think so? You never know, even long shots make it, sometimes.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Bricket Wood in pictures

A pictorial guide to my employer's best kept secret. Bricket Wood is an hour away from London, in the county of Hertfordshire, in the town of St. Alban's. A small, typical English village almost. Its such a pleasure to get away from the big concrete edifices of the city, and this place is as good a getaway as it gets. All around, you find green fields, grazing giant-size cattle, horses and happy people. And the pubs have the most wonderful names. 'The bat and the ball', 'Hare and hounds', 'The Blacksmith's arms', 'The Whiteheart tap' and 'The merry minstrel', just to name a few. Narrow, small streets intertwine themselves all through the town, almost taking you on journey to a time long gone. If not long gone, then simpler for sure.

The bank's training college in Bricket Wood, was actually the estate of the stately Yule family. Before that it was part of a Roman settlement around 40-60 AD. It then grew in importance for the next few hundred years till the black plague caused all the settlers to relocate. The Yule family bought it in 1900 and patronised it as an estate as well as to entertain Lady Yule's film friends and to breed horses. HSBC purchased the property in 1994 and it has been used as the Group training college ever since. The old buildings are still retained in almost their original splendour, with the Hanstead House being the pick of the lot. While many cottages line various parts of the training campus, the Hexagon Bar and the adjoining building exudes the most old world charm, with their dated but exquisite wooden panelling and high ceilings. The campus contains a football ground, a cricket pitch and a Community recreational premises, which the other residents of the area can also use. Another highlight for me is the beautiful lake on the premises, complete with its family of swans. A sight to behold on a bright summer's day. The pictures should tell their own story.

Trivia on the campus -

- The river Thames used to run by the sight, till the glacier 'Anglian' rerouted it.
- Gladys Yule built a pet cemetery on the estate, which still exists.
- Hanstead House's garden has a mulberry bush which is 400 yrs old!
- Hanstead House once had its own private zoo. Bears were a-roaming...
- Nearly 85 films made by the British National Films company were premiered at Hanstead House.
- Sir David Yule was the richest man in the Empire when he died in 1928.
- Reports exist of sightings of the ghost of Lady Gladys Yule!



Monday, June 04, 2007

Block... Chakka jam

Finally... writer's block has set in... nothing interesting to blog about at all... or nothing I can dress up as interesting because of the inability to actually write it. Shite.. I'm hamming already. Well, to save some grace here I'll just say that for the last 3 weeks I've been in Bricket Wood, north of London, on work stuff. Another month to go. Its kinda boring, but fun at times. Its a lot like coming back to university. Campus, multicultural crowd, drinking binges and lots of work. Good overall I guess, though I do wish London wasn't so bleedin' expensive. Planning a Twenty-20 game here amongst the lads on Wednesday...lets see how that goes. The wife meanwhile is having a darm good time travelling around England and Scotland. Some people have all the luck... oh well.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Shubho Nobobarsho!

Hi All,
Heres wishing you all a very Happy Bengali New Year! Shubho Noboborshor preeti o shubhechha... and heres wishing you all a happy 'Baisakhi'. Oh, and happy Malayali and Tamil New years as well...


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Eklavya -The Royal Guard

Drama. Lots of it. Vidhu Chopra's latest effort is heavy on drama. Its a weighty film that questions the age old concept of 'dharma'. Set in a royal family in Rajasthan, the film revolves around a family secret which changes the lives of all those living in the castle, still holding on to an era, long made irrelevant by independence. Each scene is incredibly well shot and high on emotion. But is the end product satisfactory? Not entirely. A script of almost Shakesperean proportions is let down by the slow and ponderous pace of things. And the self indulgent Chopra also uses footage of his 'Parinda', albeit in one of the film's finest scenes. The ending of the film is cliched and succumbs to the commercial requirements, which is a departure from the rest of the film. In the end a significant film indeed, but a film difficult to classify and difficult to declare a classic.
The acting is top rate though. Amitabh Bachchan, as the titular character is perfectly cast and does a bang up job as the hurting and duty-bound Royal guard. Saif Ali Khan as the prince is good as well. So are Boman Irani and Sanjay Dutt. The women are incidental, with Raima Sen having a meatier role than the heroine, Vidya Balan. Boman Irani is fantastic as the impotent, eccentric king. Jackie Shroff and Jimmy Sheirgill do well in the limited scope they get.
The music of the film is good, with only one song from Shantanu Moitra, Chopra's current favorite. 'Chanda re' is worthy effort. The background music is suspiciously familiar. A Peter Weir film springs to mind. Oh well, you can't have it all...
Worth a watch. I would have loved to praise this film to the skies, but, my soul is lacking, just like the film's.



Monday, February 05, 2007

Happy new year

Happy new year to you all! My apologies for the delay in posting here. Well, the new year has brought with it some developments...for one my status is now 'married', I have changed roles at my work place and the Nanyang Business School debuted strongly into the Financial Times (FT) MBA rankings at no. 67. Its all good. Oh and did I forget, who was that fellow Sourav Ganguly everyone wrote off? Yup dada is back! As I said, its all good.
Here's wishing you all a belated happy new year. Hope 2007 is a good one... promise to be regular now.